10 Summer Reading Tips

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I can’t believe that the summer is approaching! It’s time to help our students make reading plans for the summer months. We all know that if students do not read during the summer months they lose ground as readers. It is similar to practicing the piano or going to soccer practice. If they do not engage with books over the summer, they can fall behind.

Now is the time for us to begin planning how we will encourage our students to read over the summer. Here are 10 ways we can help our students get ready for summer reading.

10) Make a Class List of Recommendations: Create a list of students’ favorite books that you can send home with students for the summer. If each student writes 5 book recommendations, you’ll have a long list.

9) Wish lists: Have students jot down 10-20 titles (or authors) that they hope to read this summer. Students can hang this wish list on their refrigerator or in their rooms in order to remember which books they’d like to read. When they head to the library this summer, they can take their list with them. Model this work by sharing your own book wish list with students.

8) Library Programs: Advertise the summer reading library programs in your town or district. Many libraries or Boys and Girls Clubs have summer reading challenges for students. Encourage parents and students to join these programs. Some libraries also have digital book collections (like Kindle books) where students can borrow digital books that they can read on their cellphones or tablets. This is a great alternative for students who can’t visit the library frequently or who need the font size to be enlarged.

7) Book Clubs: Encourage students to create book clubs with their parents, family members, or friends. These clubs can be a lot of fun!

6) Shelfies: Have your students take Shelfies of themselves reading different titles during the summer. Encourage them to email you their Shelfies. Post these pictures on your class blog or website. Post your own Shelfies too!

5) List of Great Read Alouds for Parents: Create a list of 10-20 books that you know your students would love their parents to read aloud to them. Parents are always looking for suggestions. These summer read alouds will bring so much joy !

4) Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Similar to library summer reading programs, the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a great way for your students to track their reading. This program helps motivate students to read a lot.

3) Blog of Book Recommendations: Create a blog, Goodreads page, or Pinterest page that has book recommendations and synopses.

2) Set Goals: Encourage your students to make detailed plans for their summer reading and set goals. How many books are they hoping to read? Perhaps they create a reading calendar with plans? Which books will they bring to sleep-away camp? Model setting goals by setting goals for your own reading this summer.

1) Letters Between Teachers and Students: A favorite way to get students motivated to keep reading all summer is to send them off in June with a self-addressed stamped envelope so they can write you a letter about their reading during the summer. They will love sharing their reading with you over the summer.

It is so important that our students read, read, read over the summer. At the heart of summer reading is parent partnership and students who are motivated to read. Some teachers create a special reading folder with their students that includes: A list of book recommendations, students’ goals, a wish list, and a letter to parents with recommendations. These can help students and parents make plans for summer reading.


Flipped Learning and The Home/School Connection

Have you ever had one of those days in writing workshop where you practiced a strategy with students and then sent them home to continue writing for homework? In your mind, all students seemed settled and confident about what to do. But instead, you receive 5 emails from parents stating otherwise. “My child didn’t understand what s/he was supposed to do for homework.” And 5 more students return to school the next morning stating the same.

As teachers, we know how essential it is to establish a strong home/school connection with parents and guardians. Our partnerships with parents is critical to students’ progress as learners. Parents want to support the learning that happens in their child’s classroom. When this connection is fractured, parents can feel helpless and frustrated. In previous posts, we’ve discussed four compelling reasons to flip lessons in writing workshop: Individualization, Efficiency, Engagement, and Small Group Instruction. Another powerful reason is: The Home/School Connection.

Example #1: Recently, I had a student who was performing in a Broadway production and had to miss several weeks of school. My student and his parents desperately wanted to maintain a connection to our classroom and to the curriculum. Flipping lessons in writing workshop helped my student to access instruction during his absence and complete assignments on time. For students who have been absent from school or need additional guidance to complete homework, flipped lessons can save the day. Flipping lessons in writing workshop results in fewer emails from parents stating, “My child didn’t know what to do” or “My child was stuck” or “My child was absent.”

