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25 August 2016 @ 09:44 am
I often click on links to articles and blog posts that I know will make me cringe. But if all I ever read are posts and articles that confirm my thoughts and feelings, I am (to use one of the jargon words I hate) a SILO. So, I do click on articles with titles like the following: http://www.slate.com/blogs/nightlight/2016/08/04/bemoaning_the_licensed_character_commodity_garbage_that_makes_up_most_children.html.

Yes, there are plenty of books for kids with licensed characters. There always have been as far back as I can recall. The former residents of the back bedroom selected these books often when we went to the bookstore. They featured Snoopy, Strawberry Shortcake, and other characters from TV and movies. Even my middle school kids delighted in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle books available to them in my classroom library. I gave them those choices, and no one seems to have suffered from the "consequences."

Some years ago there was a doctor dissertation entitled, "So They're Reading Nancy Drew, So What?" The researcher interviewed readers who read serially at some point(s) in their lives. Her conclusion? The reading of "subliterature" (the term we used to use to designate series books, magazines, and comics) did not prevent readers from becoming lifelong readers who enjoyed a wide variety of selections. Many of us have seen this same thing as parents and teachers. Nurse Girl read loads of Eric Carle and moved on to JK Rowling and CS Lewis then segued to Zane Grey and other authors. Now she still rereads Rowling but has extended her reading to include science-fiction as well as her professional books.

So, I am not wringing my hands that there are still product books or even celebrity books. Instead I am cheering that we are still in a golden age of children's and YA literature, a time when matching readers to books when kids being able to find the right books for themselves is so much easier then it was 30 or 40 or more years ago. When I look back at the books I have read so far this year, I would have the devil of a time narrowing my favorite down to 10 or 50 or even 100. What i see is an embarrassment of riches.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: argumentative
24 August 2016 @ 09:44 am
Each year, Benoit College posts its new Mindset List which talks about the things that the incoming freshman class does or does not know compared to classes from the past. Here is the link to this year's list: https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/previouslists/2017/.

As we enter into this new year, here are some highlights to keep in mind:

Their favorite feature films have always been largely, if not totally, computer generated.
They may have been introduced to video games with a new Sony PlayStation left in their cribs by their moms.
A Wiki has always been a cooperative web application rather than a shuttle bus in Hawaii.
They have always been able to plug into USB ports
Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
They have always known that there are “five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes" in a year.

GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
Gaga has never been baby talk.

Given some of these items, then, why do some persist in using texts that are no longer relevant to contemporary readers? Yes, I understand that there are classics in literature (I was an English major by choice after all), but if all kids read is canonical, by authors (mostly white and mostly dead) who did not believe they were writing for the "ages," how can it touch their lives? As I read the 20 or so picture books yesterday, I laughed, I teared up, I posted my reading out to Facebook. These books touched me in some way.

As the school year begins, I hope all readers will discover books that touch their lives, their hearts, their minds.
Current Location: home in pjs
Current Mood: wondering
23 August 2016 @ 08:21 am
Today was our first official faculty meeting of the semester. Many of us have been on campus regularly during the summer to take care of classes, check boxes of books, and just to have the opportunity to see one another and share some stories of our summers. But there is something comforting about knowing we will see one another weekly at our meetings. Often, the meetings begin with a shared meal. We veer off into discussions from time to time, but one of us generally steers us back (and we sort of take turns at that). We share books with one another. We brainstorm ideas. But more than that, we are a small team of people who respect one another's knowledge and expertise.

And we are a mighty team. We got our new committee assignments yesterday. While they are daunting, we were all volunteering to help the others with their charges. We are a team.

Quite frankly, this is why I am still working. I love my colleagues. I love teaching my passion--literature. The other "stuff" is part of any job. So, I will repeat all year, "I love my job," when the other "stuff" intervenes and I begin to feel overwhelmed or snarky.

I hope everyone of my teacher buddies has a terrific beginning, middle, and end to the new school year. You do important work, and I am honored to know you.
Current Location: home in pjs
Current Mood: happyhappy
22 August 2016 @ 07:26 pm
Look at the line-up for the ALAN Workshop. It is going to be stellar!

