What I'm Reading & Planning in August

August 01, 2021

School starts up at end of August, but until then I'm enjoying summer. Here's my TBR list for the month and an update on my writing instruction plans.

This summer has been all about making myself feel like me again. Between the struggles of the pandemic and mothering three little ones, I needed to spend this summer on things that make me happy. I've focused on making time for more exercise outdoors and reading even more than I do during the school year. I've been writing blog posts and revising teaching resources. I've traveled to visit family in the Catskills of New York and spent two full weeks plus several weekends at the New Jersey shore with my immediate family. I've taken my girls to playgrounds and splash parks, and filled up bags and bags of library books. 

I'll return to school the second to last week of August for a week of professional development and students will return the last week of August. Until then, I'm trying not to allow my thoughts of school to spiral with all the what ifs of the upcoming year. I'm hoping that by keeping my nose in a book and working on a very focused curriculum related project, I'll be able to enjoy what's left of my summer and keep the back to school scaries away.

Reading in August
July was another good reading month and I checked off most of my TBR list. I continued to have a good deal of car time and ended up listening to eight audiobooks (seven middle grade, one young adult).  Of the six physical books I read, three were adult, one was young adult, one was middle grade, and one was a professional development book. The second PD book I hoped to get through didn't happen because these are slower reads for me; I usually take notes and take time to consider how to incorporate ideas into my own classroom.

Here's what I read in July:
2. Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson (professional development)
4. The Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda (young adult fiction)
11. Front Desk by Kelly Yang (middle grade)
12. Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (middle grade short story anthology)

School starts up at end of August, but until then I'm enjoying summer. Here's my TBR list for the month and an update on my writing instruction plans.

Just before I headed down to the beach this weekend, I received a box of beautiful advanced reader copies of books from Macmillan Publishers plus a new graphic novel, so those are all of the titles on my TBR list for this month. I think reading that many physical titles will be an ambitious goal since I'll be heading back to school at the end of the month, but I'm going to aim high.

Here's what I'm hoping to read in August:
3. Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe (young adult, available 2/15)
4. I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin (young adult, available 3/15)
6. My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (adult, available 10/5)
7. Goblin by by Eric Grissom and Will Perkins (middle grade graphic novel)

School starts up at end of August, but until then I'm enjoying summer. Here's my TBR list for the month and an update on my writing instruction plans.

Planning in August
I have gotten a slow start on my big mental project for the summer, which was planning out  grammar and writing instruction for next year. I read most of Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson last month and hope to revisit Everyday Editing, also by Jeff Anderson, this month as I continue to think about weaving together my writing and grammar instruction. 

As I'm working through Anderson's books, I'm making note of which of his lessons align with Pennsylvania's eligible content for conventions of standard English. In sixth grade there is a heavy focus on pronouns and comma usage. Once I've picked out the lessons that are most important for me to teach, I want to map out an order in which to teach them as well as develop a weekly or bi-weekly structure for teaching each skill. Something like:   
  • Monday - introduce a mentor sentence for students to imitate
  • Tuesday - deep dive into the "rule" connected to the mentor sentence (add to writer's notebook)
  • Wednesday - activity practicing the "rule"
  • Thursday - introduce a second mentor sentence for students to imitate
  • Friday - continue writing from one of the week's imitation sentences and share
  • Monday - make corrections to sample sentences based on "rule"
  • Tuesday - search for examples in students' independent reading books (add to writer's notebook)
  • Wednesday - free write in response to mentor text
  • Thursday - editing free write to apply the "rule"
  • Friday - share free writes
This two week structure will give students multiple opportunities to practice each skill and as the year continues, we'll build an editing checklist so that previously taught skills are constantly referred back to. Anderson's books provide suggested mentor sentences and texts, and I'm hoping to build on those suggestions with examples from the texts we are reading in class to make this grammar and writing instruction a seamless part of each day. I'm also hoping to pull examples from books in my classroom library to help promote some of those titles.

I'm still thrifting for new titles to add to my classroom library and I've stopped in my classroom to drop those books off, stamp them, scan them into BookSource and shelve them, but I haven't done any other work in my classroom. I don't do a lot of decorating and there's so many unknowns for what the start of the school year will look like, so I'm trying to hold onto these last few weeks of summer. 

Without knowing what the rules will be around student movement and sharing of materials, it is hard to plan out that first week of school. I want that first week to get students excited about reading and writing. I'd love to be able to do a book sort and book dating activity to help students get to know our classroom library and jump right into our independent reading routine. I'll also do some version of my back to school stations, but I'm not sure if it will be hands-on or digital or some combination of the two. For writing I like to start the year with George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" Poem and having students write their own. Other get to know you activities and a review of our summer reading, Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds, will allow students to practice working in different collaborative structures. 

If you are preparing to head back to school, I wish you the best of luck. If you are still hanging on to your summer, I wish you the best of luck with that too!

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School starts up at end of August, but until then I'm enjoying summer. Here's my TBR list for the month and an update on my writing instruction plans.

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