The View’s a Little Different Down Here

After teaching fourth grade for the past twelve years, I took a new position in my building this year as the Teacher of Media. I would definitely classify this as my dream job. Ordering books, talking about books, reading books, watching students discover books…dream job.

New is never without some challenges, though, and mine come in bunches of twenty at a time. Twenty of the cutest, sweetest, wide-eyed kindergartners you’ll ever meet. And I meet them about ten times during my six day cycle. Now, they are perfect. I love them. What’s challenging is this mind shift from fourth grade to kindergarten. From ten year olds reading Rules, Bud Not Buddy, and Doll Bones to five year olds discovering their first books.  Everything is different. Almost.

So, when I headed to TCRWP’s 87th Saturday Reunion at Columbia University this weekend, I planned, for the first time, to attend all K-2 workshops.


Thousands of teachers getting ready for the keynote at Riverside Church, NYC.

I was excited to see the lovely Amanda Hartman finally, and she gave us some practical ways to lead our youngest students toward independence.  One effective way to do this is by using checklists. I loved her idea of cutting up a writing checklist and having students sort each item into three categories: Nope, I don’t do that, I did that a little or one time, and Yes! I did that a lot! Then, even our youngest students have a concrete sense of what goals they can work towards during writing.

Mary Ehrenworth discussed the ways that we can use read aloud in the classroom, providing plenty of opportunities for transfer and agency. As educators we know that read aloud is one of our most crucial instruction times of the day.  The packed and overflowing room spoke to the weight of this subject. And all the heads in the room shook with a collective YES as she described the type of high level work that students seem to do on the carpet, but then have trouble trying on their own in a different text. Her suggestion? Read alouds are not just about the teacher modeling the thinking. Create a predictable structure for read alouds:

* Questioning

* Prompting

* Feedback


Mary reminded us that the teacher shouldn’t be the hardest working one in the room.  We need to ask ourselves during read aloud, Who’s doing all the work? It should be the students.  With the right structure and feedback, they can!

Kathy Collin’s workshop, I AM Reading! Teaching into the Bounty of Children’sReading Before They’re Reading Conventionally, explored some strategies for building comprehension in our youngest readers. I came a little late to her workshop, but I thought she referenced a new book that she and Matt Glover are working on??? Anyone catch the title of that?

Love love loved Ellen Ellis’s session on Ten New Books to Support the Primary Writing Workshop.  Between tweeting out all the titles to my #nerdybookclub friends in another session, and adding them to my next library order, I’d call it a very busy and worthwhile fifty minutes.

A few of the titles shared:

farmer red sam two boys

Also, I was happy to hear that the book we had chosen for our whole school read aloud The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires is now completely sold out and on back order everywhere.  We purchased this book for all of our early childhood teachers this summer. We knew it was great, and I’m so happy that everyone else knows it too!

I can’t forget to mention the two keynote speakers. David Booth and Carl Anderson both reminded us to keep the joy alive in our classrooms. In this testing-crazed era of education, they spoke about the importance of meaningful conversations, creativity, and compassion.

In the beginning I said that everything about reading was different for me now. Almost. No, I won’t be sharing some of my favorite middle grade titles any more. I won’t be having complex conversations about the theme of a book. I might not even make it a page into a book before having to stop and get someone a band aide or tie a shoe. BUT. There will be books. Lots of wonderful books. There will be conversations. I can sit next to a kindergartner and still say, How’s it going?(Thanks Carl Anderson). And most of all there will be joy.

I always leave the Saturday Reunions with a smile on my face and a little skip in my step. I’m looking forward to seeing my kindergartners tomorrow morning, knowing that I have a little brilliance from Amanda, Mary, Kathy, and so many more.

Thanks TCRWP.


1 Comment

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One response to “The View’s a Little Different Down Here

  1. Thank you, Jen. I appreciate your perspective. Your heart comes through in this writing. It sounds like you are truly enjoying your new position. I would love to be a kindergartener in your library : – )

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