Laurie Halse Anderson (Penguin Young Readers Group)

M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)

David Arnold (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Leigh Bardugo (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Ali Benjamin (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

*Lee Byrd (Cinco Puntos Press)

Kayla Cagan (Chronicle Books)

*Patty Campbell (Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature)

*Michael Cart (Booklist)

Kristin Clark (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)

Zoraida Cordova (Sourcebooks)

Matt de la Pena (Random House)

Christa Desir (Simon & Schuster)

Phillippe Diederich (Cinco Puntos Press)

Tim Federle (Simon & Schuster)

*David Fickling (Scholastic)

Candace Fleming (Random House)

Kami Garcia (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Get Lit Players (Simon & Schuster) (teen performance poets!)

Ryan Graudin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Mary Lou Hall (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Frances Hardinge (Abrams Books)

Deborah Heiligman (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Bonnie Sue Hitchcock (Random House)

Patricia Hruby Powell (Chronicle Books)

E.K. Johnston (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Rahul Kanakia (Disney-Hyperion)

Christine Kendall (Scholastic)

Brendan Kiely (Simon & Schuster)

A.S. King (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Bill Konigsberg (Scholastic)

Justine Larbalestier (Soho Teen)

Jennifer Latham (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Kristin Lenz (Elephant Rock Books)

Jennifer Mason-Black (Abrams Books)

Patricia McCormick (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Mindy McGinnis (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Carrie Mesrobian (HarperCollins)

Sy Montgomery (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Lisa Moore (Groundwood Books)

Peader O’Guilen (Scholastic)

Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster)

Ashley Hope Perez (Carolrhoda Lab)

Randi Pink (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Andrea Davis Pinkney (Scholastic)

Sarah Porter (Tor Books)

*Jessica Powers (Cinco Puntos Press)

Jason Reynolds (Simon & Schuster)

Robin Roe (Disney-Hyperion)

Veronica Rossi (Tor Books)

Benjamin Alire Saenz (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Jon Scieszka (Abrams Books & HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Neal Shusterman (HarperCollins)

Adam Silvera (Soho Teen)

Amber Smith (Simon & Schuster)

Sonya Sones (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)

Margaret Stohl (Disney-Hyperion)

Kara Thomas (Random House)

Len Valhos (Bloomsbury)

Sara Zarr (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Jeff Zentner (Random House)

Ibi Zoboi (HarperCollins)

*editor or critic
21 August 2016 @ 06:54 pm
Dear ALAN members and friends,

The deadlines are quickly approaching for our wonderful variety of ALAN grants for 2016. I am pleased to provide a summary of these grand opportunities made possible by some very thoughtful folks.

As you refer to the ALAN website addresses for each grant, be sure to note that the requirements and deadlines vary from grant to grant. Please pass on this information to colleagues, librarians, and graduate students.

(1) The Cart/Campbell Grant for librarians offers $500 funding plus complimentary registration toward attendance at the annual two-day ALAN Workshop which is held at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English on the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving Day. Eligible applicants are practicing librarians working with teens in high school, junior high school, middle school, or public libraries. Membership in ALAN is required for consideration. One Campbell/Cart Grant will be awarded annually, and each recipient may only receive the grant once. For more information and the grant application form, go to http://www.alan-ya.org/awards/the-cartcampbell-grant/ Application due September 1.

(2) The Smith/Carlsen Grant for graduate students offers $500 funding plus complimentary registration toward attendance at the annual 2-day ALAN Workshop. Eligible applicants must be enrolled as full-time graduate students in a program focused on English Education, Literacy Education, and/or Young Adult Literature and must not have attended an ALAN Workshop previously. Membership in ALAN is required for consideration. One Smith/Carlsen Grant will be awarded annually, and each recipient may only receive the grant once. For more information and the grant application form, go to http://www.alan-ya.org/awards/the-smithcarlsen-grant/ Application due September 1.

(3) The Gallo Grants were established in 2003 by former ALAN Award and Hipple Award recipient Don Gallo to encourage educators in their early years of teaching to attend the ALAN Workshop for the first time. The grants provide funding—up to $750 each—for two classroom teachers in middle school or high school each year to attend the ALAN Workshop. (The amount of a grant may be less than $750 if the applicant lives within commuting distance of the convention location where airfare and housing would not be necessary or has access to other funding). In addition to the $750 grant, the registration fee for the workshop will also be covered. Recipients will receive half of the grant ($375) before the workshop. The remaining half of the grant will be disbursed at the end of the ALAN Workshop. The ALAN Workshop is held at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English on the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving Day. Applicants must be teaching full-time; must have been classroom teachers for less than five years prior to the year in which they are applying; and must not have attended an ALAN Workshop previously. Membership in ALAN is not required for consideration, though applicants are expected to become ALAN members if they receive this grant. For more information and the grant application form, go to http://www.alan-ya.org/awards/gallo-grants/ Application due September 1.

