Archive for the ‘literacy’ Category

#MustReadin2016 Update

Posted on: April 11th, 2016 by lschwartz 4 Comments

I took a leap and joined Carrie Gelson’s challenge #MustReadin2016.  It is hard not to get drawn in by Carrie’s enthusiasm and love for books.  When I read her blog, her words make me want to run out and by every book.  I am proud of what I have read so far.  I have read many of the books on my list and I even ventured off the list.   I have already read 10/15 books and it is only April.

Here is what I have read so far, in the order that I read them:

The Thing about Jellyfish- Ali Benjamin

Paper Things- Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Written in the Stars- Aisha Saeed

All the Bright Places- Jennifer Niven

Roller Girl- Victoria Jamieson

Count Me in – Sara Leach (not on my original list, but read it for a literature circle project)

The Last Time We Say Goodbye- Cynthia Hand

Small as an Elephant- Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Touching Spirit Bear – Ben Mikaelsen (not on my original list)

Everything, Everything- Nicola Yoon

I enjoyed all of the books that I have read so far this year. Many of them had me weeping in parts.  The two books that have really stayed with me long after I finished them:


Everything, Everything- Nicola Yoon.  I read this book on my flight home from Florida and couldn’t stop reading, couldn’t put it down and was finished it well before the flight was over. Madeline is a character that you will think about well after you turn the final page. She has the “Bubble baby disease” and can’t leave her house.  At seventeen, she is like Rapunzel trapped in her tower.  Madeline sees the world outside and can only imagine what it feels like to feel rain on her face or sunshine.  This is the story of what happens when a boy her age moves next door and their ongoing relationship from afar.


51LLIhiNdJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Written in the Stars- Naila is in love with a boy that her parents have not chosen for her.  They are furious at her and bring her back to Pakistan to explore her roots.  But the vacation is changed and what follows is Naila’s story of an arranged marriage and her new life in Pakistan.


I look forward to adding to my list and reading many more books in 2016.

My Story: #MustReadin2016 Challenge

Posted on: January 8th, 2016 by lschwartz 2 Comments

This year I am joining Carrie Gelson and a host of other book lovers for the #MustReadin2016 on Twitter. I am very excited and inspired to read my list of books.

Last Summer, I re-discovered my love of reading when I joined another reading challenge on Twitter. Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday hashtag had me turning pages late into the night many times last summer. It was invigorating to read and enjoy so many books and connect with others on Twitter.

Here is my list of #MustReadin2016 books:

      51WLo5tAs3L._SX354_BO1,204,203,200_ The Thing About Jelly Fish by Ali Benjamin- Completed Jan 3, 2016

51UnPzofEWL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

51bBbJPlfNL._SL500_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-big,TopRight,35,-73_OU15_SL135_All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

51kPXj+MF6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ How to Build a Girl- Caitlin Moran

51LLIhiNdJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ Written in the Stars- Aisha Saeed

51Ogkxm7QML._AA160_ Everything, Everything- Nicola Yoon

51ffwVD0FeL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_ Crenshaw- Katherine Applegate

41OqMfINFRL._SL500_SL135_ Paper Things- Jennifer Richard Jacobson

51mJEataWuL._SL500_SL135_ The Truth About Twinkie Pie- Kate Yeh

51egQ49Nm6L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_ Hope is a Ferris Wheel- Robin Herra

61umd+zBVJL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_ The Teacher You Want to Be- Alfie Kohn, Matt Glover et al.

51DDdbBAEpL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

41SS8CrR6yL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

31ybVrekqpL._SL500_SL135_All The Small Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

What are you reading this year?




My Story: Nurturing my Love of Reading

Posted on: October 14th, 2015 by lschwartz 3 Comments

For the past few summers, I have started my holiday with a stack of books and a determination to read them all.  Like a New Year’s resolution, I relish in the feeling that I am going to accomplish something.  Two summers ago, I tweeted out my book stack with hopes of it keeping me accountable. But each summer unfolded the same.  I looked at that stack of books and gave myself reasons and deadlines to put off reading them.  In the blink of an eye, it would be the middle of August and I haden’t finished a single professional resource.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.24.01 PMI realized I had lost my love of reading.  Growing up I was a ferocious reader. I read anything I could get my hands on.  I often stayed up late into the night turning pages to a story that I couldn’t put down.  But in the last few years, I had lost that love of reading. Reading started to feel like a job, not a joy.

In June, I came across a blog post by Donalyn Miller about her Book a Day challenge on twitter.  Essentially read a book a day throughout the summer and tweet about it with the hashtag #bookaday.  This was my opportunity to celebrate reading, connect with a community who loved reading and reclaim the joy I had lost.

It was a beautiful summer of reading.  I read YA books and picture books, graphic novels and beginning chapter books and even one professional resource.  There were many nights that I stayed up long after the house was quiet engrossed in a good book.

I spent the summer nurturing reading in myself and in doing so I realized the importance of nurturing reading in our students. While we can not discount  the importance of our students having time in their day to read books at a level that they can read independently to build fluency.  We also must nurture a love and excitement of reading in our classrooms.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.41.17 PM



Thinking About Invented Spelling

Posted on: December 16th, 2014 by lschwartz No Comments

“The fastest way to teach a child to read is to teach them to write.”

