Friday, March 7, 2014

World Read Aloud Day at MHS

Wednesday, March 5th was World Read Aloud Day, which is a day created by LitWorld to bring global attention to the human right of reading and writing. I love what is posted on their website to explain the meaning behind this movement:

“World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.”

We had about 20 teachers participate in WRAD, which I think is great for the inaugural year on a large high school campus. Many teachers read their favorite picture books to their classes, but I had the privilege of sharing one of my new favorites with several classes: 

 My librarian partner shared one of her favorites with several classes:

 Our dance teacher shared this one with her class:

She even had a student take a picture while she was  reading. I just love this! 

But my favorite is that our principal joined in on the fun and shared one of her beloved books with students: 

 And this picture says it all. The kids wanted to sit on the floor and she even got them to sing the song: 

This just proves that picture books can be enjoyed by people of all ages! 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Reading Life

I am so thankful to be collaborating on this blog with my colleague and dear friend Marnie because I am desperately behind on my World Read Aloud Day posts (WRAD was actually yesterday, but I don't think it's ever too late to celebrate reading). Rather than try to catch up, I will just focus on one--my reading life.

Obviously, I love books (duh). But I'm a s-l-o-o-o-w reader, which people usually find surprising. Most people assume that librarians are super-human speed readers, and while that might be the case for some, it's NOT for me. It's hard for me to turn off my writer brain when I read, so I read like a writer--I notice sentence structure, word choice, figurative language--all of those things that English teachers geek out on. 

Because of this fact, I have piles of books that I want to read all over the place--at school, at home, in my car, everywhere.

And this stresses me out. There are so many books that I want to read that I feel anxiety creep in if I look at the number of books in my piles. Right now, my Good Reads To-Read Shelf includes 523 books. (Deep breaths...)

But slow and steady will win the reading race (Is it really a race?). So I just keep plugging along, relishing the words at my leisurely pace. But the key is that I am always reading--whether it be a REAL book, one on my Kindle (I like to alternate between reading on my device for convenience and reading a physical book because I like the way it feels and smells) or occasionally listening to an audio book (I prefer reading rather than listening).  The key is to just keep reading.

I am most proud of the fact that my husband and I are raising two readers. Our daughters LOVE reading, as if they have a choice, but I guess they do. I think the secret to instilling a love of reading in your own children is to be a reading role model, let them choose what they want to read, and keep it fun and easy--free of pressure. We have family reading time each night after dinner--a time when we turn off the TV and devices (unless we are reading on our devices) and have silent reading time. I love it, and so does my family.

The truth is that I can't imagine my life without books. I crave them. I savor them. I adore them. They bring me comfort, joy, hope, and a little understanding in this crazy, mixed-up world.

Year of the Jungle

I shared this book with three Senior English classes for several reasons. First of all, these students are about to embark on a big "Romantic Project" in which they will apply one of the tenets of Romantic literature to a poem from that time period, a modern song, and a picture book. Mrs. Farris-Hill, the fabulous teacher, and I saw this lesson as an opportunity to expose her students to the depth that can be found in picture books so that any stigma that they are "only for little kids" would be removed. It was a great way to get them to start thinking about the project without the students even knowing it (we are sneaky like that!).

The second reason I shared this book was in preparation for a presentation that I did for the Abydos Teachers and Trainers Conference in San Antonio. As an Abydos writing trainer for my district, I have to recertify every three years by presenting to a large group of literacy educators at the annual conference. This was a lesson that I modeled in my presentation, so I obviously needed to try it with kids. If you would like to read the rationale and research behind YNG @ <3 (Young at Heart): Engaging Teens with Picture Books, then you can click here for my handout, which includes an extensive bibliography of picture books to use in the secondary classroom.

Back to the lesson: First of all, the students made a tri-fold and labeled the columns as follows: Pictures, Words, Emotions.

We then accessed some background knowledge about the author Suzanne Collins. (Yes, THAT Suzanne Collins has written a picture book.) We made predictions about what the book would be about based on what we knew about Hunger Games. 

