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professornana
05 February 2016 @ 06:07 pm
I always take a book with me wherever I go. Yesterday was no exception. I headed out to get my oil changed armed with 2 early reader/chapter books. I don't often think consciously about the books I take to read in public. These two seemed to be about the right size for an oil change, so off I went.

As I was sitting in the waiting room, I began to be aware of some sidelong glances. I think I could almost hear the thoughts of the folks with me in the waiting room. I smiled and continued reading. I guess I could have just switched to checking my cell phone, but I was enjoying the books (nd I think I managed not to laugh out loud as I know this can make folks look even more askance).

Taking those two books along with me, coupled with the audiobook I was reading with my ears, meant I read 6 books yesterday. When folks ask how to find time to read, I will point to situations like this. These stolen moments, Donalyn Miller calls them "edge time," add up; they make a difference.

So, if you see an older woman (with electric hair much of the time) reading books in public that appear to have a younger audience, come over and say HI!
 
 
professornana
04 February 2016 @ 11:04 am
Recently, a post offered some ideas for getting boys to read. You can read the post here: http://www.theedadvocate.org/how-to-get-boys-excited-about-reading/. Of course, I clicked on the link. I am always interested in motivating readers, all readers. And since I am a girl, I often turn to the work of others to see what I might be missing. Not much as it turns out from this piece.

While the two bold-faced ideas are good suggestions, it is the content under each section that gives me pause. FIND OUT WHAT THEY ARE INTERESTED IN: yes, this is a great idea for ALL readers, boys and girls, young and old, skilled and not-as-skilled, avid and dormant, etc. Choice is a big factor here, and I applaud choice, I encourage choice, I recommend choice. However, I do cringe a bit at giving kids an interest inventory that suggests books to the child upon completion. And I wonder where the teacher's role is in this program. I worry that use of programs such as the one mentioned (and I am not familiar with this program) gives the power, the autonomy, the opportunity to a computer. Instead of the teacher being able to talk to a child and ascertain her or his interests, the child is given a program. It seems too impersonal to me. I want to connect to the reader. Using a program as intermediary distances me from the reader. And, as I suspected from the get-go, there are quizzes. Sigh.

KEEP THEM MOTIVATED is also an excellent suggestion. Feeding them books and then helping them become more independent in their selection seems logical. However, we turn again to a quiz as motivational. I never see an adult in a bookstore or book fair asking about whether or not there are quizzes available. I have never read a book time and again so I could take a quiz again (and most programs do not permit this in any event).

So, let's boil the advice down to the basics:

1. give kids choice in what they read.
2. if they do not know what they would like to read, let's talk to them about what is of interest to them and then help them find some books.
3. let's talk to them after they have read, or have them share their reading with classmates instead of taking a quiz.
4. let's provide more time by removing the need to quiz over chapters, etc.
5. let's read entire books.
6. let's share our own reading with kids.
7. let's talk about books to introduce them to kids.
8. let's make sure they have access to books in and out of school.
9. let's build classroom and school libraries.
10. let's read, read, read ourselves.
 
 
Current Location: home
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
 
 
professornana
03 February 2016 @ 10:35 am
I am growing tired of the edubabble of late. It is one thing for educators to use shorthand acronyms among ourselves. It is something entirely different when we seem to be creating edubabble so as to rebrand an idea and repackage it. Here is an example from a recent NCLE newsletter: http://www.literacyinlearningexchange.org/framework-capacity-building.

Deprivatizing? Really? Enacting? Shared Inquiry? This infographic could just as readily be labeled COLLABORATION. Then, the various aspects of collaboration could also receive simpler labels: observe, talk (or discuss), share, repeat. But then I could not use an asset inventory unless I use the new labels, right? Now I need new worksheets and checklists, and (I bet) anchor charts, etc.


There are numerous examples of this sleight of hand via edubabble. I joke sometimes that I would love to repackage something for the sake of sales (profits). Maybe we can give new labels to the parts of speech? Then we will need new texts and worksheets and posters for the classroom. Some eduformists have created new genres, new processes, new categories. Most of them are unnecessary. All seem to be profitable for those who rush to press with new and improved materials to cover them.

