Friday, February 19, 2016

Half of #nf10for10

This past semester, I had the great fortunate of working with a group of Child Life Specialists.  These people are the liaisons between hospitals/doctors and families when children are preparing to undergo procedures or treatments.  They have a strong understanding of both the medical system and child development.  I taught a Children’s Literature course for this group with a focus on using books to help children understanding their conditions/treatment; educate other children about conditions/treatment; provide comfort and connections for children dealing with medical issues; and provide entertainment and escape for children undergoing treatments. The books in my  #nf10for10 are the books we discovered together. 

Michael Rosen's Sad Book
The book is an honest and direct look at how grief can impact the daily life of a person.  The author lost his son and his mother and there are days he is sad.  His simple sentences and watercooler images show how the sadness feels to him.  However, there is hope as he realized his memories are comforting and grief, over time, is less painful. It sounds like a heavy topic for a children’s book, but with so much tragedy in the world, it provides children with identifiable situations and words and the hope of eventual healing.


Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and His Service Dog
 Luis Carlos Montalvan, Bret Witter
Through the voice of the dog and using actually photos, this book shows how a service dog provides assistance and comfort for a real veteran soldier through his activities of daily living including getting ready for the day, using public transportation, and eating at a restaurant.  It provides context for the use of service dogs and helps children understand the “hidden” disability of PTSD.

Why Are You So Scared? A Child's Book about Parents with PTSD
Beth Andrews, Katherine Kirkland
Having a parent with PTSD can be scary and confusing.  This book helps children identify the behaviors they notice when their parents are struggling with PTSD – such as anger, depression, panic attacks etc.  It emphasizes that the parent’s mood and behavior is NOT the child’s fault and provides some suggestions on how the child can react to the scary behaviors of the parent.

Scaredy Squirrel

Melanie Watt
This is more fiction than non-fiction, but it helps explain to children about fear and anxiety. Fear can be paralyzing, and the squirrel in this story is afraid of anything outside of his nest.  He imagines a lot of horrible things that could happen if he would leave his comfort zone. But, when he accidently loses his emergency kit, he goes after it and discovers that “the unknown” is not so bad.  There is a whole series of Scaredy Squirrel books – At Night; At a Party; Making a Friend. Plus, a fun website

My Book for Kids With Cansur: A Child's Autobiography of Hope
Jason Gaes
This older title, written when the author was young and diagnosed with cancer, the book uses children’s drawing to talk about cancer and treatments, along with the fears of having cancer. It is a nice model to use to help children write/draw through some of their own issues.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Picture Book 10 for 10 #pb10for10

I’ve lurked on the #PB 10for10 posts for the past few years and this year I decided was my year to post.  I’ve taught mostly grades 6-12 and am now a teacher educator, so I decided to post the books that I have used in my own teaching.  

Charlie the Caterpillar

By Dom DeLuise (yes, the comedian/actor/director)

Charlie is a curious caterpillar who eagerly wandered the world to meet new creatures. However, each time he meets new critters (monkeys, rabbits etc.) they don’t allow him to play with them because he is “an ugly caterpillar.”  After several experiences like this, Charlie begins to feel ugly and sad that no one wants to be around him.  However, as will happen with caterpillars, he spins a cocoon and over the fall and winter he sleeps and dreams of having a friend. When he emerges in spring, he is a beautiful butterfly. Then, all the creatures who insulted him want to be his friend. But, he realizes they would not be “real” friends because they only judged him by his looks. Instead, he meets Katie the caterpillar and helps her see the beauty in herself. This is a great beginning of the year read, and I reminder to middle schoolers to be wary of judging each other by appearance.

Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animal, People and War

By Yukio Tsuchiy

This true story will make you cry (and it is dealing with sensitive issues of death and war), and it highlights the way war and conflict hurt beyond the typical guns and bombs. It begins with a cheerful zoo in Japan in modern times that has a memorial dedicated to the animals who died in World War I – specifically the three performing elephants, John, Tonky, and Wanly.  One of the zookeepers tells the story of the memorial.  

