The Random Reader

Reading is not Random! Oh, wait. I guess it can be.

Context Clues Lesson

Please Click on the links bellow for the PDF worksheets and lesson plan for this class

Scaffolding Handout for Students

Applying What You Have Learned – in class group exercise

Homework sheet Context Practice

Lesson Plan

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Copyright Lesson

Copyright and Fair Use Lesson Plan

Copyright Scaffolding Handout


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Evaluating Webpages Lesson

Evaluating Websites Lesson Plan

Follow up Lesson Plan

Follow Up Lesson – Mini Research Paper Worksheet

Follow Up Lesson – Example

Follow Up Lesson – Research Options

Follow Up – Rubric


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Summer Fiction Reading Choices

Summer Reading Ideas

What better way to start off summer than a random list of book choices organized alphabetical. This is a fiction list. The random non fiction list is coming soon. Please keep in mind that it is better for your student to choose a book then for you to select one for them. :) . However, if they will not pick one, look at the “how to select books” blog.

Auch, M. J. (2008). Wing nut. New York: Square Fish.

When twelve-year-old Grady and his mother relocate yet again, they find work taking care of an elderly man, who teaches Grady about cars, birds, and what it means to have a home.

Broach, E. (2005)Shakespeare’s secret.  New York: Square Fish.

Named after a character in a Shakespeare play, misfit sixth-grader Hero becomes interested in exploring this unusual connection because of a valuable diamond supposedly hidden in her new house, an intriguing neighbor, and the unexpected attention of the most popular boy in school.

 Bruchac, J. (2005). Whisper in the dark. New York: HarperCollins.

An ancient and terrifying Narragansett Native American legend begins to come true for a teenage long-distance runner, whose recovery from the accident that killed her parents has stunned everyone, including her guardian aunt in Providence, Rhode Island.

Couloumbis, A. (2005). Misadventures of Maude March. New York: Dell Yearling.

After the death of the stern aunt who raised them since they were orphaned, eleven-year-old Sallie and her fifteen-year-old sister escape their self-serving guardians and begin an adventure resembling those in the dime novels Sallie loves to read.

Cummings, P. (2004). Red Kayak . New York: Viking Penguin.

Living near the water on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, thirteen-year-old Brady and his best friends J.T. and Digger become entangled in a tragedy which tests their friendship and their ideas about right and wrong.

Duble, K. B. (2005). The sacrifice. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books

In the year 1692, life changes forever for ten-year-old Abigail Faulkner and her family. In Salem, Massachusetts, witches have been found, and widespread fear and panic reign mere miles from Abigail’s home of Andover. When two girls are brought from Salem to identify witches in Andover, suspicion sweeps the town as well-respected members of the community are accused of witchcraft. It isn’t long before chaos consumes Andover, and the Faulkners find themselves in the center.

Durst, S. B. (2007). Into the wild. New York: Viking Penguin.

Having escaped from the Wild and the preordained fairy tale plots it imposes, Rapunzel, along with her daughter Julie Marchen, tries to live a fairly normal life, but when the Wild breaks free and takes over their town, it is Julie who has to prevent  everyone from being trapped in the events of a story.

Fleishman, S. (2008). Entertainer and the dybbuk. New York: HarperCollins.

A struggling American ventriloquist in post-World War II Europe is possessed by the mischievous spirit of a young Jewish boy killed in the Holocaust.

George, J.D. (2008). Dragon Slippers. New York: Bloomsbury

Orphaned after a fever epidemic, Creel befriends a dragon and unknowingly inherits an object that can either save or destroy her kingdom.

Haddix, M. P. (2008). Found. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

When thirteen-year-olds Jonah and Chip, who are both adopted, learn they were discovered on a plane that appeared out of nowhere, full of babies with no adults on board, they realize that they have uncovered a mystery involving time travel and two opposing forces, each trying to repair the fabric of time.

Hahn, M.D. (2008). All the lovely bad ones. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

While spending the summer at their grandmother’s Vermont inn, two prankster siblings awaken young ghosts from the inn’s distant past who refuse to “rest in peace.”

Harkrader, L. (2005). Airball: My life in briefs. New York: Square Fish.

Uncoordinated Kansas seventh-grader Kirby Nickel braves his coach’s ire and becomes captain of the basketball team in order to help him prove that NBA star Brett McGrew is the father he has never known.

Hart, Alison. (2007). Gabriel’s horses. Georgia: Peachtree Publishers.

In Kentucky, during the Civil War, the twelve-year-old slave Gabriel, contends with a cruel new horse trainer and skirmishes with Confederate soldiers as he pursues his dream of becoming a jockey.

Hobbs, W. (2009). Go big or go home. New York: HarperCollins.

Fourteen-year-old Brady and his cousin Quinn love extreme sports, but nothing could prepare them for the aftermath of Brady’s close encounter with a meteorite after it crashes into his Black Hills, South Dakota, bedroom.

Jaramillo, A. (2008). La linea. New York: Square Fish.