All this relabeling and repackaging does, IMHO, is distance what we do from students, parents, and the larger community. Instead, we should be working on eschewing the obfuscation: eliminating the edubabble, writing the content plainly, providing simple explanations.

All this comes on the heels of our state education agency pushing more and more requirements onto our plates. Our syllabi, already overcrowded and virtually meaningless to anyone outside of higher ed (except for assignments, points, grading scales, that is), now have to contain even more information. My syllabus for children's literature is over 13 pages long. Only one page is of interest to students. The content of that page: assignments (with links to examples and directions for completing them), grading scale, class policies (half of which are meaningless in an online forum; I mean, cell phone policy, really?).

Even the concept of having a syllabus seems a trifle outmoded and sort of wrong in this day of online instruction. I use an online platform to provide screencasts, sample assignments, etc. But, there still remains the need for a syllabus from the powers that be, those far removed from the classroom. Would it not be lovely if we could speak plainly, offer documents that are short and sweet and to the point, address the important aspects instead of all the minutiae?
 
 
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professornana
02 February 2016 @ 10:19 am
Chances are if you are reading this you are an educator. I also feel certain assuming you are an educator who cares about books and reading and readers. This does not make me psychic. I know the focus of my blog, and I know that someone not vested in teaching and books and reading might stumble here once but would not be likely to return time and again. I think I can make one more assumption without fear of contradiction: if you are reading this, you are a reader yourself. And that is important. Teachers who are readers: how could we be anything else?

Donalyn Miller and I are working on a book about reading and reader identity. Our discussions in person and online have raised some interesting questions. About 6 months ago, we had a conversations via messaging on our #fancyphones about identity and engagement. We talked about how we come to identify ourselves as readers (and writers, too) and wondered why everyone does not reach this same identity.

We know quite a bit about how readers come to reading. We know there are certain experiences likely to produce readers: reading aloud, choice, having an adult show interest in reading, models of reading, access to books, etc. But does everyone who shares these experiences develop into a lifelong reader? And do those who might miss out on some or all of these experiences come to identify as a reader? If so, how does that happen?

As you can see, these are some big questions. We continue to wrestle with them trying to piece together the roles of identity and engagement in this whole process. Sometimes I feel as though my admission of being a reader is part of a 12 step program: Hi, my name is Teri, and I am a reader. Admitting you are a reader may be step #1.
 
 
Current Location: office
Current Mood: wondering
 
 
professornana
01 February 2016 @ 06:48 pm
I spent an inordinate amount of time behind the wheel of my car over the last few days. On Friday, I drove to the DFW (Dallas Fort Worth for the uninitiated) and spent the night at the Miller Hotel. The owners, Donalyn and Don, are gracious. The accommodations are wonderful. Plus, I get to be licked to death by some of their fur babies. And I get to hold and cuddle them, too. It is relaxing and entertaining.

The drive to Donalyn's house is supposed to be 3.5 hours according to the GPS. However, the GPS does not account for rest stops, fueling of car and body, and construction. So, I spent a few more hours than the GPS predicted. Ditto the drive home from the YAK Fest on Saturday. I was happy that today was spent in my recliner, my office chair, and the bed.

Now, what does this have to do with books and reading? I think reading has its construction moments, its time to refuel body and mind, its rest stops. All I have to do to consider this is examine my own reading over the long weekend of travel.

On the drive to DFW, I finished listening to one audiobook and then segued to the next. I am listening to Audies finalists, so I am happy for any time I can immerse myself in a book, reading with my ears. But, if I did not have any audio, this driving trip would have resulted in me getting in NO time to read. I actually did not mind the construction slow down because I was so enjoying the audiobooks. And I know I am not the only one who will sit in the car to finish a chapter or even a book despite having arrived at my destination.

Once I arrived at the Miller Hotel, I was inundated by the welcome from the Millers and their fur babies. I had not packed any books because I knew we would sit and chat and eat and stay up too late. However, the talk turned to books quickly (and this should surprise no one), and before I knew what was happening, Donalyn was stacking some picture books next to me so I did not have to disturb a cuddling dog (bless, Flora). So, I read 4-5 picture books and a short GN as well. I managed to get in more reading than I had planned.

But there are other times when the best laid plans fail, and I get in little or no reading. Thankfully, these are few and far between and generally have to do with work issues.

People ask how I manage to read so much. I have talked about it before, but it bears repeating:

1. I generally have books with me: in the car, in the bathroom, in the office, etc.
2. I prioritize time for reading. It happens in lieu of going to the movies, watching much TV, etc.
3. I alternate longer texts with picture books, fiction and nonfiction, etc.
4. I spend rainy days reading (and napping).
5. I have a group who recommends books so I can build a good TBR stack.

One final note:


During the drive, there are those cars and trucks that speed past me in hopes of arriving a few minutes before I do. Generally, I catch up to them at stoplights, in construction zones, at rest stops. So, I have stopped worrying about speed. I pace myself. And it is that way with reading. There are folks who read more than I do. There are folks who read less than I do. That is fine. I read what I do when I can. This is not a competition (and I loathe reading competitions); this is my life, part of my career, a chunk of what I love to do.

And so I read.
 
 
Current Location: home
Current Mood: pondering
 
 
professornana
31 January 2016 @ 08:47 am
JANUARY 2016 BOOKS READ


1. THE HIRED GIRL
2. THE END OF FUN
3. A FRIEND FOR BO
4. HENRY WANTS MORE
5. DR SEUSS THE GREAT DOODLER
6. LOOSE TOOTH
7. A B C DREAM
8. ARE YOU MY MOTHER?
9. MR. HARE’S BIG SECRET
10. BEAR IS NOT TIRED
11. COMICS SQUAD: LUNCH
12. THE WALLS AROUND US
13. MOUSE SCOUTS
14. THE LONELY ONES
15. PLAYGROUND
16. SHHH! I'M SLEEPING
17. THAT'S NOT BUNNY!
18. DANCE! DANCE! UNDERPANTS!
19. RANGER IN TIME: RESCUE ON THE OREGON TRAIL
20. SOFIA MARTINEZ: PICTURE PERFECT
21. LULU AND THE HAMSTER IN THE NIGHT
22. PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH
23. BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON
24. HILLARY
25. LING AND TING: TWICE AS SILLY
26. THE UNEXPECTED EVERYTHING
27. DORY AND THE REAL TRUE FRIEND
28. HOP
29. MINE
30. PEDDLES
31. VOICE OF FREEDOM: FANNIE LOOU HAMER, SPIRIT OF TH CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
32. CORDUROY'S NUMBERS
33. CORDUROY'S COLORS
34. NEST
35. THIS LITTLE PRESIDENT: A PRESIDENTIAL PRIMER
36. THE ITSY BITSY BUNNY
37. SOMEDAY
38. DON’T THROW IT TO MO
39. LITTLE BITTY FRIENDS
40. NANUK THE ICE BEAR
41. SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR
42. MACBETH #killing it
43. GREEN LIZARDS VS. RED RECTANGLES
44. THE GUILD OF GENIUSES
45. BATMAN’S DARK SECRET
46. A CRASH OF RHINOS
47. LIBRARY DAY
48. THE HUEYS IN WHAT'S THE OPPOSITE
49. I HEAR A PICKLE
50. ZOMBELINA DANCES THE NUTCRACKER
51. WEST MEADOW DETECTIVES: THE CASE OF THE SNACK SNATCHER
52. THE GIRL WHO FELL
53. SHH! BEARS SLEEPING
54. WHOOPS!
55. A BIG SURPRISE FOR LITTLE CARD
56. ELLIOTT
57. GOING FOR A SEA BATH
58. A HIPPO IN OUR YARD
59. CLOVER’S LUCK
60. THE GREAT PET ESCAPE
61. DIARY OF A MAD BROWNIE
62. STELLA BY STARLIGHT
63. THE FIRST STEP
64. FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE
65. THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE
66. THE BOOK ITCH
67. KOOB: THE BACKWARDS BOOK
 
 
professornana
30 January 2016 @ 09:24 am
The author of Teach Like a Champion has a new book pubbing soon, READING RECONSIDERED. Ed Week posted an article about the new book and Doug Lemov's stance on reading here: http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?cid=25919901&bcid=25919901&rssid=25963351&item=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.edweek.org%2Fv1%2Few%2F%3Fuuid%3D79EC2FF4-BBC3-11E5-B8D3-71C9B3743667&cmp=eml-enl-eu-news1-RM. There is SO much to write about in response to this piece. I already posted a quote from Donalyn Miller in an earlier blog post, but I wanted to circle back to this article for a little more discussion.

