Using Data Walls {A JULY Bright Idea!}

We're back with more bright ideas! :)

I thought this would be a great tip to share before heading back to school. It's not something you have to start right away, but it would be good to keep in mind as you head into the new year.

We have a bulletin board in our rooms dedicated just for student data. It's up to each teacher to determine how to use it, so for my classes I chose to chart our reading level data as a group. I want to make a couple of "hairy scary" points first:
  • I never, ever put student names on the reading level data wall. I'm afraid it would defeat the purpose of the data wall being a motivational tool. 
  • We have several conversations about how everyone is at a reading level that is just right for THEM.
  • GROWTH is the focus for us as a team, and as individuals. The "goal" for each 9 weeks is just a guideline.
We have a "reading target" for each 9 weeks according to our district, but I try not to focus on that too much, as many of our kids suffer from the "summer slide" or they're already a few reading levels behind.

After each 9 week grading period, I create a chart that shows the students what our "team" of students looks like as a whole. It's also a great tool for my teaching partner and I as we think about reading groups and math groups. We make a couple of "swaps" between homerooms after each 9 weeks to balance out our groups.

As the year progresses, I keep the most recent chart and the previous grading period's chart on the data wall.

We spend at least one Reader's Workshop period looking at the chart, reflecting, and setting individual goals for the next 9 weeks.

The kids have loved seeing how the levels move across the chart, and we celebrate our successes as a team!

At the end of the year, we are amazed at how much growth they've made as individuals and as a team. It's an easy way to get your students connected to the data you look at all the time, and they're a bit more invested in their progress. :)

I hope you enjoyed this bright idea! Make sure you keep up with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest! Don't forget to check out the rest of my Bright Ideas Peeps in the link-up below!


Reading in the Wild: Wild Readers Share Books {Chapter 3}

Welcome back! I'm so excited to be caught up with this book study. I promise to get my guided math posts off the ground soon! :)

Our fearless leaders this week are...

This week's topic - Sharing Books and Reading With Other Readers - is an area I need to grow in as a reading teacher. I don't give my students enough time to share books they've read with their classmates. If and when I find myself back in the classroom, this will be a top priority for me as a reading teacher.

I added a page to the freebie pack that I have used in the past, just not recently. It was a recommendation chart that hung on the back of our classroom door. I think this would be a really neat tool in a departmentalized setting as well. I would love to see my kiddos recommending books to one another across classes. :)

I added a new page on top whenever we needed it.  The kids loved looking to see if someone had left them a note, and it promoted titles within our classroom.

One of the things I did encourage on a regular basis was for my students to read together - as buddies, in trios, or in groups. I found that this did 2 important things for my students:

1. It helped my students who were embarrassed, or reluctant, to get excited about reading to do just that. We had several mini-lessons about buddy reading behaviors, but after a few weeks my students were much better about making their buddy reading time productive. 

2. It gave my struggling readers access to texts that they would not be able to read successfully on their own. This was a huge confidence booster! Their friends were encouraging and excited to read with them, making the texts they chose together much less intimidating. 

If you'd like to check out my other posts in this series, please see:

Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read {Chapter 1}
Creating a Workshop Schedule That Works For You {Chapter 1}
Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material {Chapter 2}
Curating a Classroom Library {Chapter 2}


Make sure you click on the picture above to grab the updated freebie pack, and visit the rest of our Reading in the Wild posts below! This is some of the best professional development I do all summer! :)


Reading in the Wild: Curating a Classroom Library



My classroom library is always the first thing I start working on each school year and the last thing to feel "finished" before the kids arrive. It's a constant work in progress - much like our classroom!


Several years ago, I had the idea to store the kids' book totes away from our library. It cut down on a LOT of clutter and made it easier for everyone to get settled once they came in. I LOVE this double-sided bookshelf. It holds 50 book totes - up to 25 on each side! And I still have room for class novel sets up at the top! 😍😍😍


All of our library shelves work their way around the group meeting area. There is a large gap in the back, and another gap on the side where the students and I can enter. I've had lots of parents, teachers, and students tell me it makes our room feel like home --- score! When you create a space that other people like spending time in, you're doing something right. :)

I also made sure to create a space I could see "into" from anywhere in the room. By scrounging up all of the short shelves I could find, I was able to work with groups at my kidney table and monitor what was happening in the library during independent work time. All of the tall shelves run along the far right wall. This way they don't block my view of anything else happening in the classroom.

Our library is broken up into 3 sections - author baskets, fiction genre baskets, and nonfiction genre/topic baskets. I designed our labels to match the baskets.


