Books You Need to Read to Change How You Teach!

18 07 2018

I have spent a lot of time away from this place, but I miss it and I want to share some things that I have been up to….

Here are some professional development books that I have been reading this summer that I HAVE to share!

If you don’t know Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher as inspiring educators, you need to check this books out. I have read many of their other books, and highly recommend them all. Even though they are both high school teachers, this book is easily adaptable to middle school. These two teachers, who teach across the country, planned an entire year of teaching together. They share their ideas, what they learned and what they would do differently. I got so many ideas, and even tweaked some of the things I normally do after reading this book.

I have to admit that at first I wasn’t interested in reading this book. I thought, I don’t do whole class novels, so this book isn’t for me. I was WRONG! This book has so many ideas to improve my reading instruction and to help me guide my students through their independent reading, short stories we read together, literature circles (or book clubs), and read alouds!

This book is a must read as we teach kids in today’s world. Packed FULL of ideas on how to help students see beyond their world and to understand others. What I like about this book, is it is full of lesson ideas and you can do an entire unit on this, or sprinkle the lessons throughout the year. This book is going to guide  new literature circle/ book club themes and topics for the coming year (more on that coming up!).

Other professional development books  I have read in the past few years that I feel are worthwhile, and that will change how you teach are:
 

      

What are your favorite professional development books?

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Parents- Kids- Reading- it’s a book club!

20 06 2014

When you say parents, middle school students, books and reading some believe that it equals a recipe for disaster. Well, a few years ago a co-worker and I decided to try out this recipe- we created what we called a parent-child book club (still hate the name, but we couldn’t come up with anything better). We decided to see if there was an interest in having parents and students read the same book and then come together for an evening of book discussion, activities, snacks and reading fun! We found out that there were many parents and students who were interested in this type of program, and we’ve had a lot of really great nights where we all share our love of reading (even if we all didn’t love the book!).

We’ve definitely tweaked it over the years, but hopefully you can take a look at our recipe and see if there are some ingredients you may want to add to your school to create your own reading program that involves parents and their kids.

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 Here’s the recipe:

GOAL: Get kids and parents reading, talking, thinking, and sharing in the magic of reading together. We also felt that many parents didn’t know about some of the excellent young adult books that are out there and the power of young adult literature. We wanted the event to be stress free, fun, centered around the pure enjoyment of reading a book and sharing that enjoyment with others. We also wanted parents to be able to see their kids do some of the kinds of activities that are done in language arts classes.

PREHEAT: decide ahead of time on a book that would be appropriate and appeal to boys/ girls/ adults, 6th -8th graders and would lend itself to discussion and activities related to the book. We also tried to vary the genre each time. Once we figure out a book that would work, we had the students come and check out the books from us. We let the students take a book home for themselves and their parent (s). If we were short on books, they were allowed to check out one book per family.

LET RISE: give enough time for both the parents and students to read the books before the parent- child book club night.

BAKE: Once a quarter in the evenings from 7-9pm in the school library.

 

 

MIX IN: We always had coffee for parents and then a snack and food that was somehow related to the book (at times this was challenging!)

EXAMPLES OF FOOD:            

  • Snicker doodles, chips & salsa, assorted small candies (Stargirl)
  • Red apples, strawberries, cupcakes with red icing, Twizzlers (Giver)
  • Lemonade, lemon cake (Al Capone Does My Shirts )
  • Slurpee, brownies, pop, milk, fun straws (Acceleration)
  • Hot chocolate, oatmeal cookies (Down the Rabbit Hole)

STIR IN: Some fun! We always had a discussion element, but then mixed in a variety of activities that somehow related to the book. Parents and students both participated in these activities. When I say students below I refer to both students and parents.

EXAMPLES of the types of activities we did were. Book titles we used the activity for are in parenthesis.

