Teacher as Writer: How Can We Make Time for Writing?

Slice of Life2As teachers of writers, it is important to be teachers who write. How can we make this happen?  Begin by making the act of writing a good habit. Put it on your schedule like you would schedule time for the gym or time to participate in a book club. Just be sure to set some time aside. Here, it’s important to be realistic. Perhaps start with 5 to 10 minutes to write in a writer’s notebook – an observation, a response to a quote, a description of a person or place you know well. Then you can try to add some time several days a week – work up to 20 minutes or more over the first month or so.

Where do you like to write?  Do you have a favorite spot in your house to read?  There’s probably a favorite spot to write – you may not have discovered it yet. When do you do your best writing?  Will you accomplish more in the morning or after dinner?  I still like to draft in a notebook and return to my laptop for revision and editing after the first draft is handwritten. My notebooks all have interesting covers and are spiral-bound so when I open them up, they always lie flat on my desk or table. What else will spur you on or comfort you?  A cup of hot tea?  A sweet bun? A wedge of dark chocolate?  Do you like background noise – t.v. or perhaps your i-pod playing your favorite tunes?

It’s okay to move away from your writing, but be sure to return to it. Writers need experiences and time to reflect on how they are growing and changing. Sometimes, getting up from your desk and taking a walk may be all you need to return to a piece of writing with great gusto!  Writer’s block is easily resolved by spending a good deal of time thinking about what you will write before you pick up your pen (or tap on your keyboard).  Your students will also have less problems if their first draft has already been rehearsed in their heads. And remember, you won’t love everything you write. It won’t all be good, but you’ll be exercising your writing muscles and developing a habit. That’s important!

Planning what you will write is well worth the effort. Heart maps, neighborhood maps, memory chains, and expert lists can help you get started. If you are writing a longer piece, an outline or chain of events may help you write a piece in sections. It is not always true that you start at the very beginning. When Rose Cappelli and I drafted Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, we decided to begin with our chapter on beginnings and endings, the fourth chapter in the book. We jumped around to write what was compelling to us at that time.

Set some writing goals for yourself. Plan how much you want to write by a certain date. Challenge yourself to try a new form or a new genre. Your goal may be to share your work with a peer or with your students. Perhaps you want to try to publish a best-practice article in a journal such as PAReads: The Journal of the Keystone State Reading Association. You’ll have a deadline to meet!  Try to stick with your plan and achieve your goal(s).

You can be a little selfish. Share how important your writing time has become with your family and friends. There will always be other things you could be doing instead of writing. Make your writing time sacred.  Believe in yourself. You ARE a writer. Own the title. Make it part of your identity – how you express yourself, how you show your love, how you learn about the world and about yourself. Writing is a way to tell your story. Each day is a new page to write on.

Write, Write, WRITE!

 

Creating Similes and Metaphors

Often, when I introduce or revisit figurative language, I return to one or several mentor texts that I have used with students as read alouds. Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen are particularly wonderful. My Dog is as Smelly as Socks: And Other Funny Family Portraits by Hanoch Piven is also quite useful.

It is worth the effort to spend some time working with students on similes and metaphors. Learning to create them also aids in comprehension.  When students rely on worn-out similes such as “He was as slow as a turtle when he had chores to do,” they don’t have to do much thinking.  I find a display of household objects to be a useful way to help students create fresh and thought-provoking comparisons. Gather some ordinary and maybe some less familiar objects from your kitchen, basement, garage, or craft room. Your finds may include a rolling pin, a vase, a ceramic dog, a piggy bank, painter’s tape, holiday ornaments, a flower vase,  a grater, a peeler, a spiralizer, a timer, a birdhouse, a whisk, mortar and pestle, a zester, salt and pepper mills, a tennis racquet, a catcher’s mitt, a horseshoe, a soccer ball, a photo album.

Choose something from the table and model how you would brainstorm a set of characteristics that you associate with the object – encourage words and phrases.

