Need to be Amazed? Open a Book!

There are so many wonderful things available, it’s a matter of digging deep and finding it. There are lots of book lovers out there. Book lovers of all types, genres, and walks of life. It doesn’t matter though, because the one thing we have in common is the love of that astonishing thing: a book.


Read Alouds = Love

I LOVE READ ALOUDS! I love reading aloud. I’ll read aloud to my class of 6th, 7th, or 8th graders. I read aloud to my pre-schoolers. I read I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems to my dogs, but I’ll get to that in a minute. There’s just something about reading the text out loud and being able to share a favorite book with others that’s fantastic. I don’t understand why as a society we automatically think because our students are out of elementary school they don’t need or are too old for a read aloud. You are NEVER too old! There is definitely a benefit to reading aloud to middle school students. As a teacher you have more life experience to apply to the story and give the character a voice (Ivey, 2003). This is one of my favorite things to do when reading aloud to students. It’s captivating to see 6th graders so attentive and into a story. Their reaction and excitement to see their teacher create voices for a story is priceless. As Ivey (2003) mentioned, using a read aloud to introduce a book to your students or introduce a unit is one way to get their attention. This creates interest and the feeling of wanting more. Many times when I do a read aloud and read the first sentence, or even the first chapter, students are intrigued and wanting more. Even though we can say “don’t judge a book by its cover” a million times, what’s the first thing my students do? Pick up the book, glance at the cover, (some actually read the back) and then either decide they like it or put it back. With a read aloud you dangle a precious piece of the story in front of them, hoping they’ll bite. And most of the time with a great read aloud, they will.

(I couldn’t resist this!)

For example, and maybe it’s just Mo Willems, I Broke My Trunk! is something I would read to my middle schoolers. They would eat it up, just like my dogs. (Okay, maybe my dogs were more amused with how I was acting…)  I wouldn’t even have to finish reading it, just start it and I guarantee it’d be picked up as soon as I set it down. I think any of Mo Willems books are excellent for read alouds. I am in love with the pigeon! 🙂

There are so many ways to use read alouds in the classroom: for fun, information, modeling, and to get students interested. One way I have used it in my classroom is allow a student to do a read in front of their peers. They wanted to participate and volunteered willingly. It was also great practice for reading fluency and inflection. This is something that would be excellent to incorporate into book talks. After watching/listening to Neil Gaiman read The Graveyard Book, I did a little exploring online to find some websites with read alouds. Here are a few I found:

(so this one is not necessarily read alouds, but it does have celebrities reading posters, like the one above)

Makes me wonder what would happen if they were able to get Justin Bieber on a read poster…


Ivey, G. (2003). ‘The teacher makes it more explainable’ and other reasons to read aloud in the intermediate grades. Reading Teacher, 56(8), 812.


Plans for a New School Year: Final Response to Independent Reading

With such a condensed course and whirlwind read on Independent Reading, I feel the new ideas and strategies are going to take some time to sink in. (Good thing it’s summer and I’ll have a few weeks to ponder these new ideas!) A wealth of information is given by Moss and Young (2010) on how to incorporate effective independent reading time into your daily routine. Just like anything else in your classroom, independent reading needs to be a structured classroom activity.  When I had my students participate before, it’s not that it wasn’t structured, it just wasn’t what it should have been. I would encourage my students to use their reading strategies during that time, but we never had extended conversations on what they used and why. Next school year I want to incorporate these types of conversations so students can hear what their peers say about strategies and it also gives me some insight to what my students are doing when they’re reading independently. I also had my students do a reading log, which held them accountable in a way, and we would do some “book talks” after they finished a book. Our reading log wasn’t very extensive and I would like to add the interesting words column and the response start sentences (from the powerpoint). I’m excited for next year because I would really like to incorporate the different types of book talks they described to be used during the community reading time. I especially like the Grab bag book talk (Moss & Young, 2010) because I feel the middle schoolers would love finding the objects to go with their book. I’ve found that with my past students, they love to share… anything. Incorporating that love of sharing and storytelling into book talk mode is going to be a great outlet for them.

