As we near our Spring Break and start the race to the finish, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the great year we have had in our technology enhanced classroom. I have seen the transformation this year in how we are learning and the impact it has had in the building. This year, I endeavored to try to learn at least 4 new things about technology and use them to change the scope and depth of how I present new ideas. So, I am more than half way to my goal having earned three of the 4 Techie Teacher Badges(see below) I sought this year. My first badge, Teacher Leader, was earned with EdTechTeam and focused on how to integrate technology into my practice. This includes using Web Tools, Applications, and current research to develop lessons and ideas that make educators more conscious facilitators of learning. My second badge is designed to help me Pioneer the Swivl Robot as a Integrated Observation Tool, namely I can now use video to become a more present and reflective facilitator by understanding how my actions in the classroom affect the climate and learning of my students. My third badge was hard earned and I did persevere, I am now a Level 2 Certified Google Educator meaning I have demonstrated the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to integrate the G Suite in my learning environments. This assessment was comprehensive and required a great deal of study and attention to detail. My last badge is one I hope to acquire in the coming months and that would be to become a Google Certified Trainer, which would allow me to develop content and training for a wide range of audiences which is quite exciting!
In closing, I hope to use this experience to create spaces where students can become risk-takers and dare to try their MoonShot ideas. Without this type of bravery, we might not be rewarded with the next big idea!
Quizlet Live has changed the "Game" in Reading 6 this year! We are collaborating and enjoying teaming up and showing our Word Power! The best part is that we are also learning to study in new and interesting ways. Since the introduction of Quizlet Live this week, teams have been conquering their word parts with team work, a steady eye, and lots of discussion! As facilitator it has been a pleasure seeing everyone so engaged and learning more about their table mates and few team members.
In the coming weeks, we will expand the use of Pear Deck our newest interactive teaching tool along with Quizlet to bring you "Breakout EDU". Once we Breakout there is not telling where we might end up!
This past week, Admirals accepted the 2017 Reading Bingo Challenge and spent some time selecting titles for their bingo boards. We also has the opportunity to Skype with author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo on World Read Aloud Day on Thursday of this week. During this chat, we learned so much about the creative process and how as a writer our voice and depth of connection really can make a difference. Ms. Charlton-Trujillo spent time sharing with us about how she began writing out a a sense of loss and transformed her life as a film maker and writer. We also had a special visit from one of my former students who aspires to be a writer and felt the chat really invigorated her desire to put pen to paper and share her voice with the world.
We also had the opportunity of a few book recommendations from authors Jason Reynolds, John Lewis/Andrew Aydin, and of course Ms. Charlton-Trujillo's books. Titles such as March, Ghost, As Brave as You, All American Boys, and Fat Angie were amongst the books students where chatting about.
What a phenomenal start and we are looking forward to more author visits at Swanson and digging into Award Books in the coming weeks!
Questioning can be a difficult concept master because it requires the reader to reflect on what is known and identify what is "unknown". When reading informational text, the writer may be explicit about what is known and what readers should know. However some writers want readers to dig in and look for hidden messages. The same is also true to art as many artist work to make the unknown present for the viewer.
As we progress in our introduction to Informational Reading and Nonfiction text, we will continue to use art as a tool to aid our powers of observation, reflection strategies, formulating questions, and seeking deep meanings within a work.
As we approach the coming holiday, this month our feature books will incorporate stories from many perspectives, namely Wars fought by Americas to honor Veterans Day. One of my favorite books to begin reading to students is titled Candy Bombers : The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" by Michael O. Tunnell. This book combines great narrative nonfiction writing with archival photos and great stories from those serving in the European Theater. This book is also a great companion to Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Raven, which also provides more in-depth discovery about the mission to to uplift the city of Berlin after the war. With so much suffering, the hope and courage of these pilots is awe inspiring.
Next, we move on to great spymasters of the Revolutionary War and some of my favorite reads such as George Washington's Secret Six : The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Kilmeade and Yaeger. This book is a great read for students who love to learn the details of how secret messages were sent and the impact of spying as an occupation during the American Revolution. Told in a narrative format, this informational read is brisk and engaging. For those who seek a departure from conventional story telling, The Culper Ring: The History and Legacy of the Revolutionary War's Most Famous Spy Ring by Charles Rivers Editors offers a great background knowledge of the time and delves into the people, places, and events that shaped how spying influences the events surrounding the Revolutionary War. This book would be great for readers who desire a structured and well researched history of spying in early America.
Lastly, reading is such a broad term and this week I want to feature an App that allows visual reading of great works of art that also help tell the stories behind many of the great events in history. The Google Arts and Culture App is an excellent addition to your G Suite as it allows you to view and engage with artist and their work on a very user friendly interface. Next week, we will be using works from artist of the period to begin our unit on Narrative Nonfiction. Check the Google Classroom for the first hint related to the feature artist for the week. The anchor activities will also allow for a 3D experience using the Google Arts and Culture App with Google Cardboard. This will be very exciting!
