The Horn Book » Lolly’s Classroom http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:01:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/engaging-literature-students-charge-syndrome/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/engaging-literature-students-charge-syndrome/#respond Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:01:16 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39581 This summer, I was asked by a parent whose child had attended our reading tutoring program in the spring, to work one-on-one with her daughter, a rising middle schooler with CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome involves a number of developmental and medical differences (see www.chargesyndrome.org to learn more), and for this particular child it means profound […]

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This summer, I was asked by a parent whose child had attended our reading tutoring program in the spring, to work one-on-one with her daughter, a rising middle schooler with CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome involves a number of developmental and medical differences (see www.chargesyndrome.org to learn more), and for this particular child it means profound deafness in addition to other factors. Her signs could at times be challenging to understand, and it was not always clear when you asked her a question whether she understood the answer or whether she was repeating what you last said to her. So what was my approach in teaching reading with this student? Pull out all my favorite picture books, naturally.

When my undergraduate student who had been tutoring her in the previous semester pulled out The Red Book by Barbara Lehmann, she was at first confused and later delighted to find this rich story told entirely through pictures. Over the summer, in addition to many others, we have been reading a great deal of Mo Willems (the Knuffle Bunny books and the Elephant and Piggy books) and Jon Klassen (mostly of the hats-being-stolen-by-fish-and-rabbits genre). Halfway through Knuffle Bunny Too, she had the whole story figured out, excitedly signing to me, “Wrong rabbit, wrong rabbit!” The language and understanding that came through when presented with engaging literature was a delight to see.

lehman redbook 300x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    willems knuffle bunny too Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    klassen thisisnotmyhat 414x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome

We do more than read picture books, of course. We work on building vocabulary, we develop American Sign Language (ASL) skills and compare how concepts are conveyed through both languages, and we even examine word order through mixed-up sentences. But these lessons are always underpinned with  marvelous books that are clever and engaging. It is through these books that her abilities come shining through. And although reading tutoring during the summer months would not be the favorite activity of most middle school students, her mother told me that she actually begins laughing and smiling as they approach my building. The joy of reading!

Has anyone out there worked with children with CHARGE syndrome or those with multiple disabilities? I would love to learn about strategies you have used to support their reading!

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Frankly, tired of reading Anne Frank http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/frankly-tired-reading-anne-frank/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/frankly-tired-reading-anne-frank/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 10:01:47 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39579 I’ve hit an academic dilemma at summer camp this year. For the past three years at this gifted students’ camp, my lead instructor has chosen to teach The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). Yes, the book provides an entryway into a very difficult historical topic; yes, it’s pretty amazing to watch Anne’s growth; […]

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frank diary of a young girl Frankly, tired of reading Anne FrankI’ve hit an academic dilemma at summer camp this year. For the past three years at this gifted students’ camp, my lead instructor has chosen to teach The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank). Yes, the book provides an entryway into a very difficult historical topic; yes, it’s pretty amazing to watch Anne’s growth; and yes, she is a role model and a hero for multiple reasons. But I’m so tired of reading and teaching Anne’s diary year after year. Though it’s new to my students every time, it’s become monotonous to me. I’m bored!

I encountered the same problem with another lead teacher during the school year, except she couldn’t stand Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  Having been raised in California, I read this book in elementary school because the narrative explained so much about Native American daily life in California. My lead teacher had used the text for over ten years, so it was understandable why she was simply sick of the book. As her assistant now given the task of teaching Island of the Blue Dolphins, I asked her why she didn’t switch Island of the Blue Dolphins out for another book. Her reasoning was that she saw the value in teaching it despite her feelings.

inside out back again thanhha lai hardcover cover art Frankly, tired of reading Anne FrankMy solution so far is to find suitable replacements (Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, in case you were wondering) but recognize that this isn’t feasible for most teachers on a regular basis. To choose a replacement means taking the time to find a book that matches what you find value in the original (now boring) book, write a whole new curriculum, and figure out how to teach it. It’s much easier to pull out familiar curriculum.

