celebrating being nonfiction reading experts

last week , as a culmination of nonfiction reading studies, our first graders hosted kindergarten classes for reading shares. each first grader had chosen a text of a topic they had become expert at. first graders had marked up their texts with key word post-its and meaningful facts. the first graders then read the book to a kindergarten partner, sharing important words and facts along the way. first graders also stopped in pre-chosen spots to ask their kindergarteners what they noticed or wondered. finally, each first grader had made trading cards about their topic of expertise. on one side, the first graders created a web of their topics and key ideas. on the other side of the card, the first graders had drawn beautifully detailed pictures of their topics. each student created four cards, one to keep, two to trade one to give to their kindergarten partners as artifacts of our celebration!

trading cards
penguin word web
trading cards
cat trading cards
space trading cards
word web about plants

click here for KEY WORD Trading Cards

happy week!

jessica & laura & melissa


Five for Friday

We are linking up for five for friday at doodle bug teaching. this friday is also the start of our february vacation...YAY!!!!

our favorite things this week...

first graders became experts at reading nonfiction!

first graders did a beautiful job making maps of the classroom

learning how to use  special tape and green editing pens during writing workshop.
during reading workshop we are working on partners saying more about a topic 
getting ready for march madness... any book suggestions???
happy vacation!
jessica & laura & melissa 


Teacher Toolkit Tuesday

It is teacher toolkit tuesday... today tip is simple. 

teaching toolkits for reading and writing workshop


when creating demonstration notebooks you can add envelopes to store mini-mentor text and post-its to leave behind. You can see some samples below.  brand new readers are great mentor text to use in strategy groups and mini-lessons.

kindergarten notebook for reading workshop 

toolkits for reading workshop
 we found these colorful envelopes at amazon (great price).
toolkits for reading workshop

 grade one notebook for writing workshop

toolkit for writing workshop

toolkit for writing workshop

toolkit for writing workshop

happy teaching!

jessica & laura & melissa



guided reading tiny tips

 teeny tale:

we went to an amazing keynote address by natalie louise last october. she shared with us (and a huge audience) some of the project's latest thinking around guided reading. this thinking was based on the work of irene fountas and gay su pinnell.  if you ever get the opportunity to hear natalie louise speak we strongly suggest it; she’s captivating and hysterically funny.  it felt like she was performing a monologue on the tonight show.  her presentation was filled with lots of reminders about best teaching practice and tiny tips on how we can make our guided reading stronger.

shopping for books
kindergartners are shopping independently for books

tiny tips on guided reading from natalie louis:


    • above all else, guided reading needs to be a  successful reading experience because it’s work that  is done one level above a child’s independent reading level.

    • if you invite children to stretch themselves to the next level you need to make sure it is not a scary situation.

    • if a book is too hard, It’s okay to say to yourself, I messed up and read the book to them.

    • before reading with kids look at data. 

    • the teacher college word detective book (grade one) shows tiny samples of running records. natalie was encouraging teachers to take short snippets of running records.  she reminded us that we sometimes overwhelm ourselves by taking long running records and spending way too much time analyzing them.  

    • text choice is the next part of guided reading. what are the most supportive books for that reader? different levels of books will need different levels of teacher support. 

    • planning a book introduction is important.  the teacher needs to do their most strategic thinking of how you will support these readers. 

the book introduction

what kind of support do these readers need? 

we found it helpful to get in the habit of writing our book introductions on post-its


super small amount of support 

(been in the level and are almost independent)

    • our book introduction could give a gist:  this book is about a boy who hates broccoli and all his parents keep saying is eat your broccoli.  let’s read it to the end to find out what happens

a heavier scaffold

    • give a gist of the book and show some key pages to students to help the kids understand the language of the book.  

    • natalie suggested to tell the kids that books sometimes talk funny.  you may set up the way the book talks for them.

    • for example if we are introducing a heavy patterned story we may tell the kids that the character in the story went to the park and had such a great time that they told their mom all of the things they liked.  “ i like the slide (with expression). "

lastly, natalie shared a teeny tale about working with a child in a guided reading group.  during this guided reading group, natalie was coaching a team of primary teachers.  while all the teachers were watching this reading session a child was getting stuck on the word WILL.  all of the adults watching the child reading, wanted to yell our, “hey. It’s WILL!!!!” but Natalie made it clear that the teachers could not intervene.  she reminded the group of teachers that the point of the lesson is not that the child is reading the word correctly, the point of the lesson is that the child is doing the work or learning the word WILL. as soon as we tell the child the word.  we take the work away of learning the word WILL.

obviously there are times when you may need to give a child a word during a guided reading lesson but since hearing natalie’s reminder it has made us more comfortable with letting kids get stuck, struggle and do the work!

happy monday!

jessica & laura & melissa


10 nonfiction picture books we {heart}

we are linking up with 10 for 10 nonfiction book here are some of our favorite nonfiction books we have been using in the classroom!

