Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Greg and Rodrick: What Comes Next?

I was thinking the other day about kids who read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and when I'd conference with them one-on-one, armed with a bunch of other ideas about books they could read when they were finished, all they wanted to do was read them all over again.  Something about books with more text scared them. At first.

Now don't get me wrong, Jeff Kinney totally gets awkward preteen/teenage boys!  And I'd watch these kids, usually boys, curl up and chuckle away at their antics in each of these books. Nothing wrong with that!

But that got me thinking about the "BIG" change I went through this year (no, not that one, been there, done that!) I mean the one where I read a comment by one of my Reading heroes, Donalynn Miller that changed my way of thinking.  She said something like this (and I paraphrase)...."Hey Dummy!  Stop thinking that because kids are reading graphic novels they're not reading.  You read books of all kinds, why can't they?"

Her words were a little more eloquent.  But that got me thinking about what else I have in my classroom library for kids for whom these books are a good fit.  These are the ones I have:

These fly off my shelves almost as quickly as the Wimpy Kid books do.  And even though I have doubles of most of these, someone's usually waiting for the next one to be returned.

Janet Tashjian has written a series of these - My Life as a Book, My Life as a Joke, and My Life as a Stuntboy.  I manage to lose at least one copy of these every year.  Guess that means that someone's enjoying them!

This series - there are at least ten now - feels to me like the "girls' version" of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  I don't mean to give these a gender, but I don't ever see any boys reading this series, although I do see a number of girls reading Wimpy Kid.

This trio of books by Raina Telgemeier flew off my shelves when I finally bought them this past year.  The girls (and a few boys) handed them back and forth, promising to finish one overnight so the next person could read it.  They loved them and wanted to know if Telgemeier would write more like this.  Smile and Sisters are more connected than Drama, but that didn't stop anyone from reading all three.

And finally, this one, which I found a really touching and thoughtful read, about a girl who is deaf and has to wear a rather large and bulky hearing aid which makes her feel very self-conscious.  Lots of kids read this one too.

So, how about you?  What do you give your Diary of a Wimpy Kid readers to read after they finish those books?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Bucket List linky

I've linked up with Natalie at What the Teacher Wants and her Summer Bucket list.  A few days late, but it's worth putting it out there - makes me more likely to hold onto these goals!

I don't have a lot of concrete goals as much as ideas that I want to let play around in my head for a while.  So, here goes!

We used a new, very intensive Reading series this past year, and while there were a lot of aspects I liked about it, there were also some that I didn't.  I want to think about where I can adjust things for next year.  The more I think about that now, the better it'll be!

My students loved some of the creative writing opportunities that I provided for them.  But I felt like we did it in spurts.  I'd love to find a way to make that a more regular part of my week.

I am so loving the chance to wake up without an alarm clock!  I putter around the house for a while in my pj's and it's okay.  There's no rush to be anywhere, most days.  I am really, really enjoying this!  

I learned last year that Austria, the birthplace of both of my parents, was making citizenship available to any offspring of people who had to leave the country under duress.  My parents, who didn't know each other then, fled during the rise of anti-Semitism after Austria was overrun by Germany.  Although my mother converted and we were raised Christians, this feel like a wonderful opportunity for restitution.  

My three children (all in their 20's) were very interested in having me do this, so I'm am meeting lots and lots of government officials, as I get documents notarized, certified, apostilled, and every other kind of stamp that can be given to make something official.  I've been to New York City (got to see my daughters so that was fun), I'm heading to Washington, D.C., and I'll head over to Harrisburg, PA at some point.
I have a dear friend who owns a home at the beach.  She'll be gone for a few weeks, so I get to stay there!  What a wonderful way to refresh and restore!  One of my daughters recently said, "The beach is the only place I can go where I am truly 'present.'  I can go there and the rest of the world falls away."  So, so true!

I completely changed up the way we eat last summer, and we're all feeling healthier for it.  I don't follow any particular plan, but it's definitely more whole food/Paleo/no wheat/no sugar.  I enjoy having the extra time during the summer to play around in the kitchen, trying out recipes I've found on food blogs or pinterest.

Enjoy these wonderful days of summer!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Too many books, not enough $$

At the end of the year, I often get a gift card or two from my students to purchase new books.  They know how much I encourage reading and they want me to stay on top of the latest books out there.  I'm always thinking about books I want to buy for my new class, but this year, the choices are quite a bit greater than my pocketbook!  Part of the reason for that is that I finally listened to my hero, Donalynn Miller, and started a section for graphic novels.  But the other is that there just are a lot of good choices.

Have you read any of these?  Which ones should I buy?

  And the list goes on and on.  Have you read any of these books?  Are there others which should be on my list?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Kids Say the Darndest Things!

Does anyone remember that show?  Or maybe the book?  I think it was a radio show, or maybe an early TV show?  Not sure.

But I thought about that phrase the other day when I was looking over some student work.  I've been using the Reading Olympians program of Latin and Greek roots for the past two years, and I have to say I'm really pleased with how it's helped my students' abilities to figure out words.  I didn't create it, but the two teachers who did are brilliant!

So, my kids were using the root "psych" in a sentence.  And one student wrote:

"Robin was Batman's psychic."

I kid you not.
Not quite right, but it cracked me up!

Then, the other day, we were discussing the root "quint" and how it means five.  The kid were brainstorming a bunch of words that had "quint" in them and they were all working away furiously.  And one girl wrote:

"Quintuplets are five babies born from the same mother's whom."


