Read Aloud

18 Apr

I read aloud I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems to my first graders.  They absolutely adored it and so did I!  I was happy that they understood how silly it was Gerald broke his trunk on his way to tell his story to Piggie.  My students also could not believe that as Piggie ran to tell Gerald’s story to Squirrel, he broke his snout!  This is such a great book for my first graders because it is repetitive enough to help out some of my struggling readers.  On the other hand, it is so funny to my students that they all want to read it, even if it is well below their independent reading level.  I have since then purchased two more copies to add to our classroom library.  I have witnessed students reading this book to themselves and laughing out loud.  Oftentimes, when students read with a partner, I see them mimicking Piggie’s expressions and giggling.  This book is so appropriate for first graders because they can understand the irony, it is funny to them, motivates them to read it, and it is simple enough for them to read it independently.  After I read aloud this book, my students began creating their own versions of this text during writing time. My students really enjoyed this book and took to further than I had imagined.  We viewed this short clip of Mo Willems discussing his background and books Mo Willems.  My students thought he was so funny and asked me if we could read all of his books, I promised to try my best.  I will be checking out (and most likely purchasing) additional books by Mo Willems for my classroom!

I truly love read aloud time and I have valued it more and more each year.  Every year I have at least one or two students who tell me that I am the only person who reads to them.  Listening to my parents read aloud to me was such a special and memorable part of my childhood. I want to make sure my students are exposed to read alouds as much as possible.  Read alouds are a wonderful time to teach students new concepts.  I love pulling in a great read-aloud to go along with science, social studies, or math.  Sometimes this seems to be the missing link that helps my students understand the topic we are focusing on.  I also use this time to model the things good readers do, such as using expression, pausing for think-alouds, summarizing, making inferences, etc.  Read alouds also build students book language.  Reading books to students that have rich language, improves their word knowledge and even carries over into their writing.  Motivation also stems from read-alouds, my students cannot wait to get their hands on a book that I have read aloud.  I brought in a few stacks of books that I read when I was a little girl and placed them in my classroom library.  I introduced these books to my students and explained their history.  There are obvious marks in several of the books that they indeed belonged to a little girl who read them often.  The books are no longer new, shiny, and bright but my students cannot stay away from them.  It is wonderful to see some of my all-time favorite books in different little hands everyday. To be honest, my favorite part of read alouds are not exactly outlined in my daily lesson plan.  I truly enjoy the simplicity of getting lost in a book with my students.  During the moments when I am simply enjoying the story and eager to turn the page, I look up and witness a sea of six and seven-year-olds captivated… it’s wonderful.  The discussion that occurs throughout the story is so meaningful.  When we take time to pause, laugh, ponder and question, all twenty-three of us share a special time as we take the story’s journey together.

Below is a link to a short power point I created about read alouds…

Read Aloud


The Graveyard Book

18 Apr

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was a great read and it was unlike any other book I have ever read.  The first sentence hooked me.  “There was a hand in the dark and it held a knife.”  I immediately wanted to know if anyone was killed, what happened, why, who, when, and where.  I was shocked to find out that someone murdered a sleeping family and attempted to kill a toddler!  I was left wanting to know why anyone would do this throughout the majority of the book.  I was happy to discover that the baby’s family managed to seek help before they went to their final resting place.  I felt relieved when the deceased couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens agreed to be the baby’s new parents.  They named him Nobody Owens because they felt that it would help to keep him safe.  He was given the nickname, “Bod”.  The entire graveyard protected Bod and gave him “freedom of the graveyard” which meant that he could go anywhere he wanted to within the graveyard.  This also allowed Bod to see in the dark, walk through things, make himself “fade” so that people from outside the graveyard could not see him.  Silas, who could leave the graveyard anytime he chose, because he was neither dead nor alive, became Bod’s mentor and promised to provide food, take care of him, and find a replacement mentor if he had to be away for a length of time.  Bod respected Silas and learned a lot from him.  I longed for Silas to give Bod a hug especially since he could not wrap his arms around anyone who lived in the graveyard.  Silas showed Bod that he cared through other ways, such as being reliable, answering questions, providing for Bod, and teaching him many important things.  I was so happy to read that Bod made a friend in the graveyard.  Her name was Scarlett and she told Bod that he was her friend.  This was such a simple, yet meaningful gesture, especially since no one had ever told Bod this before.  Bod was so brave, as most children are, mostly because they are not aware of the danger around them.  Bod did not have to worry very much about danger within the graveyard, it was outside of the graveyard that was so dangerous for him.  He was forbidden to leave the graveyard and he obeyed for a several years.  Bod met a witch named Liza Hempstock, he befriended her and learned that she was never given a proper headstone because she was a witch. He went out of the graveyard to get Liza a headstone and winds up in danger.  Luckily, Liza was there to help him out.  She actually helped out Bod another time by going to get Silas when the situation was too sticky.  On one occasion Silas had to leave for a while so he asked someone named Mrs. Lupescu to be Bod’s mentor until he returned.  At first, Bod did not like Mrs. Lupescu at all because she was extremely strict, made him study all of the time, and prepared disgusting meals for him.  Luckily, Mrs. Lupescu rescued Bod after he made a series of bad choices.  From this point on Bod had a new respect for her and even enjoyed being around her.