Nonfiction books we {love}...


 seedling books by kate riggs

in guided reading groups and strategy groups we love using these books for their simple text, detailed photos and rich possibilities. 


 start to finish books  

kids love seeing the process of how things go from start to finish. 

a kid that see how a football is made might actually be inspired to go do it!



 national geographic books  by melissa stewart

these books are used as mentor text for the reading units of study.  

we love using them for mentor text for strategy groups.


 the darkest dark by astronaut chris hadfield 

kids will hang on to every word of this book and if you introduce it just right (not giving away too much information) they can debate at the end if it was fiction or nonfiction.  

 what will hatch by jennifer ward

great mentor text for nonfiction writing.  

beautiful yet simple text and pictures.  


best in snow by april pulley

our kids got to the end of this book and were like, "wow that's a poem...is it fiction or nonfiction?" 

luscious photographs and a procession of WOW words lead a reading of this deceptively simple book into a complex discussion.

families by shelly roner and sheila m. kelly 

this book celebrates every possible kind of family. 

we think it should be in every classroom!

 creature features by steve jenkins and robin page 

kids will be engaged by being able to ask and hear the answer to many of the questions they have... right from the animals mouth! 

we love the close up collage face to face pictures. 

 what if you had animal feet? by sandra markle 

kids will have fun imagining all the different things they can do if they have different kinds of animal feet. 

many fun books in this series.  

let's talk about animals by britta teckentrup 

nice format for beginner readers with loads of information!  

happy weekend! 

jessica & laura & melissa 

five favorite things from reading and writing workshop

it's friday... here are our favorite things this week!
fantastic things reading and writing

partner guided reading

our primary classrooms continue to work on nonfiction units of study. during a partner guided reading lesson (which was a new format for us) we had two students work together to read a book while getting coached by the teacher.
partners guided reading sheet

the lesson format below for day one with the book penguins by kate briggs....
this book was at the children's instructional level (G/H)
  • let’s take a sneak peak and think what is this book going to teach us.
  • look at a few pictures(not the whole book)… 
  • what are you thinking about? let’s go back to the begin and let’s read it together .
  • you can choral read, echo  or see saw read(see saw read worked the best).
  • the teacher coaches the partners to read the book together.
  • now let's retell what the book was mostly about.  

tactile experience for leaning letters

we have a wonderful reading intervention teacher who works with primary students. she shared these beautiful colored squares that she uses for kids to practice writing the letters or sight words on. she reminded us that sometimes kids need that tactile experience when learning... thank you louise! we love this 

tactile for letter learning interactive writing 

our kindergarten team is working hard at squeezing in interactive writing every day (for at least ten minutes).  we love how this class wrote about the story the mitten.
interactive writing the mitten
how might the character's be thinking or feeling ?

interactive writing the mitten 

hammering it home with interactive writing

using our conventions notebooks, we have been building a big anchor chart about the conventions. we photograph actual work from student notebooks to use for the visuals and we work together as a class to write the message.

nonfiction text features interactive writing
we love anchor charts created with the kids!

 Writing with a Purpose 

we giggled when laura found this letter in the hallway... dear tom brady i love your work and your awesome i know you are in houston. go crush those stupid falcons.  love, jack

like jack's letter... we hope the patriots crush the falcons but we don't think the falcons are stupid.


go pats! 

jessica & laura & melissa 


trust the teaching schedule and teach on!

it's workshop wednesday...

when first handed the box for the units of study from our principal, we admit thumbing through pages and feeling completely overwhelmed.  looking at one lesson and seeing multiple teaching points was confusing and left us wondering, "how can we do this?'

workshop wednesday

when we sat down and dug in and looked all of the big ideas in one lesson, our first instinct was to break the whole thing apart into multiple days worth of lessons. sometimes after teaching the lesson some teachers felt like they needed to go rogue and teach their own lesson to really drive home the concepts being taught. our takeaway...DON'T.

keep with the plan. keep moving! 

we have become obsessed with attending the teachers college fall and spring reunions held in new york 2 times a year! for those who have never been… add it to your bucket list. when we explain the reunions to newbies and rookies we always liken the experience to  "disneyland"  for educators. there is a mad rush of teachers and the crowd size is unbelievable.  you choose which speakers and topics you want to attend and then just like in the "magic kingdom" you rush from ride to ride (or speaker to speaker) hoping to beat the line or the rush. at one such reunion, we had the pleasure of attending a seminar on how to get started with the units of study.

 at this seminar, they talked about the pace of the units and how best to plan and use your instruction. we too have fallen victim to feeling the lesson was too long or that the kids needed a follow up lesson so that more children would grasp the lesson ideas. we too have felt lucy can be wordy (sorry lucy) and decided to skip parts of her lessons YIKES!  the big takeaway from this seminar however allowed us to shift our thinking and helped us to realize that even when you think you haven’t reached all the kids…keep with the plan. keep moving,  trust the schedule, and teach on!

at the conference a comparison was made to children on a playground. can you imagine if a child was learning to cross the monkey bars. if this task was new and hard, would they want to spend their entire recess on the monkey bars? furthermore, would we make them stay on the monkey bars until they successfully made it across? NO WAY! kids spend a few minutes on hard and new tasks, then they move onto things that they already know how to do and things that they can do with confidence. after multiple trials and short practices a child will finally be ready to master the monkey bars. however, just like concepts of reading and writing, they are not all ready at the same time.

remember the playground

 so…when you think about re-teaching a lesson, or breaking a lesson up into multiple lessons and days, remember the playground! not everyone is ready at the same time. the lesson you teach will be retaught in a similar way later in the year or the following year. allow them to try out the new idea (like the monkey bars) and don’t expect them all to master it YET! they are still learning, they are still growing, and your job is to introduce them to the monkey bars.

let them enjoy the playground!

jessica & laura & melissa