Monday, November 28, 2016

7th Grade Current Events

Mr. William's 7th Grade Social Studies Reading Class combined information from two related news articles to create their own.  Check out the digital newspaper they made as a class!  Please be patient with the time the videos take to load (every black page with a heading has a video).  It is best to read the written articles first.  I promise that it is worth the wait!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Book Fair is Coming!

Opening Night:  October 25th during parent/teacher conferences

Shopping is open to students all week during school hours.

Closing Night:  November 3rd during parent/teacher conferences


Online shopping is available from 10/20-11/4 and includes even more titles!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Literacy at Shapleigh School

Literacy Engagement at Shapleigh Middle School

The goal is to create lifelong readers!!!
The more students read books that they choose,
the more likely they are to develop and sustain their love of reading!

“Reading changes your life.  Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten.  Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education.  Reading shows you how to be a better human being.” - Donalyn Miller

  • Shapleigh’s 40 Book Challenge:
(Inspired by Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer)

  • Students, Teachers, AND Parents are encouraged to read as many books as possible this year, with 40 being the ultimate challenge (that’s about a book/week)!  This should be a personal goal for everyone and not a competition. Please provide as much independent reading time as possible and encourage reading to happen during any down times plus at home!
  • Grade levels can set up the amounts for each genre but a suggestion would be:  10 choice books, 5 realistic fiction, 5 informational, 5 fantasy, 5 biography/autobiography, 4 historical fiction, 2 poetry
  • Accountability for the reading can take place as a list of finished books, checklist, punchcard, or through posts on padlet.  Please do not attach tedious assignments to the reading.  This will likely discourage students from reading as many texts.

  • Rewards:  NONE… Reading should be its own reward.  I will have a bulletin board set up for students to post their names as they reach milestones (5, 10, 20, 30, 40 books).  Students will also be recognized. We really want to celebrate each and every book they read. Reading more than last year = success!

  • Padlet:  Web-based page for students to post book recommendations coming soon for each grade level!  One page will be set up for each grade level to post quotes from books, book commercials, recommendations, reviews, etc.  The goal is for it to be fun and to help motivate each other to read more!

  • Maine Student Book Awards:  Mr. Wicker has these 42 books in the library.  There is a great selection of various genres so this would go nicely with the 40 book challenge!  Students who read three or more MSBA books are eligible to vote for their favorite book at their public library in March. Bookmarks are available.  The ballot is available online. Rich will tally the votes and submit them via the MSBA online voting site.   Go to: for more information.

  • Book Fair:  Opening Night:  October 25th -- Closing Night:  November 3rd
Parent/Teacher Conferences will be during that week as well. Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recommended Books from The Center for Teaching and Learning

The Center for Teaching and Learning Website (and book lists) 

About the Book Lists

by Nancie Atwell

The annual average number of books read by seventh and eighth grade readers at CTL is at least forty titles. In the lower grades, the numbers are similarly high. My K-6 colleagues and I make time every day for our students to curl up with good books and engage in the single activity that consistently correlates with high levels of performance on standardized tests of reading ability. That is frequent, voluminous, self-selected reading. A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone ever became a reader.

Our goal is for every child to become a skilled, passionate, habitual, critical reader—as novelist Robertson Davies put it, to learn how to make of reading “a personal art.” Along the way, CTL teachers hope our students will become smarter, happier, more just, and more compassionate people because of the worlds they experience within those hundreds of thousands of lines of print.

We know that students need time to read, at school and home, every day. We understand that when particular children love their particular books, reading is more likely to happen during the time set aside for it. And we have learned that the only sure-fire way to induce a love of books is to invite students to select their own. CTL teachers buy the best children’s literature we can find, conduct booktalks and bookwalks, and help our students choose books, develop and refine literary criteria, and carve out identities for themselves as readers. We get that it’s essential for every child to be able to say These are my favorite books, authors, genres, and characters this year, and this is why. Personal preference is the foundation, walls, and ceiling in building a reader for a lifetime.

Starting in kindergarten, free choice of books is a child’s right, not a privilege granted by a kind teacher. Our students have demonstrated that opportunities to consider, select, and reconsider books make reading feel sensible and attractive to children right from the start-that they’ll read more books than we dreamed possible and more challenging books than we dreamed of assigning them.

We’ve also learned that students need access to a wide, up-to-date assortment of inviting titles. Instead of investing in class sets of novels or expensive basals or anthologies, we make classroom libraries of individual titles our budget priority. Teachers read a lot of the books that we hope our students will, so we can make knowledgeable recommendations. We offer help when readers need it, and we teach children, one at a time, about books and reading in the daily, quiet conversations in our reading workshops.

