BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

August 26, 2018
by blogwalker
2 Comments

Rethinking Reading Logs

Renoir 1880 Young woman reading a Journal

Renoir 1880 Young woman reading a journal. Image in Public Domain.

 

I’ve been part of a book club for almost 18 years. Every month I look forward to sharing what I liked or didn’t like about the selected book with my fellow “Bookies” and listening to and enjoying their perspectives. Recently I tried to recall the title/author of a YA novel we had read a few years ago. I wanted to recommend it to a friend. Dang! I wish I had been keeping a reading log.

Reading by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

 

Today I did a little research on the value of having students keep reading logs. Only minutes into my search, I could see that reading logs are a contentious issue in the K-12 community. The awesome Pernille Rip posted three years ago On Reading Logs, discussing both the pros and cons and giving five tips, with Keep it in class and Stop rewarding at the top.

The reason I am proposing reading logs is because I see them as a much better option than requiring students to use computer-based programs to track, rate, reward and/or restrict their reading. Although these programs can help students find books at their current reading level, reading levels are flexible. Too often reading levels are used to limit student choice and to impose forced point quotas, two steps guaranteed to kill the love of reading. If your school is still supporting these online programs, I highly recommend reading Pernille’s After Accelerated Reader and Donalyn Miller’s (AKA “the Book Whisperer”) How to Accelerate a Reader.

In line with Pernille’s tips, the purpose of the reading log would be to provide students with a place to keep track of what they have been reading and to become mindful of their own reading habits. The reading log would also provide teachers with a window into their students’ choices and interests.

The reading log would not require students to log hours/minutes or number of pages read. It would not require nightly parent signatures. I’m going with a Google Spreadsheet (inspired by the amazing Alice Keeler). Here’s a link to my first draft for a Student Reading Log (which could easily be shared with students via Google Classroom). I would love any feedback or questions you might have!

P.S. My book club is reading Barbara Shapiro’s The Art Forger this month. And, yes, I am going to start logging our books!

Photo by Tim Geers on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

November 30, 2014
by blogwalker
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Helping Students Flex Their Reading Level/Lexile Muscles

I grew up in a home with books. In the room we referred to as the “den,” an entire wall was lined with my parents’ books and book collections. There was also a small glass three-shelf bookcase that did not require any climbing and reaching on my part and that held “the book.” It was The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rowlings. But it was N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations that drew me to this classic. Other than my dad’s golf books, few of their books were illustrated. N.C. Wyth’s illustrations were gripping and fueled the imagination, as you can see by scanning the online Project Gutenberg version.

I think it’s entirely possible that I actually learned to read at home, not at school. I remember being assigned to reading groups according to reading level. I can’t remember ever coming home wanting to talk about any great stories from the classroom readers. Although when my first or second grade teacher introduced me to Charlotte’s Web as a read aloud, I know I begged to have my own copy.

Back to The Yearling. When I first discovered the book, I was still in the primary grades. Even though I couldn’t read it, I could tell from the illustrations that it was an animal story, a favorite genre then (and still today). When I told my dad how much I wished I could read The Yearling, he gave me a great piece of advice: Just keep checking back every so often, because at some point you will be able to read it.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was the Nancy Drew detective series that helped boost my reading level up to The Yearling’s lexile. Although totally done as outside reading, separate from classroom readers/anthologies, I regularly brought my latest Nancy Drew book to school in order trade with friends. Sort of an organically organized early book club. I’m guessing it was about 5th or 6th grade when I realized The Yearling was now an accessible read.

Years later, as a parent, I watched my daughter jump start her reading with The Babysitter Club series, which she traded, just I had with Nancy Drew. When she was in 5th grade, we moved to a small two-school district – which, thankfully, used outstanding literature instead of readers/anthologies. She quickly moved on from the Babysitter Club to Anne of Green Gables and onward in her journey as an avid, life-long reader.

With my son, I watched him as a 2nd grader pick up a wrestling magazine with Hulk Hogan on the cover, and, on the spot, become a reader. Only weeks earlier, he’d had the opportunity to see Hulk Hogan live in Sacramento, a memorable event for a 7-year old! He opened to the magazine article with the confidence and content knowledge of a highly proficient reader – clearly no longer limited by any “lexile levels.” Like his sister, he too became hooked on great YA authors, such as Gary Paulsen, via the excellent literature introduced at school. Pretty impressive what interest level + background knowledge + teacher enthusiasm can do to boost a kid’s reading level.

A recent situation has prompted me to reflect back on when my children and I began flexing our reading level/lexile muscles. The event has to do with Accelerated Reader (AR) and what I now refer to as “AR non-best practices.” A teacher at one of my district’s elementary schools contacted me about changing the AR school year end dates to include the summer. I am the district administrator for the AR program (by assignment, not by choice). The site wanted to require that students take AR quizzes during their summer break. The AR points would then be factored into the students’ reading grades for the first trimester of the 2014-15 school year. Despite my attempts to present a case for summer being a time to read simply for the joy of reading, apparently the entire site, including the principal, wished to formally reward or penalize elementary students for their summer reading habits.