My choice: Painter’s Tape   

Characteristics:

August blue          sticky                                      useful                                 smooth-to-the-touch

strong                    useful                                     in demand                         harmless

light                        easy-to-peel                         a painter’s tool                  essential

safe                         splotted                               splashed                              disposable

forgotten               dirty                                      streaked                              reduces error

aids in perfect creations                                  eliminates frustration       sky blue

used-to-be round                                              practical                                 presentation tool

 

Metaphor/Simile/ Extended Analogies – My Example

I am like a roll of painter’s tape, strong but lighthearted and streaked with imperfections. As a teacher of writers, I facilitate the development of independent thinkers within the safe environment I create. Students know they can take risks and try new things. They know I need to revise and edit my own writing, and I sometimes ask for their help. Like painter’s tape, I am user-friendly and aid students in creating beautiful pieces of writing with just the right amount of support. Although I am often in high demand for conferences, I am sometimes forgotten as my students form support structures with their peers and become more skilled in self-conferences.  My sky-blue personality each day helps students to weather the storms of their daily lives and create in the safe space of writing workshop.

What Do You Say to Your Writers to Help Them Revise Through the Eyes of Their Readers?

We all have strategies for revision. A strategy such as FARMS – Focus, Add, Remove, Move, Substitute – or abandon a piece of writing to begin a new one is often hard to do!  The students have already invested a good deal of their time in planning and drafting. Of course, it helps when students have been able to choose their own topic, genre, and form as well as have a target audience other than the teacher.  It helps when they have a purpose other than to receive a final (passing) grade.  Choice is always a strong motivator and necessary for engagement.  But even with choice, students often resist revision work after working very hard to create their first draft. Once the words come to life on a page of writing, it is hard to change or remove them.

Here is a collection of responses that teachers in grades K through 12 have used to elicit revision action.  Writers need feedback that helps them communicate a clear message to their readers.  They need to know that their readers may need more/less/different information to understand.  These prompts help writers internalize the kinds of questions and statements that readers might ask. Indeed, writers are writers first and then transitions to the role of being their own first readers.  The teacher queries below are in no particular order.

 

I’m trying to picture this in my mind. If I were watching this scene, what would I see?

I need to know all the information you just told me so I can see what you saw. Can you go back and write it into your piece?

I’m not sure how this fits. Can you explain?

Tell me more about ________________.

Let me read your piece back to you. Does it sound like the way you remember it?

I am start to get confused when you start telling me about…..

Oh, I think you should say that in the beginning.  That would grab everyone’s attention right away!

Let me tell this back to you as I am understanding it. Then you tell me if I have it right.

What’s giving you trouble in this story? How have you tried to problem solve already? What strategies/craft moves have you tried?

How did you feel when _____________________happened?  It would be interesting to let your readers know what you were feeling.

I feel I need more information about _______________ to understand what you are trying to say.

What do you think you could do to make this piece clearer?

I think if you put an example in here it would help the reader understand.

Did you mean to say that twice?

How does this piece sound to you when you read it aloud? Let me read it to you. How does it sound? Were there any bumpy spots?

What do you want to work on in your next draft of this piece?

What did your peer response partner think when you read it to her?

It sounds like you have two stories (two issues) in this piece. Maybe you could choose the one you want to concentrate on for now and develop it.

This happens to me sometimes when I write, too. Here is something that I’ve tried…. Maybe this could work for you, too.

This piece start out with exciting action and makes me want to read on, but it just seems to end. What could you do to really grab your readers at the end?

Tell me…. what is the one thing you really want to get across to your reader in this piece?

First Revision Strategies for Narratives

slice-of-life2When I talk with writers about revision, I always suggest that they begin by looking at the content to see if they have developed their ideas. Elaboration is key to good writing. Students should practice reading their work aloud with expression and think to themselves: Is there a place in my writing where I said something but could say something more?

Ask students to work with partners. As each writer shares her piece, ask the partner to listen for places where more details/information can be added. Mark these places with small sticky dots or a light pencil mark. Try for two different kinds of elaboration. Here are some suggestions:

Character: Flesh out the individuals in your piece of writing. Select a key feature of the character and develop him/her like a cartoonist or portrait artist would. How do her hands look? How does her mouth work when she smiles or talks? In The Witches, Roald Dahl writes: With each word she (The Grand High Witch) spoke, flecks of pale-blue phlegm shot from her mouth like tiny bullets. (1983, p. 72-73) What about the character’s hair, eyes, clothing?  Close your eyes and try to picture the character in a specific location.

