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Showing posts from 2009

Big Island Reading Festival 2010

If you are a secondary teacher on the Big Island, you and your students are invited to the Big Island Reading Festival on April 16, 2010. Location TBA, but our authors are set to come and are eager to meet the students. If you would like to participate, or you need more information, drop me a note at

Digital Is. . .

and why we must provide the tools for our digital natives.

Nwp Digital Is De VossView more documents from devossda.

NCTE Celebrates a Century of Service

As an English teacher, there are two professional organizations that have made an enormous difference in my career. The first is NWP (the National Writing Project) and the other is the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English). Both annual conventions happen simultaneously in the same location, so next year is in Orlando.

If we want the public to treat teachers as professionals, I think we must treat ourselves as professionals and get involved in the professional organizations in our area, not just as a member, but as a presenter, and as a committee member.

Here's a video made by NCTE to celebrate their centennial.

If 2nd graders can use technology in Paauilo. . .

Stephanie Shepherd led us through a FABULOUS technology workshop on blogging and podcasting and had the teachers set up their own blogs. Yeah!

To check out all the resources Stephanie provided, here's a sharetab of her links as well as some of our own blogs.

So why should we use blogs and podcasts/vodcasts in our classrooms?

▪Offers another sense modality (aural) for students to express themselves and absorb or manipulate information
▪Increased student motivation
▪Teachers or students can record audio about homework assignments, assignments, feedback, announcements, etc. thus the classroom is extended and enriched
▪Many students already have audio players, so it taps into an existing technology.
▪Blogging is highly effective way to help students to become better writers. Research has long shown that students write more, write in greater detail, and take greater care with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, when they are writing to an authentic audienc…

26 Days To Submit Your Writing

Writers- teachers - lovers of the Big Island, there are 26 days to submit your pieces to the local gallery Na Leo o Hawaii

Gallery Title: Na Leo o Hawaii - Voices of the Big Island

Gallery Description: This gallery will highlight the voices of the Big Island of Hawaii - from our kupuna (elders) to our keiki (children) - from the fishing village of Milolii to the town of Hawi. This gallery is about living on the Big Island.

If you'd like an easy tutorial to submitting your work, please watch the how-to video below:

How to submit your writing

Obama Speaks on Student Kuleana

Despite the controversy leading up to the speech, and the outrage that Obama would take up precious class time to talk about his educational policy, his speech to the nation's students was a simple one on their kuleana. Kuleana is the Hawaiian word for responsibility. As Hawaiians, we understand that our kuleana, our responsibility is never a selfish act. When individuals do not fulfill their kuleana, the whole community suffers. We can be the most dedicated group of teachers, with the most experience, the most aloha, the most education, but if our students are not willing to put in the hard work necessary to learn to their greatest potential, (their kuleana), then our future, our community, our ahupua'a will not thrive. The president's speech wasn't about any educational policy, it wasn't about politics, it was not tied to NCLB, test scores, statistics. It was tied to personal anecdotes of kuleana. It's too bad that some felt that it was a waste of precious cl…

For Big Island Educators

In celebration of the October 20, 2009 National Day on Writing, and with the help of NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English), we now have our own local online gallery that is a part of the larger National Gallery. Na Leo o Hawaii, the voices of Hawaii, is for all of us who live on the Big Island. Please help me to get the word out to your colleagues, your students, your kupuna, and please submit your own piece. We are looking for any kind of writing about growing up or living on the Big Island - from eating ice shave at Kawate's, camping at Spencer Beach Park, shoveling snow into your pickup truck from Mauna Kea and making "ice men" in your front yard, or spending New Year's at grandma's house with all the cousins. More information and a flyer will come out when school starts, but the site is up and ready for your own submissions, as well as your family's submissions.

Go to a login
Add perso…

Keep Learning over the Summer

NCTE's Read.Write.Think organization has a website for learning beyond the classroom. It's full of activities and resources to help children and teens ages 4 - 18 to explore reading and writing all smmer long.

Besides links, there are also podcasts and videos that help parents and kids pick the best books for the best reading experience. Enjoy!

Secretary Duncan Wants Your Mana'o

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is on a summer tour to hear ideas about "how we can accomplish President Obama's goal of providing every child in America a complete and competitive education, from cradle through career."

He is not coming to Hawaii, however, that doesn't mean that we are out of the conversation. As Duncan prepares for reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, he wants to hear from classroom teachers and other educators, parents and students, business people and citizens. He wants to hear what's working and what's not working. This is our chance to share our mana'o from the trenches.