At least this was an isolated case of AR non-best practices … or so I thought. I shared the story with a colleague, who, as a parent, shared his frustration with teachers “making an advanced reader read below his/her level to meet class AR requirements.” As parents, we know we need to be advocates for our children, but it’s not easy to speak out within our own districts against a program once it’s ingrained in a school’s culture.

I shared both of the above the examples with a National Writing Project (NWP) colleague, who is now an elementary school administrator. She responded with a story from her previous district, where, during her first week as principal, she explained to the staff why their school library, which was organized by lexile, would be reorganized by author. She further explained that if a student became interested in a certain author, the student would be allowed to check out any of the author’s books, regardless of lexile. How about that for a AR non-best practices easy fix?!

For the most part, I remain quiet about programs such as AR, out of respect for colleagues who truly believe that the programs boost reading skills and promote a love of reading. Occasionally, I suggest that teachers go through Google Scholar to read the research on AR. Or I send links to articles such as Stephen Krashen’s 2003 journal article. Or maybe suggest reading what Kelly Gallagher has to say about AR in his wonderful Readicide piece.

This year, I’ve starting looking beyond elementary school to see how teachers at middle and high school are promoting a love of reading. In September, at the same time the elementary site was asking how to pull a report on summer AR quizzes, I read high school AP English teacher David Theriault’s post Why Do We Give Students Summer Assignments? Seriously, Why? I love his ideas for Alternatives to the typical Summer Activities section, especially Idea #1:

What if teachers on the campus created a Google Slide. One for each teacher. On the Google Slide was a list of ideas for students to learn about their world during the summer. Here’s an example:

 

Even if every teacher just had four ideas on a slide, students and their parents would have a ton of ideas and these ideas would help students and parents get to know the teachers better. Heck you could ask every staff member at your school to contribute including the district office. Can you imagine the conversations that would take place in the hallways the following school year?”

In October, with AR non-best practices still on my mind, middle school English teacher Pernille Ripp posted The Things I Did that Stopped the Love of Reading to her blog. Right off the bat, she addresses locking students into reading levels/lexiles:

Then:
I forced them to read certain books because I knew better.  Armed with levels and lessons, I have forced many a child in giving up the book they were certain to struggle through and handed them a better suited one.  Better suited based on levels, reading abilities, but typically not interest.

Now:
Students have free choice to read with few restrictions.  Throughout the year they have to read 25 books, 15 of which must be chapter books.  If a child is continuously abandoning books we discuss, adjust, and try new things.  We also spend time selecting books together and work on strategies to get through books that may be a bit out of their “level.”

In all fairness to AR (and to help sites justify the annual subscription renewal fees), I know I should also be collecting AR best practices examples. Here’s one: During a unit of the American Revolution, 5th grade students have access to books at their reading levels. Having taught 5th grade for several years, I can see the value in students being able to easily pick out books identified by reading level from the school library as they begin a new unit of study.  In my classroom, my personal American Revolution library included a wide reading range, including multiple copies of My Brother Sam Is Dead, which Scholastic marks as grades 6-8. Every year, students at all reading levels borrowed my copies of this book, with many reporting that they couldn’t put it down. No reading level/lexile limitations. No points earned for completing an online quiz. Just reading based on interest.

If there are more examples I could add to an AR best practices chart, I warmly invite you to share them.

More importantly, I would  love to learn about any districts that have opted out of AR – for reasons other than budget cuts. Was it a top-down decision or teacher driven? Was it research-based? Was it widely embraced? Any information and tips would be much appreciated.

 

January 16, 2010
by blogwalker
6 Comments

Accelerated Reader- Four questions for administrators

As school districts everywhere brace for yet another round of budget cuts, I have a question: Why not attendance7drop the annual online testing fee to Accelerated Reader? This question has been on my mind  ever since NCTE colleague and mentor Allen Webb shared his observation that “school districts tend to value programs they have to pay for – regardless of the actual value or impact of those programs.”

I fully support the first two components and possibilities of the AR program:

  • provide students with a rich library of books, from beginning to advanced reading levels, thereby making a wide range of topics accessible to all readers.
  • provide students with regular chunks (at least 15 minutes) of sustained silent reading (SSR) time.
  • It’s the third component – test the heck out of students with online multiple-choice tests – that I find troubling. As to the fourth component – provide students with prizes – I think researchers such as Alfie Kohn have already made a compelling case against reading incentive programs.

