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October 2 2018

GENRE-FICATION: A Librarian's 5-Step Guide to Increasing Reading Motivation

GENRE-FICATION is a trend to make libraries more like bookstores, and it is transforming student motivation and interest in reading!  School librarian, Stephanie Davis, shares the 5 steps she took to switch from the Dewey Decimal System to a library organized by genre, and tells why she would never go back!

September 7 2018

Do Reading Comprehension Assessments Deliver What They Promise?

It is likely that your school district is trying to find an assessment tool to beef up its reading program and insure greater success on your state’s high stakes test. The search may have taken them to STAR Reading 360, I-Ready Adaptive Assessment Systems or the MAP Reading and Growth Skills Tests. All of these tests are a new breed of assessments, computer adaptive tests that promise far more than they can deliver. It is not their shortcomings that raise the greatest concern, it their incompatibility with what we know about reading comprehension and what we know about instruction that is troubling. In this blog article, Dr. Peter Dewitz discusses assessment and the Read Side by Side Reading Program.

July 27 2018

Better Readers, Avid Readers—What Should the Goal of Literacy Instruction Be?

For most educators the goal of reading instruction is to create better readers. For some better means a score on a standardized test, the 75% percentile. To others better means a higher reading level, a 5.0 GLE, a level 40 in fourth grade or meeting specific standards. All assume that the work of reading instruction is to develop a student’s expertise, to be better at it. In this blog article, Dr. Peter Dewitz explores the question—What should the goal of literacy instruction be?

June 29 2018

Climbing the Literacy Summit, Eatonville Elementary

The following is a case study, presented by Dr. Peter Dewitz, that demonstrates the impact of the Read Side by Side Reading Program on one struggling, priority school.  Learn how they climbed the literacy summit and were awarded 'School of Distinction' in 2017.

June 29 2018

Nonfiction in Unit 5.1, Earthquake Terror

Get the full list of nonfiction links students will access during the 5th grade C. I. A. Unit of Study, Earthquake Terror. Click on the links to view and print each nonfiction article in this unit and book club!

May 30 2018

Nonfiction Pairings: Esperanza Rising

Get the full list of nonfiction links students will access during the 6th grade C. I. A. Unit of Study, Esperanza Rising. Click on the links to view and print each nonfiction article!

May 30 2018

Nonfiction Pairings: The Children of the Dust Bowl

Get the full list of nonfiction links students will access during the 6th grade C. I. A. Unit of Study, The Children of the Dust Bowl. Click on the links to view and print each nonfiction article in this unit and book club!

May 30 2018

Nonfiction Pairings: The Westing Game

Get the full list of nonfiction links students will access during the 6th grade C. I. A. Unit of Study, The Westing Game.  Click on links to view and print each nonfiction article in this unit and book club!

May 1 2018

The Pull of The Chapter Book

How does a child know that he or she has become a good reader? When you talk to children about reading, you find out that they have their own reading milestones—the first time they read a book, the first time they read a chapter book, and the first time they read a longer book, like Harry Potter.

March 21 2018

How to Group Students for Reading

FAQ: I have a question about how to group students for reading. Currently we are using a walk-to-read structure but will be switching curriculums to the Read Side By Side Reading Program. Is it okay if we keep our walk-to-read model with this program?

March 8 2018

3 Must-Haves for a K-2 Reading Program

Selecting a reading program for the primary grades can be overwhelming with so many aspects to consider.   Bethany Robinson offers 3 must-haves for your K-2 reading program, based on her 14 years of experience working in high-needs schools.

February 21 2018

Tips for Better Book Club Discussions

How do you get your students to talk during book club discussions? Sarah Collinge, author of the C. I. A. Book Club Teacher’s Guides, gives some helpful suggestions!

February 12 2018

Assigned Reading or Free Choice? The Illusion of Choice

Should students’ reading in school be assigned or left to free choice? Before choice can be valuable, our students must first know what they like to read. They must be exposed to a variety of genres, topics, and authors and have pleasurable reading experiences that lead them to the next book. Find out more in this blog article by Dr. Peter Dewitz.