Dialogue: In a narrative, dialogue is a key element. Readers expect that talk will be scattered throughout a story. Let the characters talk instead of telling what they say. Show the character’s personality – what he is thinking and feeling. If your writers are not sure how to punctuate conversation, forget about that for the moment. Ask them to skip a space or indent every time a different character speaks, and concentrate on creating a voice for each character. From The Witches: “You may rreee-moof your vigs!” snarled The Grand High Witch. (1983, p. 69)

Setting the Scene: Look for places in the narrative where places are mentioned but there are no specifics about what those places look like. Add details – use your senses – to develop them in greater detail. Try to create a picture in the reader’s mind. From The Witches by Roald Dahl: At the back of the room there was a large folding screen with Chinese dragons painted on it… I tiptoe to the back of the room and settled myself on the thick green carpet behind the big screen. (1983, p.57)

Looping: (For older writers) Find the best part of your story – the place where you believe everything is working well. Begin writing right at this place. Forget about the other parts.  Spill your words here as quickly as possible. See if your piece wants to continue in that direction. See where your writing takes you, and then decide if it works for you – if you are happy with it.

Write More: What else do you know about this character? Place? Particular story?  Is there a sequel to this story?  Is this piece really two stories?

Great Ways to Begin a Narrative

Slice of Life2One of my favorite things to do in writing workshop is to teach student writers more about writing a great story!  I have always believed that this is something we are born to do – sharing our stories is part of the human experience. A good story starts with a great lead that hooks the reader and draws him right in.

Although some of our young writers find their way with beginnings almost naturally, many do not.  We’ve all read leads that begin with “It was Saturday morning” or “I went to the zoo” or “My name is Sammy and I am going to tell you a story about….”  Our youngest writers can start with a question, a description of weather, or an exclamation.  I like to give them several choices because it’s important to understand that every kind of lead does not fit every story. If you have a toolkit of craft moves for leads, then you can choose which lead is a good fit for the particular story you are currently drafting.

The following leads were built around a topic I can write about – dogs!  When I work in classrooms, I like to make posters with these leads and add photos of my Welsh Corgis to dress it up.

  1. Start by asking the reader a question. Have you ever seen a dog that likes to eat asparagus and broccoli?
  2. Start out with someone talking. “Hey, Mom, Merri is cleaning up the kitchen floor for you.”
  3. Start with a metaphor. Whenever we have a party, my Welsh Corgi Rhonda is Mom’s best vacuum cleaner.
  4. Start out with an exclamation. “Grab Memphis before he runs after that rabbit!”
  5. Start with a controversial opinion. I think dogs are a big help around the house. My mom does not agree.
  6. Start with a description of weather. It was a snowy December day, cold and dreary, when Merri arrived to warm my heart.
  7. Start with an action. When Dad placed the puppy in my arms, my heart melted.
  8. Start out by making your reader wonder about your topic. My dog Rhonda is a big help to Mom.

Be sure to collect leads from mentor texts and from your students. It’s a great way to honor someone’s writing. Students can nominate a peer’s lead sentence or paragraph for “Lead of the Day” or “Lead of the Week” and copy on sentence strips to post on a display board with the author’s name. This practice is a great way to celebrate your student writers, especially those who are slow to finish and do not always get work posted first.

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Wordless Books for Summer Reading & Writing

slice-of-life2The practice of reading aloud is widely acknowledged to be key to literacy development and both oral and written communication skills. But many parents overlook the benefits of wordless (or almost wordless) picture books.  In wordless books, the story emerges through the illustrations rather than the words on the page. This practice gives children the freedom to become more involved in the storytelling process.  They choose names for the characters, focus on particular details in the pictures, or relate the story to their own lives. In the study conducted by University of Waterloo in Canada, twenty-five mothers were given one book with words and one without to read to their toddlers. The study found that the mothers used more complex language when reading the book without words, describing objects and relating them to real life experiences rather than just naming them.

Ball for DaisyAnd wordless books are not just for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarten children. When I first had my own class, I used David Weisner’s Tuesday to offer my fourth grade students another choice for writing. Many of them chose to write their own story for this incredibly captivating book about flying frogs with a surprise (or maybe, not such a surprise after reading Weisner’s book) ending.

