Tuesday, September 30, 2014

These Tests

Today we administered a school-wide writing prompt to students in grades nine through eleven. Students have roughly ninety minutes to read the passages and write to the prompt. My district has mandated three such practices prior to the spring assessment that will be administered state wide. Students in tenth grade must pass the test in order to graduate from high school in the state of Florida. For the first time such standardized tests will count as up to thirty percent of a students' final grade for English.

I serve the students in my class. I serve their parents and my community. While I would love to protest the test, to walk out of my double-wide portable, to walk down the three cement steps leading to the door, to walk in the street that even now construction vehicles travel as they renovate our campus, while I might enjoy that moment,  that fist-in-the-face, forget it protest, that would not serve the twenty-six students sitting in my classroom. Walking out or opting out on  students would not help them. Lee County attempted  to opt out of state required tests but rescinded their vote just days later. While I do believe we must fight against the misuse of standardized tests, we must take that fight off of our campuses and out of our classrooms.

It feels like a lose-lose situation some days. I could rave about the narrowing of the curriculum. I could rant about how the misuse of tests creates a "working class" of citizens in our state who have not educational opportunities beyond a test they cannot pass. I could wax vitriolic,  but I won't. Not today.

I am committed to the twenty-six students sitting in my room during testing. Today, I can manage to frame the situation as a learning experience.

So today, I wrote. I got a copy of the passages and the prompt. After I read the testing script aloud (in my best imitation of Professor McGonagall because our shared laughter released a lot of tension), after I circulated and made sure students had gotten started, I too wrote.

I annotated the passages--judicial opinions no less. I made note of the mode required by the prompt. I planned. I charted. I wrote and wrote.  I cited textual evidence. I embedded direct quotations. I used parenthetical references. I worked hard during my writing time. I spent an hour and ten minutes of the ninety we were given writing and revising. 

I emailed my essay to district personnel and asked for it to be scored with the rubric the district provided. If I get it in a timely fashion, the feedback will be useful. We do not have anchor papers. We have never used this rubric as a faculty.

As a teacher, if I am to do right by the twenty-six students in my room  and the fifty-two parents behind them, then I need to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. As a citizen, if I am to do right by the children in my state,  I need to engage in the political process. I need to vote.I need to speak up. Outside of the school day, I need to write letters, call law makers, share resources.

I need to invite people in power into my classroom and get their eyes on students. (Is that even allowed? Surely a school board member or the members who serve from our district would be welcome on our campus. We'll see. I'll have to ask.) As a parent educator I keep thinking that the glass could be half full. I imagine that if law makers knew more about students, classrooms, teaching, learning, assessments and testing they may revise current policies and practices. Of course, that likely depends on the businesses in which they have personally invested. Charter schools are big business in my state. The issues are complex much more so than I want to address today.

These tests may have been created during the eleventh hour. These tests may be a money-making machine for those in power. These tests may damage public education. These tests may guarantee a working class for the service industry in my state. These tests may be used for despicable purposes under the guise of good intentions. These tests may limit the freedoms of those recently achieving citizenship. These tests may be unfair. These tests may punish those at lower socioeconomic levels. These tests may do all of that and more.

No matter now. No matter at this instructional moment. I must show students how to succeed on the assessments others demand.  To do any less would be akin to saying students can't. That is not a judgment I am ever willing to make.

Slice of Life is hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers. Head over to serve 
up a slice from your day or help yourself to seconds.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Overcome Obstacles

I'm reflecting on summer reading through the first quarter.
Join the conversation, add a link to your post in comments.
Yesterday I got up early and intended to write all morning. I had finished my first cup of coffee, had put in a load of laundry and was just scanning social networks before I got started when I heard the trumpet alert from my cell phone saying I'd gotten a text message. My friend Beth was heading to the American Mud Race. She was meeting up with folks from Camp Gladiator, a boot camp we've done together, but she didn't have a specific race partner.  Sure, when the going get tough, the tough get going, but going it alone is an obstacle not many over come. Knowing the race was near my house at a local track, I called and said I'd join her. Last minute, no plans, just get dressed and go.

The American Mud Race is a three mile course filled with obstacles: mud hills, a swamp swim, climbing walls, tire pits and even fire.
The last third of the course with the slide, fire jump and barbed-wired crawl finish.

