Slice of Life Tuesdays: Computers Don’t Teach

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I’ve been thinking

about thinking and learning, you see

and what I have found (between you and me) is

Computers Don’t Teach.

(But no one is asking me.)

 

Reading books is worthwhile, you see

and what I have found (between you and me) is

it’s something to see —  faces light up when you say,

“I have a new book for you all today!”

 

“I don’t have time to read it, though.

We only have 10 more minutes to go.”  Get back to the screens —

Focus! Don’t play! We must make you learn! You must pass…(you did?) Hooray!

What I have found (between you and me) is

Computers Don’t Teach.

(A research-based statement? Yes/Maybe, someday!)

 

Thank you to the TWO WRITING TEACHERS blog for allowing me to read, write, and share my thinking. Maybe someday my research will show how students think, learn, and succeed in school…and in life. 

 

 

 

IMWAYR: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

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Jason Reynolds is one of my go-to authors for choice reading, with engaging and interesting characters, unique settings, and storylines that keep me thinking for months after I finish a story. As Brave As You is another hit on the list. 

In the opening scene, 2 brothers are scooping up dog poop and flinging it at trees in the woods behind Grandma and Grandpa’s house. What middle grade child wouldn’t want to keep reading? Genie and Ernie, Jr. are Brooklyn-raised brothers who are spending time in North Hill, Virginia for a month while Mom and Dad try to work out some issues. City boys in the country? Bound to be adventures. And there are many adventures — and family secrets —  to discover.

A young lady, Tess, catches Ernie’s eye as a neighbor and friend. She makes her own jewelry to sell at the flea market, she’s smart, and she’s funny. The more the plot moves forward, the more you see Ernie and Tess together. Country life isn’t all easy, though. Getting up early to do chores (choosing peas to pick at just the right moment), taking care of Samantha, the dog, and watching out for the family are tasks that sometimes overwhelm Genie, especially. Genie is curious and asks many questions (which he records in his notebook), which may or may not lead to each new adventure — and maybe even get him into some trouble.

My favorite part of this book so far is how the characters remind me so much of my own grandma and grandpa. Memories of childhood revisited: Grandma teaching the kids the right way to do chores, Grandpop eating a whole apple (core and all!), and playing outside with the dog. As the story moves, the reader moves, too, along the path of discovery of what it means to be brave.

I continue to read tonight, to find more answers with Genie, and to treasure my last few moments of summer with this family in Virginia. When you get a chance, pick up As Brave As You, and enjoy your own adventure with Genie and Ernie.

 

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: New Year, New Position

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I’m finally living the dream. Last week I started my new position as School Librarian in my corporation. I love it! There is stress; I’ve completely reorganized the large library space and I’m done with the fiction section of the room (alphabetical order isn’t as easy as it seems). As I work with the nonfiction shelves, I remember my learning of the Dewey Decimal system, wondering if this is the best way for patrons to find what they are looking for when they come to the library. I gathered stacks of books that I want to restock in different parts of the room, and made a list of books and materials I want to order (growing by the minute! — my director is going to say, “You don’t have that kind of budget!”).

My number one goal this year as a new librarian is to spread the love of reading and books to all who visit the library. I typed some author quotes and made little displays all over the area, and placed small “Did You Know…?” trivia around the room. When students are perusing, they can use these to be inspired and make choices that pertain to them. I am passionate about reading (and learning), and I want my patrons to share their learning, too.

I returned home today exhausted. I almost didn’t write this post, but I’ve skipped enough Slice of Life days this summer, and it’s time to start my own “homework” again. I ran across this saying about writing today, and it made me laugh — the perfect way to end the day.

(pictures are mine, from Facebook post memes: Katrina Monroe author quote, and Values.com)

 

#PB10For10: August 10th is Picture Book 10 For 10 Day

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Picture Book 10 for 10: Ten Picture Books to Read the First 10 Days of Middle School

Middle schoolers love picture books. Picture books are filled with lessons, promise, and fun. Start your school year with these ten picture books for your middle school classroom:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex — The first day of school, told from the school’s point of view. First Day read. Open the year with some thinking, conversation, and fun.

One Day, The End by Rebecca Kai Dotlich — Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories. What happens in the middle? Students love the book that teaches how to offer a good story.

Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street by Roni Schotter. A young writer tries to find inspiration from her neighborhood stoop, but nothing ever happens on her street. Or is she missing something? Each neighbor teaches the girl to “look closely” and “use her imagination” as a writer.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak — I dare you to read this to middle schoolers. Just do it! LOL!

Big Plans by Bob Shea and Lane Smith — “A Little Boy sits in the corner of a classroom, plotting his future. He’s got plans…Big Plans!” Make sure you take the time to look at all the pictures closely in this one.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires — Mistakes can lead to genius inventions. Watch this girl and her dog try and try again to invent the “most magnificent thing.”

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds — A beautiful look at what makes a person happy instead of “getting it right.”

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis — A hilarious story about animals creating and building, in their own language. Read this aloud several times during the year for a good stress reliever and some laughs.

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada — “A single idea can change everything.” This story inspires learners to welcome their ideas and give them space to grow.

More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby — More than anything else, Booker wants to learn to read. Many students are like Booker T. Washington. An inspirational story to begin the school year.

Have a great start to your school year! Read a lot, think carefully, and have fun along the way!

 

 

 

IMWAYR: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

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I finally got a chance to read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I loved all of her past stories, and this new title did not disappoint. I highly recommend you gather a copy with your fall leaf collection (the book comes out on September 26), sit under a nice warm blanket — under a favorite tree — and read all night long.  I read this book in one sitting, and I think you will, too.