    I understand that change is hard, especially if it involves giving up programs sites are currently paying for. But given the realities of the  budget crisis, I think it reasonable for an administrator to consider the following questions before renewing the annual AR subscription:

    #1 Have you checked into the research on AR? No, I don’t mean the research the Renaissance Learning folks post about their own products.  I’m talking about research such as the above paper by Alfie Kohn, or recent findings by Stephen Krashen, who has generously shared his insights on the English Companion Ning:

    Accelerated Reader (AR) may be “the most influential reading program in the country” (“If you’re shopping, find the books that work for kids,” December 17) but there is no clear evidence that it works. It fact, it might be harmful.

    AR has four components: It makes sure children have access to books, provides time to read, quizzes children on what they read with a focus on details, and awards prizes for performance on the quizzes.

    It is well-established that providing books and time to read are effective, but AR research does not show that the quizzes and prizes are helpful. Studies claiming AR is effective compare AR to doing nothing; gains were probably due to the reading, not the tests and prizes.

    AR encourages an unnatural form of reading, reading focusing on often irrelevant details in order to pass tests.

    AR rewards children for doing something that is already pleasant: self-selected reading. Substantial research shows that rewarding an intrinsically pleasant activity sends the message that the activity is not pleasant, and that nobody would do it without a bribe. AR might be convincing children that reading is not pleasant. No studies have been done to see if this is true.”

    #2. Have you polled your parent community on their opinions about AR? NCTE collegue (and former district colleague) Teresa Bunner recently shared her perspective (which is very close to a scene and conversation I witnessed last year at my county library):

    As a mom it often irked me to no end to watch a big deal be made at awards assemblies for earning so many points on AR when I knew my kids read all the time, just not AR books or not short easy read books that earned them points quickly! … Truly, truly when we take time to match kids with the right books, they enjoy reading. I believe that having taught elementary, middle and high school.”

    #3. Have you started a conversation with your veteran teachers on their views on AR? About a year ago, I first blogged my AR concerns. I’d like to re-post comments by two educators/bloggers whose opinions I very much value:

    From Mathew Needleman:

    We had a similar but differently named program at my last school and I absolutely share your concerns. The program we had took over the computer. In other words, teachers would use that computer exclusively to run (insert program name here). In addition to leaving behind advances in computing/technology of the past decade, I too felt that the quizzes really weren’t getting to higher level thinking and were essentially replacing the SRA kits we used when I was in elementary school. If we can do it with paper and pencil, why use the expense and electricity to do it on a computer?”

    From Cathy Nelson:

    I would wager that the improvement in reading seen is not from “students reading and taking tests,” but rather just from reading. The more practice one has at something, the better they get, and testing (even a computerized commercial program) has nothing to do with it. Do you really want to give credit to a program for the hard work you have done in getting kids to read? Credit goes to the teacher, not the tool. AR is as good as the one who implements it–not the tool itself. Let’s not inflate the egos of Renaissance Learning anymore than they are already inflated. This is a tool and nothing more. Success is based solely on the implementation (by the teacher.)”

    #4. What are you students saying about AR? A teacher in my district recently shared with me that one of her 4th graders brags about being able to pass an AR quiz just by reading the write-up  on the book jacket. Hmmmm…..In taking a closer look at the winning entries in our district’s No Excuses…Go to School poster contest, I’m thinking  this winning entry by a middle school student provides a window into the student perspective. I wish I could see the title of the book the student is gripping as he hops the fence to skip school.  What do you bet it’s not on the AR list AND it’s got “the flow” going for this escaping student.

    I’m sure there’s a 5th question administrators should be asking of AR.  If you think of one, please post a comment.

    December 30, 2018
    by blogwalker
    0 comments

    A Few Lingering Media Literacy Thoughts from 2018

    “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on.”

    Mark Twain 

    Nope, the above quote is not from Mark Twain, despite being commonly attributed to him … and I admit – until just recently – to being one of the misquoters. For insight on how quotes become misquotes, I recommend Niraj Chokshi’s New York Times article That Wasn’t Mark Twain: How a Misquotation Is Born.

    Misquotes are just a small slice of an enormous bank of online misinformation (Dictionary.com’s 2018 word of the year). For educators, I think the year has brought a greater awareness that we all need to be media literacy teachers, no matter what grade levels or subject areas we teach.


    I started the year by organizing resources in my Media Literacy in a Post-Truth Era site. (Note: post truth was the 2016 Oxford Dictionary word of the year.) Several months ago, I began gathering resources on a possible misinformation trend that emerged in 2017 and continued to spread throughout 2018: deepfakes. Like any technology, deepfakes can be used for good or for ill. Computer scientist Supasorn Suwajanakorn explains in the TED Talk below how a deepfake is created — “and the steps being taken to fight against its misuse.”

    We all need to get into the habit of “putting on our skepticals” (and a few other tips from BrainPop’s Tim and Moby) and recognize when to check if a person really said the words we’re hearing in a video.


    I’m ending the year with the realization that actually “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on.”  Jonathan Swift (sort of)

    Over a holiday meal, I listened to an example of a low-tech misinformation story. Last summer, my daughter traveled to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, with her boyfriend to attend his cousin’s wedding. Two weeks ago, the cousin, Michele Anderson, made national and international news: The Relotius Scandal Reaches a Small Town in America. Michele and fellow Fergus Falls resident John Krohn fact checked Claas Relotius, the DER SPIEGEL journalist who published a “tendentious, malicious portrait of the small, rural town. The reporting contained so many falsehoods that Anderson and Krohn limited themselves to citing just the ‘”top 11 most absurd lies.”‘

    We all need to be fact checkers, willing to challenge and confront the spread of misinformation.

    High on my list of 2019 resolutions is a commitment to curate, create and share innovative media literacy resources, best practices, and lessons. I hope you will join me.

    Flex Your Fact-Checking Muscles – bit.ly/LateralReading

    June 27, 2013
    by blogwalker
    0 comments

    ISTE 2013 Takeaways – Day 1

    ISTE 2013 Day 1

    So glad I made it to San Antonio in time for Sunday’s first round of Ignite sessions and the opening keynote with  gamification expert Jane McGonigal. What an inspiring start for an amazing conference!

    Ignite Takeaways:

    If you haven’t seen an Ignite session, here’s the format: each presenter has five minutes to speak and is limited to twenty slides, which automatically advance every fifteen seconds. Ignites are always fast-paced sessions that showcase ideas designed to inspire and energize educators.

    I enjoyed all 7 Ignite presentations, but my biggest take-away was from Jeff Piontek’s STEM education Ignite. Jeff pointed out the even though STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is where the money (funding) is and there’s a growing  movement for STEAM (adding the arts), we need “to turn STEM into STEAM into STREAM by adding reading and research.” STEM is the present need, and education follows the money. But we need the arts and reading and research. We don’t have to teach kids to be creative, they already are: we just have to stop assessing and start allowing the creativity to shine through.

    Opening Keynote Takeaways: Learning Is an Epic Win

    Jane McGonigal’s keynote was mind blowing. I came to the keynote with an understanding of the 21st century skills that gaming can build. When she shared Evoke, I saw the potential for gaming to change the world. Find the Future, which challenged 500 student authors to write a book in one night while inside the New York Public Library, served as a called to action to what we could be doing in our own communities to take collaboration and creativity to new levels.

    Take-away quote: “The opposite of play is not work; it’s depression.”

    Take-away read: Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

    I’ll be back soon with Takeaways from Day 2.

     

     

    March 20, 2013
    by blogwalker
    0 comments

    CUE 2013 – Day 1 Take-Aways

    Just returned from the 2013 CUE Conference, a 3-day event jam-packed with educators initiating conversations and sharing resources and best practices on innovative, effective technology integration.  This year the Common Core State Standards were at the core of the conference.

    Here are a few of my take-aways from Thursday, Day 1:

    Session 1 Collaboration Around the Common Core Using Brokers of Expertise – Eddy Avelar walked us through the layout and resources of the California K12 High Speed Network’s (K12 HSN) Brokers of Expertise site. I’m looking forward to connecting with and learning from the California CCSS group.

    Session 2Digital Tools for the ELA Common Core – Jonathan Brubaker has posted his session slides on sqworl.com, a new tool for me. Not only can you view his slides, but each tool he introduced for building students’ academic vocabulary is shown on his sqworl site.  I really like Big Picture, which features photos from flickr.com, and ” lets you view and share photos in the style of The Big Picture, Boston.com’s excellent photo blog.”

    Jonathan reminded participants that “text complexity” cannot be based on lexile alone. The Grapes of Wrath, for instance, has a 4th grade “quantitative level” but the “qualitative level” is much higher. One comment really resonated with me: “Text complexity should be a conversation  – don’t use it as an excuse for Readicide. Reading has to be the point – not lexile” (e.g., AR).  He ended the session with a huge shout out to Touchstones Discussion Project guides for building critical thinking and powerful classroom discussions.

    Session 3 – Making your (Google) Voice Heard – If you still haven’t created a Google Account,  Brandon Wislocki’s session would convince you to drop everything and set one up so you can start using Google’s free Voice program and app. A big advantage for teachers is being able to use Google Voice as an alternate number for students and parents to call.  But there are so many more possibilities! The fact that the messages are saved as embeddable mp3’s and are translated into text is just a starting point. Think of the possibilities for extending learning beyond the school day, especially for your ELs!

