#TLAP in Reading

After meeting the incredible author and pirate, Dave Burgess last year at his Teach Like a Pirate conference, I was enthusiastic to really dive in with my students in their learning experience, instead of sitting passively as a “lifeguard.” This is a reference Dave makes in his book, Teach Like a Pirate. Quick sidebar; if you haven’t added this to your Amazon cart yet, do it now! You won’t regret it! The conference was at the end of the school year, so I never truly got the opportunity to liven up the classroom until this year.


My mentor, Colleen Noffsinger, Dave Burgess and me at the #TLAP Conference

My struggle, as I imagine with many other teachers, was trying to liven up my reading mini-lessons and also to get those apprehensive readers to buy into what I was teaching. Taking notes from my mentor, Colleen Noffsinger at Literacy Loving Gals, our school’s literacy coach, as well as the #TLAP community, I decided to amplify how I was teaching reading mini lessons in the classroom. I thought I’d share some quick and easy ideas I’ve tried and have found successful thus far. I’m always looking for the little “spark” to quickly implement into my lessons to liven them up for my kiddos.


A huge standard in 5th grade is moving away from answering explicit questions from the text and going beyond the text to analyze character, multiple sources of information and author’s craft. Interpreting text is hard for even adults to understand, so for students to conceptualize what I was trying to make them do, I took a page out of my literacy coach’s book when teaching interpretation of a character based on textual evidence.

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Students use their evidence to develop an interpretation about my “neighbor.” 

In order to teach this lesson and generate understanding, I gathered random objects into a bag and told my kiddos I found the bag outside of my next door neighbor’s house. Their job as detectives was to determine what type of person my neighbor is based on each one of the objects in the bag. Students then wrote down qualities that my neighbor was likely to possess and had to support their belief with evidence, showing them that interpretations are never explicitly stated but instead developed from our own ideas and textual evidence.  Thanks again to my literacy coach for this great idea. This one moment motivated me to continue to #TLAP.


Linking Ideas to Build Larger Theories: 


This #TLAP idea came from the simple word in the “I Can” statement. I saw the word “build” and thought, why not play a full class Jenga game with our ideas.  We are using Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate to model these ideas and these lessons in 5th grade which was recommended by the Lucy Calkins units of study. Essentially, each student was given a Jenga piece at the start of our read aloud and was told that when they had an interpretation about our characters or a specific event in the book that they should raise their hand to share. Students began raising their hand to share their ideas and would place their block in the center of the floor. If a student had an idea that “built” on the other person’s idea they would share and expand the idea aloud and then place their block on top of the other idea. Our Jenga towers were all different heights, but it was a great visual for the students to be able to understand that we are “literally” building on one another’s thoughts to create a larger idea.


Readers wear their interpretations as glasses while they read to fit/change their ideas: 


This was one of the easiest #TLAP ideas I’ve implemented. Again, taking the idea directly from the statement about what readers can/will be able to do, I purchased goofy glasses for each one of my students to wear. Again, while modeling with my read aloud, I informed students that they were to think of an interepreation in their mind about our read aloud. As I continued to read they were to think about how the text and new ideas that they were forming either changed or fit their interepation and ideas that they already had. As students began to share and support their ideas with text evidence they received a pair of glasses to wear and were then deemd to share again. It was such a fun way to create buy in and it really engaged them in the content that we were learning.


These ideas are all minimal, inexpensive, incredibly time efficient and oh-so-effective in creating buy-in in your learning. Moving forward, I hope to look for new ways to engage my students in this way. I encourage you to look for little ways to #TLAP in your room to make your day and your student’s day more exciting. You don’t need to be what people call a “creative person” to get creative in your learning space.


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