How Reading is Promoted in GG’s House

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Reading Fun


Reading with my special girl last summer!

When I was a little girl, my mother would find me with a flashlight under my bedspread reading past my bedtime.  I’ve been reading since as long as I can remember – honestly, I can still visualize the pictures in my head of the first book I learned to read by myself.  I’m happy to say I’ve passed this passion on to my successful, driven college-age daughter, and am now relishing the sharing sessions with my precious niece who hands me books to read again and again.  As summer is upon us, there are many blogs out there divulging how to promote summer reading.  I’d like to add mine to the pile with a twist of my personal methods, quirks and habits I use to promote reading in my own home:

~ Walk into my home and you won’t find a room that doesn’t have a book and/or magazine thrown or displayed in it.

~  Every holiday gift collection (Christmas, bday, Easter basket, etc) included books.  Books were as exciting to receive as toys.  Today, my daughter’s passion for shoes gives books a run for their money but they are still exciting nonetheless.

~ I read every day and made sure I did so in front of my daughter.  I write and journal frequently, and bought her journals of her own through the years.  Oh the lucky soul who finds my hidden journals someday.  😉

~ Every so often, we’d have “reading sessions.” I’d set up pillows and/or stuffed animals in a circle on the floor.  I’d grab my book, my daughter would grab hers, we’d gather in the circle and read to our hearts content.  We still have reading sessions on quiet summer evenings – sans the pillow circle these days – just a quiet time on the couch when we’ll both read, stop and share.

~Bi-weekly library check-out visits were treated as special events.  I would never put a limit on the number of books we could bring home; we’d always walk out of there with AT LEAST ten books when my girl was little.

~ I’d peruse our local library’s event calendar and be sure to regularly take part in the storytelling sessions.

~ Speaking of the library, my daughter participated in the local library’s summer reading program every year.  These programs are an absolutely fabulous way to keep kids learning as the summer rolls along.

~ I’d buy action figures or dolls of favorite characters from books to extend the story engagement.

~ Regular trips to the bookstore were also treated as special events and usually ended with scanning our new treasures over ice cream.  Don’t tell my daughter I’m telling you, but she still enjoys taking a trip to our local B & N on late summer evenings with one of her good friends . . . just because.  An English teacher-mom dream come true. 🙂

~ Whenever we vacationed or took long trips, we’d bring books for the rides. Reading always makes time fly.  Books accompanied us to doctor and dentist visits too.  This kept the ants out of our pants waiting for those delayed doctors.

~ Of course, up until she was in her upper teens we’d have, without fail, nightly story time when I would read aloud for about 10 – 20 minutes before bed.  I did that literally since she was one day old and wouldn’t give up any of those moments.  As both a reading teacher and a parent, I can say this may have been the most significant activity I shared with my child to promote her lifelong journey of reading, learning and discovering.

Happy Reading this summer.  Above everything else, just sit back and enjoy the gifts that reading brings us!!

Test How Well You Summarize & Infer

January 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Reading Fun

I’m in the midst of creating my final exam for sophomore reading students.  This semester, we focused heavily on summarizing and inferring as that is a school-wide goal.  The exam is not complete but here’s a peek at some of the questions I’m including so far.  Each question refers to either the summarize or infer strategy:

( All readers . . . take this to test your reading skills!!  Answers are on the bottom.  No peeking!)

  1. To summarize nonnarrative nonfiction text, all of these are used, EXCEPT

a.  check first and last sentence.

b.  examine repeated words and synonyms.

c.  group details in categories.

d.  identify the plot.

2. You should use _________ from the text to infer.

a.  questions

b.  expositions

c.  pages

d.  clues

3.  A theme is

a.  the beginning of the story.

b.  the exposition.

c.  the author’s message.

d.  individual vs. society

4.  To summarize narrative fiction text, you should

a.  read captions, bold worlds, and headings.

b.  identify the plot.

c.  read the first and last sentence.

d.  read the entire book.

5.  Authors leave clues for readers

a. in the first and last sentence.

b.  throughout the text.

c.  in the pictures and graphics.

d.  on the front and back cover.

6.  How does knowing the conflicts in the story help you understand the theme?

a.  It keeps the reader interested.

b.  It helps identify the plot.

c.  It helps focus the reader’s attention on what is important.

d.  It makes the characters seem real.

