MAT Blog

Drumming Up Excitement for Books: 10 Tips for Reading Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 10, 2014 9:26:51 AM

Why don’t our students love to read? Well, use your imagination and pretend you’re a student. You’ve only been reading for seven to twelve years—and most of what you’ve read has been assigned and tested. In addition to this, you’ve been asked to “discuss” and “close read” texts, create book reports, and answer comprehension questions based upon what you read. Sounds like a blast, huh?

These are only a few reasons why our students dislike reading, but rather than fixate on all the reasons our reluctant readers are reluctant, we’d like to suggest 10 simple ways reading teachers can drum up excitement for books!

Drumming Up Excitement for Books: 10 Tips for Reading Teachers

  • Niche book clubs are popular amongst adults, but why not start one (or two, or three) for students? How about a club that only reads scary and disgusting books? Or one that reads only sci-fi books with leading female characters? If each group only meets monthly (or bi-monthly), reading teachers should have plenty of time to keep up.

  • Instead of talking about good books, reading teachers might have more luck if they showed students good books. Stop by Scholastic’s site where you’ll find a nice collection of book trailers for K-8 students.

  • If you are reading a work of historical fiction, contact local re-enactor groups at historical sites in your area and invite them to visit your classroom.

  • The Internet may list every book that was ever written, but how do reading teachers help students sort through the clutter and find books they love? Answer: They teach them how to use book recommendation websites.

  • At our school, students can sign up for a half hour research consultation with a librarian. This is a one-on-one session in which students collaborate with librarians to flesh out their topics and find useful books and articles that relate to their topics.

  • Students and teachers both found this service to be beneficial—which got us thinking: What if we took the “research consultation” model and used it to create a “good book” consultation service where students pair up with a librarian to find books they’ll enjoy? Many students take advantage of this service and continue to be enthusiastic about it.

  • Show foreign films or watch movies with closed-captioning turned on. As many of us know, finding creative ways to focus reluctant readers on books, the very thing that evokes feelings of frustration, inadequacy and failure, is challenging. But films can capture students’ interest and stimulate their imagination in ways that books can’t.

  • One of our favorite things about visiting book stores is stopping by the “recommended reading” station. Every month, the bookstore employees select their favorite books and write up a short paragraph explaining why they made their selections. Try doing this with your students.

  • Invite the librarian to visit the classroom every month to talk about new arrivals and seasonal favorites.

  • Use Skype in the Classroom to connect with a real published author for free! Currently, you can Skype with Nancy Krulik, author of George Brown; Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay and Where She Went; Jane Kohuth, author of Duck Sock Hop!; C. Alexander London, author of An Accidental Adventure!; and many, many more published authors.

  • Subscribe to Children’s Books, a podcast series featured on The Guardian’s website.Every month features a new leading children's book author.

Photo credit: Vladimir Morozov / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Tags: reading teachers, Reading, reluctant readers

The Best of the Week: Volume 10

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 13, 2014 11:00:46 AM

best_of_the_week-3There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

Reading and Language Arts
15 sharp-witted, reading-themed cartoons from an Iranian comic contest
The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing
Books in the Home Strongly Linked to Academic Achievement
What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?

Random Education Links
5 Ways to Say Goodbye to Your Graduating Students
3 Ways of Getting Student Feedback to Improve Your Teaching
How to Raise Money for Your School Using Crowdfunding
Summer Matters: How Parents Can Keep Their Children Learning All Summer Long
Students Learn Best When You Do This
50 Ways to Empower Students in a Connected World
12 Top Education Resources to Teach at the End of the Year

Useful Apps and Websites
Photo Mapo: Transform your photos into mapped masterpieces (app is free for a limited time)
Blank on Blank (a nice collection of “lost” interviews sponsored by PBS)
The Museum of Endangered Sounds
Coffivity (a “white-noise” generator that simulates the ambiance of a coffee shop)
What Was There (ties historical photos to Google Maps)
Sepia Town (another cool photo mapping app)
81 Dash (a communication platform for educators)
Piktochart (a cool infographic generator)
The Pulp-O-Mizer (create your own pulp magazine cover)
Historvius (a community-based historic destinations directory)

Tags: classroom management, apps for educators, Best of the Week, Reading

Check out episode II of Book Talk: Trackers by Patrick Carman

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 20, 2013 4:36:00 PM

describe the imageWe’re on a mission to find books that your students will love—and once we find these books, you can hear all about them in our ongoing podcast series, Booktalk. This month, we’re talking about the first book in Patrick Carman’s acclaimed series, Trackers.

