Reflecting on a Year as Readers

Literacy in the Classroom

One of my colleagues shared an amazing idea with me this past spring, and I just had to give it a try in my classroom. My colleague has her students write letters about their reading journeys. The insights students share are amazing! My students came up with questions they could answer in their letters. Here are a few:

  • What have you discovered about yourself as a reader this year?
  • What is your favorite reading memory from third grade?
  • What new things did you try as a reader in grade three?
  • Are there any books that stuck with you this year?
  • How have your reading habits changed in third grade?
  • What are your reading plans for summer and beyond?

All the questions were optional, and there wasn’t a sentence or page requirement. I was amazed with the writing that came back. Students wrote pages upon pages about the books that made a difference in their lives, the ways they have grown, and their plans to keep reading in their futures.

Many of my students described finding the genres and book formats that fit their reading styles. Learning how to make reading choices was a big focus of ours this year, so I was so excited that many students now know where to look to find new reads!

I love how this reader admitted to losing her reading log. (I tell students all the time that it’s about the reading, not the piece of paper that says you read!) I also loved the description of finishing a great book: a mix of sadness and understanding.

As this reader says, this letter was my “ticket to knowing town” when it comes to learning about him as a reader. After finishing Stone Fox, I knew this reader would appreciate Pax. I’m so happy he stuck with it!

What a great description of a cozy reading moment! I hope that all of my students can identify some landmark reading memories. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book when it’s raining outside.

As this reader illustrated, “reading is what I live for!” When there are so many books out there and kiddos want them all, we know that our school has created a strong reading community.

How do your students reflect on their year as readers and writers? Let us know in the comments below!

Summer Send-Offs to Promote Reading and Writing

Literacy in the Classroom


“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
-A.A. Milne

On Tuesday, I said goodbye to my 24 third graders after a year of dreaming, thinking, writing, and reading together. Sending my students off for summer, I’m hopeful that they’ll hold on to the lessons we learned as a class this year. I especially hope that they continue to make reading and writing a part of their daily lives.

With that in mind, I wanted to send my students off with some ideas and tools for reading and writing throughout the summer. First, I felt it was so important for me to model including reading in my summer plans. For weeks, I’ve been talking about my summer to-read list. I’ve been having conversations with students about their own summer reading plans. We’ve been book talking great summer reads as a class. When we show students our own reading habits, they are more likely to create their own reading identities.

I also wanted to give students a way to celebrate the reading they do over the summer. We are already participating in a school-wide reading challenge (teachers, too!), so students have access to many ideas for incorporating reading in their busy summer lives. I gave students a one-page sheet to keep track of the books they read this summer, as well as their ratings of the books. No parent choices, no time requirements, just what they want to read. My students know that I will be eagerly awaiting their lists on our first day of school in the fall! While the log is optional, my students know that once they are readers, there’s no turning back. Reading for enjoyment should be a part of their lives year-round.

Throughout the year, students also deserve the opportunity to be authentic writers. One of the highlights of our year was our pen pal program with students in Uganda during the Global Read Aloud. My students loved writing letters. I wanted to give them the chance to write to whomever they choose this summer. My summer packets included a card and pre-stamped envelope so that each kid could send at least one letter. My students love writing with an audience, so I know they will enjoy sending a letter to someone this summer!

How do you send your students off as readers and writers? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Creating a Reading Community: The Reading Ramble

Literacy in the Classroom

There are many reasons why I love teaching at the same school where I was a student. One of my favorite things is that I can continue to learn from my former teachers now that they are my colleagues. My first grade teacher, Mrs. George, and my second grade teacher, Mrs. Blake, have always been two of my heroes. They helped me fall in love with learning and find my strengths as a student. Now, they both teach second grade, and I feel so lucky to work alongside them at Johnson School.

While I could go on and on about how amazing these two educators are, I’d like to share one of the things they have done to create a community of readers at our school. Over the past year, the second grade team has coordinated three Reading Rambles on our school’s campus. The second graders work together to set up an outdoor reading adventure. Giant copies of book pages are set up around the school, and classes make their way from page to page on their reading journey.

Creating a Reading Community - The Reading Ramble - Elementary School

The first Reading Ramble fittingly featured the book Wombat Walkabout. My students loved the illustrations and the plot. The kids were thrilled when the fall Ramble featured The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, a beautifully illustrated tale of purpose, belonging, and kindness.

Creating a Reading Community - The Reading Ramble - Elementary School

This spring, the second grade switched it up by displaying student writing instead of a published book. Students in grades K through 4 submitted writing on the theme of “Looking Up, Looking Down and Looking All Around.” Narrative, informational, and poetry writing surrounded our school as students reflected on nature and spring. My third graders’ faces were absolutely joy-filled as they found their own writing on the posters. It’s always amazing for students to see their writing published and displayed.