7.  While inferring it is important to

a.  think about one type of inference at a time.

b.  look for all types of inferences at the same time.

c.  highlight all of the text clues.

d.  pay attention to all of the bold words.

8.  Which is a true statement about summarizing?

a.  Predicting helps summarizing

b.  Readers summarize as they read.

c.  Most paragraphs have a key point.

d.  All of the above

9.  ___________ is an example of a theme.

a.  True friends stick together.

b.  Forgive your friend if he does wrong.

c.  Good always overcomes the bad.

d.  All of the above

10.  Summarizing helps a reader

a.  create a conceptual image.

b.  preview the text.

c.  understand the author’s purpose.

d.  select the next book to read.

11.  What do readers think about that helps them identify the theme?

a.  Plot

b.  Characters

c.  Conflicts

d.  All of the above

12.  What is the most important thing a reader should do with the words an author repeats?

a.  Look for them before reading.

b.  Combine them in a sentence.

c.  Look for synonyms.

d.  Notice how the author uses them and/or what the author says about them

Answers:  1. d, 2. d, 3. c, 4. b, 5. b, 6. b, 7. b, 8. d, 9. d, 10. a, 11.d, 12. d

Book a Book Group!

May 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Reading Fun

Suggestions for Leading a Book Group Discussion

This is intended as a resource and a rough guide – please feel free to run with your own ideas.  I’m preparing for my summer book group that I’m holding at a local nature center to discuss  Wesley The Owl.  I hope you find this helpful . . .

A.  Before the Discussion

It’s probably a good idea to have the group prepare a little before the discussion – give them a few things to look for and jot down.  You might have them respond to a prompt or two on the inside cover of the book, on a notecard, or on the back of their bookmark.  Some possibilities:

~ Pick three key lines or passages and be ready to explain why they’re important.
~ Write three questions you’d like to discuss at our meeting.
~ Write a sentence explaining what you think is the most important idea from the book.

B.  Book Group Discussion

The actual discussion should last about an hour.  A typical discussion will have three phases:

1. Ice-breakers — Warm up with a review of names and/or introductions if necessary.  It might also help to have participants answer a general question as they say their names – this gets everyone participating immediately and helps break the ice.   Some possibilities: What’s the best movie you’ve seen this summer?  What’s your favorite thing about summertime?  What’s one thing you really are looking forward to senior year?  Where is the coolest place you’ve ever visited?  What is one of your favorite all-time books?  What character from a book you read in school would you most like to go on vacation with?  What character would you most like to “vote off the island” Survivor-style?

2. Starters —  It will probably be helpful to begin actual discussion of the book with a basic starter activity or two.  These activities help focus the group and ensure that everyone responds.  Let the participants recall and review the basic plot events of the book – help them a little if needed, but try to let them provide most of the information.  You might go around the circle and have everyone name a character until you can’t name any more.  You might also have each student give a one-word response to the book or name a moment from the book that really sticks in their mind.

3. General Questions — After the basic questions, the discussion should get a little meatier, with participants analyzing, asking questions, expressing their opinions, and talking about ideas.  As a general rule avoid asking yes/no questions and encourage students to explain single-word answers.  Be sure to allow every participant the opportunity to participate.  As for preparing points and questions to discuss, it’s definitely better to be a little over-prepared than under-prepared.  Better to be left with a few questions you don’t quite have time for than to be scrambling for something to talk about after 20 minutes.  Having 10 to 15 open-ended questions ready to go should probably be enough.

If you’ve asked participants to select key passages or jot down some questions, these should lead to some interesting conversation.

C.  More Discussion Questions

These will keep the conversation going . . .

~ Respond to the book in ten words or less.
~ Which character was your favorite/least favorite?  Why?
~ Which of the characters would you most like to spend a day or a week with? Why?
~ Imagine one of the characters were to enroll at your school – what would happen? What activities would the character be involved with?
What sort of student would the character be?
~ What important decisions did characters in the book make?  Did the make the right decisions?  What could they have done differently?
~ If you were to make a movie of this book, what actors would you pick to play the various parts?
~ What did you like or not like about the ending?  How might the book have ended differently?
~ What did you learn from this book?
~ What makes the book distinctive?
~ Did anything in the book remind you of something else you’ve read or seen?
~ What scene or image from the book will stick in your mind the longest?
~ Did any part of the book make you angry?  Explain why?
~ What part of the book was the funniest?  The saddest?
~ Did you like how the book is written?  Why or why not?
~ Was the book easy for you to understand?  Why or why not?
~ Was the book believable?  Why or why not?
~ On a scale for one to ten, how would you rate this book?  Why?
~ Do you like the title of the book?  What is its significance?  What else might you title the book?
~ Is there anything about the book you didn’t understand or aren’t sure about?
~ Who would you recommend this book to?  Why?
~ What is the author of the book trying to get you to think about?  Why did the author write this book?
~ Is the author trying to persuade you or convince you of something?  Do you agree with the author?
~ If you could meet the author and tell or ask him or her something about the book, what would it be?
~ Would you read another book by this author?  Why or why not?

