Thanks to a good friend who is also the media specialist at a local school, I was able to read I Broke my Trunk! to a class of first graders. We started out with a couple of student sharing the story of breaking a limb or of someone they know breaking one. Then I showed them the cover of the book, and, after reading the title together, the students shared predictions on how the elephant was going to break his trunk. Throughout the story the students were continually changing their predictions of how Gerald’s trunk was broken. I liked that they used the new information in the text to guide their predictions. They giggled throughout the whole story and thought it was hilarious to see an elephant with so many other animals balanced on his trunk! At the end of the story they were impressed when their original guesses on how Gerald broke his nose proved to be right, he really did just trip and break his trunk. I had picked up other “Elephant & Piggie” books at the ASU library before my visit, so I also shared those cover pages and summaries to hopefully pique the students’ interest in this series. What I loved most about this read-aloud was that one of the students commented, “Hey, I can read all of those words too!” and all of the students commented that the book was very funny. My hope is that I was able to introduce them to a new funny series that they are able to read independently. The students also requested that I come back and read to them again sometime. As someone who is not teaching in my own classroom, I plan on taking them up on that offer!
Read-Aloud Comprehensive Post – 4/19 April 15, 2012
The Graveyard Book
As a substitute teacher I interact with many different grade levels and a wide range of student abilities. Since I sometimes find myself with a certain amount of free time during the day when the students are in their “specials” classes, I usually bring along a book to read for pleasure or for school. The Graveyard Book was one such book that I brought with me on multiple days of substitute teaching. I was impressed when, upon seeing the book, students ranging from fifth to eighth grade would comment with surprise, “Are you reading that book?! It’s really good!” Clearly this book is a bestseller and award winner for a reason.
The Graveyard Book begins with a toddler boy narrowly escaping the murderer who has killed his entire family when he totters into a graveyard and is found by a ghost couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens. Although there are disagreements among the graveyard residents (none of whom are living) as to whether or not the boy should be allowed to stay in the graveyard, eventually it is decided upon that he will live and grow up in the graveyard with Mr. and Mrs. Owens as his parents and Silas, a man existing somewhere between death and life, as his guardian and provider. Over the course of the book the reader witnesses this boy named Nobody Owens, Bod for short, growing, learning, and maturing. Just like every growing boy, Bod has to attend lessons, keep himself occupied, and try to stay out of trouble. Unlike every other growing boy, however, Bod’s experiences are always a little different from the norm because his home is the graveyard. Bod’s lessons are often on topics of fading and haunting taught by ghosts and hounds of god, his play time is spent playing with ghost children or a live girl, Scarlett, who thinks of Bod as an imaginary friend, and his possible sources of trouble goes much further than breaking curfew when he travels through a ghoul gate. Despite these strange experiences, Bod still needs to deal with typical adolescent problems like bullies and feeling lonesome.
Throughout the book there remains a thread of suspense as the murderer of Bod’s family, the man Jack, continues to reappear in search of the toddler that got away. When the man Jack befriends Bod’s newly reacquainted friend Scarlett, the suspense comes to a peak and I personally felt as though I was holding my breath all through Chapter 7 in which Bod and his would-be-killers finally come face-to-face and battle until Bod succeeds in eliminating each Jack, using what he has learned about the graveyard to his advantage. The book concludes with Bod seemingly growing out of his graveyard home and eventually leaving to venture out into the wide world.
As I said before, I heard from multiple children that this book was great and they would highly recommend it. Personally, I did not really enjoy the book in its entirety. I loved the first chapter and the last two chapters, but I just found myself often thinking that the events were not really connected and it bothered me. Upon reading Patrick Ness’s review from “The Guardian,” I think I can better explain my reasoning. Ness (2008) stated that some of the chapters of The Graveyard Book were more “episodic” and read more like short stories than a series of chapters telling a continuous story. Upon reading this review, I was struck by how well it described my uncertainties about this book. I think I enjoy a more clearly connected and flowing novel. I am not saying that this is not a quality book; clearly it is since it won the Newbery Award, but personally it is not one I would have continued reading for personal pleasure. To me one of the benefits of the Reading Education program is that I am sometimes forced to read books that I otherwise may have dismissed. Just because it’s not my cup of tea, doesn’t mean I want to keep it from my students.
