where all things literacy come full circle…

Teacher Book Club

Wonder by R.J Palacio

Wonder by R.J Palacio

One of my goals as a staff developer is to have teachers read books that kids read. I think it’s important for teachers to know books that kids read and to be able to recommend and pair books up to kids. Basically, I want teachers to KNOW books that kids read. Two books were chosen for the year: Wonder and See You at Harry’s. Two realistic fiction books that display resilient characters.

The first book we read was Wonder.

Two teachers looking at the text while answering questions in the guide that I created.

Two teachers looking at the text while answering questions in the guide that I created.

First, I created a study guide for teachers. The study guide consisted of a reading calendar and questions that teachers could think about as they read. The questions were to promote thinking, reflection, and dialogue among other readers.

We then met a few times while reading to discuss the book. One thing that I wanted to do with teachers was to do some outside-the-box activities that they could do in their own classrooms.

I was inspired by Donalyn Miller’s idea of a graffiti wall for student response, so I made a graffiti wall. When they came into the library to meet, they were to write down their favorite quote from the chapters they read. This is a great activity that some teachers are doing with their classes now.

photo 3-1

A sign indicating what a graffiti wall is.

A sign indicating what a graffiti wall is.


One teacher's quote on the graffiti wall.

One teacher’s quote on the graffiti wall.

Another activity we did was to make Wordles. I had teachers write down words that matched a character in the book. They could choose any character they wanted. We then went into the computer lab and created a Wordle for the character they chose. The wordless were then displayed in the hallway outside my office.

I have seen several teachers use this book this year in their class. I have also seen some of these activities being done as well. The teachers that participated in reading this book LOVED the book.

The next book we read was See You at Harry’s.

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

We read the book and then was able to do a Skype visit with the author Jo Knowles. She was awesome! The video feature didn’t work, but she still answered questions and talked to us about how she came up with the idea and how long it took her to write the book. The teachers that read this book loved it, but hated me for choosing it because it’s so sad!

I felt that this was extremely beneficial, built a community of readers, stretched the reading choices of teachers, and created dialogue around one book. The talk that happened in the hallways, the office, the teacher’s lounge around these books was awesome and infectious.

This is what we had done, what are some ideas of teacher book clubs that you have participated in?


What are you reading???

mon-reading-button-pb-to-yaThe books that I am currently reading…

Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch

Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch


The Water Castle by Megan Fraser Blackmore



Relationships. During NCTE, I sat a table with awesome, innovative, practice-what-you-preach educators during dinner at a fancy restaurant. We talked about bringing authors into the classroom and other things which of course included reading. We also talked about how we feel like we are BIG (at conferences), we are actually small. We are the ones who bring authors in, who read books that students read, who connect kids with authors, who tweet with authors, and who proudly wear the banner of being a Nerdy!

And authors recognize us too!

As we were talking I said that anyone can do this…but it is all about relationships. Yes, anyone can do this. Anyone can connect with authors through Twitter, Facebook, and many other social media platforms.

But it takes effort…and a lot of it. (And this is something I am going to write about often.)

Two years ago I wanted to write a Blog. I wanted to share my story. (I have been very absent on this blog for awhile, but…that is what NCTE and connections through Twitter do…it helps you to refocus.) I saw that many bloggers were on Twitter. I was a little scare of being on Twitter…I kinda thought it was stupid that only Ashton Kutcher did. Famous people. I really could care less what they had to say.

But, boy was I wrong. Once I created an account, I was hooked. I started following educators and found who they followed and started following them. I started to tweet to people who shared the same passions that I did…reading and books and teaching and writing. I was there when The Nerdy Book Club began. I have become friends with many Nerdy Book Clubbers because I build relationships with them. I ask questions. I seek answers. I want to know more about what they do. I want recommendations. I connect with authors and send them pictures of their books on shelves. I tell them that my students just went and bought their hardcover book. They in turn want to write and connect with them.


It starts by creating an account on Twitter.

It starts by following one person and then seeing how they follow…and follow those people.

It’s about conversing, asking questions, and seeking answers.

It’s about celebrating.

It’s about writing your story and sharing it with others.

It’s about reflecting when things don’t go right…and then seeking answers. Then trying again.

It’s about joining a BIGGER conversation.

It’s about connecting.


I think this is what is needed in our field right now. We need to build relationships with one another and band together. It’s imperative and well worth the effort!

A School Visit

During the summer, I was able to chat via Twitter with author Liesl Shurtliff. Liesl is the author of the acclaimed “true story” of RUMP! I asked her if she was ever to come out to Utah that maybe…just maybe she might visit my school. I thought this was a long shot since Salt Lake City is so far away from where I live in Southern Utah.

She replied that her family was living in Southern Utah…40 miles away…and that “sure, I think I could make it down when I visit.”

I was excited. Super excited. Actually I was ecstatic!

Fast forward several months. I received the message that she was planning to come and that I needed to set up the schedule and order some books.

She agreed to visit and do a writing activity with each grade level (3, 4, 5, and an extended learning program for 40 minutes).

The Extended Learning Program (which basically allows for an extension for kids who need it) created banners for her visit.


Student rendition of the book on a banner.


Another rendition.


A student-made “Welcome Sign”.

I also ordered books and we sold 46 copies. What’s awesome is the Liesl signed each copy.


When she came to our school, she was ready to visit students and work in classrooms. Here are some pictures of her visits to classrooms. It was incredible.

Liesl doing a writing activity on "showing, and not telling".

Liesl doing a writing activity on “showing, and not telling”.