Later, when Diane Dougherty and I were writing Grammar Matters; Lessons, Tips, and Conversations Using Mentor Texts, K-6, we chose to return to wordless books to inspire our narrative units of study in both primary and intermediate grades. I again used Tuesday to create a shared writing experience for both first and second grade classes and Night at the Fair with a kindergarten EL class. The students loved writing stories for wordless books, and often continued to collaborate or write individually. Some students wrote a sequel (for Tuesday, they wrote about the night of the flying pigs!)

In Grammar Matters we write advice that can be usefl to both teachers and parents:

Time Flies“Wordless books are motivating choices for younger and older students. The pictures will help your struggling writers and nonwriers (students who can write but choose not to write) to invent narratives that help them feel successful as writers. We suggest beginning with a read aloud. In this case, the students (or your child) will read the pictures with you. ‘Reread’ the book by asking questions as you turn the pages. You might want to pay attention to the story grammar – in other words, who are the characters, where and when did the story take place, what is the problem or conflict, and how is it resolved?”

The thing about wordless picture books – there are many ways to write the story.  To model this at home or in the classroom, return to your mentor texts and tell the story in different ways. If there is more than one character in the book, tell the story from different perspectives or in the first person and again in the third person voice. You can make up a different story every time. That helps students (or your children) know that there is not one correct way to write a story for a wordless book and gives them choice – so important for writers of any ages!

Bibliography of Wordless BooksWave

Baker, Jeannie. 2004. Home. NY: Greenwillow Books.

_________       2010. Mirror. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Banyai, Istvan. 1995. Zoom. NY: Puffin Books.

Becker, Aaron. 2013. Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Boyd, Lizzy. 2013. Inside Outside. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Briggs, Raymond. 1986. The Snowman. NY: Random House.

Catalanatto, Peter. 1993. Dylan’s Day Out. NY: Scholastic.

Cole, Henry. 2012. Unspoken: A Story for the Underground Railroad. NY: Scholastic.

Crews, Donald. 1998. Night at the Fair. NY: Greenwillow Books.

______________. 1990. Truck. NY: Greenwillow Books.

Day, Alexandra. 1989. Carl Goes Shopping. NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Day, Alexandra. 1991. Good Dog Carl. NY: Simon and Schuster.

de Paola, Tomie. 1981. The Hunter and the Animals. NY: Holiday House.

________      1978. Pancakes for Breakfast. NY: Voyager Books.

Frazier, Craig. 2011. Bee and Bird. NY: Roaring Book Press.

Idle, Molly. 2013. Flora Flamingo. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Keats, Ezra Jack. 1999. Clementina’s Cactus. NY: Viking.

Lee, Suzy. 2008. Wave. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Lehman, Barbara. 2004. The Red Book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

________      2008. Trainstop. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

McCully, Emily Arnold. 2007. Four Hungry Kittens. NY: Penguin.

Miyares, Dolores. Float. 2015. NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Newgarden, Mark and Megan M. Cash. 2007. Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug. NY: Harcourt, Inc.

Pett, Mark. 2013.  The Boy and the Airplane. NY: Simon and Schuster.

Pinkney, Jerry. 2009. The Lion and the Mouse. NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Raschka, Chris. 2011. A Ball for Daisy. NY: Schwartz and Wade.

Raschka, Chris. 1993. Yo! Yes! NY: Scholastic.

Rogers, Gregory. 2004. The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, The Bard. NY: Roaring Brook.

Rohmann, Eric. 1997. Time Flies. NY: Dragonfly Books.

Rothmann, Peggy. 2002. Good Night, Gorilla. NY: Putnam.

Staake, Bob. 2013. Bluebird. NY: Schwartz and Wade Books.

Tan, Shaun. 2007. The Arrival. Melbourne, Australia: Lothian Books.

Weisner, David.  2006. Flotsam. NY: Houghton, Mifflin.

Weisner, David. 1992. June 9, 1999. NY: Houghton, Mifflin.

Weisner, David. 2013. Mr. Wuffles. NY: Houghton, Mifflin.

Weisner, David. 1999. Sector 7. NY: Houghton, Mifflin.

Wiesner, David. Tuesday. 1991. NY: Clarion Books.