Another thing I want to use in the classroom is the Genre Wheel. What a neat way to make sure students read various genres! This gives them a visual of what they’re read and what they still need to try to read. Exploring the websites also gave insight to all of the good resources available to teachers and students for finding books of interest. The internet is full of resources and sometimes it gets overwhelming searching and searching to find one that is credible. The Goldilocks rule and five-finger test (Moss & Young, 2010) are both something I will incorporate into my classroom routine next year. This past year, students would self-select their books and then I would usually have them read a page or two to me to see how they did reading. I need to start allowing them the responsibility of deciding if they are able to read a book. I think this will give them ownership and it won’t be someone telling them they can’t do something, they will be the ones deciding if they can.

One thing I’m truly embarrassed to admit is that it never really occurred to me to use the silent reading rate to help determine the amount of time to dedicate to reading. (I’m really rather ashamed…) I did take into consideration if a student was a slower reader the amount of pages they would be required to read, but it wasn’t based on their reading rate. This is something I plan to utilize next school year. Audio books are another thing I want to incorporate into my classroom. Our school doesn’t have the equipment for each student to have an audio book, but this is something I plan to create a Donor’s Choose project.

I’m excited to start allowing my students more involvement in our classroom library. My goal for the new year is to display less books, but display in a manner that is appealing to the students. Rotating the library collection is another goal. This helps keep the bookshelf manageable and gives the students variety. At the beginning of the year I also want my students to help categorize the classroom library. This allows them the opportunity to see what titles are in the library and also helps with their understanding of categorizing. Although our book didn’t mention this directly, I’m going to incorporate lessons on award winning books. I think our students deserve knowing books receive awards and why those awards are important.

I’m definitely looking forward to starting this next year off right. I’m even planning on giving a speech similar to this one.

Mr. Sharp LOVES Reading from  (A really neat blog if you haven’t checked it out!)



Moss, B. & Young, T. A. (2010). Creating lifelong learners through independent reading. Neward, DE: International Reading Association.


Donor’s Choose Project Request

Here’s hoping! 🙂

Books Need Readers: Independent Reading Plan

We believe that students need books and books need readers. (Moss and Young, 2010)

Independent Reading Literature Review

Discovering a book and getting lost in its story is one of the most amazing thing texts can provide for us. Participating in these repeated experiences of the positive power text can have over us “involve true engagement with books [and] help students develop a love of reading that may last a lifetime” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 1). Students need to participate and practice independent reading in and outside of school to help strengthen their skills as readers. As defined by Moss and Young (2010), independent reading is:
self-selected reading, or leisure reading, that students do on their own in or out of school, with or without accompanying instruction. (p. 4)

Independent reading allows students the opportunity to choose their reading material instead of reading from the required text book or basal reader which usually does not have much, if anything, of interest to the students (Moss & Young, 2010). Allowing students the opportunity to select their text gives them the ownership of what they are reading and they are more likely to be engaged with the text. Teachers need to help students understand the importance of choosing books that are at their correct reading, or as defined by Palumbo and Willcutt (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010) their “recreational” level, meaning students are able to read the majority of the text with accuracy and comprehend most of the words.

One thing teachers need to understand is that independent reading is “a critical component of a quality reading program, but it cannot be the entire reading program” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 4). A teacher cannot just ask students to take out their independent reading books and read for 20 minutes each day and that is the only reading time. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or NICHD (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010) “independent reading is not effective when used as the only type of literacy instruction” (p. 8). This also applies to the thought that students don’t need to do independent reading if they receive explicit instruction. Pearson (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010) stated, “all the explicit instruction in the world will not make strong readers unless accompanied by lots of experience applying their knowledge, skills, and strategies during actual reading” (p. 3). Using independent reading allows students the opportunity to apply skills that they have learned during other reading activities, such as shared reading and guided reading (Moss & Young, 2010). Students need a balance of explicit instruction on reading skills and also the opportunity to apply those skills independently.  Independent reading benefits the building of vocabulary and fluency, improves comprehension and reading achievement, allows for greater domain and background knowledge, and helps students become motivated, confident young readers (Moss & Young, 2010).