Later on, Bod the girl that Bod became friends with as a child, moved back into town.  She visited the graveyard and met a man named Mr. Frost.  Scarlett also saw Bod again and they became friends once more.  Mr. Frost was very kind to Scarlett and her mother.  Scarlett told Mr. Frost about how Bod’s family was murdered and that he wanted answers.  Mr. Frost volunteered to help Bod find answers and invited him over to his house, which used to be Bod’s family’s home.  When Bod arrived, Mr. Frost explained that there was something Bod needed to see upstairs.  Bod followed Mr. Frost upstairs and to Bod’s surprise, Mr. Frost pulled out a knife and revealed himself as the man who had attempted to kill him many years ago.  Mr. Frost was indeed, the man Jack.  Bod and Scarlett retreated back to the graveyard just as the man Jack and his accomplices were coming after them.  In the graveyard, Bod plotted out the deaths of each of the men, the man Jack was the last and most violent death of all.  Unfortunately, Scarlett could not grasp what had just happened and instead of being thankful that Bod had protected her and saved her life; she became very angry at him.  At this point Silas stepped in and erased Scarlett’s memory.  Bod was sad but he trusted that Silas was doing this for a very good reason.  Shortly after this Scarlett and her mother moved back to Scotland.  Not much time had passed before Bod began to lose his “freedom of the graveyard”.  This was because it was time for him to leave and live his own life in the real world.  Silas explained to Bod that he was ready to protect himself and no longer needed a mentor.  Silas ensured Bod that he would still see Bod even if Bod was unable to see him.  Mr. and Mrs. Owens were there to watch Bod leave the graveyard and they were heartbroken but also very proud of him.

This was such an unusual book, set mostly in a graveyard but so full of love and compassion.   I would recommend this book to middle school students.  Upper elementary school students would be able to read this book but some of their parents may object to their children reading a book where a family is murdered.  Or these students may still get frightened about ghosts, ghouls, etc. who are active in graveyards.  The language from various centuries may be a little overwhelming for younger students who do not have as much background knowledge.  I completely agree with the Neil Gaiman’s statement during his interview with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.  He pointed out that children’s fiction always has a little bit of darkness in it.  If I taught older students I would probably have them think about some of their favorite childhood fairytales and uncover the “darkness”.  We would discuss how this is like a reality check within our storybook.  Things in life are not always perfect but that does not hinder our ability to learn lots, love deep, and live full.  I think that it is healthy for students to be exposed to slivers of darkness through the text they read so they do not develop a skewed, “peaches n’ cream” outlook on life.  Many of my first graders, unfortunately, have already been through so much in their short little lives that would be difficult for adults to handle.  However, these same students seem to have a deeper understanding of certain things that cannot necessarily be taught.  Sometimes tragedy can make us stronger, smarter, and more adaptable, which in turn, better prepares us for the curveballs that life tends to throw.  While delving through this book with my students, I would have them focus on the positives that resulted from the negatives in Bod’s life.  We would review text-to-self connections, then I would ask students to look internally and think about a time when something positive resulted from something negative in their own life.

I was not aware of Scholastic’s  This is such a great resource.  This could be utilized to meet the needs of students on all reading levels so that each student could learn about the same topic and have background knowledge to bring to whole and small group discussions.  The two books that I found that were two grade levels below The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman were:

1.) The Graves Family by Patricia Polacco   illustrated by Patricia Polacco.

2.) Ghost Trap (Wild Willie) by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Sue Truesdell and Susan G. Truesdell

I listened to Neil read Chapter 7 Part 2) Every Man Jack via  I loved how Neil Gaiman joked with the listeners just after he revealed that Mr. Frost was indeed the man Jack.  He stopped reading and told them that was his stopping point and the audience laughed.  Of course he started reading again and the intensity in his voice matched perfectly with the mood of the story.  After listening to him read this chapter I began to wonder why more authors do not do the same.  This is a great way for authors to put a live voice behind the characters that they have brought to life in their book.  I really enjoyed listening to Neil read aloud his book.  However, I wanted to know what was going to happen next a bit more quickly so I had to read it at a faster pace on my own.

I checked out the Book Drum website, and it was amazing!  I loved the “bookmarks” there were several page numbers to reference specific events throughout the entire book, such as when the man Jack went into the graveyard and Silas convinced him that he did not hear a baby crying, but instead it must have been a fox.  There are clips to fox cries on this page.  My favorite portion of this page is a video of the Colbert Report with Neil Gaiman.  Neil speaks about his book and it is hilarious.   This website is complete with: Bookmarks, Summary, Setting, Glossary, Author, Review, and Map.  I found the glossary helpful and I am sure that students would benefit from having this tool available if they were not able to gather meaning from the context alone.

I enjoyed reading Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book 2009 Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech.  It was interesting to me that he had the idea for this book for twenty years before he felt ready to write it.  One particular part of Neil’s acceptance speech really stood out to me, “Sometimes you work as hard as you can on something, and still the cake does not rise.  Sometimes is cake is better than you had ever dreamed.”  I think that this is such a common fact of life that can apply to all people, not just writers.  Sometimes we just need to accept the fact that things don’t always turn out the way we want.  This could mean that better things are in store for us later.  Neil Gaiman seems to have a very realistic view on life with a healthy dose of humorous sarcasm, as seen in his interview with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.  I thought it was funny that he pointed out twice about librarians’ concerns over divulging information about his school holiday spent at the local library.  He even went so far as to state that libraries are not childcare facilities, but sometime fecal children raise themselves among the stacks.  I agree that children’s fiction is the most important fiction because children are able to go to places that they have never been, put themselves in unlikely situations and ponder the ways that they would handle themselves.   It is such a magical escape from reality and I believe that Neil Gaiman did an excellent job describing this in his 2009 Newbery Medal Acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book.

Articles from The Reading Teacher (4/19/12)

18 Apr


Lane, H., & Wright, T. (2007). Maximizing the effectiveness of read aloud. The Reading Teacher, 60(7), 668-675.

Morrison, V., & Wlodarczyk, L. (2009). Revisiting read aloud: Instructional strategies that encourage students’ engagement with t. International Reading Association, 63(2), 110-118.


