Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some Amazing Students

I'm sitting in first hour right now, and all my students are using a Google Form to write their book log. It's a simple form that enables me to see what they're reading, what they're struggling with, and whether or not they're enjoying their read. I'm writing now because it's the way my class works. When I write in my notebook, they write in their notebooks. When I read, they read. Building their literacy skills is truly a community effort. So right now they're writing so I figured it was only fair that I do the same.

I look around my classroom and they're all participating. I see varying degrees of typing proficiency. And some students who are more verbose than others. But I've also seen every single student, at some point in the activity, look something up in his book. I am excited to see the messages they're leaving me about their independent reading. This kind of start to the semester makes me think that we're all going to build on our literacy skills this semester.

This is one of those situations in which, while I say I hate the numbers and they don't offer a full picture of a students' literacy skills, there's some validation in seeing that improvement in assessment score. Maybe because that's how we're judged. And it doesn't feel great when your students don't show improvement on the assessment and that's publicly displayed for the entire staff to see.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Heat by Mike Lupica

HeatHeat by Mike Lupica

I wasn't overly impressed with the first Mike Lupica book I read two summers ago. This one... this one was a fantastic read from start to finish. Miguel/Michael Arroyo is a 12 year old baseball player in New York City whose family emigrated to the US from Cuba. His father is gone, so he and his 17 year old brother (who lies and says he's 18) struggle to make ends meet. All Michael wants to do is lead his ball club to Williamsport and the Little League World Series, but it seems like everything is standing in his way.

There's enough scandal, suspense and action in Heat by Mike Lupica to keep the pages turning. If we don't have it in our school library, it's one that definitely needs to go on the list.

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Laurie Halse Anderson made my student's day

Last night I sent a message to author Laurie Halse Anderson on Twitter that looked like this

When I checked my twitter feed at lunch I had this waiting for me in my mentions

Naturally, I had to share this with my student. She smiled so hard that I thought her face might break. I appreciate that Anderson took the time to send me back that message. It made my student's day. And mine.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rough Start

Last week was the first week of school, and the first time we've ever started on a Monday. In previous years, we started on Wednesday or Thursday--two or three days to get to know the students, then the weekend and Deming Duck Races, then we'd hit the ground running the next Monday. Everyone felt like the week was a little long. It didn't help that all the housekeeping type items that had to be completed were completed during first period.

Despite ongoing internet problems, it is very exciting that so many of my students are excited about the books they're reading. Almost all of them have selected books out of my personal library. I admit that there are some books I was more excited about students reading than others -- I think there are four students reading Patrick Carman's Skeleton Creek, and three reading his novel Trackers, drawn in by the fact that there are videos. Others are reading Shusterman, Anderson (both MT and Laurie Halse) and a myriad of other books on a myriad of topics. The neatest thing is to see one student lean over to another during independent reading and point to something in the book they're reading, then look to see if they'll get in trouble for talking. I encourage this kind of interaction. I want my students to talk about books, not just with me, but with their peers as well. And it has already begun.

I do hope that the server problems, particularly in the afternoon, are resolved. Because I teach the Title I Language Arts class, there are some requirements must make sure my students meet, like using the Scholastic READ180 program so the powers that be have the ability to pull student reports to monitor progress. I also hope that this week passes with less frustration than last week did.

Trying out a new app

I saw on a blog I follow that the blog was posted with BlogPress for iPad. One of my Twitter friends posted yesterday or the day before about clients people use to write their blogs that aren't web based. These two things got me thinking.

I often use my phone to take pictures of student work or to take pictures of notes written on the board during class. It's a hassle to email myself the pictures then upload them into a post, or to download the pictures from my phone and onto my computer then upload them into a post. I could email the pictures directly from my phone, but I haven't figured out how to do more than one at a time (though now that I think about it, it might be pretty simple).

I'm going to try BlogPress for a while, see if live blogging, particularly during my university classes, works for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A New Look at Percy Jackson

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's so different reading this book through the lens of a teacher. This time, I read the teacher's guide as I was reading the novel. That process made me focus not only on the progression of the story and the hero journey (because I love the hero journey archetype), but also on the specific Greek myths in each chapter, and the foreshadowing, which is a whole lot easier to spot when the reader has a good idea where the story is going. I was also more aware of characterization given the criticism of the movie, where Percy is portrayed as well into his teens rather than as a 12 year old.I anticipate using clips from the film to illustrate points or to initiate debate over which author made the better choice, but I definitely won't be showing the entire thing.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker's Guide, #2)The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After having listened to the commentary at the end of the Primary Phase recording of The Hitchhiker's Guide (where I found out some neat info about production of the series as well), reading the print version made so much more sense. Two things helped: One, I was able to compare the text with the audio version I've heard many times; and two, understanding where Douglas Adams came up with some of the material he brought to the story. In the commentary of the Primary Phase, the narrator (who also does the voice of the book) talk about how the producers of the radio program never knew where Adams was going to take the story. I knew it was a satire, but didn't realize that Adams was satirizing everyday regular life. I should have, and now feel quite silly for not having thought of this when, at the beginning of the series, the book commented on green pieces of paper making everyone unhappy. From this particular installment of the "increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Trilogy" I pulled out one bit that stuck with me. Before Zarniwoop, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian meet the guy who runs the Universe, the book tells us that "it is a well known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job" (197). And that about wraps it up.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp (Alfred Kropp, #1)The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story (which according to Goodreads is the first in a series) is about an ordinary boy who has accepted his ordinary-ness, but is actually a hero waiting to, I don't know, burst out of his awkward shell. As with most archetypal heroes, Alfred grows up away from his parents; his mother died before he was a teenager and he never knew his father. He lives with his uncle at the beginning of the story, an uncle who's opportunistic nature is what sends Alfred on his journey.

I usually love stories that follow the archetype of the hero journey, and I usually love Arthurian legend, but this updating of Arthur's story didn't really draw me in. I'm still trying to figure out what it was that didn't make me jump up and down and go yay! like I do with most Arthurian stories. I'd prefer The Squire's Tale or Here Lies Arthur, or my favorite, The Mists of Avalon any day.

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