The House that Reading Built

Posted by Readingintheborderlands

Donalyn Miller wrote an excellent post about the power of literacy and access to books:

Reversing the lack of accurate, inclusive, affirming portrayals of diversity in children’s literature is long overdue, but writing and publishing more diverse authors and stories only takes us so far if children never see these books. As a global community, we cannot continue to accept or perpetuate inequities limiting children’s open access to books.


McAllen Book Festival

By readingintheborderlands

The McAllen Book Festival returns this Saturday, November 7 from 10:00-5:00! Last year’s event was fantastic and I’m really excited about this year. The official announcement:

The McAllen Book Festival will be held this Saturday, November 7, from 10 AM to 5 PM at McAllen Public Library. (It is the main branch at Nolana and 23rd Streets.) This free festival features acclaimed authors for children and young adults, speaking at the top of each hour, as well as live music, youth activities, vendors, and food trucks all day. 

The full schedule is available online.

I’ll be there! Come join me!

Back from hiatus…..

By readingintheborderlands

It’s been a while! This blog went on hiatus when work got overwhelming. The consolidation of my university with another has been….interesting, to say the least. Positive, yes! But lots and lots and lots of work. We are now three whole months into the new institution and it’s time to get back to other parts of my life.

The blog has a new look, but I’ll probably be playing around with it for a bit trying out different colors and graphics.

Playing and learning through literacy (teaching ideas)

This summer, students in READ 6313 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lily Garcia

As a first grade teacher I am aware that the child’s attention span is short for the million things they have to learn on a daily basis. One thing I like to do to develop their literacy is by making it fun for them as they are learning. Literacy begins with spoken language, so having my first graders exposed to rhyme and alliteration helps them so much and they enjoy doing centers with those activities that without knowing they are “playing” but learning at the same time.

I know one thing that sometimes isn’t liked very much in classrooms is when they are considered “noisy”, but teachers and administrators need to allow children to talk as much as they can. So even during free play, teachers should go up to a child and ask what they are doing. Engage in a conversation on the child’s level and go along with whatever the child says, but the system now a days goes straight into asking stem questions and higher order thinking questions when the child hasn’t developed the foundation yet and if those questions are not asked then we as teachers are not doing our job right, when in reality we are.

I believe in having children work through play whether it’s in group activities or drama plays with puppets or costumes to have the child develop their literacy development. When children interact with one another on a playing level they develop relationships and forms of communicating that will benefit them in the long run. Another thing I like to have my students do is play with letter blocks and stamps, they express themselves in writing and tell each other words they’ve learned and are at the same time teaching and understanding one another. They enjoy having their centers on a daily basis and all I have to do is make sure to teach them a couple of times so they are all aware of what to do and they are able to take off on their own. Students at the first grade age level love to be helpers, so another thing we do in my classroom is read aloud on a daily basis. When we all go to the carpet I allow students to hold books as we read and I give them a chance to understand the story by allowing them to put on puppet shows. Puppet shows are great because students need to use creative thinking and verbal cues to put a story together and let me tell you they come up with some fantastic scenarios.

In order to develop literacy at an early age we need to ask a lot of questions, ask them to predict what will happen, what do they know based on the pictures etc. Having a small library setup in my own classroom is also a fantastic idea since children enjoy going over to it and look at books, I’ve noticed that they pick books that seem to be attractive for them, so I make sure to display books with bright covers and eye catching scenes since most of them at that age are visual learners.

I can gladly say that with these activities in use in my own classroom I have been able to get some millionaire readers for our AR scores, my children have developed a liking for literacy that to them it was all fun and play while they were picking up everything they need to learn without realizing it. What you model is what they will pick up and since reading is constantly modeled in my classroom, they love to pick up books and read to one another with expression, intonation and act out scenarios.

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lily Garcia

As a bilingual teacher most of us teachers constantly ask ourselves what are the most effective reading practices? What are some examples of daily vocabulary practices? Is there an improvement in student test scores when strategies are used daily? Findings suggest that literature can be taught through the use of movement, technology, and graphic organizers amongst others are the most effective strategies used to help bilingual students improve reading comprehension and vocabulary usage. It is very important to incorporate movement; technology and graphic organizers into daily practices in reading and vocabulary instruction with in a bilingual education primary classroom so the students will show improvement in the use of new acquired vocabulary and reading comprehension. My focus will be on English language learners in primary grades within a bilingual education classroom setting.

Investigations on which strategies best help students improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. These terms are used to define a student that is coming from a Spanish speaking background into learning English as a second language. English language learners are a very special population. The bilingual population is currently on the rise in the in United States. In the year 2000, 18% of people spoke a language other than English; by 2030, this is projected to increase to 40% (Bowers 5). Therefore, there needs to be differentiation for the bilingual population.

There is an overflow of strategies to help English language learners increase their English language skills, but this study is to investigate which practices work best with students in a primary grade, pre-kinder through second. Bilingual students reported that they skip the parts they don’t understand in a story and they repeat words over and over again while they read (Padron 687). The future of successfully educating English language learners will require teachers to support language acquisition every day in every classroom and during every lesson (Bowers, 4). There are many strategies used in classrooms to help English language learners improve on their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. The data suggest that Latina/o students who are successful English readers possess a qualitatively unique fund of strategic reading knowledge (Jimenez 91). Reading and vocabulary go hand in hand. The more a person reads leads to a obtaining a better vocabulary. The National Reading Panel found that teaching students comprehension strategies was important to their growth as readers (Sousa, 2011). Therefore, knowing the importance of strategies, which are indeed the most effective and which strategies are useful to those students in a bilingual classroom setting. Strategies are teaching methods used to add creativity in a lesson and to help students better retain the presented information. Teachers need to be creative; the days of paper/pencil worksheets are over. These strategies will help to present information in new way to help increase reading and vocabulary skills in English language learners.

