Independent Reading: A look in a kindergarten classroom

2014-12-17 11.45.29Independent reading time is a key component of any reader’s workshop. It looks different at every grade level. What’s important is that we have a time, daily, for kids to read by themselves or with a partner, to choose what they read, and to have time to talk about what they are reading. In my kindergarten classroom, we have book boxes and a book box time every day.  Every child has their own box. Inside the box is a variety of books. There is a Ziplock bag with their “just-right” books. In the bag there are guided reading books, paper books that we have read together as shared reading charts throughout the week, ABC charts, name books, cut apart sentences from guided reading groups and ABC books. Children know that they are to read their baggie books first. There are also “look books” – books they can read the pictures or retell the story. They can choose 5-7 “look books” to put in their book box. These are library books, books from our classroom library and favorites that have been read aloud. This might be a super cool book on snakes, a Pete the Cat book we’ve read out loud several times, a Mo Willems or Todd Parr book from our author study or any good book they find on our shelves. Finally, each child has a poem and song binder that is full of poems and songs we’ve read together as shared reading pieces. Our book box time is social, full of energy and full of engaged kindergarten readers – reading the words, reading the pictures, retelling the books, making decisions as readers and talking about books. Children choose a cozy nook to read, they decide if they are reading by themselves, with a partner or with a group, and they choose what they read – just like readers do. Here is a glimpse into our book box time. Enjoy!

A Few Words for Parents

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It’s evening story time and as your child reads through a new book she suddenly comes to a difficult word and stops. What do you do? Do you give her the word? Or do you say “sound it out”?

Many teachers are beginning to realize that, although “sound it out” often comes to their lips, it isn’t necessarily the best response. The English language is not consistently phonetic so it is not helpful, or even fair, to tell a child to “sound out” words like said, night, or know, just to cite a few familiar examples.

A better strategy is to give your child a little support by saying, “Hmm, what would make sense there?” or point to the picture. Sometimes encouraging the child to go back and reread the sentence from the beginning helps as well. It’s important for story time to remain stress-free, so if your child is getting frustrated by too many unfamiliar words, just give her the word or read the entire book to her.

Here are some answers to other common concerns parents have about their child’s reading:

My child memorizes books, instead of reading them. Is this OK?

This is not unusual for very young readers, but we don’t want them to get the wrong impression about reading. We want children to understand that reading is not about memorizing books or lists of words, but rather about making the story make sense. Figuring out the words, attending to the print, and making the sentence make sense are all part of reading. If you run into this problem, maybe your child is ready to move on to books where the pattern changes. It is OK for her to do some real work while reading.

My child seems to know a word one day, but then she forgets it the next day. Should I put the words on cards and drill her on them?

Kids need to see the same words many times in a variety of settings to get to know that word. It’s better for her to see a word in an actual book than on flash cards, out of context. She may come to think that reading is just about accurately calling the words and not about understanding the full story or book. It’s normal for beginning readers to have words that are only ‘partially known.’ The more they encounter those words in authentic reading and writing situations, the more familiar the words will become. Eventually those words will become fully known and instantly recognized.

Should I give my child prizes for every book she reads?

It is great to encourage a child to read more, but reading should be its own reward. When we offer kids pizza or stickers for reading a certain number of books, we are actually sending a message that reading is something unpleasant so we have to resort to prizes to get them to read. Also, when kids are counting the number of books they read in a race for a prize, they often sacrifice quality for quantity. When you take your child to the library or a bookstore, spend some time finding books she enjoys. Ask her what she wants to learn more about or what kind of books she likes to read. Make a special time each evening for you and your child to sit down and read together.

How do I know my child understands what she’s reading? What should I do when she finishes a book?