During WWI, Japan was being bombarded and the Army was afraid that the dangerous animal could get loose so they ordered the zoos to kill their animals.  But, the three elephants were smart and avoided all methods to euthanize them. Even under such horrible circumstances, the elephant continued to try and perform for their trainers. However, they finally died from starvation and the war continued. Yet, their legacy of being innocent victims of war continues to be told.  I used this with high school students along with Night by Elie Wiesel and our study of World War II.


By Paul Fleischman

Welsey is an odd-looking boy who was bullied at school.  But over summer vacation, he decides to grow his own food and create a new civilization.  With a bit of magic, he garden grows unknown forms of eatable plants, and he begins to create his own clothes, language, and ways of doing things.  His former bullies become interested in his project, and he invites them into Weslandia.  He ends the summer glorying in his creativeness and difference and helps his classmates overcome their own need to conform. I used this in middle school to introduce our study of ancient civilizations and how culture develops.

The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups

By David Wisniewski

Developed as a Top Secret file, this book tells the “real” reason gown-ups say things like, “Eat your vegetables” and “Don’t bite your fingernails.” Each vignette begins with the admonition, the official reason for the admonition, and then the TRUTH – ie. If we don’t eat the vegetables, they will take over the earth.   As master model of creative fiction, I used this book to prompt middle school students to write their own “files” of admonitions from their parents. 

The World That Jack Built

By Ruth Brown

Using the traditional “This is the house that Jack built” format, a cat and butterfly playfully wander through the backyard, forest, and fields. However, as they move through the landscape, it becomes increasing polluted until they come to the factory that Jack built that is spewing smoke and contaminated water. The illustrations are moving, detailed and a great example of development of mood. The relationship between the cat and butterfly is also interesting to note through the journey.

Snow Angel
By Debbie Boone

“Rose was a little girl whose eyes were full of dreams. Most people see things just as they are. Rose saw everything blanketed in dreams of what could be.”   Need some inspiration to dream?  Try this book.

Reading with Dad

By Richard Jorgensen

Reading together is so much more than a literacy practice – it bonds people across time, ages and spaces.  This story illustrates a little girl growing up reading with her dad (even in college and long-distance), reading with her own children, and reading to him at the end of his life. “The best of times that I’ve ever had are all of those times I’ve spent reading with Dad.”

Santa Cows

By Copper Edens

This is a modern retelling of A “Visit from St. Nick” by Clement Clark Moore (T'was the Night Before Christmas). Each family member is engaged in different solitary pursuits, the night before Christmas – watching TV, playing video games, or listening to their cassette recorder (think IPod).  But when the Santa Cows arrive on the rooftop, the family sets aside their media and join together for songs and games.  The family re-connects to each other through a snowy game of baseball. 

Wabi Sabi

By Mark Reibstein

The main character is a cat named Wabi Sabi, who wants to know what her name means. However, no one, not even the cat's master, could explain the meaning of wabi sabi. So the cat begins to ask all the creatures around her and each give her a different explanation – Snowball, the cat; Rascal, the dog; and a bird, who tells Wabi Sabi to seek out Kosho, the wise monkey. In her travels, Wabi Sabi encounters the bright lights of the city, the cool beauty of the forest, the warmth of friendship, the pleasure of not hurrying, and the joy of returning home. This all is wabi sabi.   Wabi sabi, according to the end pages, is an ancient Chinese philosophy that shaped Japanese culture to emphasize simplicity over extravagance. The format of the book wonderfully illustrates this philosophy.

If I Never Forever Endeavor

By Holly Meade

Great beginning or end of the year read.  The young bird has to leave the nest, but he is unsure.  He considers both the positives and negatives of trying something new – it could be wonderful or he could get lost. He watches others, practices a little, and then takes the leap.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

#CyberPD - Chapters 6-7: Re-thinking Our Existing Tools

As I was reading through chapters 6 and 7, I was struck with the theme of re-thinking our existing tools and re-visioning them for reading in the 21st century when “reading” is so much more than just consuming text.  Most of us have the foundations of good instruction, assessment and parent communication but we (meaning I) need to spend some time thinking about how our traditional methods translate into digital modes.

Tool #1: Audio Books: Is it reading?

One discussion that was brought up yesterday on the #CyberPD Twitter feed was a conversation about audio books.  Is this really reading? 

