Reading Life in 5th Grade: Part Three

Our 5th Grade Reading Life - Part Three

Part 3: Disclaimer: This post will be long, but probably the most informative/reflective post I do. Please bare with me and read through, whether it be all at the same time or not. 

Let’s talk a little bit about my “failures” in the classroom. I use that term loosely only because there are some instances where there were some positives that came from that situation, but then there are some where there most definitely did not. 

Mrs. Thomas failures in our reading classroom: 
Reading seemed to be the focal point of our classroom - which is a huge positive scenario, yes - except - there is a but, which I will get to in a minute. 
The kids came in and we did 20-30 minutes of independent reading every single day. Remember - non negotiable. 
BUT did I pull kids every single day, no, should I have been, probably yes. This is where my organization skills lack significantly. 
My thought process is that I will pull MWF and read WITH the kids T/Th. YES, READ WHILE THEY ARE READING. This may not necessarily start until after the first 9 weeks, but this was a huge game changer for me this year. When your students see you engaged in a story they realize you’re not just talking fluff. 
Do you remember growing up and having teachers preach to you about WHY you need to be learning this concept, yet never providing real world examples/sharing with you their own connection to what it is they are teaching. As I look back, I don’t remember any of my reading teachers every talking about their reading lives. Nothing that inspired me anyway, that was what my librarians did, and my mom (a librarian). I am lucky enough to work at a campus that has a phenomenal librarian as well, but truth is, a lot of you aren’t. Librarians are a first budget cut priority anymore, which is a whole different tangent I could get on. 

Another failure I am rethinking for next year is our way of responding to our reading. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVED what we did this year, BUT I don’t feel like it was enough. Let me explain. The students started the year with a template of responding to their reading by answering basic letter questions. Writing a letter is a huge skill they honestly were not doing correctly (still even in May), but we worked on it all year long. The template was a great starting point. As the year went on I changed some of the requirements: answering based off signposts, taking it even further than just basic responses, and their growth was amazing. I loved seeing how different their thought processes were from an August letter to a May letter. They even were so impressed with their changed. So much that they were laughing at themselves when I passed back some copies I had stored back the last few weeks of school. Another reason I felt like this way to respond was so successful is because as I read with them on those T/Th I could then write the response WITH them on the projector. (Truth bomb: This is also a great way to introduce a new book to the kids. A more subtle way of book talking because as soon as you get done - boom - kids want to read what you were taking about. This happened with Enginerds by Jarrett Lerner because my response was talking about how the robot was pooping out food and the kids thought it was hilarious.) I used these responses as a reading AND writing grade, so it was definitely worth it for me as their ELAR teacher, but again, I am sitting here thinking - just a letter was NOT enough for them to talk about their reading. I am working on creating a menu for them to choose how they are going to respond to their reading probably 2 days a week. Yes, I still want that letter, but I also want something else, something that speaks to them as individuals. 

I also have an amazing reading community of friends who share constantly different ways they share books with their kids and have their kids share the books they are reading. Because of that I keep thinking - how can I work in a time that becomes a routine EVERY SINGLE DAY where they talk. Talk about their books, their writing, their thinking, etc. I have been working with two of my friends, Emily Montjoy (mrsmontjoy) and Sandy OBrien (elaeveryday) to create a poster to hang up that is interchangeable weekly/daily/however you want to do it, of what we are going to spend 10-15 minutes talking about every single day. We do restorative discipline at our district and I would love to work this time into our circle time as well. I will share what we have thus far and if you have any ideas/suggestions/or want to tweak yourself in your classroom - DO IT! :) 

Something I want to cover that I see constantly in reading groups online that IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT A FAILURE; yet, I see teachers questioning themselves constantly over these situations. 
If a child reads graphic novels - IT IS OKAY. 
If a child reads only nonfiction - IT IS OKAY.
If a child reads the same book over and over - IT IS OKAY. 

If a child is struggling to choose a book, this is your turn as their rockstar reading teacher to step in and teach them how to find books. This is where it is so imperative you know what is in your library, and if you don’t know about books you own, Goodreads needs to be your best friend. 
Also, Donalyn Miller talks about helping students find books in The Book Whisperer and Reading In The Wild - READ READ READ. 

I had a student listen to Long Way Down on Audible a couple of times, then he read the book about 3 times, and you know what, he talked about that book to anyone and everyone who would listen. He wrote about that book every time he had a chance. He felt connected to the story in many ways, and I never once told him - Hey it’s time to pick a new book. I gave some suggestions of “if you loved this, try this,” and he dideventually. Then you know what, he went back to Long Way Down. Which is OKAY! 

I had a young girl come in this year ONLY rereading the entire Dork Diaries series. It was the only thing she felt comfortable with, and she started back over from book 1. This was all she read in 4th grade. I absolutely let her. I didn’t force feed her any other novels. She then started Audible and holy READER from inside her ignited. In the last two months of school she read 6 books. All of Jason Reynolds first. Then branched off into any of the newest reads that her friends were reading. The pride she felt in herself was amazing, so much that she had me email her stepmom telling her for her birthday she wanted her own Audible account. 

Y’all - LET THEM READ; whatever, whenever. 
One of the biggest questions I get from parents in October is, “I want him to read more and get stronger in his reading, what can I do?” My response, “Let him read anything and everything. Are you cooking from a recipe? Let him read the recipe. Younger siblings? Give him duty to read a book at night. If he brings you Captain Underpants and wants to read, sit down with him and listen to him read.” Any of these opportunities will grow children as readers. 

* I will come back in the next post to things I want to implement in reading next year, but now I want to talk about my biggest failure as a ELAR teacher last year


I failed my students as a writing teacher this year. 
When they did their end of year survey, this was the ONE THING they wished we had had more time for. Yikes. Eye opening for me, big time, but the truth is, I totally get it, and they are right. 
No excuses honestly. I just knew that it was my first year in a new district and I was figuring out a new grade level standards, and I am terrible at prioritizing my time. 

The one thing we did do that the students did phenomenal at were when we did imaginative stories. They did SO well. They wanted to continue them all year long. Why didn’t I let them?! 
Note to self: Next year make a schedule that is a routine and has built in reading/writing time. Stacey Riedmiller has done a fantastic post about how she had her students HELP her create their schedule called Literacy Studio. Here is her post that I will be revisiting as well as Jessica Lifshitz’s post she provides that helped her understand this concept. (If you don’t know/follow Stacey and Jessica - DO IT)

I also will include the writing time in their menus and our collaboration time I mentioned up above. 

So of the resources I plan to use to ignite their writing creativity:
Mentor Sentences (More specifically from texts we share and all are familiar with. Think: #classroombookaday and our read alouds) 

I also have a huge goal of mine to be more efficient with reading/writing notebooks. Like I said ROUTINE and scheduling so that I make sure students are meeting what they need and so they can see growth as well. 

Please share with me your successes with writing in your classroom.

I know this is not everything. These are specific instances that are still fresh on my brain and are causing me to really evaluate how I plan to lay out my next year and all of the changes I want to include. 

The next post will be about technology in the ELAR room and how I run non-traditional book clubs. 

Any questions PLEASE ask! :) 

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