Inspired Idea: Graphic Novel Book Trailer

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After several intense days #notatISTE, and participating in #ISTELive, I’m finally able to go back and catch up on the annual ALA convention (#alaac15) which was also held this week in San Francisco.  (I tried keeping up with both for a while but I just couldn’t do it!)

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

One story that caught my attention was “Crying Emoji: ALA Annual Recap (Part III)” by Travis Jonker from 100Scopenotes.  The very first picture shows several authors performing readers theater, acting out a scene from Jennifer L. Holm’s and Matthew Holm’s graphic novel Sunny Side Up.  I had seen this done before, I can’t remember where, but I think it was Raina Telgemeier performing one of her graphic novels as reader’s theater.  Somewhere along the line (maybe that was the whole purpose of these presentations) I realized that the graphic novel format probably lends itself to reader’s theater.  I’ll bet that many, if not all, graphic novels could be performed in this way.

Then I started thinking about my students, and my library, and I’ll admit that I don’t do enough to promote graphic novels at my school.  My graphic novels circulate well, but mainly because of the students who already love them.  Most of the teacher’s have a hard time appreciating the complexity and value of graphic novels.  (When it comes time to do book projects, graphic novels are often vetoed as choices.)

So here’s my idea…  I think the students could collaborate to create book trailers reenacting short scenes from the graphic novels as reader’s theater, with accompanying images from the text (no more than one or two pages.)  Of course, I’m a little concerned about copyright, but I do feel like this would constitute Fair Use.  The students could then add music, sound effects and other images to create a finished book trailer to promote our graphic novels.  We are very privileged to have our own television channel and the trailers could be broadcast throughout the day.

Creating reader’s theater style book trailers offers so many opportunities for students to creatively express their love of graphic novels and also helps showcase their value to other students and the teachers.

#notatiste15

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I’m #notatiste15.

I have a love/hate relationship with that hashtag.

The #ISTE2015 conference is in full swing, and I’m not there. It was my choice and things at home necessitated that I stay here.  I’ve never been to ISTE, and in fact haven’t been to any professional conferences in a long time.  This year my heart is aching a bit though.

I decided to participate virtually by registering for ISTE Live, a way to participate in a limited number of session through webinars.  Yesterday I spent nearly the entire day watching the ISTE Live sessions, connecting with other educators, getting dizzy following Twitter Feeds, following @tonyvincent’s live feed on Periscope, saving web resources, and in general being envious of all of those who were there.  Today I expect more of the same.

The session go by so fast but I’ve found some real inspiration in some of the speakers and their messages.  Rafranz Davis (@RafranzDavis) introduced my to the power of an Ignite presentation (five minutes, 20 slides.) She spoke so eloquently about diversity.  Soledad O’Brien’s (@soledadobrien) opening keynote address focused on equity of access and the true power of technology in education.  Yesterday I had the the privilege of listening to George Couros (@gcouros) in his session on creating a culture of innovation.  What an amazing leader!  I also had the opportunity to feel like a true #ISTE2015 participant when Monica Burns (@ClassTechTips) made the extra effort to pull in the virtual ISTE Live audience as part of her presentation on wearable technology in the classroom.  How excited was I when my questions and comments were repeated by her to the ISTE crowd in Philadelphia!  She truly made me feel like I had a voice. Finally, Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent) has been kind enough to walk me through poster sessions, the blogger’s cafe, and the exhibit hall with his live feed on Periscope.  I got to virtually meet Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers), Erin Klein (@KleinErin), and Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1).  There has been so much more and I’ll be glad when the archived sessions are posted so that I can go back and watch some again!

Today will be another booked day! I never imagined that I would be so consumed by the virtual experience.  Looking forward to the opening keynote by Jack Gallagher and the other ISTE live events planned for the day.

Inspired Idea: Virtual Summer Reading Club

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In the midst of my end of the school year rituals, I received an email from a parent.  Her daughter, a voracious reader, was having surgery and would be bedridden for a lot of the summer.  This mother wanted to know if I knew of any opportunities for children’s virtual book clubs.  I told her that off hand I didn’t but I would check into it.  The idea began spinning around in my head and I realized that I could provide this opportunity.  With just enough school year left for some publicity, I launched my 2015 Virtual Summer Reading Club.  (I know… not a very original club name, but hey, I was proud of myself for just getting it off the ground!)

I created a group in Edmodo and posted a link for the club on our library website.

Here’s how our reading club works…

This summer we will read three books, one each in June, July and August.  All of the titles are nominees for the 2015-2016 Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Awards. Our virtual book club will meet on Edmodo and discussion questions and replies will be posted at least once a week. Club members could simply read what others have to say, but are encouraged to take an active part in the conversation!  (See the directions below.)  Students can earn Edmodo badges for participation.  Using Edmodo has been a bit of a learning curve for all involved, but I think that the participants are starting to catch on.

The Menagerie

The Menagerie, by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland. Image from Harper Collins Children’s.