These just make me laugh.  And that's a good way to be as we come into our last week of school!

Have a great week!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Your classroom library, and graphic novels

How do you manage your classroom library?  For years, I've had a checkout system where kids wrote their names and the book checked out in a binder, then crossed it out when they returned it.

If they remembered to do that.

If they remembered to return the book.

Someone told me about Booksource about a month ago.  It allows you to scan all of your books by location or genre, and kids check out the books by scanning the ISBN code on an iPad.

Have you used this?  Any success stories?

I feel like it has the potential to be good, but it's not quite there yet.  Convince me otherwise, please!

And speaking of all-time favorite author on all things reading, Donalynn Miller, wrote a blog post the other day that basically said, "Stop being a dork and let your kids read graphic novels.  It doesn't mean they won't read other books, too!"  Okay, that's not quite what she said, but that's how it hit me.  If you want to see what she actually said, click here.  So, today, I went to the bookstore and bought these books for my library.
Okay, the last two aren't graphic novels.  I was familiar with Raina Telgemeier's books, but El Deafo looks pretty interesting.  May have to plop down on the couch and read that one tonight so that I can tell kids about it tomorrow!

Have a good rest of the week!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Socratic seminars, Common Core, and eyes opened

Always looking for new ways to engage kids in deeper, more analytical thinking, I decided about a month ago to have them read a short, two-page passage and be prepared to discuss it in Socratic Seminar.

I was trained in this method years ago, but never used it much.  This year, with the depth of knowledge required for the passages my students are reading, I thought it might help.  And it did.  Some of the time.  And some of the time, it just blew up.  Let me tell you what happened.....

The first time I did it, we discussed the rules of engagement and kids, for the most part, were totally engaged.  I had one class (of my three) where I felt like more kids needed to be drawn out, but for the most part, I was blown away by the depth of understanding, their willingness to go back into the passage to explain their thought process - it was all pretty cool!

So I decided to do it again, a couple of weeks later, with a similar piece of text.  My first class was knock-your-socks-off phenomenal!  Not only did the kids pull apart the piece and discuss their opinions with evidence cited, but they engaged quieter kids by asking their opinions and inviting them into the discussion.  I was really blown away.

....and then came my second class.  This group of kiddos has some with strong personalities, and boy, oh boy, did those personalities come out!  A couple of kids tried to take charge. I had to intervene and remind kids that Socratic seminar is a sharing of thoughts and opinions based on text but that it was neither a debate nor was there only one right answer.  And that kid who wanted to take control needed to relax and give room for everyone to express their thoughts.  A girl said that she felt like every time she tried to speak, so did other kids, and although they were all good about backing off, she felt like she never got a chance to get back into the discussion.  I saw heads nodding.  Uh oh.

How to create a more equal playing field?  I thought quickly and came up with checkers pieces that I handed out.  Every time you presented an opinion, you used a chip.  That seemed to help, although I wasn't thrilled with having to resort to that.

....and then came my third class.  In this one, four or five kids talked and many, many kids seemed truly uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their ideas.  When I stopped the discussion midway to ask why, they told me that the group was too large and they would prefer something smaller.  "How small?" I asked.  Four or five kids.  What?  Wow!  That was a real eye-opener for me, since my first class had been about 25 students!  We finished up the next day as they had requested.  My largest group had eight kids but most had only five.  You could feel the relief!

What an eye-opener this second session was!  I love how Socratic seminar forces kids to think more about what they're reading and how they learn from each other's explanations.  I will need to tailor the seminars to each class, and I suspect there will be more trial and error along the way.  But I'm committed to keep going!

Have any of you used it?  For what?  What do you do with kids who want to monopolize, or conversely, with kids who are reluctant to talk?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Word of wisdom, a good reminder

I was telling a colleague about a great couple of days I'd been having with my students as we tweaked a way they were responding to open-ended prompts.  When I finished telling him about how engaged my students were, he smiled and said, "Huh....and you didn't use a single piece of technology!"  And then he went on a rant about how pushing technology into our classrooms isn't always the best thing for our kids.

Displaying IMG_0486.JPGI didn't agree with everything he said, but there is some truth about the level of engagement when you do something simple like hand kids paper and markers and let them collaborate and think aloud together.  Maybe because we use so much technology that paper and marker seems like fun?

I was moving our kids from a RADD+C form of response (restate, answer, give details, and conclude) to a RACER format (restate, answer, cite evidence, explain, and review). I call it a "tweak" of what they'd done because everything was familiar except the Explain part.

The first day, we worked on one together as I modeled a response to a test question they were familiar with.  The second day, I gave them another familiar test question and they had to create a graphic organizer and their responses on poster paper.  I was SO impressed with their conversations, how they handled different opinions, and how they came to consensus.

Displaying IMG_0487.JPG
Displaying IMG_0488.JPGThe third day, we did a gallery walk and discussed what we liked and what we thought needed to be improved from the posters we'd seen hanging around the room.

And on Monday, they will write out a response to something they read earlier in the week, and I'll get to for whom this format works, and who still needs a little help with it.

I'm really thrilled about what I saw.  And, as my colleague reminded me by his rant, just using poster paper and some colored markers can still be a fun experience for kids at this age!

Have a wonderful weekend!  We have snow in the forecast for Sunday night (again - but it's never amounted to much.)  Still, the thrill of snow is still exciting right now!