Have you heard the buzz about Close Reading? Or maybe you've felt the pressure to implement Common Core into your classroom? How does a teacher, who already has a jam-packed schedule, possibly fit Close Reading into the day? In2Books, an interactive pen pal program, has been helping teachers do just that for 13 years. International Reading Association's "Reading Today" recently wrote an article on using In2Books to teach Close Reading.
The program matches students in grades 3-5 with adult pen pals around the country. The pen pals must go through a background check before being accepted into the program and all messages are first screened by the teacher. A class will delve into 5 units throughout the year, ranging from fiction to science to biographies. Each unit comes complete with lesson plans, rubrics, and vocabulary games.
The program has been gaining national attention. In fact, Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. recently did a study of the effectiveness of In2Books. In a study entitled "Data Analytics and the Assessment of Student Writing", it was found that students in my class gained an average of 1.6 grade level equivalents in their writing scores over the course of the 5 units.
In the 4 years that I implemented In2Books, I had many experiences where the students were motivated by their pen pals. They read their books diligently in their Daily 5 rotations; sometimes in Read to Self, other times in Read with Someone. They most definitely wrote, rewrote, and typed in Work on Writing. It was in their Literature Circles that they returned to the text for close reading. They returned to ask "What does the text say?", "How does the text work?", and "What does the text mean?"; all critical questions in Close Reading.
In2Books is still accepting classrooms (and adult eMentors!) for this coming school year. I encourage all teachers in 3rd through 5th grades to participate in the program.
If you are a teacher in the Whiteriver Mountains of Arizona, Susan Rodriguez is an approved Teacher Mentor. Send a message to Susan (STEAMingAheadWithSusan@gmail.com ) for assistance setting up your classroom.