I chose to read, Maximizing the Effectiveness of Reading Aloud by Holly Lane and Tyran Wright and Revisiting Read Aloud: Instructional Strategies that Encourage Students’ Engagement with Texts by Vanessa Morrison and Lisa Wlodarczyk.  I enjoyed reading each of these articles.  All educators are aware that reading aloud is an important part of the instructional. While reading, Maximizing the Effectiveness of Reading Aloud by Holly Lane and Tyran Wright, I was shocked to read that Meyer, Wardrop, Linn, and Hastings (1993) found that there were low to moderate negative correlations between time teachers spend reading aloud and their students’ reading achievement.  I found it surprising when they reported that classrooms where teachers spend more time reading aloud, students’ reading achievement tends to be worse than in classrooms where less time is devoted to read aloud activities.  There are numerous other researchers whose studies show the benefits of reading aloud. For example, Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; DeTemple & Snow, 2003; Brabham & Lynch-Brown, 2002; Sénéchal, 1997; Sharif, Ozuah, Dinkevich, & Mulvihill, 2003) report that reading aloud to children can increase their vocabulary. While (Chompsky, 1972) discusses how it can promote their syntactic development.  (Stahl, 2003) states that reading aloud can increase students’ ability to recognize words.  To explain these conflicting findings, (Lane & Wright, 2007) state that, “the most positive results of reading aloud have typically been found with researcher-designed methods, as opposed to naturally occurring methods.  This suggests that parents could be more productive in their read-aloud activities if they employed some of the more systematic methods that researchers use.”  This article discussed several ways to maximize the effectiveness of read-alouds.  (Teale, 2003) suggests that teachers should consider (a) the amount of read-aloud time, (b) the choice of text for read-aloud activities, (c) the method of reading aloud, and (d) the fit of the read-aloud in the curriculum.  I had not heard of dialogic reading before, but I immediately thought about using it within my own classroom.  Dialogic reading is based on three principles: (a) encouraging the child to become an active learner during reading, (b) providing feedback that models more sophisticated language, and (c) challenging the child’s knowledge and skills by raising the complexity of the conversation to a level just above his current ability (DeTemple & Snow, 2003).  I enjoyed reading about text talk, which was developed by (Beck & McKeown, 2001; Beck & McKeown, 2002) this is a read-aloud strategy that focuses on vocabulary development.  They stress the importance of selecting important words to teach.  Many teachers do this before they teach a lesson, selecting words that they predict their students will have difficulty with and preparing an alternate definition that can be explained in a way that students can understand and relate to.  (Beck, 2004) explains that there are three tiers of word utility. Tier I words are everyday words that child already know.  Tier 2 words are less common words but ones that mature speakers of the language use and understand readily.  Tier 3 words are infrequent words that are usually associated with a specific content area.  Beck suggests using Tier 2 words for instruction.  This article also suggests that teachers and schools can do their part in helping parents with read-alouds by giving them access to numerous, appropriate books.  Teachers can also give parents suggestions to help parents while reading aloud to their children.  (Lane & Wright, 2007) suggest that schools can do this by offering training to assist parents.  They also state, “by employing research-based methods, teachers and parents can maximize the effectiveness of reading aloud, thereby enhancing the reading experiences and the achievement of students.”

While reading, Revisiting Read Aloud: Instructional Strategies that Encourage Students’ Engagement with Texts by Vanessa Morrison and Lisa Wlodarczyk, I found it interesting to learn about the transactional process.  (Rosenblatt, 1978) described reading as a transactional process, where the reader must transact with the text to make meaning.  Meaning is not found directly within the text nor solely within the reader, it is when the two transact, meaning occurs. (Morrison & Wlodarczyk, 2009) discuss the importance of teaching students how to use various strategies to promote their ability to read and listen.  I was happy to read that student’s learn more through peer collaboration compared to learning in isolation or teacher-dominated instruction (Slavin, 1983).  It is always nice to have affirmation about things that are already happening within your classroom.  I know that my students thoroughly enjoy working with their peers.  It seems to make the lesson much more enjoyable for them and I love hearing students work to help each other understand a concept or an alternative point of view.  I was also pleased to read that (McCormick, 1977) describes reading as the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for successful reading.  I love reading aloud to my students and watching them become captivated.  If we run out of time to finish a story it puts a smile on my face to hear them complain about not being able to finish the story.  When this happens, I know that they were engaged and enjoying the book.  Oftentimes, when I finish a read aloud, several students run up and ask if they can read it.  On a regular basis I witness the positive impact read-alouds have on students.  (Barrentine, 1996; Sipe, 2000)state that reading aloud to children builds and supports their listening and speaking abilities and enhances their overall language development.

The Alphaboxes strategy is one way to encourage students to collaboratively interact with text (Hoyt, 1999).  This is a strategy that I use repeatedly with my first grade students.  They love using Alphaboxes and benefit from sharing their thoughts and ideas while working with peers.  Many of my students also enjoy completing Alphaboxes individually and then sharing and comparing with a partner.  They are thrilled when they see that their partner has some of the same words listed as they do.  I created a large dry erase alphabox to use with the whole class.  It serves as a great model to remind students how to select appropriate words for their own Alphabox.  I enjoyed reading that the author, Lisa Wlodarczyk, used this strategy with her own students.  I appreciated the fact that she did not ever require her students to fill up all 26 boxes, I do not do this either.

Making connections is something that seems to come naturally to many students.  (King et al., 1997; Morrison, 2005) claim that learning increases when students make connections to what they are reading.  I know that my first grade students make connections all of the time.  If they do not have a direct connection, they will try their best (even if it is a long shot) to make some sort of connection to the text.  I believe that students remember the text better when they have developed their own connections.  (Miller, 2002) gives suggestions for modeling the different types of connections for children.  Text-to-self connections are when students think of something that has happened to them and relate it to the text.  Text-to-text connections are when students are reminded of something from this text and relate it to something they have read from another text.  Text-to-world connections are when something in the book makes them think about something that has happened or is happening in their neighborhood, community, country, or world.  My first graders seem to enjoy text-to-self connections the most.  This ties in nicely with the discussion web which was also described in this article. (Alvermann, 1991) and (Vacca and Vacca, 2008) describe a discussion web as a graphic organizer that enables students to examine both sides of an issue before agreeing on a conclusion.  This collaborative, social setting is inviting for students and allows them to freely discuss and defend their thoughts and opinions.  As (Morrison & Wlodarczyk, 2009) state, “read-alouds, alphaboxes, making connections, and the discussion web are all powerful techniques to support young students as they begin wading into the reading process.”


