100 Book Reading Challenge

Capitol Hill Books

This year I’m teaching an amazing class of 28 Year 3 & 4 students – aged 7-9 – 18 boys and 8 girls.

I noticed during term 1 that whenever we did silent reading (SSR/DEAR/personal reading) that many students wouldn’t read, or they would choose books with more pictures than words and then just flip through them.

As a reader myself this bothered me a little, but also as someone who has done things like daily 5 reading this was problematic. I had a range of reading abilities from an ESOL student who was still learning to read in English to a number of students who enjoyed gutsier books.

One day early in Term 2 I came up with an idea and shared it with my class. I would challenge them to collectively read 100 books over the term. If they managed to get 100 then they could plan an afternoon of fun activities. They thought this was a great idea – and given that the Hell Pizza reading challenge was starting at the same time they would get double rewards. I drew up a thermometer (along with an interesting discussion on that that was and how it was normally used!) and ambitiously put a top count of 500.

Term 2 started on April 30th. By May 24th – less than a month – they had read 100 books! Less than a month after that (June 22nd) they had read their 2nd 100 books – they were on a roll. By the end of term they had hit their 3rd hundred (July 6th).

We had a few rules:

  • They could read any book they liked but only fiction books would be marked off – on both my spreadsheet and the Hell Pizza wheel;
  • I allow graphic novels – but if they are reading a series of them and are capable readers I only record the first one;
  • They are allowed to choose their own books – I don’t look at a book and tell the student it’s too hard (or too easy) for them – I let them make that choice.

The results?

I have a class of readers. It is quite normal for some students to have several books on the go.

My students who just love reading – almost more than breathing – have permission to read whenever they can. I note down the titles of their books – my most prolific reader read 21 books in 10 weeks – he reminds me of my younger self.

And the parents are noticing. One parent waylaid me on my way to class to ask me what on earth I’d done to the children – they were all sitting at their desks reading while they waited for me to finish crossing duty and come back to start the day.

I was away sick for a week – when I got back I overheard one student say to another student – “Great – now we can get more reading done!” (Apparently the relieving teacher didn’t realise that the norm for them is to always have a book on their desks so they can read whenever they have finished a task.)

And the unexpected results?

Everyone’s reading improved – without me pushing them. I have 7-9 year olds who say to me – “don’t count that last book – it was too easy for me” or “I didn’t really get into that last book so I’ve swapped it for something else” or “I’m bored with the type of books I’ve been reading and am going to try a different type”. They are becoming discerning readers as well as readers who love to read. And my ESOL student – his reading has surpassed where I wanted it to be for the end of the year – not because I’ve done wonders but because he’s had choice of his own reading material – and reads.


It seems I stumbled upon something that others have written about. By giving students choice over their reading, they become motivated to read. There are many articles about this:

What about Term 3?

Guess what’s going to be happening in my class next term? Yep – we’re going to be reading again (and yes I read as well!). I wonder if we will hit 500 books this term?

Seesaw Ambassador

Today I became a Seesaw Ambassador!

We’ve been using Seesaw (ePortfolio for students/teachers/family/whanau) for several years at school – just a couple of classes to start with and then this year we started the year with 6 classes and our total is rapidly expanding. My parents love being able to take a peak into our class and see what their children have been up to (not streaming) and to be able to comment on their children’s work.

As an ambassador one of my key tasks is to hold a workshop at school (easy to do as I have had teachers begging me to do some PD around Seesaw for them for several terms now) and I have this already booked.

I totally love a site that provides free training, gives you free stuff for doing that training, provides all the ‘stuff’ you need to workshop your knowledge for other people without it being a huge burden.




CS4PS/PD aka Digital Technologies

What a privilege it has been to spend 5 days in Christchurch doing some fantastic learning. 35 – 40 teachers passionate about our students were the guests of the University of Christchurch Computer Science dept.

NZ Ministry of Education has just released the draft of the new Digital Technologies curriculum. The result has been teachers going into tail-spin at the thought of having to include yet another area into their already ‘crowded curriculum’.

Our 5-day learning was around unpacking what the curriculum entails and had lots of examples of ‘Computational Thinking’ that is already happening in our classrooms.

Computational thinking for digital technologies

Computational thinking enables a student to express problems, and formulate solutions in a way that means a computer (an information processing agent) can be used to solve them.

Students develop computational and algorithmic thinking skills, and an understanding of the computer science principles that underlie all digital technologies. They become aware of what is, and is not, possible with computing, so they are able to make judgements and informed decisions as citizens of the digital world. Students learn core programming concepts and how to take advantage of the capabilities of computers, so that they can become creators of digital technologies, not just users. They will develop an understanding of how computer data is stored, how all the information within a computer system is presented using digits, and the impact that different data representations have on the nature and use of this information.

We explored how to teach CS/DT unplugged – that is without a computer.

CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.