Students benefit from independent reading because it provides time to practice the skills they have acquired during other lessons. Exposure to text on their recreational level is extremely important for students to move forward. In order to increase vocabulary, students need exposure to the language, not direct teaching. According to Cunningham and Stanovich (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010), books and other text materials allow students to gain access to rare words that are not used in daily conversation such as adult speech, radio, or television. Allowing students’ time for independent reading gives them time to be exposed to text and increase their vocabulary. Inquiry based reading, or basically self-selected text, gives students the opportunity to gain general knowledge, build schemas, and gain domain knowledge (Moss & Young, 2010). Although students do gain knowledge from reading texts selected by the teacher, they are more likely to stay engaged and read longer when they are able to choose the topic they want to learn more. These periods of longer reading and staying engaged help students create reading “stamina” which builds their ability to concentrate on long passages (Moss & Young, 2010).

Another benefit of independent reading is the extended time students are allowed to practice their reading. As with anything else in life, to gain success you have to practice. Moss and Young (2010) state that “wide reading experiences may provide a powerful accompaniment to fluent practice” (p. 13). This practice not only helps students increase fluency, but comprehension as well. Cunningham and Stanovich (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010) made the statement that:

A child who reads abundantly develops greater reading skills, a larger vocabulary and more general knowledge about the world. In return, they have increased reading comprehension, and, therefore, enjoy more pleasurable reading experiences and are encourage to read even more. (p. 3)

Researchers Guthrie and Greaney (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010) mention that books that are of high-interest to students are more pleasurable to read and result in students reading for longer periods of time. Allowing students to self-select books and read them independently is a highly motivation factor to encouraging students to build their reading skills (Moss & Young, 2010).

Although the concept of independent reading is for students to read independently, they should be held accountable in some form or fashion to be sure their time is not wasted. This accountability helps students recognize that “although time for reading can and should provide enjoyment, it represents a part of the school day that is meaningful and focused on a task” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 4-5). Just like the student, the teacher needs to understand what independent reading means for the classroom. Like any other reading activity or instruction, “it should be planned, structured, and made a part of students’ daily literacy experiences (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 5).  The goal of any literacy program is to help students become self-fulfilling readers. This goal is one that cannot be accomplished by the teacher and student alone, but with support of the parents, communities, and even school librarians. As Moss and Young (2010) stated:

Careful guidance, along with school and community support, can help students become successful, engaged independent readers who grow into book-loving adults. (p. 7)

Maintaining a structured learning environment during independent reading time allows students’ to be comfortable with the surrounds and aware of their job as a reader. Every student is at a different place in their reading journey and the teacher needs to be aware in order to guide that student in the right direction. One of the most important jobs for the teacher is to be a reading model for students. Cameron and Pierce (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010) discuss that if students see your positive reaction to reading, your enjoyment, they are more likely to influence to become lifelong learners. Creating a structured learning environment, whether it be fluency development or scaffolding instruction (Moss & Young, 2010), is beneficial to increasing students’ reading skills. Teachers need to be sure students are provided with supportive reading environments and are engaged with texts in order to have success.

Creating the Space

Depending on the purpose of reading, for pleasure or information, the space and surrounding area is extremely important. Some of the most comfortable reading spaces are ones that are cozy, not overwhelming, and pleasing to the eye. Above all, classroom libraries need to exude comfort and entice students to want to read. Creating this atmosphere is a thorough process that many over look. According to Moss and Young (2010) classroom libraries need to have the following: attractive and accessible areas, large enough to hold four or five students, cozy seating, wide variety of texts (including picture books, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s magazines), books available in students’ home languages, feature books displayed on open-faced shelves, selections rotated throughout the school year, a listening center, and simple procedures for checking books out. (p. 37)

These things create a space that is ideal for students to flourish in. This past year I was able to obtain a couch which helped create a “library” space in the classroom. Below is a picture of the past year’s classroom library.

