Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

On Day 12 of the March Slice of Life Challenge, I am celebrating 12 truths I have observed during Reading Workshop with my Grade 4 & 5 class this year. This is six months in with an intermediate classroom. Some of my learning is new. Some has been confirmed yet again.

  • There needs to be daily time to read during class. If special events happen, a space for reading still needs to be found. This is non-negotiable.
  • Reading culture is strengthened by peer recommendations, hype about popular books and a buzz about new titles. Readers need to be immersed in a reading culture. The contagion factor of book love is the most true thing of all when it comes to helping readers develop reading lives.
  • “Just for you” matters. A book stack selected for a specific reader’s perusal is a bridge on the road to independent book selection. When I hold up a book to a child and say “This is a {insert child’s name here} book” I can almost guarantee they will read it.
  • Provide lessons on book abandonment. Reiterate what you have said throughout the year. Support these choices. Smile as enthusiastically when the book goes back on the shelf unread as when a book is taken off the shelf to be read.

Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

  • Let there be too many books. Celebrate the overstuffed book box. Happily diagnose “book-lover-itis” disease. Let there be room for enthusiasm and then teach how to prioritize, how to read more than one book at a time and how to save some for later.
  • Make sure there is a huge selection of books in your classroom library: books from all genres, short books, long books, books that are light and books that are heavy. Picture books matter. Nonfiction matters. Poetry matters. Graphics matter. I can look around the room and see one child reading Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon and another one reading A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen. A range of books sustains a range of readers with all kinds of moods, skills and interests.
  • If a child is choosing books beyond his/her reading level, don’t fuss around them too soon. Give permission to truly choose freely. Guide and suggest. Don’t limit and direct. They will find their books.
  • Don’t discount a reader reading graphic novel after graphic novel. This child is really reading. Really reading real books. This is not a warm up for novels. This is a reader loving a specific format. I had one boy read 17 graphic novels in a row and then he read a non-graphic novel for Book Club. Now he knows he can read a larger variety of books. Options have opened up.  But he has been reader building reading skills all along. There are many books in his future including, I am sure, at least 17 more graphic novels.

Reading Workshop Truths: Slice of Life #12

  • Reading a series helps to develop reading comprehension. The child reading book 6, 7 or even 11 or 12 of a beginning series is building amazing fluency, sense of plot and story and learning to navigate new words without any storyline confusion to get in the way. I first read about this from author Jim Trelease and it has never felt so true as with these 8, 9 and 10 year old readers.
  • When conferring with students, be specific in your conversations but also think about asking every child the same question over a week or two of conferences to get the flavour of the room. Questions like: “What’s working?” “What’s next?” “What is challenging you?” are great broad questions that everyone can answer. They help the teacher shape the next mini-lessons that need to be taught.
  • Be really explicit when teaching reading goals. When readers are reading a longer chapter book, hundreds of pages can seem daunting. I bring out a pile of sticky notes and we write dates on the top and split up the reading. Students love adjusting these if they read ahead or miss a night. Small goals make a longer book seem manageable,
  • Know when to hang back and when to swoop in. I watch body language when children are book shopping. When I see casual browsing, hunting for a specific title or stack building, I am not needed. Aimless wandering? Loud sighing? Pacing in front of the book shelf? I make myself available. I remind about the “Want to Read list”, we look again at which genres we haven’t read, we discuss books that have worked and why. Usually, this gets everything back on track.

If you teach with a Reading Workshop model, what are the truths in your room?

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I just finished the first full week of school with my new students. For me, there is lots of new. New students. New school. New grade combination (Grade 4 & 5). New community. New room. I teach and learn in The Land of New.

Nothing was perfect. But everything was about learning. Sometimes, I was absolutely the biggest learner in the room. Sometimes, I felt the beginning faith in my students that they are both learners and teachers here. I want them to always know this.

Today I celebrate that some wonderful happened. This classroom that I worked on for endless days in the summer feels like so much more with students in it. Together we are building community. It’s exhausting. But it’s fantastic.

