Tag Archives: reading strategies

Book Pass – 30 Days, 10 Minutes to a more Literate Classroom

Book Pass is a really simple idea to hook kids on books, and it’s perfect for launching your Book Clubs or for having kids do a Book Project. By the end of 15 minutes, every student in your class will have a book to read. But better than that, they will likely have one or two more that they would LIKE to read. And helping readers build a reading plan and live a reading life is one of our greatest privileges as teachers. Read on for the simple how-to!

For a Book Pass, all you need is one book per student and about 15 minutes. I use this strategy to launch Book Clubs, so I gather multiple copies of each title – usually I offer 5 choices for a Book Club. So, I need about 5 copies of each book. Arrange the books in a circle on the floor, putting the books in a repeating pattern. You want the books to be organized so that students will see each book but not preview a book more than once.

The students sit behind the books and begin by previewing the book in front of them. Remind them that good readers preview a book by looking at the cover, reading the blurb and opening the book and reading an excerpt. Set a timer for two minutes. In that two minutes the students are quietly perusing the book and asking themselves one question. “Is this a good book for me?”

Once the two minutes are up, students pass the book to their right. Then, they take their new book, and spend 2 minutes with it. Keep to a two minute timer. I’ve found that it is long enough for a student to get a good sense about a book but not so long that they get bored and start talking. 🙂

After 10 minutes, every student in your class has previewed 5 books. I then collect the books and pass out a sticky note to each student. On the sticky note they write their name and their top three choices, in order. Within a few minutes, I can sort through the sticky notes and most often can get a student their first or second choice of book. Just like that, we are ready to get started with Book Clubs!

If you would prefer to use a Book Pass to launch a Book Project, it works pretty much the same way. If you limit the choices for a Book Project and use a Book Pass to launch the projects, you get a couple of benefits.

  1. You don’t have to read 27 different books – just 5 or 6!
  2. Kids who are reading the same book can meet to talk and share ideas.
  3. Students will get excited about reading the books their friends are reading.

After the project or Book Club cycle has finished, I always make the copies available to the whole class. Intermediate students are a little like lemmings – if their friends are reading it, they are happy to go along and read it too.

Book Pass is a really simple strategy that helps your students find a book to read – you will hook them on at least one book, and maybe more! Try this strategy every month or so to expose your students to new books and keep them reading!

The Book Nook – 30 Days, 10 Minutes to a More Literate Classroom

Every year my students walk in on the first day of school and are confronted with piles of books on their tables. And empty tubs. I put my students to work organizing the Book Nook (what I call my classroom library) on the first day, and for several days after that. Here’s why:

  • If the students come up with an organizing system, they will understand how to find the type of book that they like.
  • If the students organize the books in the first few weeks of school, they will be able to maintain that organization for the rest of the year.
  • Giving this task to students helps them feel ownership in the classroom, and especially, in the books.
  • This task is one of the best ways I know to teach kids about genre – something that is a pretty bedrock literacy understanding. For more ideas about that, check out this blog post!
  • This is a great strategy for Getting Kids Thinking About Books and also for Selling them on books!

This literacy strategy takes about 30 minutes on the first day, and then 10 minutes a day until all of the books are organized. The first day, students walk into the classroom (usually after recess) to find approximately 20 books on each of their table groups. My group size is 4-5 students, so that’s 4-5 books for students.

First, we gather on the rug to talk about what we are going to do with the books. I tell the students that they are responsible for figuring out how to organize the books in a way that will make them easy to find and easy to keep organized all year. Then I ask them, “What ideas do you have about how we could organize the books?” Often, no one answers. Sometimes, someone volunteers a way they have seen another classroom library organized. If they do give me an idea, I respond, “What do you all think? Will that help you find books and keep them organized?” I don’t endorse any system of organization because I want this to belong to the kids. Using a question focuses them on the criteria for success and builds that sense of ownership.