Creating a Reading Community - The Reading Ramble - Elementary School

I love how the Reading Rambles create excitement around literacy at our school. They get kids excited about reading and writing. Students fly from page to page, anticipating the next part of the story. Parents are invited to walk through the Walkabout with their children after school, so the whole family can join in on the reading experience.

There are so many ways in which Mrs. George and Mrs. Blake are making a difference in students’ lives. Thank you for all you do to create a community of readers at Johnson School!


Creating a Reading Community - The Reading Ramble - Elementary School

Books We Love: Wish

Books We Love

By Barbara O’Connor

After seeing Wish all over Twitter and Instagram, I had to pick up a copy for my classroom. I knew my students would immediately be drawn to the gorgeous cover, and the premise of a book about a girl and her dog. What I didn’t realize was how deeply the book would touch me as a reader.

Wish follows the life of a little girl named Charlie Reese as she moves in with her aunt and uncle in a small mountain town. Leaving behind a heartbreaking family situation and an uncertain future, Charlie fills her days with making wishes. Even though she hopes to return to her mom’s care, she works to make the most of her time with her aunt and uncle. She makes friends, she rescues a dog, and she learns more about herself than she ever thought possible.

One of my favorite things to find in middle grade books is imperfect main characters. I love when kids can read about people who make mistakes and work hard to fix them. Charlie Reese is absolutely one of those characters. She makes mistakes as a student, as a sister, as a daughter, and as a friend – and she often struggles to fix them. It’s in her struggles, though, that the important lessons of this book are taught.

This book is beyond important for kids. It’s heartbreaking portrayal of Charlie’s family situation is serious, and sad, but it’s also so real. The book looks at poverty and other issues in ways that are age-appropriate without glossing over them. Seeing Charlie overcome her situation with kindness and perseverance will inspire children everywhere. By opening their hearts to Charlie, kids will develop empathy for those who face many types of challenges in our communities and around the world.

Chapter Book Read Alouds for Third Grade

Books We Love, Literacy in the Classroom

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves.
-Neil Gaiman

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is reading aloud to my students. During that fifteen or twenty minutes a day, our class connects in so many ways. We laugh together, we cry together, and we share big ideas we have about the world. This year, my class has connected around four chapter book read alouds. Some are funny, some are heartbreaking, some are inspiring, but all of them have brought joy to my students, and I hope they bring joy to you, too.


Sideways Stories from Wayside School
by Louis Sachar

Every year, the third grade team at my school starts off with Sideways Stories. There’s so much to love about this book: hilarious characters, fantasy elements, laugh-out-loud scenes, and teachable moments. This book reminded my students how much there is to love about reading. After we read this aloud, the other books in the Wayside School series flew off of my classroom bookshelves!

by Roald Dahl

This year, we read The BFG as part of the Global Read Aloud. While the entire experience was amazing, the book itself takes a lot of the credit. Kids around the world love the characters of the BFG and Sophie. They immerse themselves in a world where “frobscottle” and “whizpoppers” are actual words, and where courage and kindness matter above all else.


by Louis Sachar

As you can tell, my class and I love Louis Sachar. Students are usually amazed when they realize that Sideways Stories and Holes are written by the same author. The books couldn’t be more different! I usually read Holes a little later in the year, when students can dig deeper into the questions the book raises about fairness, luck, hard work, and friendship.


The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown

Since The Wild Robot will be the selection for this fall’s Global Read Aloud, I decided to give the book a shot with this year’s crew of third graders. While we haven’t finished the book, the students absolutely love it so far. Reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web, but with a sci-fi twist, this book appeals to so many types of readers. Fair warning for teachers: make sure you have your robot voice down before giving this book a try! I highly recommend adding this book to your collection and connecting with other classes during the GRA this fall!

I would love to hear about the chapter book read alouds that captivated your classes this year. Feel free to comment below to share the literacy love!

Books We Love: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

Books We Love

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do
by Ashley Spires

Lou is just an ordinary girl – one who loves to play with friends and go on adventures. That is, until the adventure is something new. When Lou’s friends want to climb a tree, Lou thinks of every excuse possible for staying on the ground. One reason in particular keeps her from trying: “I CAN’T climb the tree.” When Lou tries to climb, she learns that she really can’t climb. “Not yet, anyway.”

This book is a sweet and simple look at how saying “I can’t” makes us miss out on adventures. Adding a “yet” to that sentence inspires us to give things a try until we get closer to our goal. This book pairs nicely with Ashley Spire’s The Most Magnificent ThingSpires’ writing teaches kids that by trying and learning from our attempts, we can grow stronger and reach our goals.

Classroom Connections

I can’t wait to use this book with some of my 3rd grade kiddos. In a time where the world places so much pressure on kids to be “perfect,” this book takes some weight off kids’ shoulders and shows them to trust the journey. This book is perfect for introducing growth mindset in your classroom, or for a reminder of the power of “yet.”

 The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do will be released in May 2017 by Kids Can Press.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Kids Can Press. in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!