So what to do about Anne Frank? I still haven’t decided if I want to say goodbye to her forever. But the question still stands: what do you do when you have a book of value and you don’t have the passion for teaching it anymore? Do you continue to teach it because of its merit, or shelve it?

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Happiness and high school humanities http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/happiness-high-school-humanities/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/happiness-high-school-humanities/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:01:55 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39416 I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say […]

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I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say “Philosophy: Happiness” on their covers to pull me directly down this path.

But as I thought about it, I got more and more excited about how this topic is tackled in the YA world. The first set of books I considered were titles that dealt with “the meaning of life” in a variety of ways. Titles like Nothing by Janne Teller, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, and one of my personal favorites, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp give lots of food for thought about where we expend our energy and the wisdom of how we prioritize our attention in life.

 teller nothing 213x300 Happiness and high school humanities    maas jeremyfink 201x300 Happiness and high school humanities    tharp spectacularnow 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities

This, of course, led to stories about facing challenges and finding happiness despite (or because) of the circumstances in our lives.  So we pulled texts like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, which all deal with characters finding ways to deal with and even prosper alongside difficult circumstances.

green faultinourstars Happiness and high school humanities     vizzini kindofFunnyStory 204x300 Happiness and high school humanities     stork marcelo 195x300 Happiness and high school humanities

Then we happened upon a set of titles that raise questions about whether you can be “happy” if you are or are not being yourself. We pulled segments of titles like Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Rapture Practice, which I’ve talked about here before.

openly straight Happiness and high school humanities     saenz aristotleanddante 199x300 Happiness and high school humanities     keshni tinasmouth 234x300 Happiness and high school humanities     hartzler rapturepractice 203x300 Happiness and high school humanities

And then there were a world of nonfiction possibilities, those written for young people and those not — picture books by Demi about various figures, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about work and play, and any number of great series texts about philosophers and religions and such.

So I guess the (happy) moral of this story is that it was much easier than I thought to revisit old texts with these new eyes of philosophies of happiness. I left the work feeling as though every text is about this very important topic in one way or another, and I can’t wait to see how the BGA curriculum around it continues to evolve!

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Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/read-female-pilots-national-aviation-day/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/read-female-pilots-national-aviation-day/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:01:00 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39380 Today, August 19th, the U.S. is celebrating National Aviation Day. This day was first established by a presidential proclamation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to celebrate advances in aviation. The date was chosen to coincide with Orville Wright’s birthday to recognize his contribution, together with his brother Wilbur, to the field of aviation — […]

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Today, August 19th, the U.S. is celebrating National Aviation Day. This day was first established by a presidential proclamation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to celebrate advances in aviation. The date was chosen to coincide with Orville Wright’s birthday to recognize his contribution, together with his brother Wilbur, to the field of aviation — but it is a holiday meant to recognize all aviators who have advanced the field through their efforts. While the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart come to mind as the premier pioneering pilots, there are many unsung aviators. The books below highlight the stories of some of the most famous early female aviators and are the perfect way to celebrate National Aviation Day!

Burleigh NightFlight 300x300 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayNight Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Wendell Minor (K-3)
This book tells the story of Amelia Earhart’s historic crossing of the Atlantic on May 20, 1932, which made her the first woman to complete a solo flight across that ocean. The flight was a dramatic one, including both mechanical difficulties and fierce weather and both the prose and the paintings of this book capture the tension of the flight and the elation when Earhart touches down in Ireland. The book also includes a brief biography of Earhart, a list of additional sources on the subject and a fascinating collection of quotations from Earhart’s speeches and publications.

Moss SkyHigh 300x272 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DaySky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Carl Angel (K-3)
Maggie Gee knew from a young age that she wanted to fly planes. It was a dream that stayed with her throughout her childhood and when World War II started, she leapt at the chance to serve her country by flying for the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs. Despite stiff competition for a limited number of spots amongst the WASPs, Maggie succeeded, becoming one of only two Chinese American pilots in the organization. This book traces her path from her childhood dreams to her work as a WASP. An author’s note at the end fills in more details about her life after World War II and includes pictures of Maggie and her family throughout the time covered in the book.