And, there is no way I could be doing this alone. My family (parents, children, sister) helped me with set up all summer. My husband has helped me multiple days this week to hang art, affix labels and shift furniture around the room. My new school community has been supportive and willing to answer my endless questions. Things I have needed have been sourced. An iPad charger. A classroom carpet (thank goodness!). Blue markers for the white board.

I am constantly inspired by the PLN I continue to grow. You will see in this celebration that I have borrowed, emulated, utilized, shifted and considered the ideas and work of many incredible educators, authors, illustrators and artists in the work we did this week. I am always bursting with gratitude to be connected with so many creative and thoughtful individuals.

Now to celebrate!

We completed two pieces of art to celebrate International Dot Day. I wanted students to approach their work playfully and to embrace the feeling of no one way to make an art piece. I discovered the wonderful blog of artist Michele Guieu and was blown away by all that she does. After resurfacing from her blog (prepare to spend hours!), I had the inspiration for our Dot Day pieces.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

On one wall – our collective work! Can’t wait for students to walk into this on Monday morning.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

We are learning to think like scientists by waking up our brains to be observant, organized and full of questions. Thank you to Jess Keating and her Animals for Smart People videos. These videos are all under 3 minutes so we watch them twice and then talk about what we learned and the questions the information inspired.

Our first response web was completed together. Students will begin completing their own next week. We talked about jotting down new learning and connecting this to further questions.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of NewAll last year my students and I participated in #classroombookaday (Follow the link to the presentation that Jillian Heise and Angie Huesgen gave at nErdDcampMI 2016 for more information). Near the end of the year, I started choosing a collection of books around a theme. This year with an intermediate class, I decided to continue this and then have the students respond at the end of the week. What was their favourite book? What did they feel was the theme of the week? Which book best exemplified that theme?

We will be learning more about theme in the weeks to come, including how to think about supporting ideas from the text that confirm/illustrate the theme. What I love about this is the potential for students to be thinking and talking all week about how stories connect and what messages they include.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

In math, we began our week with representing numbers in interesting ways. While students built and created, I learned about their understanding of place value and ability to “count up” to prove to me that their structure/creature represented the number given.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

We have started Reading Workshop in full force. This group happily reads independently for 20-25 minutes and daily asks for more time to read. We have started to learn about genre through our picture book collection. This week we talked about fantasy stories, humour and books with rhyme and repetition. I have been trying to connect with each child to talk about books that are loved and what to read next. One important moment? When the child who told me he did not like to read and had no favourite books (on his reading survey) came to me on Friday and asked for my help in choosing a novel. The power of a reading community in a classroom full of books!

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I finally finished covering exposed black board (non magnetic and marked up with tape marks) with book jacket covers. I call this book wall paper 🙂 The covers I selected are favourite titles of mine but I hope that they also convey a few things: we are readers here, we read fiction and nonfiction, stories are important, diversity is celebrated, we will be creative here, we will share laughter, we will learn together . . .

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

I celebrate turning out the lights on Friday afternoon (okay, early evening) to chairs up, art on the wall, student words in my head. Goodnight to my new classroom community.

Celebration: Week One in The Land of New

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.


Celebration: Readers happened here

Little things and big things happen every day in our classrooms. The huge things, of course, we can’t help but notice. An amazing interactive lesson where everyone was engaged. A performance where we showcase the songs we have been singing. An incredible art project hung up and celebrated. The little things are just sized down huge. They don’t shout and march about to gather attention. They just quietly happen. Finding them in the every day busy is like finding the first leaves unfurl on a favourite tree. Not there one day and beautifully present the next.

I love finding the little things. The little things with big meaning. Big meaning and big potential.

