There was a time when I was not a proponent of students’ having access to technology during class time. Twenty years ago, when we moved from San Francisco to a semi-rural district in the Sierra foothills, I pulled my then 1st grade son out of a 1×1 desktop class he had been assigned to for a little remedial work in English/language arts. I was not OK with his being plugged in for drill all morning. He needed more opportunities to interact, listen, and speak, not multiple-choice exercises done in isolation. Funny how quickly his reading, writing, and speaking skills jumped following his departure from the 1×1 desktop environment.The following year, I was hired at the middle school in the same district. And there, thanks to Scholastic, I came to embrace and advocate for technology as part of my 6th grade humanities program. It started with Scholastic’s Authors Online program. As I handed out Scholastic’s monthly book order form (another great Scholastic product), I noticed an invitation to sign up for an online discussion with author R.L. Stine, a favorite of many of my students. Well, by the time I was able to get my computer hooked to the external box required for an Internet connection at that time (thereby becoming the first classroom in El Dorado County connected to the Internet), R.L. Stine had finished his 2-week session.
We were in time for a two-week round with Paul Zindel, author of Loche. Neither my students nor I were familiar with this author, but, oh my, what an impact he had on a number of them, including a few very, very reluctant readers. As students engaged with Zindel on an interactive writing assignment to change “telling writing” to “showing writing,” I was blown away by both their level of engagement and their earnest desire to write something that was truly “good” (as opposed to “good enough”).
The following year, Scholastic opened the world of current events to my students by connecting them with Zlata Flipovic, young author of Zlata’s Diary, her first-hand accounts of surviving the Bosnian genocide. Thanks to Scholastic, our tiny, semi-rural district no longer seemed as remote and isolated as it once had.
I’m in another district now and working as a technology integration specialist. Although I do not have my own classroom, I often send great Scholastic resources on to teachers, such as:
- Scholastic’s Writing With Writers site – Students who are Jane Yolen fans, for instance, can learn to write a myth with a little guidance from Jane.
- 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.
- April Is National Poetry Month – Scholastic offers 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.