December 11 2017

The Conflict Between Differentiation and Scaffolding

What is the difference between differentiation and scaffolding?  While educators have long defined these strategies as being almost identical, they are, in fact, in sharp contrast to one another.  Differentiation adjusts the text to the child, while scaffolding enables the child to read and comprehend at a higher level.  

November 3 2017

Esperanza Rising—A New Unit of Study in the Read Side by Side Reading Program!

Get a sneak peak at C. I. A. Unit of Study, Historical Fiction—Esperanza Rising, 6.3 and download tools to help you prepare to teach this unit of study! Coming soon to the Read Side by Side store!

November 3 2017

Happy 6th Birthday, Raising the Standards!

Raising the Standards Through Chapter Books: The C. I. A. Approach, celebrated its 6th birthday last month! Currently, Read Side by Side has sold over 4,000 copies. Find out about the story behind Sarah’s first book for teachers in this blog article by Sarah Collinge.

August 26 2017

Setting Up the Classroom Library

Setting up the classroom library can be a daunting process. How do you organize books? Do you focus on reading levels or sort books by genre? Do you sort books into bins or place them on a shelf, spines out? How many books should be in a classroom library? And how do you create a classroom library on a dime?

August 20 2017

Why Books? -- What Books Can Do That Passages Can’t

In this blog article, Peter Dewitz explains, the goal of reading instruction is not to move from level to level, but to develop our appreciation and skill with written language, to learn to think, and to foster our humanity. Books can do this; passages can’t.

June 22 2017

Making Inferences: 6 Essential Strategies

How do you help students make inferences while reading? Learn six essential strategies for inference generation that are sure to increase comprehension for even your most struggling readers!

June 2 2017

Why Students Love CIA: Letters From Students

A special envelope arrived in the mail several weeks ago. Inside I was delighted to find 17 handwritten letters from 5th grade students in Auburn, WA. On top of the pile was a letter from their teacher, explaining the reason for their correspondence.

May 1 2017

How Research Explains the Design of the Read Side by Side Reading Program

What should you be looking for in a research based reading program?  In this blog, learn about how motivation, comprehension strategies, text structure, and transfer of training make the Read Side by Side Reading Program the perfect choice for your next reading adoption!

April 13 2017

Using Turn and Talk Stems Across the Globe

Earlier this month, Bethany and I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Macau near Hong Kong to work with teachers and English Language Learners in Hou Kong Premier School to learn many of the strategies of our C. I. A. curriculum. While there, we learned the power of turn and talk stems—a major part of the Read Side by Side curriculum—to give confidence and a feeling of success to students learning the English language. How gratifying to see this approach help students across the globe!

March 16 2017

Reading Test Prep: 6 Things You Are Already Doing

 This is the time of year when teachers start to feel anxious about reading test prep for the upcoming high-stakes state assessments. No matter how effective your teaching has been all school year long, testing season raises doubts in teachers’ minds about whether or not they have done enough to prepare their students for state tests.

March 9 2017

Reading Stamina: The Wrong Goal

I recently received an email from ReadWorks with the subject line, “Build Reading Stamina With Longer Passages.” My next email was from the Fantastic Mr. Fox advertising newly designed chicken coops. This blog is not a specific attack on the website ReadWorks, or other sites offering passages for reading instruction, but an examination of reading stamina and its place as a goal of reading instruction. I will argue that focusing reading instruction on passages, because they emulate what students encounter on high stakes tests, is a mistake. Making reading stamina a primary goal in your classroom is also a mistake. The solution to the problem is not more or longer passages, but books, yes books, poems, articles, newspapers, and websites that incite the imagination and stimulate curiosity. 

August 9 2016

The Joy of Summer Reading

I love summer for SO many reasons, but maybe the best part of summer for my kids and I is SUMMER READING! What does summer reading look like and how is it more magical than the reading my kids do during the school year?  Take a peak at what summer reading looks like in the Collinge house! 

August 1 2016

Happy 5th Birthday, Read Side by Side!

Did you know that only half of small businesses survive at least 5 years? (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.)  This is why I am so happy and proud to announce the 5th birthday of my growing company, Read Side by Side Publications LLC.  Why have we made it to year five?

