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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Readicide: Avoiding the Tsunami



Welcome back for chapter three of Readicide by Kelly Gallagher. I am so glad that my new fifth grade collaboration group, Focused on Fifth, chose this book for our summer book study. I feel like the author is speaking straight to my heart. So let's talk about what hit me in chapter three.


Overteaching a book does three things to our students.

It prevents them from experiencing the place where all readers want to be - the reading flow. If you read my first post, I talked about my daughter's experience with one of my all time favorites - To Kill a Mockingbird. When I wrote that, I had no idea that Kelly Gallagher would be also using it as an example. In our zest to teach it all, we have literally put too much into each novel. The author's district uses a 122 page teaching guide for a book that is 281 pages. If you stop that often to discuss, make notes, respond to the book, you have definitely interrupted the flow of reading.

It creates instruction that devalues the meaningful in favor of the trivial. I love the author's recipe for killing a book. If we know what is killing our students, why do we continue to do it? 

It damages the chance of our students becoming recreational readers. We all want our students to become lifelong readers, that means we have to quit killing great books. It also means that we need to give our students "access to great books and large doses of uninterrupted time to read." (page 73) In fact studies show that "the most powerful motivator that schools can offer to build lifelong readers is to provide students with time in the school day for free and voluntary reading." (page 75) My brain is screaming why did we get rid of SSR or DEAR time????!!!!

So how do we teach a novel without killing it? The author has some advice for us.

Start with the guided tour and then end with the budget tour - By the time our students are halfway through a novel, they should have already had enough time to work through their confusion, difficult language issues and so on. By the second half, they should be taking the journey mostly on their own.

Augment books instead of flogging them - The real value in reading is finding value for the real world. If the central theme is what happens to a government with too much surveillance power, then find current articles that go with this topic for your students to discuss. Make it relevant to the real world of your students.

Create flood topics - This goes right along with augmenting books. But if your book deals with social injustice. Find articles that tackle both sides of a social injustice topic. Let your students come to  understand both sides of an issue. 

Take a 50/50 approach - 50% recreational reading and 50% academic reading. This doesn't mean that you can't hold your student accountable for their recreational reading. Just do it responsibly. I loved his one-pager assignments. Students turned in one of these assignments each month about a book they read by choice. I think this could be a great resource for accountability, conferring and recommending books to other students. I am definitely going to toss this idea around and see how it can fit into the fifth grade classroom.

This book really makes you want to talk to others about how to help students become lifelong readers. If you haven't read this yet, consider putting it on your to read list or better yet, start a faculty book club with this one. And speaking about good books, guess what came in the mail on Saturday? Some of the books that were recommended in the comments. I can't wait to start reading. Thanks for the suggestions.




Click the cover to go to Amazon.
Take a look at our upcoming schedule before continuing on the hop at The Organized Plan Book.



The Organized Plan Book

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Literature Circles


Today is my last post about Reciprocal Teaching at Work K-12 by Lori Oczkus. As I mentioned in my first post, this book had been on my reading list since last fall when I heard Lori speak at a regional meeting of the International Reading Association. What really caught my attention is that amount of reading growth that is consistently being seen through the use of reciprocal teaching. Today's chapter was probably the most important for me because it deals with using reciprocal teaching with literature circles or book clubs. Now that I am getting my head around teaching fifth grade, I know literature circles are going to be important. 

So how does this work in literature circles? Each student takes on a role - predictor, questioner, summarizer and clarifier. But the author also suggests adding α discussion director who takes on the job of involving the students in other important reading strategies such as making connections and visualizing. We know discussion is key to understanding and with reciprocal teaching and literature circles combined, the students are in charge of this discussion.

The goals of reciprocal teaching during literature circles include:
  • Deepening comprehension
  • Practicing the strategies
  • Release of responsibility to the students
  • Guiding students in becoming more metacognitive and independent
So how do you get started? This is such an important question since using literature circles will be completely new for me. My plan is to start with whole-class lessons that model the strategies. Then I'm going to move into using a short and easy-to-read novel that we can use to practice the strategies and roles as a class before we move to literature circles. This book has a lot of lessons that can help with this. Two strategies that I think I'm going to try are the fishbowl and the jigsaw.

