Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learning to Speak Poetry

Somehow it is just unfair to have such gorgeous weather, now that the school year has begun. I hope everybody had a good weekend, and your travels were safe.

I just stumbled across a book in the last week or two by local author, Alice B. Fogel, that I really enjoy. The book, Strange Terrain, is about reading poetry, not writing poetry. Understanding the voice, the choice of words, and the phrasing in a poem are a few of the topics that Fogel discusses with the reader. Fogel's book is organized in such a way that it can be used in an evening course, or a long term book group or semester class. The book is very approachable by a variety of ages from the secondary level on up. A district which has used Georgia Heard could easily add Fogel's work to their curriculum.

If you go to the author's home page, www.alicebfogel.com, you can see a long list of Fogel's awards and teaching positions. After speaking with Alice the other day, I think that she would complement very nicely a professional development day or conference that is looking to bring in local authors and speakers on the secondary level. You can find Alice’s book at http://www.alranbooks.com/Details.cfm?ProdID=8554&category=5.

Here's a question I have for those who read this blog on occasion. Is anybody using opposites when teaching poetry? I was looking at some of the work poet laureate Richard Wilbur has done with opposites, and can see much more room for fun with this type of poetry.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Units on Butterflies

The milkweed has not bloomed yet, and I haven't seen many Monarchs yet, but I have fielded a few questions about what books I would recommend for a unit on butterflies. So I will take today to pass on a few titles to hopefully save somone a little time. We carry all these books, even though they may not appear on our website; if you are looking for a copy, please give us a call. The first book is the obvious Eric Carle's The Hungry Caterpillar. For those unfamiliar with this book, it takes the reader through the stages from caterpillar to butterfly. Young and old love this book and it could be used as a template for students to create their own books about the changes an insect or amphibian goes through over time. The second book is Sam Swope's book Gotta Go, Gotta Go. This little paperback tells the story of a Monarch butterfly and its trip south to Mexico, and then the full circle of its life. The third book I would choose would be Melissa Stewart's A Place for Butterflies. This book is only printed in hardcover format at this time, but there are teacher resources available on the internet (go to Melissa's home page). It should also be noted that Melissa is local (Acton, Mass) and goes to schools to speak about her books. This book shows the habitats of many butterflies all over the U.S. as well as maps showing the ranges of the many butterflies. There are countless books on butterflies, but these three books seem to cover the aspects of life cycle and habitat that are needed for the units of study.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Student Writing Teaches Us

There seems to be a lot going on with writing this summer and there are, of course, a few new books out on the subject. Currently, I am reading Mark Overmeyer's book, What Student Writing Teaches Us: Formative Assessment in the Writing Workshop. This book follows Mark's first book, When Writing Workshop Isn't Working (grades 2-5). Mark, like many teachers, is a person who loves teaching because he is always learning, and always figuring out a better way to teach. Currently, he is actively involved with Colorado's Writing Project, and worked in both an elementary and middle school doing the research for this book. Mark's overall message throughout the book seemed to be listen and look for what the students need to move ahead with their writing. This may seem obvious as a teacher, but with writing programs and prescribed rubrics, it is not always as easy... or obvious. Mark points out places where we may fail to listen in our effort to grade or assess certain aspects of students' work. I liked the student interviews about the grading process. I think this added to the book and at times made me think of Ralph Fletcher's Boy Writers. Mark's voice is conversational and easy to read, and I think this latest work of his could provide for some interesting discussion in a book group.



Friday, July 17, 2009

With a little luck Nancy Boyles new book will be released in October

There are always little things that can slow down the release of a book, but it looks like the long anticipated release of Nancy Boyle's new book is coming closer. October remains the release month for the book, in plenty of time to put the 40 new lesson plans into use. I will try to answer some of the other questions I have been getting so districts and individuals can plan ahead. As far as budgeting, this book will cost more than Nancy's other books as it has more features than past books. If you plan for $40 per book you should be safe; if it's lower, all the better! The book addresses grade level 2-8, and ties in with both trade books and RTI. As with all of Nancy's books, it will have an easy to use format and be classroom tested. On Friday December 4th, 2009 ALRAN Books will host Nancy at Lombardo's conference center in Randolph, Mass for a one day conference where Nancy will talk predominantly about the information in this book. Let us know if you'd like to attend - we'd love to see you there!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Sun has come out!