I was very impressed when exploring The Graveyard Book on www.bookdrum.com. I think the bookmarks section would be a great tool for enhancing background knowledge and investigating any confusing references made in the text. The review section had links to reviews from New York Times and The Guardian, and I found both reviews helpful in exploring my own thoughts on the book. Exploring the setting section led me to the website for Highgate Cemetery West, the graveyard that inspired Gaiman in his writing. On the site it is possible to read actual inscriptions on graves in Highgate Cemetery West. Since the grave inscriptions were often included in The Graveyard Book, I thought that would be an interesting site for students to visit and gain some background knowledge. When I had finished exploring the website focused on The Graveyard Book, I continued to explore www.bookdrum.com, and I was surprised and impressed to see resources created for a number of books from classics like Pride and Prejudice to modern-day novels like Twilight. This is a resource I would use again if a book I was reading was featured on the site.
Another tool I have a new love for is the Book Wizard at www.scholastic.com/bookwizard. What I appreciated about the “Book Alike” search was that it didn’t just spit out a few titles for teachers or students to choose from. It identified the interest level of the books, the grade level equivalencies, the themes and subjects, and the genre(s). While searching for books two grade levels below The Graveyard Book, I found some that seemed more relevant than others. For example, the two books in “The Haunting of Derek Stone” series seemed much more like what someone who liked The Graveyard Book would enjoy than In the Land of the Lawn Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales. I think this is a tool I will use when I am doing read-alouds in my future classroom. Since I do not have a whole library in my head, I sometimes find it difficult to identify books that are on my students’ reading level when they want a book similar to the difficult book I’ve read aloud to the class. I also enjoyed the fact that some books identified in my search were listed as sixth grade interest level despite the third grade reading level. Since student reading levels vary so much within the grade, it’s nice to have this resource that identifies books on similar themes of interest with varying reading ability levels.
When reading Neil Gaiman’s Newbery Award acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book, I was impressed by how humble he was about his clear talent for writing exceptional novels. I felt that I was able to personally connect with many of the statements he made in his speech. For example Gaiman said, “Sometimes fiction is a way of coping with the poison of the world in a way that lets us survive it.” I think this is a very insightful statement about all fiction but especially in children’s literature. Children often have difficulty expressing their emotions in a way that really gets out what they’re feeling, and we adults do not always have the right words to help children understand and cope in difficult times. I know I’ve read books in the past that have helped me through difficult times, and I think the same can and should be done through children’s books. I also enjoyed reading about his inspiration for The Graveyard Book and how “The Witch’s Headstone” was actually the first chapter written. Gaiman said that he also had wanted The Graveyard Book to be one that was composed of many short stories, like The Jungle Book, and this helped me to understand better the format and contents of his chapters. While it’s still not my first choice in book format, I was able to understand it more once I read Gaiman’s speech.
I Broke My Trunk
This was my first book of the “Elephant & Piggie” series, and I loved it! What I appreciated most about this book was that I found it to be legitimately funny. Maybe my sense of humor is overly childlike, but I think it’s just because Mo Willems did a great job writing a book that is on an easy-reader level but also has a clever little storyline. The repetitive language and use of high-frequency words makes this book a top choice for beginning readers, but its humorous story makes it one that older students struggling to read will also enjoy. The text bubbles, as opposed to traditionally written text, will also make this book appealing to students of a variety of ages.
Lane, H.B. & Wright, T.L. (2007). Maximizing the effectiveness of reading aloud. The Reading Teacher 60(7), 668-675.
Fisher, D., Flood, J., Lapp, D., & Frey, N. (2004). Interactive read-alouds: is there a common set of implementation practices?. The Reading Teacher 58(1), 8-17.
