Reading Strategy Application for READ 6351 wiki page

By Selia Lee Garza

As part of a final project for my READ 6351 class I was to work on the class wiki page which can be found at For this project I chose to work on the classroom application of several reading strategies.  My favorite, at least between the ones I have used, was the Story Ray.  In this strategy the students are supposed to create a visual representation of their books on strips of paper and put the whole story together.  This particular reading strategy involved me reading a selection aloud to the students. We read Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? by Avi.  We read this book together over a period of about two weeks. Once the entire selection was read I divided my class into groups of three to four and gave them a couple of chapters from the book. They were to reread their selection and talk about what in the story was important enough to visually represent on the story ray.  Once this brainstorming session was over each group was given a sentence strip and time to work on their chapters. I will be honest and inform you that my students mostly created illustrations of the story rather than visual representations. This was ok. I realized that the conversations that the students had while working on this project were deeper than I had heard before. Because I was so happy with the results of using this reading strategy I ventured to try it again. The second story ray proved to have better results than the first. The students were still having deep conversations but the biggest difference was their focus on the important aspects of their particular selections.  They thought more about what they were going to draw and why it was important. I even had a few students talking about why they had chosen the colors that they used. The improvement that my students showed from the first to the second implementation of this strategy was enough to make it be a strategy that I will likely continue to use time and time again.

Thanks and What’s Next

By readingintheborderlands

This semester students in READ 6310 and READ 6351 posted book reviews and personal essays to this blog. I’d like to thank them for their contributions. I appreciate hearing their opinions about literacy learning and teaching!

As soon as I get my grades turned in tonight I am officially on vacation. I have several ideas for posts in mind, but since I’m headed toward the frozen north I suspect I’ll spend most of my time away huddled under blankets, not sitting at a computer. We’ll see.

Next semester the students in READ 6323 and READ 6325 will be posting on this blog. I look forward to their thoughts!

Congratulations, Graduates!

By readingintheborderlands

Today is the official graduation day for the University of Texas-Pan American. Congratulations to all our graduates from the Reading Specialist M.Ed. program! And to all the graduates from other programs who have taken READ courses! I’m so proud of you and all your hard work. I know attending graduate school can be a real sacrifice of time and money, but I hope that what you learned made it all worthwhile.

Book Review: “New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics” By David J. Whitin & Phyllis Whitin

By Yazmin Garcia

 An  out of the ordinary book has listed the necessary strategies on linking literature and mathematics in the learning process. This book is designed to offer teachers new forms to develop mathematics learning in reading children’s literature.  One of the essential components that teachers can use from this book is the annotated bibliography of math related literacy books. Throughout each chapter, the authors introduced math literacy fiction and nonfiction books with real classroom stories on how teachers have incorporated them in their classroom and the responses from students.   The authors have structured the presentation of this book designed based on the mutual initiative from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The authors provide an explanation of the role of written and oral literacy held develop mathematical understanding.

The book is organized with a chapter that lists ways in which teachers can develop the same reading strategies used in Language Arts such as using book sets and developing units with  children literacy books in a  mathematic lesson that will meet the NCTM standards ; which changes the way to see  mathematics to a more inviting learning environment.

One chapter is focused on develop children’s mathematical comprehension by posing questions. The text analyzes specific parts of children’s literacy books and shows possible questions that teachers can post to develop a connection between the story and the math concept and to develop analysis in depth using the math concept. In this form, students are introduced to whole class discussion, they analyze the mathematical problems in the literacy piece by providing the opportunity to think about the problem, change the story of the problem, or develop a new problem, ask questions that will develop learning.  These strategies are designated to discover some of the students’ spontaneous observations and understanding of text.


D. J. Whitin & P. Whitin. 1947. New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics. NCTE.

Reading at Home

By Melissa Morales

As I sit here thinking about reading I can’t help but think about my students and my three children. I have taught for 9 years all in elementary and have 3 children: 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade. As I look back on all my experiences so far I have come to realize how important it is to read for fun at home. Literacy and the love of books begin at home. The more children read the better readers they will be. It is so important that parents read to their children when they are little and even continue to read with them when they get older. I have noticed that all we seem to do is watch T.V. lately. Even as adults we are either working, cleaning, or watching T.V. I need to pick up a book every now and then so that my kids will see and want to pick up a book too.  Whenever I do grab a book and want to read with my child they love it. It is funny how we assume they would rather watch television then spend time with us. Specially this holiday season with all of our kids home for the holidays. How are we going to spend our days and nights? Maybe instead of watching so many Christmas movies and cartoons, maybe we could go to the library and check out some Christmas books. Maybe we could read some recipe books and make some cookies. Wow now I’m picturing us outside at night with a blanket on the grass. We could have cookies, hot chocolate, a flashlight, and some books. I bet the kids would love that and it would make an awesome memory. It is just a thought from a mom of three and a teacher who needs to start reading for fun again.

