I actually started this book on President’s Day. What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House is by Tevi Troy. It’s one of those non-fiction books that you can read a bit and then put down. That’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve learned quite a bit about presidents and their impact on popular culture and media. It goes without saying I’m most interested in the chapters that speak to presidential reading.
What are you reading today?
I remember a few years ago, I had a really unruly class, with a capital UN.
Part of the issue was that every single one of them had a reading disability. They had IEPs, ILPs, RTI plans, dyslexia, and ADD (with the H and without). By 7th grade they thought reading was something that made them look dumb. The old saying proved true: they would rather look bad than stupid. So they acted out. They tested me. I knew I needed to find some common ground, something that would keep me from pulling my hair out and throwing one of them out the window (I kid!). I found it when I pulled out Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements and started to read aloud.
It was like I had a magic wand.
Students sat and listened. They engaged. They asked questions! Everyone of them wanted to know how this kid had turned invisible. They speculated about what they would do if they woke up that way. I was grossed out that he walked around Chicago with bare feet. It was my favorite time of the day and it only cost the price of a paperback.
I remembered this group of kids and that magic moment this week as the we celebrated World Read Aloud Day. Here are my gleanings:
1. An article in U.S. News & World Report was a great reminder that technology has it’s place, but reading aloud to children will never go out of style. Just like that group of 7th graders that I bewitched with a story, most children love to be read to. Heck, we all enjoy story time now and then! Taking the time to read to someone shows you are interested in them, their education, and their entertainment. It’s something all literate people can do to re-pay the gift of learning to read. Read to someone and change the world!
2. Another great internet finding was a blog post that came out today by Nancy Tandon via The Nerdy Book Club. I have a son just like hers. He’s an “active listener” and that’s always been hard for me, a criss-cross applesauce kind of girl. He loves to play Legos and listen to audio books. I have to take deep breaths sometimes when I want to interrupt this very acceptable literacy activity because my teacher-side thinks he’s not listening. He is. He can prove it every time and I need to take a chill-pill.
3. Finally, I’ve decided that we will no longer be getting ice cream or a smoothie when we need a treat after a stressful trip to the dentist (can you believe I do this?) or the doctor. Again, from Nancy Tandon, who suggests why not get the reward at the book store?* Why not indeed? I can’t wait for my son’s 6 month check up! Barnes & Nobel here we come!
What have you learned about literacy this week?
*I know he doesn’t need a reward at all, but come on! I just got this great tip! Let me try it at least once?
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest was one of my favorite books a couple of years ago. I thought the story was well imagined and clever. I originally thought it was a young adult book, but after reading it I realized I connected with the 30-something mother who chases after her young son years after a mad scientist’s invention, an earth moving machine known as the Boneshaker, destroys Civil War era Seattle. Her son goes in search of answers in the now abandoned city. Boneshaker was the first book in what is known as the Clockwork Century series and it’s a stand-out in the Steampunk genre.
Now I’m enjoying the fifth book in the series, Fiddlehead, which features a fantastic calculating machine, a genius inventor, a former spy, and Abraham Lincoln– after his assassination. He’s alive and wheel-chair bound, but still committed to a perfect union of states. It’s proving to be an enjoyable plot point and I can’t wait to sit in my cozy reading chair and finish the adventure.
What’s your quiet Sunday reading?
Three things I’ve learned about literacy this week. Here ya go. . .
1. I modeled writing a persuasive letter to my students this week. Hello enlightenment! I not only wrote it in front of them, but I revised it too. I feel like my very best teaching in a long time occurred during this process. I’ve never really been excited about the way I’ve taught concluding passages before, but with modeling the process in front of students, I got it and they got it and it was zen.
2. My kid loves Dragon Slayer’s Academy books. I foresee a lot of Wiglif in my future.
3. Something my husband taught me about revision this week that I’ve said about 100 times already: “Professional writers revise all the time and student writers rarely do.” My guy is smart. I’m going to make this into a poster for my classroom.
What about your week?
Today I’m enjoying a mystery novel. The third in the series that features India Black, the madame-sometimes-spy. The sharp, witty writing is what keeps me coming back to this series by Carol K. Carr. Check it out:
“To be fair (and this is likely the last time I will be, so take note), I hadn’t disclosed much of my own past to French, but that’s because I don’t know much about the old pedigree.” (India Black and the Shadow of Anarchy p. 12)
In this adventure she’s being asked to infiltrate a den of anarchists hiding out in the Seven Dials slum of Victorian London. She can’t wait! And I can’t wait to keep reading!
What are you reading on this cozy Sunday?
Nothing shows me love more than when someone understands my reading tastes. Here’s my stack of valentines! Show me yours!
A weekly thing here at Accidental Literacy. Three things I’ve learned about literacy this week. . .
We’re writing persuasive papers in my class of 7th graders. The best word to describe this process would be adventurous. It’s not for the faint of heart. Students have brainstormed their topics. They’ve picked a position. What are the arguments to support their thesis? They have them. Arguments on the other side? They have counter-arguments. It’s so cool to see this develop! And then we start to talk about writing a lead. You can almost see the wheels fall of the persuasive-writing bus.
1. Students don’t have much experience writing a great lead for an essay. They want to use a standard, boring question. “Should kids have cell phones?” is a standard beginning. I go back to the paper I modeled writing in front of them on Monday. Did I just ask one question? Didn’t I use a few similes and metaphors? What about that great word picture I painted? They agree I’m a great writer. Then they go back to the tried and true.
2. Mentor texts rock my world. I can’t tell you how much re-teaching they have saved me over the past week. Thank you Kelly Gallagher and your wonderful book Write Like This! When a student wants to fall back on the contrived, uninspired methods of writing from elementary school (Where should I put the blues? I’ve got my o/p, my plan, and my “ing” so now what?) I can point out that none of mentor text authors used such training wheels.
3. When I asked kids how they were going to make their thesis statements better they responded with a chorus of “work hard”. I was looking for a chorus of “revise” but I went with it because I’m a professional.
“Yes!” I shouted. “Do you know what working hard in writing is called? It’s called revising!”
I’m thinking of making that a slogan for a t-shirt.
Would you buy one? I sure would.
What three things about literacy have you learned this week?