The purpose of this article by Lane and Wright (2007) is to make educators and parents aware of read-aloud research-based methods that have been shown to effectively raise student reading achievement. Before even beginning the read-aloud in the classroom, Land and Wright (2007) suggest that the instructor consider the time allotted for the read aloud, the text being chosen, strategies for engaging students during the read-aloud, and the degree to which the book will match the curriculum and units of study. Three specific research-based techniques for reading aloud were also identified and explained: dialogic reading, text talk, and print referencing (Lane & Wright, 2007). Dialogic reading is a strategy that is usually used with preschoolers, but can be used with older students as well. I appreciated that the questions used in this strategy start out as basic completion or recall questions and build up to open-ended and distancing questions. Students’ abilities to answer these questions with progressing difficulty demonstrate the degree to which they truly comprehend the book that was read aloud. Text talk is a strategy suggested that I had not read much about before this article. With text talk, the teacher reads aloud to students end engages them in discussing the book throughout the read aloud. After the book has been read, the teacher brings up multiple words from the text that the students will discuss and study further. By creating child-friendly definitions, the teacher makes sure that the students have a clear understanding of what the words mean. In the final step of text talk students then use their own writing or teacher-created activities to interact with the word and use it in multiple contexts (Lane & Wright, 2007). Through print referencing, teachers and parents use verbal and nonverbal cues to point out important aspects of the text. While print referencing may help students develop skills such as concept of word, like any read-aloud activity it needs to be used in moderation so that it does not detract from the story itself (Lane & Wright, 2007).
Since parents are also an important part of a child’s literacy development, it’s important that educators have methods in place to increase the amount of read-alouds at home and their effectiveness. Lane and Wright (2007) suggest developing ways to make appropriate children’s books more available for parents to use at home and teaching them strategies for engaging their students in the read-aloud text. Parent workshops would allow the opportunity for educators to explain the importance of reading aloud at home and teach the research-based read-aloud techniques they wish for parents to employ (Lane and Wright, 2007).
While Lane and Wright (2007) focused their article on identifying strategies developed and/or proven to be effective by other researchers, Fisher, Flood, Lapp, and Frey (2004) conducted their own study to determine, through observation and interview, which read-aloud strategies were the most common among expert read-aloud teachers. Teachers observed in the first phase of this study were identified by their principals as teachers who were models of effective teaching and whose students exhibited strong reading achievement. Researchers took observational notes of the twenty-five identified teachers conducting a read-aloud with their class. They then compiled all the observational data to identify the read-aloud components that were shared by each expert teacher observation. Seven read-aloud components were identified: books were appropriate for the students’ developmental ages and interests, the teacher had read and practiced the book before reading to the class, the purpose of the read-aloud was clear to students, fluent reading was modeled by the teacher, the teacher read with expression and animation, questions were occasionally used throughout the text to encourage student interaction, and opportunities were created for students to form connections between the read-aloud and their independent reading and writing (Fisher et al., 2004).
After identifying the seven factors common to expert teacher read-alouds, the researchers observed read-alouds conducted by 120 randomly selected teachers. The purpose of this second phase of research was to determine how frequently the seven techniques are carried out by teachers not necessarily identified as experts (Fisher et al., 2004). Expression and animation while reading, engaging students in discussion, and selecting appropriate texts were effective read-aloud methods that were prominent in the randomly selected teachers. Reading and practicing the book before reading to the class was not as common, as was also the case with modeling fluent reading and connecting the read-aloud book to the rest of the curriculum (Fisher et al., 2004). According to Fisher et al. (2004), at the conclusion of the second phase observations the non-expert teachers were interviewed about their read-aloud techniques and asked to identify why they used certain techniques and not others. Unfortunately the responses obtained during those interviews were not included in this article.
At the conclusion of the study, Fisher et al. (2004) suggested that teachers need to take the time and effort to enhance their fluency when reading aloud. While most teachers can read silently with good accuracy and speed, Fisher et al. (2004) point out there is a difference between reading silently and orally. Since students require a good model of fluent reading in the classroom, it is important that teachers build their oral reading fluency so they can demonstrate this skill to their students (Fisher et al., 2004). Fisher et al. (2004) also suggested that universities preparing future teachers take the time to instruct them on read-aloud methods and provide those future teachers with the opportunity to practice the methods.