He has set up a blog where he will post questions and read your responses. This link will take you to a question about standards, but please continue to follow his listening tour and put in your mana'o. So to the first set of questions:
Many states in America are independently considering adopting internationally-benchmarked, college and career-ready standards.…

An Ideal Language Arts Curriculum

Kevin Hodgson shares his mana'o on literacy and writing. Now that Hawai'i schools are out for summer and as the workshops and writing projects start next week, take some time to read his post, reflect on your year and think about the essentials and big ideas in your own curriculum.

I lā maikaʻi!

Schools as "sites for learning"

Deborah Meiers, on her Edweek blog Bridging Differences writes about "test scores and reinforcing the wrong connections." We need more people willing to have a "conversation" on slow change and long-term solutions. Not everything can be fixed quickly.

As long as we use test scores as our primary evidence for being poorly educated we reinforce the connection—and the bad teaching to which it leads. If by some course of action we could get everyone's score the same—even by cheating—I’d be for it, so we could get on to discussing the interactions that matter in classrooms and schools: between “I, Thou, and It.” I’ve spent 45 years trying, unsuccessfully, to shift the discussion to schools as sites for learning. Such a “conversation” might not produce economic miracles, but it would over time connect schooling to the kind of learning that can protect both democracy and our economy. Because that’s where schools are (or are not) powerful.

How Teachers Can Raise Nonwriters

Did you have a journal? Were you a writer as a child? Did you lose that passion when you grew up? How long has it been since you, as an adult, have written for yourself -- not because you had to, or it was expected of you, or you were grading papers, but for the pure joy of writing?

Cathy Song, Hawaii's own "poet laureate" started writing at a young age. She says, "our family travels started my writing. I guess I was around nine years old when I decided I wanted to be the family chronicler." My own journey started with a Holly Hobie journal given to me when I was seven as a way for me to fill in the empty spaces left from my parents' divorce. My mother gave me a journal every year for the next 30 years.

Are we nurturing that passion for writing in our students? Or are we killing that passion with our focus on writing for testing, formulaic writing, and the unhealthy balance of reading first?

Choice Literacy, working off the text "Unlucky Arithmetic: Thirt…

NCTE Gallery of Writing accepting submissions

The National Council of Teachers of English, in preparation for their National Day of Writing, October 20, 2009 has opened up their Gallery of Writing and are now accepting submissions.

The organizers invite letters, memoirs, lists, poems, podcasts, essays, short stories, instructions, reports, editorials, video clips, biographical sketches, speeches, invitations, hopes and dreams—writing that matters most to you. We're looking for a high school senior's college essay, a grandmother's letter to a beloved grandchild, a diary entry from a Desert Storm veteran, and a father's poem to a daughter on her wedding day. We want a toddler's first writing about her trip to the zoo and the firefighter's letter to the editor about the upcoming bond vote. Whatever the form and whoever the writer, the pieces you submit here, with their many voices, many visions, many stories, come together in the mosaic that is America writing.

If you still have questions, go to the National Da…

Obamas Read Aloud for Easter

At the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, the Obamas read stories to the children, including Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

C-Span has the video here.

Use technology like C-Span and You Tube or TeacherTube to bring more videos into your classroom of historical figures and celebrities reading books aloud. Post links or post the videos directly into your website. Share resources.

Is Poetry Really Worth It?

April is Poetry Month, but as a language arts teacher, I know that amongst language arts teachers, there's a dirty little secret, especially in the secondary... we tend to relegate the poetry unit to the end hoping that we've run out of time. Have I exposed a nerve?
Am I talking about you? Am I bringing up your own schooling demons? Have you analyzed poetry to death only to be told that you're way off base? Are we guilty of doing the same in our own classes? Have we just totally killed poetry for the next generation?
April is the month to go back to your childhood and remember what you liked so much about poetry. No one reads a poem like "There Was an Old Man of West Dumpet" to a child then has that child analyze the motive of the old man. Poetry is to immerse yourself in sound and emotion and imagery and taste the words as they're going in your brain and coming out of your mouth.
There was an old man of West Dumpet,
Who possessed a large nose like a t…

39 Clues #3: The Sword Thief

The 39 Clues is back for its 3rd installment. The kids need to go to Japan in search of the next clue.