In Trackers we get to know Adam, Finn, Emily, and Lewis, a group of teenage tech-prodigies called the Trackers who find themselves lured into a dangerous web of blackmail and deceit by a hacker named Lasko. But this is no ordinary book. Trackers is actually a “vook,” a new kind of book that combines traditional print with online videos and interactive digital media!

To listen in on what we have to say about Patrick Carman’s “vook,” click here.


Tags: Book Talk, download, reading instruction, reading strategy, downloads, Reading

Text-Based Games: A cure for the common book?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Apr 13, 2013 6:00:00 AM

text based gamesWe’ve mentioned it before, but when we were kids, we devoured Choose Your Own Adventure books—especially those released by Bantam Books. Bantam ended the series in the late 90s and we’re not embarrassed to admit that we shed a few tears over it.  

Thankfully, Choice of Games has picked up where Bantam left off and thrown in a few perks: First, all of their titles (or what they are calling “text-based games”) are free on the web. They’ve also produced mobile versions that can be played on iPhones, Android phones, and other smartphones.

text based games

But there’s more.

Choice of Games has developed a simple scripting language for writing text-based games, ChoiceScript, which they make available for others to use. Readers are encouraged to use this technology to write their own text-based game; the company will then host submissions on their website.

Currently they have 12 text-based games, but there are also 18 other user-created books to choose from.

Tags: text-based games, reading comprehension strategy, reading motivation, reading instruction, reading fluency, Reading, reluctant readers

5 Reading Strategies you can share with your students' parents

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 14, 2013 12:31:00 PM

Reading StrategiesAt school, our students are faced with—let’s be honest now—agonizingly dull reading comprehension passages. Then, when they are done, students are asked comprehension questions (equally dull) about that passage. While we can’t control the content in these tests or the fact that students have to take them, you can find a way to help struggling readers relax, learn to love reading, and stop associating reading with the tests they face at school. Teachers can do a lot to make this happen, but we certainly can’t do it all, so we thought we were overdue to offer a few reading strategies to share with your students’ parents.

5 Reading Strategies you can share with your students' parents

Use a hands-off approach

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who had a habit of interrupting, correcting or attempting to finish sentences for you? You didn’t appreciate it very much, did you? If it bothers you, chances are that beginning readers aren’t going to appreciate it either. Instead of interrupting or correcting, give this a try: 

When the reader comes across a tricky word, don’t force them to stumble through it; instead, s/he should just say “blank” and continue on with the passage. Worry about that word later.

Allow the reader to choose or abandon a book
We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Allow the child to choose the books she reads at home—and don’t force her to struggle through something that is either too challenging or does not suit her interests. To struggle is to learn, but remember that you are teaching the child to love reading. 

If the child is unsure of how to find books that suit her interests and reading level, stop by Book Wink, a website that uses podcasts and 3-minute video book talks to introduce students to books they’ll love. Each video book talk is about a different topic, and additional “read-alikes” can be found on the website. In addition to this, users can browse Book Wink’s database where they can search for books by grade, subject, author, or title. 

Show a bit of empathy—even if you never struggled with reading
I remember catching my junior high math teacher after class one afternoon and asking her if she ever struggled with algebra. “Nope, I always loved it” was her response and five seconds later, the conversation was over. You see, I was looking for empathy and support from my teacher. While I anticipated that she had always excelled in math, I was hoping that she would at least admit to me that she empathized with what it meant to struggle with something.

Reading isn’t easy, even for adults. Try reading Finnegan’s Wake or Derrida and you’ll get a sense of what your students go through. We’ve all encountered texts that make us feel inferior. Likewise, we’ve all experienced what Kumar Sathy calls the “passive eye shift”: Your eyes scan the pages and take in the words, but your brain is on another continent, planet or universe! Keep this in mind and go easy on beginning readers.

Make read-alouds fun for you and the child
In her cornerstone text for teaching reading, The Art of Teaching Reading, Lucy McCormick Calkins says there are “only a handful of things” that everyone agrees are essential for teaching reading: “Perhaps the most important of these is the fact that children need to listen to the best…literature read aloud to them.” We’ve made it a habit to read aloud to younger students, but when they get older, for one reason or another, we tend to think that they’ve outgrown this. But good writing is meant to be read aloud.

There’s a story about a rather well-known poet, John Keats, who was given a new translation of Homer’s great works by a friend of his, Charles Cowden Clarke. That evening, Keats and Clarke sat up until daylight reading to one another and “shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck [their] imagination.” If a grown man like Keats did it, so can you.