  • Freeze frame or tableau. The students picked the part in the book they wanted to act out. (variety of books)
  • Reader’s theatre – we made from an important part of the book. The kids and parents took the script and then read and acted out the parts. (variety of books)
  • Had the students create and design their own utopia and draw it and explain it (The Giver)
  • Trace hand and put on wall a memory you don’t want to loose (The Giver).
  • Around the room were outlines of the different characters and some quotes the characters said in the book. The participants wrote their opinion about the character inside the body. We discussed & shared them later (The Revealers)
  • We had survival type games (Hunger Games)
  • Create a time capsule for present day. What would we put in it for people to open up in the future as that they can understand the past (The Last Book in the Universe).
  • Create a layered atmosphere (The Last Book in the Universe)
  • Make an anonymous card for someone who needs a pick me up and send it to them (Stargirl)
  • Agree/ Disagree- everyone moves to one side of room after statements related to the book are given (Giver)
  • Create your own motto (Stand Tall)
  • Create an “overcoming hardships” wall. Write advice for how to overcome a hardship ( Stand Tall)
  • Create a wisdom tree and include wise quotes from the book (Stand Tall)
  • Did an interactive online research about Alcatraz
  • On large butcher paper create a map of the setting. Be ready to explain it (Down the Rabbit Hole)
  • We gave the students clues and they create their own mystery story (Down the Rabbit Hole)
  • Debate- each group must defend an aspect of the population debate. Each group represents the farmers, government, hidden children, Barons (Among the Hidden)

 

 

LET COOL: at the end we gave each person a survey to get suggestions on future books we may consider reading, suggestions for the future, what kinds of activities worked well and what the participants enjoyed the most. We also book talked the next book and gave the date of the next meeting.

SPRINKLE: with a door prize such as the second book in a series that was read or a gift certificate to a bookstore. Enjoy with

PRESENTATION:  We always had a visual that related to the book around the room. We also tried to wear something that related to the book (black and white and hints of red for the Giver).

Examples of visuals:

  • We blew up large photos of Alcatraz and placed around room
  • Flowers on table with tablecloths and candy at everyone’s places (Stargirl)
  • Baseball items around the room, pictures of Al Capone (Al Capone)
  • We blew up the pictures in the book to see if the students could figure out the mystery in the pictures (Chasing Vermeer)
  • Bullying quotes and statistics placed all around the room in large fonts (The Revealers

 

OPTIONAL ADDITIONS:

We gave the parent/ child team a list of discussion questions so that as they read, they could talk about the book. We never collected these, or expected the participants to do these before hand. This was just an extra for them if they cared to do it.

 

*** We received a grant to help fund the cost of this parent-child reading program. Many parents said that they would be willing to pay to come, or to put money into a fund so that we could purchase the books. The books then were shelved in our library so that students could check them out, or teachers could use them as literature circle books. PTA or school funds may also be able to help fund this type of program.

 

These are some of the books we’ve done with success:

The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet

Stand Tall- Joan Bauer

Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli

Among the Hidden- Haddix

Down the Rabbit Hole- Abrahams

The Last Book in the Universe- Philbrick

The Giver- Lowery

Al Capone Does My Shirts- Choldenko

Acceleration- McNamee

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie- Sonnenblick

Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

The Gospel According to Larry – Tashjian





Poetry & Art

11 06 2014

Here is a neat idea to collaborate poetry and art.Traveling Stanzas  is a really neat project that the Kent State University design team and some local schools collaborated on. Students wrote poems and then sent them to the Kent State graphic art students. The Kent State students then took the poem, interpreted it using a variety of color, graphics and images to represent the poem.

The poems are great examples that I use when we mine for gold, but the art really brings out the poem. I am collaborating with our art teacher and our writing groups and writing poems, and her art students will interpret and design the piece. If you don’t have an art teacher, or don’t want to take on such a big project, start small and have the kids illustrate their own, or illustrate another classmates.

I am really excited to see how this turns out! Check out Traveling Stanzas to see the poems, art work and even purchase cards if you are interested.