Boston Treasure

Slice of Life2We left Friday morning for a relaxing weekend in Boston. My husband did an amazing job of driving for the entire trip. Diane and Joe Dougherty and I could set back and relax.  Joe served as the navigator (along with the GPS) and Diane and I took in the scenery.  Spring is such a lovely time of the year to travel.  A town filled with so many things to do, we had choices to make before we arrived in Boston.  It was decided we would spend Saturday morning at the John F. Kennedy Library and the afternoon at the Isabella Gardner Museum. This was not my first trip to Boston (and will certainly not be my last), but in all my visits to the Boston area, I had hoped to visit the Isabella Gardner Museum. Finally, I got my wish!

The trip really was planned around visits with friends. Patty and Ed moved outside of Boston when Ed was hired by a local newspaper. I didn’t want our friendship to evaporate over time – not that we wouldn’t always be friends – but relationships have a bad habit of slipping away if you do not keep track of them!  Patty has a new dog named Bentley – an adorable snow-white Maltese – to keep her company while Ed is at work.  The Maltese has been a lap dog to royalty for centuries.  Bentley has silky hair and loves to be pampered, cuddled and held. Patty brought him along in a tote bag when we visited the Kennedy Library. No one said a thing when Ed and Patty walked in with the dog. He never barked. Never! Not once! As long as Patty or Ed carried him, he was content.  Wow!  If I had tried that with either of my Corgis, we would have been escorted out of the museum in a New York minute! My dogs bark all the time – they are recreational barkers and love to talk!

The Kennedy Library was so interesting – we were reliving history – and that made everyone both happy and sad. Kennedy was so eloquent. He had a way of making everyone feel proud to be Americans. He gave us a mission – a job to do – and we were all in this together for the long haul. I couldn’t help feel a chill or two when I thought about the reality of what is going on in our country right now and all over the world.  We spent some solemn moments in front of a piece of the Berlin wall. “Ich bin ein Berliner” echoing in our minds.

Saturday afternoon was a real treat!  We met Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan and their husbands, Chris and George, to tour the Isabella Gardner Museum. It was wonderful to see them all again and be in such a magical, mystical place.  The museum is a living work of art – the gardens are so beautiful and central to the design of the building. So much to see! The fabrics as wallpaper, the intricate wooden doors, charming desks, postcards and letters from the famous – we read a letter written to Gardner from T.S. Eliot.  The artwork on the walls – everything, actually – is exactly where Isabella Gardner wanted it to be. I will definitely go again!

And then, some bocce ball and a delicious dinner at Limoncello’s – a restaurant in the North End – right next to Paul Revere’s home!  We had a chance to talk on our walk to the bocce ball court, to the restaurant, and back to the cars. Clare, Chris, Tammy, and George are such great people!  I realized how much I loved spending time with them. I actually felt….peaceful – like I was with my tribe – like I belonged. I knew this would not be the last trip to Boston. Oh, yes. The town is wonderful. But it’s the friendships that will pull us back again and again. We hope they have a chance to visit us here in Philly. Clare said she would love to see Longwood Gardens – the place Rose Cappelli often talks about on Slice.  Oh, and the Brandywine River Museum, and Chanticleer Gardens and Gallery, and dinner at the Gables or the Dilworthtown Inn.   Yes!  And of course, reunions at ILA and NCTE.

We met Patty and Ed for lunch at La Voile on Newberry Street. What fun!  I came home with two very expensive bottles of balsamic vinegrette and lots of great memories. There are many treasures in Boston, but the most precious treasures are the friendships!

Revision Suggestions

It is often a challenge to get our student writers to return to a piece of writing and do revision work. In conferences, we have a better chance of helping students to revise if we do not offer myriad suggestions. One or two suggestions will help a student be more successful.  When students become familiar with revision paths, they may be able to use a list of suggestions such as this list offered by Barry Lane in Writing as a Road to Self-Discovery:

“Reexperiencing”:

  • Write several new endings.slice-of-life2
  • Drop a character.
  • Add a character.
  • Add a fantasy element.
  • Play with setting.
  • Tell the story orally several times to two or three different friends and see if you change it. What parts did you add? What parts did you leave out?
  • Change the target audience.
  • RETELL old family stories, dreams, your own story from childhood.  If you are trying this out as an adult, add your adult self to the scene(s).