While I enjoyed both articles, I found the study by Fisher et al. (2004) to be the most interesting and helpful. I liked that it gave a list of seven specific aspects of read-aloud to focus on. None of the aspects of read-aloud that they discussed were foreign to me, but I like the list of seven specifics because they give me something to focus on when planning my own future read-alouds. I do wish that Fisher et al. (2004) had included the results of the interviews with the non-expert teachers in the publication of their study. As someone who is also still working towards becoming an expert teacher, I would like to see what reasons they identified for not using the same techniques as the experts. As for the Lane & Wright (2007) article, I appreciate being exposed to those specific read-aloud strategies to use in the classroom. While dialogic reading and print referencing are techniques that I feel I was already using during read-alouds, I enjoyed learning about text talk. This vocabulary-growth approach is one that I think would be beneficial in the classroom, especially versus the basal-popular approach in which vocabulary is introduced prior to reading the text.
Comprehensive Post – Wonderstruck – 3/29 March 28, 2012
Wonderstruck is a novel written by Brian Selznick that tells the adventures of two children growing up 50 years apart. Rose is a deaf girl whose story begins in New Jersey in 1927. Rose’s story is mostly told through illustrations instead of printed text. Reading Rose’s sections of the novel reminded me of reading wordless picture books such as The Snowman by Raymond Brigg and The Three Pigs by David Wiesner. In Wonderstruck Rose runs away from New Jersey to visit what seems to be her favorite actress in New York City. The reader later finds out that actress is actually Rose’s estranged mother who quickly determines that Rose must return home to New Jersey instead of staying in New York City. Instead of returning home Rose runs away again, this time to the Museum of Natural History. There she finds her brother Walter, who is selling books at the museum. Walter does not reject Rose’s desire for change like her mother did, instead he takes her back to his New York City apartment and eventually arranges for her to attend a school for deaf children.
Ben, the other protagonist in this novel, has a story that begins in 1977 in Minnesota. Ben’s mother has recently died, and he is living with his aunt and her family. One night, while visiting the house he used to live in with his mother, Ben discovers a book in his mother’s things. A note on a bookmark inside the book leads Ben to believe that the book was given to his mother by his father who he has never met. Since the address on the bookmark is in New York City, Ben thinks about running away to the city to find his father. Before he can carry out his plan, Ben becomes deaf when lightening strikes while he is on the telephone. After recovering from the lightening strike, Ben (newly deaf) succeeds in escaping to New York City. Having visited New York often as a teenager, I know how busy, chaotic, and confusing it can be, so I can’t even fathom what it would be like for Ben to experience it for the first time without the ability to hear. While in New York, things don’t go as expected, and Ben ends up making friends with Jamie, a boy whose father works in the planetarium at the Museum of Natural History. Through Jamie, Ben is able to stay at the museum while he figures out how to carry out his plans to locate his father.
The novel concludes with Ben discovering that the book he found did come from his father, but his father is no longer living. However the two main stories collide as we discover that Rose from 1927 is actually Ben’s paternal grandmother. Rose shares with Ben her own history and the story of Ben’s parents’ romance. We find that Rose eventually got what she needed: love, acceptance and guidance. And Ben is beginning to find what he was searching for: a place to call home in the absence of his mother.
Obviously one major way that this book is different from the typical children’s novels is the use of illustrations. Students who are used to skimming over illustrations in picture books or beginnig chapter books may need a few lessons in truly engaging with the illustrations of Wonderstruck. The illustrations featured in this novel are not to simply enhance the telling of a story. Their purpose is to actually tell the story. Because of this purpose, students need to pay attention to details such as the headlines of the articles in Rose’s scrapbook and the contents of the book left by Rose’s tutor. These details help the reader to truly understand what events are occurring in Rose’s life.
In addition to the inclusion of illustrations, Wonderstruck is different from other children’s novels because it focuses on two protagonists whose stories do not intersect until the end of the book. When I first began reading I was concerned that jumping back and forth between the two stories would be too confusing to be enjoyable, but I did not find that to be the case. Selznick is telling two separate stories, but each story is told so thoroughly there is no room for confusion. I like that, for the most part, each of Rose’s sections begins exactly where the last section ended, and the same rule applies to Ben’s sections. For students, that continuity of story line will be important in comprehending Wonderstruck.
