Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

First World Problems: Reading Log Edition

NOOOOO! I have been a loyal Shelfari-an for years, faithfully recording my books read as well as back-tracking through my bookshelves all that time. I should have known; I had noticed over the past few months some of the features had begun to degrade and no one seemed interested in fixing it.

About a year and a half ago I looked at transitioning to Goodreads, as so many people seem to use it. I was even delighted to find that Shelfari had an easy export-to-Goodreads feature since they're both hosted by Amazon (should have known then!). However, upon exporting I discovered that all of the dates read were stripped out - kind of a super important detail! A huge part of the reason for keeping a log is to track when you read certain books, how many books you read in a given time period, etc.

And I had much better things to do with my time than to go through and add dates to hundreds of books.

Yet now I'm being forced to move. My fingers are crossed that the date issue has been corrected. I'm currently in the process of exporting, looks like it may take a while:

Anyone else out there devastated by the loss of Shelfari?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Story Time, Part 3

My next story time idea was very specific, but had absolutely HILARIOUS results!

We read this book:

Synopsis - a brother and sister lament that no matter what story they share, their grandfather always remarks "Could Be Worse!" Grandpa, having overheard them, then tells them a fantastic tale of adventure and danger... to which they respond... well, I'm sure you can guess!

After reading this, I gave them a template with two large rectangles, then asked them to create their own "Could Be Worse!" scenario. The results were hilarious (and revealed some truly demented minds!). I again scanned them to use for story time the next day; I divided their stories onto different slides, so that the class could guess what would happen next before seeing it (modeling prediction as a reading strategy, anyone?). Here they are:

Boy did the kids love this one! In fact, by request I showed their "Could Be Worse" stories again at the end of the school year a few months later.

While super fun and entertaining, there were of course many real lessons learned:
  • discussion of the moral of the story
  • using prediction as a reading strategy
  • making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections
  • discussions of how to utilize all of these when reading to little ones!
And of course, more memories made!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Child Development: Story Time, Part 1

One agenda I chose to really push in my Child Development class this year was early literacy and the importance of reading to your children beginning in the womb. One method I used to do this was dedicating the last 5-10 minutes of nearly every class to "Story Time" - that's right, I read a story aloud to my high schoolers nearly every day. While some of them complained that it was "babyish" and beneath them, the complainers were usually the first to be upset when we ran out of time for their story.

The first several story time sessions, and on occasion throughout the rest of the semester as a refresher, we went over the following Story Time Rules before the story:

It really bugs me when people ruin the ending of anything for anybody - why do people DO that??

I did not have them sit in a circle on the floor or anything like that - they simply remained at their desks during story time. To make sure that they could all see the pictures (I didn't want a riot on my hands, after all), I did one of the following: 1) checked out oversized books from the library, 2) scanned the pictures and displayed them via projector, 3) took photos of the pictures with my phone, uploaded the pictures, then displayed them via projector. In addition to listening to the stories, they also engaged in various activities related to the stories - I'll present a few of them in subsequent posts.

The experience was amazing. I was able to model how to make reading an interactive rather than a passive process for the child, thereby increasing learning. I was able to introduce them to a wide variety of the children's literature that is available out there. I was able to trick them into working on their own listening skills, their own prediction skills, their own metacognitive skills. I was able to get them to make connections between the course content we were learning in class, the characters in the stories, and their own childhoods.

And best of all, I was able to create an experience that they will carry with them - remember that class in high school where that crazy teacher read us stories every day?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nutrition Word Sorts!

Here's one I've had sitting in my draft folder since August 25th! Sheesh!

Studying to be a Reading Specialist has a LOT of perks, not the least of which is a whole new bank of ideas for activities!

To introduce the beginning nutrition unit in my foods class, I created a "Word Sort" activity. First, I assigned groups by having them draw colored plastic Easter eggs (LOVE these things!). Since the regular classroom area only has individual desks, I wanted them to work on this task in the kitchens where they would have a large counter space. Also, getting everyone to stand up would get those kinesthetic associations firing. The color of the eggs they drew determined which kitchen they would work in.

Each group was given an envelope with 19 nutrition-related words. They were told they had to decide as a group how those words should be arranged. I told them that there was no right or wrong in this activity, they just had to be able to explain to me why they did what they did.

Then I walked around so that I could listen to them discussing how to organize the words, which gave me a TON of insight into not only their background knowledge on the topic, but also into each students' cognitive abilities and ways of reasoning (massively important in August, am I right?). Also gave me a great idea of what the working in groups dynamic would be like with this class.

Here they are in action:

Yeah, I know the disembodied arms and hands are a little creepy. When they were satisfied with their arrangements, I told them that I would visit each group and they would need to explain to me the choices they made. Again, I emphasized that there was no "right" or "wrong" in this scenario, we're just trying to figure out what might make sense based on what we already know. I gave them a little time to decide which group member was going to say what to me before I went over. Here's what they came up with in this class:

Pretty interesting results! They all had intelligent explanations for the majority of their choices, which revealed quite a bit to me about what they were bringing into the class with them.

When I had talked with each group, I had them rotate around to look at how other groups had chosen to organize the words. This led to some even deeper conversation, peppered by statements like "Oh, I see what they did there!" or "Why didn't we think of that?" or "I like what they did with these words over here, but ours was better with these words" etc.

I was really happy with this activity as a jumpstarter for learning about nutrition, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it as well. Everyone has some knowledge about at least a few of these words, so it was an activity that everyone could contribute to, rather than just one or two people dominating the conversation. Taking away "right" and "wrong" definitely took the pressure off of them to do it RIGHT, so they could take risks. The dialogue helped me to get a really nice picture of my students as learners as well as their social skills. And, the metacognitive task of having to explain their thinking to their group members and then to me got those brains fired up and ready to go!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Post-It Comments

Here's something I've been doing this year to get the kids to read a few different news articles linking current events to the topic we were studying in class.