Little moments like listening to a child read and realizing that she is suddenly fully a reader. It didn’t happen suddenly of course. Little things happen everyday and seemingly out of nowhere, you are at a place you weren’t sure you would land. Like a dripping faucet fills up a bowl when an hour ago it was empty. Steady drops over time. Repeated actions + space + time = definitely something. Daily reading practice in a classroom community over months and months and yes, definitely something. A reader gets made. A reader happens. A reader arrives.

Slowly, certainly, with determination a little one who told me in September, “I can’t really read any of these books.” sits at a table reading in May. When I ask her this question, “Do you know how far you have come?” she answers with conviction, “I wasn’t really reading much and now I am reading so much. I am a rockstar!”

I watch her over our Reading Workshop session. After reading aloud to me, she sits and continues with her book bag, practicing the stories we selected for her to read at the beginning of the week. Occasionally, she gets to the end of the page and looks around for a minute. I imagine she is thinking, “Whoa, I just read that whole page.” When students have “free choice” reading time after independent practice, they can continue reading on their own, read with a buddy or draw and write about their stories. She leaps up when the timer goes and grabs a pile of recently read aloud picture books and lies on the carpet with a classmate and they read aloud together. When I peek at her as I sit with another child, I see her reading carefully and with animation or talking about the illustrations with her classmate. Just before recess, she bustles about replacing books where she found them on various display shelves around the room.

Repeated actions + space + time = definitely something.

I could tell you about which level she is reading at – how she went from reading ___ books and is now reading ____ books. I do have that data. But that’s not really the point here. She was not reading even close to where she should be and now she is in the realm of grade level proficiency. This matters not for those levels that I can record next to her name. This matters because she can now be in this classroom full of books that all felt out of reach for her in the fall and know that she is a reader here.

This is what I celebrate today. That readers happened here this year. I have been worried. So very worried. A few months ago, I celebrated growth. Now I celebrate that I have been a part of making readers. I will always be part of these children – the year many of them learned to be a reader. Not just learned to read but became readers. They have skills to grow, books to read, thoughts to think about stories and the world. There is a big reading future ahead. And they are on their way. I watched this happen. One word, one page, one smile, one book at a time.

I celebrate all of it.

Celebration: Readers happened here

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.


Sunday Reflections: Goals for my Readers

Sunday Reflections: Goals for my Readers There's a Book for That

One thing that became very clear to me in May was that assessment that has to be done for the sake of files, records and funding often makes me frustrated. But this is not a post about the assessment that I must do. Instead, I want to think about the goals I have for my students as readers so that I can be clear about certain things.

What am I looking for when I observe my students in the first few weeks?

How does what I see along with the goals I have shape directions for teaching and learning?  

What ongoing data do I need to measure how individual students are progressing?

What is the best data/assessment to use for this purpose?

What can we celebrate?

What is really important?

How does our reading community support the readers in the room?

Sunday Reflections: Goals for my Readers There's a Book for That

My Teacher Librarian and I work together daily in my classroom during Reading Workshop. We met in early June and made a list of goals to guide us in working with a new group of readers (likely a Grade 2/3 class) in the fall. We didn’t start with curriculum guides or performance standards. Instead, we started with our collective experience (over 20 years each) and sense of what our little readers and learners need.

Some of these things will happen early on in the year and some will develop over the course of the year. Of course, individual students will progress at their own rates.

This is our list with a few additions and a little tweaking. Of course, many things will happen in our literacy learning but this list should help keep us on track and allow us to continue to respond to the changing needs of our students.

Our goals for our readers? 

Each reader will . . .