When reading this book, I did not complete it in one sitting. I would estimate it took me close to three hours to read the book in its entirety over multiple reading sessions. In the beginning I found myself much more intrigued by Rose’s story than Ben’s. I think this was due to the novelty of “reading” through illustrations. Also, perhaps due to the lack of printed text, Rose’s story seemed darker and had more of an air of mystery that had me wanting to see how her story would turn out. While I felt bad for Ben and the recent loss of his mother, the shadowed illustrations of a young girl trudging home alone in a vicious thunderstorm captivated my attention more than the mystery of his unknown father. That being said, once Ben was in New York City I became equally interested in his story. I was very curious to see how he would make his way around the completely foreign city with only a bookmark as a guide and no ability to hear the world around him. I really enjoyed this novel. The conclusion with the way the two stories became intertwined was not a big surprise, but it was still interesting. I appreciate that Selznick did not simply end the story at the discovery that the two characters were related. The continuation of the story with the visit to the Queens Museum allowed the reader to get even more history of the characters and really made for a satisfying conclusion to the novel.
As a former second grade teacher, I still think this novel would be too difficult for most of my students, but I could see it being used in upper elementary classrooms. I think students would love being able to show off that they were reading a large book like this. As we discussed in our face-to-face meeting, our struggling readers are too often forced to select books that are obviously at a lower reading level than those available to their peers. This book, in which half the pages are illustrations, gives those struggling readers the chance to read a long novel without becoming overly frustrated. Even students who are capable of reading full-length printed text novels would enjoy Wonderstruck. I certainly am able to read a variety of novels, but I still enjoyed the originality of using illustrations to tell a full detailed story.
In the classroom I would take some time to review wordless picture books before introducing this novel to my students. In an internship, I observed a teacher and her students writing the text for a wordless picture book. This required them to closely analyze what was being shown through the illustrations, including facial expressions, setting, and time frame. An activity like this would be beneficial to students before reading Wonderstruck. So many of the illustration details included by Selznick could be easily skimmed over and missed by hurried readers. This would lead to an incomplete understanding of Rose’s story and possible incomprehension of the novel. Taking the time to teach students how to read illustrations would be very beneficial to their comprehension of Wonderstruck.
The first night of class I initially thought that this book would take a long time to read and that really it would never come into play for me since I plan on staying in the elementary school setting. After reading I see that this book is definitely an option for upper elementary students and even maybe my very highest second graders. I think reading this large novel will give a boost in confidence to some students who are usually stuck with shorter novels. It also serves as an introduction to a wonderful author and illustrator. I now plan on reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which had never been of interest to me before being exposed to the novel format of Wonderstruck. Perhaps reading this novel could create the same motivation in my students.
I have never created a glog before, so I decided this assignment was the perfect opportunity to learn and explore the glogster tool. Although there were moments of frustration as I tried to figure out how to create links and had to give up on uploading videos I’d found, overall I had a great experience with glogster and I plan on using it again. I hope you enjoy my first glog!
Response to Independent Reading – 3/22 March 22, 2012
What I consider to be one of the most beneficial things I learned while studying independent reading is what my role is as a teacher. Gambrell stated that the new SSR format requires teachers to transition from their traditional passive role in this setting to an active role in which they engage their students during the silent reading time (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010, p.19). What I had been taught in my undergraduate courses was the importance of modeling my own reading during SSR time. According to what I was previously taught, by seeing me enjoy reading my students would be inspired to enjoy reading themselves. This model of independent reading made it difficult for me to validate devoting too much of my students’ time to independent reading. Sure they would be reading, but an administrator walking in wasn’t usually pleased to see a teacher sitting around reading a new novel. While I knew amount of reading was important in developing my students’ comprehension and vocabulary, the lack of structure during SSR time made me question the amount of learning that was truly going on during that time of the day. While Applegate and Applegate’s study showed that teachers’ reading habits truly do have an effect on their students’ motivation to read, I think I’ve discovered a more powerful way to share my passion for reading and inspire positive reading experiences for my students than just allowing them to watch me read. I know more how to properly conference with my students to ensure they’re learning while reading.