One final idea:  pull up reviews from Amazon or Barnes and  See if the group agrees with the written reviews.

Happy Reading!!

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read

April 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Reading Fun

Marking Text with Post-It Notes

This is a great focus strategy for comprehension because good readers do this “marking text” automatically and invisibily while they read.  All readers need to bring unconscious “marking” to a conscious level to increase reading rate and comprehension.

Here is a handy-dandy script teachers can use to demonstrate this strategy.  Non-educators, use this strategy to help you remember and retain what you read!

Fiction:  “Have you ever been reading along in a book and wished that you could mark the line so you could help your brain remember?  Well, when you can’t use a highlighter or pen, use post-it notes to mark text.  I will give you five post-it notes.  On the first one, write Main Character, on the next two write Minor Character, on one write Setting, and on athe last one write Event.”    

(Vary what students write on their post-it notes dependng upon where you are in the novel.  For example, all the post-its could be labeled Events.)      

Nonfiction:  “Have you ever been reading along and run into facts you wish you could pull out and remember because they seem important?  Well, use post-it notes to mark text.  I’ll give you five post-it notes.  On one, write MI for Main Idea.  On the other four, write SD for Supporting Details.”

(Vary how many post-its and what students look for depending upon the nature of the nonfiction book/textbook.  For example, students can label one C for Cause.  The others could be labeled E for Effects.  For persuasive text, one post-it could be labeled A for Argument and the others R for Reasons.)

What to do:
1.  Hand out post-it notes and have students label them.
2.  Begin reading the text.
3.  As students read, have them stick post-it in the text at the exact spots where they see information.  After students read, they discuss where they marked the text and why them made their choices.  If students disagree with one another, have them explain their reasoning.  It’s much better if you let them muddle along than to say “No, it’s wrong.”

Students could write their reasons for choosing their selections.
Students could make an outline based on their post-it notes.

One Word Riddle

January 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Reading Fun

Here is a brain teaser for you!

What if this was the only question on the exam to pass high school English and earn your diploma. Would you graduate?!?!?!?!?  Hmmm . . . let’s see . . .

What nine letter word in the English language is still a word when one of the nine letters is removed one by one?

Take a few minutes to try and come up with a nine-letter word that fits the bill, then scroll down for the answer → → →

HEY, NO PEEKING until you try to come up with the word!  🙂








Okay, here it is!  Drum roll please ♦ ♦ ♦




Look at how this word changes from one to the next:









Good Readers Do This!

December 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Reading Fun

The ELITE EIGHT Strategies Good Readers Automatically Do When Reading:

I think that . . . ! The clues I used were . . . !028-sherlock-01
In previewing the headlines, subheads, or graphics, I believe this chapter will be about . . .

I get the gist of the paragraph by noting the key words!
I identify the main idea by determining which details are important and which are not.
The theme of the story is . . .

Make connections
I know this about this subject!
This reminds me of something in my life, of another book, of a real world event. . .

I am inferring by using clues in the text along with what I already know about the subject!
I also use text structure to make inferences.

Ask questions
I am wondering . . .!?!
I actively search for answers to my questions as I read.

There’s a movie playing in my head while I read!
I create images in my head when I am reading by paying attention to specific words and phrases.

What do I think of the text, the author’s style, ideas and/or my reading?question
How is this text credible or biased?

Does the reading make sense?
What can I fix  if I do not understand the text?

Smart Ways to Enter and Exit a Classroom

November 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Reading Fun, Writing Practice

On this relaxing Sunday afternoon, I’m writing strategy suggestions for my school’s Applied Technology departmentAs their literacy coach, I meet with the department every week to discuss, share, and observe their incorporation of reading and writing in the classroom.  A shout out to these six motivated teachers!!! I thought many of my followers would be interested in some of the material I am sharing with them:

Entrance and Exit Slips

One can never have too many pens!!

