Warmest Holiday Wishes!

Warmest holiday wishes! See you in the New Year!

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10 Ways to Inspire Students to Read, Read, Read Over the Break

Three weeks ago I wrote a blog post about my advent-inspired book talk countdown board. I created the board below in hopes of inspiring some great reading over the winter break. Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 6.18.09 PM

I encouraged my students to create a Wish List of books they might like to read over the winter break.  I also encouraged them to take home two to three books each from our classroom library. Now, I know that some of my books might never return. But my hope is that my students do some good reading over the break and come back to class in January ready to go!

Here is my board all filled up with book recs:

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This was one way I tried to inspire my students to do some good reading over the break.

Here are 10 other ways you might inspire your students to read over the break:

  1. Inspired by Penny Kittle’s Tweet- Create a classroom door display of photos of students reading their vacation picks. Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.57.36 PM.png
  2. Do a round of Speed Booking this week (Thank you, TCRWP, for this great idea!) Speed Booking is like speed dating, except students recommend book titles to each other in 1 minute or less.
  3. Give each student a new plastic Ziploc book baggie and have them “shop” for books for their vacation. Decorate the baggie with a festive holiday bow!
  4. Encourage students to take a “shelfie” over the vacation with a book they are reading. Have students bring the photo into school in the New Year (or email it to their teacher) when they return. You can use these images to create a display of students reading.
  5. Another great idea inspired by Penny Kittle- Have students write a sticky note or index card of a book they’d like to read over the vacation: Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.57.46 PM
  6. Have students create a special bookmark (index card or piece of heavy card stock) with their reading goals for the vacation.
  7. Inspired by my brilliant colleague, Maureen Corbo, a sixth grade teacher at my school, have students take a selfie of themselves in their favorite cozy reading place. In the New Year use these photos to talk about good reading habits and the joys of reading.
  8. Visit the school library and have students pick out some good books for the vacation.
  9. Have your students discuss their vacation reading plans with their reading buddies and how they are going to meet their reading goals.
  10. Show students which books you plan to read over the vacation and show lots of enthusiasm. I have a permanent display in my classroom of the books I am reading. Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 6.17.21 PM.png

 

Getting ready to do some good reading and writing over the holiday break, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about not chewing on the Christmas tree, and playing the app, Cookie Jam. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

5 Ways to Build a Reader with Minecraft

Do you receive book recommendations from Amazon.com? I am on their mailing list, and I enjoy reading which books they are selling to their teacher club members. Over the weekend, I read an email about books they recommend for children ages 9-12. I wasn’t surprised to see Minecraft books listed half a dozen times. Amazon is pushing these books because they are the books that many children want to read. Minecraft is HUGE for many of our students right now and we need books that relate to their interests.

Why Minecraft? Why do our students like reading these books? Over the summer, I wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club about Minecraft books in the classroom and their potential to engage readers in the reading workshop. If you’ve ever played Minecraft, then you get it. It’s a sandbox game that has endless possibilities. It is a game that can go on forever. Plus, it incorporates building, problem-solving, and magic. What could be better?!

Minecraft can be used in the classroom in many ways. Andrew Miller wrote an article for Edutopia called “Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom.” In addition, this link will take you to a great YouTube video about Minecraft in the classroom.

Here are 5 Ways that You Can Build a Reader with Minecraft:

  1. 516P5jSg5HL._AA160_Grab Reluctant Readers’ By Creating an Appealing Display – Fully embrace Minecraft! Your students’ faces will light up when they see a Minecraft display in your classroom. Whenever I put out Minecraft books, they are all gone by the end of the day! These displays are a huge draw for many of my reluctant readers who are fans of Minecraft.
  2. Get Some Minecraft Manuals for Minecraft Hacks– This is the first type of Minecraft book that my students ask for. They want to read the tips and tricks for how to play Minecraft. Students quickly move from these tip books to Minecraft novels.
  3. How’s it Going? Confer with Students about their Minecraft Reading– Many students who love Minecraft enjoy talking about the characters, the worlds that they are building, and the choices they are making. You can leverage students’ affinities with Minecraft and discuss the main character’s motivations, feelings, and development/change. You can also discuss setting descriptions and how the setting shapes the character’s decisions.
  4. Write about Minecraft in Reading Notebooks – Students will love writing in their reading notebooks about their Minecraft reading! All that great reading will lead to some good writing!
  5. Get some Minecraft Novels– My students love to read Minecraft books during reading workshop. I recommend getting some Minecraft books for your reading workshop. I’ve found that I have many reluctant readers who gravitate toward these books. You can find these books in the children’s section of bookstores. Be prepared. These books will fly off your shelves! Here are some books that I have on my shelves:

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Getting ready to do some good reading and writing over the holiday break, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about not chewing on the Christmas tree, and playing the app, Cookie Jam. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Re-Imagining the Book Report – Part 2

It’s the week before the holiday break and my students are ready to spend time with family and friends. This can be a challenging time for teachers as we try to harness enough energy in our classrooms and maximize our teaching time before we reach the finish line! In a previous post, I discussed the benefits of re-imagining book reports as book trailers and how this work can energize reading workshop.

