Learning, Leading, and Loving Literacy

Posts tagged ‘Reading’

Reading Week is in Full Swing at NSES!

Although this is a short week, it is one of the most fun ones here at NSES…Reading Week!  The theme this year is “New Faces, New Places, Read!”.  We have four fun filled days planned including mystery readers, a daily book swap, door decorating contest, and “Dress Like a Word” day.  Here are some quick pics of Buddy Reading Day and our Book Swap as well as a link to what we have planned for the Week.  Be sure to attend our Spring Reading Celebration (aka Family Literacy Night) on Thursday, April 13 from 6-7. Meet local authors, including our own Mrs. Williams and wear pajamas to listen to some fabulous read alouds!

Reading Week 2017 Flyer

Using “You were almost right” to boost learning

My husband and I work out at home (more now that our New Year’s resolutions have begun) and we recently decided to purchase a new set of DVDs.  We have done P90X and we were doing Jillian Michaels for a while and after a certain amount of time, our routine got stale.  With this comes less and less motivation for working out and hence, the New Year’s resolutions.

Like any practice, if you do the same thing over and over again, you lose your edge.  The thing you once loved becomes mundane and any progress is stalled.  The same goes for teaching. I like to read new articles and books about teaching because it keeps me fresh and helps me reflect on my practice and shake things up.  I need this as much as the kids do, so we can stay on that cutting edge of learning.

I could open up any catalog or visit any teaching website and find thousands of new titles or articles to read. However, I often find myself going back to my favorite books and authors and rereading something that once inspired me.  This week, I picked up Peter Johnston’s book “Choice Words”, which beautifully details how our language and the way we speak to students affects their learning.  Reading this book long ago really helped me notice and refine my language so I could not only communicate clearly with my students, but also make them more active and engaged as they learn.

One of my favorite ways to respond to students as they read and write is this:

“I like how you did______ and  it was almost right!”

This is a great response for two reasons. 1) It acknowledges and confirms what the students did well and 2) It directs the students to action.  This comment is usually followed up with me telling the students what was right and then directing their attention to a part that might need fixing.  For example, if a student reads “something” for “someone” and does not self-correct, my response might sound something like this: “You were almost right! I like how you noticed the first part of that word.  You noticed “some” and you were right.  Now take a closer look at the ending and see if you can read the whole word”.

Peter Johnston writes “the most important piece is to confirm what has been successful (so it will be repeated) and simultaneously assert the learner’s competence so she will have the confidence to consider new learning”.  We use this same theory in kid writing and writing conferences when we offer a “praise” and a “push”.  Hearing the praise first boosts the learner’s confidence and allows them to hear what might be done differently.  If we started with the “push” (or talk about what’s not going well), students may immediately shut down and find advice about the instruction hard to listen to.

Lev Vygotsky, a famous child psychologist from Russia, demonstrated very well what he called “zones of proximal development”. He stated “We need to be pushed, not too far.  Good development occurs when we are invited to accept challenges that are just big enough to demand we work at solving them, but that they don’t completely defeat us”.  Marie Clay used this theory in Reading Recovery, teaching teachers to praise the “partially correct” as a way to progress children forward.

This is the power of “you were almost right”.  The next time you are working with your child, force yourself to notice and praise what went well before you offer a correction or direct attention to an error.  This small shift can make a big difference in lifting the learning and moving kids forward.

Writing about Reading

I’m always trying to find ways to motivate my students to read.  I read books to them, try to give intriguing book introductions, express my enthusiasm, and even act a little crazy from time to time, all in the hopes that they will want to pick up a book and read.

Sometimes, I don’t need to work so hard.  If we read a book together and the students love the characters, all I have to do is find another book with those same characters and the excitement to dive in is already there.

Earlier in the year, my second grade students read a Pioneer Valley book about two little white dogs named Bella and Rosie.  Generally, Rosie follows the rules and Bella breaks them.  There are many Bella and Rosie stories in this series, so there are many opportunities to learn about their personalities through actions, illustrations, and dialogue from book to book.  Recently, my second graders read their first chapter book about Bella and Rosie and were able to compare the actions and adventures in the story with the story they read earlier in the year.

This lends itself well to the Reading:Literature Standard 1.9, “compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories”.  Although this is a first grade standard, my second grade students are getting good practice doing that in preparation for the end of Grade 2 standard (RL 2.9), which is to “compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story by different authors or from different cultures”.

After reading, we discussed the events in the text and the kids determined that between the two dogs, Bella was definitely the “bad” one. I posed the question “How do you know Bella is a bad dog?” and I asked the students to write their answers using evidence from both texts.  Because the kids love these characters, they were more than happy to search for evidence from both books to prove Bella is bad.  We also talked about using “bridge” words to make their writing sound better than just writing a list.

All this practice will make our end of year expectations easy to meet and best of all, it feels like fun because we are starting with characters we know and love.

Here are some photos of those second graders working hard to write about reading.  I love how they are all searching both texts to find evidence to include in their writing:

Alex searches both texts for evidence.

Alex searches both texts for evidence.


John rereads his writing to be sure it makes sense.

Connor is focused on his writing.

Connor is focused on his writing.

We agreed these "bridge" words make our writing sound better.

We agreed these “bridge” words make our writing sound better.