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Engaging with Literature: A Video Library, Grades 3-5

In this video library, watch grades 3-5 teachers successfully guide students toward becoming more active readers of literature.

A video library for grades 3-5 teachers; 9 twenty-minute video programs, library guide, and website.

Find out more

Visit the workshop companion to Engaging with Literature.

Learn about other workshops and libraries in this series.

Explore Dr. Langer’s research on closely interacting with literature.

This video library includes nine 20-minute videos that give language arts teachers and other educators an opportunity to observe firsthand how their peers are successfully guiding students in grades 3-5 toward becoming more active and involved readers of literature. Observe new pedagogical techniques modeled with diverse students of all ability levels in a variety of school settings. Use the accompanying guide and website to develop professional development, outreach, or educational programs. The website also includes lesson plans and links to more information on the issues raised in the videos. This library is part of the Envisioning Literature series based on the research of Dr. Judith Langer, and can be used as a companion to the Engaging With Literature Workshop.


Students in Grades 3 to 5 are growing as readers and thinkers. Crucial mental growth at this stage helps them read and understand more complex texts and perform more intricate tasks.

It’s an ideal time for them to explore new paths into the world of literature.

In this library, you’ll visit classes where students are finding their way on that path — forming complex and highly personal worlds of ideas and impressions about the stories, plays, and poems as they read, write about, and discuss them.

Find out how you can help your students become actively engaged with literature — turning into life-long learners who love literature and love thinking about it.

About This Video Library

Engaging With Literature: A Video Library, Grades 3-5 is a video library displaying teaching practices for grades 3-5 teachers working with literature in their language arts curricula. The library consists of nine video programs, a print guide, and this website.

The guide is available as a PDF through the project’s Support Materials page.

The print guide and website provide background and extensions of the content in the video library, and give you ideas for using the materials for various audiences and purposes: professional development, curriculum planning, preservice teacher education, or parent and community outreach.

More Details About This Library

The unscripted videos that you will view in this library series feature. . .

  • Grades 3-5 teachers in a variety of settings across the country who are helping their students unlock short stories, novels, poetry, and drama as their own.
  • Students who are actively working to create their own pictures of the story worlds they encounter in literature.
  • Literary communities where each person is respected as having a unique perspective to share.
  • Active learners who are finding out how to rely on their own aptitudes to become more involved readers, more effective learners, and more thoughtful citizens.

This library was produced to give teachers a glimpse into classrooms where their peers and students are engaging with literature in all senses of the word. They are making predictions, following hunches, using logic, recalling past experiences with life and in literature — all in an effort to create a unique and complex mental picture of the text. Dr. Judith Langer, the Director of the National Research Center on English Learning & Achievement, calls these pictures envisionments. She first identified these processes of involved learning through a decade of research throughout the country with students of all ages.

About the Individual Clips in This Library

  • Clip 1. Signposts
    This clip introduces the teachers and classrooms that will be a part of this library, and talks about the characteristics that makes these classrooms secure places for learners who are actively engaged with literature.


  • Clip 2. Voices in the Conversation
    In this clip, Katherine Bomer engages in a read-aloud with her fifth- grade students in Austin, Texas, using this as an opportunity to model how to think and how to talk about literature. The Color of My Words, the story of a young Central American writer, is the focus of their attention.


  • Clip 3. Starting Out
    Jonathan Holden’s fourth-grade class in Roxbury, Massachusetts, is beginning to build the kind of literary community where everyone is a respected member. In this clip, he helps them start on this road by making personal connections to poetry-reading it, writing it, and performing it.


  • Clip 4. Responding to Literature
    Rich Thompson’s fourth-grade class in Hungry Horse, Montana is the setting for a look at the conversations he and his students are having as they work with Because of Winn-Dixie, a young adult novel about change and adapting to change.


  • Clip 5. Sharing the Text
    A visit to BJ Namba’s third grade class in Hawai`i begins with a discussion of the ground rules for class discussion, and follows the five book groups in this class as they grow their understandings of several texts through discussion. The groups work with Just Juice, The Pinballs, War With Grandpa, The Great Gilly Hopkins, and Maniac Magee.


  • Clip 6. Building Community
    Latosha Rowley works with her multiage class of fourth- and fifth-grade students in this clip, focusing their work on the theme of Let Freedom Ring. Ms. Rowley’s school, the IPS Center for Inquiry in Indianapolis, is a language arts magnet school, and the group is exploring this topic in both social studies and language arts. The conversations here show how successful this merging of disciplines can be, giving students multiple points to connect their lives and understandings to those in the text.


  • Clip 7. Book Buddies
    In this clip, students from Tim O’Keefe’s third-grade class join their fifth-grade Book Buddies for meaty conversations about books, leading to increased understandings and more vivid impressions of the literature with which they are working. These students are part of the Center for Inquiry, of which Mr. O’Keefe is a co-founder, located in Columbia, South Carolina.


