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This week’s booktalks 9/18-9/22

22 Sep

Monday, I actually encouraged students to listen to The Inquisitor’s Tale  because the audiobook is rather excellent.

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Tired Tuesday, feeling groggy after BTSN, I chose a book I could get super excited about sharing.

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Wednesday, I went for inspirational.

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Thursday, because we were talking about maps as inspiration for writing personal narratives, I chose The Map Trap, with its obvious connection.

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And, finally, Friday, I recommended All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook,  just because I like it. It is the perfect book to curl up with this week.

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Re-reading

17 Dec

Like the students I teach, I’m rereading a lot right now. They are rereading Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” and  The Call of the Wild. We hit literary essay writing pretty hard the last few weeks, so, instead of having them write a paper, they are creating an info graphic to compare and contrast the two stories.  Core 1 cheered when I told them. They are drawing and cutting and leafing through both stories, looking for their text evidence.

I’m rereading the 2016 William C. Morris YA  Debut Award Finalists.

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It’s only three weeks until I leave for Boston, where the committee will choose the best of these five to win the award. If you haven’t read them yet, take some time over the break (if you get one) and read them because they are all fantastic.

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda written by Becky Albertalli, published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Conviction written by Kelly Loy Gilbert, published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group
  • The Weight of Feathers written by Anna-Marie McLemore, published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly written by Stephanie Oakes, published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers
  • Because You’ll Never Meet Me written by Leah Thomas, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

 

Three down, one to go

20 Aug

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Today is Day 4 of the 4-day  TCRWP writing workshop for middle school teachers. I think everyone who attended is energized and excited about implementing some of these strategies in our classrooms.

It has been good to be the student, to have to think like them, to do the tasks we will ask them to do, and to see how we can teach these ideas.

It’s been hard, too. There’s been some homework, but that isn’t the hardest part. It has been hot here and although my morning sessions have been in the nicely air-conditioned library, my afternoon sessions have been in a stiflingly hot classroom. Emily has been a saint. She teaches in that classroom all day and still has a smile by the end of her last session.

The 6th, 7th and 8th grade Summa teachers have agreed that we will all teach Ray Bradbury in reading. Sixth grade is taking on his short stories, 7th  reads  The Martian Chronicles, and 8th grade reads  Fahrenheit 451. So, when our homework Tuesday night was to choose one of the stories from a packet they provided, read it and jot some thoughts, I naturally chose Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day. Wednesday, we used our notes to learn techniques to have kids write a literary essay. Even though we were writing about several different stories, the strategy worked for everyone.

The beginning of the end

6 Aug

I have a meeting at my new school today. I am excited, but also a  little sad to know that summer holidays are almost over. Today’s  half day meeting is for teachers who will be new to the school. It will give me a chance to start really thinking about what the coming school year will look like because, I really haven’t been able to do much yet to get ready. Tomorrow I have a full day presentation by Kelly Gallagher. I am super excited about this because he is the author of Readicide: How Schools are Killing reading and What You Can Do About It.

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Publisher’s Summary:Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Reading is dying in our schools. Educators are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline — poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. In this provocative new book, Kelly Gallagher suggests, however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools. In Readicide, Kelly argues that American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically, he contends that the standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by:

  • valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers;
  • mandating breadth over depth in instruction;
  • requiring students to read difficult texts without proper instructional support;
  • insisting that students focus solely on academic texts;
  • drowning great books with sticky notes, double-entry journals, and marginalia;
  • ignoring the importance of developing recreational reading;
  • and losing sight of authentic instruction in the shadow of political pressures.

Kelly doesn’t settle for only identifying the problems. Readicide provides teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators with specific steps to reverse the downward spiral in reading—steps that will help prevent the loss of another generation of readers.

He is the author of several other books on Reading and writing instruction.

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Thinking about the summer reading slump

5 Jun

Like most teachers, I am thinking about the summer reading slump and what I can do to be sure kids read over the summer so they come back as good a reader in September as they are now. Here is Kate Di Camillo, urging kids to participate in their local library’s summer reading program.

As I pack up my room, I am sorting through the hundreds of books I have, trying to decide which ones I should take to middle school, which I should leave in the classroom and which I will give away so my students have something to read over the summer.

A few of my kids have mentioned to me that they’ve already signed up for the summer reading program at the Beaverton City Library. The Bookmarks, this year’s champion OBOB team, have already had meetings and they have a plan to practice with a team from another school. But these are not the kids I worry about.

I worry about the ones who don’t have a library card. Who won’t go to summer school. Who don’t like to read, inspire of my best efforts.

Today is field day and our schedule gets thrown out the window. May be today is the day I teach them bout audiobooks. And the joys of reading along with a professional reader. maybe that will motivate those kids who really don’t enjoy reading.

What other things have you done that motivated the kids who don’t like to read, to do so over the summer?

 

BORING? Subversive!

8 May

Meet the Dullards. Their home is boring. Their food is plain. Their lives are monotonous. And Mr. and Mrs. Dullard like it that way.