  • self-identify as a reader
  • have a passion for books and literacy experiences
  • be able to independently read/interact with text for at least 15 minutes and build his/her reading stamina over the course of the year
  • be able to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction texts
  • be able to use the features in nonfiction texts to obtain information
  • have an understanding of genres
  • be able to self-select “good fit” texts for independent reading (thinking about interests and levels)
  • develop listening stamina and active listening skills
  • be able to talk about books and participate in learning conversations in partner, small group and whole class discussions
  • be able to share an opinion about what we are reading together and what he/she is reading independently
  • develop a variety of strategies to make meaning
  • be able to demonstrate comprehension through retelling, identifying the main idea and summarizing key points
  • use a variety of comprehension strategies (i.e. visualizing, inferring) when reading
  • read widely as well as develop a growing repertoire of favourite authors, genres, series, etc.
  • use a variety of strategies to figure out unknown words
  • make progress along a continuum in terms of being able to read at grade level. For our more vulnerable readers, reasonable goals can be set and more intense one to one time provided in the context of Reading Workshop. For our other readers, we hope that each child will be reading at or above grade level by the end of the year.
  • make time to read at home

Sunday Reflections: Goals for my Readers There's a Book for That

Obviously, our goals are shaped by the ages and stages of our students. What are your goals for the readers in your room this year? I’d love to hear!

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday


On some Mondays, I question whether I have it together at all. A lot seems to not be yet “in synch” and the previous week feels very long ago. Monday often feels like a warm up, remind ourselves, get it together day. I don’t often say TGIF. But I often think TGMIO. TGMIO = Thank Goodness Monday is Over. Monday is the day when we don’t have the cushion of success immediately behind us. Anxiety is higher. Stamina is lower. Energy is inconsistent. When Monday is under our belt, it’s like the clouds part. The sun creeps in or sometimes it lights up the week bright and strong on Tuesday and holds fast.

That was this week. Monday was a yikes kind of day. Tuesday started a torrent of amazing and I celebrate Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and all of their glory!

A few highlights:

Reading books for our Mock Caldecott competition has been pure joy. Students are so engaged with this! I hear them chatting to each other, “Do you have a top three?” “So now which ones are your favourites?” ” I know my favourites but there are too many of them.” “Oh . . . how are we going to decide?”

Reading Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen was a particularly special experience. We read it last thing Tuesday afternoon. I got to share it with a room of children and four adults (including my parents who volunteer on Tuesdays!) I loved listening to the children’s comments. Even more amusing might have been watching the other adults listen to these comments. I covered the pages in sticky notes – recording all of the utterances. I knew that reading this book aloud to this group of kids was going to be pretty fantastic. It totally surpassed my expectations.

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

I celebrate math problem solving and the beautiful mess it creates! On Friday, we were all so lost in our work, we didn’t pay attention to the time. When it was time for library, I just had them all stand up, line up and go. We could clean up later. “Walk away from the math,” I had to prompt. They were so engaged! When the students left (it was my prep) I snapped a picture. I loved the piles of manipulatives, the wipe off boards in use, the way notebooks were pushed together as little groups or pairs had formed to work together. We are mathematicians! We share ideas. We talk. We learn from each other. We take risks. This photo of the “post” math work period, reveals just that. It makes me smile.

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

Even though my students are reading nonfiction titles right from September, I always do a big nonfiction launch in Reading Workshop starting in January. We have more guided instruction, more nonfiction book talks than usual, frequent mini-lessons, some nonfiction group activities, etc. Day one was so much fun. I simply put out the baskets everywhere around the room and give the children some recording sheets and send them off to be Fact DetectivesAs they begin looking through books and recording, I am walking around noticing. What books do they gravitate to? Who remembers how to use the features to help them better navigate the texts? Do my new students feel comfortable locating and recording information? It’s noisy. It’s energized. It sets the tone for much more to come.

I love this photo below – she shouted out, “Holy Bagumba! Look how big this boat is!” (Yes, we did just read Flora & Ulysses!)

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

As I walked around the room, children were sharing. Not just facts – but their thinking, reactions and questions. With me and with each other.

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

There were impromptu fact announcements. Kids would jump up and tell anyone who might be listening, “Listen to this . . . ” “Did you know . . . ?” The best thing? We were listening! “Really? Whoa . . .” “Can I read that book next?” “Ms. Gelson do you have more books about . . .?” 

