Bing! Round 2! And a distraction…


Ah, round two of the #cyberpd summer read. Chapters 5 and 6 are where Vinton dives into the practical aspects of teaching for deeper meaning and creating opportunities for problem-solving. This is my comfort zone when it comes to reading and thinking about educational practices; I’m a details person, a concrete thinker much of the time who needs to hear about the mechanics of how something works before I can really think about it with a wider lens.

Chapter 5 spoke to me in so many ways. Whether they are reading for pleasure or for class, kids have such a hard time with “figuring out the basics”. Chapters with alternating voices, books with flashbacks and time switches, too many pronouns, elements that I think make a book more interesting often make it confusing to students. They bring it back unread, telling me it was ‘boring’. Boring = “I didn’t get it, and I couldn’t figure it out”. Much of the time, but not always.  So many kids read just for plot, they can’t recall the title of the book, characters’ names or details about the setting, but they can give me a play-by-play of the action. They miss the humor, the wordplay, the patterns, the world-building in a good fantasy or sci-fi; so much is lost in the whirlwind of reading quickly to see how it ends.

The core practices that are shared in both chapters have helped me to think about how I can adapt them to my work in the library to help students dig a little deeper in their reading, to appreciate a book for more than just the plot points. Or to just mark it as “read” on their mental lists of things they have accomplished. 

-Can I use sophisticated picture books with 5th graders to demonstrate how to think deeply about a text in a 40-minute class period? Will they find ways to transfer that learning to their own reading? Some will, some won’t.  

-Can I create some open-ended questions for kids to think about in their independent reading that isn’t text dependent so everyone can answer it within the context of their individual books? I’d like to think so.

-Could they do “Turn and Talks” about their independent reading answering three specific questions with their partner? Maybe.

It feels piecemeal, but maybe something is better than nothing. Or maybe, I can try things out with students, talk to teachers as I go, and find ways to collaborate more often throughout the school year.

I’m curious. As people read these chapters and reflect on their own teaching will you be completely overhauling what you do, or will you be trying bits and pieces to see how it goes? Do you have the flexibility in your workplaces to make big changes? I’ll definitely be reading people’s responses to these more practical chapters with that in mind. What about collaboration with other teachers in your school? Can you reach out to the science teachers to think about how kids read and respond to nonfiction texts? Or working with librarians to find new and different texts that might meet your needs?

As always, so much to think about.

And, here’s a pretty picture of blueberries that are just ripening in my backyard, making focus on work things difficult.  What’s your distraction this summer? 



A Year Seems Like Forever


So, I’m participating in the #cyberpd community for the first time evah! The opportunity to read, reflect and share with a group of like-minded, or maybe not-so-like-minded educators is an exciting one, and forces me out of my summer bubble. I get the chance to do some professional development from the comfort of my front porch. For anyone reading this blog post who is not part of the #cyberpd community, you can find more information here. Come join us, it’s probably not too late.

So, away we go….

There is much to explore in this book. So many ideas that make me want to shout “Amen!” and throw my fist in the air. And there are some that have less meaning, or power, for me because of the position I’m in, or maybe the kind of school I work at. As a K-8 school librarian, my focus is always on getting the right book into the hands of the right kid.  To encourage them to read widely; to graze on all kinds of books and then to dig deep into the ones that speak to them. Mostly, I want them to love to read. I am not a reading teacher, or literacy specialist, but I work closely with my colleagues who are, to try and help them find new and interesting, or new and exciting, or new and literary books into their hands, as well. I am constantly encouraging teachers to read children’s literature, to read what the kids are reading and to find ways to incorporate those books into their curriculum.

When I hear students groan about how much they hated reading Tuck Everlasting in class, my heart breaks a little. When they roll their eyes at In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, I cringe. I always wonder how they would respond if they had to read and answer text questions for The Lightning Thief or Harry Potter. Would they still love it? Would it be a chore? Would it be forever ruined for them? Maybe.

And that’s the part of Dynamic Teaching that makes my heart sing; the notion of not scaffolding the reading of a novel in such a way as to suck the joy out of the book. Certainly, Natalie Babbitt didn’t write Tuck Everlasting so that every child could understand the power of figurative language. She wrote a story that was in her heart, that needed to be told, and she just happened to do it quite beautifully. Wouldn’t it be great if kids could experience that kind of storytelling without it being broken down into tiny little bits? To have every nuance shared as a discussion point or a text question? I love that Vinton, and evidence, suggests that students learn quite well from their peers and the free-form discussions they might have, if given the opportunity.

Something that really resonated with me was this diagram:


Vinton talked about how many classrooms have the writing process posted somewhere in the classroom for students to use as a guide, and how there isn’t an equivalent for reading. It reminded me that in several of the classrooms in our school, I’ve seen teachers post a list of things that good readers do, or strong readers, or some other adjective that I’m forgetting at the moment. Anyway, it included things like ” A good reader visualizes the story as they read” or ” A good reader sometimes re-reads sections to better understand” etc… I think the lists are sometimes generated by the students and sometimes by the teachers. As a librarian, it’s the kind of discussion with students I would love to have been part of the in the classroom, not just have it in the library, but coordinated with the teacher. A united front of encouraging good reading habits.

I don’t want this response to be overlong, and boring. So, my big takeaway from the first section is really about letting kids find their way to asking the big questions in the books they are reading, to hearing the big ideas that their peers are thinking. But, I don’t want to just reflect on the reading, I want to have an action plan for the coming school year, some things I can do, both big and small, from the library that will help teachers and students. I’m going to challenge myself to find ways to get into the classrooms, to offer help with book groups, or literature circles, or whatever, and help teachers plan their lessons around reading.

To that end, I ask this community of educators how can the school librarian be more helpful to you in your quest to get kids thinking more deeply about their reading? How can we collaborate with you to encourage problem-solving?