After a few minutes of discussion, I send them to their tables. I have chosen the books for each table purposefully. In each stack, there are different connections that students can make, and some books that may not fit together at all. I am deliberate in the books that I give to each group because I want to foster discussion and critical analysis of the books. How do these books fit together? Which books don’t belong?

For instance, if students found this book stack on their tables, they would probably notice that “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Witches” are both by Roald Dahl, and suggest book tubs organized by author. They would also notice that this stack has a significant number of historical fiction books: “Sarah, Plain and Tall”, “Across Five Aprils”, “Sounder”, “Our Strange New Land”, “Sophia’s War”, and “Big, Bad Ironclad” could all fit in a tub labeled historical fiction. But, “Ghosts” and “Big, Bad Ironclad” are both graphic novels, so maybe that should be a tub too. Once they noticed that, I would ask them, “Where should you put the books so that you can find them and keep them organized? Which label will be more helpful? Is “Big, Bad Ironclad” mostly a graphic novel or mostly historical fiction?” That question causes kids to critically analyze themselves as readers AND the book!

Once a group has found several books that belong together, I give them an index card and a tub. Someone in the group is responsible for making the label for the tub, which I attach with clear Contact Paper or book rings, depending on the style of tub. I don’t expect them to finish the label in the 30 minutes because I want it to be high quality. The student just keeps the index card with them until it is finished, and then we attach it together.

Of course, there will be books on the table that the students don’t fit into any tub. Before we complete the work for the day, I ask the groups to leave the tubs on their tables, with any books that belong in the tubs. Books that don’t belong should be laying face up on the table. Then, one student from the group stays at the table to explain the group’s thinking to the other kids in the class. Groups rotate around the room. As they do, students start to notice that a book from one table might fit into a tub on another. In this example, “Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls” would fit nicely in the Adventure Tub on another table. When students make those connections, I encourage them to take the book and add it to a tub.

To finish up, students bring the books that are organized to the Book Nook, and place any books that are not yet organized in a tub by my desk. There are always several kids who discover a book that they would like to read, and of course, they can borrow that for Independent Reading! The next day, we continue the process. I have a lot of books in my classroom library, so this generally takes us about 3 weeks. On average, the kids organize about 100 books a day.

This strategy definitely is a bigger time investment than some of the other strategies we’ve been learning about, but it really gets kids Thinking (with a capital T) about books AND it hooks kids and builds motivation. It is well worth your time! Plus, you get the added benefit of gaining time back because you won’t have much work to do to keep your classroom library organized. The kids will do it because they know how!

For more easy-to-implement ideas, be sure to check out the other blog and video posts in 30 Days, 10 Minutes to a More Literate Classroom. Happy teaching!

Image by Annata78 on Deposit Photos.

Bring a Book to School Day – 30 Minutes, 10 Days to a More Literate Classroom, Part 3

You’ve heard of Bring-Your-Kid-To-Work-Day, right? Well, this is pretty much the same thing, but kids are bringing books to school. The idea is a really simple way to connect readers around books.

This idea builds on yesterday’s idea of using Book Talks, and this is usually the first time kids do a Book Talk in my classroom. I generally use this idea about the 3rd or 4th week of school, and then once or twice more throughout the year.

When I launch the activity, I bring in a picture book that I loved as a child, Miss Suzy. This book is one of the earliest I can remember loving, and I share with the students why I loved that book when I was a child. I chose this book on purpose. It is not a flashy new book, it’s pretty battered and old looking, and something that I have owned for years. By bringing a book like that, I make it OK for kids who don’t have the latest, greatest books, and maybe only own a few books. Any book that they have a story about is fine to bring in. Be sure to check out the sample parent letter that I send home to explain this to parents.

This book, published in the 60’s, was a favorite of mine when I was about 5.

So, what kinds of books do kids bring in?

  1. Books they loved as a child.
  2. Books they love now.
  3. The last, really good book they read.
  4. The last, really terrible book they read.
  5. A book they hate.
  6. A book that they connect to.
  7. A book they would like to read but haven’t gotten to yet.
  8. Any book!