    Session 4 Online Writing that Meets the Common Core – Jason Saliskar started his session by laying out via grade levels what CCSS Anchor Standard 6 for Writing looks like by grade level. I love that it’s all there on his presentation link! A favorite take-away from Jason’s session is that in teaching writing in the Common Core era,  “writing short is going to matter as much as writing long” (from Pam Allyn). Loved the videos Jason included, such as a Teaching Channel look at poetry, technology, and CCSS from an elementary language arts teacher and the 3-minute video embedded below on Explaining the Common Core State Standards:





    Keynote Session – Ending Day 1 with Catlin Tucker’s inspiring keynote was a perfect close. Her session was recorded, so as soon as I have that link I’ll add it to this post. In the meantime, I encourage you to subscribe to Catlin’s blog and to follow her on Twitter (@CTuckerEnglish). In stating that “Technology can’t be an add-on – it has to replace and extend what we already do,” Catlin presents compelling ways to take powerful fiction, such as To Kill and Mockingbird and connect it real world issues, such as the death penalty. For high school English teachers who fear that CCSS means letting go of the classics, you definitely want to connect with Catlin Tucker. She takes 9th grade English, technology, and the Common Core to new levels.

    I’ll be back soon with some CUE Day 2 take-aways.

    October 23, 2010
    by blogwalker
    0 comments

    Building a News Story = Building 21st Century Literacies

    News 10’s Nick Monacelli’s September SECC session on Building a News Story was outstanding! And the good news for teachers – across grade levels and subject areas – who were not able to join us live at Channel 10 is that you and your students now have access to the entire presentation:

    SEVA-nick

    As I’m writing this post, I’m also re-listening to Nick’s talk – and thinking that the samples, tips, and discussion all help  to make visible NCTE’s Definition for 21st century literacy:

    Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to

    • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
    • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
    • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
    • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
    • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
    • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments”

    Many thanks to SECC and cameraman Doug Niva for hosting this wonderful resource.

    May 23, 2010
    by blogwalker
    5 Comments

    Remembering Anne Frank

    anne_frank_3

    Image from http://annefrankbiography.com/

    I was introduced to the Holocaust in 7th grade. Like many middle school students, I was given a window into the horrors of the Nazi “round ups”  through reading the Diary of Anne Frank.

    My long-time interest in Anne’s story was rekindled last weekend when I had the honor of meeting with Hannie Voyles, a schoolmate of Anne Frank’s. Hannie’s story of survival under five years of Nazi occupation of the Netherlands is every bit as compelling as Anne’s story. It is my hope that Hannie will soon share her story beyond her community (Chico, California). I just finished watching footage from a recent interview she did with a group of 8th grader peer mediators  from Chico’s Marsh Jr. High.  While Anne Frank was hidden away, Hannie and her sister were out on the streets everyday in the eye of the storm.*

    Teaching the Holocaust requires having age-appropriate resources.  I was initially taken aback when I discovered that the Open Court Reading Program includes a piece about Anne Frank in the 4th grade anthology. However, in working with several 4th grade classes (in my role as coordinator of my district’s EETT grant), I have come to see that elementary students are quite capable of delving into complex social issues that span communities and generations. If the materials and the manner in which the topic is introduced are age-appropriate, 4th graders are ready for and capable of joining in meaningful shared conversations on tough topics.

    Through my participation in the National Writing Project’s Holocaust Educator’s Network, I’ve accumulated a variety of resources for teaching about genocide in general and the Holocaust in particular.  After meeting with Hannie Voyles, I am now seeking resources that best tell the impact of Nazi occupation on school-age children and their families and that provide insights into the topic of resiliency of the human spirit. Anne Frank’s story will be my starting point.

    Here’s what I have so far:

    • Film footage of Anne Frank – Filmed in celebration of a neighbor’s wedding in July of 1941, shortly before the Frank family went into hiding, this is the only footage of Anne Frank.
    • We Remember Anne Frank – Scholastic’s unit includes interviews with Miep Gies, the loyal employee of the Frank family. Lessons are arranged by grade level, starting with grade 3.
    • Anne Frank, Writer – From EDSITEment (National Endowment for the Humanities), this site scaffolds their lessons and provides resources for connecting Anne’s story to other examples of racism and exclusion.
    • Anne Frank – Lessons in Humanity and Dignity – Provides activities for school and home.
    • Anne Frank Received Her Famous Diary in 1942 – From ReadWriteThink!, the unit introduces students to the importance of first-hand accounts in understanding historical events.
    • Diary of Anne Frank, the movie – PBS provides a Teacher’s Guide to accompany the DVD (which you can order from the site). The site also includes the Take Action page, a listing of projects and activities for empowering students to make a difference.  In the current test-driven climate, all too often the reading of powerful stories ends with the “what,” and students are not moving on to explore the next two components, so essential to meaningful learning: “so what” and “now what.”
    • Anne Frank Timeline – Part of the Secret Annex Online site, the timeline provides background and compelling images from Anne’s story, starting in 1914.