  • Clip 8. Finding Common Ground
    Building a strong literary community often begins with small steps. In this clip, Bileni Teklu begins to build such a community among her Marietta, Georgia fifth-grade students by validating their voices through individual conferences about their reading.


  • Clip 9. Discussion Strategies
    Students in Barry Hoonan’s fifth-grade classroom on Bainbridge Island, Washington take the lead in naming and demonstrating strategies that have helped them engage fully in a discussion centered on literature. These methods include the use of sticky notes and story mapping.

Who Should View This Library

  • Teachers-including those in preservice — and teacher educators can use this library as:
    • A professional development opportunity
    • A way to reach out to families and the community at back-to-school events and other PTA meetings.
  • Curriculum planners can use this library to expand their discussions of appropriate texts and learning experiences for students.
  • Administrators can use this library
    • as a centerpiece for professional development sessions for their peers or teachers
    • to see this unique approach to learning in action as they consider implementing language arts curricula in their areas.

Educational Basis for This Library

Throughout this library series, active and engaging literary education is promoted. In celebrating these practices, the teachers you will see in this series have made these basic assumptions about their work and their students’ work:

  • Good works of literature are an important part of every language arts curricula. They can help students as they learn to read, write, speak, and listen.
  • Readers can purposefully interact with a variety of literature, relying on what they know and what they have experienced, and employing not only their logic but also their intuition to make sense of a text.
  • In this interaction, readers form unique and diverse understandings that grow richer as they are shared with their peers in a respectful classroom atmosphere. These understandings are firmly rooted in the text.
  • Through active engagement in a text, students develop strong mental muscles of logic and analysis on which they can rely throughout their academic career.

In doing so, the following NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts are addressed:

  • Standard 1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • Standard 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • Standard 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • Standard 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • Standard 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

About the Teachers Who Appear in the Clips

You will meet these teachers in this library series. To learn more about them, read their professional biographies in the Introduction of the PDF version of Engaging With Literature: A Video Library, Grades 3-5 Guide.

    • Katherine Bomer is an author and teacher, currently teaching in Austin, Texas. Our video visit focuses on Katherine’s work with her fifth-grade students at Pleasant Hill Elementary. More than 80% of the 510 students here are of Latin American or Mexican decent. About 70% of the students are classified by Texas as “economically disadvantaged,” and more than 83% of the student body qualifies for free lunches.

Katherine Bomer’s “Must-Reads”

Favorite Professional Books:
The Art of Teaching Writing (2nd ed.) by Lucy McCormick Calkins. Heinemann.
The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy McCormick Calkins. Heinemann
Time for Meaning: Crafting Literate Lives in Middle and High School by Randy Bomer. Heinemann.
Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change by Maxine Greene. Jossey
Subtractive Schooling: U.S. Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring by Angela Venezuela. State University of New York
Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers by Kathy Gnagey Short, Jerome C. Harste, Carolyn L. Burke. Heinemann.
Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Friere, translated by Robert R. Barr. Continuum Publishing Group

Favorite Chapter Books:
” . . . These were very powerful in my classroom last year:”
The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph.
The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jimenez.
Anything ever written by Sharon Creech.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.

    • Jonathan Holden teaches fourth grade in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The urban school where Mr. Holden currently teaches, Nathan Hale Elementary, has 199 students, most of who are African American, Hispanic, and Asian.
    • Barry Hoonan works with the 5/6 cluster at Odyssey School on Bainbridge Island, Washington, teaching all subjects, but especially concerned with literature and writing, his two passions. Odyssey, with 121 students, is an alternative public school where families promise to volunteer between five and ten hours a month at the school.

Barry Hoonan’s “Must-Reads”

Favorite Professional Books:
Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers by Kathy Gnagey Short, Jerome C. Harste, Carolyn L. Burke. Heinemann.
“You Gotta BE the Book” Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading With Adolescents by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. Teachers College Press.
Literature Circles and Response by Bonnie Campbell Hill (Editor), Nancy J. Johnson (Editor), Katherine l Noe, Katherine S. Noe (Editor). Christopher-Gordon Publishers

Favorite Picture Books:
Crow and Hawk: A Traditional Pueblo Indian Story retold by Michael Rosen, illustrated by John Clementson
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee
Encounter by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Shannon
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler
Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz
John Henry by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

Favorite Read-Alouds:
Skellig by David Almond
Thunder Cave by Roland Smith
Crash by Jerry Spinelli
The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick

    • BJ Namba teaches third grade students at Honolulu’s prestigious Punahou School. The 3,700 students there reflect Hawai`i’s rainbow of ethnicities and cultural and socio-economic diversities.

