I'm a big believer in keeping things simple.

I'm also a big fan of Rafe Esquith and his classroom.

If you haven't read this book, go get it. Now.
So, I made a poster for my rules. I stole them from Rafe.

Rules Poster

So, here's to a new school year.

Be kind. Work hard. Everything else just falls in between the two.

Book Whisperer - Chapters 5 and 6

In the "tornado" that has been my life since we came home from the beach, I have completely neglected my blog. I missed it. Seriously. I even stayed up until @ 1:00 a.m. so I could finish Chapter 6 and play "catch-up."

After reading Chapter 5, I have decided a couple of "truths" for myself. I may ruffle some feathers by saying this, but remember I included two very important words: for myself.

Personal Truth #1:

If you do not love reading and are not enthusiastic about it, I'm not sure teaching children to read is right for you. "I am not mandating an activity for them that I do not engage in myself... I want them to remember me as a reader." How are you going to inspire a love of reading? Why would you choose teaching? I'm sure I am preaching to the choir here, but I shudder at the thought of a "mechanical" reading teacher for children of any age.  After all -  "readers are made, not born."

Personal Truth #2:

We all need a reading improvement plan. I need to share more of my childhood experiences as a reader with my students. I need to read more children's literature. I need to ask my students for suggestions in order to connect with them as readers. I need to share my struggles with my students - when I'm laboring through a book, when I find words I don't know and when I completely abandon a book. I also need to do a better job of modeling my struggles with my own texts instead of trying to convince them that I struggle with third-grade materials.  I need to "wear my love of reading proudly in front of (my) students every day."

Chapter 6 had me a little less fired up, but it still left me questioning a lot about my own reading teaching and practices.

Every year after testing while we are waiting to find out which students failed and need to retake the Reading  portion of the test, we have this horrible intermittent period of time known as "remediation." Remediation  consists of putting all of the children I fear may not have passed the test into one group and all of children I feel did well enough to pass into another group. (Note: This is not my idea.) The Scary Group gets three hours of intestive reading (read: test prep) instruction while the Not-So-Scary Group gets three hours of math instruction. That's right. I have one hour with my more capable readers. For the last two years, I've done a Charlotte's Web unit.

Now, I do use a shared reading approach to this where students all have their own copy as we read a chapter or two a day. But what Donalyn wrote about these class novel units struck a nerve with me. It always seems to move painfully slow, and by the end of the unit this year I was sick of it. Can you imagine being sick of one of your all-time favorite books? It was terrible! I've already decided to "repent"  and make it a regular read-aloud next year. I can still do some of the fun arsty-fartsy stuff with the kids, but I can see how I am losing precious minutes of reading time. Especially when I only have an hour with one of my groups.

I am curious to see how everyone else feels about reading logs after reading Chapter 6. After reading Donalyn's thoughts about them, I'm really struggling with whether or not  to continue using them. I change the way my kids respond every 9 weeks. I'll share them with you today. I know I'm going to take out the "parent signature" requirement part of them, but I still want to see my kids responding to what they read at night. I'm only asking for a sentence or two at most. My teaching partner and I are using Homework-opoly next year, so there will still be accountability for homework. I'm just not sure if reading logs will be a part of it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you've read through all of my rants, you deserve these freebies! HA! ;-)

Reading Log 1.0

Reading Log 2.0

Reading Log 3.5 Common Font

Reading Log 4.0

The Book Whisperer: Reader's Notebooks

I have used Reader's Notebooks since my first year of teaching. It's a part of our Reader's Workshop model and often an integral part of my mini-lessons. Every year I "tweak" and revise what goes in them, but I never ask my students to do anything in their notebooks that I haven't modeled extensively for them and with them.

I don't have the students write letters, but I do ask them to try out various responses with the books they read independently or during our guided reading time. I keep a crate of blank response pages near our mini-lesson area so students can choose how they are responding to their books. I only ask that they use 2 different responses each week. Sometimes I print out a key page from a flipchart (ActivBoard) or I'll make a copy of my modeled response for them to paste in their journals as a reference. My kiddos know to bring their notebooks to guided reading and reading conferences. I use their responses (after much modeling and practice) to assess their understanding of a particular reading skill or concept. They make frequent appearances during parent conferences and RTI meetings. There is so much we can learn about our students through these notebooks. I cannot encourage you enough to incorporate these into your room if you aren't doing so already.

One of the things I do at the beginning of the year is to reserve the first 5 pages for our "Table of Contents." I teach the students to number their pages and record their entries in the Table of Contents. This makes it easier (for both of us) to find specific entries for assessment and conferring purposes.