As pictured, the physical space is cozy; however, the problem I need to work on is displaying books and organizing how they are categorized. I thought I was doing a great thing, putting out as many books as I could on the book shelves to give variety, when in reality I was creating a bigger problem by overwhelming the students with choices. As Moss and Young (2010) stated:

When you make classroom libraries more appealing and accessible, you increase the chances that students feel comfortable during their library visits. (p. 41)

My goal for next year is to allow the students to help organize how the books are categorized. This will allow the students to become familiar with genre and categories, the material in classroom library as well as know what is available to them (Moss & Young, 2010). A few more shelves, bins, or spaces to display books are also needed to create an accessible library. The students would also help create some type of map or visual to depict how they’ve arranged the library. I’d like to try to get some bean bags to help create more of a boundary for where the classroom library is and also provide more seating. Our classroom library also has some pillows and carpet squares that can be used for seating. Another idea mentioned by Moss and Young (2010) is to find unique places for students to read such as a small boat, canoe, or bathtub.

Along with creating a specific space, is the idea of library centers. I did something similar last year, but instead of permanent library centers, I had temporary ones. I would visit the public library and check out some books on a topic we were studying for a particular unit, for example Native Americans. These would be displayed on our work table and accessible for the students at anytime during the class. I wouldn’t let the students take these out of the classroom because they did not belong to our classroom library. However, students are allowed to check books out of the classroom library, one book at a time. The process for checking books out is a check out/in log book that the students record their name, the book title, and the date. When the book is returned, I highlight their name and initial and date. This system worked well in our classroom last year. Next year, I would like to do the same thing, but have a student be the classroom librarian and be in charge of checking books in and out as suggested by Moss and Young (2010).

Creating the Collection

As mentioned in a previous post, I was very fortunate to have a retired teacher donate her classroom library (and other great classroom materials, Thanks Mrs. Sink!) to me. This was an excellent start to my classroom library that I’ll forever be grateful. On average, a classroom library should have approximately seven to twelve books per student (Moss & Young, 2010). I feel my classroom library meets this expectation; but, I will always feel the need to expand what I have. (Just ask my husband about our home library.) I collect books from various places and always keep an eye out for a deal. My favorite places to expand my library (personal and classroom) are yard sales,, and discount stores like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. I was able to get a class set of City of Bones by Clarissa Fray for approximate $40 at Ollie’s. As suggested by Moss and Young (2010) another way to build classroom libraries is to have students create their own books. This allows students to apply what they know about books, be creative, and actively contribute to the classroom library.

When building a classroom library it is important to keep in mind the audience in which the books are for and the type of materials needed. Moss and Young (2010) say it best, “book selection is a continuing quest to locate those works that help students to develop a love for reading and to experience growth as readers” (p. 46). Teaching struggling readers in middle school, I’m trying to build my library to have a variety of high-interest, low-level books on various topics. I preface the year by instilling in my students that we all read at different levels and paces, and that is okay. Taking into consideration the books that are already in the classroom library, I would like to add more non-fiction books, graphic novels, award winning books and magazines. Here are some titles I would like to include:

Sports Illustrated for Kids
Discover Kids

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Game Changers by Mike Lupica

Graphic Novels:
Around the World by Matt Phelan
Babymouse! Series by Jennifer Holm

Non-Fiction Books:
Today’s Air Force Heroes by Miriam Aronin
Bomb Sniffing Dogs by Meish Goldish

Picture Yourself Writing Poetry; Using Photos to Inspire Writing by Laura Purdie Salas

Picture Books:
Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, A Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss and John Hendrix

Content Areas:
Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air by Stewart Ross
Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
The Shocking Truth About Energy by Loreen Leedy
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts by Gretchen Woelfle