I print out a few short news articles (generally one for every three students in the class), blow up the font to make it easy for a group of three or four to read at the same time, then staple the article to the top of a piece of cut down poster board. I spread them around the room, leaving a small stack of Post-It Notes in each station.

When it comes time for the activity, I randomly divide the class into groups (in this particular instance I had them draw colored Easter eggs out of a jar; the kids were grouped by the color they drew), then send them to their stations with something to write with.

I tell them to take a couple of minutes to read the article, then write a comment on or question about the article on a Post-It, initial it, and stick it to the poster board underneath the article. We have a brief discussion on what a "good" comment looks like before starting.

When they finish the first article, I have the groups rotate stations. We repeat until they have a chance to read all of the articles.

Here's an example. Our topic is homelessness, and the article is "Hawaii Rep. Tome Brower Takes A Sledgehammer (Literally) To Homelessness Problem" from November 2013 (this article made me want to take a sledgehammer to something, so I was interested to hear what the kids would say). Note: due to benchmark testing I was missing several kids this day, otherwise I would have used a larger board.

The comments:
Why not use a safer and kinder approach?
This is just crazy.
Why can’t they use the shopping carts and how does he identify them?
People may feel threatened easily.
Why does he destroy the carts?
Why can’t the homeless have the shopping carts?
Why does he use a sledgehammer?
What a great guy!
Destroying people’s transportation that are homeless is rude.
He needs to give them something else after he destroys them.
Hawaii people need more sledgehammers.

Go Rambo Go!

Obviously not all followed our guidelines for good comment-writing (hence why I required initials), but there were both good thoughts and good questions. 

I've used this a few times this year in different classes, and I've really liked it. It gives the kids a chance to voice their opinions or ask questions in a safe way, without drawing too much attention to themselves. It gives me a chance to see how their thought processes work, as well as assess their background knowledge. As they go around reading, they naturally discuss what they're reading with each other.

Best of all, by keeping the articles short and keeping the kids moving, I've found that the kids do actually read what I put in front of them - amazing!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Caudill Update

As I've previously mentioned, I'm reading my way through the 2014 Rebecca Caudill list in preparation to be a "Book Champ" next school year. Here are my latest reads:

These were all excellent and I would recommend any one of them. "Breaking Stalin's Nose" is a very quick read about a boy growing up in Stalinist Russia - if you read no other book for this age group, read this one! Such an interesting look into a critical time period in Russia often overlooked by US history classes due to the overlap with the Great Depression and entrance into WWII.

I must say I've really enjoyed reading all of the Caudill books so far - such a departure from my usual fare, but incredibly informative in addition to entertaining. These books introduce 4th-8th graders to a wide range of different cultures and problems faced by kids their age around the globe - quite the perspective-changer! I encourage you to check 'em out - if you have doubts, start with the shortie "Stalin's Nose" - you'll be hooked!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reading Challenge: Rebecca Caudill 2014

Wow, two posts in one evening! I thought it would be less confusing to split them up. I have recently created two reading challenges for myself. The one I'll mention now revolves around the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award. Essentially it's an award voted on by kids in grades 4-8 who have read one or more of the nominated books. My challenge (to myself) is to read all twenty nominees by the time school begins in August. I somehow managed to squeeze in four of them over break (hmmm, and how much grading do you suppose I accomplished? Ahem.), so I'm already 20% there! These are the ones I've tackled so far:

They were all enjoyable, but I especially recommend "The Lions of Little Rock," set in 1958 when the governor of Arkansas orchestrated the closure of all four Little Rock public high schools for the entire school year in order to avoid integration - amazing book!

The reason I began reading these books is that our school has a program called "Book Champs;" after a kid reads one of the books on the list, he or she discusses the book with a teacher who has also read that book as "proof." We weren't able to do that this year as the 2013 books didn't arrive until nearly the end of the first semester (thank you, unreliable funding), but all of the 2014 books are already in. I am determined to read them all so I can be available for any discussion! Also, because they are great books!

I'll discuss my other self-reading challenge at a later date - it's sure to please the nerdiest reader!

Friday, January 4, 2013


So I finally got around to opening all of the packages which contain the textbooks I'll need for my next grad school class, which begins Jan 23 (order early, get the best deals before my classmates!). This many packages cannot be good. Look at the fun they contain!
Did the song "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong?" pop into your head while looking at these? I couldn't help myself but order "K is for Knifeball" when I saw it. It is HILARIOUS. During my child care unit my students analyze various children's books, and I've been looking for a couple of books to slip in that are definitely not appropriate but look like books for kids (and I'm thinking slipping in "Go the F**k to Sleep" would probably get me fired) - this is perfect! And, an enjoyable read all on its own, of course.

And now that I'm scrolling through my blog, I don't think I've mentioned grad school at all. In September I went back to school for a Reading Specialist master's. I don't know what if any career changes that may lead to in the future, but what I'm learning has already made me a better teacher! It has always driven me crazy when high school/middle school content teachers pronounce "Well I'm not a reading teacher." Bull, we're all reading teachers! The number of strategies to help kids with their reading (and let's face it, no matter what you teach or what age you teach, you have got a LOT of kids who struggle with basic reading!) I've already learned is staggering, and I've implemented quite a few of them with great returns so far. I keep thinking "If only I had known this x years ago!"

The only problem with taking on a Reading degree is that it leaves you much less time for your own reading! I managed to get in some of the reading I wanted to do over break, but not what I aspired to (isn't that always the case with breaks?). One of the great ironies of being a teacher is that most of us love to read and most of us don't have anywhere close to the amount of time we need for such pursuits!