While she’s reading, you can tell if your child understands if she laughs at the funny parts, talks about what the characters are doing, or connects to an experience of her own. Encourage these responses. But if your child pauses or reads the punctuation wrong, these are hints that she might be losing the overall meaning of the story. Encourage her to slow down and reread those parts; talk together about what’s happening in the book. Just talking naturally will help you know whether your child understands the story. You can start a conversation with some questions like “What was your favorite part?” “Did it remind you of anything?” or “What did you think of that book?”

If my child is struggling with reading, should I take her to one of those learning centers or buy a kit to teach her how to read?

Talk to your child’s teacher if you think she is struggling. Learning centers and expensive computer programs might help your child pass a test, but they won’t help her build good reading strategies in the long run. A reading tutor who can support what is going on in the classroom and work together with your child’s teacher is a much better option.

Note: If you are a teacher reading this post, feel free to duplicate it to use in one of your parent newsletters or to give out at parent conference time.  Also look in Chapter 11 of Catching Readers Before They Fall for more Q/A for families.

A Home Connection for Shared Reading

Illustrating the Poetry and Song Notebook

Illustrating the Poetry and Song Notebook

Every week we do a lot of shared reading in our kindergarten classroom. I typically choose two new songs or poems and one or two new mini-books each week, in addition to a big book or two. The purpose of shared reading is to make texts accessible to all children, allowing them to experience what it feels like to be a proficient reader. It is a time for us to teach about the reading process and serves as a gateway to guided reading and independent reading. A focus for a shared reading lesson at this time of the year, could include, but is not limited to the following:

*concepts about print such as voice-to-print match, left-to-right reading with return sweep, reading the left page before the right, and punctuation and what it means for the reader

*using meaning, structure and visual information to solve words and comprehend

*searching and gathering information to support word solving or comprehension

*word work and word study analogies

I feel that it’s important for families to see the shared reading we do each week and to give their child a chance to read the poem, song or book to them at home. One way that works quite well is to send home a weekly Poetry and Song Notebook. This is a 3-ring binder where children keep copies of all the poems, songs and mini-books we read each week. Every Friday we pass out copies of our shared reading and give the children a few minutes to illustrate them. They are then put in the binder and sent home for the weekend. We stress the importance of bringing these binders back to school on Monday, since they are kept in the child’s individual book box and are familiar texts that children can read independently during our reader’s workshop. I take photos of the actual charts, (thanks to a great suggestion by my teammate Sam), and put those in the binders. Here are a few examples.

Our charts are stored here for children to read during Reader's Workshop

Our charts are stored here for children to read during Reader’s Workshop

The opening letter and first song in our notebooks

The opening letter and first song in our notebooks

The charts are photographed so children see what we read in class

The charts are photographed so children see what we read in class – this is a mini-book we did after The Kissing Hand

August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event!

We are excited to be participating in the 10 for 10 Picture Books project again! This is the fourth year that Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek have hosted this compilation of blog and Twitter posts (#PB10for10) about the 10 picture books you just can’t live without.

The first five are Katie’s picks and the second five are Pat’s. Enjoy!

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Good News Bad News, by Jeff Mack is a simple text that uses only 4 words to tell the story of two friends who have very different ways of looking at the world. Kids love reading the pictures and beg for this to be read again and again.

 

 

 

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It’s a Tiger, by David LaRochelle and Jeremy Tankard.  This book was voted as the #1 Favorite by my class this year. They absolutely loved it!  A rollicking adventure with a tiger makes this an instant favorite read aloud.

 

 

 

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Beautiful Oops!, by Barney Saltzberg.  This is a wonderful book to show kids how mistakes can be something beautiful. With fun cut-outs, pop-ups and interactive pages, this book engages children and encourages them to create and not be scared of making mistakes.

 

 

 

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Press Here, by Herve Tullet. I absolutely love this fun book. The text instructs the reader to push dots, shake the book and then through your imagination the book magically comes alive. This is a must-have for your classroom library regardless of the age of your students.