Liesl conferring with a student writer. This was awesome to see being modeled by a nationally-published author!

Liesl conferring with a student writer. This was awesome to see being modeled by a nationally-published author!

Writers writing. The stories were hilarious!

Writers writing. The stories were hilarious!

We went out to lunch and talked writing, books, and of course The Nerdy Book Club!

She came back and worked with a few more grade levels…and read out of her book for the third grade students. Awesome.

How was I able to do this? How was I able to ask, coordinate, and execute this visit?

I built a relationship with Liesl. I believe we are friends now. Relationships are key when bringing authors into the classroom and into the school. It really is all about relationships. I am going to talk more about building these relationships in other posts because I believe this the key and through this students really do benefit from it.


What the heck is a “Nerdlution”? Well, it seems as if you are part of the Nerdy Book Club then almost everything has to have the word “nerdy” in it. A group of us on Twitter have made it a resolution to write more and others to exercise more. Mine is to write more. My hope is to write a book…but we will see what happens with that. I am going to use this to share my story.

My nerdlution is to also write on this blog more frequently.

To share my story.

I was able to go to NCTE this last week. In Boston. Yes, it was a great time just like last year. I will post pictures soon. The one thing that I took away personally was that I have a story to share and tell. I talked with Ruth Ayres and she said the same thing. I talked to Lee Anne Spillane and she said the same thing. “Yes, but is it your story?” I just don’t want to repeat the same thing. That is my fear.

One night I sat in the lobby area of the Sheraton, and my friend Donalyn Miller sat beside me. I asked, “I really want to write a book but I am afraid that everything has been said.” She turned to me and said, “John, how many times has the song Yesterday (by the Beatles)  be sung by different artists?” “A lot”, I replied. It’s true. There are a lot of books about writing, reading, classroom structures, ideas…but are these my ideas? Would someone out there like to read and hear my ideas?


What I am doing this summer…

I am super excited to start TeachersWrite this summer. It officially starts in a few days but you can post a small piece of your writing at author’s Gae Polisner’s blog, here is the link to her blog: . You can find more about this great opportunity on Facebook. You will have to search for the group on Facebook. Also follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #TeachersWrite. I hope you join us…it should be a lot of fun!


My Door…

As my role as a Staff Developer, one of my goals is to bring my reading life into school. Another goal(s) is to get kids and teachers excited about reading. One way I am doing this is to plaster my door with book covers of books that I LOVE! I am adding covers constantly. One teacher took her students on a “field trip” to visit my door. The kids got more ideas, where in turn the teacher and librarian are buying these books for their classrooms and our library! What are you doing to bring YOUR reading life into your school or classroom?


My door.

#ncte12 photos

Here are some more photos from my NCTE experience!


Lindsey Leavitt, myself, and Irene Latham. Check out their books!!!


RJ and I. An awesome experience!


Alan Sitomer and I.


Seymour Simon


Penny Kittle and I…


Paul Hankins and I.


Nicki, myself, and Allyson


I am late on this post. I have been neglecting this blog (which I told myself I wouldn’t when I started it) by moving, starting a new position, taking college classes, and just plain life. But, I do need to start back up writing about ideas in reading and writing.

I was able to go to NCTE. I had read about it through various blogs and knew that this was the event that I wanted to attend. Boy, it didn’t disappoint! I arrived by myself but was amongst friends. How could this be, you ask? Because of Twitter, I had many friends there that I had been following for over a year.

I arrived and tried to find the session that Donalyn Miller was presenting at. I finally did find it…but it was over. When I walked into the room, I was in disbelief by who I saw. I saw many people in person that I had been following through Twitter. I knew them…and as I introduced myself, I was welcomed. I saw Colby Sharp, Paul Hankins, Katherine Sokolowski, Niki Ohs Barnes, Jen Vincent, Kellee Moye, and so many others! I felt home. I felt reunited with my tribe!


Colby and I.


Jen and I.


Cynthia and I.

The next day I went to several sessions, ate lunch with some of my nerdy friends, met authors at the exhibit hall, and grabbed some books and got them signed. Later that night, I went to dinner with Jen and Allyson. At the dinner, there were several other people. I sat with Meeno Rami, an excellent teacher from Philadelphia, and the founders of EdCamp (something that I want to do in my own district). I also sat with and talked with Sarah Mulhern Gross. It was great. I learned a lot from just sitting and became friends with these people.

After dinner, I was invited to the nerdybook club party. We took the elevator up to the top of the hotel. We got off and went into a room. This room was huge. While there and talking with some awesome teachers, I noticed that Jennifer Holm was there. I was able to talk to her for about a half an hour.

While I was there, I also found out that RJ Palacio, of Wonder fame was there. I was able to finally meet her in person. It was awesome!

I was also able to meet Lindsey Leavitt in person as well. She was the first author that my class last year Skyped with. She was awesome, in person and virtually! : )

I left this party, went back to my hotel room, and couldn’t believe what I had just experienced. It was seriously amazing.

The next day I was able to meet more awesome authors who were super nice and spend more time with my nerdy friends. I was also able to eat breakfast with publisher worker extraordinaire from Walden Press. It was great to meet her.

All in all, this was one of those most amazing experiences of my life. I met people that I will never forget and will always be friends with. I hope to meet all of you again at the next NCTE or another conference soon!



Jenni Holm and I.

It’s Monday…What Are You Reading?


The books that I am reading this week are:


The False King by Jennifer Nielsen


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick


Book Love by Penny Kittle (check out the book club on Facebook!)

Post Navigation