Saturday, December 15, 2012

Digital text sets for argumentative writing

I really like what the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project is doing around argumentative writing, particularly the work collecting both digital and print resources at different grade levels to help students research and take a stance on a high interest topic such as whether competitive sports in schools are beneficial or harmful.

Two of my favorites are videos that Mary Ehrenworth highlighted at the October Saturday Reunion  giving two sides of the issue of chocolate milk being served in schools, the first showing truckloads of sugar being dumped on a school bus as a vivid illustration of the way serving chocolate milk in schools is an unhealthy decision and the second featuring a smiling representative of the Midwest Dairy Council explaining all the benefits of drinking chocolate milk. (I just saw Forks Over Knives. Can you tell which side I'm on?)

Teachers are always asking for resources: for persuasive writing topics, it's important that they be recent. TC is constantly collecting and organizing these resources as well as quality samples of student work that can be used as mentor texts. I recently showed this link to teachers in an after school class around close reading and they were really enthusiastic: one of them recommended the set in the 2012-13 collection on cyberbullying.

Some teachers are worried that students will come home telling parents that a teacher has taught them a controversial topic with a bias towards one side. These text sets allow students to weigh both sides of a topic and come to their own conclusion.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Experiential/digital learning at Chicago museums

We visited several museums in Chicago this summer: I was impressed with how the museums incorporated technology into learning experiences for children. Solana created the above postcard at the Chicago History Museum by taking a photo of herself and then selecting contemporary and historic images of Chicago to fill in the other letters.

At the Children's Museum "Skyline" experience, we used provided materials and worked in a space in front of an automatic camera as a team to create our own skyscraper. Afterward, we narrated the steps of our process and our reflections to go along with images that were snapped of us working. Then, when we got home, we could view the digital story on the museum's web site. Both were fun, fairly brief learning experiences that instantly incorporated digital sharing as well as narration and reflection in the second experience-- something to think about for the school year.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Great nonfiction picture books by Robert Wells and others!

I love Montessori Services as a source for picture books, particularly on science and math topics. I periodically go through their catalogue and check recommended books out from my library. One of my favorite writers featured is Robert Wells. Solana and I loved both the humor and the explanations of concepts in Can You Count to a Google? What's Smaller than a Pygmy Shrew? and others.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Math and literacy ideas

I was lucky this summer to have the opportunity to work with math educators in a co-teaching workshop I led as well as at a conference I attended on the common core standards. One of the secondary teachers in the co-teaching workshop was looking for chapter books and picture books to supplement the curriculum. She came across this link of math and literacy book recommendations on the California Department of Ed web site: it says it was last updated in 2007, so won't have the most recent authors, but still has great ideas listed by genre and grade level. Unfortunately, most of my middle school and high school math classes involved rote plugging of numbers in formulas from text books to find the right answer. I wish I had had more access to books on math ideas when I was a student-- it would have helped me with math concepts as well as improved my attitude towards math and increased my enjoyment of the subject.

One of the evenings of the conference I played Quiddler with colleagues: I'm not usually one for games, but I really enjoyed this one and loved the math and literacy connection. It can be played with and modified for children as young as five or six and reinforces both word play and number automaticity. One of my colleagues uses it frequently along with math modifications for games like "War" and "Go Fish" for students she tutors as well as in the classroom (great center ideas!).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nonfiction Reading Part Two: Text Structure

In the fall, I read so many books about sharks with my student, who asked me for more shark books every time I saw her. This spring, we created our own book about sharks organized by topics such as habitat, diet and physical characteristics. Many nonfiction texts are organized this way: creating a KWL organized by topics can help students anticipate this type of text structure before they read. I saw a great guided reading lesson at a workshop with Irene Fountas where she demonstrated that a picture book may have both an overlying structure such as a narrative and an underlying structure, such as describing the life cycle of an animal. 

I’ve also been encountering many books such as Surprising Sharks that have a persuasive message, in this case that sharks aren’t as aggressive towards humans as we might have been led to believe. (A colleague calls this structure  “exploding the myth.”) These books often have an environmental message as well. Suprising sharks concludes that sharks should be more afraid of humans than we are of sharks. There are many books like this about other animals; for example, Bats by Gail Gibbons and Seymour Simon’s Wolves 

As an avid reader of fiction from childhood, I’m used to reading for plot and don’t always pay close attention to text structure. I need to plan to be explicit about text structure for nonfiction as my student and I continue to explore books on high interest nonfiction topics.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nonfiction reading part one: the impact of experiential learning

When we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo last summer, we were highly amused by the friendly beaver and stood for a long time as he swam back and forth in front of us. I marveled at his long orange teeth and flat tail and how he held his front paws in front of him, seeming to coyly show off in front of the crowd of visitors. Solana spent quite a bit of time filming these antics on my phone. (As an aside, how cool is it that the Lincoln Park Zoo is free?)  I can’t say that I was ever interested in beavers before, but when we came home and I saw some books on beavers at our local library, I wanted to read more about them. I was so much more engaged having had the hands on experience of seeing one up close.  It really made me experience as a reader the impact of experiential learning and background knowledge on motivation:  ideally something to replicate in the classroom either through virtual learning or hands on science centers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

We Heart Root-vue Farm!

Root-vue Farm was a Christmas gift, but we waited until spring to plant. It's a great spring science activity: very hands on and doesn't take up a lot of space. So exciting when the plants start to grow and the roots appear! I only thought of it as a home activity, but recently at a meeting of preK-12 teachers focused on the needs of ESL students, a pre-school teacher recommended it for the classroom and it made perfect sense! It came from For Small Hands, my favorite Montessori catalogue (great for book recommendations, hands on science, etc.), but is also on Amazon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Queen of the Falls

Solana and I both enjoyed this book by Chris Van Allsburg. The story of Annie Edson Taylor, who decides to go over Niagra Falls in a barrel at age 62, is an incredible one. The story brings out how ageism kept her from achieving the fame and fortune she desired. It's also a great read for the sheer thrill in the details of the ride.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Solana's movie review: Rio

Rio is a movie I watched with my mom and dad. It was about two blue macaws named Blu and Jewel. My favorite character was Jewel because she's so beautiful and she looks like an angel who is getting really close. That's a line from the movie. The movie is about a baby blue macaw (Blu) who gets captured and droven away from Rio, Brazil to Minnesota. The truck he is in accedently crashes and his cage falls out of the truck and he is found by a little girl. You will have to watch the movie to know the rest!

Solana's book review: National Geographic Kids

We have been reading a lot of weird but true books lately. Solana likes the Ripley's books as well, but I prefer the National Geographic series. Here is Solana's book review:

I like the book National Geographic Kids: Weird but True. If you like weird facts, you should look at this book. It teaches you about cool inventions, like the real life transformer, and weird facts, like the 2-headed turtle. If you want to know more facts, read the book. If you want weird but true facts, this is what you need!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Diigo bookmark (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mission U.S.

My ESL student's classroom teacher and I were struggling with helping my student to understand concepts in American history until the teacher discovered Mission U.S.—what a great way to immerse students in history—the teacher’s guide comes complete with learning goals, essential questions, a planning guide and more.

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Discovery: Christoph Niemann

We’ve recently discovered the books of Christoph Niemann— playful, original and humorous for both young children and their adult buddy readers. We especially liked I Lego NY which features Donald Trump’s hair along with other New York inspired Lego creations. Subway is also a fun trip for those children who love to ride the train.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012