We understand that the only delivery system for reading comprehension is reading. When reading is meaning-filled, understanding cannot be separated from decoding. Reading comprehension is not a set of sub-skills or strategies that children need to be taught to bring to bear once they’ve learned to translate letters to sounds. When students are reading stories that are interesting to them, and when the books are written at their independent reading level, comprehension—the making of meaning—is direct, and kids understand. 
Human beings are wired to understand. As reading theorist Frank Smith put it, “Children know how to comprehend, provided they are in a situation that has the possibility of making sense to them” (1997). Reading workshop is our best approximation of an instructional context that has the possibility of making sense to young readers: a child sits in a quiet, book-filled space, engrossed in a beloved book in the company of classmates who are reading and loving books, too, monitored by a teacher who knows about literature, reading, and his or her students’ tastes, strengths, and challenges.

Because CTL is a non-profit demonstration school, a place where other teachers come to learn about innovative methods, we work hard to attract a student body that represents a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds and ability levels, and we fundraise twelve months a year so we can set a tuition rate that’s as low as possible. The goal is to attract a mix of students in whom visiting teachers can recognize their own.

And they do, because CTL students are regular kids. They suffer ADHD and such identified learning disabilities as nonverbal learning disorders, visual processing difficulties, and dyslexia. Some kids come from homes with packed bookshelves; others own only a few books. Maine is a rural state and a poor one, in the bottom third nationally in terms of per capita income. Only 66% of jobs here pay a livable wage, and our students’ parents work hard at all kinds of occupations: farmer, carpenter, house cleaner, store clerk, soldier, fisherman, gardener, postal worker, and housecleaner, as well as physician, minister, teacher, and small-business owner.

We do not believe that CTL students’ accomplishments as readers can be explained away as an anomaly. Ours is not a privileged population of students. This is what is possible for children as readers. 

It’s also important to understand that reading workshop is not S.S.R. (Sustained Silent Reading). It’s not a study hall, where we watch the clock with one eye as we Drop Everything And Read. In reading workshop, we teach readers for a lifetime: introduce new books and old favorites, tell about authors and genres, read aloud, talk with kids about their reading rituals and plans, and present lessons about elements of fiction, how poems work, what efficient readers do—and don’t do—when they come across an unfamiliar word, how punctuation gives voice to reading, when to speed up or slow down, who won this year’s Newbery Award, how to keep a reading record, what a sequel is, what readers can glean from a copyright page, how to identify the narrative voice or tone of a novel and why it matters, how there are different purposes for reading that affect a reader’s style and pace, how to unpack a poem, how to distinguish between popular and literary fiction, how to tell if a book is too hard, too easy, or just right, and why the only way to become a strong, fluent reader is to read often and a lot.

Reading workshop is one of the simplest and hardest things we do. It’s also the most worthwhile. Students leave our school as literary, well-above-grade-level readers. But they also leave smarter about a diversity of words, ideas, events, people, and places. Books and stories bring the whole world to a tiny school in rural Maine. When the readers grow up and leave the school, they recognize the wide world they encounter out there because it is already lodged in the “chambers of their imaginations” (Spufford, 2002).
Sydney Jourard wrote, “The vicarious experience of reading can shape our essence, change us, just as firsthand experience can. Experience seems to be as transfusible as blood” (1971). For students who know reading as a personal art, every day is a transfusion. Every day they engage with literature that enables them to know things, feel things, imagine things, hope for things, become people they never could have dreamed without the transforming power of books, books, books.

Three times a year, the boys and girls at CTL help their teachers create master lists of the inviting, accessible books they love best. The “Kids Recommend” lists feature the titles our students name in response to this question: Which books do you love so much that you think they might convince a _____-grade girl/boy—someone who’s a lot like you, except that she/he doesn’t read much—that books are great? The answers are available to our students and their parents, as well as other teachers, their students, and the general public here on our website.

Students update the lists continuously, because the field of children’s literature changes so quickly. While a handful of titles do maintain their popularity—S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders(1968), the novel that virtually created the field of young adult literature, continues to speak to middle schoolers-—many drop off and are replaced over time.
We separated the lists of book titles for grades 3-8 into girls’ and boys’ choices because, in general, their tastes in books aren’t the same: at the middle-school level, the gender overlap in titles is only about twenty percent; in grades 3-4, it’s around seventeen percent. Gender is not a consideration in children’s book choices in grades K-2.