To date there are 47 members of the club (teachers and students) with new members joining every few days.  We have about 10 really active participants but (disappointingly) many members who have only logged on once.  Our first book is The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland.  All of the active participants seem to really be enjoying the book and the discussion has been very impressive!

From Owen B. : “When i was reading the book before bed, i was only going to read a chapter but i read two chapters. Mrs Shenefiel was right, i can’t put it down!!!”

From Mrs. H.: “I just started the book today, so I’m late, and my first thought when I saw the book, was this wasn’t my kind of book, BUT I’m really enjoying it!”

As we move through the final chapters of the Menagerie, I’m hoping that the club members will be just as excited about the second title (which will remain a mystery until we’re ready to start!) Look for an update later in the summer.

FYI…here are the directions/reminders that I posted: 

Directions:

  1. As you read, make tracks or keep notes, and notice details about the characters, setting, plot, and writing style.
  2. After you have finished reading the section please post at least one discussion question related to the character, setting, plot, or writing style. (You are welcome to post more than one question.)
  3. Finally… after you have posted your discussion question, please reply to at least one other question posted by another club member. The whole point of this club is to spark an online conversation, so post and reply as much as you wish.

Reminders:

  • Discussion questions are open-ended and may not have a right or wrong answer. Good discussion questions may allow for different opinions supported with evidence from the text.
  • If you choose to read ahead, please do not post spoilers (or questions that might be spoilers.) Spoilers are when you give away something about the plot that should be a surprise to the reader.
  • Be respectful in your posts. We may have different opinions about what happens in this story and that’s OKI We don’t always have to agree with everyone. We do have to respect those differences though. I reserve the right to make your membership “read-only,” if your posts or conversations becomes disrespectful.

Summer Reading: A Long Walk to Water

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A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park


Genre: Realistic Fiction

Recommended for: grades 5 and up

Based on actual events, the story of two children into different time periods, facing life-threatening struggles in the country of Sudan.

Topics/Themes: drinking water, Sudan, family, Sudanese Civil War, The Lost Boys of Sudan, global issues, helping others, survival

My Two Cents: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  Each chapter in this book intertwines the stories of two children trying to survive in circumstances that the average American child can barely imagine.  Nya’s twice daily trek to fetch drinking water for her family seems like such an antiquated prospect to us, and yet this event is a reality for many children today. Salva’s story begins with the bombing of his school by Sudanese rebels and his subsequent escape from his village.  Separated from his family he will travel on foot for hundreds of miles over several years through the deserts of southern Sudan, then Ethiopia, on to Kenya and finally to the U.S.

A Long Walk to Water is an inspirational story of struggle, survival, and giving back.  (I’m thinking One Book, One School!) It is also a story that begs us to get involved, take action, and make a difference in our world.  Salva Dut founded the non-profit orgaization Water for South Sudan to help the people of South Sudan drill for clean drinking water in their villages.  On this website you can find more information about A Long Walk for Water and other resources related to the book.

Watch this moving video about how Water for South Sudan is changing the lives of the people of South Sudan:

Water for South Sudan from Water for South Sudan on Vimeo.

For a more in-depth look at this book, check out Linda Sue Park interviewing Salva Dut. (Also from the Water for South Sudan website.):

Pair with: 

Hoping for Peace in Sudan : Divided by Conflict, Wishing for Peace by Jim Pipe.

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water across the World by Christine Ieronimo

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together

Summer Resolutions

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The first week of summer vacation… sitting on the burning deck… sunglasses on…a tall icy glass of lemon water (or something)… catching up on the reading…  If you’re anything like me (and many other teachers) summer break is a time for closure, renewal, and planning.  To me it also feels like New Years.  On that first official day of summer break I’m always making my list of summer resolutions:

  • Exercise more
  • Read one book everyday (ok… maybe every other day…)
  • Spend one hour a day tackling house projects
  • Take an online class
  • Plan all of my displays for next year
  • Do something new every week
  • Cook more meals
  • Clean out my photo library (again)
  • Update my blog
  • etc., etc., etc….

When I think of it, I actually make A LOT more summer resolutions than New Year’s resolutions.  I’m also just now realizing why, about a week into break, I want school to be back in again.  (This list looks like disappointment waiting to happen…)

So what’s that one summer resolution?  How do you keep it?

Summer Reading: The Mighty Miss Malone 

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After a very, very long hiatus, summer reading is finally back! Check back periodically to read my book reviews as I read away the hazy hot and humid days of summer!


The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

http://www.nobodybutcurtis.com



Genre
: historical fiction

Recommended for: grades 4 and up

Deza Malone and her family struggle to return to normalcy after a tragic accident involving her father forces them to leave their home in Gary Indiana.

Topics/themes: families, African-Americans, the great depression, Joe Lewis (boxer), resilience, poverty, character development, alliteration, words

My two cents:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I’m happy to finally have had the opportunity to have read this book. It was recommended to me by a colleague shortly after it came out and I’m just getting around to it now.