The baskets are from Really Good Stuff and range in size. I have different sized baskets in my room to accommodate everything from chapter books to giant picture books. I love that the labels all fit the same way. :) I tried taping them on, but I found that my librarians were constantly running around trying to fix the fallen basket signs. I bought 1-inch binder rings and used my electric hole punch to create a more permanent solution.


I stopped organizing my books by level several years ago because I found that my kids were only looking for books in the basket that matched their level. They weren't seeking out books according to genre, author, or topic. It made me sad, book-peeps. They weren't falling in love with books and that absolutely had to stop.

Every book is still labeled with a level so the kids are aware of what they are reading, but it also has a genre sticker on it. This helps the librarians and me to put the books away correctly. It also makes it easier for students to log the books in their reading journal.

I'm happy to report that I had the "problem" this year of several children reporting to me, "Mrs. S! I've already read all of the Dan Gutman books." Or, "I can't find any new dinosaur books to read. Do you have any more?" Music to my ears!!!

The first two or three weeks of school are hard. There are always books to put away, and my librarians are still "in training." However, after a little training and supervision, the library is up and running without me. WHEW!

The library things I do for the majority of the year include spending Scholastic bonus points to order new books, level incoming books, and repair any that make their way into our book hospital baskets. When I can't find the level on Scholastic Book Wizard, I check Booksource. I also look to see if that particular author has other books leveled on SBW - many times I find they do, and that the author tends to write within a certain "band" of levels. From there I just have to give it my best guess.

I've used Kristen's leveled labels for years. I keep them printed and in a folder so I can add them on as soon as new books come in. I love that my last name is on the back of each book so that if they get left on the bus or somewhere else in our school, it's easy for them to find their way back. It also makes it easy for parents to identify books when I have to call home and ask for their help in returning them. :)

If you'd like a better look at my library basket labels, make sure you check out my Classroom Library Kit. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you! I'm finally starting to feel "caught up" with some blog posts. Look for some guided math goodies and for me to be back on track with Reading in the Wild tomorrow!

Molly at Lessons with Laughter and Carrie at Being Ladylike did a phenomenal job of leading and hosting the this step in our book study. Be sure to check them out!

http://being-ladylike.blogspot.com/Lessons with Laughter


Reading in the Wild: Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material {Chapter 2}

Still playing catch-up (slowly, but surely!), but I'm back with a few more thoughts on Reading in the Wild and I've updated the freebie pack!

We spend a LOT of time at the beginning of the year talking about how to choose just-right books and helping the kids become familiar with the way our library is set up - more on that in my next post! At the beginning of 3rd grade, most of my kiddos are excited to see baskets upon baskets of chapter books. However, that doesn't always mean that those are books they're ready to read. But considering their reading has probably been minimal over the summer I don't fight it.

Within a week of building reading stamina, they realize they need to be more careful when they are choosing books for their book tote. In fact, most of my reading conference conversation in those first few days and weeks are all about why the books in their totes aren't working. And I'm okay with that.

One of the things I do to support kids who may not be ready for third grade texts is to save space in our group meeting area for a read-aloud display.

Anytime we read a book together, it goes to live on the read aloud shelf for at least a month. This gives everyone time to pick it up and read it. Struggling readers are able to navigate the text a little easier because they are familiar with the story. These are also great texts for students to read with a buddy.

I loved this quote. I'm not always great at sticking to this, but I do my best. One of my biggest challenges this year was a group of boys who insisted on reading the Wimpy Kids books even though it was way beyond their reading ability. (I also had a hard time keeping those books in our library, but that's another post.) I didn't want to tell them they couldn't read those books - I had just gotten them excited about reading! So, I scrambled to find something similar along the lines of a graphic novel - but at a 1st grade reading level. These are a few of the titles I found that all of my struggling readers really enjoyed.

I also gave them the option of continuing to try and read the Wimpy Kid books. My only stipulation was that they check in with me frequently so that I could see they were making progress with the book. I wasn't expecting miracles, but I needed to see that they were trying to read the books and not just using them as a show piece in their book totes.

9 times out of 10, they recognized it was too hard and gave up within a week or so. The determined holdout trudged through the book and enjoyed it... although it took awhile before he tried the second book in that series. :)


I hope this is a "given" for any classroom teacher. I have new books that I try out every year, but I also have tried and true books that I LOVE to read with my kids no matter what. I really struggle to "sell" books to my kids that I don't enjoy.