It is hard to believe the sun has come out today. Thirty days of rain, and only a few partial days of sun is too much. Consequently, I have done some reading this past month, during the breaks in my conference schedule when I would otherwise be outdoors.

There are some great new RTI books out. I think my current favorite is from Guilford, titled RTI in the Classroom, by Brown-Chidsey, Bronaugh and Mcgraw. This book is full sized, and its sprial-bound format makes it ideal for photo copying (50 reproducible forms!).  One of the elements I like about this book is that it covers: literacy, math and behavior. This book is easy to access. The book has ready-to-use forms to help in the monitoring and assessing process in the classroom that will hopefully make this process easier.  Remember, some of you are already doing this with a different form, or under a different name.  So, take a breath and look at some of this material to see how you can take what you are doing now and fit it into these new forms and strategies. The information contained in this book is clearcut, simple to understand, and will help you realize how much of RTI you already know and do, and help you understand and implement the parts that may be unfamiliar.  It's not hung up in a lot of jargon. It is practical. This book is meant for teachers, but will be useful to coaches and principals as well.

This book is for K-5 and thus covers the issue of Dibels, as Susan Hall did in her RTI book, Implementing RTI. It also provides "recipes," a term used to refer to the authors' strategies and forms for those without a standard assessment process in their school. This book has a heavy emphasis on documentation and offers many forms to monitor student progress... this is the big difference between this book and others on the market.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Curriculum Develoment through books

This spring I have been in more districts than ever before. It has been a great deal of fun working on developing curriculum for a variety of subject areas from Math ( I think this spring we have the best selection of professional resources for math of any year yet), Science , Social Studies (we have a wide selection of both student and professional books- some really great picture books for use with all ages), ESL/ELL and of course Reading and Writing PK-12.

My teaching certification is in Social Studies and History so, I admit, I am partial to spending time in the stacks reading through the many titles. Candlewick, Tilbury House, and Scholastic's nonfiction series have some great books for students; thought provoking with strong images.

One of the most popular teacher resources for students this year has been the four book series of Leveled Texts for Social Studies available for Early America, Expanding & Preserving the Union, The 20th Century and World Cultures Through Time. The books are aimed at Grades 4-12 and each book contains 15 different articles each written at 4 different levels ranging from grade 1+ to grade 6+. The articles are all printed in the same size type and have the pictures and maps in all the same locations. The one big difference per article is at the bottom of each page there is a square, triangle, circle, or star. These symbols help teachers differentiate instruction for the different levels of readers. The CD in the back of the book makes it easy to print out these articles for your students. The comprehension questions for each reading level at the end of the article are a real bonus.

In a year when having differentiated materials for every student in your classroom is key these articles can really help out. They are not your "full curriculum" but, they will supplement what you are currently using in your classroom and be a good answer to meeting the needs of differentiating your classroom. If your school has funds for RTI these books will easily fall under that category too.

It looks like the rain is here for another day or so I expect will make my way through some more of the new releases. My next blog will be on Burkin's new book, Practical Literacy Coaching: A Collection of Tools to Support Your Work. It looks to be good read for tonight.

New practical book on coaching

Rainy days are good for catching up with the blog and looking at new titles. Practical Literacy Coaching: A Collection of Tools to Support your Work by Burkins just came in from IRA. It is the newest coaching book from the author of Coaching for Balance: How to Meet the Challenges of Literacy Coaching. This is a pretty slim book (it won't weigh down your book bag) and seems to build on Burkin's last book. A less glamorous title for this book would be, "Get the Job Done Well, Don't Burn Out Along the Way, and Don't Reinvent the Wheel in the Process." The print is an easy-to-read size which I like, and the voice flows easily. The book is packed with supportive advice and stories from an active Literacy Coach. The one drawback I see is the multitude of checklists and forms. I would appreciate these on a disc so that the coach doesn't have to retype them!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One of my current favorite books

Gorgeous day here in the Monadnock region. I am enjoying two days back in the office after several weeks of logging thousands of miles around New England visiting schools. I avoided the black flies and had the chance to see some of your schools where you spend your busy days.

Throughout all of these visits, I would have to say McAndrews book Diagnostic Literacy Assessments and Instructional Strategies: A Literacy Specialists's Resource, remains my favorite. This book has it all for teachers, specialists and administrator's looking for everything in one place. You will find an extensive list of quality assessments, checklists, rubrics and so much more. If there is one book you add to your professional library as a school, this should be the one.