When fifteen-year-old Miguel’s time finally comes to leave his poor Mexican village, cross the border illegally, and join his parents in California, his younger sister’s determination to join him soon imperils them both.

Kent, R. (2010). Kimchi and calamari. New York: HarperCollins.

Adopted from Korea by Italian parents, fourteen-year-old Joseph Calderaro begins to make important self-discoveries about race and family after his social studies teacher assigns an essay on cultural heritage and tracing the past.

Korman, G. (2007). Schooled. New York: Hyperion.

Cap lives in isolation with his grandmother, a former hippie, but when she falls from a tree and breaks her hip, Cap is sent to a foster home where he has his first experience in a public school.

Lord, C. (2006). Rules. New York: Scholastic Book.

Frustrated at life with an autistic brother, twelve-year-old Catherine longs for a normal existence but her world is further complicated by a friendship with a young paraplegic.

Lisle, J.T. (2007). Black Duck. New York: Viking Penguin.

Years afterwards, Ruben Hart tells the story of how, in 1929 Newport, Rhode Island, his family and his best friend’s family were caught up in the violent competition among groups trying to control the local rum-smuggling trade

Mass, W. (2006). Jeremy fink and the meaning of life. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Just before his thirteenth birthday, Jeremy Fink receives a keyless locked box–set aside by his father before his death five years earlier–that purportedly contains the meaning of life.

Meehl, B. (2006). Out of patience. New York: Random House.

Twelve-year-old Jake Waters cannot wait to escape the small town of Patience, Kansas, until the arrival of a cursed toilet plunger causes him to reevaluate his feelings toward his family and its history.

Pearson, R. (2005). Kingdom Keepers. New York: Disney Editions

Five teenagers hired to work as models at Disney World face villains and witches that threaten the future of the theme park and the world.


Rorby , G. (2006). Hurt go happy. New York: TOR Books.

When thirteen-year-old Joey Willis, deaf since the age of six, meets Dr. Charles Mansell and his chimpanzee Sukari, who use sign language, her world blooms with possibilities but that of the chimp begins to narrow.


Smith, R. (2007). Peak. California: Harcourt.

A fourteen-year-old boy attempts to be the youngest person to reach the top of Mount Everest.


Smith. S. L. (2008). Hot, sour, salty, sweet. New York: Dell.

Disaster strikes when Ana Shen is about to deliver the salutatorian speech at her junior high school graduation, but an even greater crisis looms when her best friend invites a crowd to Ana’s house for dinner, and Ana’s multicultural grandparents must find a way to share a kitchen.

Spinelli, J. (2007). Eggs. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Mourning the loss of his mother, nine-year-old David forms an unlikely friendship with independent, quirky thirteen-year-old Primrose, as the two help each other deal with what is missing in their lives.

Stead, R. (2007). First light. New York: Bantam Books, Inc.

When twelve-year-old Peter and his family arrive in Greenland for his father’s research, he stumbles upon a secret his mother has been hiding from him all his life, and begins an adventure he never imagines possible.

Van Draanen, W. (20060. Runaway. New York: Random House.

After running away from her fifth foster home, Holly, a twelve-year-old orphan, travels across the country, keeping a journal of her experiences and struggle to survive.

Winerip, M. (2005). Adam canfield of the slash. New York: Candlewick Press.

While serving as co-editors of their school newspaper, middle-schoolers Adam and Jennifer uncover fraud and corruption in their school and in the city’s government.

Yancey, R. (2008) Extraordinary adventures of Alfred kropp. New York: Bloomsbury

Through a series of dangerous and violent misadventures, teenage loser Alfred Kropp rescues King Arthur’s legendary sword Excalibur from the forces of evil.



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Summer Reading Impact on Learning

Reading is a leisure activity that improves academics.

Many studies have established that students fall behind due to the summer break.  Students’ minds are not engaged and they tend to fall backwards by at least a month of instruction. Studies also have establish that summer reading programs offset this extended break. Reading is one leisure activity that  improves students’ academics by improving reading skills. Students gain many benefits from free reading such as improved vocabulary, concentration and content analysis. Free reading gives students’ confidence as a reader because they are reading material they enjoy. Some studies have shown that summer reading benefits students equally to reading instruction. A study by Lin, Shin & Krashen, (2007) is about one immigrant student Sophia.  The summer reading program improved her readings skills. This study went one-step further.  Sophia’s reading improved over the summer as shown by a fall standardized test (Lin, Shin, & Krashen, 2007).

Teen Summer Reading Sampler 2012 (free ebook)

Checkout the Nook reading sampler

However, in the spring after a year of school, her reading level dropped below her peers (Lin, Shin, & Krashen, 2007). These results indicate her reading gains over the summer actually made up for the reading loss she had during the school year (Lin, Shin, & Krashen, 2007). During school, Sophia did not have free time to read and this affected her reading gains (Lin, Shin, & Krashen, 2007). This  study is a strong indicator on how import a summer reading program is for English Language Learners.  It also demonstrates how free reading affects academic pursuits. Free reading is just as important as other schoolwork. It is especially important to read over the summer. This leisure activity not only combats loss during the break but it can provide gains to advance student performance as it did for Sophia.