In addition to these specific titles, I would see how my students respond to the reading interest surveys at the beginning of the year. According to their response, I’d research titles on their interests to add to the classroom library because a library should always be changing and expanding. Also, why should a classroom library be limited to just a corner? Along with printed texts, I’d also create a virtual library on our classroom’s website, or even within our classroom blog, with links to various online resources. This would expand student expose to various types of texts. Some sites to include would be:

 Key Components of My Independent Reading Program

Moss and Young (2010) suggest that an Independent Reading Program need to have two main components: “20 minutes of community reading time at least twice a week and 60 minutes devoted to supported independent reading time (SIRT) every day” (p. 69). In middle school, I have 60 minutes with the students each day. Actually, by the time they arrive in the classroom and get settled, it’s 55 minutes. I would love to have 60 minutes every day to devote to SIRT, but in the middle school setting it is extremely difficult. Therefore, I have developed a plan for the school week that I think will work for my middle school classroom. I definitely understand the importance of independent reading and plan to incorporate it into the daily routine. I would like to start off the week with community reading time (20 minutes) and a book talk/read aloud incorporating the weekly feature book. I would choose a book that would go along with our topic for the week and read a page or two from the book. I’d invite students to predict, discuss, and question the read aloud. After that, I would allow time for students to do book talks either whole group or small groups. As Moss and Young (2010) suggest, book talks can take “several interesting forms” such as “cliffhangers, character based, first sentences, grab bag, ten questions, and readers theatre teaser” (p. 70 -71). I think allowing students to participate in book talks at the beginning of the week sets the tone for the rest of the week and the mentality that books can be fun. This helps develop the sense of community, gives students the opportunity to share with their peers, and will hopefully give students something to look forward to at the beginning of the week. “Book talks should create excitement for books and alert students to the many possibilities found within the classroom or school library” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 71). We would also dedicate time at the end of the week for book talk activities as well.

I think at least 20 minutes each day would work for SIRT in the middle school classroom. This doesn’t mean some days I would devote more time, for example on the days that we don’t do the book talks more time could be dedicated to SIRT. On days that the book talks are on, students would have time to read (approximately 10-15 minutes), some students would participate in student-teacher conferences, and then respond to their reading (approximately 5-10 minutes). On days that we don’t participate in the book talks, more time will be dedicated to an SIRT lesson. Students will be introduced to a focus topic or idea which will be modeled for them (approximately 15 – 20 minutes), given guided practice time to try the strategy (5 – 10 minutes), and then given the independent reading time to practice the strategy (approximately 10 – 15 minutes) and then respond (Moss & Young, 2010). During their reading time, more student-teacher conferences will be conducted to evaluate how the students are doing with their chosen book, and then students will take time to respond to their reading and the strategy. At the beginning of the year, I plan to teach students strategies for choosing books and staying focused while reading. For example, Taberski (as cited in Moss & Young, 2010) suggests The Goldilocks Rule to find if a book is just right for the reader as well as using the five-finger test. The five-finger test is where “students select a page and count, using their fingers, the number of unknown words, and if there are more than 5 unknown words, the book may be too difficult” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 43).

As stated by Moss and Young (2010) there are many reasons for a teacher to have conferences with a student which include: gathering data about the ways a student selects a book, assessing the student’s ability to effectively assess a book, and exploring difficulties a student encounters in using independent reading time efficiently. (p. 82) I also feel having student-teacher conferences enforces that the students are being held accountable for what they read, even if they are reading for pleasure. Students can respond to the text in many different forms. For example, Moss and Young (2010) suggest students “complete graphic organizers, create artistic responses or PowerPoint, or maintain a blog” (p. 85). Students become responsible for their record keeping by creating “reading interest forms, reading logs, responses to reading materials, and self-evaluation rubrics” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 86) that help aid the student during the teacher conferences. As Moss and Young (2010) state, “accountability is key to a successful reading program” (p. 25). Responding to reading is important because these activities “often deepen students’ understanding and appreciation for the text read and students are motivated to read a book after observing the shared responses of their peers” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 107). In addition to reading logs, students can respond to literature by creating various pieces of art, such as a collage or art study, or they can respond with drama by creating a readers theatre or doing a choral reading. Students can also respond with writing by doing book reviews, creating poetry or respond with technology by creating a blog or book advertisement (Moss & Young, 2010). As a teacher, it is also my responsibility to maintain records and notes of students’ reaction during their reading time, book talks, and conferences.