Peter Lerangis, the author of the third 39 Clues book is over on Ink Splot blogging about his crazy adventures promoting the new book (The 39 Clues #3: The Sword Thief) while following mysterious clues. It's very entertaining -- especially if you're a fan of the books.

Watch the first of five videos he filmed "Blair witch" style in the New York City subway, here:

Speaking of Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak has been out for ten years, and if you are a secondary English teacher who has not read this book, you MUST. This is not a book to do as a whole class, but it's a book to keep handy when one of your students needs it. Don't know what I'm talking about? Read it. You'll know. Think you don't have the kinds of kids that need to read this book to feel less alone, more human, not so strange?

You do.

Anderson takes the thousands of letters and emails and puts it together in a poem entitled Listen

Join others in speaking out about Speak at

Literacy Resource for parents and teachers

Adolescent is a resource for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12. It's a free e-newsletter and it's got a nice balance of writing and reading resources as well as blogs, multimedia videos with experts and YA authors as well as literacy strategies.

Right now I'm watching a video by Dr. Steve Graham of Vanderbilt University. It's long, so it would be a great shot of PD for spring break. Not only does he talk about why he was interested in writing, he also says that the best preparation for writing teachers is to go through writing project.
He also talks about self-regulated strategy development, peer revising, collaborative writing and grammar instruction. He gives specific examples from the classroom, answers some common teacher questions and explains why what we do is so important.

Breaking Out of Little Boxes

I'm in the unique position this year of visiting classrooms to see what's going on in these little boxes we call "our rooms." I must say, it's very different when it's someone else's little box rather than my own little box. I see wonderful things going on in isolation and I see potentially wonderful things going on, with no real way to share out with others. I see things going on that would be a great connector to something else in another grade level or even another subject area, but I also feel that my hands are tied because of the disconnected nature of schooling. We separate ourselves into neat little subjects, divided by grade levels that rotate on their own little axes. Not counting education, can you imagine if the real world worked this way? We'd all be working with people that were the same age as us, we'd all travel together to our little departments, our learning would be dictated by "the authority," and our self worth would …

Have I Done Enough?

(Image: 'Questions')

I was listening to a podcast interview with Marc Ancito, and when asked about his fears, he talked about questioning himself, "am I enough?" With 10 weeks left of my first year as a literacy coach and reading specialist, I too want to know, "am I enough?" Have I done enough this year? Have I accomplished anything of substance? Have I made a difference in someone's life? Since I don't have my own students, I'm finding it hard to really judge my effectiveness this year in the same way I've been able to gauge my performance these past 16 years. I have a long way to go. Programs to think about, student needs to address. . .it's what keeps me waking up and going to work. I hope it's enough.

Voice Threads in the social studies classroom

I've used voice threads in my language arts class, but how did it work in other classes, and how was it better once we actually paid the $1/child for their own account?

This is an example from Mele's Hawaiian studies class. The students were doing research on Princess Pauahi and what she did for her people, then they drew a picture for their slide and wrote a script.

Positives: the students were able to continue recording until they were satisfied. They took to the technology quickly. They were able to get comments from their parents, so there was a connection between school and home.

Things we still need to work on: I continue to say this, and I'm going to say this again: technology is just a tool. Good literacy instruction is the foundation for all projects, so teachers need to check the writing first. I think Mele had to go back after some were recorded because their information was wrong. We're working on fixing that - check everything first. Second, the students need…

Ceded Lands Vigil 2/25/09

Message from Vicky Holt Takamine

Aloha Kakou,
'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition is gathering at the State Capitol Rotunda at 4 am. (I know most of you are not doing anything at that hour)
We encourage all native Hawaiians and supporters of protecting our ceded lands from being sold and/transferred to join us.

We will be sharing our pule, drumming and chanting every hour on the hour from 5 am to 4 pm. At 5 am Honolulu time, the US Supreme Court will be hearing the case brought by Gov. Lingle who is seeking the right to sell our ancestral lands. We need to send our pule to give strength and mana to those that are representing us.

Please bring your pahu, pu kani and/or pu 'ohe to assist in the calling of our people.
Bring your 'ohana, haumana and hoaloha.
Bring your own water, mea 'ai (food), chairs, hali'i (mats) for resting in between.
Kumu hula will be sharing/teaching oli between sessions so you can lend your mana and voices to this effort.

