The Horn Book » Lolly’s Classroom http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:21:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 El Deafo http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/el-deafo/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/el-deafo/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:01:21 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=41089 This week, I was lucky enough to have a thirty-minute window when I could pop into my favorite independent bookstore in Los Angeles. They have a large children’s section on the second floor that I love perusing because they do an excellent job at getting new books. On one of their displays sat El Deafo […]

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eldeafo El DeafoThis week, I was lucky enough to have a thirty-minute window when I could pop into my favorite independent bookstore in Los Angeles. They have a large children’s section on the second floor that I love perusing because they do an excellent job at getting new books.

On one of their displays sat El Deafo by Cece Bell. Intrigued first by the illustration of a superhero bunny and second by the title, my immediate thought was “What is this book about and who is this written for?” As if by fate, a children’s book worker looked up from her task of stocking new books and said “Oh that’s a really cute story. I highly recommend it.” I inquired about the reading level and she said it could be from fourth grade to middle school. Opening it, I was stoked to find out it was a graphic novel. Sold. It may be one of the best impulsive $20 I’ve spent of late.

I read this book in two days. It follows the author’s childhood experiences of being deaf, and specifically highlights her experiences in school. What captured me was the depiction of how people treated her and, since it’s from Cece’s point of view, how she felt. Her emotions come through strongly in the text and illustrations, and made me stop and think about how I treat people even if my intention is good. I connected with Cece’s superhero persona, “El Deafo.” Cece uses El Deafo to imagine the ideal way to handle tough situations, even if that doesn’t play out in real life (something I did as a kid too). What I really loved about this book was how the author depicted her friendships with the other kids (the good and the bad). It reminded me that children can sometimes do really mean things but that most of the time they mean well and can be really amazing friends to each other. It’s a lesson I need to carry for the school year.

Cece’s journey starts at the age of four and ends in fifth grade, so as a fifth grade teacher, I’m very excited to bring this graphic novel to my classroom. I think the students will enjoy this book and learn a lot from it. I believe that it will carry lessons of tolerance and respect for those who are hearing impaired, and prepare my students with tools (Don’t cover your mouth while someone is lip reading! Don’t assume all deaf people can sign!) to create meaningful and comfortable experiences with someone who can’t hear well.

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Same theme, different level http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/theme-different-level/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/theme-different-level/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:01:42 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=41093 It’s a new year with new kids! I’m working with the same population, but the way this school deals with the social and emotional components of learning is amazing. With that said, I have a group of 8th graders who are very low-level readers. It was a bit surprising because most of them are articulate […]

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It’s a new year with new kids! I’m working with the same population, but the way this school deals with the social and emotional components of learning is amazing. With that said, I have a group of 8th graders who are very low-level readers. It was a bit surprising because most of them are articulate and fluent, but it turns out that academically, their language level is quite low.

Right now, I am preparing my literature circles and have been looking through books that hit relevant topics, such as bullying, abuse, and coming of age. Unfortunately, it looks like the books I had last year are a bit too high for this year’s group. Last year, I had a few of my kids read Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life. Both the boys and the girls were understandably thrilled by the titles and read them avidly. It led to many interesting discussions.

flake skin 199x300 Same theme, different levelWith this year’s group, however, I am not certain about being able to introduce those books. Or at least, I’d have to wait until the end of the year. However, our interests were piqued by another book that addresses the same issue of bullying, but has a lower reading level: The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake. This book centers on Maleeka Madison, a middle-school girl who is the target of widespread bullying. Although the reading level is low, the subject matter is not, and Flake’s way of deftly introducing us to the key characters and issues is both satisfying and quick!

I know there are other books about bullying and peer pressure (many by Jerry Spinelli and Walter Dean Myers), but I think something about Maleeka really resonated with my students. Perhaps they are better able to relate to the context and issues that arise in The Skin I’m In than in the others. Regardless, my students and I are definitely huge fans!