Writers Read-Tools for the Middle
Next week, a Nation will embark on a National Day of Writing on October 20, 2016 which also prepares us for the Write a Novel in a Month starting in November. Writing is the natural reflexive process of sharing our thoughts but also broadening our imaginations. So many authors implore us to read others because while we may live the relaxing nature of reading, writing also provides an outlet to grow and share others.
This month's Must Reads are books that will support our Reading Workshop in October titled "Vote for Your Favorite Series". Thus far many students have nominated the Harry Potter Series or Rick Riordian's mega popular Percy Jackson and Hero's of Olympus. However, a large number of middle schoolers are also in love with Erin Hunter's popularWarriors series which features cats.
In keeping with the tradition of fantasy and realism, I am featuring the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans, which is a great Science Fiction series featuring a character who is struggling with a special power and to reunited with his mother who was kidnapped. I love this series because we see Michael grow up and become a master of critical thinking and strategy. His friends also mirror the types of friends any typical middle to high schooler might make and lose as they grow and change. A great series for those who love the Enders Game series or the Gone series by Michael Grant.
Lastly, Scott Westerfield's writes a number of series that offer something for everyone. Each of the series like Uglies, Zero's , and Leviathan invite a little mystery, science, history, and of course realism with a heavy emphasis on plot. What makes Westerfield a master of the many different types of genres is a genuine emphasis on storytelling and connection to the reader. For example in his series Leviathan, the merging of history (World War I) and the airships known as dirigibles are used to stop the threat of a "monster" via land and sea at bay. The action will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. If you like Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart you will like the Leviathan series. ( I will provide a book chat for Steelheart via YouTube next week)
Stay tuned for video book talks starting next week.
And of course, Keep reading!
Festival of Books
It has been an amazing week for books, with our visit from Gene Luen Yang on September 24, 2016 or the National Book Festival on September 25, 2016. I had the pleasure of hearing some amazing stories of how literacy has impacted the lives of those who read and those who desire to share their love of reading with the world. Stephen King said it best when he stated "You can live one life, that is cool and great. But if you read you can live a thousand lives and explore unknown realms. Which is much COOLER!".
Book love does not just happen, it is a purposeful and deliberate act which asks us to act by faith and pick up and read about the lives of other, whether created or real. Two great books that illustrate this point is have the same title, but very different lives. In Hoge book "Ugly", he speaks of being born with birth defects so severe that his mother thought of abandoning him at the hospital. He writes of his triumphs and struggle and his overcoming impossible odds to live a life many of of would envy. Contrastly, the Briscoe book "Ugly" digs into the social creation of beauty and the struggle of those who do not fit the definition of beauty and who struggle to redefine the concept. Moving and thought provoking are the ways I would describe this read.
In keeping with Banned Book Week I will be highlighting this week's book selection based on books that feature journeys worthy of a thousand lives. Book talks this week will focus on selection of books that feature different genres and highlight journeys from around the world. I hope you will join me in selecting a book from the Banned Books List and living a thousand wonderful lives.
Reflection on Summer Reading!
I hope everyone had a great summer and read some really wonderful books. I spent the summer reading some excellent books that I have included in my September Picks. These books were so great that have already been checked out so I am over the moon with excitement for our upcoming book clubs.
My first pick is “When A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, which is written in semi graphic novel style and features a main character torn apart by his mother’s illness. This sweeping story offers readers insight into the grief process and how this process affects young people in a very gripping way. Since this book is already in production as a feature film, reading the book first is a must.
My next pick was “The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and is set in English during the Second World War. The main character in this book has a disability which impacted her ability to walk and to see the outside world. Her mother’s treatment of her made the character so real and you begin to really empathize for her and hope that change was going to happen soon. This page turner is a great book for anyone who likes the time period and novels with complex and interesting characters.
My last pick for the summer was “Echo” by Pam Munoz Ryan, which is also set in during the Second World War but offer a bit of whimsy and mystery. The plot moves from 3 sisters who are trapped in a harmonica to the rise of the Hitler youth and post-Depression America. With rich description and an engaging plot, this novel set the tone for what a great hybrid book could be for readers of any age. The end was somewhat like a cliffhanger and I am hoping for book #2 if this becomes a series. (hint, hint)
With summer over, my wish listed book list has grown longer and my next reads “A Torch Against the Night” by Sabaa Tahir and “The Marvels” by Brian Selznick are going to be a part of next month’s featured books. Looking forward to adding new books to my list and featuring them in the months to come.