BJ Namba’s “Must-Reads”

Favorite Read -Aloud Books:
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima
Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester
The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
Amos and Boris by William Steig
The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida
Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting
Heroes by Ken Mochiguchi
Westlandia by Paul Fleishman
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Favorite Books for Literature Circles:
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Pinballs by Betsy Byars
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo
The War With Grandpa by Robert Kimmel Smith
Just Juice by Karen Hesse
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry
Sun and Spoon by Kevin Henkes

Professional Books for Literature Circles Information:
Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers by Kathy G. Short and Jerome Harste
Getting Started with Literature Circles by Katherine L. Schlick Noe and Nancy J. Johnson
Grand Conversations: Literature Groups in Action by Ralph Peterson and Maryann Eeds
Conversations: Strategies for Teaching, Learning, and Evaluating by Regie Routman
Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups by Harvey Daniels

  • Tim O’Keefe is a teacher of the 2/3 cluster at the Center for Inquiry in Columbia, South Carolina – a school he helped co-found. The Center for Inquiry’s 132 students are drawn from the Columbia area and enter the school through an application and lottery process.
  • Latosha Rowley, in her second career, taught the fourth-fifth cluster at the Indianapolis Center for Inquiry during our video visit. The Center for Inquiry, founded by Jerry Harste, is a language arts magnet school. It draws its nearly 300 students from throughout the city.
  • Bileni Teklu teaches fifth grade at Fair Oaks Elementary in Marietta, Georgia. Almost 78% of the 582 students who attend Fair Oaks are eligible for the free lunch program. The school population is highly transient: typically, nearly 60% of the student population change schools or classes in any given year.
  • Rich Thompson teaches Grade 4 at Canyon Elementary School in Hungry Horse, Montana. The school serves a remote valley community about 10 miles from Glacier National Park, from which it draws 150+ students each year.

About the Advisors Who Guided This Project

These dedicated educators and researchers guided this project. You can learn more about them in the Introduction of the PDF version of Engaging With Literature: A Video Library, Grades 3-5 Guide.

  • Judith Langer, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and Director, National Research Center on English Learning & Achievement (CELA). Dr. Langer is the chief content advisor for this and other projects in this series.
  • Dale Allender currently serves as the Associate Executive Director of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
  • Arthur N. Applebee, Ph.D., is Professor in the School of Education, University at Albany, State University of New York, and (with Judith Langer) is Director of the federally sponsored National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement. (CELA).
  • Corrine Falope has devoted over thirty years to teaching in the classroom. She currently serves as Social Studies Teacher Leader at Lynwood Elementary in New York’s Guilderland Central School District.
  • Cora Lee Five is a fifth-grade teacher at Edgewood School in Scarsdale, New York. She has been teaching in New York for over 20 years.
  • James Flood, Ph.D., is professor of Reading and Literacy Development at San Diego State University’s School of Teacher Education.
  • Michele Anderson Goady is Reading Specialist for the Maryland State Department of Education and a Faculty Associate at The Johns Hopkins University.
  • Taffy E. Raphael, Ph.D., is currently professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
  • Karen Smith, Ph.D., serves as Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the College of Education of Arizona State University, Tempe.

About the People Who Developed This Project

These people helped guide the production of the video, print, and online materials for Engaging With Literature: A Video Library, Grades 3-5.

Executive in Charge of Production
Gail Porter Long

Executive Producer
Carol Jackson

Content Development
Ann Chatterton Klimas

Darcy Corcoran
Christine Nusbaum

Darcy Corcoran
Lee Cohen Hare
Diane Harrison
Ann Chatterton Klimas
Christine Nusbaum

Velocity Pictures
Michael Fevang

Additional Editing
Kit & Kaboodle Productions
Neil Beller

Associate Producers
William Beustring
Tiffany Judkins
Maggie Stevens

Field Content Supervisor
Kathleen Rowlands

Assistant Producer
Ben Graff

Elisabeth Noone

Program Participants
Katherine Bomer
Pleasant Hills Elementary School
Austin, Texas

Jonathan Holden
Nathan Hale Elementary School
Boston, Massachusetts

Barry Hoonan
Odyssey School
Bainbridge Island, Washington

BJ Namba
Punahou School
Honolulu, Hawaii

Tim O’Keefe
Center for Inquiry
Columbia, South Carolina

Latosha Rowley
Center for Inquiry
Indianapolis, Indiana

Bileni Teklu
Fair Oaks Elementary
Marietta, Georgia

Rich Thompson
Canyon Elementary School
Hungry Horse, Montana

National Advisory Panel
Dale Allender
Associate Executive Director, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Arthur Applebee, Ph.D.
National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA)

