It’s better with two teachers.

I am a co-teacher and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It can be a challenge for teachers who don’t see eye to eye, but I got lucky!  My co-teacher is amazing! And we agree on most things and the kids benefit because of it.
She was absent one day and the next I went to pick up the kids in the morning while she stayed in the room.  One boy asked if she was here.  When I replied that she was, he said  “Good, it is better with two teachers.”
Maybe I could have taken it as I wasn’t good enough, but I know that isn’t what he ment.  I agree, it is better with two teachers.  I could teach alone and get results, however together we can do even more. Students receive more attention, two teachers are pulling small groups, more needs are being met- socially and academically.
After today’s field trip without my other half, I know I can do it alone. (I came back with the same number of kids as I left with! SUCCESS! !) But I don’t want to because that student is right – IT IS BETTER WITH TWO TEACHERS!

“Children are m…

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” — Emilie Buchwald

Yes, parents have a huge impact on their child’s view of reading and books.  However, we can’t discount the impact teachers have on this as well.  We want kids to read, but how many of us are avid readers?  How can we expect children to follow rules if they see us breaking them?  How can we expect them to read everyday if we are not doing the same?  When we show students that we are readers, that books are fun, and that reading is not a punishment, a stronger message is sent home than just reading is important.


  • AR – Books are not meant to just read and answer questions about.  A ribbon once a month is a strong motivator to read books and test.  Reading and testing doesn’t always go together and we need to show students that.  In fact, I doubt that most authors write their books for the purpose of students reading them and then sitting in front of a computer and trying to remember what color the dog was.
  • Endless worksheets with one right response.  Would you want to do it?


  • Make books available!  Put all kinds of books everywhere. Have an overflowing library at school.  Keep bins of books in every room of the house – especially the bathroom!
  • Read Aloud – Regardless of a reader’s age, listening to the right book is magical.  In a classroom all students of all reading levels get to share the same experience. Students don’t have to worry about tests, questions from the teacher, etc.  They just get to sit, listen, and enjoy.  Many times a read aloud book can lead students to new books in a series or by the same author.
  • Independent Reading with Choice – We know and research shows that students need to be actively reading in order to improve.  However, this is not enough to get them to enjoy it.  Students need to be given time to read books that they choose – books that are “just right” for them including interest level.
  • Share your favorite books, current books you are reading, likes and gripes about books and authors.  Students care!

We need to create a community of readers in our classrooms and our homes!  What we do matters!

Is there one of…

Is there one of us who is not haunted by the memory of a child we failed?

From The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

I know that as I grow as an educator, I realize how much I didn’t know just the year before.  And as a result, I realize how many children I have failed.  They may have left be better readers, but they also left without the love of reading.

I have always had the goal of making children life-long readers, but that is not the goal of districts that want high test scores.  As a reading teacher, I serviced students who came to me in third grade already hating reading and far behind grade level. I was in a constant battle between what I felt was right and what I was expected to do in terms of curriculum and assessment.  This year, with my district’s move toward reading workshop, I am finally doing what feels right.  The student spend the majority of time READING books that they WANT TO READ!  With modeling and guidance, students choose books they want to read and spend an average of an hour engaged in reading independently each day.

More and more students are realizing that reading and books are fun!  We have not won over every student, but the year is not over yet!

“People can I stop you?”

I sit in a PD led by a very prominent author, seen as a guru by many in the field of teaching reading and writing.  I am interested in the topic, I agree with her ideas, and yet I keep losing focus.  (I’m writing this…)  She tells us to turn and talk and then seconds later, “People, can I stop you?”
The first person gets to share, but then she stops us.  I realize this is, at least in part, because of time. And then I wonder how many times in the last week I have stopped my students’ sharing because of time. I am getting a little agitated, so they must too.
I find the most significant part of going to a workshop is that I become the student.  I am forced into my students’ shoes.  Of course I am here by choice and they are stuck with me, like it or not.  Each time I go to a PD I walk away more determined to pay attention to the needs of my students. Today I walk away with a renewed awareness of my students’ need to be heard.


This week our focus during Reading Workshop is on the strategy of visualizing while reading a fictional text.  Making a movie in my mind as I read is something that I have always done, without every receiving instruction on it.  It wasn’t until about six years ago that I realized how important this strategy really is to enjoying reading.

My sister got through high school with good grades, did all her work, read some books when she had to.  However, she never really enjoyed it.  And I think that you could count the number of books she had finished on one hand.  Then a certain vampire movie was coming out and she decided she was going to try to read the books.  She had seen all the previews and ended up reading the book in just a few days.  Shocking to both of us!

She told me,”Jennie, when I was reading I knew what the characters looked like and I saw it all happening as I was reading!  It was such a good book!”

I agree it is a good book, but it dawned on me that it was more about actually “seeing” it happening than the plot line. It wasn’t until that conversation that I realized not everyone visualizes while they read.    She never had.  However, now that she can make that movie in her mind, she loves to read.

I shared this story with my students today while I explained why I was making them draw pictures after every few pages of our read aloud.  I promised them that I wouldn’t let them wait until their twenties to start enjoying books.

Here are a few strategies I have found helpful in encouraging visualizing…

  • Read aloud a great chapter book and stop to draw pictures every few pages.
  • Draw along with them and explain how with more details from the author the picture in your head changes.
  • Don’t show them the illustrations in a picture book while reading the words. (EVER.  Not just when teaching the strategy directly.) Hold the book in front of you and read while they make the picture.  Then, turn the book after you finish the page.  (Yay! No more reading upside down and sideways!)

Yoga Balls

Image“How do you think that will go?”  “Good luck with that!”  These are just a few of the most frequent comments we heard when people (mostly fellow educators) saw that our third grade students would be sitting on yoga balls instead of chairs.  (All in a doubtful tone.)  This major decision about the furniture in our classroom was not made on a whim.  We spent our own money changing this important aspect of our classroom.  There are a plethora of reasons for students sitting on yoga balls all day including, but not limited to, improving the focus of all students.  By keeping their bodies busy, their minds are more able to focus.

In the first month of school, we have had two popped balls and we have maybe one small fall every few days.  We did a lot of interactive modeling the first week on how to use the balls appropriately and have specific rules to using the balls.

1.  Both feet on floor at all times.

2.  Only small bounces.

3.  If you fall off or are not safe on the ball, you use a chair for the rest of the day.

We reinforce these rules every day and do not make exceptions.  Students are allowed to choose a chair if they would like, but only one student out of twenty-six chooses to use a chair regularly.

So far, I would say these “chairs” have been a huge success!  Students are thrilled and responsible.  Parents are receptive and supportive.  And we have become accustomed to talking to children and seeing their little heads moving up and down!