Books We Love

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!
by Andrea Lorey

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! is one of those books that tells the story of someone we should have all known about a long time ago. James Van Der Zee was a remarkable photographer during the Harlem Renaissance. His story is one of triumph over adversity, perseverance through doubt, and above all, hard work.

Something that captivated me through this book was the way Lorey and illustrator Keith Mallett bring Van Der Zee’s story to life. As a reader, I felt transported to 1890s Massachusetts and 1920s New York City. This book is captivating, and will absolutely grab the interest of children in classrooms around the world.

This book is so desperately needed in the world right now, as it preaches the importance of representation. As the book explains, before Van Der Zee’s photos, most pictures of black people were “sad and grim depictions of poor farm workers or struggling city dwellers.” But with Van Der Zee behind the camera, “Click! Boom! Everything changed.” I can only imagine how powerful that must have been. We are so fortunate to have Van Der Zee’s photos as documentation of the energy of 1930s Harlem. And thanks to Lorey and Mallett, Van Der Zee’s photos will inspire a new generation of viewers.

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! will be released in May 2017 by Lee & Low Books.

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Lee & Low Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Maybe Something Beautiful

Books We Love

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
by F. Isabel Campoy and Teresa Howell
Illustrated by Rafael López

There is something so powerful about the way we see things. In any given day, there are a million moments where our mindset and vision make a huge difference. Maybe Something Beautiful celebrates the mindset of a girl who sees beauty in her community. She works with others to turn grey into a rainbow. Along the way, she discovers beauty not only in the art, but in the people who create it.

This book is such a great fit for elementary school classrooms, because it promotes pulling people in with your passion. It encourages kids to be unapologetically excited about the things they love. If you find joy in something, you might inspire others to find joy in it, too.

Maybe Something Beautiful is a super sweet read. With incredible illustrations by Rafael López, your students will be captivated. If you’re looking for a heartwarming addition to your classroom library, this book will be perfect for your shelves.

Enjoy the book trailer below:

Friday Five: Books for Women’s History Month

Friday Five

Happy Women’s History Month! Now that it’s halfway through the month, I’m finally getting around to sharing some of my favorite books about women’s history. I keep most of these books in my classroom year round, and they are picked up by both the boys and the girls.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls
by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

After the holidays, one of my students walked into the classroom clutching this book. She couldn’t stop talking about Serena Williams, Ada Lovelace, Cleopatra and other remarkable women. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls holds the record for most funded book in crowdfunding history, and uses the fairytale format to tell the true stories of 100 inspirational women. My favorite part? It includes blank pages to tell the story of the rebel girl who is reading the book.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
by Debbie Levy

I can’t wait for this book to make its way into the hands of little girls around the world. It tells the story of a girl who wanted to change little things, and built her way up to changing big things. This story teaches a powerful lesson about activism. It proudly proclaims that even young children can work to change things in their communities. (Read my full review here!)

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
Written and Illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Last summer, in an independent bookstore on Cape Cod, the cover of Women in Science caught my eye. The remarkable illustrations in this book draw readers in, but it’s the incredible stories of female scientists that keep readers reading. This book taught me so much about the women who fought for spaces in labs and on research teams. We are all better off thanks to their courage and conviction.

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote
by Tanya Lee Stone

This book does a remarkable job introducing the women’s suffrage movement and telling the tale of one of its heroes. Author Tanya Stone introduces not only the reasons women pushed for suffrage, but also some of the reasons people pushed back against it. After reading this book, my students were begging to read more about the women who fought for the vote.

Who Was Maya Angelou?
By Ellen Labrecque

I recently found some Who Was books on sale at a local store, and had to snatch up this one, along with the biographies of Amelia Earhart, Rachel Carson, and more. The Who Was series is beloved by students around the world, and Women’s History Month is the perfect time to pull out some special stories.

Do your students have any favorite books about Women’s History? Feel free to share in the comments below!


Celebrating the Life of Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Books We Love

About a year ago, I picked up a copy of I Wish You More in a Barnes & Noble. Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, the book is so simple, yet sweetly profound. With passages like “I wish you more ups than downs” and “I with you more treasures than pockets,” I fell in love with the poetry of the book.

In sharing the book with my third graders, I discovered that it became a favorite for them, too. At the end of the school year last June, my students wrote and illustrated their own wishes for each other. Amy’s poetry inspired them to write beautiful lines, like “I wish you more yays than nays” and “I wish you more togethers than by yourselfs.”

Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away from ovarian cancer on Monday at age 51. She is someone who did so much good in this world in the far too little time she was given. She lived her life deliberately and encouraged so many others to do the same. She saw the joy in every moment and shared those moments with the world. Today, I’m celebrating her life by trying to embrace her words: “I wish you more pause than fast forward.”

For more on Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s remarkable life, I recommend the following, along with some tissues and a hug from someone you love: