Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blessing Books

One of the things I love about my job, (and there are many) is that I have the opportunity to hear many of the great speakers who come to Winnipeg. Last week, I attended a session given by Richard Allington, one of the big names in reading research and instruction.  And while he said many things we need to talk about, one of the most intriguing to me was the idea of blessing books.

We all do this.  I just never thought of it as blessing books.  We do it when we read a book aloud and cause students to want to read it themselves.  We do it when we give book talks or have the kids give book talks.  We do it when we recommend a book or an author to the readers we are guiding. We do it when we bring in books on a topic that our students have suddenly become passionate about. We do it when we display books prominently in our classroom or school libraries.  We do it when we create a list of books shared together this year or a Shelfari page that highlights our favourites.We do it when we send home summer reading lists.

In my job, I bless books when I read them at workshops or in your team professional learning communities.  I bless books when I bring them into your classrooms and share them with your students. I bless books when I add them to my Shelfari page I bless books when I loan them to you.

But here is what I learned from Richard Allington.  We need to be blessing five books... every day. Books and reading are that important.  Not surprisingly, one of the findings of researchers is that people who read a lot get better and better at it.  Young readers need lots of practice reading.  That practice is most effective when it is in materials that they CAN read and WANT to read.  Allington says that our focus needs to be on putting interesting materials,that they can read,  in front of them.

The books I am going to bless today are all picture books. I love picture books and do not think they are just for those who can't read chapter books.  

This Plus That  by Amy Krause Rosenthal is subtitled Life's Little Equations.  It describes words or ideas through equations like:

you + me = us
soul + colour = art

It doesn't have a lot of print but it conveys big ideas.

Questions, Questions by Marcus Pfister of Rainbow Fish fame has exquisite illustrations and will appeal to readers who like to ask big, interesting questions.

One by Kathryn Otoshi , is about bullying amongst the colours.  That Red is a real hothead and it takes the numeral 1 to show the others that everyone counts.  :)

Woolbur, the tale of an independent minded, non-conforming lamb by Leslie Helakoski, speaks to the creative among us.  Those who just don't follow the herd.

Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian makes me laugh, as many of my favourites do.  Written as a daily journal, it describes one fish's journey from lonely to a life filled with relationships.

For more information, click on the book on my Shelfari shelf.

Please comment below on books or magazines that you "bless".  Together we know many, many great books that will motivate our students to read and read and read. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Talking to the Kids about Differentiation

I am still thinking about differentiation.  All of the big ideas it pulls together and connects.  Thanks to Carol Tomlinson, I believe I am seeing it with greater clarity than I have before.  I am also thinking about what I would do in my classroom... if I had a classroom.  Maybe you could help me with that part.

When I did have a classroom, I talked to my students about multiple intelligences and learning styles.  I taught them about their brains and showed them how to think about themselves as learners.  We graphed our various intelligences, wrote about our strengths as learners and discussed how we were all different.  All good things.  On occasion, we even talked about why.  Why we didn't all do the same thing.  Why it was important for me to provide more than one way in.   Still good things... but  not enough.  Tomlinson  raises the bar.  She says that we need to:

"make sure the kids share our vision, are on board and contributing."

Further, that we should:

"help kids understand and contribute to differentiation as a way of life in the classroom."

If I am really honest with myself, I think that I saw differentiation as my responsibility, my vision. I shared that vision, but perhaps not in the explicit way Tomlinson is talking about. She recommends approaching it openly and directly with students, asking questions like:


... and talking about it in ways that help kids to understand that it really means each learner getting the support and challenge that he/she needs to succeed.


* To grow
* Because we are all unique
* Because each one of us has strengths and areas to develop
* We have different interests, talents and learning styles

  • Sometimes we might have different books, questions, tasks
  • We might work at something for different lengths of time
  • Working in various group sizes and combinations
  • Different ways of getting help
  • Keeping records 
  • Setting goals
 These questions came up in my classroom but not in a proactive, "let me share my vision for our learning community" kind of way

I didn't think of it as something the students could contribute to.   But I am now.  What about you?

New Books....

Thanks to my book buddies (I have them everywhere!) at Polson (Laurie),Hampstead (Jen and Jeanine), and Emerson (Michelle), I have some new picture books.  They are available for borrowing... look for the NEW books on my shelf.