The book report is a reading workshop staple that offers important learning opportunities for students. Book trailers do as well. Many of the same goals we have for our students when we assign book reports can be accomplished through digital literacy. The creation of book trailers helps to broaden our students understanding of literacies from a static, conventional, print-based conception to an appreciation of literacies as a shifting, evolving, and dynamic force.

So here’s how I get students started!

It’s important to show students a good model of a book trailer. Here’s one I show to my 6th graders on a book they’ve read and loved: The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter. It is a good model of the type of work I hope they’ll do.

After viewing it, I asked students to brainstorm some of the essential elements of book trailers that they think should be included in their work. In addition to stating literary elements such as setting, mood, and theme, my students noted that the most important element of a book trailer is to persuade the audience to read the book.

Below are a few Trailer and Tech Tips that help students make awesome book trailers:

Trailer Tips

Tech Tips

Plan! Use a Book Trailer Storyboard Outline to plan the format and order of your trailer. Which parts of the book will you feature? What images will you need to find? Plan! Collect images. Save them as jpeg’s in a Google Folder that can be uploaded later.
Content! Use literary elements to convey the storyline. Present parts of the book that help to show mood, setting, and theme. Pique interest without giving away too much of the book, particularly the end. Software! Select user-friendly software such as WeVideo, Photostory 3, or Movie Maker. View a tutorial to understand how it works. Ex. http://tinyurl.com/WeVideoBookTrailers

 

Production! Use the cover of the book with the title and author. Select images and music that match (not distract from) the story. Speak clearly and at an appropriate pace during voiceovers. Production! Layout first! Once each scene is in place, then experiment with special effects such as music, movement, color, etc. Remember to focus on the purpose of this work. The trailer should persuade the audience to read the book!

 

There is no one right way to make a book trailer. Focus on the goals you have for your specific learners and what you’d like them to be able to demonstrate as readers. As mentioned previously, other important learning opportunities for students include: enjoying the creative process, appreciating each other’s strengths and talents as they work collaboratively with their peers, and discovering how to advocate for their needs by seeking help from teachers and digital sources.

So next week, on the last day before our break, we’ll be enjoying the fruits of our labor… with popcorn, of course! I’ll be sure to post an example of my students work. And I look forward to sending my students off with books in hand that they are excited to read!

 

 

 

Sonja Cherry-Paul has been an educator for the past 17 years. She is a middle school English teacher and co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. Sonja is a Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee member who is committed to celebrating authors and illustrators who address issues related to social justice.

 

 

Re-Imagining the Book Report

Booktrailer

Tired of assigning book reports? Me too. And guess what? So are our students! Spice things up by asking students to create a book trailer. Many of the same goals of a traditional book report can be accomplished in a book trailer. The difference is, this digital format is highly engaging work students WANT to do. Also, there are numerous benefits to doing this work. Here are four:

  • Re-energizing Reading Workshop – We’re several months into the school year now. Our reading workshop routines are in place and my students are looking for a new, fun challenge. Creating book trailers fits the bill and the excitement in the room is palpable. There’s a positive and productive buzz in the room as students focus with great intent on their creations. Of course laying some essential ground rules is key. Students are engaged in the process, and it’s so much fun to watch and listen in on genius at work!
  • Collaboration – We can tell our students to cooperate until we turn purple. But some lessons are best learned by experience. Students truly understand the meaning of collaboration as a result of creating a book trailer. They learn to negotiate power, to listen to ideas different from their own, and that creativity thrives in spaces that are nurturing and positive. Also, they experience the meaning of the Mayan proverb: Many hands make light work!
  • Rereading – Looking for authentic ways for students to revisit a text? Setting specific goals and requirements for their book trailers will help you to accomplish this. Remind students that movie trailers are created from a finished (or mostly finished) product. The creators of these trailers pull from this product to give a sample of detail about characters, setting, and theme that will persuade viewers. These are the literary elements students should think about as well when creating their book trailers. To do this well requires revisiting and rereading key parts of the book to powerfully, accurately , and persuasively portray these elements.
  • Excitement For Books– Looking to get students excited about reading a new book? Book trailers are created by students, for students, about books they love. What better way to get more books into the hands of students?

