Wednesday, December 18, 2013


 "It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journeys. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin.
I thought it would be a fun way to recap the week’s reading...

December 18, 2013
This is the last week before the holidays and we have been reading up a Winter Storm! 
Here are my beloved oldies but goodies:

I adore An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco and so do my students! Every year, the family clan prepare for Christmas and await fathers return from faraway Florida with the Christmas oranges.  This year the weather may prevent father from returning with the oranges, or worse, it may prevent father from returning...

'Twas The Night Before Christmas...who can't help but smile when they read these words?  Jan Brett's The Night Before Christmas is a beautiful version of a Christmas favorite!

My husband was the first to share this story with me.  It has been more than twenty years now and Cranberry Christmas by 

Wende Devlin is a solid staple  for us at Christmas!

Eve Bunting's Night Tree is a beautifully written story about their tradition of decorating their favorite tree.  However, this tree is not lit up in the family's home.  This tree is decorated with popcorn, apples and tangerines as a gift for the animals.  A wonderful tradition!

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo illustrated by Bagram Ibatouline
Readers cannot help but fall into the spectacular illustrations of Great Joy and the depth of the story.  Frances, the main character tell us...
                                "Behold!" she shouted. 
                         "I bring you tidings of Great Joy!"

and indeed, she did.

                                                                    Happy Holidays
                         Happy Reading! from BooksNhand

Friday, December 13, 2013

Genres...It's What You Expect! Part 1

Genres...It's What You Expect!

Genres are containers for thinking.  They help us to orient ourselves to the kind of story we are hearing and its purpose. ~Pam Allyn

Some students struggle to "hold on" to the text.  Fountas and Pinnell remind us that memory is one of ten reasons that students struggle. (These)..."Reading difficulties are revealed when the instruction children receive is not appropriate to their experience." (p. 32 When Readers Struggle).  So, it is our job to provide these experiences.  Like a missing block in a building that cannot stand, an understanding of the genres is built upon itself.  When students build a basic understanding of the genres, a structure is in place for them to sort and sift information. If the students have an understanding that there is an organizational structure to the text before they read, they will be able to place the important information into the structure that they expect from that genre.  For instance, if I know that a fictional text will always have characters, setting and plot, then I know what kind of information to hold onto as I am reading.
Students have heard about fiction and nonfiction since their earliest school days. I wonder, how well have we shared with them why we talk about genres?  That there are reasons we identify books within genres.  

"What can you expect from this genre?
This question is a building block to comprehension.  It allows students to set up an organizational structure in their mind for the information they will be processing.  It begins with the largest areas:  Fiction and Nonfiction.  

What can you expect from Fiction?  
1.Is usually a narrative 
2.Includes these elements:  setting, characters, problem or conflict, a plot with episodes, problem resolution and a conclustion.  
3.Is Realistic or Fantasy  
4.The main purpose is to entertain

What can you expect from Nonfiction?
It is Informational
Either Narrative (Biographical or Narrative Fiction) 
Non-Narrative (Expository, Procedural or Persuasive)

So, we need to make sure that our students know what they can expect from each genre by asking them just that...What can you expect from this genre?
Stay tuned for more information to come about what to expect from different forms of these genres!
Happy Reading!
Sheila Richburg

Friday, December 6, 2013

Language Matters...Prompting for deeper comprehension.

"Tell me what happened in your story that you read last night."   
I heard...crickets.  
Hmmm, okay, I'll try asking in a different way... 
 "Turn and tell your neighbor your thinking about your story."  
Again...crickets and now leaves hitting the ground could be heard. 
I had to do something and fast.

Last night my students finished reading Stay Away From Simon by Carol Carrick.  It is a memorable historical fiction text, set in the 1800's.  The reader walks away from the text having learned a bit more about themselves and the world around them as they enter the world of Lucy and her brother Josiah.  Having preconceived notions and spreading gossip  are challenged as more is learned by Lucy, the main character, about the character Simon.  I knew that my students had a great deal to say about this story, I just had to find a way to start the discussion.  Had I really trained my students to just wait, and eventually, I would jump in and answer my own question(s)?  A flood of research washed into my head, and I heard that  little voice remind me that the one doing the talking is the one deepening their comprehension. Uhh-oh.

I knew that I had a problem and needed to find a way to prompt and then get out of the way.  So, I grabbed my Fountas & Pinnell Prompting Guide Part 2 for Comprehension and searched for a magic phrase that would open up the conversation.  I flipped to the Book Discussion section and furiously scanned the page with the heading, "Ask for Thinking".
Bingo...Then I asked, 
"What surprised you?".  
That did it, the words began to fly out of my students' mouths.

Does language matter?  Absolutely!  

Quick Reference Prompts
Yellow-within, Green-beyond, Blue-about