Corrine Falope
Social Studies Teacher Leader, Lynwood Elementary, Guilderland Central School District,   New York

Cora Lee Five
Grade 5 Teacher, Edgewood School, Scarsdale, New York

James Flood, Ph.D.
Professor, Reading and Literacy Development, School of Teacher Education, San Diego   State University

Michelle Anderson Goady
Reading Specialist, Maryland State Department of Education

Taffy E. Raphael, Ph.D.
Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois-Chicago

Karen Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, Arizona State   University

Chief Content Advisor
Judith A. Langer, Ph.D.
National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA)

Opening Titles
Vizual Solutions

Primary Field Videographers
Frank Leung
Kim Moir
Tim Pugh
Marlene Rodman

Additional Field Videographers
Debbie Brown
Chip Nusbaum
David Oglevie
John Stephens
Lyle Sorenson

Field Sound
Wayne Bell
Jefree Bloomer
Eddie Calilao
Dan Casey
Peter Drowne
Mark Hollensteiner
Carlson Look
Jeff Meese
Henry Miller
Mike Piopriowski
Eric Reeves
Tim Rohrman
Bill Shamlian
Scott Stoltz
Keith Toombs

Post Production Sound
John Davidson
David Wainwright

Closed Captioning
Judi Mann
Robin Gautney

Managing Director, Education
Christie Timms

Director of Business Affairs
Joan Foley

For Annenberg Media
Project Officer
Deborah A. Batiste

Online/Print Supporting Materials
Online Design
Bean Creative

Technical Support
David J. Tauriello, Online Producer, MPT
Chris Klimas, Associate Online Producer, MPT

Kathleen Dudden Rowlands
Ann Chatterton Klimas

Content Reviewer
Ben Graff

Hints for Site Leaders

If you are planning a professional development opportunity for your group, you can use the checklist below to help you make these seminars as useful as possible for the participants.

  • Contact the people you would like to attend the workshop, offering several alternate dates for your meeting. Try not to pick dates that coincide with other activities or vacation days.
  • Think about what you hope to accomplish with the group. For example, are you interested in having them see another classroom to look for new ways to approach literature, or for classroom management techniques, or text selection? Try to make a mission statement to share with the group during your first meeting.
  • Review the materials in the guide related to each clip and select the clips your group will view. Plan a logical order for presenting the clips you have selected. Try to keep in mind the group’s main interests in doing so.
  • Find and secure a place for your meeting. The location should be easily accessible to the group, with adequate seating and appropriate outlets for a VCR and monitor.
  • Notify group members of the meeting time and place. Establish a system for notifying members in case of an emergency postponement.

Before each meeting:

  • Review the clip you intend to view in conjunction with the print materials for the clip in the guide.
  • Decide on a time frame for the workshop. We suggest that you consider 20 minutes of previewing discussion or other activities, 20 minutes to view the clip, and 20 minutes for a follow-up discussion or activity. The guide lists suggested activities and discussions for pre- and post-viewing. You can select one of them, adapt them for your group’s purposes, or create ones of your own.
  • Gather any other materials you will need for the discussions or activities you have planned. You may want to assemble notebooks or folders with blank pages for participants to use in taking notes or reacting to the discussions or activities in which they engage.
  • Familiarize yourself with the equipment in the room where you will be meeting.

During each meeting:

  • Greet the group and explain why they have been assembled and give a brief overview of what they will do that session.
  • Set their purpose for viewing the video. This can be a selected question for discussion listed in the guide, or one of your own choosing.
  • Encourage participants to note any comments they may have as they watch.
  • Show the video clip. Ask participants if they would like to review any parts of the clip.
  • Follow up the clip with a discussion point or activity from the guide. You can adapt these or create your own, depending on the needs of the group. Try to present a mix of talking, watching, and doing during each session.
  • If you are having a problem starting discussions, ask the group to talk about the things they didn’t understand in the video clip.
  • Watch the time carefully and adjourn on schedule. Talk about your next meeting, reminding the group about time, date, and place.

Materials Needed

You will need to assemble the following materials to help you in using these video clips in a professional development workshop:

  • A computer and monitor to show the video clips
  • Notebooks or paper and pencils or pens
  • Other materials may be needed for activities suggested for individual clips. Consult the chapter of the guide related to each video clip to find out the scope of these activities and plan your session accordingly.


  • Be sure to position the monitor at a place where all participants can view it easily.
  • Adjust the lighting to avoid reflections or glare.
  • Check the connections between the computer and monitor, and make sure they are both plugged into a working outlet.


  • Read the sections of the guide devoted to activities and discussion questions related to each clip several days before the workshop.
  • Note materials that are needed and gather them before your session begins.
  • A dry-erase board, flip chart, or large pieces of art paper will help in recording major points raised in session discussions.