As a teacher, it is crucial to practice what I preach. In the following activities, I have examined my own literacy habits, including both reading and writing, and have completed a sampling of assignments my students might do to build their own literary practices.

Teaching Strategies

Ideal Bookshelf

I might plan an assignment like this using the concept of “reading trees.” In this assignment, I would ask students to begin with some of their favorite books, and find other books in to read in a similar genre, theme, time period, circle of authors, etc. This is important in creating self-sustained literary habits in students, because almost all reading stems from familiar material connected in some way to what a student has already read, or through interests that a student has. A “reading tree” study will allow students to examine their reading habits, and add potential books to their reading list that might interest them, in the same way that I have found genres and groups of authors that I enjoy and surround myself with now.


Mrs. Reed’s Ideal Bookshelf

Literacies Project

This assignment would be used to familiarize students with the diverse range of literacy skills they utilize every day. I would have students keep a log for one week of everything they read, watch, or information they process or consume (following a mini-lesson on the types of literacies they may not have previously considered). Then, students would prepare a collage and essay that represents the various “texts” they found and why those pieces involved literate skills.

An extension (detailed in the sample as Part II) for this assignment might be to ask students to compare the various types of literacy looking for formal and informal types of communication, both in speech and writing, and the characteristics and differences of each of those registers. This would help students reflect on the ways that language changes based on audience and purpose, and how it serves them in all situations.


Mrs. Reed’s Literacies Project

Reading Trees

Rarely does a student ever quest into a book without some prior knowledge or connection to it– even when a random book is pulled from the library shelf, it is found in the section and shelf of the library a reader feels the most familiar with or interested in. School assignments instigate reading, but so do recommendation from friends, pop culture, and personal interests. As students learn to cultivate their independent reading habits, drawing out their Reading Tree(s) will help them to highlight their areas of interest. In addition, this allows students to brainstorm pathways to discovering new books as they grow their tree to include books in the same genre, by the same author, on the same topic, or recommended by the same friend.

For this assignment, I would ask students to generate their own Reading Tree map that includes books they’ve read, are currently reading, and would like to read. I might assign a minimum number for each of those categories to ensure students have searched deeply for texts they’ve read or might like to read. This map can be used to assist independent reading throughout the year, as well as reflect on their personal reading habits and enable them to expand their interests in reading genres, authors, and themes.


Mrs. Reed’s Reading Trees

Six-Word Memoirs

To write a Six-Word Memoir, students are required to engage with language at a microscopic level. Thinking about word choice, and the meaning and weight each word can have, enhances student ability to express thought poetically. It also dismantled sentence structure, moving students from prose to poetry.

This type of assignment would work well in a unit on poetry, or in the context of studying memoir. This is an excellent way for students to bring their personal life into the classroom, but in a limited way that allows for discretion and privacy when desired.

I would begin an assignment like this by giving plenty of examples and practice working with six-word expressions, and I would model techniques they might use to construct lines. Then, I would ask students to think about their relationships, and the timeline of their life, and work from this personal perspective to generate a 7-20 line poem, using only six words per line.


Mrs. Reed’s Six Word Memoir

Found Poetry

Found Poetry is fun way to connect prose and poetry. For this assignment, students begin with a short selection of prose (usually a passage related to the unit’s theme, written using strong literary language). As they read, they will highlight words and phrases that pull their interest, and copy those phrases onto a separate page. Now focusing their attention strictly on their list of provocative phrases, students construct a piece of poetry using the list as source material or inspiration.

I could ask for students to complete this activity in two different ways. The “purist” approach would demand that students alter the original words and phrases as little as possible while creating their poem. A more open approach allows students to use the list as loose inspiration for something generally related, but not restricted to, the source.

This activity would be useful for students as an introduction to writing poetry, allowing them to become familiar with the form and process of generating poetry.


Mrs. Reed’s Found Poetry