Yesterday I had the incredible honor of declaring myself a reading warrior along with hundreds of other passionate nerdcampers. Thanks to the awesome Erin Klein,this Ignite/Nerdtalk from Nerdcamp 2015 is below. If you have never experienced Nerdcamp, you need to put a huge “X” in your calendar for next year. It was absolutely incredible to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about literacy as I am. We will change literacy instruction if we band together! Thank you to Colby, Alaina, Suzanne and all of the other incredible people that put this event together.
PS: Due to the slides not working you will see me filling 3 minutes of awkward silence with my stand up routine – luckily I think I am better teacher than stand up.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud…
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.
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.
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.
Mr. Schu (@MrSchuReads) has been traveling around the country giving away copies of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (@kaaauthor). Today he posted this video created by students and staff at Harvard Elementary School who are reading The One and Only for their One Book, One School campaign.
A big round of applause for the students and staff of Harvard Elementary! The excitement in this video is contagious, and if you haven’t already read this book, this video will make you want to run out and read it immediately. What strikes me is how everyone got involved in the video, and how, clearly, this book and the making of this video brought everyone in the school together. The planning must have been extensive, but it is so worth it! I hope that Harvard Elementary inspires a series of spin-off videos from other elementary schools… I would LOVE to see Eden Hall be one of those schools…
Adrien Marie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve been immersed in Verdi. Our next faculty field trip is scheduled for tomorrow. Three of us are going to see the Pittsburgh Opera production of Verdi’s Aida. It’s more than three hours long. We’ll be sitting in peanut heaven. And… we’ll be competing against Steelers’ traffic. I can’t wait!
Please realize there’s no sarcasm intended in the last statement. I truly can’t wait! The only music I’ve listened to in the last two weeks has been Aida. On my way to work, cleaning the house, mowing the grass, getting dressed. I have no idea what the libretto is actually saying. I can tell by the music that it doesn’t end well. Today, finally, I had he opportunity to read the synopsis. I love it! I wish I spoke (sang) Italian so that I could truly appreciate the musical genius that is Verdi.
I almost regret that I have to see it, because I know that the instant the ensemble sings, “Emancipa!” or, “Radames! Radames! Radames!” those moments will be over and I’ll have only memories.
Featured in this post from Ms. O reads books, this Sesame Street parody of the Karate Kid teaches children to listen with their whole body. Although Sesame Street is a bit young for our students, I can still envision them enjoying this clip and reciting the mantra: “Eyes watch. Ears listen. Voice quiet. Body calm.” What do you think? (It kept me entertained!)
I’m not sure if you go through the same mental soul searching that I do at the beginning of each school year, but I thought this list might be of interest to those of you who do. I’m always trying to find a way to better myself, and improve the service I provide to the teachers and students whom I serve. I know I won’t be all of these things all of the time, but it’s nice to have aspirations…
Robert Lang can create some amazing origami works of art. What’s really cool is, he has actually used math to break down the process. In this TEDTalk he demonstrates how this works. Admittedly, the math is above my head, but for you math junkies out there, and your advanced students this could be something really interesting to explore. You can also download his software, Treemaker, to help automate the process. (Again, I downloaded it, but don’t quite get it! )
In this post Mr. Collins lists his “goto” websites. There are a plethora of interesting sites lessons and activities for a variety of age groups (leaning to the more advanced side for most.) FYI most of the sites are from the UK so you’ll see the word “maths” a lot.
Both of the above links are from A Platform For Good.org. In this day and age, digital citizenship should be a focus in every classroom. I hope to use some of these resources as I plan instruction this year.
This is an amazing app that allows creates an augmented reality version of a still picture. I think it’s like a cooler version of a QR code. I predict it will be the next big thing. Check out this blog post about using Aurasma in the music classroom. I think it would be interesting to use this with the children’s literature statues in the link above.
Sources for my sources: Richard Byrne (@richardbyrne), Erin Klein (@KleinErin), Joy H.
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. Realistic Fiction/Mystery/Folklore.
Naomi and Lizzie find their friendship tested when a body falling out of a tree turns out to be Finn, a boy who captures hearts. Meanwhile, across the ocean, Mrs. Kavanaugh and Miss Pilpenny discuss murder and plot revenge.
Recommended for: Grades 5 and up, discussing symbolism, discussing author’s craft and word choice, readers who like a bit of sadness, but not sobbing tear-jerkers, readers who like a mystery, readers who are able to trust a story, discussing characterization, discussing parallelism
My Two Cents: It was very hard to assign a genre to this book. In some respects it felt like a mystery… Who (or what) is Finn? What kind of devious revenge are the spinsters planning? In some respects this felt like folklore/fantasy… Is Finn a ghost? What’s with all of the crows (rooks)? Is there really fairy gold? I think though that this is mostly a story about relationships, which I think makes it fall best under realistic fiction. Reading the themes and content above you may get the impression that this is a dark depressing book, but in fact it is not.
