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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Hush Little Dragon - Boni Ashburn

A constant battle that I have with myself is this: What will I read to the Kindergartens today?

Only librarians will be able to understand the complexity of this struggle.  A successful Kindergarten read aloud is a delicate balance that is hard to achieve.  You could have a home run book and they might have just enjoyed cupcakes for someone's birthday and you won't have a hope of having them pay attention.

So you need to be prepared.  You need a home run book every time they visit.  You must have an arsenal of appropriate books on hand.  Planning is so very necessary.

It can't be too long.  It can't be too simple.  It can't be complex.  A funny book is good but it has to be kindergarten funny.  The list goes on and on and is dependent on the day, time and weather. Coordinating with the kindergarten teacher is helpful because if you read a book on a topic they are studying at the very least, they will talk forever about what they already know.

So I'm going to start sharing some good Kindergarten Read Alouds.

This one I predict is going to be a home run!  Why?  Because I'm going to sing!  I love singing with the K's.  They love to sing, they love to hear me sing and I think most of them might know this classic.  Hush Little Dragon is written to be sung to the tune of Hush Little Baby.  This is a twisted theme because the mama dragon is looking for a bedtime snack for her baby dragon.  She finds princesses, soldiers, all sorts of things to give to the baby.  I think it's hilarious.  And it's kindergarten hilarious.  Sing it loud, sing it proud and I bet they'll sing along.

Lost for Words - Natalie Russell

Here I am writing about the writing process, again.  I really hope all this effort inspires teachers to embrace Writer's Workshop.  I seem to tell any teacher who will listen that, by doing Writer's Workshop religiously, you WILL develop writers who are inspired.  I truly believe this!  If I'm ever back in the classroom, I look forward to this part of teaching once again.  It can be truly magical.

This is an adorable story that will show kids that lots of people feel like they have nothing to write about.  One of the beliefs of Writer's Workshop is that, most times, students will write whatever they want, about whatever they want.  This means that like the story, some students may choose to write poetry, songs, narratives, procedures - whatever.  A kid who loves narrative may detest poetry and never choose to write that genre.  Totally ok.  When you get the chance to write, you write whatever inspires you.  It is an opportunity, a chance, a treat, something great, never a drudgery.  Ultimately in this book, the main character decides that he is an illustrator.  I think students should be allowed to tell stories through pictures as well.  It is another form of instruction.

There is a time when you have to learn all the different forms of writing.  I tell students that even I have to do writing that I wouldn't normally choose to do.  That's life.  Everyone has to learn about poetry even if they dislike it.  You have to learn how to do a procedure.  But when you get your chance to write whatever you want, then you get to choose.  In Writer's Workshop you teach all the forms of writing and students are required to produce at least one of each form that is taught, but free choice is free choice, no questions asked.

Please look up my entry on The Best Story by Spinelli where I started this conversation about Writer's Workshop. I'm sure you'll find a similar theme...

The big life lesson for kids after reading this book: Do what you are good at and feel comfortable with, don't worry about everyone else.  Be YOU!

The Butter Battle Book - Dr Seuss

This book is a blast from the past, but I had never read it!  I have just recently purchased this after several teachers asked if we had it in the library.  After reading it, I can understand why teachers want this book at hand.

Amazon states that 'this book's message is far from obsolete'.  I have to whole heartedly agree.

I don't normally enjoy Seuss books.  The are a bit too far from the ordinary for me, but I appreciate their popularity.  I had a few Seuss books growing up and I share them with young students often. This book is one of Dr. Seuss's cautionary tales.  Who would have thought that an author with such a silly sense of humour would also leave us with timeless messages of humanity?

This is a book for all ages.  Young students can be introduced to the age old question of why groups of people can never get along.  Older students can discuss allegory after reading.  This is an allegory of the Cold War but it can easily be an allegory of many global conflicts that are presently happening in the world today.

Remember!  An allegory is a story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or politcial one

All ages, however can learn an important lesson about respecting differences.  The Yooks and the Zooks do not respect each other and the reason is ridiculous.  The reasons for many global conflicts may seem strange to us in the West, but just like the Zooks and Zoinks, their way of life is deemed to be under attack.  Another discussion point would be to discuss the intolerance of each group and how they should have shown mutual respect.  The small issues in the story quickly escalate into some very serious retaliation that gets out of hand.   

Beyond discussion, this book could be a starting point to study groups of people in the world that are in conflict and why.  Also, The Butter Battle Book does not have an ending.  A writing activity could be for students to write their own ending.  Or students could discuss the significance of Dr. Seuss not writing an ending.  What was the author trying to tell us?  An inferencing opportunity.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Most Likely to Succeed - Professional Review what our students and teachers are capable of doing. 

