Reading Street Powerpoints Uploaded to Google Drive

Logo_of_Google_DriveSo, I spent the past year getting all the powerpoints I’ve made for Reading Street 6th grade uploaded to Google Drive and shared publicly.  You can access them from my school webpage:


6th Grade

Power Points for Reading Street 6th Grade

I really like using the powerpoints.  I have the book available as a back up, but it frees me up to walk around while I’m teaching and not have to focus on the pages of the book.  It also makes it easy for students to catch up when they’re gone.  While they can’t understand everything from the powerpoint (job security for me, right?) they can at least see what we covered when they were home sick.



Picture Book Tournament

After seeing the idea of holding a picture book tournament during my travels around the internet, I knew this was something I wanted to try with my students.  You can see some other blog posts about it at: and at:

First, I had to collect the picture books.  Fortunately, I have a LARGE collection of my own (can we say I have a problem?).  I sorted through the books I have and pulled out the best examples.  I tried to make sure I had a variety of genre and authors.  I also tried to have multiple books from the same authors, so they could compare.  Believe it or not, I ended up with 32 titles!    Image

Next, I decided what reading strategies I wanted my students to practice as we went through this tournament.  Since it’s a review week in Reading Street, the primary strategies the book has them reviewing are “Author’s Purpose” and “Cause and Effect”.  I created a worksheet for them to fill out which would help them analyze the books they read.  Not wanting to have them get bogged down in the worksheet, I limited it to three books.  They’ll be reading many more, but will only fill out the boxes for three.


I also had to find a bracket to use – enter the internet!  There’s a great site which allows you to create a printable bracket with as many teams as you like:

Deciding 20 books would be a reasonable number to use, I made a bracket with 20 slots.  Image

As I explained the tournament, I brought in quite a bit of real world knowledge, since most of the kids didn’t know much about how March Madness basketball works.  We talked about rankings, seeds and byes.  Between the picture books and the sports analogies, I had most of my kids hooked.  They were champing at the bit, ready to start reading.

Once I handed out the books, there was a short amount of conversation as they exclaimed over some of the books, then, silence reigned.  I didn’t have to tell them to be quiet or to read – they just did!  For an hour!

They also did an amazing job on the analysis worksheet.  I never told them what sort of quality I was looking for, but they gave it to me and then some!  The answers they wrote down were well written, carefully thought out and very complete.  I was blown away by their work.

At the end of the hour, they filled out their top ten on the ranking paper.DSCN6747

After school, I sat down with their rankings and started figuring out which books made the tournament and how high to seed them.  After some consideration, I decided to just list the votes on a blank sheet and see where it took me (it basically ended up making a stem and leaf plot of the data). When I was finished, it was clear which books were the top seeds.  I crossed out the 12 books with the lowest number/ranking of votes and started filling in the brackets.  Interestingly, several books didn’t make it at all in one class, but had strong showing in the other.

Day 2, I helped the students fill in their brackets, which led to a discussion of choosing basketball brackets based on the color of the uniform or the cuteness of the mascot.  Since they weren’t necessarily familiar with all the books, they had to use some other method to choose.  We then did a mini review about cause and effect.  Today’s task involved filling out a paper with three cause/effect situations in one of the books.  They desperately wanted to read all the books that made it into the tournament, so, once again, it was silent in my room.

At the end of the hour, we started our voting.  I am lucky enough to have clickers, so they used the clickers and voted true for one book, or false for the other.  As I announced the winner in each match up, cheers would go up.  At one point, one of the students commented “Well, my bracket is shot.”

I’ve been updating the posters on the wall outside my door and it’s been interesting seeing boys study it carefully and discuss which one they would choose in the matches.

DSCN6743I would definitely do this again.  The students have been very excited to discuss the books, and are reading more than I’ve seen them read in a while.  Unfortunately, time kept it fairly short this time.  I would prefer to have more time for debating the books before we vote, but I only ended up with 3 days to complete the tournament, although I was able to use 90 minutes each of those three days, which helped.  Even with a shortened time frame, it was well worth it!

Have you used tournament style bracket lessons before?  What do you do?

Encouraging New Vocabulary Use

I have to credit my intern with this idea:

Our reading curriculum is adding huge numbers of words that our students are introduced to on a daily basis.  We have spelling lists, vocabulary lists and amazing word lists.  While we do our best to convey the importance of learning these new words, sixth graders do tend to ignore us.

My intern thought a friendly competition between the classes might help.  We brainstormed some ideas and settled on having the classes keep track of each time they purposely use one of our words.  When a student uses one of our words, they can take a dry erase marker and add a tally to their class’s total on our window.  We thought using the window would be motivating, since it’s something different.

The window itself says “Team Titanic’s Wonderful Word Wall” and has a spot for the Bows and one for the Sterns (we name our homerooms according to our theme, which, this year, is the Titanic Team).

The kids have really taken to the idea and go out of their way to try to use a word from one of our lists.  It has to be used correctly and show that they understand what the word means.  It also needs to be part of the discussion, not just some off the wall tangent.

Students can also find the word written in a book, on a sign, etc and get a point for their class.

While it’s not going to solve all the world’s problems, it certainly has made my students more aware of words and their meanings, which is all I can ask of a sixth grader some days!

I tried to get a picture, but because it’s a window, you mostly just see right through it!  I don’t have the photography skills to get a good view of it.  😦

Oh well, you get the idea!