Cummins FlyingSolo300x294 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayFlying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins with illustrations by Malene R. Laugesen (K-3)
While many know the story of Amelia Earhart’s flight across the Atlantic, fewer people know that Ruth Elder attempted to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic years earlier in 1927. Though her attempt was cut short by a malfunction over the ocean, she nevertheless became famous, not only for her attempt but also for her later aviation exploits. This book tells her life story, focusing primarily on her attempt to fly across the Atlantic and her participation in a cross-country air race in 1929. Ruth’s story will excite fans of planes and flying and the illustrations will transport readers back to the 1920’s through their vivid details. The book also includes further sources of information about Ruth’s life as well as a final illustration that highlights a number of other important female aviators.

Borden FlyHigh 238x300 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayFly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger with illustrations by Teresa Flavin (4-6)
This book tells the story of Bessie Coleman, an African American woman who grew up in the south in the late 1800’s with a dream to get an education. When she moved to Chicago in 1915 for a chance at a better life, she discovered aviation and decided to head to France to pursue an opportunity to learn to fly. Once she had her license, Bessie returned to the U.S. where she flew in air shows and gave speeches encouraging others to follow her path. Though the book ends with the tragic tale of her death in a flying accident, the story is sure to inspire those interested in learning to fly.

Tanaka AmeliaEarhart 300x298 Read about female pilots on National Aviation DayAmelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka with illustrations by David Craig (4-6)
Illustrated with a combination of paintings and photographs from Amelia Earhart’s life, this book is an impressive biography of a woman who is arguably the most famous female aviator in American history. Starting in her childhood and continuing until her disappearance in 1937, it offers a look into Amelia’s entire life, including aspects that are often glossed over in other books, such as her time as a nurse’s aide in Toronto and her work with two early commercial airlines. Both the pictures and the illustrations bring Amelia to life for readers and a list of source notes and other resources at the end of the book provide lots of options for further reading.

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What’s the media Feeding us? http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/whats-media-feeding-us/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/whats-media-feeding-us/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:01:23 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39978 For the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of teaching an English course to a group of highly motivated high school students enrolled in the summer session of an Upward Bound program. This summer’s book selection — Feed by M. T. Anderson — has spurred a campus conversation that I keep catching snippets […]

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feed Whats the media Feeding us?For the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of teaching an English course to a group of highly motivated high school students enrolled in the summer session of an Upward Bound program. This summer’s book selection — Feed by M. T. Anderson — has spurred a campus conversation that I keep catching snippets of while I wait in line in the cafeteria or when I walk down the halls in the dorm. (I’m serious — a large group of teenagers, in school in the summer, are really talking about a book in their free time!)

Feed never fails to generate intense feelings and is also one of those books that could be suited to almost any theme or purpose that a course might cover. It lends itself to discussions of identity, social class, gender roles and expectations, conformity, language, as well as the topics around which I organized my summer course: media and technology.

The overarching question my students and I have been grappling with over the course of the summer is “Does the media create or reflect reality?” Feed is the perfect title to use as a case study for exploring this question, as it presents a dystopian world where the majority of people have a device — the “feed” — implanted directly into their brains. The feed constantly bombards its users with advertisements that are responsive to their locations and emotional states and also offers seemingly unlimited access to information. Of course, it also leads the users to have tremendous blind spots in terms of their understanding of the world around them and is controlled by powerful corporations who may or may not have the best interests of their users at heart.

Feed is the perfect choice for a course focused on media literacy. The book itself articulates and reinforces the need for precisely the skills learned in media literacy exercises: how to think critically about the content present in media messages, how to actively engage with information rather than passively accepting it, and how to uncover who creates the media and what their agendas might be.

