Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Privacy of Reading Levels

Reading levels are surrounded by controversy.  Many discussions have taken place in the education world about the use, misuse, and abuse of labeling students according to their reading levels.

I am sure I cannot add anything new to the discussions; however, I had a light bulb moment tonight and felt the need to write about it.

My students are getting ready to write open letters where they can combine their research skills with argument skills and write about an issue that concerns them.  Believing that teachers should be writers, too, I set out tonight to research articles on Accelerated Reading.  Yes, I am writing a letter to my superintendent arguing that we should do away with AR.

I wanted to find an article about the inconsistencies of the reading levels with age-appropriate levels of books.  I was immediately disheartened (but not surprised) by the number of images of color coded stickers for classroom libraries that came up in my initial my search.

Reading further, I came across a position statement on labeling books by reading level by the American Association of School Librarians.  It states the following:

"Labeling and shelving a book with an assigned grade level on its spine allows other students to observe the reading level of peers, thus threatening the confidentiality of students’ reading levels. Only a student, the child’s parents or guardian, the teacher, and the school librarian as appropriate should have knowledge of a student’s reading capability."

I began thinking about the teachers who level their classroom libraries, school libraries with non-standard shelving practices and the students who select books from those shelves, and students who carry around cards or name tags identifying them by reading levels or colored dots.

All of these practices are public displays of confidential information.  If I were to tell a student or a parent another student's test scores, grades, or even their address, I would be breaking the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Yet, we are making confidential information public for all to see in our classrooms and in our schools.

I have always believed that reading labels should be for books and not students, but honestly, I never thought about it as breaking a law.

Until tonight.

For more reading on this same issue, check out this article by Dr. Molly Ness. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Time #PoetryFriday

Join Tara at Going to Walden for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.

After a year of academic writing and writing from my head, I still find it quite a struggle to write from my heart. My creative side may still be a little rusty, but I'm hopeful it will return.

Today, as I was visiting Margaret's space, Reflections from the Teche, I learned a new poetry form called a Skinny.  You can learn more about a Skinny at the The Skinny Poetry Journal.

Margaret challenged us to write a Skinny using a metaphor that she and her students created from her metaphor dice.  Although I didn't keep it as a metaphor, I still used the same words - Time is an impossible super hero.

Here is my first attempt at a Skinny...

Time, an impossible super hero, is
Who says
is time, an impossible super hero?

Monday, January 21, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 1-21-19

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle and Ricki at Unleashing Readers co-host It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Be sure to stop by and see what others are reading and recommending this week.

It was a slow reading week, but the snow day today helped me finish this one!

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I recently posted about how my boys felt that my classroom library lacked "boy books." While I don't believe in boy/girl books, I do feel that a gap exists. This was a book that I had in my TBR pile and moved it to the top so that my boys could read it. I don't think they will be disappointed. 

The Boy Who Dared, based on a true story, is about a how a young boy resists the Nazis by using the power of words. Though in the end, people called him a fool because a 16 year old boy could not change the government. But I think he believed and knew that there is power in words and even more power in the truth. 

That is what I want for my students, and I hope that by reading this book, it will help them to understand Helmuth's story and courage, but to also understand the power they each have in them.

Books (still) On Deck

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Narrowing the Gap

Right after Christmas Break I had my students go book shopping. I was blessed with a grant to purchase books for my classroom library, and along with books from Scholastic book orders and my own purchases, I had quite a stack for students to browse through.

As students were shopping, I heard a boy say, "These are girl books." I dismissed it and kept moving throughout the room. Then I heard a similar comment from another boy. I replied, "There is no such thing as boy books or girl books. There are just books."

It happened again during the next period, so I thought it was time to take a look.

And I found out they were right.

I saw that many of the books had female protagonists and many of them were realistic fiction - both which had been influenced by my own preferences and interests. I have always tried to be cognizant of the genre gaps because I tend to avoid reading certain ones. It seems in the process, I have unintentionally overlooked what books might appeal to or interest my boys.

I knew I had to take a look at my library and evaluate its access for all of my students. Research shows that boys tend to not read as much as girls, and they have lower reading achievement scores. Having classroom libraries that do not include the interests of all students adds to this problem.

There is a lot of emphasis on creating diverse libraries that represent all students, but that same diversity must stretch across interests too. My students pointed that out to me. Today, as I placed a new Scholastic book order, I am happy to say I am narrowing that gap as the order includes many new books recommended by my boys. I can't wait to see what they say now.

Monday, January 14, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 1-14-19

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle and Ricki at Unleashing Readers co-host It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Be sure to stop by and see what others are reading and recommending this week.

It has been awhile since I have participated in #IMWAYR because I have been working on my Master's degree. That work took a huge chunk of my reading time, and I am excited to get my reading life back and to share with other readers.

Here is what I read last week:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

I have heard a lot of Newbery talk about Front Desk, and I can certainly see it as a contender. One of the things I like most about reading middle grade books, are the lessons I learn not only as a reader, but also as a teacher.  This book had several (the spelling notebook and the choosing of the monopoly pieces), and I will be writing about those in another post.

Mia's family are Chinese immigrants, and this story confronts injustices of immigrants, racism, and poverty, all social issues that are important for students to read about. 

Mia is spunky, and I like spunk. She sets out to fight the discrimination against her and her friends who stay in the motel her family runs. The very last paragraph of the author's notes is a lesson we can all learn.

