Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tutorial: Using Keywords to Promote Your Blog posts

keywords,search engine optimization, SEO, blog posts

Keywords.  Keyword stuffing.  Search engine optimization.  The importance of using keywords. There is a ton of stuff out there on this topic!  Early on, I figured I was too busy creating new products to worry about what they were or why I should even think about them.  But this summer, I've been reading and listening to folks as they talk about this and I've come to realize it's not that hard and it doesn't take that much time to do.

And it's very, very valuable.  It takes a little bit of thought, and then it's pretty easy to do.

This is for beginners, and I hope what you read here will help put your products and blog posts in front of more people.  So, let's start at the very beginning (the very best place to start.) Sorry, I come from a family that bursts into song when any random synapse starts firing.

What are Key words?  
Think for a moment about who purchases your products.  What does that person look like?  For me, my products are primarily ELA, for 4th-8th graders.  So my teacher would most likely be an upper elementary or middle school teacher.  Now, what words would that teacher be using if he or she was looking for say, one of my novel studies?  Lit circle?  Novel studies? Books for small groups?  Those are the words I want to make sure to include in my key word search.
Where do you insert key words?keywords, search engine optimization, SEO, blog postsi
Everytime you insert a picture into a blog post, you want to link that picture to key words.  If you ask people to pin your blog post, you don't just want the title to be "search-worthy" but also the pictures. And it's easy to do.  

Insert the picture where you want it and click on Properties.  That will bring up this screen.

keywords, search engine optimization, SEO, blog posts
In the alt text box, type in the key words you want to use.  You don't need to write a sentence, just write the words, separated by commas or /.  Don't overdo it - that's "keyword stuffing" and can result in bad stuff happening.  Two, three, or four words or phrases should be more than enough.

Anywhere else?
One final place, and that's in your blog post settings.  I use blogger, so I don't know how it works on other platforms, but I assume you can find it in your settings.
When you click on this, it opens a box that lets you type.  Once again, keep it simple.  Think of what someone would search for if they were looking for your blog post.

And that will get you started!  If you've found other tips that work for you, please share.  I'm truly at the beginning of this learning curve!



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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Powerful nonfiction books to read with your students

Four nonfiction books that will grab your students' attention and keep them reading.
I love read-aloud time in my classroom.  It's one of my favorite things to do.  No strings attached, an occasional question asked, but mostly this is time for kids to sit back and listen to good books and fluent reading.  

I try to stretch their reading interests.  You think you only like realistic fiction?  Listen to this historical fiction book!  Or what about this science fiction one?  

I love history and sharing background historical information with students to flesh out their understanding of something they're reading, but I'd never read nonfiction books aloud to them.  Until this year.  Here are four books that are worth reading to your upper-elementary and middle school students.
Nonfiction read aloud
Caitlin's choice of a penpal in Zimbabwe, because it sounded more exotic than countries in Europe, changed her life.  She began an unlikely friendship with Martin - unlikely because of the distance, socioeconomic differences, and that their friendship had to be maintained by writing letters.  On paper.  With a pen or pencil.  As unlikely as that seems, they exchanged letters for six years, learning a lot about each other and themselves in the process.  Chapters alternate between Caitlin's and Martin's points of view.

Nonfiction read aloud
This book won the vote for next read-aloud, between several nonfiction books, with one of my classes.  This is the story of eight men who (like Amelia Earhart, my students reminded me) couldn't find the island they were supposed to land on in the Pacific Ocean, during World War II.  On board their plane was VIP Eddie Rickenbacker (a name I wasn't familiar with, but a hero of both world wars) The plot moves more slowly because the men spend a lot of time in rafts on the ocean, but their struggles with hunger, thirst, and sharks, makes it a compelling read.  A few girls started to get impatient with the book midway through ("Are they going to survive?") but most students stayed pretty glued.
This is one of my favorite books because Malala Yousafzai feels so approachable in her book.  She's not much older than my students and she, like they, has strong opinions about school.  Unlike my students, however, she nearly lost her life for expressing those opinions aloud.  Continuing to champion the rights of girls to have access to education, she went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  I have used this book in multiple ways over the years, including with small literature circles.  You can find the novel study for students to delve deeply into the book, here.
                                         Nonfiction read aloud
I picked this book up before I left for a quiet weekend get-away, thinking I might start to read it.  I couldn't put it down!  This is the story of NASA and the African-American mathematicians who performed the computations that helped engineers create flying machines - airplanes and later, rocket ships. Sound pretty dry?  Not at all!  These women worked at a time when most women didn't.  It is the story of civil rights, the Space Race, the Cold War, and gender rights. Powerfully told from the point of view of four women, its honesty and action will capture the interest of many students.  A novel study for students can be found here.

I hope you get the chance to read some of these books this summer, so that you can recommend them to your students ~

Friday, June 9, 2017

The impact of technology on reading


Ever since reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, I have challenged my students each year to read at least 25 books.  We practice building reading stamina, we talk about how busy life can get, and how hard it is some days, to find half an hour to read.  We explore places where books can be read and students come up with ideas like these: at a sibling's practice, in the car, waiting for everyone to get ready to go somewhere, or at a relative's house where there are no kids.  And every year, I'm always a bit surprised when the average number of books is over 25.  It's typically in the low 30's.

Until this year.

I had a feeling around Christmas that we weren't going to be close.  It wasn't just that some of my stronger students still said they didn't like to read.  Although they did like being read to!

There just wasn't an enthusiasm for books like I'd seen in previous classes.  I think that there's no such thing as an unenthusiastic reader, there's only a kid who hasn't found the right book yet.  But here it was, months into the school year, and there were more students than usual who were still feeling pretty ambivalent.  "Curl Up With a Book and Read" days helped, but stamina still wasn't where it could have been.

I had a hunch.  We went 1:1 with iPads this year.  I didn't want to believe it.  But students told me, when we talked about it.  Their iPads held much more draw than any book did.  They had no interest in reading on their iPads.  Reading took a back seat almost EVERY SINGLE TIME to pretty much anything-but-reading.

😓😞  Now that the school year is over, I'm wondering.  I'm still feeling a bit defeated.  Matching kids up with books and getting them excited about reading was a big part of my reputation!  

Here's the thing:  I love iPads!  I love what they can provide for students, and we use them daily in my room.  But at the expense of reading?

Have you noticed a change?  What do you do to keep kids reading?