Read Kylene Beers’ post “Why Fiction” on Heinemann’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/HeinemannPublishing/posts/10150591386846892. She makes some great points about the importance of fiction in a time when the standards are leading teachers to include nonfiction in their classrooms. She states, ” I read nonfiction so that I know more. But I read fiction so I can be more.”
Students do need to be reading nonfiction in class, but not to the exclusion of fiction. The best fit is to find topics and issues that engage our students and lead them into a conversation about what is important to them through a variety of genres of reading and writing.
The March 8 topic at Room for Debate centers around the Kony 2012 video
by the group Invisible Children. The video has gone viral, especially among young people. The discussion question that the eight essays address is below:
“Social media definitely have the power to bring attention to terrible problems — but is there a downside, if the “call to action” is wrong-headed or if these campaigns give young people a false sense of what it really takes to create change?”
These essays would be excellent expository texts for secondary ELA classrooms, as they address a topic currently of interest to many young people, they will spark good discussion and opportunities for students to write.
Remember that Project Share users have free access to all New York Times content through the Knowledge Network within Project Share.
Read Robert Lipsyte’s New York Times essay “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?”. He discusses the challenge of helping boys embrace reading and does a good job explaining the complexity of the issue. He points out one economic factor in the problem: boys prefer edgier stories that are are banned from some school libraries and not generally taught, facts that make publishers nervous.
Take time to view the New York Times video interview with Rick Riordan and James Patterson as they discuss reluctant readers, boys in particular. Both men were not big readers as young children and are now passionate about writing books that young people will enjoy.
Lipsyte has written 12 young adult novels, as well as articles for the New York Times, many of them about sports. His recent essay “Spring of 61: Revisiting the Dawn of the Mets” would be a great expository piece to bring into the classroom. The story is engaging, the topic of baseball will appeal to many reluctant readers, and the writing is an excellent model for any aspiring writer.
Daniel Pink details eight points about merit pay for teachers in his blog post today. He makes some excellent points, but the last one really sums up the problems with education policy. He writes, ” The trouble is that much of our education policy — from how we finance it down to how we schedule buses — seems designed more for the convenience of adults than for the education of children. If we reckon with that unpleasant truth and have an honest conversation that places our kids at the center of our efforts, we can make a lot of progress.”
In my experience, any time we forget that educators are in the kid business, we miss the mark and make a mess.
Quality literacy instruction includes scaffolding instruction to ensure success and explicit instruction of skills. The following process will scaffold students learning of skills:
- Describe the skill.
- Model what the skill looks like.
- Give students opportunities to practice at their instructional levels.
- Provide explicit, immediate, specific feedback that is focused on key steps of the strategy.
- Over time, increase the difficulty of the reading material.
- Once a student is fluent in using the skill, teach him how to transfer skill to other areas of school.
Check out WordWit, the new word app that helps you avoid using the wrong word by pairing words that may be confused, such as obtain/attain. The company plans to come out with PhraseWit and ToneWit later this year. Edutainment that sure beats worksheets and multiple choice tests on Fridays!
I am impressed with the company’s mission as stated on their blog The Ballpoint Revue:
Ballpoint is committed to helping writers of all backgrounds and levels to deepen their engagement with words and writing. We’re starting with helping to correct misused words that can cause embarrassment and even shame. But good writing is more than just being correct. It’s also about an attitude of respect, care, and understanding.
New York Times Op-Ed columnist Charles M. Blow writes in honor of all teachers in his September 2nd column, as he gives tribute to Mrs. Thomas, his fourth grade teacher, whose influence changed his life. Take a few minutes to read his column “In Honor of Teachers.” The column is a reminder to me that many people do still respect teachers and recognize the powerful influence they have on young people.
Take time to watch this very informative talk by Diane Ravitch, speaking at American University on July 29, 2011 about education reform. She makes a strong argument that federal programs like NCLB, Teach for America, and excessive standardized testing are hurting our schools, not helping them. She suggests that we begin to listen to people like Daniel Pink who have identified 21st Century skills.
Dr. Diane Ravitch at American University July 29th from Rita Solnet on Vimeo.
I came across an interesting website promoting writing. The concept is to write for 10 minutes each and every day. If we would all make this commitment and follow through, imagine the results! Personally, I know that if I commit to doing something daily, it becomes a routine that I try not to omit. Without the commitment, my good intentions languish and weeks go before I spend time doing that thing I enjoy (crafts, reading, writing). This blog is a great example. I tell myself that I will post at least once a week, but the mental discipline is lacking, and so I go for weeks without making the time to write. Think I’ll accept this challenge to write for 10 minutes each day (and emails don’t count!).
Check out the Write for Ten website and consider accepting the challenge.