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

And, the excitement continued. The next day in Reading Workshop when everyone was engaged in independent reading, many children pulled nonfiction titles out of their book boxes and continued to read. The little guy below told me: “This book make me fainting.” When I asked him to tell me more, he shared a bunch of “wow” facts and just shook his head as if to say, “I never would have imagined . . . ”

Celebration: Monday leads to Friday There's a Book for That

And again I am celebrating the yoga in our room. It represents community. Focus. Space. Recharging. The children crave it. And thanks to the amazing Miriam who works with me, we are finding time throughout the week to practice.


Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. Read all of the celebrations by following the links shared here.

Celebration: Movement

This week I celebrate movement. Literally, movement. Free from pain. Without stress. Regular, functioning movement. This winter holiday, I was hit hard by a pinched nerve that meant severe pain, limited movement, very little sleep and a numbness down to my thumb. It hit me  December 24th and I am only now reentering the regular, physical functioning world. I have two full nights of sleep under my belt. My thumb sort of feels normal. I worked almost a full week.

I am grateful to Scott, my calm and committed physiotherapist. And I celebrate my morning walks, my trusty heating pad and my ability to breathe through pain. I had thought that this week was going to be challenging. Yet, it was full of fabulous learning. Despite my commitment to getting home early to do my stretches, apply heat and relax, my classroom was buzzing with activity and excitement. For the first week back, we were on full speed ahead.

Again, movement. Continuing towards independence, discovery and a strong classroom community.

I need to go sit with my heating pad and my book but want to quickly share a few highlights of a positive first week back.

#1 Our Mock Caldecott

I am thrilled to have my students participating in a Mock Caldecott award process. We have eleven gorgeous titles on our list (follow the link above for our process). So far we have shared 4 of them. After we read Quest together, two students needed to compare it page by page to the beloved Journey (also by Arron Becker). There is lots of picture book buzz in the room!

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#2 Rich discussions

I am beyond thrilled with how prepared the students have been to leap right into discussions about the books we are reading. Turn and talk time has never been so focused! Our nonfiction read aloud this week has been Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns.  I love what one child said early in the week:

“This book gives us questions but lets us find the answers.”

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#3 Commitment to building community in Reading Workshop

We missed our discussion about picture books on Wednesday because of a fire drill. Students begged me to do it today because they wanted to “talk picture books.” What could be better? The conversations were rich and on task. Lots of sharing and really listening to each other.

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#4 Book love renewed

So much engagement and enthusiasm for meeting up with our classroom library once again.

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

One child even posted a sign on our door 🙂

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

#5 Daily activity. 

I am so lucky to have Miriam, who works with me in the classroom, bring yoga into our room. We did yoga almost daily this week and the children are able to be so much more present and confident. In the picture below, Miriam and a student are demonstrating a series of poses.

Celebration: Movement There's a Book for That

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community! Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks. Read all of the celebrations by following the links shared here.


Celebration: Friday favourites

Some mornings we just have no idea. I left for work Friday in the pouring rain. In the dark. Feeling tired. Not looking forward to a weekend of report card writing. It seemed to be a Friday to finish. To get on the other side of. Instead, it was a Friday of wow moments. My smiling started before the first bell had even rung and it just got brighter. This was a beautiful teaching day. A day of funny. A day of focus. A day of inspired moments.

Sharing five favourites.

#1 Why is it so important to have a classroom library full of fantastic books? Because of moments like this. A student who brings her little sister in early to read to her.

“Should I read you this book? Okay, sit down. Let’s start.”

My classroom is a room for readers. Present, future and past. Nothing is better than that.

Celebration:  Friday favourites There's a Book for That

#2 Reading Workshop is in full swing and full of conversations that make me know it is all coming together. I had the pleasure of listening to this reader read aloud to me today. We talked about fluency. It went something like this (I took notes!).

Me: “Your reading is becoming so much smoother. You are changing your speed, your tone, your volume. It is so enjoyable to listen to you read. What do you think has helped you improve so much? What has worked?”