June 25 2014

Hooked on C. I. A.: Reflections on the Year

My CIA experience this year was AMAZING!  My students are hooked on the CIA reading program!  Here are our teacher and student reflections on the year:

June 20 2014

Janet's Year End Review - Looking Back


It’s hard to believe another school year is complete.  This year will be one that I always remember with fondness; the students in my class were exceptionally kind, eager to learn, and attentive.  Pretty much a dream class…

June 9 2014

Sarah's Year End Review

The students and I know our classroom would have been a very different place without CIA this year.

June 2 2014

Writing for Glory Be

My class has just finished reading our final CIA book of the year, Glory Be. As always, it is always bittersweet when we finish a book, but even more so with this book as it is the last time I was going to listen to the great discussions and ideas that my students have about a wonderful book.

May 22 2014

Book Clubs in 3rd Grade


Forming the Groups

When I heard that there were going to be book clubs that partnered up with the CIA books, I was more than excited to have my students to have a similar experience with book clubs that I’ve had. I decided to begin the book clubs the second week after Spring Break.  This gave me plenty of time to continue small group work, and it would be a fun way to end the school year.

May 13 2014

Glory Be: Charts and Vocabulary

“But it was so much fun!” This was in response (from my most busy girl) to a very long catch-up reading session, after which I drooped and said, “Thank you for sticking with it today. That was a lot of work!” When she said that, I perked back up.

May 6 2014

City of Ember Writing

The last 5th grade CIA unit is the City of Ember written by Jeanne DuPrau.  It is about a futuristic society that was built underground to save the human race from extinction. The people who live in Ember do not know any of this.  All they know is that everything in their environment relies on electricity.  But, the generator that makes the electricity is starting to break down and there are more and more blackouts.  The people are also worried about food, because there seems to be shortages of everything.  Students find out that there are two people, Lina and Doon, who want to try to save Ember.  How can 12 year olds save a city?

April 28 2014

Charts with Children of the Gold Rush

This is my first time teaching 4.4, Children of the Gold Rush, and I’m really enjoying it! My students love the topic so far, and all the background knowledge-building has led to great questions about the time period, people, and geography of the Klondike/Alaskan gold rush.

April 24 2014

Teaching Genre with Glory Be

After we came back from Spring Break, we started our final CIA unit of the school year, Glory Be. I was afraid that my students would have forgotten some of the important ideas that we had learned about segregation and the Civil Rights movement from our Martin Luther King Jr CIA unit. My class proved me wrong yet again! It was almost as if during the time between the two CIA units the ideas were marinating within them and becoming part of who they are now. Even in the early stages of reading Glory Be students have shared why they think segregation is wrong and how they would have felt if they were around at that time, as well as how it must feel for people to be treated differently today. These have been some of the happiest moments in my teaching career.

April 24 2014

Background Knowledge for Streams to the River

We are starting Streams to the River this month just as we are finishing our Native American unit in Social Studies.  This year we studied the Pacific Coastal People in a Story Path.  This curriculum leads the students through an interactive story about the Native Americans in our region of Washington.  At the beginning of the unit the classroom creates the “setting” of the story by building a bulletin board.  I made the connection to CIA’s first quadrant focus on story elements (setting, character, and problem).  The next part the students learn about the people of the NW Coast along with their village (long houses), jobs, and lifestyles.  The class then has the first white traders come and that leads to settlers coming in and claiming the land as their own.  This part focuses on the early 1800’s just after the time of Lewis and Clark’s Expedition.  The last part of the Story Path leads to relocation of the village onto a reservation.  I feel that this was a good background experience to have before we started Streams to the River.  Now my students have an understanding about what it was like for Native Americans to encounter “white men” for the first time.  I have been referencing this Story Path experience as we have started Streams.  During the lesson of comparing and contrasting the Shoshone and Minnetarees. I also brought in the local Coastal tribes and talked about their lifestyles of hunting/gathering, building long houses, and using salmon and cedar as their main natural resources.