Student-generated Books in the Classroom

By Claire Arteaga

During my first year teaching I knew that literature would be the backbone of every core subject. I read and read and read to my class in hopes that they would somehow absorb the information that needed to be covered. However, I did not realize the importance and benefits of responding to literature. When thinking of reader responses, all that came to my mind were classroom discussions and tests.

Luckily, I have grown as an educator in the past two years. I have learned about different reading strategies, as well as different types of literature responses. The response that I have found to be most beneficial is student-generated books. Students of all reading and writing levels have the ability to create books. It is an activity that can be used for any subject and any grade level.

Giving students the opportunity to create their own books is one of the greatest gifts they can receive! Through this activity, they gain self-confidence and assurance as writers and readers. This helps them to become more interested in the topic that they are writing about. In our class we create either an individual student-made book or a collaborative classroom book each week, which gives them the feeling of ownership and belonging.

My class has learned the writing process through the use of creating their own books. Every Monday in our class, the students get the opportunity to brainstorm about what type of book they will write in response to our literature of the week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the students work on their draft. Thursday is set aside for revisions and editing, and Friday they present their final product to the class.

Fridays bring great joy to our classroom. The students are excited to share their book and take it home to read to their families. Most of my students come from low-income families and money for books is scarce. Many parents have let me know that they are grateful for the opportunity to have a free book that they can read with their child. I get so many positive notes from the parents letting me know how impressed they are with their child’s work. The support from home encourages my students to keep creating wonderful books to share with their loved ones.

I notice that my students are satisfied and proud of each other’s accomplishments. During student-selected reading time, my students often choose to read the student-generated books over any other books. They take ownership and pride in their work and it reflects in their attitudes while reading the books. I plan on using Student-generated books for years to come!

Connecting Children’s Literature to Social Studies

By H. Meisel

Using children’s literature to further students’ knowledge in Social Studies has proven to be an effective and meaningful way to connect historical events. Autobiographies, biographies, and historical fiction are just some examples of literature that bring in the human factor for our students to relate to. As a Social Studies and Reading teacher, I am constantly looking for children’s and adolescent literature that connects the lives of the people in the era we’re studying to the lives of my students. Having the privilege of teaching World Cultures and Geography, our topics may range from literature coming from that specific country to the daily lives and hardships of the people who inhabit the country. I may choose to highlight literature that has a historical element or I may choose literature that discusses issues involving current events. There is a plethora of student literature, and my goal is to gather as many ideas as I can, along with books, and teaching methods.  My hopes are that other teachers may be able to contribute to enhance and enrich my ever-growing collections as well as get some new ideas of their own.

An example of connecting literature to Social Studies includes “Eating The Plates: A Pilgrim Book on Food And Manners,” by Lucille Recht Penner. This book tells the story of the Pilgrims and their struggle to survive. It gives details of their diet, the effects of disease, and help the Indians gave them by bringing corn, deer and turkey to their dinner tables. There are interesting recipes at the end of the book that reveal what was on the Pilgrims’ menu. This book takes the events of the establishment of Plymouth Colony and brings it to life for our students.

Another book that takes the study of Ancient Egyptian civilizations and brings it to life is “The Golden Goblet,” by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. This book is about the struggle of Ranofer, an adolescent living under the evil rule of his older half brother Gebu. Ranofer has strong suspicions his brother is a thief, but must go about proving it without being a subject of the thievery himself. Moreover, Ranofer’s goal of becoming a goldsmith is consistently shattered as Gebu uses him for his own selfish greed. This book is especially powerful for adolescent boys, and contains themes such as abuse, friendships, and never giving up on your dreams.

These are just a few examples of children’s and adolescent literature that bring to life events, dates, and places in history that can become so easily forgotten or ignored in an overwhelming textbook. I’m hoping teachers will share their knowledge and ideas about books they use that connect literature with their subject area teaching.