Summer reading can be rife with obstacles. Access to books, an obstacle about which many have written (Krashen, Allington and McGill Franzen) is just one obstacle.  At my school we address that obstacle by purchasing books students can check out for the summer. Having more than one-hundred copies for check out, helps. However, if a grade level changes titles too often, our budget for buying books cannot keep pace. Some obstacles you just have to walk around.

I walked around a couple of the obstacles during the mud race. I can't do pull ups. Though my rotator cuff repair has held, my right shoulder is not as strong as it once was. I baby it. I am mindful of my limits. So during yesterday's race I walked around the monkey bars and at least one of the walls. I knew my should could not do it without injury.

Some students feel like they cannot do what we ask them to do for summer reading. More often than not though, they can, they just do not want to. Apathy is wall that is hard to scale. Resistance is too. We see it at all course levels. Even in students' social media streams:

Is it human nature to complain or resist being told what to do? Probably.  Could we turn this around by changing how we approach summer assignments? Yes.

How do we overcome the obstacle? There's got to be a way to support students working through assigned texts and choice texts. During the mud race people helped each other.

One leg of the race was a walk through a swamp. Not being able to see what is under the water can be scary. Some might have been thinking alligators, snakes or amoeba. I know I was thinking bacteria. I figured gators would leave a big crowd alone. I was more worried about my friend's new knee (she had ACL replacement surgery last year) than I was critters. People supported each other by calling out the hidden logs and holes. Strangers offered hands and arms to steady those behind them. We shared strategies--swimming or floating through the rough spots worked well. Encouragement and support got us through that swamp.

Pictures from American Mud Race facebook page.
Next time I'll know to bring to the water camera or Dad's GoPro.

If we are going to assign summer reading I am convince that our support and encouragement must start in May. We've got  to get students ready to do the work on their own. We can't just set them free and say "do it."  Assigning isn't teaching. Assigning will not keep students connected to text. It won't enable students to practice the  academic habits we'd like to exercise during the summer.  When we do that students return results that do not meet our expectations.

We are stronger than we think. Especially when we work together--with each other and with our students.

Beth Scanlon and I after the race.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Making Time

The car's wind shield is a water wall. If only it were as soothing as the water wall we saw in a furniture store last Sunday.

The roof pings with  crunchy sounds, fat drops like bugs or leaf crackle. Rain storms the lacrosse field, but the boys play on.

It would have been easy for the coach to call off practice before the rain started. He could have pointed to weather forecasts or the crawling grey cumulus that darkened over the interstate. It would have been easy to use the rain as an excuse to just skip practice, to bail on the forty-minute drive to the field, to forgo the ninety-minute practice, to bypass rush hour for the forty-five minute drive home. But my son loves it. Because he values it, I know it is important. Its important for me to be there for him, to drive him, to make time for it our week.

We make time for what (or whom) we value.  We all have twenty-four hours in our day. How we choose to use our time says a lot about what we value.

One lightning clap and the coach called practice early. Getting home was quite an adventure. Collin put a towel on his lap in the back seat and started his algebra homework. Between problems and picture taking we joked. We crossed the ocean at Ivanhoe.

The wagon throws quite a wake. We made up small craft advisories for the Mini Coopers on the road and marveled at gutter rip tides. The rain delay on the roads gave us time to laugh together: definitely a blessing disguised as inconvenience. Glad I made time for it today.

Slice of Life is hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers. Head over to serve
up a slice from your day or help yourself to seconds.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teaming Summer Reads

I'm reflecting on summer reading through October.
Link up if you'd like to join the conversation.

The tenth grade team had our first data meeting of the year with our principal last week. The team will meet every three weeks to review common assessment data and talk instruction. We are tasked with showing how students in a variety of categories perform on assessments. We disaggregate our data; then we meet and discuss it. For this meeting we talked about the essay we asked students to write about the one book on grade summer reading. Tenth graders read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. We only asked them to read the book.  The assessment the team devised was an essay prompt that asked students to explain how the novel develops one of three themes.

 We revised our assessment after previewing our state's new assessment. The team thought that by giving students three theme statements and a passage we would set them up for a successful writing experience.

We assumed:

  • students understood the concept of theme
  • students had written about theme in ninth grade
  • students knew how to use textual evidence in writing
  • students knew how to find evidence to support a given theme
  • students could embed textual evidence (paraphrased, summarized or directly quoted) in writing

In hindsight, we could have spent more time unpacking prerequisite skills. We could have also talked to the ninth grade as we planned our assessment. We thought students would be successful writing the essay in class.

