Let’s Make Reading Irresistible

As a follow up to Karley’s post on raising a reader, I thought I would follow up with some of the things I have been trying this year to help my students stumble into the can’t put the book down frame of mind.

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Choose Books That Matter

This one is a given but I think it’s still worth mentioning… When you pick a book for novel study, lit circles, or read aloud make sure that its a book that is irresistible! One of my favourite books from when I was in grade 7 is “The Giver” and even though its a bit old and a very common choice, I was so excited to share this one with my students this year. It was a great choice! Plus one of the best moments was after showing the movie in class and having the whole class say, “Whoa! The book was so much better than the movie!”

Some other favourite books: “The One and Only Ivan,” “Uglies” and a new favourite, “Rain Reign” (this one will make your heart melt). Our own enthusiasm for books definitely shines through to our students.

The Book Draw

I’ve already talked about this one and there are definitely some drawbacks to this (namely the cost of buying books) but it has inspired a lot of excitement around new books. So far I have used a gift certificate for some majorly on sale books and a free gift from Scholastic orders. A favourite comment I overheard from a book draw winner was, “Hey I think I’ll actually read this book! It looks cool!” And that’s a win in my books!

Book Bins

This is an idea from one of my courses in university that I thought I would try out this year. We haven’t started yet but they are all set to go and I’m so excited! Through Scholastic orders this year I managed to get a bunch of novels with my bonus dollars. I am very fortunate to be in a classroom with a huge classroom library this year so that gave me the opportunity to plan out this Book Bin idea. I put together two boxes of 25 books that are all labeled with a sign out sheet. One box will stay in my classroom and one will go to my partner teacher’s room for a month. These books will be used for silent reading time, take home books, kids who are finished early – Whichever! After about 5 weeks we will switch bins so the class gets a new set of books. I am really excited to add the new books into the class mix and I think that my students will be really excited. I think the mix of the timeline and knowing the books will be shared with another class in the same grade will help to make reading irresistible for my students! We have also talked about turning it into a friendly competition between classes and writing book recommendations before we switch. I think there are so many possibilities with these bins.

Since I already have lots of books saved up from over the years I’ve made it so that these two book bins are reusable as is, and each year I can bring them in at some point.

Meaghan

How To Raise a Reader?

If you thought this post was going to answer all your questions about how to get your child (or students) really into reading, well, I’m sorry for the misleading title, but I don’t think I really know the answer. This post is more my wandering thoughts about reading that I pondered today while driving all around this city accomplishing a myriad of tasks.

I’ve been checking the mail every day for a week in anticipation of the arrival of a glorious Amazon box containing my latest read.  Today it arrived and after ripping it open I promptly placed my child in her rocking chair to pose with the latest and greatest.

HNJHey Natalie Jean is a (very popular) blog I’ve been reading daily for over a year now.  Natalie Holbrook is the writer and she tells stories of her every day life, including musings about home decor, fashion, marriage, motherhood…I love her blog.  So, imagine my excitement when she announced last fall that she was writing a book and it would be available in March 2015.  I pre-ordered as fast as I could and sat and waited…waited…waited.  This whole waiting for eight months thing made the arrival of Hey Natalie Jean so much more…special? I don’t know, but in this world of insta-gratification, purchasing with the click of a finger and having the item arrive the next day (for a fee!), I really relished in the wait for this book.

As I was driving around here and there today I got to thinking about reading, and how excited I was to crack the spine of my new book.  I gently reminded myself to read it slowly, to savour every photograph and sentence.  And then I thought, “Why the heck am I so excited to read this book?  Karley – you are jetsetting to Europe next week for goodness sake, and you are more pumped to read a book than to pack your suitcase! What is wrong with you?!”

Wouldn’t it be grande if all parents had a child who loved to read? I think I have the authority to say that all teachers would do backflips to have a classroom full of avid readers.  How did I become such an avid reader? I thought while waiting at a red light.  It comes down to this: I know myself well enough to know what genres I enjoy most.  I have a thing for people and their unique stories (hence my daily blog reading).  I have a thing for Second World War history.  I also have a thing for rustic homemaking and gardening.  I have known these things about myself since I was approximately eight years old; therefore, titles such as Little Women, Little House on the Prairie and Jane Eyre have graced my bookshelves for as long as I can remember.  I think my parents, who aren’t actually super into reading, did a pretty good job of letting me read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  I had access to any books I wanted.  I used to sit in the bath for hours and read.  I used to go to bed early and read.  Now, when there is an extra bit of time in the evening I excitedly tell Joel, “Babe, there is time to read tonight!”  Confession: One of my biggest fears upon Charlee’s birth is that I wouldn’t have time to read anymore.

The arrival of my new book today was such a celebration for me.  I texted the above photo of Charlee and the book to friends and my husband.  I brought the book with me to the chiropractor and actually hoped he was running late today so I could sit in silence and get through a few pages (he was right on time). I started planning this post in my head.  I just think there is something so sacred about books; this is the reason I will never, ever own an eReader or purchase iBooks.

As a teacher I have struggled to help get some of my lackluster readers really into reading.  I’m not quite sure how to navigate that issue yet because I truly think a person needs to know their preferred writing style and their favourite genres pretty well before reading will become their most favourite activity of choice.  And asking a student, “Well, what do you like to read?” does not help the situation because some people really don’t know what they like.  I admit, it is frustrating to open book after book and be let down because the content is not appealing.  I think my husband is the only person I know who will continue to read a book even if he hates it (he complains the whole read, and I tell him to just give it up, yet he persists!) I hope, as a parent, to be able to convey my love of reading to my daughter.  I had a book themed baby shower back in September where we were gifted so many beautiful books for Charlee’s library.  The child is four months old and she already has a decent enough library that I’ve not yet had to reread a story to her.