The point of this is for students to share stories about a book and build connections with each other. I once had a student bring in a family photo album. I thought that was great. She did a quick Book Talk about making the album with her mom, and lots of kids wanted to borrow her book.

Once the kids have brought in their books, divide them into small groups. Try to give students some choices about the groups so that they end up with other kids that they trust and can be vulnerable with. Because I only have 10 minutes a day for this, we usually need 2 days for everyone to give their Book Talks. Readers gather in groups of about 4, and two kids give a Book Talk each day. For this first Book Talk, I ask them to share the title, author and why they brought the book. Then, they ask, “Does anyone want to borrow my book?” If someone in the group wants to borrow the book, they have to sign the contract promising to bring it back in good condition. Some kids do not feel comfortable loaning their books, and that is OK. As long as they bring in a book and share a story, they have met the requirements of the task. That alone is going to help them build bridges to other readers.

This simple strategy is another way I get kids buzzing about books in my classroom. And, the more they buzz with each other, the more they start selling each other books – kind of doing my job for me! I encourage you to bring this fun day to your classroom! To help you get started, check out the FREE parent letter and student sheet on TPT. And be sure to watch this video for more tips on how to bring this to your classroom!

Book Talks – 30 Days, 10 Minutes to a More Literate Classroom, Part 2

What if you could spend 7 minutes a day to get your kids to read 150 books in a year? Seems worth it, doesn’t it? Well, you can! That strategy is Book Talks!

In just 7 minutes a day, you can introduce one new book to your class. If even one reader reads it, that 150 books in a year (assuming you have some field trips, sub days and assemblies thrown in!) If that sounds good to you, read on for the Nitty Gritty!

Book Talks are a strategy that work with any grade level. I’ve used them in K – 5 classrooms, and they are excellent at one thing – convincing kids to read the book you are Talking. The research is actually mixed on whether they impact overall reading motivation. In my experience, they do, and here’s why.

When I Talk a book, multiple kids get excited about reading that book. It almost becomes a competition, and the book passes from reader to reader, like an electrical current in your classroom. That builds excitement and connects readers. I suppose a researcher would look for causation, and I can’t prove that. But I know, absolutely know, that Book Talks are an essential component of building my literacy classroom, and that kids who read become motivated to read more. So, I know that they work.

This FREE ebook explains exactly what Book Talks ARE and what they AREN’T. It also gives step by step instructions for how I implement them in my classroom. Click here to download Book Talks from TPT today!

Key things to remember:

1. Consistency

2. Invitational

3. No grades!

If you really want to motivate your readers, keep these things in mind.

  1. Consistency – Use them consistently in your classroom. Try to do it everyday. I know it can be hard to read that many books. In a perfect world, you need to be ready to do about 100 Book Talks in a year because your kids will do some. But even that is a lot of books! Check out my Book Talk One-Pagers to help you meet that goal!
  2. Invitational – Find the hook that invites your readers into the book, and then write down the names of every student who is interested in the book. At the end of each Book Talk, I ask, “Who would like to read this book?” That’s the invitation! Generally, about 10 kids raise their hands, and I write down their names on a sticky note and put that note inside the front cover of the book. Then, I give the book to one of the interested students. When they finish reading the book, they cross their name off the sticky and pass the book on to another student.
  3. No Grades – I know it it is tempting to make Book Talks an assignment and gather some grades. If you do, students will consider it to be an assignment, and the purpose change. Instead of passing on an amazing book to another reader, the goal becomes getting a good grade and pleasing the teacher. I don’t assign Book Talks, and I don’t keep track of who gives them. Some students never Talk a Book to the class, and that is OK.

These one-page book guides can help you Talk a book that you haven’t read, or just remember the important details about one that you have read!

I hope that these digital supports will help you bring Book Talks to your classroom. For more about Book Talks, check out my Bringing Book Talks to Your Classroom video.

Book Talks are one of the simplest, most effective strategies I know for selling books to readers. Give them a try. Soon, you will be looking forward to that moment when you have your readers gathered around you and you ask, “Who wants to read this book?”