Example #2: Along with everything else we juggle on a daily basis, teachers are also responsible for students who are pulled out of classrooms for music lessons, support services, etc. Some of my students are English Language Learners. It can cause great anxiety for students when they miss instruction or when they don’t understand it the first time. They worry that they will fall behind. It is incredibly helpful when students can return to class and access a flipped lesson that covers the instruction they’ve missed. Flipping lessons helps my students when they need to be out of the classroom, or when they just need more time to process instruction.

Flipped learning isn’t just for homework. It is accessible, individualized learning that can happen in the classroom. Flipped learning can help to strengthen the home/school connection by making what’s happening in the classroom transparent to parents.

We hope we’ve piqued your interest in trying to flip a lesson or two in your writing workshop, and we look forward to hearing about how it’s going!


Flipped Learning and Small Group Work

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Are you like me? Do you sometimes struggle to form and manage small groups of writers in the writing workshop? I feel confident conferring one-on-one with my students and teaching the minilesson, however, when it comes to small group work, I can struggle. This is an area that I’ve worked on a lot in the past three years, and I’ve found that flipped learning has helped a lot.

Why do I continue to try to teach small groups during writing workshop when I find it challenging to manage? I believe that learning is a social process and that students learn best when they talk about a strategy together and bounce ideas off each other. Small group work can be less structured than the formal class minilesson, and 2 or 3 students can work together to talk through their writing plans. Above all, small group learning switches the focus from the teacher to the students. The teacher takes a coaching role during small group sessions and students work together to tackle writing challenges. Flipped learning is perfect for small group work because it empowers students to take what they’ve learned and try it out and ask questions. Catlin Tucker, author of Blended Learning in Grades 4-12, wrote a blog post of using flipped learning in small group work and work stations (http://catlintucker.com/2016/01/inclassflip/). She says:

“Then students can watch that video in a station where they can still pace their learning by pausing or rewinding the video. Once they’ve seen the video, they can engage in a collaborative task attempting to apply the information from the video as a group.This is a great way to take the benefits of the flipped classroom and embed them into the station rotation model.”

~Catlin Tucker

Here are 2 scenarios in the writing workshop that illustrate the benefits of using flipped learning in your small groups.

Example #1: I’ve just taught a minilesson about a new strategy for elaboration in a persuasive essay. My goals for the remainder of the workshop time are to confer with 3 students and run two small group lessons. The first small group of learners need to learn strategies for writing the opposing viewpoints and rebuttals. The second group of learners need to review a previously-taught lesson about paragraph structure. Prior to using flipped learning in the writing workshop, I might have mismanaged my time by trying to juggle these two small groups of learners, and I would not have had time to confer individually with students.

However, with two flipped lessons ready to go, I am able to form the two small groups and help them access flipped lessons about the topics. This way I can confer with one student while the small groups are accessing the flipped lessons. Then I can meet with the small groups to answer any questions they might have and see how they are applying what they learned. After meeting with both small groups, I still have plenty of time to meet with 2 or 3 more students one-on-one.

Example #2: I’ve learned from Kate Roberts, co-author of DIY Literacy and Falling in Love with Close Reading, that a great strategy for managing small groups of writers in upper elementary and middle school grades is to write 2 to 3 small group topics on the white board and encourage students to sign up for one of those topics. For instance, I might write “Making your thesis statement stronger and arguable,” “3 Strategies for Elaborating,” and “Transitional Sentence Starters” on the board. Students can choose which topic to sign up for during class that day, or they can choose not to participate in a small group.

Flipped learning helped me manage these small group sessions. In the past, I would have struggled to provide enough small group options for all of my learners. I know myself, and I know that trying to run 3 small group sessions is challenging in a writing workshop period. Instead of trying to teach all of the sessions, I write FL next to a session title or titles that have flipped lessons online. This way my students can access the flipped lessons on their own, at a time of their convenience, or with a small group of students in the workshop.