The activities introduce students to Computational Thinking through concepts such as binary numbersalgorithms and data compression, separated from the distractions and technical details of having to use computers. Importantly, no programming is required to engage with these ideas!

CS Unplugged is suitable for people of all ages, from elementary school to seniors, and from many countries and backgrounds. Unplugged has been used around the world for over twenty years, in classrooms, science centers, homes, and even for holiday events in a park!

The material is available free of charge, and is shared under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence, which makes it easy to copy, adapt and share it.

This material is fantastic – I don’t usually just do a plug for a particular site but this one is worth it. I have used the material here before – but it’s currently being updated and will be more purposeful.

One of the best things about this was that we spent time working with other teachers from our region planning a regional event as well as a chance to work on an in-school presentation to take back to our schools.

My school presentation is currently looking like this:

De-scarifying digital technologies for teachers

Aka CSUnplugged


Te Pii me te Poaka

Activity #1 – binary numbers

Activity #2 – parity cards

Activity #3 – sorting network

Activity #4- PE programming

Activity #5 – identify one thing to take back to your class


All I need to do now is book my session at school and see who takes up the challenge to include CSUnplugged into their students’ lives. My hope is that between the 40 of us we will be able to spread the word far and wide – Computational Thinking is used in everyday life by most, if not all, people in many different ways.

This is my message:

Do you knit? Do you cook from a recipe? Do you assemble lego blocks according to the instruction book? – these are all examples of computational thinking!

Do you practice a card trick or a scooter flip or skateboard flip or… over and over again until you’ve got it perfected? – these are all examples of debugging in real life!

The only scary thing about Computer Science/Digital Technologies is in the name not in the practice (and I don’t think the name is scary at all).

The woes of exercising

This year I have an aim to exercise more, eat better, and lose weight – not by being outrageous but by being sensible.

But …

Have you noticed that once you start exercising (walking for me) that you very quickly increase your stamina and recovery time so that it takes longer to get the type of exercise you need? We are using our Apple Watch/iPhone Activity monitor to achieve certain move, exercise, and stand goals. We walk all over the place but have one regular walk that’s close to home.


We like this walk because there are so many alternatives for us but regularly do an out to the 2km mark and back. But it’s almost become too easy even though it’s the walk that will be easy to maintain once I’m back at work full time. Sigh.

Napp reflections

I’ve been on a leadership journey this year working alongside a bunch of fantastic teachers. The NAPP (National Aspiring Principals Programme) course has been challenging, exhausting, frustrating, enriching. Here is my leadership inquiry summary!

Teaching as Inquiry

TAI is a catch phrase for the collaborative and reflective ‘stuff’ that often happens in a ‘whole-listic’ way – naturally and orally – with lots of conversations between teachers happening at odd moments.

Since any teaching strategy works differently in different contexts for different students, effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students.
Inquiry into the teaching–learning relationship is a cyclical process that goes on moment by moment (as teaching takes place), day by day, and over the longer term. The process can be used by teachers or leaders, for individual or whole school inquiries. http://assessment.tki.org.nz/Assessment-in-the-classroom/Teaching-as-inquiry

Unfortunately I’m feeling stifled with having to meet deadlines and post things for others to see. For me, when you try to tie it down it ends up being stifled and stilted and not true TAI. I’d rather just work away at it – and blog here in my own space!

I started out looking at how to engage my lower students – the ones who lag behind, not just academically, but also in getting their work done. However I’m now looking at my upper cohort of students as well and looking to see what I can I do to engage them more and encourage them to explore and soar in their learning.

I decided to try doing a mix of big group and independent work with my upper cohort and I’m excited by the response from them – they are relishing working independently, at their own pace, and in their own space. This week I’m going to try giving my lower cohort some independent working time and space (and devices) – I want to see if this will give them an incentive to ‘step-up’ and complete their work. Of course they won’t be left to swim – there will be one-on-one time with me as usual but they will also have to work on their time management to complete the tasks.

The larger bulk of my class are a great group who love to work together in collaborative groups and I will take advantage of that with them this week as well.

I’m also going to revisit an old video that I made as part of my research and see what ideas I can garner to help me work with all my students.

It’s going to be an interesting week.



Thinking Digital

Last year Tara and I had the privilege of speaking at the Thinking Digital conference in Newcastle, UK. It was an amazing experience – only enhanced by the fact that Sugata Mitra was also speaking – immediately after us! Here’s the video:

25 Jo Fothergill V1 from Thinking Digital on Vimeo.



Just came across this quote today from http://teachpaperless.blogspot.co.nz/2011/05/best-thing-about-chromebooks-its.html

Thinking about it, the real importance of the Chromebook is not the vendor, it’s not the device, it’s the fact that it makes the prediction that the Web of the future is not just a place to go look for stuff, or even a place where we can share stuff and network, but rather it’s a place where everything is done.

Exactly how I think about Chromebooks!

Beyond Narrow Standards – Part Four

Episode 3 – Beyond Narrow Standards