Try out three of Esmé Raji Codell’s tips for reading aloud to children

  • Love the book yourself before you read it to the children: Read the book completely before you introduce it. Familiarity with the text will help you read with more enthusiasm; it will also help you stay faithful to the text when you are in front of a tough audience because you know that the text is “worthy” in the end
  • Choose books that are best when read aloud: Although you can technically read any book aloud, some are better than others. Try something funny, scary, or something that concludes with a twist
  • Be versatile in your approach: Read to them, but make sure that the child has the same text so s/he can follow along with you. Then alternate: You read a page, she reads a page; you read a paragraph, she reads a paragraph

    To complement the activities you may have planned for National Reading Month in March, we’ve put together a new guide, Writing Reinvented.Inside you’ll find:
    • Strategies for writing a thesis statement
    • Strategies to help your students defeat writer’s block
    • An engaging way to teach grammar…without actually teaching grammar
    • “Flash Fiction”: An assignment that challenges students to write a story in six words

    You can download our free guide here or by clicking on the button below


Tags: reading comprehension, reading strategies, reading comprehension strategy, reading motivation, reading instruction, reading specialist, reading fluency, reading across disciplines, Reading

Reading Teachers: Book Wink has heard your students’ cries for help

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 28, 2013 11:11:00 AM

reading teacher book winkYes, yes, you already know that March is National Reading Month, a time when your students “fall in love with reading all over again.” Right... You, meanwhile, are still trying to figure out how to get your students to truly fall in love with reading for the first time.

A few weeks ago we mentioned a 2008 survey that found that 55 percent of the students surveyed agreed that there aren’t enough good books out there that target their age demographic. Of course, this isn’t true; there are plenty of good books for all ages. It is true, though, that our students could benefit from an easier way to find books that suit their interests and reading levels.

Book Wink has heard your students’ cries for help and answered with a website that uses podcasts and 3-minute video book talks to introduce students to books they’ll love. Each video book talk is about a different topic, and additional “read-alikes” can be found on the website.

But there’s more: Book Wink also allows users to browse their book database where they can search for books by grade, subject, author, or title. 

Check out one of Book Wink’s video book talks on Sharks:

If you are a reading teacher, you know that you must motivate as well as instruct. To help you accomplish this, we’ve compiled a Best Practices Guide that can help you build a successful reading program in your classroom.

These strategies really work. No fads, no politics; just common sense scholarship for K-6 reading comprehension.

Tags: Best Apps for Educators, reading comprehension strategy, reading motivation, reading instruction, reading specialist, reading fluency, Reading

Engaging Reluctant Readers By Recruiting Reading Role Models

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 12, 2013 6:00:00 AM

Vivian Johnson ReadingIn an ideal world, our students would pop out of the womb with an innate appetite for books. That’s not the world we live in, so rather than dreaming, we’re going to offer a few tips to turn your reluctant readers into avid readers. One thing to keep in mind when trying to engage reluctant readers is that there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Reluctant readers—students who can read, but choose not to—have little intrinsic motivation, which means that you’re going to have to be the extrinsic motivator; it’s up to you to use the techniques to unite students with books! Finding a reading role model is one way you can make this happen.

Engaging Reluctant Readers By Recruiting Reading Role Models

  • Warm your students up to the idea of a reading role model.
    Before you wrangle up your reading role model, you’ll want to have a heart to heart with your students. Explain to them that many people love to read—in fact, reading is as essential to many professions as breathing is. How would a television or radio newscaster be able to tell us what’s going on in the world without reading? Would your students want an illiterate, or even a reluctantly literate, lawyer to take their case? Probably not.

Now ask them to think of professions that require reading and discuss why. Make a list on the board and discuss it. Use it to reach out to potential speakers now

  • What do I say to my potential reading role model?
    As you start to email or call potential reading mentors, you might say something like this:

    This year, I am making it my priority to engage my reluctant readers and teach them not only to value reading, but actually love it. Last week, we had an in-class discussion; we talked about various professions and why reading is an essential part of that profession. As an insert profession here, my students thought that you would be a perfect reading role model! They would be impressed if you would stop by our classroom and tell them about your reading habits and how they correspond to your profession.

  • You’ve found your mentor. How do you prepare them?

You might ask the mentor to tell your students about the different types of reading that they use on the job every day. Of course, this isn’t limited to just reading books. Your mentor may not be used to public speaking, so it might be helpful for you to talk a bit about your own reading habits and what you’ve told your students about them. If you need a framework, here’s what we might say:

Every morning, I wake up, brew a pot of coffee and sit down to check my email. I encourage people to contact me as much as they like, so usually there are five or six emails from some of my colleagues, students or parents. Once I’ve read and answered the emails, I read over my lesson plans, reacquaint myself with some of the assigned readings and if I have time, I check out my favorite celebrity gossip blog. Remember, there’s no such thing as “real reading.” When I get home, I have to cook dinner—which means that I have to read and follow the directions in my recipe book. Etc. etc. etc.