Another issue that I know I need to consider, although it's not unique to using reciprocal teaching, is how to address the social skills needed for successful group work. Since I'm so used to first grade I right away start thinking about how to teach my students to wait their turn or to respond to others. I hope, really hope, that by the time they get to fifth grade they are better at this than first graders. I plan to try to be patient and see how it goes. But I marked the page where the author helps with what to do with difficult groups just in case I need it. 

The chapters are easy to read, but there is so much more inside this book. It has lessons, reproducibles, posters, so much to help you.  And my favorite two things:
1. You don't need to carve out more time, you can do this in your already existing schedule with your already existing reading material.
2. It's research based with proven results. You can't go wrong with that combo!


Click to go to Amazon. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Readicide: Endangered Minds


Welcome back to part 2 of our book study on Readicide by Kelly Gallagher. This is a blog hop so you'll want to click on the link to the next blog to continue along. If you missed chapter one, you can go back and read it here so that you at least have his definition of readicide in mind.
In chapter two, the author gives three major factors contributing to readicide:

A dearth of interesting reading material in our schools- Since moving to a new grade meant moving to a new room, I inherited a couple of bookshelves full of books. Before I even had a chance to look at them, our facilitator told me that those books were everything she could find to help an intern build a classroom library for last year and that it would be great if I could give them to the new teacher since she had heard me say that I had a lot of fifth grade books at home. Well, when I got around to moving, it was apparent that everything she could find was literally the bottom of the barrel. I'm a little embarrassed to box them up and give them to the new teacher because there's a lot of junk in there. Last year's poor intern really did have a dearth of interesting reading material in her room. How does this happen? First the intern probably had no idea that she could ask. Yes, ask and you shall receive is something my school is pretty lucky about. We also have a foundation that solely works to provide grants to teachers in our district and they always fund books. She probably didn't know either of these things. But we have to find ways to get not just books, but great books into the hands of our students. A couple of shelves of books that no one wants to read is just as bad as having no books. We have to get the books into the hands of the students and that probably means we also need to find ways to get the kids excited about the books. But first we need to stock our shelves with a variety of high interest books.

"Let me be clear: if we are to have any chance of developing a reading habit in our students, they must be immersed in a K-12 'book flood'." (page 32)

Removal of novels and other challenging works in order to give more test prep time- This sounds so ridiculous to me, but I know it's happening. Years ago I was teaching second grade and a colleague told me that she had given up reading aloud chapter books because there wasn't enough time. What???!!! Not enough time to read? Maybe we are missing the point.


"In a famous study of fifth graders, Anderson, Wilson and Fielding (1998) found a strong correlation between time spent reading and performance on standardized tests." (page 35)

Here's what they found:
I seriously just gave my 15 year old a lecture about reading more. If we want them to do better on tests, we should give them more time to read, not more test prep.

Not enough reading in school- SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) and DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) were really popular when I started teaching. Everyone was talking about it and teachers were told they should be reading right alongside the kids. It was considered modeling. Now, 25 years later, I can't remember the last time I heard someone mention silent reading time by any name and I've never see a teacher carrying in her own book to read during silent reading. I'm not talking about reading during small group reading time where the students are reading their assigned book, I'm talking about pure reading for enjoyment. Are we giving kids enough time to read books of their choice? Here are some interesting, but disturbing, findings from 2007:
  • Less than 1/3 of 13 year olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier.
  • Among 17 year olds, the percentage of nonreaders doubled over a 20 year period - it was 19% in 2004.
  • On average, Americans ages 15-24 spend almost 2 hours a day watching television and only 7 minutes of their leisure time reading.
  • Nearly half of all Americans ages 15-24 do not read books for pleasure.
I think it's time for us to go back to SSR or DEAR time and according to the author, here's why:
  • SSR is a valuable investment in test preparation.
  • SSR is necessary to allow students an opportunity to build their prior knowledge and background.
  • SSR provides many students with their only opportunity to develop a recreational reading habit.
It's time for me to go back to my schedule and look for ways to get more reading time into the day. I would love to hear what you have given up/gotten rid of in order to get more reading time in. If you want to check out this great book - so interesting and applicable to all grades - click on the cover.


Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Check out our schedule for the rest of the book before you hop on over to The Organized Plan Book.


The Organized Plan Book

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Guided Reading


Welcome back for another post about reciprocal teaching. I'm linking up with Christina's Kinder Blossoms for this book study. In this post, I'm looking at how you can use reciprocal teaching in guided reading groups and it's all in chapter four of Reciprocal Teaching at Work K-12 by Lori Oczkus.