(4) Members of ALAN may apply for the ALAN Foundation Grant for funding (up to $1,500) for research in young adult literature. Proposals are reviewed by the five most recent presidents of ALAN. Awards are made annually in the fall and are announced at the ALAN breakfast during the NCTE convention in November. The application deadline each year is September 15th. For more information and the grant application form, go to http://www.alan-ya.org/awards/alan-foundation-grant/ Application due September 15.

We are so very grateful to the kind folks who make these grants possible through their gifts.
20 August 2016 @ 02:22 pm
This posting on Facebook has been making the rounds. A high school posted the sign at the front door telling parents to STOP. If they were bringing a forgotten lunch or homework or other items, they should go back home and let their son (It was an all boys school) suffer the consequences and assume their responsibilities.

Quite a few people had commented that they though this was a great step in making kids more responsible and preventing the helicopter parent syndrome. But this post has bothered me no end. So, this week, I posted my thoughts and feelings:

"There is something here that does not sit well with me as a parent. I know the temptation is to be that helicopter parent/grandparent. However, when I brought something to the school it was to provide something for my child. I would not have appreciated this attitude. Want to build skills? Maybe that would be easier if the child had all she needed (like a lunch?). And maybe that the child would not be penalized for not having something she needs for class. Maybe I am just a cantankerous educator. But the one size fits all policy seems rather heavy-handed."

The discussion that ensued after I posted has been interesting to say the least. I was relieved that I was not the only one who found the tone of the sign off-putting. I should add here that, since my mother worked outside the house, there was no one who could bring me anything I left behind. However, if one of the former residents of the back bedroom left behind something important (and that includes a lunch as I consider eating kind of essential), I would deliver it or BH would. This did not happen often. The residents did not use us as a delivery service. However, I also knew there were some teachers who would exact a huge penalty for a missing worksheet, etc. So, I drive to the school on my way to work. I also took them to school the few times they missed the bus.

Of course, there were folks who disagreed. They cite egregious examples of kids who could not function without mommy or daddy's help. One reported that a parent showed up to serve a child's detention. Those examples don't sway my opinion, though. I am sure there are parents who constantly bail out their kids. Lucky kids.

I did not like the tone of the sign. I did not like the fact that it was some sort of edict to parents. And it was the one-size-fits-all stuff that makes school impersonal and arbitrary. I feel about this the way I do about some cell phone policies. The residents got cell phones as they entered junior high and had after school commitments. I know that they probably used them during school (as did their peers, no excuse), but I baled at teachers who collected them at the classroom door. It was a safety issue for me in that event. What if something happened and the phones were all in a drawer, silent?

Ditto dress code policies that were sexist at best. I was calle done to bring a change of clothes for one of the residents. I had a lengthy discussion with the AP about why and was told the resident had changed after band practice but had done so in the wrong bathroom. Hence, her clothes changes were being confiscated, and I needed to go to the school or have her placed in in-school suspension for the day. I was apoplectic and had to give the phone to BH so I would not become less-than-professional.

Okay, rant over. But I do think the sign is not as "cute" or wonderful as others did. I do not think kids learn responsibility from going without a meal or taking a zero on an assignment. The residents had responsibilities at home. They have grown onto responsible adults. If I bailed them out every once in a while, I'd like to think I was teaching them compassion and empathy and understanding. Those are the important lessons.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: miffed
19 August 2016 @ 08:00 am
This is part of a post from a professional blog this morning: "So many students bypass HW reading assignments by using online resources. Our next day reading check quizzes are not reliable, yet they impact grades. Seeking suggestions that motivate students to do the assigned reading and ways to check their readiness for that day's lesson."

I want to applaud this educator for seeking suggestions for what is a real problem for her/him and, more than likely, for others. I wish I knew more.
1. What is the reading being assigned? Length? Purpose? Selected by?
2. Why is the "response" to the assigned reading first and foremost, daily quizzes? What is being asked? It is simply basic comprehension? Are student being asked for personal responses? For critical analyses?
3. Can assigned reading be motivating?
4. Why is this a matter of readiness for the lesson of the day?

So, I have a huge knowledge gap here, one that makes me hesitant to offer suggestions. Yet, I want to help. So, let me offer some generic suggestions and some resources here instead.