But their children–Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud–have other ideas. . . .

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Mr. & Mrs. Dullard decide to move when their children show a spark of color. Literally. But no matter what they do, the children keep rebelling against the life of dullness their parents have mapped out for them. They refuse to watch the paint dry.

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As they are unpacking in their new home, a friendly neighbor stops by with a house warming gift.

“‘Welcome to the neighborhood,’ she said. ‘I baked you an applesauce cake!’
‘Please don’t use exclamation marks in front of our children.'”

This is the sort of humor infused into the book. Some of it might be a little more advanced than the readers who are most likely to pick up this book, but this also make it the sort of picture book that older readers can enjoy as a mentor test.

I really enjoyed Daniel Salmieri’s illustrations which capture the dullness and vibrancy of the Dullard family.

My favorite time of day

17 Dec

We do all our heavy work before lunch: reading, Writing, math, Social Studies. Science, Health. The kids go to lunch at 12:10 and, because they have Specials immediately after lunch, I don’t see them again until 1:35. They come in, we fill out our planner and I do read aloud.

Read aloud is my favorite time of day. We’ve read four books since September:

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We finish Flora and Ulysses by Friday, and begin a new book when we come back in January.

I chose The Doll People when I heard there was a 4th book in the series. The boys in my class were skeptical, but I asked them to give it a chance and, of course, they loved it. In fact, we are writing letters for the Library of Congress’ Letters about Literature contest, a couple of boys are writing about that book. Just the other day, I said “Sock it to me” and I was rewarded by a chorus of mini Aretha’s. They learned about the RESPECT song because of The Doll People.

The fourth book is The Doll People Set Sail.

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Goodreads Summary:Annabelle Doll, Tiffany Funcraft, and their families are whisked out to sea when the Palmers accidentally place them in a box destined for charity donation. And it turns out they’re not alone-there are plenty of other doll people on the ship, too. After traveling thousands of miles, will they be able to find their way home?

The summary sounds a bit like the last Toy Story  movie, but this is way better. fans of the three previous books won’t be disappointed and, readers who haven’t read those books will bo OK, although I always recommend reading things in order because it makes more sense. Although I was disappointed that Brian Selznick is not the illustrator, Brett Helquist does an excellent job capturing the essence of the Doll/Funcraft family adventures.

If you are looking for a good series to give a middle reader, this is an excellent choice.

Read Aloud is My Superpower

21 Oct

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Read aloud is one of my favorite times of the school day. I’d forgotten that, not having had my own classroom for six years.  This year’s class is a handful. but they love read aloud too!  It is the one time there are no side conversations and my class LOVES to  have side conversations.

The first book I read to the this year was The Worm Whisperer  by Betty Hicks. I knew this class was special because they referred back to events and characters in it when we were talking about other things. One day, just before we left for a long weekend, I was talking to them about being sure not to forget their homework, which led to a discussion of having a regular homework time.We talked about how plans sometimes change on long weekends, so they should have their regular plan in place, but have a back up plan just in case. One student piped up and said “You shouldn’t be so rigid that you can;t break your own rules.”, or something to that effect. I asked where they learned that and they said, “From Ellis’ teacher in The Worm Whisperer.”  I was impressed.

We read Dear Mr. Henshaw next, which they loved, though they were a little hesitant to leave The Worm Whisperer  behind. A couple of kids have borrowed both of those books to reread them on their own.

Friday we started The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. I wanted a book with a strong female lead and was reminded of this one by the recent publication of the 4th book in the series. The boys were not impressed by the cover. Too girly. By the time I reached the family sing-along I had hooked them. The Doll Family was son gong from Greatest Hits of the Sixties. I think it was my own singing of  R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and particularly the “sock-it-to-me ” chorus that really grabbed their attention. Apparently they didn’t know the song, so I played it for them, doing some silly movements with my head and hands. Just as the song finished, the principal was doing a walk-through with the custodian and the fire marshall. We all had a good laugh at that.

I enjoy watching their faces move from skeptical as I begin a new book, to entranced when I’ve hooked them.  I think read aloud might be my superpower.

Sounding my barbaric yawp

27 Aug

Today, I get to present to my staff about the CCSS for reading. There will be grumbles as I sound my barbaric yawp about best teaching practices in reading. I know this. I am prepared. I am going to show them this and maybe other clips from Dead Poets’ Society. Really, it comes down to this question: Do you want to be Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, or do you want to be Mr. Keating?

Last week I started reading Falling in Love With Close Reading by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts.

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I will be facilitating a book group/action research group with any staff members who are interested. I am hopeful that we have a biggish group, and that there are some people who join who might be a little uncomfortable with the whole thing.

I am excited about all the changes happening for me this year, but had a little meltdown when I got home yesterday because I haven’t had a chance to unpack any of my stuff and we are full on for meetings all day today and tomorrow morning. It’s this way every year.  I know, once the real business of teaching begins, it will be good. I just have to make it through this week.

 

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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