Thursday, August 8, 2013

5 Ideas for Building a Reading and Writing Community

This school year I will begin a new journey with Davis Middle School in Dublin, Ohio.  I am overly excited about the opportunity to co-teach students in 7th grade language arts, something I have always dreamed of doing.  I have met multiple times to plan with Katie and Teri, my two co-teachers, and the ideas that have flowed amaze me.  In talking, we realized they have workshop routines set up different than I have done in the past, and that is awesome.  That just means there will be multiple ideas to use and try, especially if (when) certain ideas don't work as planned.  I just wanted to share some of the ideas I'm most excited about, in terms of building a classroom community of readers and writers.  These ideas have evolved because of collaborative thinking, and will continue to evolve as we get to know the students.  However, here are five ideas that I am initially most excited about.

1.  Reader's Graffiti

We were discuss ways in which we could share book recommendations.  I shared that in the past I would tape book covers to my door, which recorded my reading life.  However, we will be co-teaching between two different classrooms, and to make it feel like one community that was going to be double the work.  Then I remember the discussion of a graffiti wall from nErDcampBC.  Our plan is to have a decorated area in the hallway to post quotes from books that students and staff are reading.  This will be a place all students can go to find their next book to fall in love with reading. 

2.  Writing Territories

As we were writing our plans for the first two weeks of school, we started talking about students bringing in a "bag of tricks" to share with the class.  This will be a great way for students to get to know each other, as they share their interests and passions.  A couple minutes later we started about talking about free writing and writing to a prompt, and how students can struggle to get started writing on an idea. Therefore, instead of making the bag a stand alone activity, we decided to make the "bag of tricks" something students will be able to use year round.  Students will be decorating their writers notebooks with their passions and interests, instead of bringing them in a bag and forgetting about them a week later.  Our hope is that they will be able to refer to these notebooks, year round, to give them inspiration within their writing. 

3.  Book Talks

Speaking and listening skills are important to focus on, within 7th grade (well any grade for that matter).  Therefore, to address these skills it is already planned that students will be doing a book commercial later on in the year.  However, I know that many students fear that one day of presenting a book.  To help make books an on-going conversation within the classroom we have decided to do one book talk everyday.  We plan on doing this as part of the morning warm-up, and it will only last a couple of minutes.  The teachers will be in charge of presenting the first month of school, and from there we will have sign up sheet.  If no student signs up on a particular day, no worries, I have plenty of books I'm willing to share!  After the book talk is shared, the person sharing will record the date, title of the book and their name in the book talk binder.  This way students can refer back to the binder, as they are planning their next book to read.  All that we're going to require of the book talk is that it stays under five minutes, it's the first book of a series, and no repeat talks. 

4.  Teacher Genre Chart

This is another idea that stemmed from the book covers on my classroom door.  We were discussing the students keeping track of books that they have read on their genre chart. I asked to see a copy, because I was going to do the same for myself.  Typically, if I assign something to students, I make sure to do it as well.  After all, we are teaching these students to become lifelong readers, so I want to make sure it's something a lifelong reader may use. Therefore, instead of keeping an individual genre chart, we are going to make a giant genre chart.  As a teacher finishes reading a book, we will place a picture of the book cover in the correct column of the genre chart.  This will be a way to share our reading with students, and to inspire conversations about trends as readers. 

5.  Listening Station

This idea is still evolving, so any ideas or suggestions you may have would be fantastic!  As part of an anchor station during workshop time, students are going to have the opportunity to use a listening station.  This will be a place for them to go to listen to each other think deeply about a book.  I plan on having my iPad at that station, locked on Evernote, so that students have a way to record.  Students will record their conversation and thinking about a book.  This will be a way for us to share inspiring conversations with the class and to celebrate those students as readers and thinkers. 

As I mentioned previously, these ideas are going to be constantly evolving.  Some of them may work great initially, and others may need to be adjusted based on the needs of the students. One thing I am sure of, is that as long as we are communicating and collaborating with our students, we will know how to best adjust for their needs.


  1. These are fabulous! I love the reader's graffiti idea!

  2. Wow, thank you for sharing these ideas. Going to try these with my own children too.