Newbery Honor Author, New York Times Bestseller, Time Traveler
From the Office of the Future of Reading
Please welcome today’s guest blogger, Melissa O’Bryan. Melissa O’Bryan has shared her love of books with fifth graders in Flint, Michigan, for the past 11 years. She has a 7 book weekly limit at the local library, is the author of the blog Wild About Fifth Grade, and is known to stay up way too late most nights finishing one more chapter. Melissa is married to a high school English teacher, and mom to a first and fourth grader.
If only we had more time! Wishful thinking, I know. It’s nearly impossible to fit it “ALL” in on a daily basis. Teachers everywhere are searching for creative and innovative ways to squeeze more time into their schedule. In my classroom, it’s ‘time to talk about our reading’ that we just don’t have enough of.
We only have one hour for Reader’s Workshop each day. One hour! It’s just not enough time for a mini-lesson, independent reading (guided reading and conferring), discussions, journaling, teacher read aloud, shared reading, book recommending…..etc., etc. As time runs out, the “talking about what we’re reading” portion gets the ax. Yikes! To me, book recommending is the mark of a true reader. All of us book lovers can’t wait to recommend the latest book we’ve devoured to our teacher friend or family member. Isn’t that what readers do? They talk about and share what they read. Yet lack of time can edge out this instrumental part of Reader’s Workshop.
To resolve this issue, I introduced my students to the world of blogging. My hope is to inspire my readers to ‘talk about their reading’ even when we can’t find the time to ‘fit’ it into our schedule.
Why blogs? My fifth graders love the chance to comment on anything online (hence the underage popularity of facebook, snapchat, instagram, twitter, etc.) Why not give them a fun, safe, educational, inspiring place to do just that?!
id I set it all up? It’s fairly easy to create a classroom blog. All you need is an email address and some patience. We use weebly.com but other free blogging websites you could use are kidblog, blogger, or wordpress. The main page of our blog is for posting daily homework assignments and classroom news. I created page links (easy to do) for classroom photos, contact information, and our book recommendations. The students click on the book recommendations link and this is where they post and comment. I have to put in the page password to give them access, but they do the rest.
My advice is to model lots and lots of oral and written book recommendations before you expect the students to begin posting. I gave my class time to practice orally with partners and individually in their reader’s notebooks.
Then I set some requirements. Students must write one book recommendation every three weeks. In a 9-10 week marking period, that’s 3 required recommendations (many write more). I also set aside the first 10-15 minutes of every computer lab session for students to log in to our classroom blog, peruse the book recommendations page and comment on 2-3 of their peers’ book recommendations. I love reading their conversations and peeking into their reading lives.
I even encourage students to log in at home to read their peer’s book recommendations, and they comment at home as well (you can tell by the post comment time). I’ve also begun to hear talk in the classroom during workshop mini-lessons and share time that connects back to the books they know other students are reading. We’ve started a bin of “Class Recommended Books.” It’s the hottest spot in our classroom library. Some students even bring in the books from home that they blogged about to share with those who commented on their posts.
I can’t wait to see their reading lives blossom as we continue to blog about books for the remainder of the year.
In essence, squeezing our book recommendations into computer lab time, is allowing us to still fit it “ALL” in and it’s giving students a relevant place to act and grow as real readers. I even plan to keep our website alive all summer for students to continue to post and comment to each other about their summer reads!
I hope blogging about books in y
our classroom will inspire your readers to always find the ‘time’ to talk about reading!
Thanks Melissa for sharing your tips for trying to fit it “ALL” in when it comes to reading time in the classroom. You can check in on Melissa at her blog wildaboutfifthgrade; on Facebook;or on Twitter.
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