What we discovered instead was that students did not know how to write about theme. They knew how to summarize the book. They knew how to use evidence from the given passage or the novel to tell the story, but most could not use evidence from the text to show how the theme develops.

This students' strengths include facility with words--a great vocabulary--and an ability to sequence events from the plot. My next instructional move is to help this writer use evidence to support the theme instead  retelling the plot.

Did students read? Yes. Were they successful on the assessment? For the most part, no. All six of us, retaught some aspect of the summer reading. The reteaching ranged from showing students how to embed textual evidence to how to structure analysis paragraphs. We all agreed that we will be teaching students how to do such writing well into the year.

When assessment does not match purpose students get lost. I think we know this, but it's a lesson we come back to time and again as we refine our practice. Still, we saw what students are able to do as writers who read.

My students are entering tenth grade with a host of writing skills. Students can:

  • paragraph
  • summarize
  • use figurative language
  • use a variety of sentence structures
  • use transition words to organize writing/ideas
  • write specifically about plot
  • sequence events 
  • loosely connect events to theme

There is a lot that students come to class knowing how to do. We're off to a good start. Now to build on it (and work as a team to on revising our grade-level summer reading for next year).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reading Contagion

Hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, link up
your Slice of Life 

on Tuesdays throughout the year.
Paul W. Hankins and Sarah Gross have been posting "High Point(s) of the Teaching Day" on Facebook. I love catching these glimpses into their classrooms. Light travels. Today my high point was listening to tenth graders, Mahammed and Kevin, talk about Sick by Tom Leveen.

Kevin is "patient zero" when it comes to being infected by Leveen's story. He read it first and he has been talking it up since. Mahammed just finished it. He handed it right off to another student even as his table mate clamored to be "next" to read it.  It's been read by three students in less than two weeks. That's the best kind of contagious. And they are still talking about it. That, I love.

Another high point in my day was finally getting students into the digital textbook. I finally had time to figure out what we'd been doing wrong getting there.  Learning a new resource takes time even for folks who are tech savvy. Just as I need time to learn, so do my students. I want to keep the idea that learning takes time in mind, especially  this time a year when it can seem like there is a rush to get things done and moving at the start.  I screen casted my demonstration today if you'd like to get a peek into our new resource.  Please forgive the multiple log on interruptions around 2:36 . Sometimes our server requests multiple log ons when we're using personal devices on the network and what works one way one day does not always work the next.

On the plus side students were excited to see the online book. They jumped right in, got through the multiple log on requests with their mobile devices and even figured out the highlighting tools using their phones.

Four textbooks, four devices. 
On a funny note, I just went to find the picture of Kevin reading Leveen's Sick on my phone and discovered I'd been photo bombed. Do you call it photo bombing when someone snicks your phone and takes a bunch of pictures of himself? I don't think students call it that, but I vaguely recall them calling it something. Blowing up the photos or the phone maybe? Tobi left about eight pictures of his face on my phone. I can tell he his standing at the computer station because of the light fixture above his head.

I've been taking pictures of students reading and of students' work in class and saving the images to their folders in Evernote, so I have my phone out on a work table a lot. I trust my students not to take the phone and can't help but laugh at the funny faces Tobi made on the screen. I wonder what possessed him to do that?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kale or Ice Cream: Choice and Summer Reading

My husband is an amazing cook. There are days I believe he could conjure a sauce out of dirt and rocks. He bakes bread: rye bread, wheat bread, sunflower bread. He's been known to brew beer, roast green coffee beans, pit smoke whole hogs.

Last week he made us patty melts on home-made rye bread just out of the oven. He sauted peppers, onions and mushrooms until they were just sweetened up in the pan. He topped the pressed beef patties with swiss cheese. Dropped the sauted vegetables on top then buttered the rye bread and grilled the sandwiches . Somehow that sandwich tasted better than one I would have made for myself. 

It's not often the same with books though, is it? When we pick books for students they often are not sweeter than the books students would have chosen for themselves. 

Last week Karen Terlecky wrote about a reader being slowed by a book she chose from four titles offered for summer reading.  Karen likened that struggle to a truck, engine screaming, crawling uphill on the interstate. Slow, the trucks struggle, but without their uphill climb where would consumers be?
We need those trucks to keep moving just like we need to vegetables for our health.

There are reading assignments that are slow like that uphill climb and if I switch the metaphor and think diet, those assignments are broccoli and kale. Good for me, but not my first choice.