Ask students to try out some of Barry’s suggestions with writer’s notebook entries or a current draft they are working on.  A Japanese proverb says, “Beginning is easy – continuing is hard.”  Writing processes can vary with the type of writing and the target audience and purpose for writing. What takes the most time is trying to figure out exactly what we want to say. Revision is essential to our process!

Choosing a Road

In my writer’s notebook I created a list slice-of-life2of everything that came to mind when I thought about roads. I made a quick list:

 

street                                  freeway

lanes                                    alley

dirt roads                           back roads

avenues                              boulevards

Route 66                            yellow brick.

trail                                     paths

road to redemption       wrong way

road less traveled            one-way road

dead end                            cobbled

paved                                  lined

highway                              roundabouts

long-and-winding road

on-and-off ramps

all roads lead to Rome

potholes                             boardwalk

byway                                 asphalt

concrete                             gravel

on the road again            rocky road

middle-of-the-road

take the high road

*In your writer’s notebook, write about how your life is like one of these roads. Perhaps you can create a metaphor or simile here. This is my example:

My life has been a long and winding road that led me away from education and back to it again. My love for horses steered me closer and closer to a lifetime of teaching riding lessons and working at the stables.  I believe I was born with a gene that connected me with horses, discovering in my thirties that my great grandparents had actually trained horses for the Russian tsar.

From the time I was fourteen, the riding ring was a road I jogged – usually, with a pony next to me as I taught up-downers (beginners) how to post to the trot. The ponies all had wonderful names – Balantine, Oswald, Cookie Monster, Cimarron, Merry Legs, Tom Terrific (Paco), and Chimey. The most memorable pony, Jungle Juice, was my favorite one. He followed me like a dog is trained to heel, and I loved him with all my heart!

I almost lost myself down that road, even considering a fulltime vocation as a riding instructor with my own stable. The families I had every year – my students at Upper Moreland – pulled at my heartstrings, too. In my forties, it was starting to be more difficult to juggle two jobs that demanded a lot of time and effort. I could no longer straddle the fence. I had to choose my path. When I made a decision to return to school for a doctoral degree in educational leadership and a K-12 reading certification, I knew my journey’s destination.

I still miss my equine buddies – many who are still in horses and run their own stables – and all the horses and students (ranging in age from four to sixty-four!) I ever taught.  I treasure the memories!

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Tom Terrific, a large pony with a big heart!  We called him Paco.  He could jump the fences in Unionville! Everyone loved him!

What Should I Read Next?

Slice of Life2When our students are going to the library or book store, they need to do some self-reflection in order to make good selections. As adults, we have internalized many of these questions and use them to find the perfect book to read. It is important to also let student know that even though we have a process in place to find the right book, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, we are still disappointed. If we have read several chapters and we are not at all interested, it is okay to abandon a book and start another one!  It is always a good idea to pause during reading workshop to have a readerly discussion and chart the class’s thinking on an anchor chart. Asking them how they choose books to read helps them establish and maintain their reading identity!  Here are some questions we ask ourselves when choosing a book to read:

  • Is it part of a series I have read or someone has read to me?
  • Have I read other books like this?
  • Do I like the subject?
  • Did someone I know as a reader recommend it to me?
  • Is it by an author I like?
  • Have I seen the movie?
  • Is it a new book I am eager to read?
  • Have I viewed book trailers for it on YouTube or somewhere else?
  • Is it a best seller or an award winner?
  • How old is it (copyright)?
  • Am I in the mood for something new?
  • What genre would I like to try?
  • Do I want to try a comic book, a graphic novel, a book of poetry?
  • Am I in the mood for something easy or difficult?
  • If I am choosing something difficult, do I have the time and energy right now to stick with it and work hard?
  • Has anyone else I know read this book?
  • Does the title and back or inside cover make me want to read the book?
  • Am I eager to keep reading after I read the first page?
  • Did I judge the book by its cover before I looked inside the book?
  • Do the length and difficulty of this book fit into my time schedule right now?
  • Is my teacher reading this book as a class read aloud?
  • Is someone else in my class starting to read this book, too?
  • Is it time to return to a favorite and reread it?