This is one of my favorite poems:





Figurative Language Picture Books

9 03 2014

I am a BIG believer in reading picture books to my students. Students of all ages can appreciate a story read aloud and can reap the benefits of hearing a fluent reader.

Here are a few of my favorite Figurative Language picture books. I like to have my students create their own picture book story and incorporate as much figurative language into it as they can. My students love to read, share and look through these while they are writing and we are working on figurative language.

Alliteration:


Some Smug Slug– by Pamela Edwards- We had a lot of fun trying to find the S hidden on each page. I put the book on the Elmo so everyone could see!

The Worrywarts– by Pamela Edwards

Idioms:


Parts, More Parts and Even More Parts by Tedd Arnold. We laughed as we read this book! A young boy doesn’t quite get figurative vs. literal language. When his dad asks him to Lend a hand- he thinks his dad wants him to cut off his hand!

The Library Dragon by Deedy. This book has some great vocabulary words, idioms and puns.

Similes and Metaphors:


Owl Moon– Jane Yolen.- this book is full of rich language

All The Places to Love by MacLahlan- this book creates rich images using similes.

Personification:

Scarecrow by Rylant.

What are some other good picture books you use for figurative language?





Well Defined: Vocabulary Poems

2 03 2014

I showed my students the book, Well Defined, Vocabulary in Rhyme.

It is a really neat book taht takes vocabulary words and personifies them. The words int he poem also define the vocabulry word.

I read some of the poems to my students, we created some together and then sent them off writing their own.

These are some rough drafts of poems that we created:

Pessimism

Never expects anything to go right

She immediately rolls her eyes

She shakes her head

She says, “no way will that work”

Pessimism is easily annoyed with optimism,

can’t stand kudos and utterly hates bravo!

 

Hypothesis

He likes to guess in an educated kind of way

When trying to figure it out he writes it down

He assumes he is right, that his guess is true

He likes to get together with experiment and have rendezvous

“I think, I believe, I assume” are phrases he blurts out.

 





Working with Wordle

9 02 2014


If you haven’t seen or played around with Wordle, you may want to check it out! It is a simple site in which you insert text into a box and  it creates a word cloud.

The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the text.

You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with others.

I made a Wordle on the left with Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. I just copied the text and then played around with some layouts, fonts and colors. You can see the same speech portrayed in two different ways.

I have my students at the beginning of the year make Wordle’s on themselves so we can learn about them. You can have students create Wordle’s on a book review,characters in a book (the more important the characters are, the more frequently they put them into the text (so that they appear larger), review a historical document, or have them write their own speeches on a topic being studied and create a Wordle- the possibilities are endless!**

** Keep in mind that the Worlde gallery is not censored, and there may be inappropriate content found in the galleries. Hope this doesn’t hinder you using this in class!





Six Word Memoirs- So Simple, Yet So Profound

26 01 2014

I recently had my students write their own six word memoirs. If you haven’t seen any of the books, there are multiple Six Word Memoirs that Smith Magazine has compiled. The most recent is my favorite-I Can’t Keep My Own Secret:Six Word Memoirs by Teens Famous and Obscure.

These are memoirs that tell an entire story in only six words. I was nervous about having my student’s try this because I wasn’t sure if they would get it and be able to think of their own. I showed them examples from the book (see below) and then made some of my own examples. I showed them how I brainstormed my ideas, and then edited to get it to say just what I wanted. I then gave the students a planning sheet and let them loose- well they wowed me!

They created such amazing six word memoirs. Some were funny, sad, powerful, light, deep… they had them all!!!!  I had them write their six word memoir on large notecards and then illustrate or color them to fit the tone of the memoir. I put them up on a bulletin board and they loved looking at everyone’s memoirs! Some wrote more than one, and some have been doing them “for fun!” 🙂

Some of the examples I showed them from the book are below:

Met online; love before first sight.

I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.

I’m seventeen, engaged, and not pregnant.

My mom had my boyfriend deported.

Late for school every single day.

According to Facebook, we broke up.

Here are pictures I took of six word memoirs from my kids:









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