Mandy Robek @mandyrobek had been prompted by something @MrsWeberREAD had posted and Mandy replied, “I think about shared reading and shared writing as interactions with text, why not audio.”
Heidi Weber @MrsWeberREAD said, “Makes me re-define “reading as interacting with text…”

Franki Sibberson @frankisibberson chimed in, “I like what @Professor Nana says about audiobook… “I read with my ears.’”

In his book The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life Steve Leveen wonders if we could have a word for listening to books, and he makes up the word “ristening” to books.  In the past, I know audiobooks in schools have often been used as either a reward, a fill-in, or as remediation.  But what if we (meaning I) re-thought what is means to read and really recognized that reading is interacting with text  - any text – print, digital, audio, visual – and began to explore how to help our students navigate all the texts that they encounter in a day. 

Tool #2: The Beginning of the Year Survey: Privileging Print

Like many teachers who have used reading/writing workshop, I too used the standard survey with my students that privileged print books over any other media.  As a teacher educator, I continue to unconsciously privilege print books over other forms of text within my teaching.  Although I have explicitly stated in my syllabus that an e-book is an acceptable form of the course textbook, I have not really helped my college-level students look at the affordances or disadvantages to reading through different mediums.  In class, my students tell me that they like the search feature to return to sections they have read.  But I need to ask myself some questions: What other forms of text am I putting on my syllabus and in my coursework?  Am I privileging print over other forms?  What message does this send to my students and how will they take that into their classrooms?

Tool #3: Assessment

It may seem like an obvious question, but what is the purpose of assessment?  For many people, including myself, that answer tends to be, “To see how my students are doing.”  Frequently this entails comparing the student against a standard or grade level peers.  But, what if we (meaning I) re-thought the purpose of assessment and focused on the individual student and how he/she could increase their learning, not be stamped with a letter or number? The authors of Digital Reading state, “We believe strongly in this stance [that of the NCTE position that formative assessment is a verb] and agree that our assessment techniques should be about moving readers forward in their learning” (p. 90).

Tool #4: Conferences

Franki discusses student-led conferences, which is something I have used in the past.  However, the conferences I had my students conduct were still very paper and print based.  It still required parents to take time to visit school at a designated time that was mostly convenient for the school, not for the parents, and all of the work of the quarter was discussed in a 20 minute conversation.  Digital portfolios or blogs can be updated regularly, viewed at the convenience of the parents, and even be interactive with comments.  Plus, the work submitted can include audio and video of the student actually working, not just the finished piece.   This seems like a win-win all around.  

Now, I need to think about how this translates into teacher education.  One of the things I’ve been thinking about this summer is a way to make my coursework more integrated throughout the semester.  I think my current assignments are too much of the “stand alone” variety that, once graded, gets forgotten. I am thinking about how I could have my students create their own learning logs throughout the semester with each of the assignments building toward the overall goals of the course.  Yep, that would be a portfolio.  

Tool #5: Parent Events

Schools have a tendency to fall into the routine of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and parent events are no different.  In each school I’ve taught at, the Back to School night followed a similar schedule – an introduction by the principal and then the parents followed their child’s class schedule with 10 minutes in each class and a reception afterwards. Although this quick meet-and-greet gets parents into the classroom, the big question is, would they want to return?  The authors of Digital Reading provide some essential questions on page 105 for planning parent events.  Now, the authors gear it to “Considerations for Parent Outreach Events on Digital Literacy” but these questions would apply for any parent event and even teacher in-service events.  The essential questions are:

  1. What is our focus?
  2.   Who is the audience?
  3.  How will this event support students as digital readers?
  4.  What resources do we want to provide our community?
  5.  Is this event for families or is it specifically for parents or caregivers?
  6.  How does this topic relate to them as parents and to their kids?
  7.  What is the call to action?

By using these questions as a planning guide, any event would be more focused and meaningful.

Final Thoughts on the Book

As I’m finishing this book, I am also beginning an online course about using Infographics in my teaching.  Several months ago I signed up for this course, not knowing I would be reading Digital Reading this summer.  But, both the book and the course have a common theme – that it is important to re-envision our teaching and our students’ learning to balance traditional reading and writing with digital and multimedia interactions but not to lose all the great pedagogy we already know are effective practices.  We just need to be reflective and adapt!