home home meet the teacher classroom shop freebie library

The Purpose of Reading

Think of a recent time when you sat down with something to read (maybe this chapter, perhaps?) you had a purpose, right?  You probably can’t think of a time when you read something without a purpose.  It might have been to relax for a while or maybe to learn a new recipe, but whatever the case, you had a purpose.

The same is true for kids.  They need to see a purpose in order to get something meaningful out of reading.  If you put a Literature Circles novel in front of a student and they don’t know the purpose, I guarantee you’ll have behaviour issues and the student won’t gain anything of value from the experience.
There are three main reasons for reading:
  •  You can read to perform a task, such as specific directions. For example, “Read until you get to the part where...”
  • You can read for enjoyment.
  • You can read to learn new information. For example, if you wanted to learn about sea otters.
Before asking your students to read, make sure that you give them a purpose.  Be specific.  You can (and should) do this before asking them to read anything, not just a novel for Literature Circles.

Some specific prompts you can use include:
  • Read until you find the solution to the story problem.
  • Close your book once you’ve made a text-to-self connection.
  • After reading, I want you to tell me
  • Read until you find out about
  • Put the book down once you discover the setting of this story.
After some time, students will begin to see the purpose and value of reading.  They’ll become more independent and have much greater buy-in for reading tasks.  You’ll see readers with more focus and engagement, and far deeper comprehension.

A Strong Class Community = Comfortable Communication

It’s no secret that classroom community is important.  When students respect and acknowledge each other’s unique abilities a feeling of positivity and safety exists in the classroom.  If you want your students to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts about novels during Literature Circles, classroom community is essential.  

One of my favourite ways to build classroom community is through a class agreement.  This is the backbone of management in my classroom.  Once built, we have a whole-class understanding that we’ll follow it.  If a student isn’t being respectful during Literature Circles, I always reference the class agreement.  This blog post outlines how I build a class agreement, and gives some other community-building pointers, as well:

Other ways to build classroom community include:
  • Encourage student questions, and follow them up with another open-ended question to further thinking.
  • Get to know your students interests so you can plan lessons/suggest novels that are more to their liking.
  • Hold a Circle Talk/Morning Meeting to allow students to share their excitements and concerns with the class.

Independence is Key

During Literature Circles, you’re not going to be able to sit with every group, every time.  Students are going to need to be able to have some independent working skills.  The good news is that if students see a purpose for the reading, and have a strong class community, they’ll feel accountable for their learning and independent working shouldn’t be of concern.

On days where I feel that students weren’t using their time as wisely as they could have been, I’ll often ask them to offer up a self-reflection of their work.  Using a sticky note, students can write a sentence or two about what they did during the work period, give themselves a rating out of 5, and set a goal for the next time.  Quick, easy, and accountable.


Model, Model, and Model Some More

How do students know what’s expected of them? Through explicit teacher modeling.  If you’re going to ask your students to make connections during Literature Circles, they need to have experience making connections before hand.  If there is a certain format you’d like them to write responses with, they’ll need to have that modeled too.  

You can model for students by:
  • Thinking aloud
  • Providing a visual
  • Working through the task together
  • Checking for understanding and remodeling points of confusion
  • Showing past student samples

Before you begin Literature Circles, decide on the task you will want your students to complete.  Are there any that require pre-teaching and modeling? If so, short stories and picture books are great tools to use when modeling strategies!

post signature

Returning to Class After COVID-19

Students in British Columbia are starting to head back to school on a part-time, voluntary basis June 1 after nearly 3 months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  As I prepare to head back into the classroom, I find myself thinking about all of the new procedures and routines I'll need to teach.  Here's my list of initial thoughts, that I'm hoping can help you too, whenever your return to school might be.

Virtual Year End Celebrations

The end of this school year isn't going to look like most others!  We teachers have shown we can be flexible and adapt at the drop of a hat!  Now, how are our end of year celebrations going to look while teaching remotely? The typical field trip and school assembly just aren't going to work.  I've come up with 6 ideas that are easy to implement, free or very low cost, and totally fun!

Virtual Class Games for Video Conferencing

As remote, e-learning has become our "new normal" we teachers are turning to video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams to virtually connect with our kiddos.  This is a great way to deliver instruction, answer student questions, or just casually connect.  In this post, you'll discover 5 games you can play to jazz up your video sessions with students.  Perfect for community builders, time fillers as you wait for other students to join, or a quick wrap up!

Schools Closing? Free Ideas to Help

Is school cancelled where you are? Don't panic! 

I believe that it's not important to try and replicate school at home - that won't happen anyway.  You'll likely have families where multiple students are trying to access their one and only device.  Others may become caregivers to younger siblings.  The structure and surroundings aren't the same, so it's not going to be the same.  But, continuing to practice skills is important.  

Whether you're being directed to teach from a distance, or whether you just want to provide parents with some options they can access themselves, I've got you covered.  Everything on this page is free - there are no links to paid items.

Struggling to fit it all in?

As a teacher it always feels like I'm adding more things to my "To Do" list than I'm taking off.  There's always something to grade, some sort of data to hand in, and more curriculum to cover than it feels like ever possible.

Please tell me I'm not alone!  

After 10 years at this job, here are six strategies I've found that help me to "fit it all in".

Boost Reading Comprehension Through Discussion

One of our ultimate goals when teaching reading is to boost student comprehension of text.  We want our students to construct deeper meaning as they read.  A simple, no prep way of helping build comprehension is by allowing our students to talk.  

Through partner pairs, teacher and student conferencing, and whole-class discussion you can promote deeper understanding before, during, and after reading.  This is true for ANY text, in any subject area.  Read on to find some quick strategies you can integrate today.