April 9 2014

4th Grade Writers

Writing is a big part of the CIA program as it gives students a chance to think deeper about a text.  I love how the quadrants all end in a writing assignment.  After reading multiple units students know what to expect when they reach the end of a quadrant.  This year I will complete three units whole class with one book study independently.  Each book has increased in text complexity to allow students to grow as readers and writers.  My current unit of Streams to the River, River to the Sea will give my students their most detailed Retell Summary experience in 4th grade.  This unit is twice as long as the Shiloh and Castles units and students are taking a lot more notes in their CIA journals.  The charts that they keep are longer and more detailed and they are getting introduced to new charts (cause and effect, actions/motivations, and hardships/response/character traits).  With this novel students are making deeper connections about how a character feels.  They will use this to create their final piece of writing at the end of quadrant 4.  For my three units this year my students have completed multiple retell summaries, a compare and contrast piece, a persuasive essay, a problem/solution piece, and two literary essays.

March 6 2014

Kids at Work

My students are reading the fourth unit of study, Kids at Work by Russell Freedman.  Like the other Units of Study Sarah Collinge has written, Sarah has chosen a book that speaks to kids and gives them important issues to think and talk about.  Many of my students said they knew nothing about child labor and are glad they know about it now. Mary wrote, “…the problem that Lewis Hine saw was that people didn’t see how bad it is to have children doing monotonous jobs.  Also people were using children as cheap labor to raise profits.  Lewis Hine’s solution to this problem was to take photos and collect exact information about each child he took photos of.”   They admire Lewis Hine’s photographs and the work he did to change the lives of children.

February 26 2014

Historical Fiction - Chains

My class will begin reading Chains in January. There are a couple of things I think about, one the genre is Historical Fiction and two, it will be the longest book students have read so far during the school year.  I know from past experience that the length of the book will, at first, intimidate them.  In order to help them understand the genre, my 5th grade colleague, Kathryn Oswood, made up a template for us to include in our reading packets.  The template helps students to compare and contrast realistic fiction to historical fiction.  Below is a sample of the completed template.  We give students a blank template and we try to complete as much as we can together.  I also use the genre posters Sarah developed to hang in my room, so students have a quick reference tool to use whenever they need it.

February 24 2014

MLK and Writing

Well, we are finally halfway through Martin Luther King Jr.’s biography! It feels like we’ve been reading this short book forever…and yet the students are not bored or in need of extra entertainment to stay engaged. They have taken the big ideas and the details to heart, searching each week in library for connecting texts and noticing protests and boycotts on the news at home. There has been such an outpouring of connections, I have had to start a “waitlist” poster so I can pull connections when I am ready for them instead of giving up time we don’t have each day (I do think they could use up a whole subject area with excited sharing of connections – and I wish I could let them!)

February 1 2014

Background Knowledge in Streams

One reason I love the third CIA unit for 4th grade, Streams to the River, River to the Sea, is the opportunity to integrate Social Studies content and skills throughout the book.  Students use skills like reading maps, making and using timelines, and of course learning about the explorers and Native Americans of the Northwest.  They will start using these skills as we build background knowledge for the book.

January 6 2014

Student Engagement

Well, I sit here trying to figure out what to write about engagement. I have never used a curriculum or program for literacy that has captivated every 5th grader the way the CIA approach does. Whenever you use any other curriculum or program you really skim the surface of text. You might focus on a particular skill for week or two and then move on. The CIA approach embeds it all into one approach. Students actively seek to uncover the mysteries of the books naturally. I have four children of my own, and currently one of them is almost two. He works hard everyday to understand the world around him. As he explores and experiments with his own little world, he finds the answers he seeks all by his own drive and intuition. What I absolutely love about the CIA approach is that the drive to uncover the mysteries of the world is now used to uncover the mysteries in books. I see this again re-emerge in my classroom. Students beg me to read each day when they walk in my classroom. (Our literacy block is at the end of the day.)

December 23 2013

The C. I. A. Approach in The War with Grandpa

I cannot believe we are in the process of wrapping up the writing project that follows our read aloud The War With Grandpa. This unit just flew by. My students had such a fun time making connections with the struggle that comes with being in a disagreement with a family member. This was a great choice on Sarah's part for third grade. Students were so into the book because of its real life connections. All students can relate to being in disagreements with someone you love. I am going to break down quadrant by quadrant the work we did in The War With Grandpa.