I truly hope that as I enter the classroom again I will be able to implement some form of the independent reading program proposed by Moss and Young (2010). What I appreciate most about this program, with 60 minutes of independent reading interspersed with teacher-student conferences, is that it allows true differentiation to occur. The level of book the student is reading can be differentiated as can the expected amount of reading and the topic of discussion during the conference. This openness to differentiation allows me to make sure each student is getting the support he or she needs. In addition, the focus lessons at the beginning of the 60 minute independent reading block create a time for me to instruct and direct the students on topics or issues that are of relevance to the whole class. Students would be able to use the information presented in those focus lessons as needed during their own independent reading.
In addition to the 60-minute independent reading block, I like the idea of the 20-minute community reading time suggested by Moss and Young (2010). This time of book talks and interactive read-alouds creates the opportunity for the teacher to explicitly share his or her own love for reading and books. Students also get the chance to communicate their feelings towards certain books and learn about new books they may want to read in the future. Dr. Frye stated in her PowerPoint that one of the stumbling blocks of the traditional SSR program was that students get stuck in the same genre or series. The community reading time give exposure to new series and genres that students may have not previously considered, hopefully breaking them out of their reading rut.
In previous classrooms I had used the required basal texts for my whole class literacy lessons and novel sets of varying levels to work with small groups on independent/guided reading. As previously mentioned, I hope to implement Moss and Young’s (2010) plan in my future classrooms. In addition, I plan on changing how I build my classroom library. In the past I purchased the typical popular series like Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, and Cam Jansen, and my students definitely loved them. My goal at the time was simply to have enough books for each student to be reading something at their level. After reviewing all of the websites suggested by Moss and Young (2010) and Dr. Frye, I think I will approach future classroom library growth with a little more consideration for the quality of books being purchased and read. I’ve always known to look out for the Newbery and Caldecott Award winners, but beyond that I didn’t have many resources for book recommendations besides my fellow teachers. Out of all the resources we examined, I found www.reading.org to be the most beneficial for fictional books. The teachers’ choice list showed me which books were considered to be quality literature by other teachers. The children’s choice list gave me insight into what books my students may be the most interested in. As for content-area non-fiction books, I enjoyed www.socialstudies.org and www.nsta.org. Obviously not all books on these lists would be relevant or readable for my individual students, but I can pick and choose as needed. What I liked about the lists compiled on these sites was the fact that professional teachers had reviewed and selected them. This allowed me to better trust the judgment behind the list compilation.
All of the articles and literature we’ve read about independent reading have given me a lot to think about in terms of my future teaching and classroom. I believe that by implementing this program I will be better able to meet my students’ individual needs and motivate them to choose to read more.
My Students: I teach at a relatively new school. We have only been open for three years. Being a new school comes with many benefits, but it also creates a few issues. One of those issues I’d like to address is a lack of books for each classroom. Having acquired the basic reading skills in first grade, my second grade students can no longer be characterized as “learning to read.” They are readers and they want to show off that skill! Whether it’s sharing adventures with Flat Stanley or laughing along with Junie B. Jones, they enjoy getting lost in the new world of literature. They also love teaching their parents and teachers about the different animals they’ve read about in a nonfiction book filled with vivid photographs and expanding their math understanding through engaging math trade books. Although my students are at a variety of different levels in terms of their reading abilities, one thing they all have in common is a desire to read books of interest. As their teacher I am responsible for feeding that desire so they will continue to develop as readers in developing their fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. With limited supplies, it can be difficult to meet that responsibility.
With 40% of our students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, we have been categorized as a high-poverty school. While some of my students have a personal selection of books at home, others depend on our classroom library as their sole source of reading material. Parents do not always have the time or money to purchase appropriately-leveled quality literature for their child. Expanding our classroom library would allow me to get books at a variety of levels to suit all of the children in my class. It would also make it possible to create a lending system in which students could borrow books to read independently at home.
