Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reading Ladders - Teri Lesesne

The Hawaii Council of Teachers of English (HCTE) sponsored "Professor Nana," Dr. Teri Lesesne (rhymes with insane) for their fall workshop this morning at Mid Pacific Institute in Mānoa.

Neither the $50 fee nor the fact that this was a gorgeous Saturday and we were in a 1/2-day workshop was enough to dissuade the packed cafeteria of teachers. If you LOVE, LOVE, LOVE YA and tween books like I do. . .if it's your guilty pleasure. . .if you read YA books in order to find something one of your reluctant readers will devour, then Professor Nana is the ultimate source in YA books. I first saw her in San Antonio for a literacy workshop with Kylene Beers. I have followed her blog The YA Goddess since 06, and whenever I'm at NCTE, I make sure I go to at least one of her sessions. It's true that her power points are always on her slide share account, but I always get more insight when I watch her because she book talks some of the covers that are in her slide show.

In between teaching my 9th graders and reading for my doctoral class this semester, I'd love to discuss some manaʻo from her book, Reading Ladders: Leading Student from Where They Are to Where Weʻd Like to Be (Heinemann). The gist of what I got from today's talk was that reading ladders combine elements of thematic units, vertical alignment and planning, as well as horizontal alignment and planning. It's a way to scaffold instruction as well as a way to keep students motivated to read, so that with the less secure readers, you take smaller steps.

I think this concept of having the next book ready for students, and planning horizontally and vertically around reading is one of the pieces that is missing in unsuccessful SSR programs. It's just not enough to tell the kids to read. It's not enough to take them to the library. We need to read aloud to our secondary students, and we need to carve out some time to talk books. We need to think schematically (and thematically) about books. Now if only we could get paid to read for pleasure.

Mahalo to Anna Lee from HCTE for letting me know about the workshop. They have more fabulous speakers coming: November 6, 2010 Stephanie Harvey and Smoky Daniels (Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action); February 12, 2011 Ralph Fletcher (Pyrotechnics on the Page: Playful Craft that Sparks Writing)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Storyline Online

Storyline Online is a site Esther Kotke of Hilo Union told me about. The premise is to take powerful picture books and create a video of professional actors reading these books. I listened to To Be a Drum read by James Earl Jones, but I noticed some other favorites like Thank You, Mr. Falker, Knots on a Counting Rope, and Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.

While the actors do the reading, the video shows the illustrated pages and subtitles appear on the bottom so that students can follow along in their own books or read together from the screen.

In addition, there are activities and questions for each book. The site is out of funding, so they probably won't add any more books, but they have a nice little collection.

This is great for elementary, but since I'm teaching 9th graders this year, I just thought it's a novelty to pass on, but I chose the right book to compliment what I'm doing right now. To Be a Drum can still be used in my high school class because it's a nice companion piece to Paul Laurence Dunbar's "Sympathy," and it works as a hook to give them some background knowledge to start their research on slavery in America. One of the summer reading books was Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. While the group was preparing for their presentation, they asked me what the title was about, so I directed them to Dunbar's "Sympathy," which is the source of the title. This led them to a study of the poem and then back to the theme of Angelou's memoir. The next step could be To Be a Drum, and then a look at the treatment of Native Hawaiians  and the suppression of their cultural practices, as well as ways in which they kept the language and culture alive.

Thanks Esther for sharing this resource. If you find resources that would benefit other teachers, let me know. I'd love to hear from you. It just seems like it's harder to find resources for secondary teachers.