Archive for January 30th, 2018

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Last week my students and I read together a Scope magazine article titled, “Escape from Alcatraz.”  The title alone was enough to interest my students as well as the images of three fugitives believed to have escaped the highest security prison that ever existed.

Armed with the article and a video from MythBusters, I asked my students to make up their own minds about whether or not the fugitives escaped.  Students worked on rough drafts and by Wednesday were poised at the computers to type up their essays.


Photo from Wikipedia by D. Ramey Logan.

They were still bothered, however, because they didn’t know the truth.  Did the three men escape or not?  Searching for images to put into their blog posts, a student came upon a recent news report, recent as in “3 hours ago.”  We all eagerly gathered around the computer, reading over his shoulders.

A letter allegedly written by one of the escapees recently came to light. CBS San Francisco exclusively obtained it from a source.

“My name is John Anglin. I escape from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!”   

CBS News Jan. 24, 2018


What happens to an essay that has been written and worked on in conferences when new evidence emerges?

Different students responded in different ways.  One student placed the link to the article into his post.  Another changed his whole essay and threw away the rough draft.  Others adjusted and added to what they had already written. And some were not convinced by the evidence.  They kept their original theory.

In a recent blog post by Kate Roberts on The Educator Collaborative, Kate asks these questions: “Is it ever worthwhile to read as a community, to read a text someone else chooses for you, one that you would never read on your own? ”

Like Kate Roberts and many reading workshop gurus, I believe strongly in choice.  But when it comes to nonfiction, experiencing the text as a whole class is engaging and exciting.  Nonfiction encourages more research.  Students push each other, ask questions, and engage in a deeper way when reading nonfiction together.

This week we are reading aloud Poison by Sarah Albee to prepare for a Skype visit with her on Thursday, World Read Aloud Day.  I look forward to discovering where this will lead us.  Keeping kids engaged, wondering, and curious is what teaching is all about.


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