One can never have too many pens!!

The Applied Techies are looking for a productive way to ‘wrap-up’ class and/or lab time as well as a smart way to re-group and refresh before beginning the next class:

Entrance slips (index cards, sticky notes, small slips of paper, whatever your fancy) are completed before class and students bring them in to enter the door. Exit slips are the students’ passes out of the classroom. This writing-to-learn strategy can be used for many purposes in all content areas:

  • Focusing student attention on the lesson to be taught the next day
  • Setting the tone for the class lesson
  • Accessing background knowledge
  • Troubleshooting
  • Reflecting

Entrance and exit slips are a way to ease students into writing … and, in the course of writing a sentence or two, reveal what they think about a topic, materials, or teaching strategies.

EXAMPLE Entrance Slip
Woods – Fall 2009
Name ____________________ Date __________
Please write an answer to this question in 2 – 3 complete sentences:
How can a worker set up a safe workshop that will meet OSHA standards?  (provide at least three examples)

Some Other Suggestions:
~ How did you respond to last night’s reading?
~ How did yesterday’s measuring problems go?
~ What is a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)?
~ What worries you about today’s class?
~ Name the three most important things you learned?
~ What are you still confused about?
~ How does what we do in class relate to other things you do or experience?
~ What would you like to ask about today/tomorrow?

*Have students complete exit slips and entrance slips on topics such as : what I learned in class; how it relates to what I know; what is still unclear

*Students reflect on assessments: I prepared by ___; I could have ___; I would change____ if I did it again; doing this made me understand ______

*Have students reflect on the lesson; This lesson I_______; next time I will__________

Teacher challenge:  Reflect on your day or week or particular lesson.  What do you want to change?  How did you function best as a teacher?  How do you learn best – and how have you expressed that to your students?  Share what YOU write with your students as well!

As GG states . . . write it down, write it down, there’s something magical about writing it down!

Read Alouds Rock

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Reading Fun

Hardly a month goes by that I don’t run across research reiterating the highly significant benefits of read aloud in both the classroom and home.  In honor of Teacher Tuesday, this post concentrates on the classroom.  The following are prompts I use with my students to enhance their digestion of information.

Teachers can use the read aloud as a common text and model the reading strategies as well as explain literary techniques such as foreshadowing and flashback . . .

It's not a bad idea to always have a book ready for those idle moments!

It's not a bad idea to always have a book ready for those idle moments!

Think-Aloud Prompts I Say Aloud to Model My Thought Process During Reading ~

(these should not take longer than about a minute)

  • Prepare students to listen to the selection by activating and building their prior knowledge.
  • Predict what will happen next; offer support from the text.
  • Make a connection to yourself, family, community or world issues.
  • State that a passage confuses you, then show how you unconfuse yourself by rereading or using visual context clues such as photographs, illustrations, diagrams, charts, maps or graphs.
  • Pinpoint an unfamiliar word and show how you use context clues.
  • Stop and infer what you think a character’s personality is like and explain what in the text helped you determine this.
  • Explain point of view and show students how you use your knowledge of pronouns to figure this out.
  • Reread a short, tough passage to show how this strategy helps you understand.
  • Point out a flashback and explain what you learn from it.
  • Show how the main character changes from beginning to end and explain what made him/her change.
  • Point out these narrative elements and spotlight one or two until students “get it.”
    • protagonist and problems faced
    • antagonistic forces and how each works against the protagonist
    • setting
    • conflicts
    • minor characters
    • climax
    • denouement or return to normalcy
    • point out these informal informational text features
    • sidebar
    • diagram
    • chart or map
    • quote
    • part of a letter
    • newspaper clip
    • photograph and caption

Questions/Prompts I Use to Engage Students While Reading Aloud

  • What will this character do or decide?  How do you know?
  • Is this character similar to anyone you know?  How?
  • What information did you gather from this sidebar?
  • State the problem the protagonist faces now.  Predict how he/she will solve it.
  • Can you explain the antagonistic force at work here and how it works against the protagonist?
  • Can you identify a theme?
  • What is the point of view?  How do you know?
  • Can you connect the title to the story?
  • What new information did you learn?
  • Did this information change your thinking?  If so, how?
  • How would you solve that problem differently?
  • Is there a community/world issue this part of the story addresses?

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