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It’s Monday… What Are You Reading? 2/22/16

For Fun, Literacy


Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate

in the kidlit version of this weekly meme.



Since it was school vacation, I was able to read quite a few books this week!


Pax by Sarah Pennypacker


Pax was such a touching story! I downloaded the Kindle sample Thursday night as I settled into bed, unsure if I wanted to spend the money on the book or wait until my library received a copy. I finished the sample in minutes, with tears streaming down my face. I immediately purchased the ebook and devoured this touching story. Read my full review here.


Red by Michael Hall


Red by Michael Hall is a wonderful story about being true to yourself and overcoming obstacles. Throughout the book, Red is made to feel like he is not enough – not good enough, not smart enough – and everyone has suggestions on how to make himself better at being red. Red feels frustrated until the end of the book when a new friend asks him to draw a blue ocean, which is easy for Red to do since he is really a blue crayon. This was a re-read for me. The first time I heard it was at a professional development session for literacy interventionists. When the presenter finished reading, she compared our struggling readers to Red and how it is our job to help our students see their own potential. I was reminded of this great picture book when I visited my town library because they had Red, The Day the Crayon Quit, and The Day the Crayons Came Home displayed by the checkout. I couldn’t resist re-reading it!

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan



Counting by 7s was suggested to me by Amazon after I purchased One for the Murphy’s (another AMAZING book!) this fall. Unfortunately it was just a book I couldn’t seem to get to the top of my reading list, until this week and I am so glad that I made time for it! The narrator, Willow, is a quirky girl who experiences tragic loss at the beginning of the novel. She spends the remainder of the story learning about healing, starting over, and taking chances. It is a wonderful, uplifting story that deals with some difficult topics.


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Vacation Reading Challenge


As teachers, we know how important it is for our students to read every day. We make sure to plan time for it in our classrooms, but how can we help our students to take the time to read during school vacations? Turn it into a challenge!

Vacation Reading Challenge


Friendly competition makes any academic task feel like a game, which creates buy-in from students. To help encourage your students to read during vacation, give them a reading challenge. Hand out the recording sheet and work with students to set a reading goal. A good guideline for upper elementary students is 30-40 minutes per day.



Then share with students the challenge page. Review some of the fun ways to read – “Under the table” or In the dark” are just a few of the fun challenges.  Every time a student reads, they glue the challenge they completed onto the recording sheet.


When students return to school after vacation, they turn in the completed reading challenge. All of the students who completed the challenge then receive a reward. Something I’ve done with my classes is a hot chocolate party. Students who turned in their challenge ate lunch in the classroom and toasted one another’s success with a delicious cup of hot cocoa.


Want to challenge your students? Download a copy of my February Reading Challenge Freebie. Or visit my TpT Store and download my Vacation Reading Challenge bundle and be prepared for all of your school vacations.Post Signature4.1



Getting Detail into Students’ Writing


I hear this all the time from teachers. The latest was in response to having students draft on iPads. To combat the lack of detail in drafts, I like to work with my students on developing prewriting strategies that help them think through their story grammar.


One of my favorite strategies is using a storyboard. This idea is not new but I put my own spin on it – rather than starting at the beginning, I have my students develop the climax scene first.


Last week, I modeled this strategy in a fifth grade classroom. We started by reviewing the important aspects of story structure by creating an anchor chart. Then I introduced students to my Winter Roll-a-Story story starter page. I asked four volunteers to roll the dice for me to select my character, setting, mood, and conflict.


roll-a-story pic

Once I had the important aspects of my story selected, I started thinking aloud about what the climactic scene might look – how I could best bring my problem to a tipping point. Then I started sketching the scene on my storyboard. I moved the story forward by drawing the next scene where my main character tried to solve his problem then I drew the resolution.


writing story board


After completing most of my drawings, we talked about how I used sketches and included items in the scenes that extended beyond just the character. Then students got to work rolling and drawing their own stories.


The next day we looked at sharing our stories with a friend and then revising our drawings as needed. I have found that it is easier to get students to revise their drawings than it is to revise their actual writing, so we do some of that work before we put words to paper. Then I modeled for students the next step, which is to cut apart each scene. Then on the back of each scene, we listed 3-5 events or details about what is happening in the scene. We also talked about how not all authors start with the introduction but sometimes start with the climax and then flashback to give the reader more information. So I modeled how I might re-arrange my scenes to tell my story more effectively, settling on a slightly different order than I drew them in.


story board pieces


On my last day in their classroom, we worked on moving from drawings to words. I shared with students the beginning of my story, showing them that I had a page of words and that was only describing my first two boxes because as I wrote, I was able to add more details by thinking about my character’s thoughts, feelings, and environment. They were excited to get started and jumped right into the writing. Each student logged onto Google Docs on their iPads and shared their story with me, which allowed me to comment on their writing during our workshop time. Their works in progress are already more detailed and organized than before. Their teacher was excited and planned to use the strategy when she introduced her next writing unit – myths and tall tales.


How do you increase the amount of details that students include in their writing?


winter RAS                       Horizontal Storyboard mini

Interested in trying out my storyboard strategy or my winter themed Roll-a-Story in your room? Visit my TeachersPayTeachers store or click the image above to download a free copy.


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