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September 21. 2017

Building Your Classroom Community

Log on to Twitter on Thursday, 9/28 at 8:00 p.m. for a LIVE chat with Fountas and Pinnell when we’ll expand on this post and discuss more with all of you on building your classroom community.


Would you describe your school's culture as being warm and supportive, but without attention to rigorous learning? Or is it run like a tight ship in an attempt to create rigorous learning, but lacks warmth? Fountas and Pinnell believe that in order to build an inclusive, respectful, and supportive social community where people collaborate with and help each other, you can't have one scenario without the other. Here are some ways to not only treat the classroom as a place to learn to read, write, and expand language skills, but to create a COMMUNITY of learners.

“Your classroom is a place where students learn how to read, write, and expand all of their language skills, but it is much more. It is a laboratory where they learn how to be confident, self-determined, kind, and democratic.” Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell

Provide Thought-Provoking Books

The classroom is where students spend most of their time. It's important to create an environment that helps them think deeply about the world, themselves, and how they fit into the world as global citizens. A great way to open up these channels of thinking is through books! Give them high-quality books that help them think about important ideas and issues, and about developing empathy for others.

Think About Classroom Management

Throughout their resources, Fountas and Pinnell describe the behavioral and emotional expectations of a student from entry to middle school; the traits you want to see in a successful student. These include, social interaction, empathy, sense of community, emotional well-being, and self-regulation. Your classroom should be a peaceful environment and reflect a climate of acceptance in which you can communicate to your students that you are interested in what they have to say. But you should also think about the physical space, as well as predictability, empathy and kindness, inquiry, and more.

Have a Design for Literacy Education

Creating the ideal literacy classroom environment where your students are always thinking, talking, and reading about the world can be a daunting task. You want to make adequate time for designing a landscape for language and literacy learning, but how? Where do you start? Fountas and Pinnell know from personal experience, and from talking to teachers that there are many constraints—both physical and financial—to creating this ideal environment, but it is possible. In Guided Reading, 2e, Fountas and Pinnell provide creative ways to take this vision of a literacy classroom into an actual design, as well as provide advice on how to create this classroom on a budget.  "When students spend their time thinking, reading, writing, and talking every day, they get a message about what is valued in your classroom and they begin to develop their own values."  

Building a literacy community in your classroom takes a lot of thought and effort, but the payoff is worth it. "In a sense, the classroom is a sheltered environment within a noisy world where everything interferes with high-level intellectual discourse and time for reading and writing. But in these short years students have a chance to live a literate life that expands their empathy, curiosity, and competencies. Literacy is their job," (Fountas and Pinnell).

The Fountas & Pinnell Team

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September 20. 2017

Daily Lit Bit - 9/20/17

Shared reading is an enjoyable experience for your classroom community and an important opportunity for children to “step up together” into more challenging texts while also beginning to notice and acquire the processes they need to read those texts as individuals.

September 19. 2017

6 Steps to Building a Community of Readers Across the Grades

Schools can be places where competition is more common than collaboration, and students are tested as much as they are taught. This is why it's important for students to feel a sense of community in the classroom. Here are a few tips to start building a community of readers across the grades.

1. Meet with a small group of colleagues to self-assess your school and classroom as a community. You might involve the leadership team and/or grade-level colleagues. Or, you might just work with a colleague.
2. Try to see your school from the students' perspective as you walk through the school, your classrooms, and the library. Ask:
  • Is there evidence that students' homes and neighborhoods are valued?
  • Does the school reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity in the school?
  • Is there evidence that student work is valued?
  • Do you see order, cleanliness, bright color, and a welcoming environment?
  • Is there evidence of good management?
  • Are there signals to students that let them know what to do and create predictability (guides, directions)?
3. Chances are you will find many positive aspects; but look hard for areas of improvement. Work as a group to identify some short-term and long-term goals. There may be one or two goals that you can accomplish right away.
4. Now do the same for your own classroom, for example, ask:
  • Are there clearly designated meeting areas?
  • Is the meeting area attractive, comfortable, and functional?
  • Does each student have an organized way of keeping personal items and supplies?
  • Is there evidence that the classroom reflects students' homes, languages, and culture?
  • Is there evidence that student work is valued?
  • Is the room orderly: Are supplies well organized and labeled? Are work areas designated?
  • Is there evidence that students have been engaged in collaboration? In inquiry?
  • Are the students' names posted and used in a variety of p;aces (e.g. cubbies, name charts, and folders)?

5. Again, define some short-term and long-term goals.

  • Create a short-term plan for at least one idea that you can implement right away.
  • Start to think about next term or next year and make a plan for creating a community environment from the beginning.
6. As you work toward developing your classroom environment, it will help to invite a friend into the room to walk about and then just tell you his first impressions.

From Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
September 13. 2017

Daily Lit Bit - 9/13/17

Educators must develop a culture of collaboration within the school. The school should be more like a community. This can happen if teachers work together toward this common vision of what literacy progress looks like.

September 12. 2017

How to Design Your Classroom to Build a Strong Community

Your classroom is a place where students learn how to read, write, and expand all of their language skills, but it is much more. It is a laboratory where they learn how to be confident, self-determined, kind, and democratic members of a community. The design of a classroom supports the building of community. Although the materials and organization of space will vary from grade to grade, here are 6 characteristics of classrooms that build strong communities.

  1. Welcoming and Inviting. Bright colors, beanbag chairs, and lamp all help to create a welcoming space. The intention is not to fill the room with furniture, but you do want to create a pleasant, comfortable place for students.
  2. Organized and Tidy. Clutter increases stress. The more organized the classroom, the more independent your students will become, the less of your time they will require, and the more time you will have for teaching. Materials should be clearly organized and labeled, and the work that takes place in each area should be visible at a glance.
  3. Rich with Materials. Fill your classroom with books, writing tools, art materials, manipulatives, references, computers, tablets, and other technological resources. This can be difficult criterion to meet because it depends on the resources of the school district. But, at least where books are concerned, you can increase their richness by visiting garage sales, checking out books from libraries, asking parents and friends to donate, writing for grants, and appealing to the business and social community.
  4. Includes Group Meeting Space. If you want to form a community, students must have a place to meet together and talk every day. For young children, a colorful rug with space enough to accommodate the class sitting on the floor in rows or in a circle. Older students can also sit on the floor in a circle or they can move chairs from their tables to make a circle in the same area.
  5. Includes Personal Space. Instead of individual desks, many teachers use tables or desks that can be combined in flexible ways. But students also need a personal space. If they do not have a desk, they can have a cubby or personal book box where they keep personal documents like a reader's notebook, writer's notebook, independent reading books, etc.
  6. Shows What is Valued. A classroom must be alive with student work. You can start the year with relatively blank walls because your students are going to fill them with a variety of products that show student input and student wrok. The greatest motivation you can give your students is to display their work. Change displays as the year progresses. And at the end of the year, let students take them home. You'll be starting again with a new group.

From Guiding Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.