First, we need to begin with an understanding of what motivates students? We know that intrinsic motivation is key, that extrinsic motivation is insufficient. If you are not familiar with this aspect of motivation, please read PUNISHED BY REWARDS by Alfie Kohn. What might impact motivation? I would suggest CHOICE. If reading must be assigned, is there any way that students could be offered choice of reading materials? Could hey participate in the choice to some degree if not fully? CHOICE also extends to genre, form, format, length, and other qualities of the text.

I want to back up for a moment, though, and mention (as I did above) the idea of PURPOSE. What is the purpose of the daily homework of assigned reading? Is any reading being done in the class? Has modeling of what is expected been done? Are students clear on the why of the assignment? What about trying this as part of a flipped classroom situation? What do quizzes signal as the PURPOSE of the reading?

That leads to a consideration of RESPONSE. If every time I read, I had to complete a quiz, I wonder how long I would be motivated? When I read, I want to talk to someone else who has read the book. I want to have a discussion. I want to pass the book along to someone else, a friend usually.

I just glanced back at what I have written and this jumped out: CPR (choice purpose, response). Resuscitating reading, perhaps? You know how I love acronyms. But this is too easy. It is not a matter of acronyms, templates, lessons, etc. It is about having a vast knowledge about how students develop intellectually, socially, culturally, morally, physiologically, etc. First and foremost, we teach humans and not text.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: worriedworried
18 August 2016 @ 09:02 am
I just created this video for my students about the reading autobiography. For those of you who have asked questions, I thought this might be of interest:

Current Location: home
Current Mood: helpful
17 August 2016 @ 03:17 pm
Last night, Kylene Beers invited me to join her for dinner with Donalyn Miller who was in town for some school visits. We talked, snacked, and feasted on a lovely meal. After dinner we continued the discussion about our passion: supporting lifelong readers. At one point, the conversation turned to reading logs. Truth be told, all of us were probably guilty of using logs at some point in our teaching career. I know I did in the 70s until I finally realized that they really did nothing to help kids become more passionate about books and reading. So, Kylene proposed we go LIVE on Facebook and do a short chat about book logs and our new thinking.

After we completed the recording, we sat and watched as hundreds of folks watch either the live feed or the sharing posts that came after. Apparently, we have touched a topic that was timely, and one that teachers wanted to hear more about. As of this morning, the hundreds had climbed to the thousands.

This is the power of social media. We have the chance to broadcast, record, blog, tweet, etc. and join in a conversation with colleagues all over the country (and the world in some cases). Short, sweet, to the point, relaxed, conversational: maybe this is what the PD of the future needs to be?

You can view the video here: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=kylene%20beers%20posts

So, we wonder, what other topics might be of interest? Things we could talk about in a short burst?
Current Location: home
Current Mood: awestruck
16 August 2016 @ 10:14 am
In response to a teacher shortage (or at least that is how the story is told), Utah can now hire folks without teaching credentials. Here is a link to one of the stories about this: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Utah%20teacher%20certification

So, someone with a bachelor's degree who can pass a content area test (I would love to see those tests myself) can be approved to be placed in a classroom. Here is part of the rationale: "Traditionally, deans of colleges of education have been the "gatekeepers" of the teaching profession... The new rule enhances local control by placing that authority in the hands of superintendents and directors of charter schools. They can determine what the pedagogical skills are and how those skills are obtained rather than the college deans."

This, of course, shows a tremendous lack of understanding of how pedagogy is determined. Deans are not gatekeepers. But it appears that state legislators want that role for themselves. Classroom management, content mastery, understanding of how children and teens actually learn: these are not things meant to keep folks from becoming teachers. Instead, these are the skills and the knowledge and the pedagogy to ensure excellence in teaching. And some of these are immutable. A knowledge of how kids grow and develop is key: Piaget, Maslow, Kohlberg, Ericsson, and others are not simply theorists that might be nice to know. They offer insight into the classroom and the student.

We do not teach content; we teach children. This is a mantra that officials who think they know better how to educate kids should repeat over and over and over again. And they should repeat this as THEy are sent into the classrooms to "become" teachers. Let's see how they fare without a decent background(let alone a deep background) in education policy and process and pedagogy.

This is my 41st year of teaching. I am still learning. And I know that teaching is much more than state legislators make it out to be when they reduce certification to these requirements. Who gets hurt here? Not colleges or deans/ The kids are the ones that will suffer. And there is much research out there to prove it.
Current Location: office
Current Mood: angryangry