Weeks 3-4 of Classroom Book-a-Day

Week Three: 

We read one more that focused on revision, followed by three titles that related to things students had named the first week when creating a list in response to this question after reading We Don’t Eat Our Classmates: What do we need from each other this year in order to have the best year possible?


Day 9: When Pencil Met Eraser by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr., illustrated by Germán Blanco

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Day 10: Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

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Day 11: Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds

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Day 12: When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

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Week Four: 

Monday and Tuesday continued the choices from last week that connected to ideas students shared of what they needed from each other this year. Wednesday’s title was to help us remember 9-11, and Thursday’s title connected to our writing mini-lesson that day. Finally, there are times when we just need to laugh together and enjoy being together without a bigger agenda. So I decided that on Fridays, I’m going to choose titles that are just fun to read without worrying about a bigger purpose or connection to something else we’re doing. 


Day 13: After the Fall by Dan Santat

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Day 14: Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

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Day 15: Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan

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One of the many great things about reading a picture book each day is that it gives me a way to recognize things that I otherwise wouldn’t be sure how to incorporate into class. Reading poems as a class helps with that too. We started today by listening to Billy Collins read “The Names” on the PBS News Hour, a powerful way to begin class. Then, we read X.J. Kennedy’s “September Twelfth, 2001” to go with our writing mini-lesson for the day, which focused on Nancie Atwell’s Rule of So What? (choosing topics that are meaningful in some way). Our picture book was one more way to recognize 9-11 as we read the story of how a beam from the World Trade Center was repurposed in a US Navy ship.


Day 16: Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoët

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Today’s writing mini-lesson focused on the importance of having a strong I presence in our poems, so I wanted to choose a title that had a strong I presence. It also gave me an introduction to booktalk her longer memoir, I Am Malala.


Day 17: Potato Pants by Laurie Keller

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Finally, Friday gave me a chance to choose a title just for fun, so I chose one of my daughters’ favorites to share with my students. 


Classroom Book-a-Day: Week 2

This was another four-day week for us with our 7th and 8th graders off campus for our “Unity Day” activities and competitions on Friday. During the first week, each of our books led into a discussion that we were having. This week, each one went along with something that we were doing in either our writing or reading workshop that day.


Day 5: I Have an Idea by Hervé Tullet

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I came across this book at the library while picking up some titles I had placed holds on. Students were finishing up Heart Maps and choosing a topic for their first piece of writing, which they would be starting the next day. This book, which, of course, explores the nature of ideas, was a fitting book to read as they came up with and chose their first one.


Day 6: Poetree by Shauna Lavoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani

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I found this book during the summer when someone read it for their summer book-a-day challenge. I love the way this book celebrates the power of poetry to connect us to others. We start the year with a genre study of free-verse poetry, so even though the poems the main character writes in this book are not free-verse, I knew I wanted to read this one on the day students started drafting their first poems. 


Day 7: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

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This was another book I found because of someone’s summer book-a-day challenge. I originally got it to read with my daughter because of how it shows that we don’t have to do things perfectly the first time and that making mistakes can actually be valuable. Feeling the pressure to make something perfect can be crippling to writers, so this was an opportunity to talk about this and encourage students to just write, especially when drafting, knowing that they can come back and make it better later.


Day 8: How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

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I found this book on one of Pernille Ripp’s lists of picture books she reads with her seventh graders. This funny look at process of writing and publishing one book went perfectly with our class this day. During the first portion of our writing workshop, students were interviewing me about a poem I recently finished. They had spent some time the day before studying the plans, drafts, and revisions of this poem, coming up with questions they wanted to ask about choices and changes I made, as well as anything else about my process. While I responded to their questions, they recorded their observations in response to this question: What things might a writer do when trying to write a good poem? (A list of their compiled answers can be found here. This will become an entry in their writing-reading handbooks next week. I also wrote a post about doing this with last year’s students.) This book paired well with our focus on process, and was also fitting as students made decisions about what to do next with the poems they started this week.


So these are the four books we shared together last week. Again this weekend I’ll be going through my stack of books for the start of the year and planning out which ones to read together next week.

Classroom Book-a-Day: Week 1

Last year, I dipped my toe into Classroom Book-a-Day, reading one picture book a week to my seventh graders. I was interested in doing it more often, but for years, we have read and discussed a poem at the start of most classes, kind of Nancie Atwell’s version of Classroom Book-a-Day, and I didn’t want to lose that. I wasn’t sure if I could make time for both. This year, though, I’m trying it. I’m hoping that with good planning and a focus on making my writing mini-lessons shorter and more efficient, I can create the time we need without sacrificing independent reading and writing time. 

One of my other goals this year is to be more purposeful in the books I choose and how we use them. Last year, some books were chosen for specific reasons, such as the ones that fit with the Global Read Aloud, but many others were chosen without a reason other than I liked them. Now, there’s nothing wrong with reading a book just because it’s good, but I also think we can do more with them than we did a year ago. As I was reading some of Pernille Ripp’s favorites for the start of school, I started thinking about the conversations I wanted us to have that first week, and I chose titles that could lead us to those topics.


Day 1: The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems

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Seventh grade is a year of transition at our school. We tend to get a lot of new students in seventh grade, and for our returning students, they are leaving the elementary wing and heading down to the junior high/high school end of the building for the first time. They rotate classes more, and there are many other changes to get used to. In this book, the pigeon talks a lot about his feelings about starting school. After reading, we talked about the same thing. It was great to hear students who were brave enough to explain the reasons why they were scared or nervous or excited for the school year.


Day 2: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

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Last year we read this on day one. This year, it was moved back a day. In this book, Penelope is obviously not a great classmate, at least at the beginning. Eating your classmates is definitely not going to endear yourself to anyone. So, in addition to giving us a chance to laugh together, this book led to a conversation about the expectations students have for each other, what they need from each other in order to have a productive and enjoyable year. 


Day 3: Book by David Miles, illustrated by Natalie Hoopes

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I found this one at a library book sale a couple years ago. It celebrates books and the experience of entering another world when we read. We used this as an entry point to discuss the experience of reading. While Miles shows the wonderful side of reading, we also know that reading isn’t always great, especially for some students. So, borrowing an idea from Pernille Ripp, we discussed these questions: “When/why is reading awful? When/why is reading great?” More on this in a bit.


Day 4: What If? by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato

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Another beautiful book, What If? celebrates the art of creating stories of all kinds and in all ways. While not just about writing, we used this to lead into a conversation that paralleled yesterdays, again borrowed from Pernille: “When/why is writing awful? When/why is writing great?”


The conversations we had on Thursday and Friday this week are ones that for years I avoided having. In the last few years I did begin to talk to students about these topics, but it was usually one-on-one. I’m not exactly sure why we didn’t talk about these things sooner. Maybe part of it was my concern about allowing students who didn’t like writing or reading to have a platform to spread their views to others in the class. Now, of course, this fear is silly. Nobody is going to start disliking writing or reading just because someone convinces them too, just like nobody is going to start liking it just because someone tells them to. The other reason this was silly is that students are already having these conversations. If a teacher gives students an assignment they hate, we can bet that students are going to talk about it. By bringing these discussions into our classrooms, now we as teachers can be a part, and we can also work together to find solutions to the bad sides of reading and writing.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else becomes possible because of the picture books we read together this year. I have a couple titles in mind for next week, but I also have a big stack to sort through. I’m looking forward to reading through them with my daughters this weekend to try to decide which ones we’ll read next.