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Posts from the ‘Tools of the Trade’ Category

Tools of the Trade: Creating Student Bloggers in 5 Easy-To-Follow Steps

By Kelly Virgin

It is estimated that 2 million blog posts are written everyday. That is over 10 million per week.

The sheer amount of content makes learning about and teaching this writing task daunting. Nevertheless, my students and I faced this challenge head on as we worked together to craft and publish the first of what will hopefully be many posts on our new blog – khscreativewriters.edublogs.org. The following is the step-by-step approach we used to get comfortable and confident with blogging.

Step 1: Write!

Before I introduced the blogging writing task, I wanted students to have a wealth of ideas to pull from for their first posts. So, we spent a few class periods writing to gather ideas. First, we curated expert lists. Students had five minutes to list as many topics they considered themselves “experts” on. After we listed and discussed some of our expertise, we returned to the items and brainstormed types of writing we could do on the different topics. For example, one student who considers himself an expert on backpacking realized he could write a how-to guide or keep a journal of his backpacking trips.

Another list we created Read more

Tools of the Trade: Poster Walk the Reader’s Interest Inventory

By Kelly Virgin

Like many teachers I spend time in the fall getting to know my students as readers. I try to learn as much as I can about their reading habits, interests, triggers, opinions, and self-perceptions. Up until a few years ago I gathered this early information by administering reading surveys. Students quietly and individually answered questions about their reading habits that I collected, reviewed, and filed away for reference during future conversations.

However, I realized the questions I was asking should be asked and explored publicly. It isn’t only beneficial for me to get to know my students as readers, but it is also essential for them to get to know each other as readers. So I took that individualized reader’s interest survey and made it visible with a poster walk/discussion.

Now students, armed with a Sharpie marker, spend time meandering around the classroom posting their responses to a variety of prompts. I encourage discussion as they visit posters headed with open-ended questions such as why do you (or should you) read and what topics are you most interested in reading about. I ask them to circle around a second time to notice trends in response to yes or no questions such as do you read for fun and do you enjoy being read to. I give them an opportunity to learn each other’s reading preferences and resources by inviting them to mark their favorite genres and indicate the top sources for their reading materials.

After we spend time posting, noticing, and discussing our reading habits as a class, I ask students to study and hypothesize about some nationwide data on the declining reading habits of adolescents over time. Since their own class data is visible on the walls around them, they are able to situate themselves into the national data and engage in more meaningful and productive conversations. When I meet with readers for conferences in the future I’m able to use this activity and their reflections as a starting point for our conversations. Moreover, students have taken a vital step towards developing stronger literacy habits – they’ve begun to engage in meaningful and thoughtful reading discussions with their peers.

How do you get to know your students as readers at the beginning of the year? What other types of literacy discussions do you have with your classes?

Tools of the Trade: Local Libraries

by Kelly Virgin

LIbrary Post-2

Throughout the school year I have the ability to push my students across that threshold on a regular basis. We visit the school library at least monthly and since I line my classroom walls with bookshelves, they literally walk into a library every school day. However, as the end of the school year looms, I grow increasingly concerned for their literary lives over the summer. To ease my worries, and to nudge students to cross that magic threshold on their own, I take the time to introduce my students to their local library.

Read more

Mini-Conferences and 1-Day Workshops

By Jen Greene

Professional organizations like NCTE, ILA, PCTELA, and KSLA offer a yearly conference that takes place over several days and is usually packed with inspiring presentations and amazing authors. These conferences are tremendous opportunities to grow and learn in your teaching. I have attended many of these conferences and have been so awestruck by the presentations I’ve seen and people I’ve met.

There’s just one slight problem…..

They are expensive. And many districts cannot or will not provide funding to attend a national or state conference (particularly if it involves airfare).

Fear not! There is a solution…

Read more

Tools of the Trade: Poetry (Reading) Out Loud

by Kelly Virgin

This week my students and I are celebrating National Poetry Month by reading poetry the way I believe it is meant to be read – out loud. Using the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition for inspiration, we are enjoying our own poetry reading competition (I removed the added pressure of memorizing the poems).

Our week started by finding inspiration in poetry recitations. We spent a class period watching, noticing, and discussing past Poetry Out Loud winners and finalists. Presenters such as John Uzodinma  and Cennemi Diaz showed us how to alter our voices, change our expressions, and use our gestures to communicate the deep and varied emotions found in poems such as “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar and “Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn.

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Next, we spent time sifting through some of the resources available on the Poetry Out Loud website. After investigating in pairs, students reported out on the resources they found most helpful: the online anthlogy of poems, the tips on physical presence, voice, and articulation, and the collection of recordings of actors and poets discussing and reading poetry were mentioned several times. Read more

Tools of the Trade: Kindness in our Digital and Physical Spaces

Rita Sorrentino

R.J. Palacio’s award-winning children’s novel Wonder and the recent major motion picture of the same name shed light on tender topics for the tween-targeted audience. In the book and movie, kindness, acceptance and friendship triumph over bullying, exclusion and peer pressure. Readers/viewers of all ages can undoubtedly connect with feelings and emotions of the characters in identifying empathy as an important and vital skill for social and emotional growth.

As we begin this New Year, perhaps a companion book, 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts offers us an alternative to traditional resolutions, that for the most part, decrease significantly as the months of the New Year unfold. Read more