It all comes down to choice. And choice seems to be something that this new book believes is unnecessary. Instead, it argues for set canons: each school setting up lists of required texts for all students to read. The belief is that this common set of texts will allow for more insight and shared discussion.

"Having a canon also helps with lesson planning. 'We as teachers can have deep fundamental conversations not only about Animal Farm, but about how you introduce the third chapter and unlock the mystery at the end of the chapter,' said Lemov." In this scenario, the teacher is the leader of the reading. Her role is to introduce each chapter, to point out the salient features, and to make sure kids "get it," whatever IT is. Likewise, if all students are all reading the same books, the SHARING that takes place will, more than likely, be directed by the teacher.

Imagine a different environment, one where choice is encouraged. Here, it is the reader who makes the associations between and among books. This is actually something real readers do. As I read, I am making connections to other texts I have read. I talk about it when I discuss books with my friends and colleagues. And I know kids do the same; they connect across texts. In discussions in classrooms, you can hear a reader chime in when a classmate talks about a book with a contribution about a similarity (or sometimes a difference) in the text he or she is reading or has read.

Another argument for canons versus choice is an old one: cultural literacy. "And reading shared texts can help students build cultural capital, the authors argue. 'Members of the middle and upper-middle classes often take for granted knowledge that marks them as educated and sophisticated. They can hear a reference to Hamlet or Dickens or Zora Neale Hurston ... and join the conversation,' they write. 'A culture of reading that doesn't consider this cultural importance has a disparate impact on those who are less likely to acquire cultural knowledge by other means. It is their best chance to be included in the secret conversations of opportunity.' "

I suspect E.D. Hirsch has something to do with this. Remember all of those books from back when he was writing all those books about WHAT YOUR _____________ GRADER SHOULD KNOW? Here is the central problem of this argument about cultural literacy: WHOSE LITERACY gets valued? And that is part of the concern over CCSS as well. Are all literacies to be valued? If not, why not?

There are other little problems here, and they are firmly evident in Lemov's own words: "'If you've never read a document written before 1800 and expect to walk into [a college] environment and survive, that's a questionable endeavor,' said Lemov. " I do not know Lemov's experience at the university level, but I do wish for some more clarification here. I did not encounter pre-1800 literature much before I became an English major in college. I fared well, though, despite what he might term my deficiency. Lemov's assertion suggests that all college students will encounter ancient texts and then flub the course. I doubt that.

I will simply allow Donalyn Miller to bring this back full circle: "'Mandating a text for an entire grade level or school undermines teachers' autonomy, and may not be reflective of the needs, interests, or abilities of the children they serve from year to year,' Donalyn Miller, a veteran language arts teacher and the author of The Book Whisperer , a well-received pedagogical book that advocates using free-choice to inspire young readers, said in an interview. 'Thought leaders in progressive English education would universally question this.' " Yes, Donalyn, this Thought Leader questions why teachers would not allow choice for their own students knowing the research supports the importance of choice in developing lifelong readers. Seems to me, Lemov is more concerned with schooltime readers. However, if students do not extend their reading beyond the walls of the school, of what value is reading?

Let's champion CHOICE.
 
 
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Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
 
 
professornana
30 January 2016 @ 08:16 am
Pat Enciso's wonderful article on the recent Newbery is one that everyone working in the field should read. You can find it here: http://latinosinkidlit.com/2016/01/25/winning-the-newbery-when-diversity-matters/.