"Often during tough times, the first instinct is to exclude. But this book is about what happens when you include, when, despite all your suffering and your heartache, you still wake up every morning and look out at the world with fresh, curious eyes."

Dry by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Although I typically do not like to read dystopian or science fiction books, I have devoured everything I have read of his.  And Dry was no exception.

California is experiencing a Tap-out and find themselves with no water.  Desperation is at an all-time high as families and neighborhoods turn against one another in their effort to find water. Alyssa, Garrett, Kelton, Jacqui, and Henry all have to work together, but how can you do that when you can hardly trust each other?

Dry is one of those books that makes you think and makes you wonder, what if...?

Books on Deck:

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My Writing List for 2019

A new year always brings new goals, or at least thoughts about what we want to accomplish.  Many reading communities that I belong to create reading challenges. I love creating reading lists because it gives me a plan. Now I want a writing plan, which is the reason for #letswrite2019.

Here is my writing plan for 2019. I know I will not accomplish everything, and I know I will wrtie many other pieces not mentioned here.  But it is a plan, and it will help keep me focused and guide me throughout the year.

  • Write at least 100 blog posts.
  • Rethink the purpose of my blog and write more about literacy for literacy teachers.
  • Explore more professional opportunities. 
  • Open my eyes to the small things around me and write more poetry.
  • Keep a writer's notebook.
  • Complete the Slice of Life March Challenge.
  • And now for the biggie - I have wanted to write a professional book, even if no one ever reads it!  My goal is to write an outline and look into the publishing process.
That's it!  Seven areas that I want to explore, improve, and expand in my own writing life.

If you would like to join #letswrite2019, check out this post.

Let's Write in 2019!


For the past several years, I have participated in a reading challenge with Carried Gelson at There is a Book for That.  I love making a list of books that I want to read, share the progress, and then celebrate.

But what about those of us who also write?  Where are things like this for writers?

Thinking about this, I decided to create a writing challenge for this year, although I wouldn't really call it a challenge.  It's more like creating a writing plan, but with the support of a community of writers, much like my Teach Write community. Each day the Teach Write community has a place to share what we write, and I will continue to do that.  But I see #letswrite2019 as more of a panoramic view - a bigger picture.

So how about joining me? Where do you want your writing to take you in 2019?

Maybe its writing a certain number of blog posts?

Or finishing a book?

Or trying out a new genre?

Or writing more of what your students are writing?

Or completing a thesis or a dissertation?

Or venturing into professional writing?

Or taking a writing workshop?  (Here is link to a good one!)

No matter what your writing list looks like, it is the spirit of the challenge, support from other writers, and the celebration that matter. Pulling goals out of a notebook and putting them into the world can be scary. Who cares what I want to write? And that may be true. When we make our goals and plans public, we create a type of accountability that some of us may want and maybe even need if we want to truly expand our writing life. And having the Teach Write community to cheer us on each day is an added bonus!

Think about what you want to accomplish in your writing life this year. If you would like to share it on your blog, then contact me via Twitter at @Teachr4 or leave a link here in the comments, and I will add you to our #letswrite2019 community.

Don't have a blog? Not a problem. Maybe make an image of your plan and send it to me, and I will include it in the list of participants. Or just write your plan in the comments.

The important, yet optional, part will be celebrating our success. I learned about writing celebrations from Ruth Ayes, the queen of celebrating the small things.  So I will have four update posts where we can celebrate together, the big and the small.

First Celebration:  March 31st
Second Celebration:  June 30th
Third Celebration:  September 30th
Final Celebration:  December 31st

So what are you waiting for? Let's Write in 2019!

My post is here: My Writing List for 2019

Check out Kendra Limback's plan here:  Let's Write

You can find Sarah Valter's post here:  #letswrite2019:  Refocusing on Writing

Ruth Ayres is joining us here:  let's write 2019

Margaret Simon is writing from the bayou:  Let's Write 2019

Kali Sosa has joined here:  It's all about VISION & MISSION: #letswrite2019

Trina Haase's plan is here: #letswrite2019

Here is Brent Gilson's plan for an "unplan": Plans a #letswrite2019 post

Check out Michelle Olson's goals:  Books on the Backporch

This is also space for those who do not have blogs. Send me your plan and I will post a picture!

Melissa Wood-Glusac's goals:

Melissa Sawetch's goals:

Hannah Johnson has her goals in her bullet journal:


It's that time of year when resolutions are made, goals are set, and reading lists are created. I am joining Carrie Gelson at There's A Book for That and many other readers to create a list of books that I want to read in the upcoming year.  Click on the image above if to take you to Carries's round-up link.  Please consider joining us or taking a peek at some great book recommendations! But beware - you risk your list growing exponentially!

My list for 2019 has a little of everything, and I currently own all but one.

Making a list is the easy part; completing the list is much harder!  Especially when I still have boxes of books just waiting to be read as well.

But I still enjoy participating.

Last year I had eight books on my list, two for each quarter of the year, and I read six. This year I have 15 books!  My reading life should get back to normal now I have completed my Master's degree!

Here is my Must Read in 2019 List:

Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles
After Zero by Christina Collins
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman Read May 28,2019
Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen
The Truth as Told Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen
Front Desk by Kelly Yang Read January 2, 2019
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart Read March 21, 2019

Blended by Sharon Draper  Read January 23, 2019
Dry by Neal Shusterman Read January 12, 2019
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti Read January 21, 2019

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
The Third Mushroom by Jennifer Holm Read May 28, 2019
A Very Large Expanse of See by Tahereh Mafi

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!