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The Big Fresh July 19, 2014 Please Don't Ruin Our Good Work

Brenda Power

The fingers must be educated, the thumb is born knowing.

                                                          Marc Chagall

The day after my thumb surgery, I returned to have the dressing changed and a splint made that would stabilize my thumb and wrist while the joint and tendons mended. After cautioning me to wear the splint at all times and under no circumstances to make a pinch with my thumb, the surgeon said to me, "Please don't ruin my good work."

After spending nine months with our students, leading, following, growing, teaching, nurturing and splinting their good literacy habits into place, the same message needs to be sent out to the world as children enjoy their summer break.

Television, please don't ruin our good work. These children are passionate about books. They lean into the silence of reading workshop with the intensity of a heron at water's edge. They sponge up words and stories, and wring out their enthusiasm during book club discussions. They are readers.

Social media, please don't ruin our good work. These children are storytellers who can sit down at a keyboard and in 20 minutes compose breathtaking poetry and narratives. Their nonchalant creativity is not hindered by uncertainty. They are writers.

Video games, please don't ruin our good work. These children build imaginative works of art with plain wooden blocks, make a cardinal with scraps of red felt, and decorate the edges of every paper with doodles. They are creators.

Current events, please don't ruin our good work. These children believe that the future will be theirs to mold into a thing more beautiful and just and worthwhile than history has ever known. They are filled with optimism and hope, and if you take that from them, you will have tarnished the world not only for them, but for those who have prepared them to succeed us.

Please don't ruin our good work.

This week we consider some "firsts" of the school year -- books, lessons, and units. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Mary Lee Hahn

Contributor, Choice Literacy

Mary Lee Hahn has been teaching 4th or 5th graders for more than 20 years. She is the author of Reconsidering Read-Aloud (Stenhouse Publishers). Mary Lee and her colleague in the Dublin City Schools, Franki Sibberson, blog about their reading lives at A Year of Reading.


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Here are two features from the archives on routines and activities for the first days and weeks of school.

Katie DiCesare has ideas from her first-grade classroom for supporting readers during the first few weeks of school:


Katie Doherty is Linking Reading, Writing, and Getting to Know You Activities During the First Weeks of School with her middle school students:


We've just started our annual Facebook series on first read alouds. We'll be posting our contributors' choices over the next month:


We've also been compiling a Pinterest board for three years of favorite first read alouds:


Pernille Ripp finds the best way to conquer our teaching fears at the start of the year may be to voice them:


If you're looking for an instant video library of hundreds of classroom vignettes to use in professional development this fall, consider purchasing the Choice Literacy 24-DVD Library. Featured teachers include Jennifer Allen, Aimee Buckner, "The Sisters" (Gail Boushey and Joan Moser), Franki Sibberson, and many others. These DVDs purchased individually retail for $3996, but the sale price is $1997 -- a savings of over 50%. Details are available at this link:



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Christy Rush-Levine introduces her middle school students to the complexity of reading in First Shared Text: Fishing for Many Meanings with Adolescents:

Franki Sibberson finds an "I Used to and Now I" format helps her third-grade students understand how technology is changing reading habits:


Launching a Sort with primary students early in the year begins not with words, but with leaves for Max Brand:


In this week's video, Sean Moore leads a second-grade whole-class reading share early in the year. This quick video shows this instruction time is as much about establishing social norms as talking about reading:


In an encore video, Katie DiCesare demonstrates how she helps her first-grade students become more purposeful with writing share:


That's all for this week!



Brenda Power

Brenda Power is the founder of Choice Literacy. She worked for many years as a professor at the University of Maine and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her publications as an author include Living the Questions and The Art of Classroom Inquiry. She has worked as a book editor and video producer for many of the authors featured at this site.