Posts Tagged ‘Choice Literacy’

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My email inbox is filled with ways for me to improve myself from reading recommendations to Enneathought (how to improve my personality and spirituality) to Choice Literacy.  It was this month’s Choice Literacy email that caught my eye and my idea for this week’s DigiLit topic.

This quote from Atul Gawande was the epigraph to Matt Renwick’s letter.   Quoting from the Gawande’s book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, Matt outlines 3 ways for us to be better as teachers.

  1. Don’t complain
  2. Write something
  3. Change

These three directives immediately resonated with me.  This school year has ended, and I was having lunch with a colleague in our gifted department.  She said, “We have to do better next year.”

We then began a long discussion of how we could.  One way is we are going to meet together even if we don’t get paid.  As the years have gone by, the education budget has gotten smaller and smaller.  We were once able to meet weekly to plan for the next year and get a stipend.  Does the stipend matter?  Not when we are talking about doing our best for the kids.  We will meet anyway.

I am reading Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  Vicki challenges our current thinking about the teaching of reading.  She calls for a change to embrace reading as the complex act that it is and teach the whole child-reader. I am convinced this book will not only improve my teaching, it will improve me.

The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. –Alan Watts

Summer break is a time to rejuvenate and renew what we believe about our own lives as well as our selves as teachers.  This year was my thirtieth year in education. Yet, I’m not best yet.  I continue to talk, write, and change to meet my own needs and those of my students.  Won’t you join me in doing the same?

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

I opened up my Choice Literacy email newsletter on Friday afternoon, and the subject heading caught my eye, “The Tyranny of Levels.” Exactly what I had experienced that day. For my post title, I did a thesaurus search for a not-quite-so-volatile word and found injustice. My students have been suffering the injustice of reading levels.

Last year one of my gifted students lost her mother. This is a difficult loss for anyone to endure, but Emily was nine. Now she is ten, and the wound is still very fresh. She doesn’t talk or write about her mother. Last year she wouldn’t read any book that was sad. She is not an avid reader anyway and to find books for her has been difficult.

This summer I read A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. I worked with an online book club, so I did writing work with this book. I knew the book. I have connected with Cynthia Lord on Facebook. She even tweeted to us during our Twitter book chat. Needless to say, Cynthia, A Handful of Stars, and Emily are all close to my heart.

I never once thought to check the reading level. Emily read Rules and wanted another Cynthia Lord book. I did not tell her that the character in A Handful of Stars lost her mother. The book centers around a developing friendship. But Lily’s loss is always there, in the back of her mind, and especially when her new friend Salma’s mother does something motherly. Emily was struggling to finish the book, so I called her over and we read a few chapters together. We both teared up at the line, “It was a mom thing.”

The next day she came in triumphant, “I finished the book!”

I asked, “Did you take the AR test?”

AR is Accelerated Reader. It’s a program designed to test students on their independent reading. I’ve never been a real proponent of the program because the questions are all low-level comprehension questions, but the students receive points and the school has incentives for these points. Since my students read independent books, and it is something they can receive rewards for, I try to encourage my kids to take the tests.

Emily’s eyes looked down. “No, I can’t. My reading level is 4.6 and the book is 4.4.”

I understand the purpose of finding out a student’s reading level, but I do not understand limiting a child’s reading choices by requiring they read within their level range. The school (not the district) bought a testing program that sets the levels and blocks tests that are not within the level.

I believe… I know that reading is not about levels or tests or points. Reading is so much more. I will continue to find books to meet my students’ needs and interests. I have sticker charts up for each child to track the number of books they read. We have a pyramid poster with a whole class goal of 175 books this year, and we are well on our way to meeting that goal. I will not let reading levels limit my students’ choices.

From Choice Literacy, in the words of Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris (with hats off to Kate DiCamillo), “Moral of the story: Holy bagumba, don’t let reading levels flush away common sense.”

HandfulStars (1)

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I am always on the look out for digital literacy ideas. This week was no exception. Being on spring break allowed me more time to peruse the Internet for ideas to make the end of the school year great. Cathy Mere posted in Choice Literacy about ways to keep students connected over the summer.

  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

My students post on a kidblog site. They had a good daily writing habit during the Slice of Life Challenge in March. This month we are writing poems. I’ve even had a former student join in. We are working on a collaborative poem in the comments section of her poem, “Ode to a Cat.”


My thinking is I will ask students to post twice a week, once on Mondays about their summer reading. There is a meme at Jen Vincent’s site called “It’s Monday: What are you Reading?” My goal is to participate in that round-up myself and to encourage my students to write a blog post on Mondays about their reading.

Tuesdays will be Slice of Life days as they are at the Two Writing Teachers site. My students know how to write a slice of life. This will keep us up to date in the summer.

I teach the same students year to year, with the exception of students moving and 6th graders moving on to middle school. I want to use this to my advantage. How special for me and my students that we can keep in touch over the summer. They don’t have to know that it’s academically good for them. I plan to build it up as an opportunity. Any ideas on getting the parents on board? They will be the ones who will need to provide the computer time and do the reminding.

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers.

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers.

On the last day of each month, we join in Betsy Hubbard’s Chalk-a-bration. My students love this day. They’ve come to remind me of it each month. What fun for them to take Chalkabration on Vacation! I’ll encourage them to write poems in chalk, take pictures, and text them to me. I can keep up my blog post with their snapshots. The more I think about our summer literacy, the more excited I get.

Cathy Mere also keeps up a Pinterest board for her parents. I am not very active on Pinterest, but maybe this would be a resource I should try. I think I’ll poll the parents to see how many of them use Pinterest.

What are your thoughts about summer digital literacy?

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