At its heart, great works in children's literature should answer the big questions:

1. Who am I?
2. Why is the world like it is?
3. What is my place in the world?


When folks ask me about the difference between a book and a piece of literature, I point to questions like this. Kids need books, but they also need literature that causes them to ask questions about their lives and their world. Enciso's analysis of LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET provides a perfect example of how to approach a work of literature, especially one that seems very simple in part because it is a picture book.

Enciso demonstrates that there are layers upon layers to consider within the 32 pages of the Newbery winner. The next time someone asks how "deep: a 32 page picture book can be, suggest they read this article and this book.
 
 
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
 
 
professornana
29 January 2016 @ 08:36 am
Way back in the tween years, I took courses in cooking and sewing while the boys got to take shop courses. Yes, there was some sort of gender bias there, but we good girls learned how to cook some basic stuff (i.e., chocolate chip cookies, Welsh rarebit) and make handy things (aprons, simple A-line dresses, dish towels). Later, in high school, we were directed into tracks: vocational, secretarial, college bound. I had to argue to be permitted to take both science and English classes since I had not yet made up my mind about "majors;" I was 14 at the time. No one wanted to be put in clerical or secretarial tracks. Heavens! That was for kids who were not smart enough for college (or so we believed after hearing adults talk about this). I can tell you that almost as soon as I attended my first classes, I desperately wished I had taken shorthand and typing courses. Even today, I am a terrible typist. I am faster than I was back then. But accuracy????

I say all this to demonstrate that bias was alive and well even back in the stone age of my youth. And it appears to be alive and well today, too. Female professors score lower on evaluations than their male counterparts: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/01/25/463846130/why-women-professors-get-lower-ratings?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20160125. Read about the two experimental designs and their conclusions.

This takes me back to the post at the beginning of the week when I discussed student comments and evaluations. A large part of my effectiveness as a teacher is measured by these very flawed instruments. I am compared to other instructors. Unfortunately, there are no other professors of Library Science who are evaluated using this instrument except for my colleagues in the department. Accordingly, we are compared to teachers from other disciplines, rendering this whole exercise pretty doggone inaccurate at best.

And look at yesterday's post. Here is some bias as well. I know there will always be some bias. We cannot control for it all. But when gender becomes a bias, when grades interfere, when extraneous factors come into play: maybe it is time to channel our energies into something that might actually have a positive impact on learning?
 
 
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Current Mood: musing
 
 
professornana
28 January 2016 @ 08:22 am
The Houston Chronicle ran a headline about the schools in the greater Houston area that had the best teachers: http://www.chron.com/news/education/article/Report-The-40-Houston-area-high-schools-with-the-6783241.php?cmpid=fb-mobile. It was, of course, posted to Facebook with comments congratulating the schools listed. I do not want to devalue ANY of those schools or any other schools. Period. But I did click on some related links to see how these "best" teachers were determined. Here is that link: https://k12.niche.com/rankings/public-high-schools/best-teachers/methodology/.

Here is the breakdown. Tell me if you see some causes for concern.

30% of the rating was through student and parent surveys. Surveys were completed by NICHE users (this is the company conducting this "study" BTW).

25% of the ranking wad determined by academic grades with some sort of NICHE designed system.

10% was determined by teacher absenteeism.

20% was determined by teacher salaries, both real and indexed.

10% was determined by the number of first and second year teachers present on the faculty.

5% was determined by student to teacher ratios.

Sigh.

This "story" will make the rounds. Some districts will use it for bragging rights. Some district administrators may even use it to berate their employees or, worse, it is as guidelines to improve the schools in a district.

Here is a case of a journalist NOT doing her or his job. Yes, there are links to the measures. But where is the commentary about how accurate any of this is in determining the schools with the BEST teachers? This sort of measurement is suspect from the get-go. It is as valid and reliable as Renaissance Learning's reports each year about books and reading. Why do we have this obsession with ratings? It seems to have bled from the world of finance and sports into education. Somehow we must be able to rank kids, teachers, schools, programs, etc.
Let's celebrate good teaching and not put teachers in some sort of swimsuit and talent competition, please. Let's keep the focus on the student.
 
 
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Current Mood: upset