My Project: I wish to expand my classroom library by adding quality books at a variety of levels. By adding books that have been selected as Caldecott or Newbery award winners I plan to expose my students to a new level of quality books. Through use of the Children’s Choice booklist on reading.org, I hope to entice my students outside of their normal book choices and introduce them to new authors and genres. Nonfiction books recommended on socialstudies.org and nsta.org will allow my students to satisfy their curiosities about topics related to social studies or science.
Expanding our classroom library by adding these books will ensure that each student has access to books on their level that they enjoy reading. The ability to borrow books from the classroom library will help level the playing field between those students who have personal books at home and those who do not. Adding award-winning books will ensure that students are reading quality books that will enhance their vocabulary and comprehension. Finally, expanding our classroom library this year will benefit my students for years to come. I plan on continually adding to my classroom library each year as students’ interests vary and new books are published, but a strong foundation is needed off which we can build. I hope to create that strong foundation through the books I have requested.
My students need an expanded classroom library with a variety of book levels and topics. They need new books that will allow them to go beyond their typical choices and expose them to quality literature.
Some sample titles to expand our classroom library:
Born Yesterday: The diary of a young journalist by James Solheim
Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott
Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner
Mr. President Goes to School by Rick Walton
Animal Rescue Team series by Sue Stauffacher
Follow that Map!: A first book of mapping skills by Scot Ritchie
Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules
A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston
Can We Save the Tiger? By Martin Jenkins
At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems by Leslie Bulion
How Big is a Foot? By Rolf Myller
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
Randi Lanier was kind enough to share the results of her second grade interest inventory with me. Since I used to teach second grade, I was happy to get this information, because I can apply it to the classroom library I had in my classroom.
When asked what they would like to learn more about, Randi’s students responded that they would like to learn more about animals, math, soccer, and Star Wars. The popularity of nonfiction animal books was something I experienced when teaching, so I definitely have a supply of those already in my classroom library. As for math trade books, I have a fair number of them, but I kept most of them with my teacher supplies for read-alouds to accompany a math lesson. In the future I should buy multiple copies of those books so I can keep one for read-alouds and have one available for students to read independently. I honestly had not really thought students would be interested in learning more about math aside from what is already being taught.
The Star Wars trend continued when students were asked about what kind of books they most like to read, with two students stating that Star Wars books were their favorite. I do not remember Star Wars being so popular when I left the second grade classroom just over a year ago, but clearly it’s an interest now in Randi’s classroom. If I were to teach in this classroom I would like to find some Star Wars books on a variety of levels. In my experience, books that focus on the latest trends do not lend themselves too much to comprehension growth. By finding Star Wars books on the students’ instructional levels hopefully I will be able to expand their vocabulary and/or improve fluency. The students’ interest in Star Wars helps prove the need for yearly interest inventories. It can be impossible for us to predict what will be popular with our students in years to come.
In addition to Star Wars and nonfiction animal books, five students listed fantasy books as they kind they most like to read. I have the Magic Tree House series as part of my classroom library which is an appropriate instructional level for some second grade students and can be categorized as fantasy. I would like to expand my collection of the fantasy genre beyond this series. Adding new books of different reading levels will open up the genre to all of my students. Mysteries were also listed as a favorite kind of book, and that was a favorite in my own previous classrooms. Therefore I already have enough mysteries in my collection to please any future detective.
When asked about their favorite series, students responded with the typical Flat Stanley, Fancy Nancy, and Junie B. Jones which have been part of my classroom library since its original formation. The Sophie series by Lara Bergen, however, was completely unknown to me. I had honestly never heard of the books until reading the results of Randi’s interest inventory. This is more proof for the necessity of yearly interest inventories. Sometimes we need to allow our students to expose us to new literature instead of us always taking the lead.
An element outside of book selection that I found very interesting in Randi’s students’ answers was the love her students have for their “reading spots.” Randi explained that in her classroom students are spread out throughout the room to read in different locations besides their desk. Students listed their reading spots as their favorite part of reading this year and one of the conditions under which they read best. It is such a simple practice to carry out, but it seems to be making a positive difference in her students’ motivation to read. It is a practice I definitely will consider using in my own future classroom.