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The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/kid-friendly-kid-maintainable-classroom-library/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/kid-friendly-kid-maintainable-classroom-library/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:01:55 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40390 If you’re a teacher reading this blog, you likely devote significant attention to carefully selecting literature to add to your classroom library. And, if you’re like me, you want your students to have access to these books, but also to not spend hours after school reorganizing and looking for titles that have mysteriously disappeared. Last […]

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If you’re a teacher reading this blog, you likely devote significant attention to carefully selecting literature to add to your classroom library. And, if you’re like me, you want your students to have access to these books, but also to not spend hours after school reorganizing and looking for titles that have mysteriously disappeared. Last year, I found a solution to keeping my classroom library well-stocked and maintainable, but before I share it, let me explain the rationale behind it.

When I was in elementary school, there were always books out on display in my classrooms, but there were also many, many titles hidden away in cupboards and closets that my teachers would search through after exclaiming, “Have I got just the book for you!” This practice always struck me as odd and restrictive — I loved going to the library precisely because the number of titles was overwhelming and it seemed that there were treasures to discover as I explored the shelves.

In my own classroom, I am committed to making sure that my students have constant access to as many titles as possible. However, it is essential to me that the books can remain organized without much effort from me — which is something of a challenge when you work with second graders.

The solution that I’ve come up with for my own classroom library is pretty simple. I started by drawing up a list of categories into which I could sort all of the books in my classroom library. Current categories include biographies, world cultures, biology and chemistry, and, my favorite, “Books Miss Hewes loves.” Next, I assigned each category a specific color-code, using dot and star stickers. For example, biographies have a yellow dot with a green star, while easy readers have just a silver star. Then, I bought bins and clearly labeled them with the proper codes and category names.

photo 1 e1409716191871 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

photo 2 e1409716078349 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

The next step was the most labor-intensive — putting the proper labels on each and every book in my library. While I was doing this, I also used the free tools available at Book Source to create a digital catalog of my library, which came in handy during the year as I wondered whether or not I actually had a certain book. (You can check out the organizer at  http://classroom.booksource.com/). Finally, after labeling the books, I put them into the appropriate bins and then put all of the bins on display in my classroom.

photo 3 e1409715975770 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

photo 4 e1409716039837 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

This system proved to be an overwhelming success last year. It allowed me to saturate my students in books without needing to go find a perfect book that I have tucked away somewhere in my room. Additionally, when I looked through the bins over the summer to check on them — something I faced with trepidation after having seen my students’ cubby area — I only found four books out of place. Most importantly, I am confident that my students found books to treasure as they independently navigated the bins — something I hope helped steer them towards becoming lifelong readers.

photo5 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

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Blasting the canon http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/blasting-canon/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/blasting-canon/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:01:01 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40047 As a new English department chair, I’ve already been faced with decisions about book orders. Our high school opened in 2007, but our middle school just opened with a sixth grade class last year. This means it was time for us to create a seventh grade curriculum. I believe in leadership through structured freedom, so […]

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As a new English department chair, I’ve already been faced with decisions about book orders. Our high school opened in 2007, but our middle school just opened with a sixth grade class last year. This means it was time for us to create a seventh grade curriculum.

I believe in leadership through structured freedom, so I decided that I would create a list of texts and let the seventh grade English teacher select the books she wanted to use for her class. My instinct, like usual, was to turn to Google. I searched terms such as “books all middle schoolers should read,” “classic literature for middle school,” and “best seventh grade texts.” I scoured random syllabi and reading lists from all over the country.

Though there was variation, by and large the books I kept coming across could be considered part of the literary canon. You could probably guess several of them, and chances are you read many of them if you attended middle school in this country over the last century.

I know I have a habit of blogging about old questions, but here I am with another: how important is it that our students read canonical works?

Do our West Philly middle and high schoolers really need to study Red Badge of Courage or Call of the Wild? Why not The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, or Copper Sun by Sharon Draper?

crane redbadgecourage2 225x300 120x160 Blasting the canon     london callofwild 197x300 105x160 Blasting the canon

graveyard book 107x160 Blasting the canon     yang americanbornchinese 204x300 108x160 Blasting the canon     draper coppersun 198x300 105x160 Blasting the canon

I’m not saying that the newer texts are better. Some are. Some aren’t. However, I do think that many of us—especially those of us in the position to put books in front of kids—need to question our unquestioning allegiance to the “classics.”