As I’ve seen in many of Curtis’ books his characters rely on the strong relationships with family and friends. Deza and her family are smart and caring and were it not for the fact they are African-American and living during the Great Depression their story might be completely different. In his afterwards, Curtis talks about poverty in America today.  This book could be a great springboard for conversations about education, and children, and the impact that poverty has on their lives.

Pair with:

Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Bird in the Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Lessons From a Train Wreck

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Last week the fifth grade began research on the American Colonies.  The lesson was promising.  The social studies teachers collaborated with the language arts teachers, and me, to plan the unit.  It was up to me to kick it all off.  We had two sessions scheduled that day.  Things were going amazingly well.  The students and teachers had a conversation about research, choices, and reliable sources.  We moved on to using text features to find specific information with the text.  Every hand was in the air as the students begged to be able to contribute to our list of text features.  Three teachers beamed at each other proudly from different corners of the room.

Hands Up

Hooray for text features! Photo by Mr. T.

The classes were scheduled to come back in the afternoon to use the non-fiction books, and their text features, to find information that would help them better understand various aspects of life in their assigned colony (general information, government, education, industry, climate and geography, and religion.) The plan in the afternoon was to group the students at tables by colony.  Three or four students would then each select a different book and examine the various text features of their book  to determine how that particular book could be helpful for their research on one of the subtopics.  They would then find a paragraph to read about the subtopic and read for understanding.  In the last 15 minutes of class they would share what they learned about their books as well as what they learned about their subtopic.

Before the classes left in the morning, as an afterthought, I explained to the teachers that I felt the students would benefit from a scaffold to help them as they used the books.  In between my duties and my other classes I scrambled to have a scaffold ready for the afternoon session.

As I read this now, its so obvious to me that they were getting way too much at once.  Even writing about it is way too much at once… but hindsight is 20/20.

The students came back in the afternoon.  I’ve never seen so much, go so wrong, so quickly!  The students were completely confused and frustrated.  There was a steady chorus of teachers (myself included) saying, “We told you this already!”; “You’re not listening to directions!”; “No.. you can’t look at you text features until you’ve decided as a group which subtopic going to be your focus!”; “You should be reading with your pencil down…”  There were books and papers and pencils and more papers everywhere… and many teachers and students with their heads in their hands.  It was a train wreck.  Truly.

I did what I always do in these situations.  I reflected.  Tomorrow I would have another group coming in for the same lesson and I knew things couldn’t stay the same.  I decided that I had made two big mistakes with my presentation.  First, I didn’t model the strategies for evaluating text features.  I had given the students a list of questions on which to focus but hadn’t shown them how to do it.  Second, my scaffold wasn’t clear.  There were too many sections and too much text.  I decided that I would use a slide on the projector to keep the students on track and make the sequence of the tasks more clear.

The next morning when the groups arrived (different teachers than the day before) the morning went much then same as it had the day before.  I had already talked to these teachers about how I was going to revise the lesson and try to learn from the day before.  I spent part of the morning modeling some of the strategies that I wanted the students to use.  My instructions were more clear and concise.  As I anticipated the afternoon, I felt much better and knew that these students would be much more successful.  The students came back in the afternoon and I went over directions one last time.  I had my slide on the projector outlining the tasks for the afternoon.  I sent them to their table with their heads nodding… yes… they knew what had to be done… they got it!

…until they actually sat down and started to work.

I watched as the whole train wreck repeated itself.  These kids were just as confused as the others!  “What am I looking for?”… “Should I be taking notes?”…  “There’s nothing in this book [titled The Virginia Colony]  about the government of the Virginia colony.”  How could I have gotten it so wrong two days in a row?

After school I went to those teachers and we discussed the lessons.  The comment that struck me most was from one of the social studies teachers who said, “I’ve been teaching research for 13 years and today is the first time that I realized that when I tell them to use the table of contents to find something to read, they may not know how to do that.”

Here’s what we learned from two train wrecks:

  • The students might be able to identify text features, but using them in a variety of real-life situations is another matter.
  • We need to teach the students to use inference when working with text features, especially when the authors of non-fiction texts get creative with chapter titles
  • Our students need practice with creating synonyms and related words when using the index
  • Our students need to practice problem-solving strategies when they hit a road block and they need to develop research stamina
  • We need to chunk these research experiences into smaller tasks
  • We need to provide direct instruction on how to research, and we need to do it at an earlier age
  • We need to slow down and take our time when teaching research

I love teaching research.  I literally get butterflies in my stomach when I begin a research lesson with my classes.  I love the moment when they read something and make a connection.  I love seeing their eyes light up because they get it!  I’m so thankful for this train wreck because it will provide me with an example for other teachers, who don’t yet see teaching research the way that we do.  Teaching research is more than handing a student a book and saying “Go.”  What these teachers and I know is that teaching research is an active process.  It’s slow and deliberate and messy.  It’s a lot of work!

So… “Thank you!” to my colleagues for sticking with me and with the process.  Although we were all feeling some pain, we all came out understanding more about how our students learn.  I’m so grateful that you have the energy and determination to see this process through.  I’m so glad that you are not taking the easy way out.

What a great mess!