Thursday, March 19, 2009

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:

Monday, March 16, 2009

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 http://speakupaboutspeak.blogspot.com/

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Literacy Resource for parents and teachers



Adolescent literacy.org
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.

Monday, March 02, 2009

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 depend on how well we were at taking tests.

We do not need to stay in our little boxes if our boxes are far removed from the world outside our gates. Breaking out of little boxes means looking beyond our departments, grade levels, bell schedules and making the systemic changes necessary to create a school where students are doing real work. We don't abandon writing, reading, math, history, language, music, art, science, PE, guidance, standards, assessment, differentiation.. . but we do create an environment where students are learning along with not under the teachers.

This is by no means a new idea or even a foreign idea. These things are happening in other schools, but we need to keep reminding ourselves that even if we are in these boxes, it's not hard to break out.

This video shows real schools that have taken that step. It's not a pipe dream. We can be the change.










Sunday, March 01, 2009

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.