For the many Sharon Creech fans out there, the writing won’t disappoint. She just has such a unique style that on every page I was delighted with her little gems of word choice. This was also a book I had a hard time putting down, for several reasons. Of course her word choice is incentive enough to keep reading, but I really loved Naomi, Lizzie, and all of the characters in the book. Naomi is down to earth and a little sarcastic (which I can always appreciate.) Lizzie is a little more needy and formal, and a chatterbox! They make an unusual pair, but when their friendship is tested you find yourself hoping that they will overcome the challenge. Finn is a charmer, and a mystery and the source of friction between the girls. The odd thing is that even after finishing the book he is still a mystery to me. The secondary characters in both Blackbird tree and “Across the Ocean” are just as interesting, each one with a unique quirk or personality.
This book could be challenging for some readers. It is the kind of book in which you have to have a little blind faith that the confusion at the beginning of the story will work itself out by the time you reach the end. That confusion was part of what kept me glued to this book. I kept reading because wanted to make sense of the story. Creech is masterful in the way that she reveals essential plot points little by little along the way. This could work as a read aloud, but might be difficult because of the way the dialog is written (at times,) and the Irish brogue.
Here is a short video in which Sharon Creech discusses The Great Unexpected:
Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:
Blashfield, Jean F. Ireland. New York: Children’s Press, 2002. Print.
Burns, Batt. The King with Horse’s Ears and Other Irish Folktales. New York: Sterling, 2009. Print.
De Valera, Sinéad. The Magic Gifts. Dublin, Ireland: Wolfhound Press, 2000. Print.
Doyle, Roddy. A Greyhound of a Girl. New York: Amulet Books, 2012. Print.
Krull, Kathleen. A Pot o’ Gold : a Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of course) Blarney. New York: Hyperion Books, 2009. Print.
Spilsbury, Richard, and Louise Spilsbury. A Murder of Crows. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.
White, Ruth. Way Down Deep. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
Favorite Quote: (There were so many it was hard to choose!)
“Her companion, Miss Pilpenny, recapped the pen. ‘Yes, Sybil, a fine and clever revenge.’
‘Shall we have a murder tonight?’
‘Indeed Sybil, splendid notion.’
‘And then perhaps a little jam and bread.'”
(Creech, Sharon. The Great Unexpected. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2012. 10. Print.)
The Final Word(s): Beautiful writing! Stick with it! 😀
Yesterday Deb and I took another faculty field trip. We chose to tour Clayton, the Pittsburgh home of the Henry Clay Frick family. The Clayton tour is just one of many offerings from the Frick Art and Historical Center. The partnership between Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie resulted in their both amassing huge fortunes and power as they dominated the steel industry at the turn of the twentieth century. Their legacy lives on and today you’d be hard pressed to find a Pittsburgh-er who doesn’t know the names Frick and Carnegie.
This was my first visit to the Frick home and of course the tour was amazing! I was mesmerized by both the extravagance and the craftsmanship of the home. Everywhere you look, floor to ceiling, there is something beautiful or interesting to see. Henry Frick was an art collector, so aesthetics and attention to detail in the construction and decorating of the house were paramount. I marveled at the craftsmanship, finishing, and sheer amount of the woodwork. You wouldn’t think one could appreciate the door in Henry’s bedroom as much as the Monet in their sitting room, but I did. Yet, for all of their opulence, the Fricks were also devoted parents who doted on their children. This magnificent building feels warm and welcoming and there are pictures of the children in nearly every room.
Our tour guide was Cassie and if you visit the Frick I hope you have the pleasure of having her guide you. She was not only extremely knowledgeable, but very enthusiastic as well. The only part of her tour that I didn’t like was the part where she said we had to leave our cell phones. Not that I’m on my phone all the time, but I rely on it to keep notes. There were so many things that she talked about that I wanted to write down, but I didn’t have the app for that. Lesson one learned… invest in a small notebook and have a writing implement on faculty field trips.
While we’re on lessons learned here’s another. Homework should be done before the field trip. I should have know better. In graduate school I read Out Of This Furnace by Thomas Bell. So, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I know the story of Frick and Carnegie and the steel mills and the strikes… but that was many books ago. I should have at least checked out the Frick website and read the history before I went. If I had I might not be sitting here now wishing I had had a pencil (see lesson one.) Had I explored the website first I also would have also realized that the Frick offers many educational opportunities and resources for both students and teachers, including lessons, professional development, and this video tour of the home:
If you have the opportunity, take the time to visit Clayton and see how the other half lived.