Worried about the Tech? Don’t be! There are several manageable, user-friendly options to choose from. In my next post, I’ll share some Trailer and Tech Tips for helping students make awesome book trailers!

 

Sonja Cherry-Paul has been an educator for the past 17 years. She is a middle school English teacher and co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. Sonja is a Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee member who is committed to celebrating authors and illustrators who address issues related to social justice.

What is Worth Talking About?

Ever read a tweet on Twitter that made you run into your classroom and change something?! That is what Kelly Gallagher’s tweet from November 20th did for me. Kelly Gallagher is the author of the books Readicide, Write Like This, Teaching Adolescent Writers, and many more. Here’s the tweet that made me think:

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I loved this! This tweet spoke to me! Asking students, “What is worth talking about?” is simple yet brilliant. What I know about myself as a teacher is that I need to remind myself to talk less and encourage students to talk MORE. Do you find that in your classroom too?

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 3.14.37 PM.pngSo on November 23, I went into the classroom and turned over a new leaf. I began each discussion with the question “What’s worth talking about?” I gave my students a few minutes to jot some ideas down on sticky notes. Then we shared and discussed!

I shouldn’t have been surprised that my students wanted to discuss everything that I had hoped we would talk about (and so much more!) We talked about: characters’ perspectives, relationships, changes, plot twists, questions, author’s decisions, literary devices (symbolism & themes!) etc. We began each day’s discussions this way. It also lead to some amazing writing!

Thank you, Kelly Gallagher, for your tweet! It led to some amazing discussions and writing in my classroom. It also reminded me that the best discussions come from the students. I need to talk less, listen more, and encourage my students to talk MORE about the topics they care about.

Kelly Gallagher’s website: http://www.kellygallagher.org/

 

Getting ready to do some good reading and writing over the holiday break, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about not chewing on the Christmas tree, and playing the app, Cookie Jam. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

We Need More Diverse Books

Recently, I attended a workshop and the following quote was displayed on the screen:

When someone with the authority of a teacher describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. ~ Adrienne Rich

I wept quietly on the inside for several moments after reading this. I couldn’t help but think about all of the children I teach and all of the subtle, yet significant ways they may feel invisible as a result of the curriculum and particularly, the books we read.

Books literally surround my classroom. They’re on displays, on counter-tops, on magnetic shelves on the chalkboard, seemingly floating off of the wall on invisible shelves, in book cases, and in baskets. Surely, within this generous collection is a substantial amount of books that, as Rich states, describes a world that is inclusive of all of my students.

I returned to my classroom and began hunting through my library. I pulled books off of shelves, bookcases, and stands that feature diverse characters. I displayed them on the carpet. I went around the classroom twice, three, four times. The books facing up at me on the carpet represented only a fraction of the books in my classroom. Surely I had more. I didn’t.

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I discovered it was easy to find racially and culturally diverse books within my collection of historical fiction. Historical fiction is an important and compelling genre.  But how do children see the significance of their lives in the world today and in the future if the only reflection of themselves is from the past? What messages are children receiving as a result of our teachings, during, as Rich might argue, this naming of a world where some are included and others aren’t? Where are the contemporary books that help all children feel visible and valued?

We need more diverse books. We need more books that specifically spotlight the racial and cultural diversity that is reflected in our classrooms and in the world. The books we choose to celebrate in our classrooms send explicit messages to our students about who counts in the world and who doesn’t. The popularization of only those books that present a narrow landscape of the world occurs at the expense of the self-esteem and overall well-being of all of our children. We need to recognize less popular authors who are doing important work to include the lives of diverse characters in stories. We need to support them so that publishers know that yes, we will buy these books, too. An eye opening conversation about this topic occurred on twitter last week (#tcrwp hosted by @diversebooks). WeNeedDiverseBooks.org is working to raise awareness. Their mission is simple and clear: “A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.”

Adrienne Rich reminds us that as teachers we hold a powerful platform. And from this platform we have the power to include, affirm, and celebrate by making conscious decisions about the books we make available in our classrooms.

 

Sonja Cherry-Paul has been an educator for the past 17 years. She is a middle school English teacher and co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. Sonja is a Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee member who is committed to celebrating authors and illustrators who address issues related to social justice.