I Named My Cat After a Vampire: a post about reading instruction

Meet Edward and Bella
Just Kidding…
I didn’t name my cat after a vampire… I named both of my cats after vampires!
After returning from my amazing visit to the Scholastic Headquarters in New York, I’ve been reflecting on a few of the conversations I had with my new friends.  I just can’t shake one of these conversations I had with two amazing teachers.  So, I felt the need to share it with all of you…
Over dinner, I sat with the new Top Teaching Team at Scholastic.  I couldn’t believe the amazing company I was with.  Each of these individuals had so much to offer.  I enjoyed just sitting back, listening, and getting to know each of them on a more personal level.  
Conversations started with each of us sharing about our children, where we teach, and goals for next year.  However, they quickly evolved into this group bonding, laughing, and really connecting!  In life, sometimes you have certain people that you just seem to really click with… and, for me, this group certainly fits that description.  
I was sitting in between Kriscia and Lindsay during dinner.  We had a fabulous time and such great conversation.  The one topic that really stuck with me was when we began discussing books.  The three of us quickly discovered how much we all enjoyed the same type of literature (these crazy coincidences kept happening throughout the night – it was destiny for us to meet!).  As soon as I found out that these girls loved the Twilight Series, I shared my obsession with these books.  In fact, for the first time, I’ll publicly share that it was this very series that made me a reader.  Now, I can’t put books down.
Twilight: Trash or Treasure
I always considered myself a reader; I just didn’t read that much.  Actually, I didn’t really read fiction at all.  I stuck with journals, articles, blog post, etc.  My husband always had a book in his hand.  I didn’t really understand his love for books… or the time he found to read.  After all, who has time to finish a book that big?  
In high school, I struggled.  Granted, I graduated with a 3.75 G.P.A and was involved with nearly every extra curricular offered and had a job working about 25 hours a week (cheerleading and debate were a huge part of my life).  Thankfully, I had two amazing parents to help me fill in the gaps where I struggled.  I was the kid that would read but just not ‘get it.’  I remember my dad sitting on the floor beside my day bed reading Fahrenheit 451 to me.  I also remember sitting with my friends at lunch hoping they would discuss Pip and Estella so that I could participate in the discussion during fourth hour.  
Yep – Riley and I meet Mr. Cullen!
When I started teaching middle school five years ago, I knew I had to find out more about this buzz surrounding these vampires.  So, I picked up Twilight after everyone else had already jumped on the bandwagon.  I was certainly the last.  Well, I soon became the conductor of this wagon.  I loved the book.  My husband couldn’t believe I actually had a book in my hands.  I finished it in two days.  Jason, my husband, told me to let him read it.  Since he had never seen me that engaged in any book, he knew there had to be something special to this series.  
Jacob sporting his “Team Jacob” shirt.
I even brought the other three books in the series with me to our family vacation to Disney.  Yes, I brought them in my bag to the theme parks each day.  I finished the series on vacation.  I was hooked.  It was like a drug.  I was spying into the lives of these characters and felt like I was in their world.  There was something powerful and magical about escaping into these books.  I knew them… I could relate to them… I was finally accepted into this cool club of readers where I finally found out what everyone was talking about!  I use to cringe at the question in high school and college, “Did you like the book or the movie?”  Come on… really… the movie (of course!).  Those that said they enjoyed the book better must be trying to sound sophisticated, right?  WRONG!  I totally got it now.  I was so excited!  This was the greatest gift: reading!
As an elective class, I had my middle school students study the parallels of Wuthering Heights and Twilight.  You can see more about that by clicking here.  It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g!  
Can you guess the next series I read?
Hint: one of the characters had pink hair and lived in the Capitol
So, I did name my cats Bella and Edward.  She really is the lamb, and he is the lion.  :-)  Yes, I also put pink highlights in my hair when I was reading The Hunger Games.  Needless to say, I totally get into the books I’m reading.  During this pink hair phase, I was teaching summer school for the students in my middle school.  We read The Hunger Games.  They loved it!  
Our summer school was broken into two session.  Each session was three weeks long.  If students did not pass one course during the regular school year, they could take a three week course in the summer to make it up.  If students did not pass two courses, they could take the full six week course in the summer to make those credits up.  Guess what… my three week students stayed the full six weeks!  No joke!!  …and our summer school met at 7am!  Amazing, right?!?  These kids were given the same gift I was: discovering amazing books!  Sadly, I was in my late twenties when I discovered this priceless gift.  
By the way… the summer school students didn’t actually believe I would dye my hair.  They were quite surprised!  This was before the movie, and it was a lot of fun!  We even had our own class reaping.  
My new Scholastic besties also loved The Hunger Games series.  It was comforting to chat with friends about books they enjoyed that I, too, loved.  I no longer felt embarrassed to admit my issues with reading.  I only wish that I was given choice in reading in school.  I wish I had teachers that took an active interest in finding out what I would love.  Don’t get me wrong, I had great teachers.  I truly felt that most of them really did care for their students.  However, I never felt that any of them knew me as a reader.  I was a top student, passed every assessment with flying colors, yet never really understood any of the books I read.  How could this be?  
I remember reading whole class novels and that’s it.  Really.  I’m not trying to be negative.  We also had a large text that we read short stories out of.  We did work with poetry as well.  Yet, I don’t recall a class library or being taken to the school’s library (only in elementary). 
How do you teach reading?
Do students have choice in their selections?
Are certain books not encouraged because they aren’t good enough?
I feel like Twilight would not have been encouraged when I was in high school.  Yet, this is the very book that sparked my love of literature.  Would I have been denied this opportunity?
I eat chocolate and love it.  I also eat vegetables and love those as well.  As long as my diet has a balance, I remain rather healthy.  Without chocolate, I would not be as pleasant to be around.
Does your classroom library include chocolate?  
What I’m Reading Now