Reading Street Powerpoints

6th Grade

Power Points for Reading Street 6th Grade

In the interest of sharing what I’ve done (and hoping that readers out there will tell me what they’ve done!) I’ve uploaded my powerpoints to Google Drive.  I use the powerpoints each day.  They’ve been really handy when someone needs to take over for me for a few minutes, or if I have a substitute.  They also work well when a student is absent – the student can read over the powerpoint and get an idea of what we covered that day.  My plan for the fall is to try recording the presentations as I teach them and post them on the class website.  That will give students a better picture of what they missed (or allow them to watch a class again).

Here are the powerpoints for Unit 1.

Unit 1 Week 1

Unit 1 Week 2

Unit 1 Week 3

Unit 1 Week 4

Unit 1 Week 5

Unit 1 Week 6

Let me know what you do with Reading Street.  I’m still learning how to go about teaching it, so any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated!  (My dad, a teacher for 30 years, always said it takes three years to get good at a new curriculum, so I’ve got two more years of this!)

Reader’s Notebook

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to structure my reading class this year.  Any of you spend lots of time planning your ideas over the summer, only to discover, in practice, they don’t work out the way you expect?  ‘Cause that happens to me all the time!


Reader's NotebookAnyway, my plan this year is to use notebooks for our vocabulary, skills ideas, etc.  I purchased the composition notebooks for my students.  They’re sturdier than the spiral notebooks I usually use, so hopefully they will last better.  Plus, it’s harder for them to pull out a piece of paper to use for their homework.

The organization of the notebook will include:

Students can draw pictures showing what they like, hobbies, etc.

Students can draw pictures showing what they like, hobbies, etc.

cover page with illustrations of student interests

two pages for each skill we will cover (20 total skills throughout the year)

a page for each week’s vocabulary words (30 weeks)

Roots, Suffixes and Prefixes8 pages for word roots, suffixes, and prefixes

That will leave some extra pages so that when other uses crop up, we will have some room

Do you use reader’s notebooks?  How do you organize them?  What do you use for the notebook?

Reading Material for the Teacher!

When Kids Can't ReadI started reading a book over the weekend and I have to share it!  It’s called When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers (awesome last name, huh?)  You can find it on amazon here:

I’ve only gotten through chapter 4, but I think it will make a huge difference in my teaching for next year.

As I’ve written about before, my district has directed me to use Reading Street for my reading/writing/grammar instruction.  It’s not a terrible textbook, but since the idea is that students use this text from kindergarten through 6th grade, the 6th grade text seems to gloss over some things.  My students last year had used it in 4th and 5th grades.  Not enough time to have gotten all of the skills from the years prior to that.

What I really like about this book is that it is written by a teacher who has been there, done that.  She’s not standing in her ivory tower telling all teachers how rotten and lazy they are.  She’s not coming in from the outside saying she has all the answers.  Instead, she uses her prior experience and her copious research and study to guide the reader through how best to help our students.

I’ve noticed, having interns, that it’s tough to explain why you do what you do.  I have gotten better over the years, but this book gives me much more to pull from.  I can see using the information from this book to better interpret the reams of data that we generate on each student.  By being able to give concrete diagnoses for the parents (not just, your child doesn’t understand what he or she is reading), and then being able to give specific, parent-friendly suggestions, I look forward to helping my students and their parents.

As I read, I keep picturing how I can make this work, using the scripted curriculum that I have been given.  I think it will go a long way toward making the weekly skill and strategy more concrete and visible for my students.

As you can see, I’m very excited about starting the school year, using what I’ve learned from this book.  What books are you reading this summer?  What do you hope to accomplish in the fall?

Starting a Book Club

Our after school program has started a parent child book club.  The idea behind the club is to give students an opportunity to read with their parent and help the parents with some reading strategies they can use at home.

For our first book, we chose IFunny by James Patterson.  We decided to go with a humorous book because it draws students in.  This particular novel is geared towards middle school, but interest and reading level.  It’s about a boy in a wheelchair who wants to break into stand up comedy.

Worth reading!

Worth reading!

What’s great about Patterson’s books is that they have lots of things going on.  Not only does he have the comedy routine challenges, the wheelchair challenges and generally being a middle school student (which is always challenging!) but he is living with his aunt and uncle and the biggest bully in school is his cousin.  There are a number of scenes with the bully going after him, but he handles all of it with poise and charm.

For the first meeting, we put together a powerpoint of pictures of scenes from New York City.  Since our students live in a small, rural town in Michigan, they don’t have much experience with big cities.  Our tallest building is the grain elevator at 2 stories.  🙂  By giving them some background on the setting, we made it easier for them to visualize what they were reading.

New York City sites

The second meeting will include some youtube videos of old-time stand up comedians: Groucho Marx, Abbott and Costello, and Victor Borge.  Some of these people are mentioned in the book, so giving them an idea of who they are and what they were like will help them better understand the reading.

In addition to discussing the book and its ideas, we order in a pizza to share.  There’s something about food that makes everyone more comfortable.  It feels more like a party and less like a class.

As we go forward, in our next few meetings, we’ll do some read alouds to demonstrate to parents that kids are never to old to enjoy being read to.  We’ll also try out our own stand up comedy and see how we do.  We’ll finish with a trip to a bookstore to learn strategies to choose a book you would enjoy.

I really believe that a lot of reading is about enjoying the book, so the main focus in our book club has been how to find a book you like to read.  Once a student wants to read, half the battle is over.

Do you hold any sort of book club for your parents/students?  If so, I’d love to know what you read, what you do and how it goes.  We’re just starting, so we’re still figuring things out!