We encouarge you to visit your…

Free Online read of Walter Dean Myer's Dope Sick

Browse Inside this book Get this for your site
Walter Dean Myer's Second Chance's online promotionfor Dope Sick, the latest book from award-winning author Walter Dean Myers continues through February. We've added author podcasts and interviews, and Dope Sick is now available for free online reading.

Lehua Writing Project Summer Institute

The Lehua Writing Project is a new site sponsored by the National Writing Project and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

For our first summer, we are offering the summer writing institute geared for educators teaching at the pre-13 level. Teachers will study successful classroom strategies for teaching writing, read and discuss research, and improve their knowledge of writing by writing themselves. Most importantly, like all national writing project courses, the strength of the program is in the ability of teachers to teach and learn from each other.

The summer institute is a 3 graduate level course with tuition covered by grants. The course runs for 3 weeks, June 15 - July 2, 2009; 8:30 am - 4 pm in the lush Hamakua coast community of Honoka'a. The location is ideally centered on the big island. Scholarship and travel stipends are available, and if you are traveling to our island and are in need of accomodations assistance, please contact us.

For more information and for an applicat…

Web 2.0 Workshop on Oahu

If you're in Honolulu on Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21, Classroom 2.0 will hold a Live Workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the St Louis/Chaminade campus. It's a free and fun two-day workshop with an opportunity to gather with other educators and learn about Web 2.0 and classroom practices. In particular, this workshop is to help educators just learning about the "participative" Web to do so in a friendly and hands-on environment. It's also a great gathering place for the community of educators looking at Web 2.0. Find more information on this event at

Wanted: Principals Blogging

My boss asked me to find powerful examples of blogs done by principals as a way not only to get announcements out to families, but also to provide a site for resources that families could use to assist their child, as well as ways to supplement the learning going on and build connections between home and school. What a wonderful use for the blog! How forward thinking and, dare I say LOGICAL. I was excited. That's an assignment that's right up my alley. I promised I'd find at least 5 good ones and report back to him on what made the blog so powerful and how it could be tweaked for our families.

My problem: I'm having a hard time finding what I'm looking for. HELP. If you have/know of an administrator that's doing a fabulous job of blogging for parents as their primary audience, please let me know. I found a lot of fabulous edtech blogs, but they're writing to other edtechs or other teachers. I'll keep looking, but here's some good ones that I found.


News and Twitter

I got to hear Will Rich speak at the Kukulu Kaiaulu ed tech conference in Honolulu this summer and he has so much to share on technology and education. This is one of his videos on the example of Twitter as a tool for the news.
The original video is shared from bliptv by WillRich45

FREE Webinar Series starts Jan. 28th

I got an email from Classroom 2.0(an educator's networking site)that announced that they're partnering with PBS to offer a series of free online web seminars (webinars) for teachers.

Webinars are a great way to do quick (usually one hour) online classes with an opportunity to participate in the running discussion as well as an opportunity to ask questions of the speakers. Another perk is that by signing up you are sent a link of the archive so that you can take your time to digest and synthesize the information outside of the timed parameters of participating live. P.S. For the Hawaii educators, the webinars are usually listed in Easter Standard time, so take off 5 hours and I'll meet you in the seminar room at 3 pm Hawaii Standard Time on the 28th.

Here's the webinar information from the email:
A message to all members of Classroom 2.0- PBS Teachers® and Classroom 2.0 are partnering on a series of free monthly webinars designed to help preK-12 educators learn new ways to…

Resources for African American History Month

February is African American History Month so let me help with some resources.
The Underground Railroad: An Interactive History Adventure by Allison Lassieur
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 112 pagesPublisher: Capstone Press; 1st edition (January 1, 2008)Language: EnglishISBN-10: 1429611839ISBN-13: 978-1429611831Describes the people and events of the Underground Railroad in the 1850s after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. The reader's choices reveal the historical details from the perspectives of a runaway slave, a slave catcher, and an abolitionist. It's $6.95 retail, but has it for $5.00 in their January TAB flyer (T50600).

Also from Scholastic, Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell FreedmanReading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 114 pagesPublisher: Holiday House (November 4, 2008)Language: EnglishISBN-10: 0823421953ISBN-13: 978-0823421954In Freedman's clear prose, relive the protest that changed America. This book is packe…

Using Media as a Classroom Resource

Today as I turned on the television at 5 am to watch the inauguration, I couldn't help but compare it to the other inaugurations I've seen (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush). I woke my children up and we watched until we had to leave for school and on our way to school, we listened to Obama's speech on the AM radio. But what is so different about this inauguration is the way that everyday citizens like me, not professional journalists, but people like me who woke up and turned on the tv, or the radio, or the computer, can be directly involved in this historic day through Facebook or Twitter, or online comments, blogs, vlogs, etc.