27 Mar

While reading Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to sort out any clues that would lead me to find the connection between Ben and Rose.

Ben’s story was told through text. Ben’s mother was recently killed in a car crash and he was now living with his aunt, uncle, and cousins.  Ben kept an organized museum box filled with his tiny treasures that he found all over the place.  The outside of his box had wolves on it.  Ben often had terrible nightmares of wolves chasing him.  He didn’t know why he constantly had these dreams.  His mother recently died in a car crash and he moved in with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. One night Ben went back to his old house where he and his mother had lived.  He found clues that led him to believe his father lived in New York.  As he was dialing the phone number he found, Ben was struck by lightning in the only ear he could hear out of and then lost all hearing.  While he was in the hospital, Ben decided to set out on a quest to find his father in New York.  Ben didn’t let his hearing loss deter him from venturing out into an unknown city.  Shortly after Ben arrived in New York he was robbed and then discovered that his father did not live at the same address any longer.  While Ben was distraught, he dropped his museum box and snuck inside the American Museum of Natural History.  He stumbled upon a captivating wolf diorama.  Ben found himself mesmerized with the wolves and how lifelike they looked. Jamie found Ben and returned his museum box.  Jamie gave him food, a safe place to stay, and a personal tour of the museum. The two boys became friends and Ben told him all about his mother and the clues he found which led him to New York.  Jamie eventually told Ben about the new Kincaid’s bookstore.  This was information that Jamie had been withholding because he was afraid of losing his only friend.  When Ben finally arrived, he was greeted by an older woman and an older man.

Rose’s story was told through illustrations.  Rose was a little girl from New Jersey and she was deaf.  Her mother was a famous actress, had divorced her father and moved to New York City.  Rose missed her mother terribly.  She cut out and saved every newspaper article about her mother.  Rose was miserable and alone living at home with her father.  She snuck out of her house and made her way to New York City to see her mother.  When Rose arrived, her mother was not at all happy to see her.  Instead, she was furious that Rose had come to visit while she was working and reminded her that she shouldn’t have left her house because she was deaf and it was dangerous.  Rose was aware that the city could be dangerous for any child not just a child who was deaf.  Her mother locked her in her dressing room, but Rose escaped and ran to see her brother who worked at American Museum of Natural History.  When she found her brother, Walter, he allowed her to stay with him and he even convinced their parents to enroll Rose in a school for children who are deaf.  Rose was so happy there and that’s where she met her husband, Bill, who was also deaf.  Rose and Bill eventually got married and had a son named Daniel.  Daniel loved working at the museum and he even went to Gunflint Lake, Minnesota to study wolves for his next project.  While Daniel was there he met Elaine, Ben’s mother.

Rose and Ben met each other at the American Museum of Natural History.  Ben had fallen down the stairs and Rose and Walter went over to help him.  Rose noticed Ben’s charm necklace was open and had a picture of a man inside it.  When she looked closer at the picture, she noticed it was her son, Danny.  Rose immediately knew that Ben was her grandson.  She began to explain Danny’s journey to Gunflint Lake, Minnesota and how he met Ben’s mother Elaine.  Rose told Ben how much Danny loved Elaine but they knew they could never be together because neither wanted to move.  Rose also told Ben that Danny had a heart condition and he passed away.  She said that his mother came to the funeral and brought Ben with her when he was about four years old.  Rose said that as soon as she saw Ben, she was surprised at how much he resembled Danny when he was a young boy.  She also told Ben that he and his mother had toured the museum. Ben had drawn pictures of Danny’s wolf exhibit and gave the drawing to Rose.   Ben immediately knew why he always had dreams of wolves.  He had seen this incredible, realistic exhibit as a young boy and it had stuck with him.  Ben also believed that the wolves in his dreams were pushing him to New York, to find his grandmother and his father’s work.  Ben knew that he was finally where he needed to be, he had found the answer to his significant wonder and he was surrounded by museums of wonders created by his very own father and grandmother.

While reading Wonderstruck, I thought about loses of loved ones that I have had.  I really admired Ben’s strength after his mother’s death.  He did get upset a few times but he was strong enough to move on and seek out the answers to his own wonders.  I also thought about my own desire to seek out other cities and countries to fulfill my wonder.  I have a strong desire to move far away at least for a while.  Ben and Rose did not let anything stop them from finding their own way.  I believe that this model of courage would be good for students to read about.  Many students are in less than ideal living situations but they need the courage and the wonder to dream big.  These children and all children should not be afraid to fulfill their dreams.  We as educators need to help build confidence in them. When they are ready to act upon their dreams students will more likely put forth a great effort instead of thinking something isn’t attainable.  Many educators and parents are already doing this by supporting children’s ideas.  There is a great website that does exactly this,

I must say that Wonderstruck was unlike any other book I had read before.  This made it even more enjoyable for me because I had no idea how enjoyable it would be.  At first, I was afraid that reading two stories, one through text and one through illustrations would be a trying experience.  Fortunately, I was wrong and I enjoyed how the stories were interwoven.  I thought that there was certain softness about the mood of the book despite the tones of death, loneliness, and discouragement.  In my opinion, Selznick had just enough description about the characters’ misfortunes to help the reader develop a sense of empathy.  I felt that Selznick also keep a nice onward flow to the story, with an unexpected and satisfying ending.