December 15 2013

Castle in the Attic with Janet Erickson

My students are really into Castle in the Attic!  We have almost reached the end of the second quadrant, so they have a good understanding of the characters and the problem that is developing.  Imagine a giant GASP! when I read:

November 28 2013

The Holes Unit of Study

Our second unit of study for 5th grade is Holes.  Students are always excited to begin this book because so many of them have seen the movie.  Sometimes it is hard to get them to think about how the book is quite a bit different than the movie. Some students think the book will be easier to read since they are familiar with the story.  However, the book is much more complex than students think.  As Sarah points out on page 27 of the unit under structure, “This narrative is told by means of an unconventional and complex story structure.  Students must navigate five plot lines, revealed through flashbacks.”  There is a lot of things going on in this book!

November 19 2013

Book Club with Janet Erickson

The Book Clubs are so much fun.  Every student is reading, talking about their book, or writing about it for the entire Book Club time.  It's such a great use of reading time – no one is waiting!  I have three groups.  In the below-grade-level group there are six kids reading Shoeshine Girl, and in the above grade level there are six reading How To Steal A Dog.  The other 13 students are close to grade level and are reading Because of Winn-Dixie. All three groups are enjoying the books.  I don't know how Sarah figured this out, but the amount of reading each day is just right.  The kids in Shoeshine Girl have more opportunities to re-read, and the kids in How To Steal A Dog are thrilled to have enough to keep on reading!  Every student has a reading partner, and this is working out better than I could have imagined.  The kids go to their partner when they have a question, and I've only had one pair sign up for a conference with me.

November 14 2013

Vocab Handbooks

One part of the CIA program that I really enjoy is the vocabulary handbooks.  This is a great way to teach new vocab words to students.  By introducing them to a word before they hear/read it in the text it really helps students with their comprehension.  This allows them to identify these words and how they are used in context instead of reading over the unknown meaning of a word.  I use the CIA Teacher Manual Vocabulary Mini-Lesson Routine every day that we start a lesson with a vocab word.

November 12 2013

Vocabulary Handbook

At the end of each CIA unit of study are the pages of the Vocabulary Handbook.  I make sure that the handbook is copied for each student and hole-punched so they can keep it in their binders.  I have written all the vocabulary words on sentence strips.  Each day I post it in the pocket chart above the turn and talk stem for the day.  After the day’s lesson I put the word card in the Vocabulary pocket chart so students can see it whenever they need to.

November 8 2013

Castle in the Attic C. I. A.


Beginning Castle in the Attic

As a grade level we have to rotate CIA units so this year I started off with Castle in the Attic.  This is the first time I am teaching this unit and my class is super excited to read it!  The first couple weeks of the year I tried to mention CIA knowing that my students had this experience in 3rd grade.  This made my setup a lot easier with students having the structure of the CIA approach.  A week before we started our unit of study I had the students prep their reader’s notebooks.  I copied a picture of the book cover and made a title page in their notebooks.  Before we started the Day 1 Blurb reading, I asked my students to decorate their title page with pictures about castles and medieval life, words, predictions, etc.

November 6 2013

Turn and Talk - Hilary Cullen

Sentence Stems

The use of stems in my classroom has completely changed the way I look at student discourse. Before the use of stems I would always expect my students to turn and talk in the fashion of think-pair-share. Then I realized I kept getting frustrated because the students were not sharing their thinking the way I was expecting them too. Now I realize that if I want students to share in a certain way I need to model this and give them opportunities and structures to share their thinking. I have used stems in all content areas. For example, in math when I looked at the graph I saw __________ this makes me think________. It has had a huge impact on the level of student discourse that is taking place. The response stems have had even more of an impact. My students have such good conversations because they can organize their thinking and defend their thoughts.

October 22 2013

Writing - Finishing Poppy


Poppy is Over  :-(

Every single student in my classroom can now say that they have read a chapter book as we have finished reading Poppy. I’m not sure who is more bummed out, me or my students.

October 14 2013

Classroom Turn and Talk

We just finished our first quadrant of Castles in the Attic and one of the most important parts in the first quadrant is setting up your routines for Turn and Talks.  You need to have this system set in place and agreed upon by your students.  As you know the beginning of the book has a lot of modeling and practice with the Turn and Talks.  This year I created Turn and Talk expectations with my class (we call it “TnT”) It is something that we are still working on each day and I continue to refer to the expectations before we get started reading the story.