Linking Literacy Instruction with Independent Reading Experiences

            Every teacher’s goal for their students should be for them to become independent with whatever activity they are doing. Teachers should provide scaffolded instruction and this model is called the gradual release of responsibility model (GRR) founded by Pearson and Gallagher (as cited in Moss and Young, 2010).  Incorporating GRR model with SIRT can help create valuable lessons for any classroom. When introducing a strategy for reading, the best way is to model what is expected for students. This allows them to see how the strategy is conducted and what exactly needs to be done. Teachers can use a read aloud, “stopping periodically to model the strategy through a think-aloud” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 94). This continues with a shared reading where as a large group the class practices the strategy together, the teacher reading aloud and the students helping with the think-aloud. After the students have participated as a whole class, they get in small groups to practice as the teacher provides support when needed. Once the students have practiced the strategy with a small group, they then do independent reading and apply the strategy. At the teacher’s discretion, students may be partnered to make sure they fully understand the strategy before attempting individually (Moss & Young, 2010). Independent reading provides practice for the students and gives them real examples and experiences to use their strategies. After students have had the opportunity to apply the strategies during the independent reading, time to share how and why they used the strategies should be provided. Students need be sure to describe “how using that particular strategy helped strengthen their comprehension, how the strategy could be used for future readings, identify the strategy or strategies that helped them comprehend the pieces, and note the conditions that contributed to their comprehension” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 96). Strategies for comprehension, vocabulary, text features, navigational devices, story grammar, and text structures of informational text can all be taught using the GRR model and practiced during independent reading (Moss & Young, 2010).  Most importantly, teachers should be incorporating these skills into reading in the content areas. The strategies used for fiction are very different from informational texts, and students need to be aware of how and what strategies to use and when. Incorporating content areas into independent reading will help students gain background knowledge of that subject area as well as know how to use strategies when reading for that subject. As best stated by Moss and Young (2010), ‘through independent content are reading, students develop the literacy skills they need to succeed in the world of the 21st century” (p. 145).


Moss, B. & Young, T. A. (2010). Creating lifelong learners through independent reading. Neward, DE: International Reading Association.

Reading Interest Inventory Plan

I think interest inventories are a fantastic classroom tool to help teachers begin to understand students and their reading background. I’ve used them in my classroom at the beginning of the year, however, this past year the results were rather upsetting. The students I worked with were below level readers which caused them to become reluctant readers. The responses I received to questions like “What kind of books do you like to read?” were “None, I don’t like to read” or “I don’t read.” After doing some exploring and looking at various interest inventories, I’ve started to understand it’s all in the wording. To start, I don’t need to find out what exact books my students like, but what subjects do they enjoy gaining information about or involving themselves in. Understanding the subjects they enjoy (and of course their independent reading levels) will help open up doors and allow them to be successful with reading. These reluctant readers are automatically turned off by the mention of “reading” and “books” that they often don’t open up. I have to find ways to get them interested and engaged in reading to where they become more likely to want to read. Therefore, after taking these students into consideration, I’ve created the following interest inventory:

Reading Interest Inventory

  1. What do you like to do outside of school?
  2. What do you like to learn about?
  3. Where do you get the information for the things you like to learn about?
  4. What is your favorite school subject and why?
  5. What would you like to learn more about this school year?
  6. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  7. What kind of things do you like to read?
  8. If you were going to start a movie/tv club, what kind of movies/shows would your club watch?
  9. Where is your favorite place to read at home? At school?
    Complete these sentences:
  10. The best book I’ve read is _________________________________________.
  11. The best book someone read to me is __________________________________.
  12. When I hear the work reading I think of ________________________________.
  13. Tell me three words that describe what reading feels like.