This book did not take a long time to read.  I read it in one sitting, which is not what I had expected after seeing the book on the first night of our class!  I had predicted that this book would be extremely time consuming and would not be appropriate for elementary school readers.  I was pleasantly surprised. I could see upper elementary school students reading and enjoying this book.  They would probably love being seen with a book of this length/width!  I’m sure that many students would be apprehensive to read this book at first because it looks intimidating.  However, once students took a sneak peek at the pages, I’m sure that they would be much more open and comfortable reading it.  I would probably introduce this book using the following website, We would begin by “exploring the stars” which would lead to a video of Brian Selznick discussing his inspiration for Wonderstruck. After viewing the sites listed on our syllabus, I thought that the virtual field trip to the American Museum of Natural History would also be a great way to connect this text with the real world.

As a way to authentically respond to Wonderstruck, I created an Educational GLOG.

I really enjoyed creating the GLOG.  I had never heard of this before but I can see how well it could work for students.  Glogster allows students to get creative with their assignments.  I love this because the ways that students represent their own Glog can give an insight into how they felt about the story, what they believed to be the most important parts, etc.  It would also be interesting to see any trends or patterns that show up on all of your students’ glogs or what does not show up could be telling.  In my county, crayons, construction paper, scissors, and glue are materials that are mostly reserved for art class.  Using these materials any other time is frowned upon.  With that said, Glogster allows students to be as creative as they wish, without breaking out the glue or having unhappy administrators.  I think that Glogster would be a little too difficult for my first graders to use independently but I am going to try it out with two or three students.  We will work together to discuss what should go on the Glog and why.  I am thinking about allowing groups to create a Glog (with my help) on different books and then present their Glog to the class via the Smart Board.  I am sure that my students would enjoy creating and presenting their Glog as a means to advertise books to their classmates.  I kept my Glog simple, I did not want to disclose too much about the book to keep the reader “wondering”!  I placed a picture of Brian Selznick on my Glog, along with a link to the book trailer, questions to create wonder, and a short summary of the book.  The blinking stars all over the page represent the mystery that this story holds.  The stars are also representations of the wishes that Rose and Ben had (and even Jamie).  I believe that their wishes came true, maybe not their exact wishes, but I do believe that the outcome is one that they are all very happy with.


Here is the link to my GLOG…


Please click the link below to view my Wonder box…

Wonder box

My actual “wonder box” is a pink tin box that I got in middle school, from one of my favorite clothing stores.  I have always kept meaningful birthday cards in this box.  For this project, I placed other significant items in it.  I wouldn’t organize my wonder box because part of the actual wonder for me is digging through my belongings and uncovering what is inside.  Inside my box, I placed a tiny little envelope from 6th grade.  Inside of the envelope, I placed one hair from my beloved childhood dog, Button.  After she passed away, I would find a few of her hairs and I just had to keep one because I felt like that was my last connection with her.  I have a small wooden box and inside the box, there is an arrowhead necklace. This necklace was a gift from my brother.  He bought it for me when he went on a field trip during first grade.  I was in sixth grade at the time and I will never forget how happy and excited he was to give me this necklace.  My museum box would also store my collection of concert tickets, football tickets, pretty rocks that I found as a child, honor roll ribbons, character award metals, a church bulletin from my confirmation, a Minnie Mouse pin from Walt Disney World, a book on Greek mythology, coins from various countries, a “God’s eyes” keychain from Greece, movie stubs, and photos from vacations with my boyfriend.  I also put a handmade card with a sweet note from my grandmother inside. Last, but not least, a pair of pink and orange cow earrings.  A friend of mine gave these earrings to me as a birthday gift in elementary school.  He told me that he thought I would like them because my grandparents owned a dairy farm.  I just had to point out to him that they were not cows, but instead they were moose earrings.  Till this day, we still argue and laugh about the cow versus moose disagreement.

Here is the link to my I Poem for 2 Voices…

I Poem for 2 Voices

Independent Reading (Due 3/22)

20 Mar

Independent Reading (Due 3/22)


After reading, “Using Interest Inventories with Struggling and Unmotivated Readers”

By Arleen P. Mariotti, I chose to administer the reading interest inventory entitled “My Feelings About Reading”,

This inventory was perfect for my first graders, students circled a smiley face that matched how their feelings toward each question.  I thought that this was a user friendly and age appropriate way for my students to express their feelings on a variety of reading interest questions.   I was happy to see students that every one of my students believes he/she is a great reader! On the other hand, it was sad to learn that many students’ inventories show that they do not read at home very often.  Each of my students reported that they enjoy being read to.  This made me think about how read-alouds in school are not only an important part of reading development, but they are also an enjoyable part of our students’ day.  I pulled in students in small groups to complete a more in depth discussion.  Students shared their favorite genres, strengths in reading, their concerns, and their needs/wants.  At the beginning of the school year, I administered the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (McKenna & Kear, 2003).  My students enjoyed this reading attitude survey and they thought Garfield’s expressions were so funny.  I believe that using reading interest inventories is a safe way for shy students to express their true feelings.  It is important that students feel comfortable and know that they can be completely honest on their inventory.


I enjoyed looking at all of the different, informative websites.  I particularly enjoyed the Simply Science Blog There were several great science books listed complete with photos, approximate grade levels, synopsis, and activities that correlate with each book.  I even found a book that I would love to use in an upcoming Earth Day lesson, Filling the Earth with Trash By Jeanne Sturm.  I also loved the following website:  I wasn’t aware that there were so many excellent comic-strip-style books available for beginning readers. Many of my first graders love the graphic novel format but the text is often too difficult for them.  I just ordered Otto’s Orange Day A Toon Book by Frank Cammuso and Jay Lynch!