Over the course of the summer, I have watched my students develop an increasing awareness of the challenges and implications of growing up in a media-saturated world. In addition to reading Feed, we have analyzed videos, advertisements, and contemporary songs to see what is under the surface of the media messages that we too often accept without question — and with which we even find ourselves singing along! I can see my students’ blinders beginning to come off as they think more critically about the world around them and how media impacts their own lives.

While Feed projects a vision of a dystopian future and was published back in 2002, I am struck each time I reread the book by how close the world Anderson describes seems to our own. The media and technology are increasingly influential and already play a key role in shaping our reality. The time to think about the implications of a media feeding us constant messages that may or may not reflect the world we want to inhabit is now and Feed is a wonderful title to use to engage young people in these critical conservations.

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Back-to-school books http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/back-school-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/back-school-books/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 10:01:38 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39966 Down South sometimes we do things a little differently… like starting back to school in early August. So while many a teacher is still enjoying their summer vacation until after Labor Day, my first day of school was a week ago. To me, the first days of school are some of the richest times for […]

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Down South sometimes we do things a little differently… like starting back to school in early August. So while many a teacher is still enjoying their summer vacation until after Labor Day, my first day of school was a week ago.

To me, the first days of school are some of the richest times for the development of classroom culture. One easy way to help instill the character and traits you envision for your classroom community is by reading aloud picture books. Which led me to wonder, What are some of my favorite back-to-school books?

While every teacher has a few of these character-building books in their arsenal, these are some of my favorites for the first days of school:

Henkes Chrysanthemum 246x300 Back to school booksChrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
The story of a little mouse with a big name, this classic back-to-school tale reveals to students the power of words. As students arrive for their first day of Kindergarten, Henkes highlights through witty dialogue the influence of others on the main character, Chrysanthemum’s, confidence. When the other animals start to make fun of Chrysanthemum’s name, she crumples and wilts. It is only after a kind music teacher praises her name, that Chrysanthemum begins to feel reinvigorated and proud of who she is. This is a great story to help highlight the power of kind and unkind words in your classroom, as well as the importance of having confidence in yourself.

pfister Rainbowfish 300x284 Back to school booksThe Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister; translated by J. Alison James
Rainbow Fish is not like the other fish. He has beautiful, sparkly fins that are highlighted through the addition of iridescent foil scales by Pfister. Rainbow Fish is also lonely and selfish. It is not until he begins to share his scales that he discovers the power of sharing and friendship. Students are typically immediately drawn in by the eye-catching sparkle of this book’s illustrations. When reading comes to a close, however, they are also able to discuss strategies for making friends and how to build relationships with their peers.

seuss GreenEggsHam 219x300 Back to school booksGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
At first, this silly, easy reader might seem like an odd choice for culture building. I’ve found, however, that the easy plotline of this tale allows students to understand the benefit of trying something new. Dr. Seuss’ ability to draw students in through his funny rhyming scheme immediately captures students. As the readers witness I-am-Sam’s relentless attempts to get the main character to try green eggs and ham, they can also be introduced to the idea of bravery. In school students will be asked to take on challenging tasks that often they have never been exposed to, however, just like in Green Eggs and Ham, they might also find that sometimes they like new things.

kraus leolatebloomer 215x300 Back to school booksLeo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus; illustrated by Jose Aruego
This simple story tells the tale of Leo, a small lion who struggles to complete the same tasks as his animal peers. While they can read, write and eat neatly. Leo cannot. His father becomes concerned, yet Leo’s mother remains confident that Leo will complete these tasks in his own time. By the end of story Leo has “bloomed!” and is able to keep up with his animal friends. The bright illustrations of this story engage students, as does the relatable story line. Ultimately students are able to walk away able to discuss ideas of persistence and grit.

Editor’s note: for more back-to-school books, check out Martha’s piece in our August Notes from the Horn Book, our free monthly newsletter for parents and teachers.