What a wonderful day to be a teacher in America. With so many opportunities to bring the world into our classroom, to join in the voices of the nation and the world, it's a great day to be in education. It's a wonderful time to be in this profession, and more than any other time in history, the world really is at our fingertips.

For those that ar…

Home Reading Support that Makes the Biggest Difference

In the December 2008 Review of Educational Research (Vol. 78, #4, pp. 880-907), researchers Monique Senechal and Laura Young report on their study of different ways for parents to support their K-3 children's reading development. The authors looked at 16 intervention studies involving 1,340 families, and found that overall, the effects of parent involvement were positive. They do, however, see a marked difference among three different approaches:
Parents reading to their children - First, remember that they don't say this is not a good thing. This is a good thing. However, the studies showed very little impact on children's reading achievement -- an effect size of 0.18.Parents listening to their children read books - The impact of this had an effect size of 0.52. There does need to be some parent training on the basics of listening to children reading, like how to model thinking, making connections as they read, modeling word attack skills as they read. . .Parents tutoring…

Google Reader as a PD tool

Have you noticed this logo either next to your URL address or on a website like a blog or news site? This is the RSS logo (really simple syndication) that basically allows you to subscribe to a site (like this blog), and every time there is a new post on the site, the new post title shows up on your RSS reader, or aggregator. Your blog has an RSS logo too so I could "subscribe" to your blog and be notified when you have a new posting. You are not obligated to read every post unless the title of the post is something that you want to read about. The object here is to be in the know, not to be overwhelmed with information. One of the better RSS readers is Google Reader (although I personally use Flock, Flock is not for everyone). To make Google Reader easier to use, Webware has just posted online videos and links to more that give tutorials on how to use Google Reader.Using RSS is probably one of the first things those new to Web 2.0 will want to learn, and this video incorpo…

"Off with their heads!"

This Sunday's Star Bulletin ran an article on Hawaii State superintendent of schools, Patricia Hamamoto's push for the legislature to give the DOE more power to replace teachers, principals and staff at some campuses that have been failing the No Child Left Behind law despite extra support to help them raise student achievement over the years.

The plan would allow Hamamoto to replace staff if the school was in restructuring for at least three years. The proposal would allow Hamamoto to replace workers at schools that have been under restructuring for three years or longer. It also could change membership of school community councils and control of the campus could be handed over to private companies.

Harsh? I thought so, but the most interesting thing about this topic is that the comments to this article are not really all that harsh. In fact, I was intrigued by the number of posts that think that this idea sounds pretty logical, and despite the all or nothing nature of this pro…

English Teacher's Companion Ning

If one of your new year's resolutions is to be a more reflective and FABULOUS English teacher, then join the English Companion ning right now. This ning (social website with a specific focus) was started by Jim Burke, prolific author (English Teacher's Companion, The Teacher's Daybook, Reading Reminders, Writing Reminders, Tools for Thought: Graphic Organizers in the Classroom, etc.) webmaster, and guru for secondary English teachers. English teachers can join groups, start discussions, participate in discussions, blog and meet other English teachers from around the country and around the world. Within less than one month of starting this ning, there are already 600+ educators learning from each other.
I think I joined two weeks ago, and everyday that I go on and read the discussions, join in, and hear mana'o from other educators, I learn and am inspired again. The passion for teaching is contagious. People have great forum topics and it is as beneficial for the new…

Signing OFF

Now that we have our family website up and running, I've decided that this is a good time to sign off on this blog and recreate it into something else. There's no need for two personal blogs, so I'm going to take the rest of this week to recreate this one into its own niche.

Blogging is about writing about your passion and finding your niche so that you can hook up with like minded people and learn and share, so I've got to really hone in on what passion I want to explore for this manao blog. Some passions on the family blog: food, family, fun, books. That's already there and mom can still share her mana'o and memories on that blog for all of us to savor.

My other passion is my work. I love being an English teacher, a literacy resource teacher and an advocate of using local culture and local literature to raise the educational bar for local students. My passion is to use technology to enhance literacy. Really, it still comes down to a simple formula that's no…