S: “It’s not just me. It’s you. Because you talk about all of those things and you show me when you read aloud. You teach me when you show me. And Reading Workshop really helps me. I get to read so many books and all of the words in so many books.”

Me: “So you like all of the time we have to read everyday? It makes a difference for you?”

S: “Yes. There’s a lot of books in here. Kids need lots of books.”

Celebration:  Friday favourites There's a Book for That

#3 We finished reading The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry today. Our discussion was so thoughtful and mature. It stretched into a conversation about nonfiction picture book biographies and reading preferences. I was so inspired, I think it will become a blog post. I love learning from my students.

Update: It did. Nonfiction conversations: Talking nonfiction picture book biographies with kids

 Celebration:  Friday favourites There's a Book for That

#4 Math was wonderfully focussed today. We worked on representing  and solving multiplication equations with multiplies of 100. Students recognized that 300 x 3 (300 groups of 3) can be switched to 3 x 300 (3 groups of 300) and more easily solved. “I’m doing the switch thing,” they kept announcing. So, wonderful. A productive math class. And then part way through lunch, 5 girls showed up. “We’ll be quiet. Can we do more math?” How do you say no to that?

Celebration:  Friday favourites There's a Book for That

#5 Every year my Mom makes hats for every child in my room. And all of the Ks and all of the 1s at my school. She also knits hats for my sister’s K classroom and the K classroom across the hall from her. Yes. Really! My students got their hats today and wore them all afternoon. We wrote poems about our new hats. We kept them on through Choices time at the end of the day. These girls are writing songs. With their hats on. I think it improved the creative process!

Celebration:  Friday favourites There's a Book for That

At the end of the day, I asked for some group pictures. Just smiling is never enough for my class. We have to pose doing various emotions. I call them out, they eagerly comply. “Show me silly.” “Show me excited.” “Now do tired.” “Big smiles.” The photo below is “shocked”

Can’t get much cuter.

Celebration:  Friday favourites There's a Book for That

This week I celebrate fantastic days that come out of nowhere. Days that make me so happy I do what I do. Days where I get knocked over by the awe and joy I feel for my students.


Thank you to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I love how being a part of this #celebratelu community reminds us weekly to look for the positive and take some time for gratitude.

Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Part 3 A

This is the third post in a three four post series highlighting how to use more nonfiction in the primary/early intermediate classroom. The first two posts can be found here:

Part 1: Everywhere you look . . . let there be nonfiction!

Part 2: The importance of the nonfiction read aloud

The intention with each of these posts is to share a practical “how to” list of how to read more, celebrate more and use more nonfiction picture books in our classrooms. For reference, last year I taught a Grade 2/3/4 class.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books:

Part 3: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together

3 A: Generating excitement, making choices and having time to read This post will touch on these questions:

  • How to generate excitement about nonfiction texts?
  • What are some ways to get students reading more nonfiction books?

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

One of the best ways to create a buzz about nonfiction texts is to make authentic connections with the authors, illustrators and photographers that are making the books we love to read! We read a lot of nonfiction titles in my classroom and its is always exciting for the children to be able to communicate with the people behind the books that we have loved and shared together.

I would like to share three of our important connections here.

FirstNic Bishop.

When I had the opportunity (thanks Adam Shaffer) to introduce author and photographer Nic Bishop at this year’s Western Washington’s Children Literature ConferenceI knew that my students had to be part of the presentation. We spent time with Nic Bishop books (titles like Butterflies and Moths, Lizards, Spiders, Frogs, and Snakes). I asked the children to explore the books with these questions in mind:

  • How were these photographs taken?
  • What skills (besides photography) would the photographer need?
  • What would be the rewards in this kind of work?
  • What would be the challenges?

I then made a slide show that showcased some of their answers. The children were thrilled that they had “come with me” to help with the introduction! Here are a few photos that were part of the slide show.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

Second, with author Melissa Stewart.