In regards to my classroom library, the number of texts has increased significantly over the past three years.  I have spent lots of time searching for good deals on books at local stores and online.  Some of my colleagues who teach upper elementary have given me books that appear to be too easy or babyish and do not appeal to their students.  My school’s PTO has been generous at the providing classrooms with lots of new books on a regular basis over the past few years.  I also have a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction big books with large pages and large print that my first graders love. National Geographic for Kids and TIME for Kids magazines are popular genres in my classroom library.  The boys in my class seem to gravitate more toward nonfiction books, while many of the girls seem to prefer more fiction books. My classroom library has about 60% fiction and 40% nonfiction.  However, the percentage of nonfiction books in my classroom library is steadily increasing because of an abundance of Scholastic books orders, parent donations and frugal shopping skills. J  I try to stay on top of my students’ interests and keep these in mind while making book purchases. One thing that I am missing in my classroom library is a wide variety of books on tape/c.d.  Students need to be exposed to rich book language that is not in many of their independent leveled first grade text.  Books on tape/c.d. would provide students with a fluent model of reading and exposure to rich book language.  I have some in my classroom library, but not nearly enough.


To enter the classroom library, you walk between two large, long bookshelves that end at a wall of big books.  Chapter 2 describes the importance of book displays.  I really enjoy displaying books and trying to “sell” them to my students.  Luckily, my bookshelves are not too high; they are right at my students’ eye level, which is ideal.  I have clear bins that hold books facing out so that students can see their covers.  My big books are also held in large clear bins so that students can see their covers as well.  On each clear, plastic book bin, I have genre labels. My students really enjoy placing books into the correct genre bins.  They are constantly asking me, “can I check and make sure the books are in the right bins?” I am so glad that they take pride in keeping our library accurate.  Within my classroom library I have a table with two big book bins on top and one on each side.  Under the table I have a rug, pillows, and a little poster, “what to do when you come to a tricky word”, which is taped underneath the tabletop.  My students love reading underneath the table, so I added another “comfy spot” like this one across the room.  Beside this reading area, I added another bookshelf full of clear plastic bins to display more books. There are also books and tape/c.d. players so that students can listen to books on tape. I also have a large disc chair with baskets of books surrounding them.  My students love utilizing the “comfy spots” I created.  They also create their own, such as underneath my easel.  My students are usually more engaged in reading when they are in their own little area, instead of seated at their desk.  (Hepler & Hickman, 1982) describe how classroom environments can be created so that students are engaged with books, in ways that create communities of readers.

We have t-shirts and posters on the wall beside our library, reminding students how to choose “just right” books, we call this the T-shirt strategy”, which is similar to the “Goldilocks Rule (Taberski, 2000).  Chapter 3 suggests that during the 30 minute reading block, younger students could read independently for 15 minutes and read with a partner for the additional 15 minutes.  Many of my first graders have been practicing this suggested time frame, but as they constantly grow as readers I am seeing changes.  These are wonderful changes.  Many students are getting so caught up in their independent reading they are choosing not to read with a partner everyday.  However, as soon as they finish their book, they want to find the closest friend and tell them all about their book.  I have a few students who cannot seem to stop themselves from interrupting my small reading groups to tell me all about a book they just finished.  It usually begins with, “Ms. Durham, did you know…?”  In my classroom, each student has a reading response folder.  They are allowed to write or illustrate how they wish to respond to their book.  During mini lessons I give students a focus for reading time but they are always allowed to respond additionally in other meaningful ways. I love reading conferences so that I can learn more about each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests.  My students love using iMovie to record their summaries/responses to their books and sharing it with friends.  While reading Chapter 4 I was excited to see the responding with drama portion, especially “Hot Seat”.  My students adore this response to reading activity and so do I.  They get so serious about it, they think hard about the characters and events so that they can portray it in a way their classmates will understand.  It’s so much fun and a meaningful reading response activity!


While reading Chapter 5, I kept thinking about the content area books I have in my classroom library.  I have a wide variety of books within the math, science, and social studies content areas.  However, I think that these books are best suited for read-alouds, especially with my first graders.  Even if they are able to read these books independently, they usually have so many questions about the content, which is a result of their limited background knowledge on these content areas.  I love building background knowledge about a content area through read-alouds and then having whole group discussions.  The books that teachers read-aloud are usually coveted by students afterward, so why wouldn’t educators want students to re-read a book about the content presently being taught?


Through the conversations during the small group reading inventory discussions, I found that many students really wanted to listen to more books on tape/c.d. I knew that this was lacking in my classroom library but I had no idea how many students wished that this was more accessible.  This is what I will request on my Donor’s Choose account.  Within the next few months, I may be studying abroad so I contacted Donor’s Choose to ask a few questions and I was advised not post a request yet.  This is because there is a chance that donors would still be contributing to my project when in fact I may not have a classroom within the next couple of months or by the time my project is completely funded, which would violate their terms.  If I am still a practicing teacher next year, I will post this request on Donor’s Choose immediately, along with other needs of my current students.  What a wonderful site!


After reading, I have gained several great ideas that I will be implementing into my classroom. Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading by Barbara Moss and Terrell A. Young is a great resource.  I particularly enjoyed reading about the ideas on reading response activities through: art, drama and technology.  I also appreciated the reproducibles for the classroom.  In Appendix B there are also reproducibles for parents, which give great suggestions.  Independent reading is so crucial to students’ reading development.  We cannot expect students to make significant growth in reading if we do not give them time to read independently.

Trends were found among fourth graders in 35 countries by the 2001 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study.  They discovered that only 35% on fourth graders in the United States read for fun on a daily basis and 32% of U.S. fourth graders reported that they never read for fun away from school.  (Allington, 2006) suggests that students read independently during the school day for 90 minutes or more. (Anderson, Wilson and Fielding, 1998) describe that students make improvements in reading as they engage in independent reading.  Their studies show that the students who read independently for an hour each day scored in the 98th percentile on standardized tests.  However, the students who did not read at all outside of school, scored in the 2nd percentile.

