Meet The Teacher Night

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Last night, I met many of my students for the first time. Each year we host a “Meet The Teacher” event the night before school starts. Getting a chance to talk with my new kids and their families is so much fun, and a little overwhelming. I had seen many of these kids in the hallway the last few years, but I had no idea who they were. Most of them came up to me during our meet the teacher night and introduced themselves (with the help of their parents). Some were nervous, some were excited, some seemed terrified.

I paid close attention to our classroom library during the evening. The first interaction in the space came when one of my students, from last year, stopped by to drop off all the books she borrowed and read over the summer. She wanted to put the books back in the library for me. I asked her if I could snap a picture first (below).

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As the room began to fill with families, I noticed that so many of my kids’ parents were drawn to the library. They looked the library up and down as they walked around the room. I think the amount of space dedicated to books helped them realize just how much we value reading in my classroom.

One of my students from last year walked in with her sister. I have her sister this year. Instead of coming up to me to say hi, they headed to the library. My former student was showing her sister (my current student) our large selection of graphic novels. I walked over and introduced myself. They were polite, but they quickly turned their attention back to the books.

I made my way around the room, trying to set some of the kids that looked nervous at ease. As I headed for the front of the room, I noticed a boy reading at one of my tables. I had never seen this kid before. Wondering if he was new, I introduced myself to his mother and father. The boy never looked up. His mom called his name. He put one finger in the air, signaling that he just needed to finish the page. He looked up and said hi. I introduced myself, and I asked him about the book he had taken from our classroom library. “I don’t know this series. It’s called Timmy Failure. Have you read it?”

I smiled. “I have read it. It is really good. My son read the whole series when he was in fifth grade. Would you like to take Book 1 home with you? You can bring it back tomorrow or just keep it at home until you finish it.” He nodded.

“Does he need to check it out?” his father asked.

“Nope. I know that he’ll bring it back. He’ll probably want to borrow the next one when he finishes this one.” The boy smiled, tucked the book under his arm, and shook my hand. I like that his first interaction with anyone at his new school resulted in him being able to borrow a book.

After meet the teacher night, I noticed my fourth grade daughter cuddled up on one of my classroom couches, reading Bird & Squirrel On The Edge. “Ready, Love?” I asked.

“Yup.” she said not looking up from her book. “I’ll bring this book back when I’m done. Let’s go home dad. School starts tomorrow.”

I smiled, grabbed my bag, shut the lights off, and left my room excited to see what awaits us in the morning.

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Classroom Library Today: One Topic Leads to Another

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One of my students asked me if I had any books about the Boston Tea Party. We have been studying the events that lead to the Declaration of Independence, and he wanted to learn more. I handed him Jonathon W. Stokes The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution. He loved it. I think he finished it in a day and a half.

After he finished the book he came up to me looking for another recommendation. I thought he might want some more books about the Boston Tea Party, but instead he asked if I had any more Thrifty Guide books. Thankfully, I did! He was excited to see that we had The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome (and Ancient Greece).

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Watching this reader move from one topic to another within a series has me thinking about how I can help other readers find nonfiction series that they will love. So often, when giving nonfiction book recommendations to my students, I focus on topic instead of series. I’m thankful that this reader reminded me that their are lots of ways to help kids find great nonfiction books to read.

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Classroom Library Today: We Don’t Have Any Turtle Books?!

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We have a lot of books in our classroom library, but I know that no matter how many books we have we will always have holes. Earlier this week, we discovered a whole that really surprised me.

I was talking to one of my students about what she wanted to learn more about. She told me about a few things that she was sort of interested in. Her eyes lit up when she started talking about turtles. I asked her why she hadn’t read any of our classroom library books about turtles. When she told me that we didn’t have any I was shocked. Part of me didn’t believe her. She took me over to the reptiles/amphibians tub, and flipped through the books. Sure enough, she was right! A bunch of books on frogs and snakes, but not one book on turtles.

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I’ll spend the next week or so creating a list of books on turtles for us to add to the classroom library. In the meantime, we’ll head down to the school library to see what we can find.

Classroom libraries are never complete. Each year our readers are different, and during the course of the year their interests and preferences evolve. The best way to make sure that we meet the needs of the readers in our classrooms is to get to know them, book talk a ton of books, and find ways to add the books to your library that they want to read.

If you have any “turtle book” recommendations, drop them in the comments. Thank you! 

Thank you for reading this post. It means the world to me. I send out a weekly newsletter every Sunday morning. If you’d like to subscribe, please visit my website. At the top of the site is a place to sign up for the newsletter. To check out the other post in my Classroom Library Today series click here. I go into more depth about classroom libraries in the book I wrote with Donalyn Miller: Game Changer! Book Access For All Kids

Classroom Library Today: I Don’t Like to Read Any Nonfiction Books

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Today one of my fifth graders told me that they hadn’t read any nonfiction books this year, and that she was hoping to keep it that way. Her thoughts on nonfiction books made me chuckle.

I asked her to share what she was interested in, and she looked at me like I was crazy. I asked her if their was a time period she wanted to learn about, a company that she thought was cool, an animal that interested her, or maybe a famous person she wanted to learn more about. She said that she loved the shoe brand Converse. I told her that I thought it was a pretty cool brand, too. Our classroom library doesn’t contain any books about the company Converse, so I pulled my phone out of my pocket and we did a Google search to see if we could find a book. A couple of books popped up, and we read the descriptions together. She said that if I ordered one that she would happily read it.

I bought the book right there on my phone. She seemed surprised and happy. I asked her if she was interested in others brands or companies. She nodded. We have a tub in our classroom library filled with the series “Brands We Know“. I brought it to her table and we browsed the books together. She was excited to see that we had a book in the series about the company Netflix. She put it in her book basket, and told me that she was going to read it next.

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By this time, we had gathered a crowd. Three or four of her friends were circling the “Brands We Know” book like vultures. We invited them to see if they could find a book that they wanted to read. It was wild to see a tub in our classroom that had been collecting dust, all of a sudden, become as hot as the Dav Pilkey tub. Kids left this little meeting with books about Nickelodeon, Nike, and Dairy Queen.

Today, I was reminded how important it is to book talk a variety of books. Often the books in our classroom library that are not being read just need to be brought to the attention of our readers.

 

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Thank you for reading this post. I send out a weekly newsletter every Sunday morning. If you’d like to subscribe, please visit my website. At the top of the site is a place to sign up for the newsletter. 

 

5 Classroom Library Tweaks

For a classroom library to be effective it must be treated as if it is a living organism. A library that doesn’t evolve with your students probably isn’t going to be very effective for very long. My classroom library has changed a ton the first 100 days of the school year (We haven’t actually had 100 days of school, I just like that nice round number). In the video below I share 5 ways in which the library has changed based on the needs of my readers.

Below you’ll find my classroom library tour video from the start of the school year.

I’d love to know how your classroom/school library has changed so far during the school year. Please let me know in the comments below!

 

VLOG | Receiving Notes From My Former Students

I was about to go home yesterday, when I decided that it had been a while since I checked my school mailbox. Inside my box I found a handful of notes from the third graders I taught yesterday. It made my heart so happy that they chose to write letters to reconnect with me. It was a wonderful day.

Catch up on previous 2017-2018 school vlogs in the playlist below.

I started a new video series called One Question With Mr. Sharp. Check out the first episode below!

VLOG | Do You Even Breakout?

On Friday, Mrs. Sharp led a Breakout with my fifth graders. It was a lot fun watching them try to figure out the clues. I learned so much about my students during the process: which kids work well with others, who is willing to work through difficult problems, who loves to work with their hands. The more I learn about my students the more I love them.