One thing we always try to keep in the forefront of our minds is the fact that most of us excel at something when we truly love it. Without passion or love, motivation will almost always diminish. Finding a reading mentor is only one small step we can take toward teaching our reluctant readers to love books. If you need a few more tips, check out one of our most recent blogs, “Teaching Reading Means Teaching Our Students to LOVE Reading.”

Tags: reading strategies, reading motivation, reading specialist, reading strategy, reading ability, Reading, reluctant readers, reading role models

Practice what you preach- sneak in a good summer read before school starts.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Aug 25, 2012 10:22:00 PM

Marygrove MAT encourages teachers to sneak in a summer read before school starts!If you’re one of the lucky teachers who won’t go back to school until after Labor Day, there’s still time to squeeze in a couple of good summer reads! Teachers who are able to share their own personal love of reading with their students can instill a love of books that carries on throughout their lives. Make sure you share some of the titles that you’ve read with your students, and ask them to share theirs! Talking about books fosters an increased interest in reading, so make time for it in your classrooms this year!

Three great summer reads for teachers:

The Summer Book (Jansson, 2012) This beautiful story, set on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland, examines the connection between a young girl and her grandmother in her final months of life. They spend the summer together in companionship and exploration while discussing things that matter to everyone, regardless of age.  
Heart and Soul (Binchy, 2009) An uplifting tale of friends, family, patients and staff at a heart clinic in Ireland, this book will provide intersecting stories that all tie together in the end. Dr. Clara Casey is tasked with establishing the clinic and is faced with a variety of challenges including funding, demanding patients, and family life. Dr. Casey’s story plays out among the accompanying tales of patients and staff and celebrates the story's setting of modern day Ireland.
Learn Me Good (Pearson, 2006) This is the story of Mr. Woodson, an engineer who loses his job and decides to try his hand at teaching math. The book is actually a series of emails that Woodson writes to a friend still working for his former employer. A quick read, you'll find yourself laughing at the funny subject lines, names at the closing of each email, and how true-to-life the hilarious stories are. 

Reading for pleasure is important but you can also choose books that benefit you professionally. These two titles are quick reads that can make a fast impact in your classroom.

Two great professional summer reads for teachers:
Opening Minds (Johnston, 2012) A thorough analysis of the words teachers use with students demonstrates the power language holds. Peter Johnston makes the case for carefully choosing your words and how small shifts in word choice can affect a student's perception, sense of self, and emotional, moral, and social development.
What Keeps Teachers Going? (Nieto, 2003) This collection of vignettes about teaching and learning serves as an inspiration to everyone in the field of education. The author examines lessons that can be learned from veteran teachers who have served in the classroom a number of years and maintain a hopeful enthusiasm.

Get more intimately involved with reading and words—download our FREE quick guide to explicit word analysis instruction for a refresher on the power of words and word play! Have a powerful year!






Tags: Reading, summer reads, explicit word analysis instruction

Boys don't read? Girls don't like math? A look at gender and learning.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jan 12, 2012 5:30:00 AM

are teachers combatting cultural stereotypes in class? Marygrove looks at gender and learning.There are many long-held assumptions that "girls don't like math" or "boys don't like to read." A recent blog by Andrew Meltzoff and Dario Cvencek on NBC’s Education Nation  takes a look at gender stereotypes, and raises questions about how we may be socializing our children in this country to prefer one subject over another. While there is compelling research that suggests boys and girls do learn differently, there are no definitive conclusions that both genders can't succeed in any area of learning.

There are things teachers can do to promote learning for all, regardless of gender or subject area. It is a suitable and appropriate role for teachers to help students understand that their academic and cognitive abilities are not predisposed from birth. This understanding and concerted myth de-bunking can help students be more adaptable and open to a variety of learning approaches and instructional methods. They may also be more willing to take academic risks.

  • Girls who have more confidence in their math and science abilities, and have had teachers explicitly emphasize these abilities, are more likely to enjoy and excel at their math studies. Long term, they also are more likely to opt for math and science electives in high school while also considering a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career.

  • Boys who learn in a boy-friendly, print rich environment will understand that reading isn't just for girls. Teachers need to research and provide books that are interesting to boys (non-fiction, science fiction, mystery, action) to demonstrate that no matter what they like to read; there are many great titles available.  

Teachers should provide direct feedback on a student's performance and work production. When feedback is both explicit and prescriptive and focuses on the learning process, specific learning strategies, and a students' effort—achievement increases. This feedback will help to improve persistence during a difficult task, increase performance, and support students' beliefs about their abilities.