We took forever to read No Monkeys, No Chocolate written by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young (with illustrations by Nicole Wong) We had to stop to talk, to write, to talk some more. So much learning in this book! It was one of our favourite read alouds of the year! A very special thing happened when I tweeted a picture of one child’s picture and writing to Melissa. She shared this on her blog, Celebrate Science. One little boy now has dreams of being an illustrator for nonfiction picture books!

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That Students were so excited to see a classmate’s work on a real author’s blog! It was such a surprise to see his work up on the big screen!

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

And third, with author Deborah Heiligman.

Another one of our very favourite read alouds this year was The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. I shared all of our learning and connections with Deborah in this post on my classroom blog Curiosity Racers: For the Love of Math It is worth reading to see how very engaged my students were with this book and to figure out just what those cards they are holding are all about!

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

Provide time to read nonfiction books

Of course, with many nonfiction books in the room and lots of book talking highlighting nonfiction texts, many students are already reading nonfiction books.  To ensure that all students were having the opportunity to be making nonfiction a choice and having guidance in choosing nonfiction texts, we decided to set aside a specific amount of time once a week (we grew it to 20 minutes and some kids read longer) and called it Nonfiction Reading Day. Of course, many children read nonfiction daily. But after a few weeks of honouring nonfiction reading with a special time, more children began choosing nonfiction more often throughout the week.

On Tuesday (the day we chose) I made sure to book talk nonfiction titles and my Teacher Librarian (who is in the room with me for every Reading Workshop)and I help students select nonfiction books that are a good match for them in terms of reading and interest level.

A great way to introduce more titles is also through book sharing circles. I group children into small groups of 6-8 students and have enough for 2-3 books per child. Every few minutes, we pass the books to our left and have a small amount of time to explore the titles just passed to us. At the end, we place all of the books in the center of the circle and students have a chance to share which books would be their first choices to read “next.” These conversations help to further promote the excitement about the books and invariably, many of these books are nabbed as students head off to read.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

On Nonfiction Reading Day, we acknowledge that the volume in the room will be noisier than our usual independent reading. It is hard to stay quiet when we read nonfiction because there is just too much that is too tempting to share. Many students also love buddy reading with a nonfiction text. I do specific mini-lessons with some ideas about how to make this go well.

Many days, we gather back to the carpet and sit knee to knee with a partner or a trio and share highlights from our nonfiction reading that day. Students are encouraged to ask questions and share their learning. We have a chart that we have created together in the room with some prompts to help out. A few examples:

  • Share a favourite illustration or photograph and explain what is significant about it
  • Read aloud a particularly interesting part and ask your partner if they have any questions about what you read.
  • Share something new that you learned.
  • Share a fact that was confirmed for you.
  • Talk about something you still don’t understand or have further questions about.
  • Give some reasons why someone might be interested in this title.

Time to read is a huge piece of generating excitement about nonfiction texts. Without this time to self-select titles, explore a variety of texts, talk about what we are reading and actually sustained time to read, our love for nonfiction won’t grow at the rate it does with all of these things in place.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

Share the #NFbooklove!

I love to welcome volunteers into my classroom during Reading Workshop. Often, when students get to choose which book to read to a volunteer, they choose a nonfiction text we have shared together!  This picture below is very special. My student, who dreams of becoming a doctor is reading Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman to our volunteer who is currently applying to medical schools. I shared highlights of the conversations about this book in my classroom here.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

This picture was taken during the last week of school. My student is reading A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke to a guest visiting our room. She chose this from our Favourite Read Alouds bin. Why so significant? This was the first nonfiction read aloud I shared with my class back in September! Truly a testament to the joy these books bring to us.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction books: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together There's a Book for That

Up next? Part 3: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together – – > 3 B: Reading and working with the texts 

Please continue the nonfiction conversation with me. I welcome any questions or feedback in the comments section 🙂