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Daily Lit Bit

June 13. 2017

Teacher Tip: Write Letters Between You and Your Students

Your goal in using a reader’s notebook is to help students extend and express their thinking about reading. Being expected to write about their thinking places an extra layer of consciousness on readers. They are more likely to remember details and to store up responses they feel deeply about and want to include in their writing.

Letters between you and your students are a collection of thoughts over time as they develop as readers. Think of them as a written conversation about books. You can help children better communicate their thinking in several ways:

  1. You can model and demonstrate ways of expressing thinking through minilessons. Write a series of letters yourself and share them, letting students notice places where you have written about your thinking in various ways—noticing the language of the text, critiquing the text, making personal connections, comparing and connecting texts, and so on.
  2. You can talk with students about their letters during conferences, providing specific feedback.
  3. Students can bring their notebooks to the community meeting, finding places in their letters where they demonstrated their thinking and sharing selected paragraphs from their journals with partners or in small groups.
  4. You can lift or scaffold student’s thinking through your ongoing written exchanges with them.

Once you begin using reader’s notebooks, you’ll find that responding to students is fascinating rather than arduous If you enter into a genuine conversation, keeping strategic actions in mind, you will inevitably stretch your students’ thinking.

From Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

June 6. 2017

Help Students Choose Books for Independent Reading: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

The ability to choose books is not something you can expect your students to know. It is something you need to teach. What you are enthusiastic about and recommend is very powerful.

Here are some suggestions for helping students choose their independent reading books:

  • Have the collection well sorted and labeled by topic, genre, theme, author, illustrator.
  • As you observe student interests, create more baskets for particular topics, authors, or types of books.
  • Have a “book recommendations” rack.
  • Have students help set up new-book baskets.
  • Put books you have used in book talks on display so that they are easy to find.
  • Create book baskets that connect books: “If you liked ____, you’ll love ____.”
  • Create “exclusive” baskets of selections for individual students if needed.
  • Give book talks that motivate and legitimize student book choices (e.g., easy books, more difficult).
  • Provide as many minilessons as needed to help students understand how to choose just-right books.
  • Communicate to the entire class that choosing a just-right book, not a difficult book, is the expectation for the reading workshop.
  • Through conferences, help students learn to evaluate their own choices.
  • Share book reviews from journals or websites.

From Teaching for Comprehending & Fluency by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.