So much catching up to do when you don’t post for two weeks! But I have a good excuse for the lack of blogging: NCTE! I recapped my conference experience in a Storify of tweets. I turned one of my NCTE takeaways (I need to share more poetry with my students) into my #nerdlution for the next 50 days: read a poem a day. I started my challenge last night (a day early!) and read 12 or 15 poems. As I suspected, it’s hard to read just one. I wrote about the importance of self-selected reading in my recap of another chapter of Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. And I shared about yet another challenge I’ve set for myself: watching one TED talk each week.
As for reading…
I finished Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. I’ll be doing a final post on it later in the week. It’s a must-read for teachers using reading workshop, especially for teachers concerned about growing lifelong readers, not just readers for a school year.
I finished Suzie Boss’s Bringing Innovation to School, which makes a strong argument in favor of more innovative, project-based, inquiry-based learning in schools. This is a really well-written, engaging book that primarily profiles innovative educators and the work their students are doing. There is plenty of education philosophy and theory here too, but it’s woven into the stories. There are also plenty of practical guidelines for innovating in your own classroom. One of the best books I’ve read on this topic.
I love Sugata Mitra’s TED talks, but this Kindle single was a disappointment. Mostly a rehash of what you’ve already seen in his TED talks and not very well-organized or compellingly written. Still, I love his ideas: “If learning is an emergent phenomenon, then the teacher needs to provide stimulus–lots of it–in the form of ‘big’ questions. These must include questions to which the teacher, or perhaps anyone, does not have the answer. These should be the sorts of questions that will occupy children’s minds perpetually. The teacher needs to help each child cultivate a vision of the future.” Or, if you teach elementary school in my town, fill in lots of worksheets.
I will say that reading books about innovation in education makes me ache for my children, who attend a school where test scores and standardized learning trump all. They have wonderful teachers who are simply not able to do their jobs of developing wonder and curiosity in children because they are instead forced to inundate their students with Accelerated Math, Accelerated Reader, and twenty other programs that regiment and standardize learning. When do my children learn by playing, making, experimenting, discovering? Never, because it’s not on the test.
Ok, mini-rant over. Back to reading.
I finished reading Flora & Ulysses aloud to my older son, and we both loved it. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year. It reads aloud so beautifully and the extra support provided by the illustrations was exactly what my very-much-nowhere-close-to-grade-level reader needed in order to more or less follow and appreciate the story. We’ll be trying some of Kate DiCamillo’s other heavily illustrated stories soon.
We also read a bunch of picture books:
And we continued our Caldecott Challenge with:
Hush! A Thai Lullaby, written by Minfong Ho and illustrated by Holly Meade. 1997 Caldecott Honor. My son loved spotting the little boy sneaking out of bed and playing when his mother thought he was sleeping.
Many Moons, written by James Thurber and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin. 1944 Caldecott Medal. Another favorite this week.
Snow, written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz. 1999 Caldecott Honor. This one was a bit too quiet for my son, but I liked it.
At NCTE, one of my students bought Open Mic for $2 and I borrowed it from her on the flight home:
Loved it! Very strong collection of short stories, essays, and poetry about “life between cultures” with the wonderful added benefit of HUMOR, which is all too often in short supply when we talk about race and ethnicity. I’ll be reading several of these pieces aloud in my classes next semester. I hope to write a longer review of this book next week.
And finally, I read two grown-up books this week:
I can’t remember why I wanted to read Mortality, Christopher Hitchens’s short book of essays written about dying of cancer, but I am glad I did. Provocative, philosophical, argumentative, poignant.
I read Eat Pray Love (for the second time) as my audiobook in November. It’s really elevated, I think, by Gilbert’s own narration. I totally get all the criticisms of this book and I agree with many of them, but I can’t help myself: I still like this book.
This week, I’m hoping to get through another pile of Caldecotts. I’ve also started doing separate chapter book read-alouds with each of my kids (this week, it’s Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, with my older son, and The Year of Billy Miller with my younger son), and we’ll see how that goes. I also really want to read as many of the nominees for Nerdy Book Club Awards as I can. I wish I had more reading time! (And access to bigger libraries!).
What are you reading this week?