October 7 2013

C. I. A.: Poppy in Sarah Linington's Class


Beginning the CIA Unit

We started the unit of study for Poppy after two weeks of Patricia Polacco practice with sentence stems, literary vocabulary, and talking about how character’s change. We are in the first quadrant, Collecting, of the CIA framework. After each lesson, the students practice the same strategy for half their independent reading time in a book I chose. The second half of independent reading is in a just right book of their choice. Many students are making Character Trait lists for all independent books, Setting Maps, and some have started lists of events (even though we have not started that with Poppy yet.) I noticed that we were having many “burning questions” yesterday, so we made an impromptu Questions poster and also added that to our independent reading strategies list.

October 3 2013

Poppy in Hilary Cullen's Class

Wow! September has flown by. Let me catch you up to speed where we are at in Poppy. We have just finished the first quadrant and are closing in on the second quadrant. I am going to take a few steps back and share with you some of my ideas on kicking off Poppy. When we prepare our notebooks for Poppy I like to include a picture of the cover of the book. This is great for the end of the year when students will take their notebooks home. It's like they are truly taking the book with them. I also include a table of contents. This is a skill that is needed across curricula. With my third graders I work really hard to teach them how to be efficient in all things. A Table of contents helps keep their notebook organized and helps them keep up to speed. If a student is gone one day they can catch up easily by copying the charts they have missed.

September 24 2013

Poppy: C. I. A. in the 3rd Grade Classroom


Updates

I’d like to start this blog with a few updates since my last blog. In my blog, about setting up the classroom, I had shared how my CIA area was all set up, and I how I wasn’t sure about the blank walls. Well, my walls are no longer blank! We’ve created so many charts in reading Poppy that I don’ t have much room left, and if anything need to find some more wall space for the charts we have yet to create. I could easily take down the charts that we may not be adding more information onto, but I like leaving them up to show what we have done, plus when my students are doing independent reading, they work on completing some of the same activities we have done within CIA for their own books and I like to have them up as a reference. You might notice how I use different colors within the same chart. The reason I do this is that it is easy for both myself and the students to differentiate the different pieces of information (plus I just like things to be colorful).

September 6 2013

Earthquake Terror Unit of Study

In 5th grade, our first CIA unit is Earthquake Terror written by Peg Kehret.  It is an exciting realistic fiction adventure story about a boy and his family who must survive a terrifying earthquake while camping on a deserted island.  I really enjoy this story and I think it is a great book to start with in September.  It eases the students into our daily CIA schedule and the story is attention-grabbing to the students.

September 2 2013

Classroom Setup - Ryan Painter

I have spent the final days of summer going over how I will start the year as we all normally do during those last sunny days.  This year will be a different experience for me as I start planning September.  I ended last year with the CIA training and completed one unit of study (Shiloh).  This year I will be starting the year with CIA and I plan on completing 3 units of study (Shiloh, Castle in the Attic, and Streams to the River…).  For the most part, my previous planning for my first couple of weeks of school has stayed the same.  I use this time to try and build as much of a class community as possible.  This is crucial for building trust with my students.  I make sure I have time planned for students to share their stories from the summer, play team building games, and complete several “getting to know you” activities.  This is very important for our class chemistry and it provides the foundation of our partner work and Turn and Talks.  This year I have made it a focus to start the year teaching about Turn and Talks knowing how much I will be using them in future CIA lessons.  During the first few days I assigned students with Turn and Talk buddies.  When we need to work with a partner, have a question, or share our ideas, I have been using Turn and Talks.  We came up with some “guidelines” of our expected behaviors during this activity.  My students have fun acting out the “right way” and “wrong way” to do this.  This also reinforces what the expected behaviors should look and sound like during a Turn and Talk.

August 21 2013

Classroom Setup - Dawn Smith

My Classroom Setup

I’ve come to look at setting up my classroom as my chance to be an Interior Designer. I get to decide how my classroom will look and function to best meet the needs of the students and myself. This is especially true this year as I’ve moved to a new classroom, and I currently have 28 3rd graders on my class list!

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