Time for Thinking

By Lisa, Educator and Mother of 3

Over the past month I have had to opportunity to meet with my Kinder and First grade teachers to discuss higher order thinking questions along with response time.  It has been interesting to see how the teachers have reacted to the information on response time.  As I go into my teacher’s rooms during their Language Arts time, and listen to the type of questioning that is taking place after a read aloud, I am often reminded of my time in the classroom.  All too often we ask our students a question pause for a quick second, and then answer it for them.  Why is that?  Through my observations this past month, I realized that so many teachers are so preoccupied with time management that they over look the need to allow children the necessary time to respond.  Because teachers are so afraid of falling behind, I have found that they don’t allot enough time for students to really synthesize the questions that are being asked, much less answer them.  Pre-K, Kinder and First grade children need to be taught how to listen and synthesize the questions that are being asked and at the same time, we as teachers need to make sure that we are giving the students enough time to answer.  This is not a skill or process that should be rushed.  The more children are rushed through this process, the less prepared they will be in the upper grades.   As teachers we also need to make sure that we model the thinking process out loud.  Children don’t automatically know how to think and make connections.  We need to help teach them those skills so they make a plethora of great connections.  This is one of the many advantages to Read-Alouds.  We should not be short changing our children.  We need to give them every opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of great literature so that they are able to make connections between characters and text.  As educators we also need to make sure that we ask young children plenty of open ended questions.  We want them all to know that what they have to say is important.  We want the children to hear the connections that other students are able to make.  This is how they will learn from each other.  Ultimately in the end, the most crucial component of all is the time allotted for children to respond. We cannot and must not rush the students.  We must allow them the necessary time to gather their thoughts in their head so that they can express their thoughts.

Class Books as a Foundation to Literature

By Jessica

Class books are important to teaching as they are a fundamental best practice in Early Childhood classrooms.  Reading to children is one of the best ways to lead them on the road to success – academically and personally.  Children should be encouraged to read on a daily basis with a buddy, with the teacher, and independently.   As children are engaged in story time, they can understand the stories teachers read and it is important to take the time to ask questions.  Reading to children is so crucial that teachers should find time to implement it every day.  Great teachers read aloud daily in the classroom to develop the love of reading and instill life- long reading habits. Class books are a critically important factor in a young child’s reading development.  Class books give the teacher opportunities to promote oral language development, reading and writing connections, ownership of literature, promotes cooperative learning, and encourages conversation and talk.   Another advantage from implementing class books is the offering of a fluent reading pace. Students will have an opportunity to read simple repetitive statements to read with ease to gain automaticity.  It is a great tool to reinforce concepts and content based instruction.  A good teacher is vital to the spirit of shared reading; therefore, this is a great tool to assist bonding and cooperation within classroom relationship building.  The main advantages of developing class books are; that it is pleasurable and interactive and it gives an array of opportunities for children to interact, develop and learn.  Promoting vocabulary development can be enhanced through class books.  Children are motivated to read and write when a rich print environment exist.  Content area vocabulary can be developed as children speak, listen, read, and write.  Having children take ownership in class books gives them the chance to communicate about a real task.  Class books also provide social opportunities, improve confidence, offer the chance to share knowledge, and gives experience for self correction and enables children to thoroughly construct meaning from the literature.

Family Literacy Nights – Building a Home-School Connection

by Margaret

As I was entering my fourth year of teaching this past August, I began to plan Family Literacy Nights.  My goal in doing this was to inform parents of how they can support their child in learning to read at home and to build a home-school connection.   I was inspired by a book titled Building a Culture of Literacy Month-by-Month by Hilarie Davis.  Using the ideas in this book as a guide, I drafted an outline of the Family Literacy Nights before the school year started, including topics, resources, and presentation ideas for each meeting.  I shared these ideas with my grade level, and was very pleased that all teachers wanted to participate in hosting these Family Literacy Nights.  We decided to have one presentation done in Spanish and one in English. 

We held our first Family Literacy Night in September.  The theme was “Literacy at Home.”  We presented a PowerPoint, informing families of how to capitalize on literacy at home in order to inspire a habit of reading for pleasure in their children.  We gave them photocopies of fun reading materials they could share with their child anytime, such as jokes and poems.  We concluded with a make-and-take activity, in which families designed a “Reading Buddy” puppet from a paper bag.  Unfortunately, even though we had advertised this Family Literacy Night for several weeks, we only had a turnout of 5 parents at the English presentation.

Our second Family Literacy Night was held in October, a week following the administration of the TPRI.   The topic was “Fluency.”  This time, we made the invitations more personalized.  For example, we wrote personal invitations to each family and made phone calls to invite parents.  These efforts resulted in the attendance of 15 families.  At this Family Literacy Night, we discussed what fluency is as well as why it is important.  We also modeled strategies that parents can use to build their child’s fluency, and parents had the opportunity to practice each technique with their child. 

After each presentation, we asked families to fill out a brief survey.  All surveys were extremely positive – in the multiple choice sections, parents checked “I agree” for all of the statements regarding how they benefited.  Parents were also asked to write two significant things they learned during the workshop, a question they still had, and a suggestion they had.  These open-ended questions gave us insight about the message we communicated as well as what we needed to do for the next presentation.  I have also noticed that the parents who attended the Family Literacy Nights approach me more often with questions regarding what they can do to increase their child’s achievement.  Because of these positive responses, I have come to see Family Literacy Nights as a strong bridge between the home and school, and I would encourage anyone who has not hosted a Family Literacy Night to try it.