 

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Who’s doing the thinking? http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/whos-thinking/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/whos-thinking/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:01:43 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39574 Over the summer, I’ve been doing some literacy work with an educational consulting group here in Boston — we’re taking some of their existing professional development (PD) and classroom tools and modifying them to better address the Common Core. Last week, I went with some other members of the team to a PD session for […]

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Over the summer, I’ve been doing some literacy work with an educational consulting group here in Boston — we’re taking some of their existing professional development (PD) and classroom tools and modifying them to better address the Common Core. Last week, I went with some other members of the team to a PD session for high school teachers titled “Who’s Doing the Thinking?” In light of the Common Core, this workshop was designed to help teachers accurately assess the thinking demands in their classroom, and to make informed decisions around when we should guide students in diving into complex texts, and when we should let them do it on their own.

As part of this workshop, we watched a video of a high-performing 9th grade ELA classroom. The students were seated in a modified semi-circle having a whole-class discussion around themes in the latest chapter of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — a literary nonfiction text they were reading together. As the teacher facilitated the discussion, she skillfully asked probing questions like “What makes you say that?” “Where in the text can you find evidence to support that?” “Why do you think that?”  Her questions enabled students to really ground their thinking in textual evidence — a key piece of Common Core reading.

However, I couldn’t help but notice another teacher move that happened often. After each student finished giving evidence and making a statement, the teacher almost always offered a “summary plus.” That is, she concisely restated the student’s point and added some of her own thinking to the student’s comment. I likely noticed this because I do it all the time: taking a student comment and adding more detail. Now, I think this is sometimes wholly appropriate, but after watching about ten minutes of this video and reflecting on my own practice, I wondered, Shouldn’t we be trying to get students to do these “summary pluses”? In a perfect world, wouldn’t we be nearly absent from the conversation?

The video clip I watched happened towards the beginning of a unit, and I have no doubt that the discussion was more “teacher heavy” than later discussions would be. But the video still got me thinking. In addition to simply probing students to give evidence, what can we as teachers say and do to encourage students to give those mini-summaries? One thing I’ve decided I’d like to try in my classroom this fall is to be very explicit about my “summary pluses.” During early discussions of text, I will tell my students exactly what I’m doing when I rephrase and add my own thinking, and then I’ll slowly try to release the responsibility to them.

Giving up control of the thinking in a classroom is so much harder than it looks, but as I delve into the Common Core this summer, I’m realizing more and more how necessary it is. I’m excited to really practice what I preach this fall, and I’m looking forward to hearing from other educators on how you navigate the thinking balance in your classrooms!

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A visual life http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/visual-life/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/visual-life/#respond Tue, 05 Aug 2014 10:01:42 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39376 Whether you are teaching history, English, or nonfiction writing, biographies and memoirs can be great tools. They can create a personal connection to and a deeper understanding of a period in history, or illustrate specific types of writing techniques, or showcase a person’s unique perspective. Unfortunately, some students think these books are dry or unappealing. […]

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Whether you are teaching history, English, or nonfiction writing, biographies and memoirs can be great tools. They can create a personal connection to and a deeper understanding of a period in history, or illustrate specific types of writing techniques, or showcase a person’s unique perspective.

Unfortunately, some students think these books are dry or unappealing. A nice alternative to traditional works in this genre is to incorporate graphic novel biographies and autobiographies or memoirs into your classroom library or even your curriculum. They can convey details that may be omitted from other books and will appeal to visual learners and art fans. Best of all, the number of these graphic novels has been proliferating rapidly in the past several years, so there are some excellent options available. Here are some graphic novel biographies and autobiographies that work well with high school students.

Biographies

Brown AndretheGiant 212x300 A visual lifeAndre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown
Both fans of professional wrestling and fans of The Princess Bride will be eager to read this biography of Andre the Giant. The book follows Andre’s life from his childhood in France to his death and will give readers an insight into the way that his medical condition impacted every aspect of his life. The book doesn’t shy away from any aspect of his life and as such it will leave readers with a much greater understanding of this famous figure.

