This Moment is a Slice

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It was the end of the first day of the KSRA (Keystone State Reading Association) Annual Conference, and Melanie, my new-found conference friend, and I decided to hit the last session of the day- a night event called Poetry Fun. The program guide listed the poets, Sara Holbrook, Michael Salinger, and Janet Wong, along with the following description: Be inspired to write, share, and enjoy poetry!

Okay! Let’s go see what we can learn.

We took seats down toward the front on the right side of the room and chatted about our day while waiting for the program to begin. Within minutes, we soon learned that this was not going to be a typical session. This was going to be highly interactive! Ummm. They’re asking us to share poems? Get up and read? I could feel myself trying to be smaller in my chair. Please don’t call on me, came the shrinking, quaky voice in my head. Michael Salinger brought his big voice into our small space and pointed out that the fear of public speaking trumps the fear of dying for a majority of people. Not new information, and not helping me to overcome my own fear of presenting to a room full of adults.

I warred with my inner self. A part of me wanted to get up there, be part of the energy of the room. But… the voices… What if I turn red? What if my voice sounds shaky and tight? What if the room is silent– in an uncomfortable, awkward way? What if my poem (and there was one that was sitting in my writer’s notebook) is too serious?

And then, Clare, of the famed Clare and Tammy (teachersforteachers.net, and the book, Assessment in Perspective) got up and read the poem she had written. It was serious, and it worked.

I should get up there. I can’t get up. There’s glue on my chair.  The voices in my head have grown muscles, and they are holding me in place.

When the session ends, Melanie and I agree that it was engaging and fun. I have been inspired by those who were able to do what I was not. I make it a point to go talk with Clare Landrigan…

Thank you for sharing your poem. It was beautiful. And I’ve read your blog. It’s excellent. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I wish I could have done what you did. I kept telling myself I should get up there…

Okay, I’m pretty sure I’m rambling or gushing or both. I pause. Clare offers encouragement, and asks if I have written for the Slice of Life. No, but I keep telling myself I need to do it.

Each time I consider it, I experience a crisis of confidence because “writing aloud” is just as terrifying as public speaking. I’ve been working on this- building the courage to share my thoughts, my ideas, my voice.

I know. I should do it, I tell Clare. But, what would I write about? What do I have to add to a group that is my daily source of information and inspiration? Clare says, You have your unique perspective. That’s what you add. And, this moment right now, is a slice. You can write about this.

You’re right. I can. I will. I did. Thank you, Clare, for inspiring me with your poem, and for encouraging me to add my voice to the Slice of Life Challenge. This is one more first in my writing and teaching adventures!

 

The Reading Strategies Book is Irresistible!

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It was two days before school started and my husband and I were capturing a few last moments of summer. Sitting on the outside deck of a favorite restaurant, we passed the time with conversation, reading, and an assortment of small plates to while away the afternoon. My body soaked up the sun, but my mind was turning to school brain, and the book I brought was Jennifer Seravallo‘s The Reading Strategies Book. How fortunate that I spent an afternoon focused on absorbing the information she provides in these pages because, if I had to pick only one book to help me plan a year’s worth of lessons, this would be the one.

I have now been in school for a little over a month, and this book is marked up and well-traveled. And, it’s multiplying! On the second day of school, one of the special education teachers asked me what I was carrying. I showed her the book and told her what was great about it, and she went directly to Amazon to get a copy. In the days following, I chatted up the book and showed it to many other colleagues. This week, I saw it sprouting up around me. On Friday, I stopped in to chat with one of our reading specialists. Guess what was on her desk? Yup. The Reading Strategies Book. On Thursday, a colleague in second grade stopped to thank me. Her book had just arrived and she was excited to start reading it over the weekend. On Tuesday, one of my third grade teammates grabbed me in the hall on our way to lunch. “I’m bringing the book to show everyone the lesson I did and the chart I created for making inferences, which goes with this week’s reading lessons. I’m so excited about the chart. It’s one of the best I’ve made.”

You might be thinking that I have tremendous powers of persuasion, but the truth is, this book sells itself as soon as I show it to people.

Why?

The design is brilliant. The information is invaluable.

The book is organized around 13 overarching reading goals, arranged in a hierarchy from pre-emergent/emergent reading skills to developing a range of comprehension skills for fiction and nonfiction texts. Each goal covers a series of reading skills that can be taught using various reading strategies that are each presented on a SINGLE page. That’s right. Each strategy is covered on one page that highlights which students this would help and what skill it will help students acquire. It identifies the reading level and the genre or text type this applies to. The strategy is concisely described in two to three sentences, and Serravallo details teaching tips and/or lesson language– very briefly. Every strategy has a short list of prompts that can be used in conversations with students as you teach and guide them. Be sure to read Seravallo’s introduction where you will learn how best to use the book and the reasoning behind various aspects of the lessons, like why the prompts are so brief.

My favorite aspect of the strategies? The visuals! EVERY SINGLE STRATEGY has a visual that shows you an anchor chart or a teaching tool that students can use to apply the strategy independently. Here is a chart I made with my students in the first days of school. It is adapted from Strategy 2.1, A Perfect Reading Spot, on page 48.

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My students loved suggesting the pictures after I drew the first one, the light bulb. They were excited to see our carpet squares depicted under “Soft?” and most importantly, they used these suggestions for making good choices. We’ve been able to refer back to it on days when we regress a bit, and the visual is a constant reminder of a strategy we use as readers, and writers, to improve our skills.

When you find yourself thinking, “How am I going to teach that?” or, you think the teacher manual from your reading program is unhelpful or uninspiring, you will flip through the pages of The Reading Strategies Book, and you will find yourself unstuck and completely inspired.

Serravallo likens this book to a cookbook, and it is an excellent analogy. You will pick the meal that fits your students and the day, and you will choose the ingredients that match your goals and those of your students. My first cookbook, the quintessential Betty Crocker, looks like I know The Reading Strategies Book will someday look– old and loved and marked up with constant use.

If my powers of persuasion have failed to sway you, it’s because this post is not irresistible, but I promise the book is. Go check it out on Amazon and look inside the first pages. You will instantly see that the design is incredibly teacher friendly, and the information is immediately applicable.

If you can’t resist buying the book, please post a comment to share your thoughts and experiences. Let’s start a reading strategies revolution together!