In a school that celebrates a Book of the Month each month, I've inevitably come across some titles I didn't love. However, some of my best classroom conversations have happened after those read-alouds when I ask the kids for their feedback. I love to see how animated they get about whether or not the book was a good pick for our school. :)

I thought a fun follow-up chart for those discussion would be post-it votes on a chart that we could display outside of the room. I would want the kids to do more than just vote with a thumbs up or thumbs down beneath the book title. Having them defend their opinion, whether it's with a partner or on their own, could be an excellent way to tie in writing and point-of-view standards!

Charlotte's Web is one of those "Read Every Year" books for me. The year I looped up to 4th and realized I was going to have to find all new read-alouds for my kids *might* have set off a bit of panic in my brain. It ended up being a really fun challenge to find new material, but I missed the books I looked forward to each year. What are some of those books for you?

I wanted to leave you with the updated freebie pack I'm working on as we make our way through this book study. For Chapter 2, I've added 2 printables - one that asks students to "Rate Your Reads". I would use this as more of a working reading log. I've also included a "Reflect on What You Select" printable. This would be more for me. I'd like to go over it with my students in a reading conference or small group. Then I could use it to inform my choices on what to keep, purge, and buy for our classroom library. 
Click on the picture below to grab your freebie pack!

Click Me!

Let me know if you see any glaring errors! Looking forward to checking back in with you soon!


Reading in the Wild: Creating a Workshop Schedule That Works for You {Chapter 1}

I am horribly behind on at least three four who knows how many different book study posts. To say that the last few weeks of this pregnancy have been "trying" is an understatement. I'm going to do my best to catch up on all of my posts in the next week or so. :)

I'll start with catching up on Reading in the Wild...

The lovely Jivey (Ideas by Jivey) and Chelsea (Flip Floppin' through 3rd Grade) hosted this section and I LOVED peeking into their workshop schedules. If you haven't had a chance to look at their posts, make sure you check them out!

Last year, I had 135 minutes with both of my classes. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but I also had to follow certain requirements for both my district and my administration. I had to find a way to teach Reader's Workshop, Writer's Workshop, Words Their Way, and Skills Block (Grammar) within that time frame.

I knew that I wanted to devote 60 minutes each day to Reader's Workshop - that was a non-negotiable for me. That left me with 75 minutes for Writer's, WTW, and Skills Block. Time to get creative. ;-) I was fortunate to have an ESOL teacher and a year-long student teacher who rocked my socks off. We decided to have our ESOL teacher take over Words Their Way. She pulled our groups every day and we took class time every 5-7 school days to assess their sorts. This let us spend 45 minutes on Writer's Workshop and 30 minutes on Skills Block each day. If I had to "sacrifice" time to assemblies, testing, fire drills, or general chaos, Reader's Workshop was the last thing I gave up. My kids knew that no matter what, we were going to read every day.

Our Reader's Workshop
A lot goes into our daily workshop. It has taken 10+ years and if we're caught up in a read aloud, we might go over by a couple of minutes, but the key to maximizing their independent reading time is to keep the mini-lesson short. Also, our "get started" time gets shorter and shorter as the year progresses, simply because the kids don't need it as much. They know the routine and look forward to it.

I would much rather see my students building reading stamina rather than mini-lesson stamina. Mini-lessons are for modeling strategies, starting (not finishing!) responses, and reading pieces of a text. Very rarely will we read a whole text during a mini-lesson. If we do, there's very specific purpose. Remember, we also have 5 minutes at the end of our workshop to review the skill/strategy, share our thinking, or read a bit more.

The piece of workshop that changes from day to day is the "Read, Read, Read!" portion. I have a rotation for my guided reading groups, but my strategy groups and reading conferences are more flexible. I meet with those kiddos as often (or as infrequently) as I need to. I tried to make sure I checked in with each of my kiddos once a month in a reading conference.

Some days, I might pull 2 guided reading groups. Others, I would pull 1 guided reading group and spend the rest of my time doing reading conferences and meeting with a strategy group.

I tried creating a schedule for all of it, but I found that it was easier to plan a few days at a time instead. I was much better at meeting my students' needs.

I love to let my students read wherever they feel comfortable. As long as they aren't disturbing anyone else, they are in a good spot. :) If I have to ask them to move, I pick their spot for the next day and then they can try again. It rarely takes more than once to get the "just right spot" message across. When I have a "repeat offender" I do my best to let them work their way back to choosing their own spot. I'm more likely to work with them in choosing a spot for a week, and then gradually releasing that responsibility back to them. We are trying to "grow" independent wild readers!

I hope you've enjoyed the peek into our Reader's Workshop. I'll be back soon to share a bit more about how my kiddos choose their books and what our classroom library looked like!