I have to admit that I do a pretty good job of teaching guided reading to first graders, but I have never used guided reading groups with fifth graders. So I really read this chapter with my thoughts on fifth grade. (Yep, starting to get a little nervous about my grade change!) Lori Oczkus says this about using reciprocal teaching with small group instruction, "I've watched students in grades 2-6 grow as much as a staggering two levels in just three to six months, and other educators have experienced similar positive results." (page 134) WOW! That's a lot of growth.

So what are they doing to get that kind of a growth? Teaching the four strategies (predict, clarify, summarize and question) as a package to help students become more metacognitive and flexible. Research shows that this multiple-strategy instruction works.

So what does a reciprocal teaching based guided reading lesson look like? This is probably my favorite thing about this chapter...her outline for teaching small group lessons.
Lesson format modified slightly from page 154.

Now what about grouping students? In first grade I always grouped my students by reading level for guided reading. But the author suggests that there are four ways to group for reciprocal teaching groups.
  1. Strategy needs - I have done this a lot with writing and math, but not as much in reading.  You put the groups together based on student needs regardless of ability level. This is something I would like to try a little more of this year.
  2. Student choice - Let students choose a book regardless of level. Motivation plays a key factor here. I think this will be one of my favorite ways because I think it's really important for students to have choice in their reading. Most students who say they don't like to read, haven't found the right book.
  3. Intervention for struggling readers - This grouping would be for students who are 1-2 years below grade level and requires more instruction time than the rest of the class.
  4. Ability level - This is done more in the lower grades and the author recommends relying on more flexible groupings for grades 3-6. So student choice will probably be the most important grouping for my classroom.
One last thing worth mentioning is that this book is chalked full of mini-lessons. If you want to check out this book, click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Next week I will do one last post about reciprocal teaching and literature circles. I can't wait to read this chapter because I think getting students to use these strategies on their own is key.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Readicide: The Elephant in the Room


I am so excited to be joining up with some fifth grade teachers, bloggers, and TpT sellers to start a collaboration group called Focused on Fifth. We are going to be blogging about Kelly Gallagher's book Readicide for the next five weeks. You are welcome to stop by and read about our impressions or read along with us and pitch in on the conversation in the comments. Either way, whether you are an educator or a parent, this is an important book. 
Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Read-i-cide:

noun, the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools (definition on page 2)

As a kid, I was a total bookworm. Still am actually. My oldest daughter was also a major reader until she got to junior high. I'm talking about the kind of reader that you can't find enough books for. She would devour books and she hated the library with a passion. I hate the smell of old library books, but her reason was because you can't reread them all if you don't own them. So buy, buy and buy some more we did. But somewhere in junior high she was reading To Kill a Mockingbird and complaining about it. Complaining???!!!!! I couldn't fathom why. I love that book. It's one of my favorites. Who doesn't love Scout? How could my ferocious reader of a daughter hate one of my favorite books? This was my first experience with readicide. She was required to have so many annotations per chapter/page and she had to have so many text to self connections or examples of personification. This was readicide for my daughter. All of the literary elements she was looking for were ruining the story. And it was also a real wake up call to me about how easily a great novel can get ruined. To be fair, she had a great teacher. One of the most enthusiastic teachers my girls have ever had. They loved this teacher and loved the books she recommended to them. But she was still ruining one of my beloved books.

Kelly Gallagher says that if we want to "consider what to do about readicide, we must start with the elephant in the room: how the overemphasis on testing is playing a major part in killing off readers in America's classrooms." (page 7) I love to be validated and this was very validating for me. I've been teaching first grade for the past 8 years and our end of the year tests are not part of our state testing, it's only a district test. But I have held to the belief that if I teach them to love reading, they will become good readers. And if they become good readers, they will be able to pass the test. I believe that with all my heart. But now I'm teaching fifth and testing is so much more of a big deal and the beliefs I have held so tightly seem a little more tenuous. This is validation I desperately needed. I want to help develop life-long readers, not test takers. But I needed to be reassured that research backs up my practices and beliefs. The research cited in this chapter was overwhelming and "leads to an inescapable conclusion: if students are taught to read and write well, they will do fine on mandated reading tests. But if they are only taught to be test-takers, they will never learn to read and write well. A terrible price is paid when schools value the development of test-takers more than they value the development of readers." (page 26)

I felt like I should give an "AMEN" after reading this chapter. Now I'm sitting here wondering how we can develop students that truly love to read? I'm dying to keep reading and see what this author offers us, but in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts. What are you doing to help students develop a love of reading? I try to match up readers with books. You don't develop a love of reading until you find that book that you just can't put down. You know the one where you are thinking about it even when you aren't reading.  Here are a few of my recent finds that may be attractive to fifth grade readers.
Highly engaging stories that will make great read alouds.