Lin, S., Shin, F., & Krashen, S. (2007). Sophia’s choice: Summer reading. Knowledge Quest35(3), 52-55.



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Turn Reluctant Readers into Bookworms

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Recently, I’ve been sending articles out into the big wide world for publication. I will be sharing a few of them here over the next few weeks. The article below was recently published in the magazine, Nashville Parent.

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Wagging Tales: Writing for Reluctant Readers (and getting them to …

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I wrote My Zombie Dog with reluctant readers in mind. I had plenty in my classroom to motivate me. I wanted to share with you all the advice and help I’ve found for reluctant readers. There is so much information available, I’ve …

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How to Motivate Reluctant Readers – Westchester Professionals for …

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How to Motivate Reluctant Readers. Many children prefer watching television, playing video games and participating in other activities over reading a book. In fact, some kids often have to be coaxed or bribed to flip through a …

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The Walking Dad!

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How to be a truly awesome dad, or at least one who isn’t lame! (Thanks Jerry for these ways to get reluctant readers hooked on reading.

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Promote reading…with random numbers!

reluctant readers, teens, parents, high school, help, college, books

You have all the answers to this reading quiz.

Please pass it on and help others read.

1. How many new words do your teens need annually for reading vocabulary?

Answer: two to three thousand (Beck, McKeown & Kucan, 2002).

That means by the time your students graduate from High School, they should have learned between eight and 12 thousand new words. Try cramming all those words into one all nighter!

…More coffee please.

random coffee with random reading

Unfortunately, if they do not keep up, it will affect them in high school, college and beyond. Students are not learning the vocabulary they need to understand what they are reading. A study reveled children are successful in reading until they must use reading skills to access information (Hinton, 2005) Note the drop-off illustration above. You might be thinking this does not affect your child because they learn vocabulary in school. Stay tuned!

(Some rights reserved by flicker user Daniel Y.)

2. What is the estimated number of words your teen adds to their vocabulary from teacher assigned lists?

Answer:  four hundred per year (Beck, McKeown & Kucan, 2002).  random reader

Deficit = 1,600! This can explain why so many students do not understand what they are reading and  need help in college. Just look at some college websites and you can see there is a reading problem.

Purdue, Dartmouth or FSU reading center have discovered the need for reading support. It is as if our children are using grammar school reading skills to learn college material.

3. What is the estimated number of times you need to use a word to make it part of your own?

Answer: 20 (more here on that)  – It simply takes a lot of time to learn new words. Though they can do it, this will be frustrating and they have to dedicate time learning vocabulary on top of college vocabulary, along with other new material.

There is a simple solution. Most vocabulary words are learned from context during free reading (Brad Sheppard, Nagy, Hinton). It makes sense that the repetition of the words while reading helps your teen learn the new words. The most significant number to me is found in the next question.

4. What is the percentage of words you need to know to understand text and gain new words from that text?

Answer:  90% (Hirsch, 2003).  If your child does not know 10 percent of the words in a text, they do not understand what they are reading. Further, they are falling behind because they are not gaining new words.

You can see how this creates a

snowball effect as they move along in school.Problems can occur if students lag in vocabulary acquisition including significantly lower confidence and comprehension (Robinson, 2005, p. 97).

( by flicker user riclip)

This is why I spend my free time trying to get teens to be random readers. Give your teen the test. Let them see why reading for fun is significant now, for college and for their future.

Think of how wonderful it would be if the United States had the world’s best reading scores. Currently, US SAT Reading scores are at a four-decade low. In this article, College Board President Gaston Caperton said “When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing.”

At the very least speak to your teen about the work load they will face trying to catch up in college. Lack of literacy skills is a primary reason students drop out of high school every day (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004, p. 7). Teens need to practice reading skills with pleasure reading.

Thirst Knowledge My Friends.

I read random


Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & McCaslin, E.S. (1983). All contexts are not created

equal. Elementary School Journal, 83.

Biancarosa, G. & Snow, C.E. (2004). Reading next – a vision for action and research

in middle and high school literacy: A report from Carnegie corporation of New

York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Cuesta College. (2011). Retrieved from

Hirsch, E.D. (2003). Reading comprehension requires knowledge – of words and

the world: Scientific insights into the fourth-grade slump and the nation’s

stagnant comprehension  scores. American Educator, Spring, 2003.

Hinton, K. (2005). Narrowing the gap between readers and books. Voices from

the Middle, 13(1), 15-20.

Nagy, W. E., Herman , P. A., & Anderson, R. C. (1985). Learning words from

context. Reading Research Quarterly, 20(2), 233-253.

Robinson, Richard. (2005). Readings in reading instruction; Its history, theory,

and  development. New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

Sedita, J. (2005). Effective vocabulary instruction. Insights on Learning Disabilities,

2(1), 33- 45.

Sheppard, B. (n.d.). Sheppardsoftware. Retrieved from





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