 

 

 

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Ol’ Mama Squirrel, by David Ezra Stein. Mama Squirrel will do whatever it takes to protect her babies. Kids enjoy this funny story of brave Mama Squirrel. This book also has nice text features to use as a writing mentor text.

 

 

 

6140VbmaPML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson. I would not be surprised to see this book on everyone’s list of 10 for 10.  It’s a big hit with everyone I share it with, adults and children alike.  A little girl learns a lesson about kindness after being mean to one of her new classmates. This book leaves children with a desire to treat everyone with a little kindness lest you regret your missed opportunities.

 

 

 

51E7nP9Xi-L._SX300_The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, is a book filled with subtle humor.  Each crayon writes a letter to their owner telling him about why they are feeling rejected, overused, stubby, or naked. Yellow and orange fight over what color the sun really is.  I had to laugh out loud at Purple’s letter because one of my grandchildren just LOVES purple and uses up all our purple markers and crayons. This book would be fun for K-2 to hear, but also useful in upper grades for an example of point of view writing.

 

 

31y-kfs3+XL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am definitely on an “Amy Krouse Rosentahl” kick these days.  I just love her humor.   In Exclamation Point we get a quirky lesson in punctuation.  My favorite page is when the question mark shows up and asks no less than 20 questions in a row.  When reading it aloud, read these fast.  It cracks the kids up.

 

 

51TAO9fNSrL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_This one has been around since 2006, but I just discovered it.  Another A. K. Rosenthal book, One of Those Days, would pair nicely with Viorst’s classic book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. All kids will relate to “Feeling Left Out Day” and “Can’t Find Stuff Day” and “Nobody’s Listening To You Day.”  The pictures tell it all. This one is an easy mentor text for getting writing ideas too.

 

 

 

31OLeLfeF2L._SX300_Kathryn Otoshi does it again with Zero as she did with OneAnother great book with a serious message.

NEW Mrs. Wishy-Washy Books and a Giveaway!

We love Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

We love Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

We love Mrs. Wishy-Washy in our kindergarten classroom. She becomes an old friend early in the year when we read the many  early stories of her adventures with the cow, duck, and pig. The big books become treasured items in our classroom. We act out the stories using tiny toys and create interactive writing pieces based on the books. The children beg for more stories about her and get very excited when Mr. Wishy-Washy is introduced.  Last year at the Reading Recovery conference, I was excited to see that there is a whole new series starring Mrs. Wishy-Washy by the wonderful Joy Cowley. I bought single copies of the books and they became fast favorites in our classroom.

Recently, I was contacted by the publisher, Hameray Publishing, and asked to review these new titles. I turned this task over to my kindergarteners. We read the books and used them in our study of story elements including characters, setting, problem and solution. Here are some thoughts from the voices of five and six year-olds – the perfect audience for the Mrs. Wishy-Washy series.

*I like the books because they have animals in them. I like Mrs. Wishy-Washy.

*They are so funny because Mrs. Wishy-Washy is always trying to give them a bath. I liked when the animals went to a car wash. (in the book Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Wash) That was so funny!

*Joy Cowley is a smart writer. She knows how to make kids laugh. I love Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

*Mrs. Wishy-Washy is the best character ever. I like her and the Pigeon (from Mo Willems) the best!

*It was so funny when the animals put on Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s clothes (in the book Wishy-Washy Clothes). They looked funny and it made me laugh so hard!

*Joy Cowley writes books for kids that kids like. She makes the characters solve problems in a funny way. Sometimes Mrs. Wishy-Washy gets tricked by the animals. I like that!

As a teacher, I love these new books too! The Early Birds Collection is perfect for emergent readers, with easy to read text, meaningful story lines and engaging pictures and text. I’ve used these books for small group shared reading and independent reading. If I had multiple copies, they would be ideal for guided reading. The Joy Cowley Collection is excellent as well. These books are a bit more challenging, but still perfect for late kindergarten, first and second grade readers. The books engage children and provide multiple opportunities for predicting and thinking beyond the text. The stories are highly engaging and truly appeal to children at this age. Again, I have used these books in small group shared reading and for independent reading. They would be perfect guided reading texts as well.