I suppose there are two arguments in their defense: 1. These books represent the very best writing in the English language; 2. Students will gain cultural capital from familiarity with these stories.

Yet, neither of these sway me.

I think it’s more accurate to say the canonical works used to represent some the best writing, but times change. Great books are published every year, whether or not they end up on some school’s curriculum or a bestseller list.

As for the cultural capital argument, that seems to me just a straight fallacy. The true value of a book comes not from the power to impress others but from whatever that book impresses upon its reader.

So instead of automatically turning to the canon because of faulty assumptions, let’s trust ourselves to find stories that will speak to our children.

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Books that inspire community http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/books-inspire-community/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/books-inspire-community/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:01:23 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40400 Lately — and by accident — I’ve been reading Spanish versions of many French-authored children’s picture books. For some reason, most of the books I’ve recently bought from bookstores in Lima and Buenos Aires to use for storytelling in Spanish were translated from French authors. I didn’t realize it at the time, but once I […]

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Lately — and by accident — I’ve been reading Spanish versions of many French-authored children’s picture books. For some reason, most of the books I’ve recently bought from bookstores in Lima and Buenos Aires to use for storytelling in Spanish were translated from French authors. I didn’t realize it at the time, but once I started to read them together I realized that they shared a strong message about the “we” instead of the “me.”

pedro y la luna Books that inspire communityThis prompted an informal search for other books that would have the same underlining message. For example, Pedro y la Luna by Alice Brière-Hacquet and Célia Chauffrey is about a boy who wants to bring the moon to his mom. To do so, he has to involve his entire community and beyond. Then there is the Portuguese story O Grande Rabanete by Tatiana Belinky. In it, a grandfather decides to plant radishes and progressively needs help with the harvest because of the radishes’ large size.

 Books that inspire communityI then tried to think about other books that send the message of doing things together for a common cause and couldn’t think of many other than the classic stories “The Pied piper of Hamelin” and “The Little Red Hen.” In the 1990s there was The Rainbow Fish by Swiss author-illustrator Marcus Pfister. A fish with the shiniest scales in the sea refuses to share his wealth and then becomes lonely. He rediscovers community only once he shares his scales. And of course, there is also The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, a book published in 1971 that depicts what happens to a verdant land when the “Once-ler” chops down all the truffula trees and drives the (Seussian) animals away. The last hope to rebuild the environment — and the community — is for a boy to plant the last remaining truffula tree seed.

shannon nodavid 224x300 Books that inspire communitySo much of children’s literature, especially today, is about common things that happen to kids, such as the boy a lost his bear and found it swapped in the forest in Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough, or the boy who misbehaves with his mom in No, David! by David Shannon, or the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, no Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. The list is endless.

All this made me think about the often repeated phrase, “literature is life.” So, are these books a reflection of our society? Are children’s books in other societies a reflection of a more “communal” (we) society instead of a more self-centered (me) society? Or is it that younger children relate better to stories that have more of a personal narrative tone? Can anybody think about books that transmit this message in their original languages?

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Music for Alice: a book in the key of life http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/music-alice-book-key-life/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/music-alice-book-key-life/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:01:19 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39962 Since I teach ESL to adults, I have to consider how I can convey some empathy for what my students have experienced, while also risking that some of the material I present may overwhelm them. Since I can never completely know all my students have been through — once a student burst into tears in […]

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say musicforalice 300x225 Music for Alice: a book in the key of lifeSince I teach ESL to adults, I have to consider how I can convey some empathy for what my students have experienced, while also risking that some of the material I present may overwhelm them. Since I can never completely know all my students have been through — once a student burst into tears in the middle of class because it was her son’s birthday and he was still in her native country — I sometimes take the risk of encouraging them to try to discuss the immigrant experience in English because it gets them talking.

Allen Say has produced a body of work that speaks to the immigrant experience in America. Most of his books have beautiful, life-like illustrations and can be appreciated by readers of all ages.