One strategy that improves reading and vocabulary is the incorporation of technology. Technology provides a visual for students and makes the lesson more concrete as opposed to abstract. Today’s students have a much easier access of technology because it is an ever improving medium. It seems like today’s students literally have the world at their fingertips thanks to modern technology. Students benefit when teachers use multimedia in presenting lessons because the media usage adds context to the language and the lessons (Herrell, 2004).

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Gracie Mata

As a third grade bilingual teacher, I have found that it can be extremely difficult for bilingual students to grasp several mathematical concepts without the use of visual aids. Recently I stumbled across a series of books named MATH START written by Stuart J. Murphy which provide students with realistic life stories and good visual support for math concepts. His goal throughout these books is to provide visual learning strategies that can be used to show how something works, demonstrate academic ideas, and teach new concepts.

Image 1

These stories combine math concepts along with the visualization needed to help students understand and become more fluent in mathematics.   The combination of math and text allow them to form a connection to the real world and make their learning relevant. These books produce a balance between the math and the story, providing visual and text.

As an introduction to a new math concept I have incorporated many of these books into my math lessons. To begin a math lesson I scan the book and create a flipchart, incorporating questions in between slides to help create discussion. This also allows it to become more interactive for the students. Some of the most favorable books I’ve used in my class are Probably Pistachio, Racing Around, and Betcha!

A difficult concept for students to grasp is estimation, so the book BETCHA is a great way for students to understand how the concept is used in real life situations that require estimation. The book is about a boy who wants to win tickets to an event but has to guess how many jellybeans are in a bottle, so he estimates approximately how many rows of jellybeans there are by how many in each row and estimates correctly.

Another favorite is Probably Pistachio which shows probability; this book can also be used to teach predicting outcomes. This book really targets the vocabulary in the lesson and uses it repeatedly in content; this is a great method when teaching ELL’s a new concept.

The books are well written in the way that the math content does not interfere or overpowers the story, and that the story doesn’t control the topic to where the math gets lost.

Visual Learning is a method that allows students to fully engage in math through stories that use illustrations, diagrams, graphs, symbols and other visual models.   It can also be used to make sense of difficult information quickly.   It is said that visual learning is an essential part of our communication process and through communication many things can be better explained and understood.

This series can be a possible tool for all students struggling to make a connection with math concepts. The visual aids used in these books and in the story lines are inspired to cater to the needs and likes of children.

Wanted: Willy, Charlie, Oompa Loompa, Veruca etc…

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lorena Cardenas

I’ve got four golden tickets. What do you get in a classroom that discusses literature? You get students completely engaged in novels. Just like adults, students should have a chance to make ample and relevant connections between themselves and the characters in the story.   In 18 years of teaching, I have observed that there is more student interest when given literature that enables them to make real world connections with the opportunities to share with peers. This enables the students to have a “risk free” learning environment and encourages them to want to share more.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl has been one of my favorite novels to use in my third grade class; I have read it to my students for the past 16 years. There are several activities my students have enjoyed after reading the entire novel.  In these activities classroom talk is a must, and the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is implemented (rigor).

Wanted Signs

im1147Students are placed in collaborative groups, usually in groups of three. Students pick a character from the novel (Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, Grandpa Joe, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, Augustus Gloop, and an adult male or female Oompa Loompa). Before their creation, students gather in literacy groups to discuss and agree on their ideas. Each student must have a role (group facilitator, summarizer, questioner etc…). Students create a “wanted” sign with an illustration of the character. The illustration should be created using textual evidence for the perfect description of their character. The sign must include the reason why the character is wanted, and the reward they would give. They can create a made up phone number to call or a made up website.   When all signs are finished, students may display their work to create a gallery walk. Here the students can evaluate each other’s work with sticky notes.

Four Corners

In this activity, the teacher displays any four characters students select to discuss. The teacher places the names on the corner of the classroom. Students walk to the corner, to the character they can relate to or wish they could be like. Every student must be accountable to share their thoughts. Students use a “talking chip (bingo chip) to express their thoughts. The talking chip is placed in a container that is located in each corner. The teacher facilitates the discussion to probe some higher order thinking.

Take a Stand

im2In the novel Willy Wonka rewards the naughty children with a lifetime supply of chocolate. One side of the classroom will be that they agree with Wonka, and the other side will disagree. Students choose the side they prefer, but must justify why. Again, each student must be accountable for the discussion (talking chips may be used). If some students are undecided, the students stay in the middle of the classroom. It is the job of the others to persuade the undecided students to join their side.


jigsawIn this activity, reading objectives can be addressed. Place students in a “home group,” then give a skill (summary, problem solution, vocabulary words, connections, questioning) to one in each group. Each group, according their skill, will join the “expert group.”  The skill will be completed by the expert groups. Each student must be accountable for sharing their ideas. The teacher should facilitate to ensure that all students participate in completing their skill. When they have addressed their skill by writing their answers, they return to their home group to share the work. The teacher can announce, one at a time, for each skill to present. Timing each presenter helps to keep students engaged and on task. Using the jigsaw protocol will create the students as teachers of the objective instead of the teacher doing all the talking.

Of course, these activities lend themselves through varied types of literature. I used Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because not only is one of my favorite, it is a tale that can stand the test of time.