Teachers and parents, what is your personal experience with reading? How have you managed to convince your students and children that reading is equal parts exciting and fascinating?  Feel welcome to share with us in the comments.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious reading to do.

Karley

How I Teach Math (for now…)

Along with this post is a new math activity on our Teachers Pay Teachers site – Take a look here.

As you probably know, teaching is one of those things you do which is ever changing. Even if you are doing the exact same lesson in the exact same unit with the exact same grade at the same school… something WILL be different! That’s because our students are always different. And it is one of the things I like most about teaching because I find it new and exciting all the time. So with that in mind, this is how I’ve been teaching math as of right now, the moment I’m writing this… Ask me tomorrow and it might have changed – ha!

Goals

One of my goals this year was to really work on how I teach math effectively. My learning (or Pro D I guess) started with the opportunity to test out the Educating Now website and continued through the For the Love of Math conference. Along with both of those resources have been MANY long conversations with colleagues, friends, family… Really anyone who would listen and answer my questions! About a month ago I realized that I was starting to teach math in a way that really worked for me.

Note: Most of these ideas are from other people that I have adapted to suit my needs. I apologize if I have not been able to give proper credit to sources but I had so many conversations that I can’t necessarily remember who said what. Please know that I am beyond grateful to everyone and anyone who has helped me on my (math) teaching journey.

Interactive Math Notebooks

IMG_3460I started this in January and I absolutely love how well they are working in our class! Most of my information I have on them is from Runde’s Room (she has an AMAZING resource on her Teachers Pay Teachers site that is worth every penny!) and then I have adapted my own activities from there. Basically every time we start a new section for math we have some sort of interactive notes that will become an entry in the notebook. Some helpful tips:

  • Keep a table of contents current on your board somewhere so kids can check that they are up to date.
  • Make your own notebook as a demonstration that can also be given to students who were absent to catch up
  • Have each student glue an envelope in the front cover of their notebook to keep spare pieces
  • Make sure you have lots of scissors and glue!

Small Groups

I started doing some small group lessons in the fall but hadn’t found an effective way to incorporate them into my practice. This is the one area that will definitely change as I continue to teach math because it really depends on class dynamics. Right now I am using a practice one of my administrators told me about: after each whole class lesson I assign some practice questions and then I ask students who are not quite understanding to meet me at the back table. There are a few students who by myself or their parents, have been told to come each time, there are quite a few who make the choice to come each time and then there are a few who come to the back as necessary. Together we work through a couple questions and using the small whiteboards I can quickly check to see who is understanding or not. This has been a great support for some of my students and I have noticed a big difference in their understanding.

Math Stations

This is another time I use small group teaching too. On Fridays we have a double block of math in which we usually do math stations. Although with Pro D Days and early dismissal we haven’t done this quite as often as I would like! For the math stations I have 5 or 6 stations set up that we rotate through in the double block. Usually the stations look like this:

1. Basic Facts Practice (a routine we have set up in our classroom)

2. Problem Solving (whiteboard markers and window space make this a fun one!)

3. Small group teaching (I go over a new lesson or extra practice similar to the above small groups)

4. Unit Specific Game (This is where I love TPT resources – Especially the free ones)

5. Basic Facts Game (The dice game Pig is a favourite)

6. BuzzMath (Sometimes we do this one on the iPads)

Assessment

This is one of my favourite new practices I have learned from a colleague! For our assessments we are now using a 4 question assessment for each Prescribed Learning Outcome (PLO) from the curriculum. Basically, my teaching team and I have sat down and created these assessments that have four leveled questions relating to the topic. The first question will show a basic understanding of the topic, usually something covered in a previous grade. The second question will be a very basic, practical application of the concept. The third question will show the application of the concept in context and the fourth shows higher level thinking either through problem solving or combining multiple concepts. This is such an easy way to get a snapshot of a students understanding and it takes away the pressure of the big math test.

Unit Plan and Assignments

When I go to plan a unit I usually look back at the curriculum from grade 6 to remind myself the basics that they should have. We always start our units with a good review of previous topics (I love using Math Aids for this, although not super interactive it is a lifesaver when it comes to prep time!) One of my biggest obstacles this year was trying to figure out what to mark myself, what to record, and how to help kids take responsibility for their own learning. What I have been doing for any assignments/homework that I give from the textbook is that the expectation is now that a completed assignment is finished, marked, AND corrected. The day the assignment is due I walk around with a clipboard and check students off for their assignments. Yes having students mark their own work is a bit of a risk, however you can usually tell who is doing the work properly and it really has put the learning back on them! It has also helped my student to make sure they let me know if they have had trouble or questions about their assignments.

Where Am I Going From Here?

I am going to continue with most of these practices for the rest of the year. My main efforts are going to be trying more project-based learning in math for our last few units. I am not quite sure how this will go but I will keep you posted! As far as plans for future teaching? The only thing I would like to change is to really increase my use of small group teaching. I’ve struggled a bit with the classroom management aspect of this with my current class but I think in the future I will have a better idea of how to lay out expectations and practice appropriate behaviour as we begin meaningful math practices.

I would love to hear your feedback!

What do you do in your math class?