I'm including my Table of Contents today. When I have access to my school computer, I'll upload my first set of responses as well.

Happy Reading!

Table of Contents - Reading Journal


Book Whisperer: Chapter 4

I had so many "a-ha!" moments and connections with this chapter, it was impossible to keep track of them all. :-)

I will be entering my 10th year of teaching in August. 10 years of Reader's Workshop. 10 Years of trying to convince children to love reading as much as I do. 10 years of waiting for Donalyn Miller to write a book so I can stop banging my head against a wall. :-) Seriously.

My students have always enjoyed listening to me read. I purposefully choose books I know will be exciting, suspenseful, thought-provoking or funny. I still have plenty of kids each year who "pretend-read,"sleep or misbehave their way through our Reader's Workshop. I think I definitely discovered part of my problem this week: leveled readers.

I'm sure this will cause a few gasps and hopefully a good debate too, but I don't think I'm going to be quite as strict about the kids reading books on their level. (Can you hear the doom and gloom that goes along with that phrase??) I want them to use strategies (5 finger rule, read the first chapter, etc.) to determine if a book is just right for them or not. I don't want their identity as a reader to be all wrapped up in a letter from the alphabet. If they are using their strategies and I am holding them accountable by conferencing with them consistently, then they should be sticking fairly close to their level in their book choices anyway.

I also want to have more meaningful discussions about genre. We have our 9 weeks laid out in a curriculum map already. Do you know how much time we have for genre? One week, cupcakes. I'm thinking I'm going to have to find extra ways to talk about genre - don't you agree?

I found myself nodding my head in agreement when Donalyn mentioned readers who choose "low-brow" texts at first (Captain Underpants, anyone? Goosebumps?). I will admit it. I am a book snob. I am also a hypocrite. I go home and read the very James Patterson thrillers she mentioned!!!! HA! So, guess what else I'm going to do? You got it - add a Captain Underpants and Goosebumps basket to my library. I have to meet those readers somewhere, right?

What are your thoughts? I'm really interested to hear about how you feel about leveled readers in regards to the freedom our kids need to choose their books. How long do you spend teaching genre initially? Do you have any suggestions as to how I can stretch it out without taking away from the other standards I need to teach? I love that I have a new community of teacher peeps I can come to!

PS - Don't forget to enter!


Book Whisperer, Chapter 3: Reading Surveys

Chapter 3 is where I had my first big "AHA!" moment.

I've never cared where my kiddos read in our room. If you walked in during our Reader's Workshop, you'd probably see children laying on the carpet, sitting under tables or scrunched up in one of our library chairs. I also don't mind a "buzz" of noise. Not every child can read "in their head." Many of my developing readers need to read aloud in order to work on their accuracy and expression. (Do you agree?)

My moment of clarity came when I read about Donalyn surveying her students to better support their reading choices and conferring time together. In order to build meaningful reading relationships with my kids, I needed to know what they liked... right away!!

I liked her survey, but knew I needed to come up with something better suited to 3rd grade. I originally had this in my TpT store for a whole dollar, but in the spirit of our TBA Book Club, I've made it FREE! :) All I ask is that you rate it so I can get my little TpT store off the ground! Again, if you see anything I need to change or fix, please let me know!

3rd Grade Reading Survey


My Name is Abby, and I Have a Font Problem

Thank goodness there's help. For finding more. :)

(If anyone from my school is reading this, I know you are laughing. At me.)

Jenn over at Finally in First is having a Favorite Fonts Linky Party! I have found at least 3 new fonts to download already!!

In the meantime, here are my favorites!

I don't remember where I found these, but I know you can find Tinker Toy and Chinacat at fontspace.

Happy Linking!



I woke up this morning to find that my permissions had been changed in regards to who can read my blog! I just wanted to take a minute and apologize to any of you who may have gotten that awful message:
"You do not have permission to read this blog."
How horrible is that?! :) Anyhoo, I'll be back later today with another freebie post, so stay tuned!


25 Book Challenge FREEBIE

I wrote earlier today about Chapter 2 in the Book Whisperer. While I'm more than willing to challenge my kids, I'm not sure about a 40 book goal. Especially when dealing with 3rd graders - many of whom are ESL students and/or SWD.

I spent most of my morning working on a 25 book challenge. I thought about the genres we discuss and the books available in our classroom library. I'm more than willing to let the children use school and city library books for this as well, I just based it off what I had in the classroom.

Click on the picture to download it from Google Docs. Let me know what you think of it - and if you see anything I might need to change! I think the numbers add up correctly. :)

Happy Fourth of July!


