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Life School Students Use Book, Head, and Heart for Literacy

Life School Students Use Book, Head, and Heart for Literacy

That is where “Book Head Heart” comes in. Teacher Jessica Barlow recently demonstrated how the strategy plays out in the classroom. After a vigorous discussion with the students, 3 boards were peppered with feedback from excited and engaged students.

Brandee Morris, Life School Curriculum Coordinator explained, “When the conversations started about what happened on the pages and in students’ heads and hearts, [Barlow] saw students’ critical thinking, compassion, and sharing of thoughts take off.”

“Book Head Heart” from LIFEela is based on work by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. The strategy allows students to think while they read, discuss text, and write about it. Even deeper, it challenges them to reflect on what the words mean to them emotionally and intellectually.

“I led the department through a book study last year, and we chose to begin using the strategy in our classrooms because it aligned so well with our department mission,” explained Morris. “LIFEela strives to help students find joy, value, and meaning in their connection to the world around them through critical reading, effective writing, clear communication, and deep thinking.”

For those who are unfamiliar with the strategy, it is designed to take students from passive to active reading. This makes reading deeply personal. Reflection is key. For parents who may want to try at home, here is what it looks like in practice.

In “Book,” students are encouraged to think about what information is explicitly stated. They should be able to accurately summarize the information, answer text-dependent questions, and identify the theme. What is this about? Who is telling the story? What does the author want you to know?

In “Head,” students begin to think beyond the text by digging deeper and making connections. Students are encouraged to consider how the text fits with and impacts their own thinking. What surprised them? What changed, challenged, or confirmed their thinking?

In “Heart,” students reflect on the story and their personal connections. This focuses on how the text affects or provokes their feelings. What did they learn about themselves? What did this text help them learn about others? Will it help them to be better?

While the strategy can be used on any text, it is particularly useful for books with a powerful story. “The ‘Book Head Heart’ close reading strategy grows students from their roots,” adds Mrs. Barlow, “spreading a deeper level of thinking, communicating, and inspiration to others.”

Not only does this strategy support student literacy, it is emblematic of Life School’s focus on LifeLeader – 15 attributes that the school nurtures in its students. Among them are Critical Thinking and Self-awareness. The “Book Head Heart” strategy provides practical application of skills that will last into adulthood and their careers.

Life School is a tuition-free, public charter school with campuses in Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Mountain Creek, Red Oak, Oak Cliff and Waxahachie, TX. Life School develops leaders with life skills through strong academics, character training, and partnerships with parents and the community. Its mission is accomplished in part through the financial support of donors who provide scholarships and embrace making students ready to learn, ready to lead and ready for life.

Parents who are interested in enrollment can visit Partners who would like to support Life School financially can give online at

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