This true crime novel set in 1875 tells the story of an attempt to steal Lincoln's body. I think this will make a great read aloud that ties into our social studies curriculum. Plus, it's true crime did I already mention that?


Full of hope and resilience, this story will give the reader a look at America through the eyes of a young Sudanese refugee. I think it will make a great read aloud - don't let the prose scare you away. There's a rich, full story inside and you can't help but fall in love with this boy.


It's 1941 and Nick is being sent to Burma to escape the bombs dropping on London, but when the war comes to Burma it's no less dangerous. Once again a great read aloud that ties into social studies.

Thanks for stopping by. We will continue discussing what we can do to prevent readicide next week when we delve into chapter two.  Here is our schedule for the rest of the book:

You'll definitely want to continue on with the hop about chapter one by visiting:

The Organized Plan Book

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Whole Class

Today I am going to be writing about chapter 3 from Reciprocal Teaching at Work K-12. One thing I love about this book is the practical advice for using reciprocal teaching in a variety of settings. Today's chapter looks at using reciprocal teaching in whole class lessons.
Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

What are the goals of whole-class lessons for reciprocal teaching?


  • Establish a common language for using the strategies
  • Teach and scaffold the strategies
  • Provide a community format for discussions and reinforcing procedures
  • Show students how to use multiple strategies for comprehension
and probably most importantly
  • Guide students of all reading levels to improve their comprehension on grade-level material
I think helping all students comprehend grade-level material is so important. Plus, it provides us with a common text that we can use for content areas as well. We have so much to teach that integration is not just good teaching practice, it's a necessity. When I look at all the fifth grade standards, it kind of panics me because I don't know how I can possibly fit it all in. So using content area texts with reciprocal teaching just makes sense to me. I got these recently and I think they look perfect for integrating fifth grade social studies into reciprocal teaching.

On the back it says that they are also going to have books called Westward Expansion and Civil War and Reconstruction.

Essential Foundations for Effective Whole-Class Instruction

  • Scaffolding - Think gradual release of responsibility here. We will be using teacher modeling, student participation/guided practice and reflection. This can include having students turn and talk to a partner and written reflection or responses.
  • Think-Alouds - Make your thinking public! It's so important for your students to hear your thinking. If they don't know what this type of thinking looks and sounds like, they won't be able to do it themselves. So walk them through your thinking as you read.
  • Meta-cognition - We have to get students to think about their thinking. This means a lot of discussion.
  • Cooperative Learning - Keep students engaged with some cooperative learning. Rather than have the same students always raising their hands, let them turn and talk to a partner. Remember that student involvement increases engagement and achievement.
"The best advice in regard to whole-class sessions is to avoid overdoing them." (page 99)

The author refers to not over using whole class lessons. Mix them up with small group lessons. But have you ever been observed during a guided reading lesson where you tried to do every single thing? Use every trick in your bag? Then before you know it the lesson has taken 30 minutes. Been there, done that. Yet in everyday teaching I can't have 30 minute guided reading lessons with each group. I pick and choose what to do each day. My bag of tricks may have tons of activities, but I rotate them and judge what is needed on this particular day with these particular kids on this particular book. I think the same thing applies to whole-class reciprocal teaching lessons. You can't do it all in one lesson. You want to pick and choose what's best for these kids on this day with this text. 

One last thought...whole-class reciprocal teaching sounds a lot like a shared reading lesson in the lower grades. I've never heard an upper grade teacher talk about shared reading so maybe I need to learn the correct terminology, but I'd say this sounds a lot like a shared reading lesson in my first grade. Maybe the switch won't be so difficult.