  • Direct feedback during math or science instruction will help to support girls' learning by providing explicit instruction on their performance and the logical/mathematical processes likely accompanying a math or science task. When teachers place emphasis on the strategies that were used and whether or not they were successful, girls will understand the sequential process of math and science learning. 

  • In order for any student to be a successful reader, he must be able to independently apply a variety of comprehension strategies during reading. Teachers need to provide direct feedback to boys regarding their use of these strategies. Particularly when reading fiction texts, boys should be engaged in conversations regarding their use of comprehension strategies and whether they enhanced their overall understanding. 

Teachers can expose all students to a variety of opportunities and possible careers that break gender stereotypes. Students need to understand that your gender doesn't determine what you enjoy learning or what your future career may be. Exposure to these beliefs in elementary school will shape early understanding for both boys and girls.

  • There are many prolific female mathematicians and scientists available as examples for girls (including Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, and Sally Ride). Profiling these successful women will help to demonstrate to girls that there are a variety of STEM careers available to them that take advantage of their math and science abilities. Teachers should explore how to use the text and website, Math Doesn't Suck, by Danica McKellar which demonstrates that math can be both easy and relevant.

  • The website "Guys Read" is a place where boys of all ages can discuss boy-centric books, provide literary reviews, and learn what some of their favorite male authors are currently working on. Created and maintained by Jon Scieska, this terrific website focuses on books and genres that boys like most, while providing substantial support and encouragement for boy readers.

Let us know your thoughts about gender and learning--we acknowledge that we are just scratching the surface of this very complex issue.

You can learn how to motivate every reader in your classroom by viewing our FREE webinar on Goal-setting and Reading Fluency, today!

Tags: Marygrove MAT, Reading, mathematics, gender and learning

Is the Five Finger Rule Posted in Your Classroom?

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Nov 11, 2011 2:10:00 PM

post the five finger rule in classroom for making good reading choicesIf you want to encourage your students to take charge of their own reading habits, make sure they know how to perform the Five Finger Rule to determine if a book is appropriate for their reading level. This is one of those amazingly simple techniques that can be overlooked simply because it is so easy. But it is a very effective indicator to quickly determine a child’s reading ability.

We recommend that K-5 teachers post this rule somewhere in the classroom—all year— as a reminder for young readers, because we know that children are sometimes hesitant to ask us to repeat things.

Make a poster that says something like this: (Or download one from the Internet)

How to choose a book that is just right for you!

Step 1   Pick a book that interests you.
Step 2   Open the book to a page in the middle of the book. (No pictures)
Step 3   Start reading the page outloud to yourself.
Step 4   Hold up a finger for EVERY word you do not understand or cannot pronounce.

If you raise

              0 - 1 Finger   -   put the book back, this book is too EASY!      

              2 - 3 Fingers   -   this book is fine for an interesting read.

              4 Fingers   -   this book will be a challenging read; try reading it with a buddy.

              5 Fingers   -   this book is not a good choice for now; please choose another title.

Posting this simple rule in your classroom will help maintain a positive literacy rich environment. Readers of all ages and levels must be exposed to a wide variety of literature on a regular basis. Give your students exposure to many different types of books, magazines, newspapers and web resources. Provide reading opportunities during structured and non-structured times.

Building your classroom library also helps readers. Do not rely solely on your school or city library for book selection. Teachers can get inexpensive books at garage sales, church book sales, second-hand bookseller clearance tables, and a really great resource we heard about called paperback swap. Also, you can appeal to your students’ families for donating age-appropriate books for your class.

It helps, too, if you can sort your classroom books into levels for multiple intelligences. Fountas and Pinnell is a good resource. But if you need some good, free lists, these will get you started. One teacher we spoke with says you can keep your leveled books organized with color-coded stickers on the book spines, then sort the books into sturdy dishpans of the same color. The color of the dots indicate the level of difficulty of the book. These dots make sorting books back into the bins at the end of the day a snap. It’s an easy-to-assemble, leveled library for students to help themselves!

The best way we know to preserve a classroom library is to buy hardbacks whenever possible (check out those garage sales!), and cover paperbacks in clear contact paper. Be sure to attach those self-adhering colored dots to each book’s spine before covering in contact paper. Also, stamp your name on each book, or place a bookplate inside each one. 

The bottom line is to offer students the opportunity to read, read, read. You’ll notice a difference in your students' abilities. 

For more helpful tips to improve reading comprehension in your classroom, download our Free Best Practices Guide now!







Tags: reading ability, Marygrove MAT, Reading, five finger rule, leveled books

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