Wishtree has been around for over 200 years, and in that time she has seen many changes in the lives of the animals and the humans who surround her. Every May Day (May 1st) people come from all around to tie pieces of cloth with written wishes on the tree. It’s a tradition that Wishtree enjoys, until one day, a young male comes and changes the tree’s life, and the lives of all who live nearby. Wishtree decides that maybe wishes should come true — she’s an optimist, you see; but the animals who live in her hollows disagree. With the help of her best friend, a crow named Bongo, and 2 school children, Wishtree provides more to the neighborhood than even she realized she could. This is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and acceptance, told by a tree. And what a story it is!

 

Add this title to your TBR list now, so you don’t forget. Enjoy your back-to-school reading!

Wishtree book cover picture by Goodreads.

Happy Book Birthday, SOLO!

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For this book birthday, I wrote a review of SOLO, by Kwame Alexander, with Mary Rand Hess. It comes to us from Blink YA Books and is in stores today! This is one of my rare, 5-Star reads.

Solo is Kwame Alexander’s latest release (from Blink YA Books) and features Mary Rand Hess. These amazing authors expertly weave the story of Blade, a teen who would rather not be associated with his famous father, Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star. Blade’s girlfriend, Chapel, is the light in his life of darkness, but her parents forbid her to see Blade amid continued family drama. Blade finds that his life is not as it seems – is it worse? The one connection that the family shares is music – much music. “But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities…”

The music that connects Blade, his father, and the other intriguing characters in the book are the web that Alexander and Hess create to lead the reader (and Blade) from Hollywood to West Africa in search of life’s answers. Tracks from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, U2 ,Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, and more all bring memories to carry the reader (and Blade) into the future. The story is a true hero’s journey through music and time. (Suggestion: Get the audio version!)

What I loved most about Solo is that it is written in Kwame’s famous novel-in-verse style, and adding Mary’s poetic contributions made my heart sing. The book features nostalgic hits and original music by Randy Preston, Alexander’s talented musical friend. The twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book made this a quick read, yet I revisited pages again and again. I downloaded the music to listen to as I traveled with Blade through my third read! I highly recommend Solo for any teen trying to find him/herself in the world, anyone who loves music, or anyone who loves a fantastic story line. (That means “Go Get This Title Now!”) “When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.”

Thinking About “The 5 Truths of Reading” by Pernille Ripp

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I’m stealing today — stealing great words, great thinking, great learning. Pernille Ripp first wrote “The 5 Truths of Reading” on her blog in 2015, and as she says, the post is “old, but still relevant.” I agree. I’m thinking about how I can be more of an advocate for authentic reading and teaching practices as I start my new position as school librarian this fall. Here are my thoughts about the 5 truths: (See Pernille’s original post here.)

  1. Give students choice in what they read. Assigned reading is not the way to get kids to read. Usually the word “assignment” is followed by a collective “Ugh./Aww, Man!/That’s stupid!” from students in the classroom. I’ve heard it; I know. The love of reading for reading’s sake is gone immediately, and that’s not what we want. Our intentions are good — we want students to read good books, to be exposed to meaningful literature, to become more intelligent human beings. But when we assign reading that we choose, we are pushing our lives, our values, our choices into the faces of our children. Instead of assigned readings, give students choice. Talk about books that they might love, build a classroom library where students can find themselves, and create a classroom based on sharing those wonderful titles and the lessons they bring.
  2. Don’t judge the books – or the students. Pernille stated, “Our glances, our purchases, our book conversations all shape the identities that our readers are creating.” I’m guilty here, for sure. Not so much in glances or conversations, as I love to hear what my students are reading (and why they chose a particular book). My purchases have been my decision, though, and mostly reflected what I would like to have in my classroom library. No more! I have followed #WNDB (We Need Diverse Books) for over a year now, and I have consciously built a better library. Instead of deciding what you want, ask your students what should be in the library, and heed the call from recommendations given to you. Once I had a student tell me, “Mrs. S! I know this isn’t your genre, but you HAVE to read this!” One of the best things I ever did. I loved Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs! Listen to your kids. They know. Give them a chance. (Image courtesy of books.google.com)
  3. Be a reader. This is a big one! I cannot imagine being a reading teacher or a librarian without being a reader first. Shouldn’t reading be a pre-requisite for becoming a reading teacher? I think so, and recently I’ve said that out loud more often. Each time I finish a book, I’m more intelligent than I was before, and that is what I want for my students, as well.
  4. Read because it’s reading time. My motto in my reading class was “Read During Reading Time.” I still find it disheartening to hear that people who observe teachers find that there’s “just reading” going on in the classroom. Excuse me, it’s READING class! We have to get rid of rewards, points, and prizes for reading. We have to find that JOY of reading is its own reward, and we have to do that at school.
  5. Label books, not readers. This is so important. Pernille mentioned that Fountas & Pinnell (speaking at the ILA annual conference) stressed that levels are for books. Pernille also said that labeling books meant placing a sticker or stamp on them to show what bin they belong in. Kylene Beers and Bob Probst have done extensive reading research, and I remembered that Kylene said, “This is a child, not an H.” I remembered that when a student asked me once after a formative assessment, “Am I a red?” (as in, “Did I fail the test?”) I have the shivers now, just thinking about it again.

These 5 truths have been on my mind. Hopefully sharing my stolen thinking (thank you, Pernille!) will deeper our conversations about reading and teaching reading in the classroom.

 

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