I encourage you to visit the Hamaray website and see the new Mrs. Wishy-Washy series, as well as new books with Dan the Flying Man, the Meanies and the Hungry Giant. They also make finger puppets with the characters – perfect for a retelling station. If you love  Mrs. Wishy-Washy, you will love this new series! And if you’d like to win some of these books for your classroom, or a for the classroom of a favorite teacher, then read on…

The Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway calls for teachers, parents, friends, relatives and anyone else who wants to nominate a classroom to possibly win 90 new titles from The Joy Cowley Collection and The Joy Cowley Early Birds Collection by beloved author and Mrs. Wishy-Washy creator, Joy Cowley! These two new collections of leveled readers, for K-2nd grade classrooms, are developed for shared, guided and independent reading. Finger puppets and 3 audio CDs will also be included. Please nominate your favorite early childhood classroom here. You can also find out more about Hameray Publishing, Mrs. Wishy-Washy and other fun activities on Pinterest, Facebook and Hameray Publishing. You can use the discount code, ZJCC13 for a 20% discount that expires 6/30/13.

Hamaray Publishing is also generously donating a Joy Cowley Big Book as a prize to a lucky winner on our blog! All you need to do is leave a comment below with your name and the grade level you teach before 5pm April 28. We’d love to hear your thoughts on using Joy Cowley’s books in your classroom as well! The winner will be randomly chosen April 28. Check back that evening to see who the winner is!

A few of our favorites...

A few of our favorites…

Disclosure: I received complimentary products for review. All opinions are my own and this is not a compensated post. 

Name Books

Name puzzles

In my kindergarten class I have a wide range of learners – from the few who aren’t quite sure what a letter is to the few who are fluently reading Hattie and the Fox. I’m sure many of you can relate to this! I was reflecting on my work with the kids who had no known letters, or only a few, and wondering what our next steps were. I always start with the known, so names were my launching point. We did many name activities and these students were beginning to consistently know a few letters from their names. I wanted to create a book with them to keep in their book box and to help reinforce the teaching I was doing. These particular students were not quite ready to start an ABC book like the ones Pat and I refer to in Chapter 6 of Catching Readers. Since they had very limited letter knowledge, (2-5 known letters), I wanted to start with something more in their ZPD. So I decided to make them a “name book”.

“For almost every young learner, knowledge of one’s name unlocks a multitude of understandings. A name forms a link in helping a child learn about print.”

(Fullerton, 1997)

The cover of a name book.

I made the books with enough pages for each letter in the child’s name and one additional title page. I wrote the full name (first name only – for now) on the cover, making the capital letters red and the lowercase letters blue. Then I put a picture of the child on the cover as well. On the inside pages I wrote the letters of the child’s name – one per page – again with the capital in red and the lowercase in blue. I sat down with each child as I created this and the child chose links (pictures or words) to go with each letter. They either put a sticker on that page or drew a picture. These books can now be read with the children, read independently and kept in book boxes or read with a buddy. Currently, I only made name books for my children who are working on learning their names and the letters in their names. But I think all the children would enjoy having one of these books. It would make a great book basket for our reading area and would allow children to learn each other’s names.The first page of Sophia's name book.

Some other concepts that can be taught by using names and the name books:

*The connections between letters and sounds

*That letters can be written in two ways (upper and lower case, like David)

*The same sound can be represented by different letters (Jasmin, Gerald)

*Concept of word vs. letter (“Jose’s name is a word. How many letters are in this word? Let’s count them.”)

*Long and short words (“Jackeline’s name is a long word, Bo’s name is a short word.”)

*Words have parts (“Let’s clap Alexander’s name. Let’s clap Ann. How many parts?”)

Names are such a powerful tool for teaching in the early grades. How else are you using children’s names to teach?