TBA Book Club: Book Whisperer, Chapter 2

"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."
~W. Somerset Maugham

Did that quote ring true for anyone else? I loved this. I don't think I could count the number of times I have ecaped in a book for a little while in the midst of something difficult. Breakups, money worries, waiting on those test scores to come back - the things that are out of my control. You can always escape and forget for a little while when you're reading a book.

Donalyn Miller is brave to let her students "loose" in her library. :) Of course, her students are three years older than mine and hopefully have some common sense when it comes to how a book should be treated and handled. I feel like I still need to have those rituals and routines lessons with my kids about our classroom library in the first few days. My hope is to spend the first week in a reading conference with each child and talk to them as they pick out their first few books. What are you all doing? Are you letting them loose or keeping more structure?

I loved the descriptions of the three types of readers. I had to decided which one I was first - did you? I was definitely an underground reader. I remember getting detention in 9th grade because my lit teacher caught me reading a John Grisham novel when I should have been reading Lord of the Flies. HA! Looking back on my students, I felt guilty that I didn't recognize some of the needs that Donalyn described for my dormant and developing readers. I definitely need to make my reading conferences more than just a running record and goal setting time. Reflections like this make me ready to go back to work. :)

40 Books?? That's a huge undertaking for 6th graders... I'm not sure how that would play our in 3rd grade. I wonder if I could spread it out over each 9 weeks. I would want to play with the genres a little. Hmmm... I smell a freebie in the works! :) What about you all? Any suggestions before I become married to Microsoft Word for the rest of the day?

I can't wait to talk about Chapter 3! It's my favorite so far!! :)


Fall Read Alouds Linky Party!

Hi peeps! :) 

I'm linking up with Learning with Mrs. Parker to talk about my favorite back-to-school (fall) read alouds! 

I'll start with a few first day favorites...

I love this book! I know it's about a little boy starting kindergarten, but it is just too fun not to share with my kiddos. Jake (and his parents) manage to make it through his first day with a lot of laughs along the way. (Hey! That rhymed!) This is one of my early-in-the-day read alouds to get everyone "warmed up."

I know this book is in the same "vein" as Jake Starts School but it's also another cute and fun read aloud. We also use both books the next week to begin talking about text-to-text connections. I do like the supportive themes throughout this story as well. 

I start this book on the first day as our first "chapter book" read aloud of the year. I use it to talk about the7 Habits and how we should/should not treat each other. :) We only read a chapter a day in the beginning because: 
  1. I want to build excitement for our read aloud time together.
  2. I want to have time for meaningful conversations about our read aloud every day. 
  3. I also use it to model filling out our nightly reading logs. We do this for a week before I begin sending them home with the kids. 
  4. I read it twice, to both of my classes. I can only do so much in a day. :) 
The kids LOVE this book and we do a lot of laughing together. I can usually finish this midway through the second week of school if I am consistent about our read aloud time.

These last three books are on my "wish list" and in my "cart" at Barnes and Noble's website. 

I've been looking for read alouds that celebrate coming back to school since my favorites tend to revolve more around characters who are starting school for the first time. This also addresses the "nervousness" that many of our kids deal with when starting back with us. 

Do you ever get "tired" of a book? I am starting to feel that way about Katie Couric's Brand New Kid. Don't get me wrong, it's a great book, but I need to take a break. :) However, I also wanted to find a book that dealt with a character who was starting a new school on the first day. Lots of teachers at my school use Brand New Kid as well and I just wanted something new. Again - you could practice text-to-text connections the following week if you wanted to with both books!

I know this book has been around for awhile, but I've never used it and I think the beginning of the year would be the perfect time! Once we finish up The Twits, I want to start using this during our read aloud time each day. I think it will help me continue to build on their excitement and then I can move on to a new genre.

Alright, I've shared my favorites and my "wish list" for the fall. Now it's your turn! I know you all have great ideas to share. Hop on over to Mrs. Parker's website and link up!



I just posted three new units in my TpT store...

I'll be using each of these in a poetry notebook in my classroom next year. The poem will be a part of my reading centers. We'll read through the poem on Monday and work through the activities during our Skills (Grammar) Block. 

Prefixes: Unit 1

Synonyms and Antonyms: Unit 2

Homophones: Unit 3
Click on the pictures to visit my TpT store - all of these are only $2!! (Everything in my store is only a dollar or two!) :)

Grade Level Link Up

Have you joined this linky party yet?

Hop over to The Teacher's Lane and link up with your grade level.
This will be a GREAT resource for any teacher!  You will always be able to check in and find blogs that match up with your grade level, as well as new blogs that pop up and are added later!