While it is important that students have access to lots of books and various forms of print, (Moss and Young 2010) state that, “access to books is not enough, however.  Students need books with appeal”.  The students who chose not to read are often times the same students who have difficulty reading.  (Moss and Young 2010) explain that these readers “associate reading with failure, tedium and struggle.  As a result, they don’t get the practice they need, they don’t find pleasure in reading, and they never become accomplished readers, let alone lifelong readers”.  Teachers need to ensure students are allowed time to practice the skills they are taught.  (Pearson, 2005) states, “all the explicit instruction in the world will not make strong readers unless accompanied by lots of experience applying their knowledge, skills, and strategies during actual reading”.

(Block & Pressley, 2007) describe that students’ independent reading experiences should involve books at their recreational reading level that the teacher has introduced and that are related to classroom topics or themes.   (Allington, 1994) states that when students are reading a wide variety of books that are of interest to the student, this is “the most potent factor in the development of reading processes”.  Most educators understand the value of students being interested in the materials they read.  If their choices are limited within our classroom libraries, we are doing an injustice to our students.  The classroom libraries should be a place to cultivate lifelong readers. (Hepler & Hickman, 1982) describe how classroom environments can be created so that students are engaged with books, in ways that create communities of readers. (Routman, 2003) “Classroom libraries are a literacy necessity; they are integral to successful teaching and learning and must become a top priority if our students are to become thriving, engaged readers.”

Educators must work hard to help students develop a love and an interest in reading.  If students do not, they may choose not read at all because it has never been viewed as a pleasurable experience.  (Thomas and Moorman 1983), “The student who can read but chooses not to is probably the most crucial concern confronting our educational institutions today.  It is not illiteracy we are combating, but aliteracy”.  This is something that can be prevented with appropriate instruction and exposure to meaningful texts.

(Moss and Young, 2010) build upon and extend principles created by (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001) for classroom-based independent reading experiences.  (Moss and Young, 2010) believe that the following should be included within an independent reading program:

-supportive reading environments

– access to interesting books and reading materials

– structured time for engaging with texts

– accountability

– active engagement by teachers

– family and community connections


In Dr. Frye’s powerpoint, she states, “in matching students to instructional-level texts, the teacher aims to increase students’ word recognition automaticity and comprehension (including literary analysis), as well as improving their motivations for reading and academic self-esteems.”  I have learned the importance of giving students a variety options to respond to their reading.  My students are given reading response choices but these options could be expanded.  My first graders never cease to amaze me with their intellect and creative ways to express their understanding of a story.  While reading this week, I thought a lot about my students’ independent reading habits and what I do to help them stay interested.  I enjoyed reading about the importance of having a wide variety of interesting reading materials for students.  High interest materials are more pleasurable to students and result in their reading for longer time periods (Guthrie & Greaney, 1991).  This information reaffirms the significance of using a reading interest inventory to gather important feedback from students.  I will continue to use reading interest inventories and pull students in small groups to further discuss their reading interests.  Once I discover more about their reading interests, I will use this information to suggest motivating books for students to read, as well as working to provide additional resources as my students’ needs and interests evolve.



Allington, R.L. (2006). What really matters for struggling readers: designing research-based programs (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Anderson, R.C., Wilson, P.T., & Fielding, L.G. (1988). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school.  Reading Research Quarterly, 23(3)., 285-303. doi:10.1598/RRQ.23.3.2

Block, C.C. & Pressley, M. (2007). Best practices in teaching comprehension. In L.B. Gambrell, L.M. Morrow, & M. Pressley (Eds.), Best practices in literacy instruction (3rd ed., pp. 220-242). New York: Guilford.

Fountas, I.C, Pinnell, G.S. (2001). Guiding readers and writers: Teaching comprehension, genre, and content literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Frye, B. (2012). Silent reading: classroom implications . Unpublished manuscript, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC. Retrieved from

Guthrie, J.T., & Greaney, V. (1991).  Literacy acts. In R. Barr, M.L. Kamil, P.B. Mosenthal, & P.D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 2, pp. 68-96). New York: Longman.

Hepler, S.I., & Hickman, J. (1982). “The book was okay. I love you”: Social aspects of response to literature. Theory into practice, 21(4), 278-283.

McKenna, M., & Kear, D. (1990). Measuring attitude toward reading: A new tool for teachers. Reading Teacher, 43(9), 626-639.

Moss, B. & Young, T. (2010). Creating lifelong readers through independent reading.  Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Pearson, P.D. (2005, October). Facilitating comprehension. Presentation made to the Delaware Valley Reading Association, Springfield, PA. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from

Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Taberski, S. (2000). On solid ground: Strategies for teaching reading K-3. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Thomas, K.J. & Moorman, G.B. (1983). Designing reading programs. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.


– Stacy Durham 3/20/12

Internet Workshop for The One and Only Ivan (3/1/12)

28 Feb

Internet Workshop-Elephants

I started out by using Robin Clark’s idea and summarized The One and Only Ivan through storytelling in a first grade appropriate way.   Next, my students retold their favorite parts of the story by creating a comic strip online.  They wrote one sentence for each panel.  Students used the website:, they printed out their comic strips and shared it with a classmate.

My students loved Ivan but many were particularly interested in Ruby because she was a baby.  It was so sweet to listen to my first graders act as if they were mature adults concerned about the well-being of an innocent baby.  They had so many questions about Ruby.  They wanted to be certain that Stella would take care of her since Stella wasn’t really her mother.  They were happy to learn that Stella loved Ruby very much and wanted to protect her.  This is why I decided to create an internet workshop on elephants because of my students’ interest in the characters Stella and Ruby.