We hope CTL’s book lists set a trend. Our goal is a national network of websites of great titles, nominated by K-12 students from all kinds of school settings who choose their own books: favorite titles of a cross-section of American children as the go-to resource for teachers selecting literature for classroom libraries in diverse communities.
If you are interested in learning more about how we teach reading at CTL, I have written a brief, practical book for teachers and parents entitled The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers (Scholastic, 2007); an overview of CTL’s entire program, Systems to Transform Your Classroom and School (Heinemann, 2014); and a third edition of In the Middle: A Lifetime of Learning about Writing, Reading, and Adolescents (Heinemann, 2015).

With all best wishes,

Nancie Atwell

Friday, June 17, 2016

Websites, Apps, & Games

Tips to Help Readers Succeed

Ways to Encourage Reading & Writing at Home
  • Encourage kids to read anything—even if it isn’t a book. Magazines, comics or websites can engage children, and shows them that computers and iPads aren’t just for games.
  • Within reason, never say no to your young reader. If your child is excited about reading about dinosaurs, for example, don’t push him or her to read something else.
  • Motivate by making connections to real-world outcomes so children realize reading is more than just a grade. For example, writing a letter to their favorite singer, or to grandma, allows young readers to find meaning in what they are doing.
  • Focus on what your child CAN do. Build on his/her strengths. For example, fold spelling into another activity that your child enjoys to build a sense of competence.
  • Keep it positive.  Rather than being intense, keep the mood light and upbeat and keep your eyes on the goal of enjoying reading.
  • Talk about what she reads. Ask her what she thinks of a book and make connections with ideas or issues that are relevant to her life.
  • If he's struggling or bored with a book, let him put it down. Forcing him to stick with a difficult or dull book that's intended for pleasure will reinforce the idea that reading is a chore.
  • Subscribe to magazines that will interest her. Ask her to choose one or two titles and put the subscription in her name.
  • Read the newspaper together. Whether it's for 15 minutes over breakfast or on weekends, establish a routine and discuss what you each read.
  • Be flexible with bedtime and chores when your child is reading. Within reason, avoid asking your child to stop reading.
  • Play games that utilize reading. Word- and vocabulary-building games like Scrabble or Boggle are great, but many board games provide reading opportunities (even if it's just the instructions). Crosswords provide opportunities for learning new words and spelling practice, too.
  • Encourage your middle-schooler to read to a younger sibling. Letting him take over ritual reading at bedtime once a week will ensure he reads something, and he may find his sibling's enthusiasm for stories contagious.
  • Visit the library together. Try to make it an event where you share some quality one-on-one time and both choose a few books.
  • Find an outlet for your child to "publish" a book review. When she finishes a book, encourage her to write it up for a family or school newspaper, magazine, or Web site. She could also try posting a review at a local bookseller or an online retailer. 
  • Ensure he has a good reading space. He should choose where it is, but you can make sure it's well lit and inviting so he stays a while.
  • Keep up on what she's reading. If you can, read a few pages of her books yourself so you can discuss them with her.
  • Encourage writing. Whether it's via snail- or e-mail, suggest that he keep in touch with distant friends or relatives. Keeping a journal or chronicling a family vacation will also provide reading practice.
  • Provide a good dictionary. She may not want to ask for your help with words anymore, so make sure she has a good reference.
  • Suggest books from movies he likes. He may enjoy getting even more detail in the book.
  • Listen to books in the car. If you're heading on vacation, or even back-and-forth to school, try listening to a novel that will appeal to everyone.
  • Model reading. Your pre-teen will still follow your reading habits (though she'll never let you know it!). Let her see you reading, make comments, and share interesting passages with her.
  • Refresh your home library
  • Participate in reading challenges.  Look online and through your local libraries & book stores
  • Read aloud to your children.  They are never too old!!
  • Research book lists and book trailers online for new recommendations.
  • Create a book club with friends. Your child could form one himself. How about inviting a few friends over once a week to discuss a book and share or “booktalk books they’re reading. Make the group big enough so that even if a few kids are on vacation, there are still kids around to meet.  If you can’t meet, create an online book discussion!
  • Blog about books!  Use a free site like Blogger to create a blog and review books or record your thoughts about what you are reading.
  • Keep a writing journal.  Write about your adventures, gardening observations, or fun with friends!
  • Find a penpal to write back and forth with!
  • Make your own audio book! Most phones and computers have simple recording apps on them which are perfect for making homemade audio books! Have your child make up a story, or reread a favorite loved book. The recordings will be priceless!
  • Visit a museum, online! You’ll be surprised by how much you can explore without leaving your house. One example is the Smithsonian Institution Kids site. It’s complete with offerings from Art to Zoo, for kids and students of all ages.
  • Point, shoot, and write. Most families have access to a digital camera, iPad or camera phone. Snap some photos and then encourage your child to write a silly caption or story for each photo.