    * May 2011 Update:

    • Anne Frank the Writer: An Unfinished Story – From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the resources include a beautifully done tour of Anne Frank’s diary through images and audio clips.
    • Beyond Anne Frank.pdf – Created by Jennifer Norton, Regional Education Corps Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to complement reading of The Diary of Anne Frank.
    • The Danish Solution – From Snag Learning, this documentary film is a tribute to the “upstanders” of Denmark.  It details how the Danish were able to save many of Denmark’s Jewish population when the Nazi’s Final Solution was implemented.  There are even discussion questions on the page, but thanks to Holocaust Educators Network (HEN) educator Diane Williams, here are two more thought-provoking, guiding questions:
      • What inspires us to act?  or Why act? (I think this is a question that gets to the root of what my students have grappled with over the years when studying the Holocaust – why did some act and some did not?)  This also allows them to look at fear as a motivator, principles, religious beliefs, humanitarian reasons.
      • What forms of resistance are the most effective?  When and Why?
    • An Interview with Hannie Voyles – Coming soon!! A year after first meeting Hannie, I traveled with videographer Doug Niva to Chico, California, to record an interview with Hannie. We hope to have video clips from the interview online within the next few weeks. The interview will be a wonderful resource to accompany her newly released Storming the Tulips, “A tightly-knit connection and complement to Anne Frank’s story.

    If you have Anne Frank resources to add to the list, I hope you will post a comment.  My goal is, over the summer, to develop a unit on name calling that could be used across grade levels and would help students make connections and comparisons between what was “then and there” (the Holocaust) to what is “here and now.”

    April 4, 2010
    by blogwalker
    5 Comments

    Igniting National Poetry Month

    NPMposterA poem begins with a lump in the throat.  ~Robert Frost

    The only problem
    with Haiku is that you just
    get started and then

    ~Roger McGough

    Poetry has the tendency to promote literacy skills in ways that can have a life-long impact on students.

    As a 6th grade humanities teacher, I regularly shared favorite or timely poems. Every year in March, prior to our annual week at science camp, I would introduce haiku.  Students immediately bought in to the format because “Hey, we only have to write three lines – and there’s a syllable limit!”

    Something close to magical always happened as they began drafting, discovering on their own that with the line and syllable limits, “every word needs to count.”   And the challenge was on to find the perfect word, which might have to be re-thought if the syllable count didn’t work for that line. They were hooked.

    As we headed down the California coast towards science camp, at any given stopping point, such as the tide pools, I could see students, against the backdrop of sand and surf, silently counting on their fingers…counting syllables for the haiku they were composing in their heads. Each year, they returned from camp with notebooks a bit worn from the journey, but containing literary gems  – just in time for April’s National Poetry Month. And each year I witnessed the power of poetry to inspire students to imagine more, to read more, and to write more.

    In my current position as a technology integration specialist, I visit many school sites. Often, particularly at the elementary level, student poetry is boldly displayed on the classroom walls…just begging for a broader audience.  New technologies, such as VoiceThread, for instance, make it increasingly easy for students  to take their poetry beyond the classroom, out into the world.  If you browse the VoiceThread gallery using “poetry” as a search term, you will quickly find hundreds of samples. To restrict your search to K12 samples only, switch to ed.voicethread. The VoiceThread Library has short articles to help you imagine the possibilities for combining images with power of the human voice.

    Poetry, maybe more than any other genre, lends itself to multimedia writing and innovation.  Phoetry (photograph + poetry), for example, is making its way into our language and into teachers’ toolkits. The samples shown on Flickr.com or on teacher educator Arnie Abramsworkshop handout (scroll to find Fog) will provide you with a window into this emerging genre. Blogger/teacher Bud Hunt invites you into his second annual NPM 2010. Throughout the month, he will post the daily photo “as a way to generate some prompts for folks who maybe wanted to write poetry, but needed a little push.

    If I could time-travel my former 6th grade students (mentioned above) into the present, it’s fun to think about how free tools, and step-by-step instructions – such as teacher Joyce Masongsong-Ray‘s Planning, Writing, and Animating Haiku PDF – and resources – such as Kevin Hodgson‘s Making Stopmotion site – for animating their poetry could transform their words from static notebook pages to dynamic stopmotion pieces, such as those produced by 5th grade students at Northside Elementary School.

    TSSlib

    Teen Salinas Slam - Photo courtesy of Peter Kwiek

    There are many ways to take a poem beyond paper and pencil – and, in the process, to build on students’ reading, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and self-confidence as writers. Sometimes community collaboration, a bit of technology, and a shared belief that all students are entitled to poetry can rock students’ worlds, pushing them to academic levels they had not dreamed possible.  Teen Salinas Speaks, for example, illustrates the empowerment that comes from this synergy.

    Photo courtesy of Peter Kwiek

    Photo courtesy of Peter Kwiek

    This project stems from the vision of middle school teacher Natalie Bernasconi, who explains the steps: “Start with the support of the Central California Writing Project, then mix together a group of middle and high school teachers and students, add one very cool journalist / slam poet guest speaker to light a fire under them, then give them a community space at the local Salinas Public Library to meet in, and you’ve got Teen Salinas Speaks.” The upcoming Spring Slam will be captured electronically in both video and podcast form and shared via Teen Salinas Slam’s Facebook page as a social networking opportunity to extend the power of the spoken word to a virtual audience as well.