One of these books is Music for Alice. Alice, however, is not an immigrant but the descendant of immigrants. As Japanese Americans, she and her husband were forced to leave their home after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though they can’t believe they are being treated that way by their own government, Alice and her husband take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way in order to rebuild their lives. With much hard work, they build a successful farm. As a child Alice loved dancing, but living through war and life on the farm left her little time for dancing. However, as an older woman, happy memories reignite her passion for dancing.

I’ve used this book with smaller, lower-level adult ESL classes. Students do not understand every word of the text when it is read aloud but they follow the story through the illustrations. And while Alice and Mark are not immigrants, this story of being uprooted and trying to rebuild one’s life resonates with adult ESL students. I imagine the higher-level students would have more questions about the internment camps, so a teacher would need to be prepared to discuss that. When I’ve read this book to lower level classes, I’ve seen a few students get teary-eyed because although they don’t understand each word, they recognize the trials and triumph of the human experience.

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Here we go again! http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/go/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/go/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:01:39 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40510 By now, I’m guessing all the teachers out there are fully back in school — not just in meetings, but standing in a classroom in front of new students. Those of you in southern US states have been back for nearly a month while here in Boston students had their first day last week. I’d […]

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backtoschool 300x296 Here we go again!By now, I’m guessing all the teachers out there are fully back in school — not just in meetings, but standing in a classroom in front of new students. Those of you in southern US states have been back for nearly a month while here in Boston students had their first day last week.

I’d like to thank our diligent bloggers who kept writing all summer, as well as everyone who is reading and sharing this blog. The way I see it, commenting is what breathes life into a blog and allows it to live up to its full potential. In the same way that we want picture books to make full use of their medium — trim size, dust jackets, page turns — blog posts ought to start an online conversation. Since we started in February, we have accumulated 90+ posts and 400+ comments. Excelsior!

I’ll keep putting up posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few more weeks, but if Calling Caldecott changes to a T-Th schedule, I might move us over to M-W-F.

Lauren Adams, my colleague at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will be using this blog for her adolescent lit class book discussions just as I did for my children’s lit class last spring. We hope you will stick with us during that time (Oct. 20 to Dec. 1) adding your opinions in the comments and making our class discussions that much richer.

I’d like to ask all of you to spread the word about the Lolly’s Classroom blog to all your teacher friends. And when you use the blog, be sure to explore the “tags” found at the bottom of each post. Clicking on one of the tags will take you to more posts covering the same ages — e.g. middle school, grade 2 — or topics — common core, ELLs, picture books. (Actually, this post won’t have any tags because it’s not about anything useful. But trust me, all the other posts have them!)

Finally, all of us here wish all teachers everywhere a successful year full of exciting connections between books and children.

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Open Very Carefully: even quality books can contain stereotypes http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/open-carefully-even-quality-books-can-contain-stereotypes/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/open-carefully-even-quality-books-can-contain-stereotypes/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 10:01:56 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39980 One of the most popular books in my Pre-K class this past year was Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite written by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. The book starts off like it will be a retelling of The Ugly Duckling, but soon a crocodile interloper enters the book. For the rest […]

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bromley openverycarefully 239x300 Open Very Carefully: even quality books can contain stereotypesOne of the most popular books in my Pre-K class this past year was Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite written by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. The book starts off like it will be a retelling of The Ugly Duckling, but soon a crocodile interloper enters the book. For the rest of the story, the book breaks the fourth wall and becomes an interactive tale enlisting the reader of the story to help get the crocodile out of the book. The illustrations and design of the book are engaging to young children throughout and the story keeps the children constantly laughing.

However, there is a scene in the middle of the book that made me question if I should keep it in class. After the crocodile falls asleep, a pink crayon (presumably held by the reader) draws a ballerina outfit on the croc complete with pink tutu. The crocodile is none too pleased when he wakes up in his new outfit. This page got a big laugh from the children in my class. But what are the children laughing at? Essentially the joke is that the big tough crocodile would never willingly be wearing a tutu or doing ballet. In my ten years of teaching, I have seen many  boys who enjoyed putting on tutus or performing ballet which sometimes has led to them being teased by classmates. Thus, the joke in the book is reinforcing the archetype that boys — especially if they want to be perceived as tough — should never be seen wearing pink or doing ballet, and that if they do these things, it is funny and they should be laughed at. For this reason, I considered taking the book out of my classroom library even though the children loved the book.

