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Posts from the ‘Building Community’ Category

Tools of the Trade: Goodreads

By Kelly Virgin

goodreads-booskA few years back one of my real life friends asked me to be her virtual friend on yet another social media site.  I was already lagging with my tweets, feeling overwhelmed by my newsfeed, and completely out of touch with current hashtags, so I was leery of signing up for anymore social media tasks.  However, when she described it as “a Facebook for readers,” I knew I had to give it a shot. Since I accepted her invitation to join Goodreads.com in February of 2009, I have extended that same invitation year after year to over 300 of my students.  
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From the Classroom: Notes from PCTELA

By Tricia Ebarvia

pctela“What conference is it again?”

Pic TELL ah,” I said more slowly.

“Really? That’s not a real conference,” my colleague teased.

All I could do was smile.

To the uninitiated, PCTELA―short for the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English Language Arts―might sound like something you would make up. Or, at the very least, just another one of the many educational acronyms in our lives: SAT, ACT, PVAAS, IEP, GIEP, RTI. I have to admit that until a few years ago, I had never heard of PCTELA either. In fact, when I first started teaching in 2001, I don’t think I had heard of many professional teacher organizations, if any. Or, if I did, they didn’t register with me. I was probably too busy just trying to stay afloat in the happy chaos of teaching.

Soon enough—and thankfully—other acronyms became part of my teaching life. NCTE, NWP, PAWLP—these were the acronyms that mattered. And now, of course, I can add PCTELA to that list.  Read more

Teacher to Teacher: A Bridge to Diversity

By Janice Ewing

In a recent post on this blog, guest poster Stacey Shubitz talked about the values of mirrors and windows’ in children’s books, specifically in relation to their use as mentor texts. Stacey also expressed the view that books dealing with diverse characters and families should not be reserved for special months. I strongly agree, although I also feel that there can be value in highlighting particular groups at certain times, especially if it gives us, as teachers, the motivation to explore new texts, authors, or genres. Stacey also shared a list of excellent titles that may provide mirrors to some, windows to others, great readalouds/mentor texts for many. 

So here’s something I’ve been thinking about what are some strategies for the teacher who wants to embed more diversity into the classroom library, readaloud, and/or writers’ workshop, but has concerns about taking the leap into topics that might be controversial or out of his/her comfort zone? For most teachers in today’s climate, I would think (hope) that books featuring racial or religious diversity would not be cause for concern, other than that they portray authentic portraits, without stereotypes or tokenism. Can we say the same for books that portray non-traditional families, or explore sexual orientation? I think for many teachers, these are more complicated issues. 

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Building Community in a Bigger Space – The Library

*** This week we decided go back to archives and reshare this wonderful post by librarian Chris Kehan, which originally appeared on our blog two years ago. Below, Chris shares how community is something that can be nurtured and grow beyond the classroom walls―and especially how our libraries can be at the center of that growth.

By Chris Kehan

For the past four years, setting up my classroom has been different than it was for the previous nineteen years.  Having taught in the regular education classroom for those nineteen years, I made the leap into library media specialist.  While I still see myself as a classroom teacher, my classroom just grew in size and so did my number of students.  Creating a space where students, teachers, and parents feel welcome and safe to take risks is extremely important for librarians.  Most libraries are situated in the center of the school; hence it’s the hub of activity.  “Entrance through our doors admits one to infinite worlds, magical kingdoms, and the treasure trove of knowledge created by our world’s best thinkers, artists, and scientists.” (Grimes, 2006) Read more

Welcome Students on the First Day, Every Day (Guest Post)

By Diane Dougherty

Welcome Students!

How often have we seen this greeting posted on billboards in front of schools?  How often have we ourselves posted such a greeting in our very own classrooms?  And a fine greeting it is too!  We want our students to feel “welcome,” to know that each one is a part of the larger community of learners, to experience the warmth that comes from a sense of belonging; in short to feel gladly received into our classrooms, our “home away from home.”

When we invite guests into our homes, what do we do to ensure that they know they are welcome?  Can we apply some of the rules of being a good host/hostess to our beginning of the year (and, really, throughout the year) relationships with our students.  As one can find everything online, I googled “How to be a Good Host” and was hardly surprised by the multiple sites available on that topic.  Here are ten of these rules from various sites (listed in bold and in italics) that I believe transfer particularly well to the classroom:  Read more

From the Classroom: Three Things to do in the First 48 Hours

By Tricia Ebarvia

Glance at almost any education focused website, blog, or Twitter feed in mid-August and you’ll find no shortage of first-day-of-school activities. In one of my education-related Facebook groups, someone recently asked for suggestions on how to spend the first day in class. Others asked about how much time to spend on community building activities versus how soon to jump into the curriculum. Not surprisingly, opinions varied, as they should.

As for me, I’ve spent less time reviewing the syllabus each year and more time on doing things that will get us reading, writing, and talking more quickly. My goals for the first two few days of school, then, include the following:

  1. Give students a general overview of the course
  2. Set up the classroom environment
  3. Learn about student preferences and interests

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