Thursday, December 17, 2009

Resources for Busy Reading Teachers (and we're all busy AND reading teachers)

As you take a short break in your teaching to enjoy the winter break, I want to say to every reader "thanks and lots of love" for all your efforts in and out of the classroom.

Every week I talk with teachers face-to-face and virtually.  Even at conferences, when I ask teachers to talk with me about their work, so many say, quite frankly (when I tell them I'll keep their name out of it), that they are up to their eyeballs in staff development:

too much of the wrong sort,
too little that is meaningful and
expectations that teachers will be able to absorb what they need from a conventional presentation when they have already been in class all day or feel pressed for time. 

I also hear that too often, these professional development settings are designed and solicited with little input from the teachers receiving the training.

Here is my holiday gift to you:

A few resources I have found that will help you discover valuable information to enhance your teaching while allowing you to set your own timetable, accessing when it is convenient and meaningful for you:

IRA READING RADIO - I was thrilled to see that the International Reading Association has partnered with BAM! Radio to provide the first resource from IRA that you can listen to anytime.  The initial show features Peter Johnston, professor and Chair of the Reading Department at the University of Albany (NY), talking abou the need to redefine literacy in modern terms, and is hosted by IRA's executive director.

NINGS, Networks, and Listservs:

Social and professional networking are growing by leaps and bounds.  Just look at your students who are blogging, responding on Facebook or Twitter, connecting with those who have common interests.  Teachers can do the same.  With a commitment of only minutes a day, you can create dialogues, ask questions of peers or more experienced teachers, all without the worry of "what will those I work with every day think".
Check out these and share others you know about in comments on this blog:

The National Council of Teachers of English's ning (a virtual, member-based platform for setting up a venue for interaction on the Internet)

IRA, NCTE, NAEYC and many other professional teachers' groups have their own groups on the Linkedin network.  Although Linkedin contains people from all walks of life, you can choose those you wish to interact with.  You are alerted to news, job offerings, and postings from other members on any level you wish.  It does require you to sign up, as do most online communities, but you control how much you interact.  The advantage to Linkedin over Twitter is that you can actually write a sufficient amount of test to thoroughly explain your question or comment.  Others join in and share information, based on your post.  I don't know about you but I don't have time to idly chat online; I need to have a purpose for the time I devote and I sometimes need a pat on the back, a voice of understanding and support from outside my immediate world, a confirmation of my professionalism and expertise.  You can get all that from these sorts of interactions.

Yahoo also provides a variety of discussion groups including one for IRA as well as specific groups for teachers who use various teaching strategies like Four Block or the 6+1 Traits of Writing.

CAVEAT:  As with any networking on-line, there are a few cautions:

Set personal guidelines to limit your time on these sites (it's too easy to loose time surfing "eternally")
Decide ahead of time what you want to gain from this sort of interaction and let that guide your involvement.
Ask others about their experience or visit as a guest initially until you are satisfied it is the group for you.
Consider whether starting your own blog or ning is positive for you.


My use of blogs is two-fold:

I have three blogs to serve those whom TLA supports (one for preschool teachers, the one you are reading for K-12 teachers, and one for families).  I post occasionally now but in 2010 will be ramping up to share content at least three times weekly.

I also spend a bit of time each week searching out great resources that others are providing in a blog format.  Do you know that there were 112.8 million blogs as of 2007 (no telling how many there are now)?  That means there is probably a blog out there that contains just what you need.  Here's a half dozen samples to get you started:

Picture Books to Teach the 6+1 Traits of Writing
A Blog from Real Teachers Who Love Reading
The Dream Teacher
If Bees Are Few (inspirational)
The Reading Tub's Blog (bringing reading home to families - and a great resource for teachers)
I.N.K., Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

I encourage you to let one of your new year's resolutions be to grow as a professional and not depend solely on what you might have access to through your school or school district.  You're likely to become a better teacher for the effort!