I like kale, now. I used to think it was a bitter decoration. Now, I juice it, chop it, mix it into breads. I like kale now, but it took years of vegetable conditioning to develop the taste for it. Even though I like it, I don't want to eat it in every salad or with every meal. It's good, but let's be honest, it's not ice cream or popcorn.  As with any comparison, there are limits to my food analogy, but the obesity epidemic (and my own "summer slide" toward too many chips and Popsicles) seems very real evidence for balance. 

I must balance making healthy food choices with my love of chips and ice cream. If I am going to be healthy and or take off some of the stress weight I put on last spring, I've got to balance doing what I want to do (read and nap) and doing what I have to do (eat well and exercise). From a health and nutritional stance, this makes sense.

It was the kale salad at the Wicked Spoon buffet in Las Vegas that changed my
mind about eating greens. English teacher friends and I ate there during NCTE 2012. 

But it does not always make sense for readers. Yes, as an adult I have to read things that I absolutely do not find pleasure in (income taxes, credit card documents, legislation that impacts educators). If I am to be an informed citizen I must read about issues of community concern. I've got to read the manual to my car to trouble shoot issues with the air conditioner. I have to read all of the beginning of the year papers that my son brings home from school.  I have to read ingredient labels on soaps and cosmetics to avoid a chemical allergen. At work, I have to read about our teacher evaluation model. Not fun, such reading. It is, however, necessary. 

When we give students bounded choices or no choice at all in what they read for summer reading,  what's our purpose? Why do we limit readers to one book or one out of four? If my purpose is to keep students reading during the summer months then I can see where I need to leave title options wide open. Let them eat cake so to speak. Some students do not get that treat though.

Some high school students  must read particular titles. Do they really have to do that during the summer?  International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement students have required reading lists. College freshmen have required reading too. Locally, one year at Rollins College all incoming freshmen had to read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. Several colleges, such as Smith, and others, continue  a one book one college required reading experience for incoming freshmen. Why? What beliefs do we share that says such common experiences are valuable, important even? 

My answer to that question is grade-level or age dependent. At some point in a students' academic lives, students must be able to read assigned works.  Even my child will have to read textbook chapters or discipline-specific content. Engineers, doctors, lawyers, repairmen, contractors, even dental hygienists, computer programmers, stylists or graphic designers do not get to their degree or certification through selective reading. They get there by completing requirements and becoming credentialed. 

When I think about bounded choice--giving students several titles from which to choose--I liken that to getting students to eat a little bit of kale in their pre-dinner salad. Students may not be as invested in a book they are directed to read. I am okay with that for high school students. I do not believe we  need to limit or constrain choices for younger readers though. Is that ageist?  No, it's practical. 

The common reading experience and constrained choice is a means to prepare students for the reading demands they will face in colleges and careers. But that preparation need not begin in the summer months. I keep thinking about purpose.  Did the classic choice assignment meet my purpose? How many students chose classics that are also films? What might that suggest?

I need to revise the choice portion of my summer reading.  I need students choice to be wide-open not constrained to a cannon they may not be prepared to read. That lesson in meeting reading demands  is likely best taught when I can work with students side-by-side, not during the summer months. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reading Records and Revision Histories

Hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, link up your Slice of Life 
on Tuesdays throughout the year. Today my slice grew from a moment on the steps leading in the classroom to a moment where I reflect on one way readers are accountable in my classroom. 

Lunch is over. I am standing on the second step of three at the door to my classroom. I'm watching students stream toward the field of portable classrooms. My eleventh graders have started to arrive and as I stand on the step I can hear them chatting, checking the board and settling in before the bell rings. 

A students approaches me to talk about our Reading Record. We've just begun using it for  the year. 
"I don't know what I did, Miss Spillane," she begins. "But  I went on the Reading page last night and I don't ..."
"No worries, ___. I saw it. I don't know what happened either but all of the students' names in first period were gone. They were period 1, period 1, period 2, period 2 instead," I said.
"I know! I don't know what I did."
"That's okay. Because I knew how to fix it. We discovered it this morning, so  I went  into the revision history and I restored the file. It's all fixed. No worries."
"Oh thank you! I didn't even know you could do that..."
Many of my students have never collaborated on a document before, nor are many familiar with excel spreadsheets (yet). The "restore this version" command in the revision history has saved us more than once since I shifted our record to a shared digital document. Students are amazed when I reveal that bit of Google magic--they are even surprise to see that the record is color-coded by user in the revision history.
You can see Angelika adding her AP World reading in the purple cells