-Mem Fox

This term, I led a three part series on reading called “Explicit Teaching, Joyful Reading.”  In the final session we talked about the reading/writing connection and the importance of using writing time as a way to further develop reading skills.  When we ask children to write a story, reflect on an event or share a memory, we give students a purpose for their writing.  Purposeful writing leads to written work being read over and over again.  But not only does the product inspire students to read more and develop important reading skills, the process of creating the written piece also benefits students reading, writing and problem solving skills.
At the reading session last week, we talked a lot about invented spelling.  Research tells us that students who are encouraged to use invented spelling use a greater variety of words in their writing (Gunderson & Shapiro 1987 and Stice & Bertrand 1990).  As well, young children who are encouraged to use invented spelling to communicate ideas, develop better word recognition and phonics skills sooner than those who do not use invented spelling (Stice & Bertrand 1990).
Research aside, here are some other great reasons to encourage students to use invented spelling in their daily writing:
  • Invented spelling encourages students to become familiar letters and sounds and make connections between letters and sounds.
  • Children who use invented spelling take ownership over their own work and become independent writers because they ask for less help spelling unknown words.
  • Children are able to write more interesting stories, use more powerful words and express their thoughts when using invented spelling.
  • Children are able to write more words than they know how to read and this supports their efforts to express all their thoughts and ideas, not just the simple ones that they can spell.
  • Invented spellings gives children plenty of practice time using phonics and  letter sound patterns, when they represent the sounds that they hear.
"Boot camp equipment"

“Boot camp equipment”

This is a picture my daughter made while she waited for me at my Boot Camp class.

In reading and writing, just like the other subjects in school, we want our students to be independent thinkers who have the tools to solve problems.  Invented spelling is one way to encourage these habits of mind.


Teacher Research: Thinking About Story Workshop Part 1

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 by lschwartz No Comments

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.~ ~Lloyd Alexander

This year, I have continued my work with Louesa Byrne at Thompson Elementary and Story Workshop.  Our project evolved from a visit to Opal School in Portland, Oregon, June 2013. The Opal School is a K-5 school guided by the principles of the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia. During our visit to Opal School we witnessed Story Workshop and wondered what story workshop would look like in our context.

Questions guiding our inquiry:

  • What is the role story workshop in supporting literacy development?
  • How can we integrate essential skills of reading and writing into story workshop?
  • What will be the affect on students’ knowledge of story and vocabulary development through regular participation in story workshop?

Story workshop operates under the belief that everyone has a story to tell and that stories can be communicated in many different ways.  Students build their language and literacy development by building and representing stories with a variety of objects.

In the workshop, children are given provocations in the form of materials such as blocks, paint, sand, play-dough and loose parts.  The children build, play and make the story come alive in their actions and words. As teachers, we document their stories to make their learning visible and give space for the students to be authors and communicate their many stories. We capture these stories through photographs, audio recordings and recording their stories.

During this first months of school, our focus has been on establishing some routines within story workshop, the creation stories using different materials and the ability to tell a story orally.  We record the children’s stories using photos and the program Pages.

Our big ideas for the students:

  • Everyone has a story to tell
  • Authors find ideas for stories in different places
  • Stories emerge from different materials

Some of the provocations that we have used to inspire stories:

play dough and loose parts

play dough and loose parts

Natural materials and loose parts with grass mats

Natural materials and loose parts with grass mats

gems, natural materials and ocean finger puppets

gems, natural materials and ocean finger puppets

We value the time story workshop gives students to work with materials, develop stories and share ideas.  We value the time story workshop gives us to get to know the students, make connections and watch them develop as story tellers.


Beyond Sound it Out: What Readers Do?

Posted on: November 1st, 2013 by lschwartz No Comments

Ask a student what they do when they come to a word they don’t know and most will say, “I sound it out.”

But the truth of the matter is that sounding out is not the best strategy because the English language is not consistently phonetic.  Forty to fifty percent of words in the English language cannot be solved by sounding out (Johnson and Keier, 2010). There are other sources of information that can provide clues to solving an unknown word.  It is important that students are taught these word-solving strategies explicitly and be given opportunities to practice these strategies with feedback.

The three sources of information for word solving are:

MEANING: Meaning includes our background knowledge, clues used by looking at the pictures and any ideas gathered from the context of the story.  A cue used by teachers to help students use meaning when reading is, “Did that make sense?”

STRUCTURE:  When using structure as a source of information,  a reader uses their knowledge of sentence structure, spoken language and how things sound to make predictions about an unknown word.  Structure can be a difficult source of information for English Language Learners (ELL). A cue used by teachers to use this source of information is, “Did that sound right?”

VISUAL: Visual cues include sounding out and the knowledge a reader has about letters and sounds.  A cue used for this source of information is, “Does that look right?”

Our goal is to support readers so they learn to use all sources of information.

One lesson that I often do when I first visit a primary classroom, is an explicit lesson that gets students thinking about the habits of a good reader.  Together we create an anchor chart about all those things that good readers do when engaging with text.  Once our chart is created, I do a read aloud where I  think aloud as I am reading the text to explicitly model some of the habits of a good reader.  At the end of the story, we revisit our anchor chart to see if there is anything the students noticed that I did while sharing the story, that they would like to add.

The next part of the lesson gives students a chance practice, practice, practice these habits while reading.  The students engage in fifteen to twenty minutes of reading time.  I bring in all my favorite books to get the students really excited about enjoying books.  As the students are reading, the teachers in the room move around the room reading with students and giving feedback about their reading and what they are noticing about their reading.

After our reading time is over, we come back to the carpet and in a sharing circle, each student shares one thing they did as a good reader.  This is the beginning of the process of developing meta-cognition in students about their own reading and word solving skills.

This post was inspired by the book Catching Readers Before They Fall.  By Pat Johnson and Katie Keier.  I recommend this book over and over again.  It is a comprehensive and user friendly book about reading instruction and practice.