The lives of three “dumpsite boys” become forever entwined when one day Raphael discovers a bag containing a wallet, a map, and a key. Soon all three are running from the police and desperately trying to solve the mystery of why the bag is so important to the authorities.
Themes/Content: Poverty, trash, waste, money, corruption, power, survival, courage, fear, friendship, education, codes, standards of living, character perspective, environment, greed
Recommended for: Grades 6 and up, readers who like dramatic stories, readers who like a lot of action, readers who like mystery, inquiry projects for social awareness or environmental issues, discussing character perspective
My Two Cents: When I choose a book to read I intentionally try to not know much about it. I rarely read the summaries or reviews before I read the book. It took me several chapters to realize I wasn’t reading dystopian science fiction. The conditions of squalor in which the characters live are so extreme, how could I think otherwise? Then I started thinking about my trip to Ghana several years ago, and I connected some of the scenes described in the book with some of the poverty stricken areas I had visited then. Here I confess that I broke out of my normal routine and skipped to the acknowledgements at the end. Mulligan said, “Behala dumpsite is based loosely on a place I visited whilst living in Manila.” Here is what he had to say about the book:
This book is definitely not for younger students, even though young children are the protagonists. The authorities are brutal with Raphael as they interrogate him. Rat (Jun-Jun) is completely alone in the world, living in the midst of filth and trash with the rats as company. Gardo takes the leadership role and gives the others strength. They all must take drastic measures just to survive in the harsh environment which surrounds them. The boys do find compassionate people who play a role is helping them solve the mystery. At first solving the mystery is a matter of survival, but eventually the boys realize that they are compelled to right a wrong that occurred before they were born.
This book will be eye-opening for those of our students who are born into a life of privilege. As we encourage our students to be more globally aware, Trash could be used to spark discussion about living conditions in developing countries and possibly as in impetus for our students to affect change. The book might also encourage students to learn more about the environmental impact of these very real sites.
Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:
Bailey, Gerry, and Felicia Law. Cowries, Coins, Credit. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2006. Print.
Bedford, Deborah J. Garbage Disposal. North Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2006. Print.
Bellamy, Rufus. Food for All. North Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2006. Print.
Clifford, Tim. Around the World with Money. Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Pub., 2009. Print.
Kent, Zachary. The Story of the Peace Corps. Chicago: Children Press, 1990. Print.
Ma, Yan, and Pierre Haski. The Diary of Ma Yan : the Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print.
Milway, Katie S. One Hen : How One Small Loan Made a big Difference. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2008. Print.
Povey, Karen D. Garbage. Detroit: KidHaven Press, 2006. Print.
Favorite Quote: “The absence of money is drought in which nothing can grow. Nobody knows the value of water until they’ve lived in a dry dry place- like Behala. So many people waiting for the rain.” (Mulligan, Andy. Trash. Oxford: David Fickling Books, 2010. 149. Print.)
Zoe and her family, who foster rescued Great Pyrenees dogs, hope that their furry friends will help the new boy next door find his voice.
Themes/Content: Family, courage, rescue dogs, mutism, Great Pyrenees dogs, writing, imagination, friendship, coping, patience, parrots, first person narratives
Recommended for: Grades 4 and up, dog lovers, read aloud, role models, Adopt a Shelter Pet Month (October)
My Two Cents: This is a heartwarming story for dog lovers everywhere. Zoe’s entire family serve as wonderful roles models. Her mother is passionate about rescuing unwanted dogs. Her father is a veterinarian. Her sister Alice has a vivid imagination and see everything through the lens of an author writing a story. Zoe is patient and courageous, especially when it come to her relationship with the new neighbor, Phillip.
Minor spolier alert: If you’re looking for high drama, this is not the book for you. There is just enough drama to to add a hint of danger. This is not a tear-jerker… no dogs die in this book.
This book would make a great read-aloud for any class. I would be the perfect choice for October, which is Adopt a Shelter Pet month. You could even tie in community service projects with the local animal shelter.
Nuzum, K A. The Leanin’ Dog. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2008. Print.
Paulsen, Jim, and Gary Paulsen. Road Trip. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2013. Print.
Favorite Quote: “We laughed and laughed so much that Kodi woofed at us, and the sun came out from behind a cloud creeping across the yard and up the steps to warm our feet.” (MacLachlan, Patricia. White Fur Flying. NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013. 47. Print.)