We've set reading page goals using a version of the process Penny Kittle describes in Book Love

My thinking and notes on pages 28-29 of my dog-eared copy of Book Love.
We read in class for a set amount of time. Students then write a quick retelling/summary on an index card so that I can assess their comprehension. Speed is only one component of reading fluency. If students are not able to accurately retell what they read then I need re-assess. I used a variety of books for the initial assessment--some students chose and were already reading, others we pulled from the shelves. They were all titles I'd read. After students jotted a quick retelling, we calculated how many pages can be comfortably read in an hour. Then we we calculate out how many pages we can read in two and a half hours (my expectation). That becomes students weekly reading goal which we track on the reading record. 

In class that day, I read ten pages in six minutes. So my formula to calculate pages per hour is ten times ten. My goal for two and a half hours of reading is two-hundred and fifty pages a day. Every student has an individual goal. There is some overlap but the range in my tenth grade IB classes runs from seventy-five pages per week to five hundred; students assessment snapshots (standardized testing data) support or validate our rate assessments. This year we also calculated words per minute (just for fun).  We  compared our words per minute rates to silent reading normed data I'd dipped into.

from Hiebert, Wilson and Trainin (154)

This year for the first time, I researched silent reading rates and book formats and publishing. Kittle describes  the reading demands of college and she uses that evidence as she frames reading's importance in her book and in her work with students. I do too, but because I'm familiar with oral reading rates I wondered about research on silent reading. So I've been on an explore.*

I discovered that different formats or layouts of trade books have different word counts per page. Students and I talked about that. We also talked about how textbooks, especially those required in my students AP or IB classes, are denser in terms of words per page. We talked about how students could balance required textbook reading with choice-driven, pleasure reading. They must do both if they are to thrive as readers. At the same time, I want students to know that I value all of the reading they do, so they can record their assigned textbook reading on our record too. It counts.

Our version of Atwell's "Status of the Class" is a shared Google spreadsheet where students note what they are reading and the page the left off on. The record serves a few purposes. It becomes a reading history over time. It holds students accountable and much like exercising in a group, we see what each of us are doing. We can support, cajole and encourage each other. More conversations begins as students note pages that I could recount.  Student readers and I can review genre preferences, reading preferences or even reading demands (as students note more than just pleasure reading on the record). It become a rich data stream for me to assess readers in my room 

It takes less than five minutes once students understand how the document works and can readily access it on the Google Sheets app or online at their groups desktop. Once used to the routine students can get the pages noted in less than three minutes--it's a quick transition to our next instructional segment.  Once a week, students calculate how many pages they read and total it in the colored-coded column. We track our progress and talk about where we are doing well and where we are facing challenges. 

At year's start our calculations are clunky, but once students understand the formula they are subtracting their starting page numbers from their ending page numbers and adding across books read quickly. It is one quantitative measure of what students are doing. Over time it provides data we use to make reading plans, set goals or stretch ourselves. It also provides data I bring to data meetings with my principal.

None of the numbers, none of the qualitative data we examined together measures up to the power of story in students' lives. What matters is that students read and read and read and read.

Initial pictures of readers in the room. We're in the middle of a 30-month renovation so the shares
look a mess as I've been packing to shift and move.
*I've only just started looking (so it will be another post in the future). If you want to see the studies I'm using as a springboard, find them herehere and here. I found over and over the 250 words per minute as a "usual" reading rate for twelfth graders (Taylor). 

Works Cited

Atwell, Nancie. In the Middle: New Understandings about Writing, Reading and Learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998.

Hiebert, Elfrieda H.; Wilson, Kathleen M. and Guy Trainin. "Are Students Really Reading-Based  in Indepenent Reading Contexts? An Examination of Comprehension-Based Silent Reading Rate. in 

Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers. Elfrieda Hiebert and Ray Reutzel, Eds. International Reading Association, 2010. 

Kittle, Penny. Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina and Passion in Adolescent Readers. Portsmouth,NH: Heinemann, 2013.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Equality's Secret: Summer Reading Sunday

Share your own Sunday Series post on summer reading now through Halloween.
Link up in comments.  