I’m reading Out of the Easy.  I was drawn to this book because I grew up in Louisiana.  The setting takes place in New Orleans.  The plot seemed interesting.  I have an attraction for a protagonist surrounded by drama.  
To see more about this book: click here for my Amazon affiliate link.
Description:
It’s 1950 and the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie Moraine wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.


With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
I read all the time now, fiction and non fiction.  I recently read Sold (and loved it!).  I also just finished all of the Malcolm Gladwell books, and they were great!  I enjoy having choice when I read.  Most of all, I love connecting with friends who have similar reading interests so that we can discuss our books and make recommendations to each other.  
This is exactly the type of culture I aim to create in my classroom, too.  My goal is to know my readers.  My goal is to know them so well that we can laugh together as we chat about our silly characters.  My goal is to also know them so well that I can relate to them when selecting the perfect mentor text to elevate their own craft as a writer and young author.  My goal it to have them fall in love with reading: to learn, grow, and become inspired.  What are your goals for your readers?  
Other Noteworthy Books I’m Reading this Summer

click the book to connect
Smart implementation of the Common Core State Standards requires both an overall understanding of the standards and a grasp of their implications for planning, teaching, and learning. This Quick-Start Guide provides a succinct, all-in-one look at 

* The content, structure, terminology, and emphases of the Common Core standards for mathematics and English language arts and literacy in the lower elementary grades.
* The meaning of the individual standards within each of the four ELA/literacy strands and five math domains, with an emphasis on areas that represent the most significant changes to business as usual.
* How the standards connect across and within strands, domains, and grade levels to develop the foundational language arts, literacy, and mathematics understanding that will support a lifetime of successful learning.

Here, teachers of grades K-2 and elementary school leaders will find information they need to begin adapting their practices to help all students master the new and challenging material contained in the standards. A practical lesson planning process to use with the Common Core, based on Classroom Instruction That Works, 2nd Ed., is included, along with six sample lessons. 
click the book to connect
This New York Times bestseller features 80 essayists (60 from the NPR series and 20 from the 1950s series) sharing their most deeply held beliefs. 
click the book to connect
When K-5 students understand how to read text features like bullets, insets, and bold print, they are reading the whole page—essential for deep comprehension of non-fiction and fiction text.
In Reading the Whole Page: Teaching and Assessing Text Features to Meet K-5 Common Core Standards, seasoned educators Michelle Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace show you how to explicitly teach K-5 students to read text features, use them to navigate text, and include them in their own writing. The classroom-proven mini-lessons, activities, and assessment tools in Reading the Whole Page help you:
  • Teach relevant Common Core Reading Standards and grade-level expectations;
  • Diagnose, monitor, and meet student needs with one of two level-appropriate assessments;
  • Evaluate knowledge with a unique picture book on CD that illustrates all the text features; and
  • Monitor and guide differentiated instruction with a convenient class profile.
Sixty mini-lessons for teaching print, graphic, and organizational features provide ample choices for meeting the standards while adapting to students’ needs. Flexible lessons, which follow the gradual release of responsibility model and increase in difficulty, can be used within the typical ninety-minute reading block, during content-area instruction, in small groups, and as part of independent practice opportunities like literacy centers.
Each lesson offers concept review, suggestions for differentiation, assessment options, and technology connections, requiring students to find, explore, manipulate, and create text features in their own writing.
click the book to connect
Written for teachers of writing by a teacher of writing, Crafting Digital Writing is both an introduction for teachers new to digital writing and a menu of ideas for those who are tech-savvy.  Troy Hicksexplores the questions of how to teach digital writing by examining author’s craft, demonstrating how intentional thinking about author’s craft in digital texts engages students in writing that is grounded in their digital lives.
Troy draws on his experience as a teacher, professor, and National Writing Project site director to show how the heart of digital composition is strong writing, whether it results in a presentation, a paper, or a video. Throughout the book, Troy offers:

  • in-depth guidance for helping students to compose web texts (such as blogs and wikis), presentations, audio, video, and social media
  • mentor texts that give you a snapshot into what professionals and students are doing right now to craft digital writing
  • suggestions for using each type of digital text to address the narrative, informational, and argument text types identified in the Common Core State Standards
  • a wealth of student-composed web texts for each digital media covered, along with links to them on the web
  • technology tips and connections, as well as numerous tools for creating a digital writing assignment.

Erin

Mother. Teacher. Keynote. Author

Erin Klein is an award winning educator, national keynote speaker, author, and mother.

13 Comments
  1. Welcome to the lifelong reader club! I love everything about this post and hope that my own reading life inspires the lives of my students. The choice part is so important and so tricky with my 3rd graders. I have to find the balance between giving them their reading freedom and keeping them moving forward at their "just right" book levels. Been loving reading your #tcrwp tweets. What an amazing week.

    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate your feedback. I love that you offer your 3rd graders choice, too. You're right, that balance is key.

    Were you at Columbia for #tcrwp?

    Have a great summer,

    Erin

  3. I just have to tell you that it made my heart happy to see your cat Edward. I was the owner of his twin for the past 4 years.. I had to look twice AND zoom in to make sure it wasn't my cat! My baby went to kitty heaven this week after battling Cardiomyopathy (heart disease.) I miss him terribly, but I can just pretend he went to stay at your house! :) Thanks for sharing the sweet picture. :)

    Rachel

  4. Hi Rachel,

    You just made my night! Thank you so much for the super sweet comment. I am so sorry to hear about your cat. You can certainly pretend that he came here to play with Jacob and Riley. Edward is a loving (super cuddly) cat. He purrs quite loudly and is a happy cat. Thanks again for your kind words.

    I hope you have a wonderful summer,

    Erin

  5. How wonderful that you've finally found the joy of reading… it makes me want to get back to helping kids find it at school! It's pretty amazing when you don't want to do anything else but finish a book or series and I am SO happy for you!

    I'm so excited for you to work with Scholastic as a Top Teacher! I got to meet one of them (Brian, in K) at Scholastic earlier this year (we were both there as Scholastic Book Clubs teacher advisors) and if everyone there is as passionate about teaching as you two, I bet you had an AMAZING trip! :) Jealous!

    Jenny
    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

  6. Hi Jenny,

    Thank you so much for your comment!

    I met Brian out in NY this past week. He was so much fun to collaborate with. He's so funny and such a wealth of knowledge.

    Thanks for leaving your blog link, too. I'll add it to my Pin board of Blogs I Love! :)

    Have a great summer,

    Erin

  7. Erin,
    I have to admit, when I read your Blog Title today I cringed. I have yet to crack a Twilight book, but after your glowing review, I might just cave. I teach middle school English and the comparison of Twilight to Wuthering Heights has sparked my interest. I have a little more flexibility in what I teach because I work at a private school, but one requirement is complex texts, and Wuthering Heights would fit that bill.

    I do want to inspire my kids to be readers, but I also want to challenge them and help them grow. Do you include student choice in independent reading only or also in the books that are read "for class"?

    Thanks for your post,
    Dava

    Follow Dava Smith English Teacher on BlogLovin’

  8. I'm a late comer to the Twilight series and The Hunger Games. I want to get my hands on those books. Husband doesn't think they're any good and he hasn't read them yet! I'm hoping to fix this problem soon. I'm so glad you are now part of the avid reader club! I read just about anything and have a Kindle just bursting to prove it. Ever since I remember learning to read I've managed to have a book in my hand. I remember my sister not being a reader hardly at all until she found The Wheel of Time series (can't remember the author). Now she reads too! My husband is trying to become more of a reader but grad school currently occupies his time. He'll finish in December. :) Loved this post!
    Shibahn
    Mrs. Landry's Land of Learning

  9. Hi Shibahn,

    Thanks so much for your comment! I hope you're able to get the books soon. They are amazing!

    I love your story of remembering your sister and that exact series that hooked her. How magical!

    I truly appreciate your comment,

    Erin

  10. Hi Dava,

    I'd love for you to read the first two chapters of Twilight, and let me know what you think. If you did Wuthering Heights, I think your kids would enjoy it. The characters are rich, and the plot is filled with drama. It's a wicked story!

    We certainly have choice in our reading. We do reading workshop. The foundation is built on choice. I do read alouds, too. :)

    Have a great weekend,

    Erin

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