    If you have been looking for lessons, new ideas and resources, and maybe a little inspiration to ignite your celebration of National Poetry Month,  check out the ten sites I’ve listed below. I’m betting you’ll find at least one activity you can use tomorrow!

    • Scholastic’s April Is National Poetry Month –  Tons of ideas and resources to jump start your poetry unit.  For the younger students, what could be more fun than having Jack Prelutsky, our Nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate, sharing his voice and providing a little mentoring? There are plenty of resources for secondary students too, from Using Poetry to Explore and Change to interviews with Maya Angelo to awarding-winning 17-year old poet Meredith Weber, who invites you into her poet’s workshop. For cross-curricular ideas, check out Mr. Tang’s Math Riddles samples.
    • Read/Write/Think – I’ve been a long-time fan of this NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English) site and have come to expect outstanding teacher-tested, research based resources like the ones posted for National Poetry Month.  I recommend checking out the “interactives,” such as Diamonte Poems or What’s an Acrostic Poem? and then move on to sample some lessons, such as Poetry Portfolios for your primary students, Composing Cinquain Poems with Basic Parts of Speech for elementary students, or Is a Sentence a Poem? mini-lesson for secondary students. In addition to hosting the Read/Write/Think site, NCTE also posts a National Poetry Day page with podcasts from last year’s entries.
    • National Writing Project – This organization (to which I’ve been a member for 15 years) is at the heart of how I approach the teaching of writing – including poetry.  What you’ll find on their National Poetry Month and the National Writing Project site are Writing Project teachers, including Natalie Bernasconi, telling their stories and sharing their reflections and lessons learned about the place of poetry in their classrooms.
    • Edsitement – Not be outdone by NCTE or NWP, the National Endowment for Humanities has also assembled some outstanding resources on their National Poetry Month: Forms of Poetry site. If you are looking for a unit on Langston Hughes, I recommend The Poet’s Voice – Langston Hughes and You, a scaffolded lesson that will address two central questions: What is meant by voice in poetry, and what qualities have made the voice of Langston Hughes a favorite for so many people?  You might use this lesson as a starting point, and then revisit the NWP site to introduce Gavin Tachibana‘s creative idea to combine Langston Hughes’ poetry with Tibetan prayer flags in the inspiring Dream Flag Project.
    • PBS’s Poetry Everywhere – They had me at Robert Frost’s reading of Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Night, and by the time I’d finished listening to/watching the stunning version of Emily Dickenson’s I Started Early, Took My Dog + Teacher Tips,  I was already sending out Tweets about this beautiful site.
    • 11 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month – The New York Times Learning Network is an outstanding resources, both for its content and for keeping newspapers alive in the classroom. What a great assortment of ideas for hooking students on poetry! The concept of illustrated chapbooks, complete with a template from Microsoft, via seasonal greetings from Robert Frost is the first idea for celebrating the month.  Keep going…all the way to the 11th way: Finding Poems Everywhere, ideas for creating found poetry “from newspaper articles, sports broadcasts , school lunch menus, field trip permission slips and the like.”  Be on the watch for the Learning Network’s upcoming Found Poetry Challenge!
    • Poetry 180 – From the Library of Congress, “Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year.”  I recommend starting with form Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ An Introduction to Poetry.
    • Favorite Poem Project – Listen to and watch volunteer readers from across the nation  sharing their favorite poems.
    • Poetry Forge – Tapping into visual appeal of Flash, Poetry Forge is “an open source archive, designed to allow teachers and student writers to explore, manipulate, create and develop innovative tools for the development of poetry.”
    • Poets.org – From the Academy of American Poets, this site offers resources and a call to action – with Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is simple: “Select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 29.” But wait, there’s more…for the busy educator…how about Poet’s in Your Pocket, Poet.org’s mobile poetry site.  Download the Poem Flow app from iTunes and you’ll be able to browse over 2,500 poems by author, title, occasion, or form. Imagine the possibilities! You too can “read a poem, anytime, anywhere—whether to fill a spare moment, woo a darling, toast a friend, find solace, or recite a few immortal lines—verse is now at your fingertips.”  Amazing!

    Whether you weave poetry into your year-long English/Language Arts curriculum (as a number of state content standards currently mandate), use it for making cross-curricular connections (how about a Periodic Table Poems), or save it as a treat for “when testing is done,” please join the conversation and share your questions, ideas, and best practices for igniting a love of poetry.

    September 12, 2009
    by blogwalker
    6 Comments

    Five Borrowed Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers

    With the Student Bloggers Challenge starting this week, I’ve been looking to others for more tips to help maximize our students’ blogging experiences. Here are my first five:

    #1 Transition younger students (maybe older too) gradually from commenting to posting – From Kim Cofino –   I love Kim’s middle step of upping students’ posting permissions within the class blog before creating their own individual blogs.