Book Ballots – 30 Days, 10 Minutes to a More Literate Classroom Part 1

“Oh, it’s Book Ballots! Quick. She’s going to start the timer! You read the blurb for Artemis Fowl and I’ll read Al Capone. Then we’ll talk and figure out what to vote for.”

That is not a bad conversation to overhear as the students file back in from lunch. Book Ballots is one of those strategies that takes just a few minutes, focuses students’ minds on books instead of lunch and recess, and gives you a wealth of knowledge about your readers. This is a great strategy for “Getting to Know Your Readers”, one of our 10 themes for building a more literate classroom. It also helps you “Sell Books” and “Connect Readers”. I love it when a strategy meets several goals! Here’s how it works.

This is what students see as they file into the classroom after recess.

  1. This makes a great transition. While the kids are at lunch, grab two books that you think will appeal to most of your readers. Set them on the chalk tray and draw a t-chart with the question, “Which book do you prefer?” Boom! You’re done prepping!
  2. As the kids file into the classroom, have them gather around the chalk tray. Set a timer for 5 minutes. (The first time you do the strategy, don’t set the timer because you will explain as you go along. But after that, limit this to 5 minutes.)
  3. Tell the kids they need to vote for which book they would prefer to read. They have to vote, and they can’t put their name in the middle. They have to commit to one book or the other. Students will start buzzing about the books and you’ll start listening.
  4. Here’s where you get to know your readers. In a short few minutes, you are going to get answers to questions like:
    • Which readers have a definite preference right away.
    • Who makes book decisions based on the cover.
    • Who grabs the book and makes a more thoughtful decision based on the blurb or reading a sample of the book.
    • Which genres students in your classroom gravitate towards.
    • Who chooses books based on what their friends are reading.
    • Which students have no idea how to choose a book and hang back.
  5. You will get answers to those questions by observing your students. With such a short time to choose, they will have to rely on their go-to strategy. Over time, students will learn strategies for choosing books by watching each other. You will see new students reaching to grab the book, and knots of students gathered around, listening while one student reads the blurbs. You’ll hear quick comparisons between the books, and notice that students start to pay attention to author and genre as a strategy for choosing books.
  6. As you can see in the photo, I have magnets with my students’ names on them that I use for this strategy. The magnets are also used for attendance and lunch count in the morning, so they do double duty! If you don’t have magnets, you could also have your students write their names on sticky notes or on the whiteboard. You could even just have them line up on the side of the room next to the book they prefer.
  7. When the timer goes off (and I have to admit, if the conversation is awesome, I have been guilty of pausing the timer on my phone. 🙂 ) I make sure every student has voted. Then, I “randomly” choose one student for each book and ask, “Would you like to read this book, or gift this book?” My students understand that “gifting” a book means they pass the book to another student who reads it and then has the responsibility of returning it to the Book Nook.

This simple strategy accomplishes a lot in a few short minutes. Two students walk away with a new book to read during Independent Reading time. Other students walk away with a book to add to their Wish List. You walk away with knowledge about your readers that helps you choose read alouds, match books to kids for Guided Reading/Book Clubs, purchase must have books for your Book Nook, and help kids find great books for Independent Reading. It really is an easy way to Get To Know Your Readers.

I use this strategy several times a week during the first month or two of school. As we get into the school year, I taper off and bring in other strategies (more on that in future blog and video posts!) By the winter time, I probably use this strategy once every week or even once every two weeks. It’s a good strategy to bring back if:

  • You’ve gotten some new students in your class and you want to know how they think about books.
  • There are books in your Classroom Library that you think your readers will love, and they aren’t finding them.
  • You notice some students are not finding books easily and you want to learn why.

For more simple strategies to Get To Know Your Readers, check out these posts:

  • Reader’s and Writer’s Surveys
  • Reading Conferences
  • Quick Reads

And be sure to check out this video which gives you more information on using Book Ballots in your classroom!

Recent Entries »