Next week, chapter four is on using reciprocal teaching in guided reading groups. And you might want to check back in tomorrow because my new collaboration group called Focused on Fifth is starting with our first ever blog hop. I am super excited about working with this great group of teachers. We are going to be blogging about Kelly Gallagher's Readicide. It's a super interesting book.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Reinforcing the Strategies

This week I've been reading chapter two from Lori Oczkus' book Reciprocal Teaching at Work K-12. I know I've said this before but with moving from a lot of years at first grade up to fifth grade this year, I'm actually glad to be reading about something that works across the grades. I am very comfortable with teaching comprehension strategies to first graders, but figuring out how it looks in fifth grade is a different beast in many ways. I like to look at things in a very research oriented way and that's what really caught my attention in chapter one - research overwhelmingly shows that teaching comprehension strategies boosts your student's reading abilities. Many of our low readers struggle with comprehension and explicit instruction is desperately needed. You can read my post about chapter one here. So let's dive into chapter two.


Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Reciprocal teaching focuses on four strategies: predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarizing. To get started you will want to teach or review these strategies with your students regardless of your grade level. Chapter two gives us some practical ways to introduce the strategies:

  • Read-Aloud's - You will want to model, model, model. Alternate between teacher modeling and student pair shares throughout each lesson. Use fiction and nonfiction - newspaper articles, picture books, comics, recipes, maps, a novel - any material will work.
  • Shared Reading of Poetry - I love using poetry. It's so versatile and I think the flow helps with fluency, so I already use a lot of poetry. When using it to introduce the strategies, start with predictions based on the illustrations and title, then read the poem. Model clarification of tricky words or parts, ask questions and summarize. Short, but powerful, lessons are possible.
  • Four Door Chart - Alternate between teacher modeling and student sketches or written responses for each strategy. This can be more time consuming and it can take away from the discussions however, the author suggests it as a technique to help students become familiar with the strategies and then wean students from the use of it as reciprocal teaching is meant to be a discussion technique.
  • Fab Four Characters and Props - I tend to be a little more serious and I can't really see me acting out the strategies with puppets or props. But I'm sure many of you could make this a lot of fun. The props could be glasses for clarifying, a microphone for questioning, a camera for summarizing and a snow globe for prediction.
Use of Mentor Texts - I love using mentor texts for writing, so why not for comprehension strategies? Here are some of the books recommended by the author:


One of the things I love most about this book so far is that it's not a huge new thing. I have enough great things in my repertoire. It's really about taking what we already do and making it more precise and more student-centered. Here are my goals for reciprocal teaching this next year:
  1. Use a great read-aloud to model the strategies, not just once, but all year long. 
  2. Be consistent in using reciprocal teaching - twice a week to see the benefits. 
  3. Make sure all students are participating in the discussions.
Coming Soon: Reciprocal Teaching in Whole-Class Sessons, in Guided Reading and in Literature Circles.  Come back next week for some more thoughts on this book. Thanks for stopping by!

The Books of Summer

I am a reader and summer is the best time for reading. So I'm linking up with Julie Faulkner's Fast Five about some of the best titles for summer.

Here are some of my all-time favorite reads of summer:

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - I was literally laughing out loud while reading this book. You will love Owen Meany. It's definitely on my reread list and not many books make that!


2. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova - I have loved every single one of Lisa Genova's books, but Left Neglected is probably my favorite. A definite must read.


3. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - I remember seeing this book in a bookstore years ago and the owner recommending it, but I didn't think it sounded like my kind of a book, so I didn't buy it. But I picked this book up last year and absolutely loved it. Great characters and a fascinating read.


4. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple - I usually think it's difficult to find a truly funny book. I assume they are difficult to write. I wasn't sure about this one, but read it on the beach last year anyway. Absolutely loved it and I was busting up...out loud even.



5. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone - This book was loaned to me by a friend right before I went on a trip to Italy. I had only read about 50 pages when I was already ordering my own copy. It was such a fascinating read. I've recommended it to my husband and my BIL who both loved it. I loaned it to my mom about 4 years ago and she hasn't even opened it. I am tempted to go take it back and it will be her loss. If you are interested in historical fiction at all or art history, you can't go wrong with this one. Not sure what's wrong with my mom!

And here's a look at my summer reading pile for this year:

I can't wait to see what's on everyone's summer reading list. I know this pile won't last the entire summer, so I need some great titles to add to the pile. Head on over to Julie Faulkner's Fast Five for more summer reading ideas.

Happy Summer Reading!