__________________  _____________________  ____________________

  1. Please circle the topics below that sound interesting to you.

Animals                       Sports              Funny stories               Science            Fairy tales        Historical stories      People your age           Poetry              History            Math                Famous People            Mysteries      Health             Adventure Stories       Music              Fantasy            World Cultures           Scary Stories         Cooking          Art


Along with the websites provided to help in creating an interest inventory, I found this resource for upper elementary/middle school students:

The questions start off more geared toward personal interests and then I’ve mixed in some that are specific to reading and books. I’m hoping by putting the questions in this order, they’ll be more likely to answer honestly and provide a foundation to begin their year reading in a personal and positive manner.

I’d also like to send home a reading interest inventory for parents to fill out to gather more background information on the student as a reader at home.


Parents Reading Interest Inventory:

Dear Parents and Guardians,
Welcome to a new school year! I look forward to working with your student. Our class will be working on our reading skills all year, during school as well as at home. Your support is greatly appreciated at home. As we begin our school year, I would like to find out what kind of reading your student does at home. Please take a moment to fill out the survey below and send it back as soon as possible.

  1. How much time does your student spend (on average) reading at home during the week?
  2. What kind of reading does your student do? (Books, magazines, websites, etc)
  3. Where does your student get their reading material? (School library, Public Library, Home, etc)
  4. What are your student’s interests outside of school?
  5. Does your student discuss books with you? What kind of discussion about books have you had?

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or call the school directly. Thank you for your support and cooperation!

Mrs. Sprinkle


Using this letter, I hope to make parents/guardians aware of the importance of reading in our classroom and get them thinking about their own involvement with their student’s reading. Both of these reading interest inventories would be conducted at the beginning of the school year to get started with finding books for independent reading. The first week of school is always dedicated to getting to know the students and for them to understand what is expected from them during the school year. This interest inventory as well as classroom discussion the first week on activities outside of class can lend an insight into what the students may prefer to read. By understand what students’ interests are, “we can guide students to select books from the classroom library that will allow them to become engaged readers” (Moss & Young, 2010, p. 56).

Now, is my classroom library sufficient? It’s not to where I would like it to be, that’s for sure. I think we will always be working toward a more sufficient classroom library. There are so many materials out there and our classroom dynamic is always changing. I was fortunate to receive several tubs of books from a teacher who retired. She taught elementary and many of the books are 2nd through 4th reading level. However, this has worked out in my classroom because many of my students are low readers. My classroom library has a range of texts including fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, a few magazines, and some picture books. Although I have a wide variety of books, many of the books are considered “old” by my students (apparently 1990’s is old) because of their appearance. I’ve started collecting books from yard sales,, and discount stores to increase my collection of “newer” books. When the school has our book fair, I’ll follow my students and see what books they pick up, carry around, or point out to each other. These are some the books I try to purchase for my library.

Mainly my classroom library consists of various fiction books that are geared more towards girls, but I feel it is missing non-fiction books and books geared toward boys. I have a subscription to National Geographic Kids which has proved to be an excellent resource for all students. I have some multicultural books, for example Esperanza Rising, but feel the classroom library could benefit from some more of these as well. My classroom library also has many award winning books, such as the Caldecott and Newbery Award books. Thinking about my students from this previous year helps project the types of books for next year. Although every group of students is different, I can take the main things I know I need more and begin there. I would like to obtain more sport oriented books and Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine. I’d also like to get more biographical and informational books on various topics. Coming of age stories are wonderful for the age group I teach and I think they’d be a perfect fit for my classroom library. Again, our classroom libraries are always growing and changing as our students do.