Students at my school read two books for summer reading: a common title and a choice book. This year the common titles were:
9th grade: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar
10th grade: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
11th grade: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
12th grade: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
For the choice book, students in my Pre-IB English II class are directed to read a classic. I inherited the choice assignment when I took a new teaching position last year and I've yet to modify it. As with any assignment there are aspects that work and aspects that do not.  I got quite a few emails during the summer asking to verify whether the book the student had chosen is a classic. I also found that students do not always understand genre: novel versus drama versus novella or short story. Several students emailed to ask if specific titles would fit the requirements, some did some did not.

The classic requirement challenged some tenth graders. I discovered as I walked through the media center after school last week students scoping out Spark Note classics. Sometimes students choose not to read.  I know full well that happens especially when choices are constrained. However, that is a topic for another day. For now I want to focus on summer reading and the assessment we are using to see where students are as readers, writers and thinkers.

My summer reading collage for Anthem by Ayn Rand.
To assess students levels of comprehension I ask them to complete a mini-collage about their choice book and to write about the symbols and colors they've used to represent ideas from the text. We do this during the first weeks of school. The art work and writing gives me a lot of initial data about what students know and are able to do.  When I assess the collage work I can see which students are able to maintain a clear focus in writing, which are able to paragraph or use an organizational patter, which are able to balance summary with explanation. Students' initial writing about the artwork they create reveals a lot.

I do the work I expect students to do. I've made collages for The Hunger Games, Divergent, and more. This year, I created one for Anthem. Though Anthem is a novella by definition and not a novel, I chose it to teach the difference and to book talk some short classics.

 Every year I learn something new when I do the summer reading work with students. Sometimes it's how the essay is difficult to start. Sometimes it is how to balance explanation of the artwork with summary of the book. One year I really thought about how students would embed quotations from the book. The collage gives students a way to talk about books analytically. They are not sharing a reveiw or writing a summary, though some students will default to those.

The writing that is more exercise than expression. Create something, then explain it in two pages or less. I don't think it's my best writing, but the writing helps me rehearse the story. A story I will tell when I share my collage in class, a story about the artwork, a story about the book and a story about my own thinking. If you'd like to read my write up scroll past the assignment in the documents embeded below.

Want to discuss summer reading? I'm going to use the next seven Sundays from now until Halloween to sift through my thinking around summer reading: assessment, research, believes, readers' rights, grading.  I want to explore my practice around the topic of summer reading. If you'd like to join in and share your thinking about summer reading or summer reading assignments grab a button and add a link to your post in a comment below. Then respond to at least two others.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Reading Sunday Series on Monday

Right click the sun to save it for your own Sunday Series post. 
Summer reading matters. We know from recent research that engaging readers during the summer months helps prevent summer slide especially in lower income students (Allington and Franzen). Conversations about summer reading expectations and assignments began at my school in January. The reading seeds we planted were supposed to take root and grow through the summer months.

Some did. If only gardening were simple. Sometimes I have a harvest instead of a growth mindset. If only seeds, water and sunshine were all that a bountiful harvest or a beautiful bouquet required.  If only readers could take root with assignments, but I know that is not how reading works. I love vegetables. I could gather flowers all day. I love the idea of the garden harvest, but not the work it takes to grow it. I do love working with readers and with teachers who engage readers in their classrooms though.

Nurturing readers takes work. Growing readers is a twelve-month commitment. I am set to explore that commitment and the topic of summer reading now.

This series is not about pointing fingers at teachers or students.  Instead I'm going on an explore. I will explore instructional practice. Explore the research. Explore what gets in the way of summer reading success. What do I need to weed out to make the experience work for students?  Writing makes my learning and practice public. It also holds me accountable.

Though today is Monday, for the next eight Sundays, I'm going to blog about summer reading. Here's a rough list of topics I want to explore starting next week:
  • the purpose of summer reading
  • beliefs about summer reading
  • access to books
  • autonomy and choice
  • assessing readers and writers
  • research on summer reading
  • communicating expectations to teachers, students and parents
  • collaborating across teams
  • connecting to future reading/writing
What topics around summer reading have you been wondering about?  If you'd like join in, grab the graphic and link up in comments. Write about summer reading on your blog. Share your link and respond to at least two other writers.

Put on your sun hat! Let's tackle the weeds in our summer reading gardens.

Lee Ann

Next Sunday: the summer reading collage assignment.

Works Cited

Allington, Richard and Anne McGill-Franzen. Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap. NY, NY: Teachers College Press, 2013.