    Once students are comfortable with the process of leaving meaningful comments, and have returned their parental permission slip, we introduce them to the actual process of writing blog posts. The basics of logging in, creating a new post, putting your post in the category for your name, and submitting for review. Usually we have the first post be a short introduction to the student.

    I love the fact that having a category for each student makes it appear as if each student has their own blog (by listing the name categories in the sidebar) and that no posts will be published until the teacher can approve them after moderation. Such an easy and safe way to begin blogging!”

    #2 Take advantage of tools for embedding audio into posts – From  Troy Hicks & Dawn Reed – I had the good fortune to be in the same NCTE 2007 session as Dawn, where she shared her students’ This I Believe podcasts, so I was delighted to find that my recently arrived copy of Teaching the New Writing included a chapter from Troy ( NWP colleague from way back) and Dawn: From the Front of the Classroom to the Ears of the World: Multimodal Composing in Speech Class. In setting up a class blog where she could post her high school students’ podcasts, Dawn discovered that:

    …since students often limit their comments to one another’s work with simple replies such as ‘good speech,’ and others – teachers, parents, community members, and students from other classes or schools – could not be a part of our speech class, podcasting would allow for feedback from those who may offer a different perception of the ideas presented….

    …the largest implication of this entire project is the value that students found in producing content for a larger and authentic audience.  In so doing, they joined a conversation as members of a global society, moving their voices from the front of the classroom to the ears of the world.”

    Note that Dawn (like Kim) brought her students into the classroom blog via promoting their access levels and creating a category (which appears in the sidebar) for each student.

    As I am writing this post, I also have another tab open to a reprint of an article by Jason Ohler –  Media Literacy: Eight Guidelines for Teachers. I’d like to share Jason’s thoughts on the importance of oracy:

    Currently, many media collages are based on the four components of “the DAOW of literacy”: Digital, Art, Oral, and Written. Being able to understand and blend the best of the old, recent, and emerging literacies will become a hallmark of the truly literate person.

    Of the four components of the DAOW, oracy—the ancient literacy of speaking and listening—deserves much more focus than it currently receives. It is central to many of the media collage forms currently in wide use, including storytelling, narrated documentaries, movies, PowerPoint presentations, and even games and virtual realities. And it is central to leadership as well. After all, we often look for evidence of leadership in the way that people speak to others.

    #3 Provide students with choices and starting points – From Paul Allison – I found the  Self-Assessment Matrix in Paul’s chapter from Teaching the New Writing: Be a Blogger: Social Networking in the Classroom.  Through my involvement with the ever-evolving Youth Voices project, I know Paul’s genuine commitment to “keeping it real” and to helping his high school students “find something to be passionate about, and to connect with others who share this passion.”  Students are given the matrix on Monday and choose wherever they wish as a starting point, and, ideally, by the end of the week, they will have crossed out every box in the matrix. Paul’s goal is to help students make the shift from blogging as a teacher-centered activity to a student-centered activity. When the turning point happens…

    No longer am I working to motivate students to do work for me.  Instead, I am working to help each student to accomplish his or her own goals as readers and writers in a school-based network….

    …Being a blogger is about what young people do when they sit down to work at their computers.  It is about creating a space in their lives to safely extend and explore their online voices with a group of peers, both at school, in another part of town, in another state, and around the world.”

    #4  Build in meta-cognition through ‘tagging’ – From Paul Allison – To get students reflecting both specifically and broadly about their writing, Paul asks them to come up with tags (key words) to describe a post.  “Asking them to tag their writing with five key words is to ask them to reread and think about what they are writing. Later, when students add these words to the bottom to their blog posts, they see how key words give them the power to find others who have also published about this theme, which then allows them to respond to the bloggers…establishing a web of relationships...”

    #5  Use your PLN to bump up readership for your student bloggers – From Jeff Utecht – OK, maybe not all of us have the 4,000+ followers in Twitter that Jeff mentions in his recent post A blog post, a tweet, and a connection, but I”m willing to bet that if you’re reading this post, you already have a growing network of colleagues in your Personal Learning Network, in addition to friends or even relatives, you could call on to help broaden the audience for your bloggers. Over the past eight years, I’ve been involved in a variety of student blogging projects, and over and over have seen the common thread of the positive – and substantial –  impact on literacy skills an authentic audience provides!

    A huge thank you to Sue Wyatt for organizing and hosting the the 2009 Bloggers’ Competition – and to Sue Waters for supporting and promoting the efforts of teachers to bring their students into the blogosphere!

    Note: This post is a gathering of blogging tips written by other bloggers, whose insights into teaching and learning in a digital age continue to influence and inspire me. Although there is not a category for borrowed tips in  The Edublogger’s Competition, I wanted to acknowledge and thank everyone mentioned above for all that they have so generously shared.

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