Back to Back Issues Page
Elementary Teacher Resources, Issue #014 -- Reading and Writing
April 13, 2008

Welcome to
Elementary Teacher Resources


Literacy Throughout The Day

When talking to teachers, I think most would say that reading and writing are the most important skills needed to succeed in school.

Yet, when you look at many classrooms there isn’t as much reading and writing going on as you would think. What teachers are calling “reading” and “writing” is likely worksheets, journaling, and skill work.

I’m hoping to provide you with a few ideas on how to get more effective reading and writing into your plans without vastly changing the flow of your day.



READING

One of the easiest ways to infuse reading skills into your students is by simply reading to them more often. Many schools are so tied to goals, standards and rules that they forget the simple pleasures of reading.

I make it a point to have guest readers come in and read to my students as often as possible. They come with a book or two, read, and go on with their day.

One of my student’s favorite guest readers is one of my friends who has a mohawk, tattoos and an enormous reading personality to match. When he comes in to read, it isn’t just a book, it is an all out adventure.

If you don’t have crazy friends or parents who are willing to lay it all on the line, contact local high schools or colleges to see if they have anyone who can come in. Fifteen minutes of reading by someone new is sometimes all it takes to get reluctant readers interested.

I had several boys that were not interested in books go hunting for the books our guests read just so they could read them. Motivation is key.

Reading with kids is an incredibly easy way to model good reading skills to children.

In my classroom, we turn down the lights, put on some classical music and find a corner to read in.

When my kids read, I read. Sometimes I read professional books, and sometimes a novel. Either way my students see me reading. We do this for at least 15 minutes every day.

Danny Brassell has a million ideas on how to get books into kids hands in his book Readers for Life. Some ideas include signing up for mailing lists and creating cheap and easy classroom books. I really love how simple it can really be if you focus on your end goal – getting kids to read.

Anyone who’s ever met me knows that I am an avid reader, but it wasn’t always that way.

When I was in school I was forced to read books I couldn’t read, and didn’t want to read and refused to read. I had grown to truly hate books. They were an evil “thing” that had to be dealt with.

I am the product of book reports, diagramming sentences, required books and many other things that I look back and cringe about. It has taken many years of “book therapy” to develop a love of books.

The amazing thing about our students is that they come in loving books, wanting to explore what’s inside, and all we have to do is nurture that desire to keep it going.



WRITING

When talking about teaching writing, it is very important to distinguish between story writing and handwriting.

Writer’s Workshop is when you talk about crafts and genre, building books and stories, and promoting your children to think like authors.

If you need help getting a classroom library started that contains tons of great books that cover writer’s crafts, please check out Models for Teaching Writing-Craft Target Skills. It is basically a book of lists. There are books listed for tons of skills like: Alliteration, Repetition, and Simile.

I have found that I have tons of the books already in my classroom.

I'm starting to go through and put sticky-notes in them about what crafts are covered in it. I'm also pre-tagging the pages so when I go to teach the lesson, it will be easier to plan and teach.

Handwriting is when you focus on letter formation and conventions. This should not be done in writer’s workshop. This is not “writing” as I will be using the term in this newsletter.

In my classroom, I take at least 45 minutes a day to teach writer’s workshop. In this time I teach a mini-lesson on a craft, the children write independently, I conference with students and we share a few pieces of writing. We follow this same basic plan everyday so the children know what to expect. The only things that change are the crafts taught and the method of sharing.

In the book About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers, there is a discussion about… “How do you get them to write so much? My students barely write a single sentence.” I think we have all been there, frustrated by what our students are producing, but not sure what to do next. They recommend… “Staple the paper together.”

It seems so obvious, but unless you provide books for your children to write in, they will never write a book.

In my classroom, I have a book buffet. There are several easy to make books for the kids to choose from.

Right now I have 6 page books (stapled copy paper), draw and write paper stapled into books, white copy paper (they make a lot of foldables), napkin books (white copy paper stapled into it). When provided with all of these choices, the kids are conformable to choose a book they can write.

I wasn’t really sold on the idea of giving the kids books to write on until recently. I thought that they would waste paper. Well, let me tell you, the opposite occurred. They worked for long time periods on one books. The stories were much more detailed and exciting. It was like night and day.

When we are not in Writer’s Workshop, there are still many times where you can have the children writing. In this picture we were discussing the book The Very Lonely Firefly. The children and I began a chart of animals and actions, and the kids finished it during centers.

I think that if we have the kids do more of the writing on charts, then they will be more open to writing for other people to read.

Another added bonus is that when the children see their own writing on charts and boards, they feel like the own the writing, and it becomes part of who they are as a student.

Another idea that I’ve tweaked for my classroom is from About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers. The idea was called “I’m not afraid of my words!”, and the children would write their spelling on a chart and the teacher would show them the proper spelling.

I liked this idea, so what I did was instead of keeping a class chart, I would have the kids in my room use letter stickers to try to write challenging words. At first it was a bit tricky for them, but now they love it when they can write a difficult word.

I hope that you’ve come away with a few ideas to use in your classroom!


I hope that you have enjoyed this newsletter. Please feel free to email it to friends and family who are teachers!

Also, don't forget to get your copy of my free new teacher handbook! It's full of great tips and tricks to make your year go great.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

See you next month!







Back to Back Issues Page