Let’s learn about elephants!  We will use the following websites to learn lots of new and interesting information.  As we go, write down answers to the following questions:

Just for fun:

1.)           What do elephants do to cool off?

2.)           What do baby elephants do that many baby humans do?

3.)           Name some of the foods that elephants eat.

4.)           Which elephant leads the group?

5.)           What are baby elephants called?

6.)           How many teeth do elephants have?

7.)           How do elephants communicate with each other when they are far away?

8.)           When do elephants to communicate with each other the most?

–              Students will e-mail an elephant e-card to their friend (using the teacher’s e-mail address). In the box “type your friend’s name, they will type a sentence or two telling their friend something new they learned about elephants.  After they have sent their e-card, students to read their e-card online and then print it out.  Finally, students will get together with their friend, discuss their e-cards and newly learned facts about elephants.

–              If there is something else that you would like to know about elephants write it down and we will research to find the answers!

Response to Dr. Frye’s Post on Deep Reading and Internet Inquiry (3/1/12)

28 Feb

I agree that deeper reading can only occur when your cognitive resources are free.  If too much time is spent elsewhere, such as decoding the text, comprehension will suffer.  I see this in my classroom when students are trying to read a book that is beyond their independent level.  The children are spending so much time decoding, rereading, and making miscues that they are unable to comprehend what they have read.  Oftentimes their comprehension is extremely minimal and veers off topic.  I do not believe that deep reading is only attainable by reading novels.  I believe that sometimes it is okay for students to grab and book that is of high interest to them yet a little above their reading level.  These students usually have strong background knowledge of the topic which scaffolds their comprehension.  An example of this is a little boy in my classroom who wanted desperately to read a nonfiction National Geographic book about snakes.  I knew that this text was well above his instructional level but it was clear that his interest and motivation was high.  I asked him to read some of the book to me and I was blown away!  He knew so much about snakes that the majority of the vocabulary was not at all a problem for him.  He constantly paused to make connections and ask questions.  I had never seen him engaged in such deep reading.  It was amazing.  He went on to write his own nonfiction snake “book” during writing time, complete with illustrations and labels.

In order for deep reading to take place, I believe that we must be somewhat interested in the text we are reading.  If there is no interest then I do not believe that we would be motivated to read deeply.  Motivation and interest go hand in hand in my opinion and both are needed to read deeply.  Even if motivation and interest and present, if the text is too hard, deep reading is impossible because too much time and energy will be spent dealing with difficult words and context.  Our brain needs to stay focused on topic presented in the text and pause to ponder the information. As we do this, we are able to engage in deep reading.  I believe that the saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” applies to deep reading.  It is scary to think that students would are constantly reading short, fragmented texts on a daily basis through texts messages, facebook, etc. and not practicing deep reading could be losing their ability to read deeply.  However, I do not believe that this is something they would lose forever, with a big IF.  I do think if these students were taught how to read deeply and began to practice, they could regain their ability to read deeply.

While exploring the National Geographic for Kids website, I noticed that the tabs on the left hand side were like a table of contents.  The animals were organized into wildlife categories and by their habitats.  I chose to read about zebras, this format reminded me a lot of a book.  There were different pictures of zebras along with pages of information about zebras, from their stripes, to their diet.  There was even a page with “fast facts”.  This online format is very well organized and appropriate for students to navigate through. My first graders have been successful using this website and they have learned a lot.  It provides information on animals that may not be available in our classroom or school library.

I use the following website,, in my own first grade classroom and my students adore it.  They cannot seem to get enough of National Geographic magazines.  I love that this website provides several issues for students to choose from.  It also fills up the majority of the screen and is free of links or adds, which helps students focus on what they are reading.  The read aloud feature is a great tool for younger readers or struggling readers at any age.  I like how the reader has the option on each page to read the text or to have it read aloud to them.  Several of my students switch back and forth between being read to and reading to themselves.

The mountain gorilla creature feature was very interesting.  I especially enjoyed the video and sound portion.  This would be a great way to digitally enhance or build interest for students before (or during) reading The One and Only Ivan. While I was reading and viewing footage, I found myself making connections to The One and Only Ivan while watching the videos of gorillas in their natural habitat.  The “print this creature” included a place for students to create Collector’s Cards by printing, folding and taping information into a little card.  I could see my students wanting to collect several different animal Collector Cards.  The creature feature is accessible to young students but remains appealing to all ages…I loved it!

I agree that this site,, wouldn’t enhance the reader’s experience but the idea of printing it off, breaking it into sections and reviewing the material together would make the information more attainable for many students. They could make notes in the margins while learning new information presented in class.  Students could even jot down any questions that may arise while reading, especially if they are not comfortable asking questions aloud.

I read aloud digital books from the We Give Books website to my students on a regular basis for about six months now.  They have favorite books that we do not have in our classroom library.  When I first learned about We Give Books, I did not expect it to have such a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction books to choose from.  At first, I was a little disappointed that it did not have the read aloud feature.  This actually turned out to be a good thing, especially for the purpose of read alouds.  I know that it is better for students to hear their teacher reading the text aloud, pausing to ask and answer questions, and model making connections.  Although I have used this website consistently for the past several months, I was not aware of the huge benefit of signing up and supporting a campaign. I signed up and am now supporting the World Vision campaign to help children in Sub-Saharan Africa.  I will be sharing this information with my friends and colleagues.

While reading the new Common Core and Essential Standards for Information and Technology, I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of these have already been implemented in my school and classroom.  One objective that I know I haven’t introduced to my students was under the safety and ethical issues standard.  Teaching students to recognize the need to obtain permission or give credit when using intellectual property of others wasn’t something that I had thought about addressing with my first graders.  However, I do see the need in helping students realize early on that it is not acceptable to take credit for anything they find online or through other technology resources.  First graders may not know that this is just like cheating because they may not realize that another person was responsible for the information they are viewing.