Sunday, 25 August 2013

What I Learned From Books This Summer

Photo Credit: the bbp via Compfight cc 

This summer I have been doing quite a bit of reading.  I love reading and enjoy the feel of pages between my fingers when I know something I'm reading is really good.  I belong to two book clubs (one just finished reading Many Lives, Many Masters, by Brian L. Weiss and the other just finished The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grisson).  I've been reading The Harry Potter series to my younger son.  In between all of the social reading, I've been trying to read what my students would be interested in.  For The Global Read Aloud, I just finished "Out of My Mind," by Sharon M. Draper.  It is an amazing book, a must-read in the classroom.

For professional growth, I read the following books:

If You Can't Fail, It Doesn't Count
I am going to share the ideas in this book with my class.  This is a celebration of failure.  In it, we meet famous people who failed and whose failure was directly related to their success. It emphasizes that everyone's ideas are important and that failure is a step towards success. 

A colleague recommended The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller.  It is about how to get kids to read in your classroom.  It made a lot of sense to me.  The author's reading program consists of individual choice and building a classroom library of high-interest books. The author recommends that students be given ample time to read what they choose, instead of having a book chosen for the class to "study". Books need to be for enjoyment and students need to feel a connection to the book in order to read it. She goes on to show how she encourages students to read a variety of genres and to share what they have read with the class.  Miller's students are all at different reading levels just like every classroom but they end up, on average, reading 40 books per school year, a remarkable achievement.

In my school, several intermediate teachers have read this book and have teamed up to share all of our books in order to offer even more choice to our students.  The pod outside our doors will be furnished with low bookshelves, which will house our shared collection of books.  The sign out system for the books will be an honour system. I am excited to see how reading will shape up this year.  When I shared this reading program idea with my son, he said, "You get to read whatever you want? That's awesome!" There is a lot more information on how to set up this program in the book, from lists of recommended book to have in your classroom to student forms.

The Daily 5 Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades, was also a recommendation. It ties in nicely to the choice reading, which is central to "The Book Whisperer." It gives a time for students to read and write and to have a menu of activities to choose from.  It shows that management issues can be minimized when the locus of control is given to students.

Words Their Way; Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction
Four words: Great ideas, tough read. This is a series of books. The first book explains the program and the books that follow contain activities and materials for students.  The first book is a very practical book because it lays out how to group students by ability for word study.  The difficulty is that it is a not user-friendly because of the amount of text and technical language (example: "the derivational relations stage for advanced readers and writers").  The supplementary books provide activities that can be done all week in order to sort words and recognize patterns.  I am going to be using this program in the fall in conjunction with The Daily 5 activities.

Embedded Formative Assessment
What a great book!  It strikes a nice balance between providing examples of research and why formative assessment is important and practical ideas I can take to my classroom and begin using right away.  Dylan William provides over 50 techniques for formative assessment with examples of how they have been used in other classrooms.  He also discusses the importance of and gives examples of thoughtful feedback, cooperative learning and self-regulated learning.  I am so glad to have read this book because I can begin using its ideas right away and it meshes with my philosophy of teaching.

I've been reading and thinking all summer and I have so many ideas I want to use in my classroom.  I am going to try my best to put into practice what I have learned.

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