Moss, B. & Young, T. A. (2010). Creating lifelong learners through independent reading. Neward, DE: International Reading Association.

Space Contributions: Internet Workshop

With permission, I was able to create an internet workshop connected to a topic of my choice that connects to a unit of study in my classroom. With 6th grade, the past two years I’ve done a unit on biographies and autobiographies. I wanted to explore another area to connect across the curriculum and I happened upon the book Look to the Stars by Buzz Aldrin on This connects the 6th grade science essential standards dealing with contributions to space exploration and I saw the perfect opportunity to connect biographies! Frye, Trathen, and Koppenhaver (2010) weren’t kidding when they stated that:

…locating child-friendly Web sites that students can easily read, navigate, and comprehend, and that provide accurate information can be more time-consuming than teachers sometimes anticipate. (p. 47)

Although it was time consuming, it will definitely be worth using in the future with my students. I didn’t create a bookmarking website, but I will create a blog to use with the class that will have these sites listed (just as it is below). I would hopefully be able to publish the finished product of arguments on which is the biggest contribution to space exploration and the written biographies. By publishing the hard work of students, teachers “increase the authenticity of student learning” and also help students realize that their work is being exposed to a “wider audience response beyond the local classroom community” (Frye, Trathen, & Koppenhaver, 2010, p. 50).


Frye, E. M., Trathen, W., & Koppenhaver, D. A. (2010). Internet workshop and blog publishing: Meeting student (and teacher) learning needs to achieve best practice in the twenty-first-century social studies classroom. The Social Studies, 101(2), 46-53.

Prior to this workshop, I would familiarize my students with navigating a websites and their content. With this workshop, I would explore a few of the websites in the classroom using an active board to assure the students understood how to navigate before allowing them time alone with their partner in the computer lab. This internet workshop would also take place over several days to allow students time to explore, write, edit, and share.

Internet Workshop: Space Contributions

Essential Standards:


6.E.1 Understand the earth/moon/sun system, and the properties, structures and predictable motions of celestial bodies in the Universe.

Objective:  6.E.1.3 Summarize space exploration and the understandings gained from them.

ELA Common Core:

RL 6.9. Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

RI 6.1. Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

RI 6.2. Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

RI 6.7. Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

RI 6.8. Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

W 6.1. Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
a. Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.
b. Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.
d. Establish and maintain a formal style.
e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.

As a class we will read: Look to the Stars by Buzz Aldrin

Before exploring sites, think about the book and write down your answers in your english journal.

What are some contributes that have been made to space exploration?

Why do you think these are important?

Students, explore these sites below taking notes as you read.

Space Shuttles:

Video on Space Shuttle History:


You will explore these sites and answer the following questions in complete sentences in your english journals:

  • Why is a space shuttle different from an airplane?
  • What are the main parts of a space shuttle?
  • What do space shuttles do?
  • What are three famous space shuttles in U.S. History?
  • What is the most important part of a space shuttle?
  • What are the main types of telescopes?
  • How do they work?
  • What do telescopes do? (What are they used for?)
  • What is the most important part of a telescope? 

Now that you have explored the sites, in your words:

With a partner create a paper using the above resources and information:

  • Which is the biggest contribution to space exploration: space shuttles or telescopes?

Provide clear details and support your opinions using the information provided from the websites. Be ready to justify your response through a class debate.

Space Explorations and Contributions Figures/Astronaut Biographies:

Choose an astronaut and create a biographical writing. It can be written from their point of view (similar to Look to the Stars by Buzz Aldrin), as a story, a journal entry, an interview or a poem. Be creative! Include their contribution(s) in your writing. Explore the sites listed below and also refer back to Look to the Stars by Buzz Aldrin for people who contributed to space exploration. (Think about our discussion in class.) Think about:

Who you would like to write about/from their point of view? What was their contribution to space? What did they do? Why were they important?

Explore these sites that contain Biographies:

These biographies will be shared with the class and on our class blog.

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