Kleist Boxer 213x300 A visual lifeThe Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft by Reinhard Kleist
Sent from his home in Poland to Auschwitz as a teen, Harry Haft managed to survive against all odds and later made a name for himself as a boxer in the United States. This book traces his life from his time in Poland until his later life. The black and white images and the way that the book never shies away from the horrors of the concentration camp will make this a powerful complement to World War II history lessons. It also offers an interesting look at post-war life, first in Europe and then in the United States. The book includes a historical note at the end that includes pictures of Haft and offers more details about this period.

Feynman A visual lifeFeynman by Jim Ottaviani with art by Leland Myrick
Richard Feynman is a fascinating figure in the history of science. He is best known as a Nobel prize winning physicist, but he was also a practical joker and man who was curious and adventurous in all aspects of his life. Ottaviani even tackles some of the most important physics topics that Feynman taught as a professor making this a wonderful option for students in whom you hope to inspire a love of science. If you find that you like this book, Ottaviani has also written other graphic novel biographies, including Primates, a biography of three leading female primatologists.

Bertozzi Shackleton 212x300 A visual lifeShackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi
The early 1900s was a time for exploration and few pushed at limits more than Ernest Shackleton, who was consumed with the quest to make it to the South Pole. In this graphic novel, Bertozzi captures Shackleton’s drive but also the conditions that he and his crew encountered in Antarctica over the course of several expeditions. With vivid illustrations of both the expeditions and Shackleton’s life between expeditions, this book will bring the period alive for students.

Memoirs

Knisley Relish 212x300 A visual lifeRelish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
This memoir focuses on the role that food and cooking plays in Lucy Knisley’s life while also describing her life as an artist. In fact, each chapter includes a pictorial recipe that brings the cooking process of some of her favorite foods to life for the reader. This book will appeal to both artists and cooks and offers an excellent example of how to write about one’s own life from childhood to present day.

Glidden Israel 194x300 A visual lifeHow to Understand Israel In 60 Days Or Less by Sarah Glidden
Presented with the option to take a free birthright trip to Israel, Sarah Glidden found that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up even though she was not terribly religious and had her doubts about the politics of Israel. This books tracks her physical and emotional journey on this trip as she learns more about the history of Israel, sees the sights, and wonders about her previous assumptions. Not surprisingly, there are no simple answers here, but the book provides an interesting picture of one woman’s experience in Israel.

Delisle Pyongyang 198x300 A visual lifePyongyang: A Journey to North Korea by Guy Delisle
North Korea is a little known entity. More isolated than any other country, few ever travel there and those who do are carefully monitored, making it hard for most people to develop an understanding of life there. Guy Delisle is one of a limited number of Westerners who has worked in Pyongyang, and in this graphic novel he brings his time as an animator in North Korea to vivid life. The book will change readers’ perceptions of the country and add further context to their understanding of the Korean War and modern day international politics.

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Why are we doing any of this? http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/why-are-we-doing-any-of-this/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/why-are-we-doing-any-of-this/#respond Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:01:27 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39387 Every teacher has heard it before: if you’re teaching students to succeed on the Test, then you’re teaching them the skills they’ll need to succeed in college and beyond. And if you’re like me, you’ve either inwardly or outwardly scoffed at this claim. As I use the summer to reflect on this past school year […]

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Every teacher has heard it before: if you’re teaching students to succeed on the Test, then you’re teaching them the skills they’ll need to succeed in college and beyond.

And if you’re like me, you’ve either inwardly or outwardly scoffed at this claim.

As I use the summer to reflect on this past school year and to begin planning for the upcoming one, I’m thinking about this in terms of my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition course. Thankfully, I’m not under much external pressure to ensure all my students earn qualifying scores on the AP exam in May. But I do feel responsible for preparing them adequately for the Test since it has the potential to beef up their transcripts and earn them college credit.

But is the purpose of the class to pass the exam, or is it to prepare students for reading, writing, and thinking at a college level? Does preparing them for the exam do just that in this specific instance?

I would argue that part of it does but part of it does not. In particular, the reading section of the AP English Lang. & Comp. exam fails to imitate authentic college-level work. The section consists of four one-page passages — usually taken from varying disciplines and time periods — each followed by multiple choice questions testing a variety of reading and rhetorical analysis skills. Students have one hour.