This quote is taken from the website for 'Most Likely to Succeed', a documentary hoping to inspire an educational revolution.  We watched this film on a PD day recently.  As I was watching, I was inspired to write down some things I heard that stood out.  I also jotted down my thinking (I practice what I preach) I'm sharing my thoughts here in hopes of starting a discussion with educators, parents and students about education and how it is delivered.

To start off with I was super grumpy on the morning I watched this which may be the reason this sounds like a grumpy old school marm wrote the review...

Secondly, this is American.  Understand that their system is different, but not unlike the Ontario Education system.

1 - The opening sequence where we are introduced to the character who is 'bored' in school and is under performing - am I supposed to be motivated by this sequence or alarmed?  I do understand that the education system fails kids.  What I have a problem with here is that it becomes the teacher's problem that the student is bored.

Ok, need to be positive, keep watching.  Obviously this is not the only point of the film...

2 - Alarming that the modern education system was developed in the late 1800's and it hasn't really changed much.  Again, not feeling too motivated by this revelation.  And I do feel like students at some point need to learn how to sit and read and write and listen.  The high school/university/college system demands this of our students, so this revolution needs to occur in Preschool and go all the way through to post secondary school.

3 - Interesting point - School is an organization tool NOT an educational system
So how we organize students in school does not help to educate them?  I can understand that and then it makes sense that many students do not flourish within the organization of a school, yet are very successful in other aspects of life.  If we end  'school' as we know it, what would happen to the students who are successful in the current school setting?  I know, I know, they will have to learn perseverance, grit and resilience!  

4 - Interesting point #2 - Kids would learn if they felt it would help them do something.  Brilliant.  So teachers have the challenge of making sure that their lessons and students activities always show a real world connection.  That is challenging but an important part of education.  I believe this is what was lacking in the education system when teachers were in school.  We never 'got' how what we were learning was going to make any difference in our lives.  I believe teachers work very hard to make real world connections to their lessons.  This is why I would encourage high school students to pursue a trade in post secondary.  Learn something that is going to benefit you!  

5 - High Tech High - I loved this school but it also gives me anxiety.  Probably because it's so far from how I've taught and so far from the school I teach in.  How do you even start?  I know I'm supposed to be motivated, but it seems so far from where we are.  What I do love and tried to do as a classroom teacher is the public exhibition.  I believe having a deadline, after which you are responsible to an audience, gives a class focus and something to truly strive towards.

I also understand why parents might be nervous to have their kids attend High Tech High even though it is amazing.  They have to do the 'old school' stuff to get into a good college and get the job. Are these alternative schools going to do this for them when post secondary is still based on an old school framework?  Unfortunately here in Ontario our measure of success is still the report card and the standardized test.  Until we change this, we are handcuffed to these tools of measuring how our students are doing.  These things then dictate how students move through secondary school, post secondary school and then eventually the real world

6 - We must be teaching Soft Skills - confidence, dealing with criticism, independent work etc.  Students do not have these soft skills and then are blindsided in the work force when they can't work as a group and break down when people give them constructive criticism.  

7 - Real education is messy.  Any attempt to standardize education ignores the fact that we evolve.  Education is more like gardening that engineering.  You don't paint petals!  Growth comes with the right conditions.  

I feel like these film makers are preaching to the choir.  Teachers know the system has to change.  We are powerless to change the century old ways.  Do we need an education revolution?  Yes!  Has the world changed since we were in school? Yes!  Changing the education will be a huge undertaking.  It goes way beyond changing what happens within the walls of a school.  You have to change the ideology of a society.  It can't just happen at the school level.  It will definitely have to be a societal revolution.

Unspoken - Henry Cole

My school has recently begun the French Immersion program.  As an English speaking librarian, I've struggled with how I can service the French classes in a meaningful way.

My recent discovery for these classes...wordless books.

The grade 3 class is very fluent in french.  I recently shared Unspoken with them.  They are beginning a unit on Early Settlers and this book is a great one for asking questions and discussing how life was in the late 18th century.  The Underground Railroad is a fascinating topic and it's connection to Canada is great.  So much of pioneer stories are based in the United States, but I make sure I let them know about the Canadian connection.

After discussing what they already knew about slavery and the Underground Railroad, I had the grade 3's narrate the wordless book en Francais with their teacher listening so that she can translate for me if necessary!  This keeps the two teachers invested in the read aloud.

We had to split the read aloud between 2 library visits because the kids were so interested and had so much to talk about!  They were fascinated by the idea of someone hiding in the barn and looking for the clues in the pictures.  Just the right amount of 'scare' to keep 9 year olds intrigued!

A great book for many age groups especially if you are doing a unit on wordless books.