Remember, we always love comments.  If you've had a great experience with some personal "PD", share what you learned with the rest of us.  Happy holidays (and well deserved rest during the winter break).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Picture Books and Literacy Celebrations In The Spotlight!

Several posts ago, I talked about using picture books as a powerful way to promote content learning and grow background knowledge. Today, I revisit the world of picture books with a few great new titles AND tips for using picture books in a different way to grow both the background knowledge, vocabulary and oral language of both students AND families. But first, a few thanks to my new friends from SE IRA (after these few paragraphs, you'll find the topic at hand):

I recently presented at the SE Regional Conference of the International Reading Association.Thanks to all my new friends in Louisiana for a great time. You were wonderful hosts! also met a couple of new friends I'd like to quickly share with you before going on to our topic:

I made some great new pals like Nile Stanley and Brett Dillingham, authors of Performance Literacy Through Storytelling, Nile and Brett told terrific tales and poems during the Poetry event one evening. Nile was spunky and joined music and poetry for a delightful experience and I have to say that Brett is a mesmerizing and illustrative storyteller, all at the same time.

I also met Hester Bass, the author of The Secret World of Arthur Anderson. If you don't know about this interesting artist, you'll want to explore a copy of this new book and you can find out even more about him through a website on his museum.

Now, back to our topic: While at the IRA conference, over 50 teachers and literacy advocates sat down with me to address a new use for picture books and I'm sharing a few additional resources here for both those who attended my session AND those who couldn't make it to the conference. 

Think about traditional picture walking and then let's tweak it a little. Great teachers do that with effective strategies all the time, to make it work for their students and families. Picture walking can be a wonderful tool for engaging families and students reluctant to spend time with books, beyond that pre-reading strategy of scanning the pictures before you read the text. Here are a few tips for using picture books to engage those for whom traditional literacy approaches may not be appropriate or comfortable, that is

Modeling is important. Simply show them how to look first at the outside of the book and  talk about what the story inside might be like.

Then take them inside, beginning with the first page and again just talk about what you see in the pictures. Don't worry about the text (if you've chosen wisely books that are colorful, have a strong storyline supported by the pictures, it will be easy).  Ask the child what he sees, it may be different.

Lastly, after the pictures have been viewed from every page, talk about the story as a whole. What happened? What was interesting? Who were the characters, those who were a part of the story? Would you do the same thing they did?

Taking the concept of exploring a book from an "academic lesson" to a positive experience with their child is the focus. Continue to encourage and coach; even let parents (or students) try it with one another so they get the idea. Give the parent "playing the role of the child" permission to act just like a child in their responses.

Wordless books and nearly wordless books (temporarily remove the intimidation of text and concentrate on engaging the family or student in telling a story from the pictures).  Here are a few to try with many different ages of children and many different families:

Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins
Do You Want to Be My Friend?  By Eric Carle (Harcourt, 1995)
First Snow by Emily Arnold McCully (Harper Row, 1985)
Free Fall by David Wiesner (Harper Trophey, 1991)
Hector Protector by Maurice Sendak
How to Build A Snowman by Scholastic and Jo Moon
Hug by Jez Alborough
I Can't Sleep by Phillippe Dupasquier, U.S. edition: Orchard, 1990
I Like Black and White by Barbara Jean Hicks, Tiger Tails, 2005
Lights Out by Arthur Geisert
My Friend Gorilla by Atsuko Morozumi, Farrar, Straus and Giroux:  London, 1997
Oops by Arthur Geisert, Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Pancakes for Breakfast by Toni DePaola (Voyager, 1990)
School Bus by Donald Crews (Harper Trophy, 1993)
Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischmann
Ten Minutes Til Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
The Secret of Love by Sarah Burg
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (Dragonfly Books, 1986)
Truck by Donald Crews
Tuesday by David Wiesner
Yes! By Jez Alborough
You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Weitzman
You’re A Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day

I'd love to hear how your experiments with these ideas work in your classroom and with your families!  Please post and share with others through your comments!