But in how many college courses were you handed single-page excerpts accompanied by multiple choice questions? How many of your college exams looked like this?

In my experience (as an English undergrad and then as an Education grad student) the answer to both questions is zero. I had to read book upon book upon book, many of which were unfamiliar, dense, and complex. If we weren’t reading a book, then we were reading long, scholarly articles. We read. We thought. We discussed. We wrote. We did not answer multiple-choice questions.

Yet, answering multiple-choice questions like the ones on the AP exam is the kind of skill that can theoretically improve with explicit instruction and practice. So do I spend my time having my students do just that? Or do I spend it having them read/discuss/write about the kind of texts they will encounter in college and beyond?

The College Board and many others would probably say both — but if the point of practicing multiple-choice questions is simply to become good at answering multiple-choice questions, then why are we doing any of this?

While this isn’t a new question, I still haven’t heard a convincing answer.

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Summertime books for middle school boys http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/summertime-books-middle-school-boys/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/summertime-books-middle-school-boys/#respond Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:01:10 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39391 Earlier this summer, my middle school colleagues and I worked on a curriculum project in our district’s comprehensive high school — a busy place during the summer. On one of those days, literally hundreds of our students lined up to participate in a teen summer job fair. As they patiently waited in line, they chatted […]

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Earlier this summer, my middle school colleagues and I worked on a curriculum project in our district’s comprehensive high school — a busy place during the summer. On one of those days, literally hundreds of our students lined up to participate in a teen summer job fair. As they patiently waited in line, they chatted with one another, checked their smart phones and listened to music. Only one brought a book.

Now I am not so old-fashioned that I lament the time wasted on electronic devices “these days.” Rather, I worry about what happens to our young teens, particularly our boys, if reading doesn’t make it anywhere near the top of the summer priority list. I speak from experience and legitimate concern. You see, I have two newly minted teenage boys who rarely gravitate to books. As a literacy specialist, this haunts me (probably one of the reasons for the behavior!). I know the toll a lack of summer reading can take on student achievement, and I feel challenged by the problem in my own home.

So I raised this dilemma with my peers, and my colleague Dan articulated a position that resonated with me.  He suggested that boys often have to work harder to find books that meet their needs since so many of the incredible YA books we have in our classrooms seem to be better matches for girls.

My first reaction was a resounding, “No way!” There are tons of incredible YA books available for consumption — choices for all readers. But then I paused and realized Dan might be onto something. I devour YA realistic fiction. I never have a problem finding characters that speak to me, even when I venture out into fantasy or historical fiction.

But that is not the case for my sons who also generally prefer realistic fiction. As early adolescents, they often struggle to make that transformative connection to a character or a plot line. I think the same was likely true for many of the middle school boy readers in my classroom who did not gravitate to magic realism, fantasy or adventure.

So I am trying to maintain a list for boys like my sons — average readers hovering between childhood and adolescence, the tangible and the abstract — that I can draw from to encourage them to make summer reading, and reading in general, a viable priority.

A few of the titles that I have seen work well in the classroom and for my sons include:

  • Sharon Draper’s Hazelwood High trilogy
  • Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • Jacqueline Woodson’s From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun and Miracle’s Boys
  • Andrew Clement’s Things Not Seen
  • Jordan Sonnenblick’s, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie and After Ever After

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Reflecting on this brief list, it seems that all the texts tackle issues relevant to adolescents — friendship, grief, loss, love, difference, to name a few. But they also have teen protagonists who learn to dig deep inside themselves to come to new understandings. They do not just wait for someone else to explain the issues to them. Perhaps this is some of what our boys are seeking: characters (mostly boy characters, though not exclusively) who succeed in finding their own voices as they inch toward the adult world.

I know there are many more books out there that speak to tween/teen boys. Which texts light a spark for your students? How are you helping them find characters that speak to them? I would love to hear from those of you out there helping our young adolescent boys make that connection!

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