As I read the book, I paused in key spots for the students to reflect through writing. The book has four key pictures of a changing jungle scene. The students wrote their observations of the jungle scene and then wrote the emotion that was being expressed through the picture. The book also has several postcards that are shared, so we stopped and reflected on these in the words and emotions column. Here are some student examples:

Year of the Jungle generated a great deal of thought and emotion because it deals with heavy themes of how war affects children. The students told me that they were shocked that a picture book "could get that deep." When the students found out that Collins wrote this book based on her own childhood when her dad went to the Vietnam War, they connected it back to The Hunger Games. "Maybe that's why she writes such dark books," one student said. It was AWESOME to see them put the book in the context of the author's life and understand that we have to examine what is going on in an author's life in order to gain context, which brings more layers to a work.

After we discussed the book and it's circular structure (it's so important to analyze why Collins begins and ends the book in the same way), I showed the students the following video of the author and illustrator talking about the process behind creating this book:

The students enjoyed hearing about the collaborative efforts between the author and illustrator. Many of them said that they had no idea that so much thought went into making a picture book.

Remember that we were being sneaky about the Romantic Project? The students analyzed the imagery (pictures), diction (words), and tone (emotions) of Year of the Jungle, which is exactly what they will be doing with a poem, modern song, and picture book for the Romantic Project. This lesson served as a scaffold and also introduced them to the depth and richness that can be found in picture books.

As a former AP English III teacher, this lesson reminded me of teaching The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. If you teach this book, then Year of the Jungle would be an excellent pairing. Also, The Wall by Eve Bunting and Patrol:An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers would be excellent text sets.

I just finished reading The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, one of my favorite authors. This book connects perfectly with Year of the Jungle and would be a  fabulous YA Contemporary book to recommend to students or teach as a whole class novel.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Knit Your Bit

I love this story!

I was looking for a way to use it with a class and found a willing participant in our Academic Decathlon teacher. He wanted something for the students to do after competition that would build teamwork and I wanted a way for our kids to give back to the community. We settled on this story and a project.

Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson (illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia) is historical fiction about a real "knit-in" event in Central Park in 1918. The story is cute, but also shows how we can do even small things to make a difference in the lives of others.

After reading the book, the students were given a crochet hook (because I don't know how to knit), a skein of yarn and an iPad. They were instructed to find videos on YouTube that show how to crochet and try to teach themselves. I was on hand to help out as well...most were chain stitching by the end of the period and had the assignment to bring back a very well-crocheted chain by the next class. We will then move on to single and double crochet so they can create something to give away. We will be donating what we make to the nearby hospitals.

Here's a good basic video on how to crochet:

Here is a collage of the students and the teacher working with their yarn. Note: The teacher tried to "cheat" the photo by using a crocheted piece I'm working on so you'd think he already knew how!

On a side note, I decided to start a crochet club in the library last semester because I couldn't wait to do this lesson. I had a small group of girls that were obsessed with making hats after I showed them how. We turned it into a competition to help the DECA group in our school. They had asked for hats to donate for cancer patients. My girls crocheted over 150 hats during the Winter Break! I was so proud of them!

Black History Month and "A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin"

As part of Black History Month and the ongoing lessons for ESL and the STAAR writing classes, I used Jen Bryant's book A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin (illustrated by Melissa Sweet). This is a wonderful story about a young man who is a talented artist, but becomes injured during World War I. He is not able to paint when he returns from the war until he finds a way to express himself again and regain his strength.

I printed off copies of his first major work after his injury and the ESL students pasted it into their booklets to refer to at a later time.

The students really enjoyed the story and found many points of interest they could write about. When we were done reading, I gave them all iPads and had them complete an Infuse Learning Draw Response activity. They had to draw a picture from the story that was important to them, to the reading, or something that stood out that they remembered. We then posted the drawings from the projector for everyone to see and discuss what was drawn.

It was fun to do something beside write about the story we had read, and I was amazed at some of the detail the students put into their art.