Instead of taking the book out of circulation, I decided to have a discussion with the children about the offending page starting off by asking why they thought it was funny; not surprisingly, the children thought it was funny because the crocodile who they perceived to be male was wearing a ballet outfit and ballet is for girls. Having anticipated that sentiment, I had printed out some pictures of professional male ballet dancers, football players who do ballet (Hall of Famer Lynn Swann famously started this trend), and pictures of women playing tackle football (this happened during football season) to further the discussion about the perception of boy and girl activities. Like any discussion, some children were more engaged than others, and there probably was not a sea change in children’s perception of gender roles; nevertheless, I hope the discussion made a small dent in children’s perceptions of the roles females and males can partake in.

Now, I turn to Lolly’s Classroom. How do people handle otherwise quality books that contain stereotypes?

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Literature circles: the details http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/lit-circles-details/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/09/blogs/lollys-classroom/lit-circles-details/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:01:46 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39985 In my first literature circle post, I gave an overall explanation about the purpose and how the initial meeting goes and left a few mini book reviews. In my second lit circle post, I pointed you guys to sources if you wanted to kick off your own. In this last (for now) lit circle post, […]

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In my first literature circle post, I gave an overall explanation about the purpose and how the initial meeting goes and left a few mini book reviews. In my second lit circle post, I pointed you guys to sources if you wanted to kick off your own. In this last (for now) lit circle post, I just want to get into the nitty gritty of how I implement this in my middle school classroom.

In Numbers:

3-5 students per group
4-5 weeks per book
2 independent preparation sessions per week
1 lit circle discussion per week
25 minutes per session
1 role per week
1 reflection per week

In terms of timing, I like to introduce the literature circle after having finished an especially hefty novel.  Currently, I aim to do about two to three literature circles a year, with one of them being thematically aligned with history.

With that said, here is how I introduce literature circles to my class. I use the roles provided to me by my instructor. I’d be happy to send it to you — just tweet me at @JuniaTweets and we can connect from there. The schedule below is based on a 5-days/week schedule. You can adjust in anyway you want!

Preparation Week (0)

Day 1:

  • Read a short story together in class.
  • Pick one that has special meaning. Gary Soto, Langston Hughes, and Sandra Cisneros all provide great short stories.

Day 2:

  • I walk students through the “Reporter” role.
  • We work on the handout together in class, and I model the depth I desire. Then I have students practice in partners “reporting” on the story, as I walk around. At the end of Day 2, students should know how to prepare and present as a Reporter.

Day 3: 

  • I walk students through the “Discussion Director” role.
  • We work on this together in class and I model how I would ask a question and wait for responses. Then I have other students try. At the end of Day 3, students should know how to prepare the “DD” role and how to facilitate a discussion.

I spend today doing “book talks” through all the book choices students have.  If I run out of time, I continue the next day.

Day 4: 

  • I walk students through the “Diction Detective” role.
  • This role is especially confusing to students who are not accustomed to focusing on how word choice could affect setting, theme, or mood. I love this role, and I nitpick like crazy! It’s amazing to see how far students grow in their understanding through this role. This is why I focus a day on this.

I then finish my “book talks” and hype students up to let them know that on Day 5, they will be choosing their books!

Day 5: 

  • I walk students through the “Artist” and “Bridge Builder” roles.
  • For the Artist role, I remind students to not just draw a scene but to focus on how color and symbols can reveal a more complicated concept. For the Bridge Builder, I explain the differences of each bridge and that specific instances trump generalizations.

As students work, I have two or three students go to the back of the room and “graze” through three to four books I have put out. (See: Trial and Error for more information about “Choosing Day.”)

Lit Circle Week 1 — The Weird Week

This week is rough and students will be confused. You will have to explain yourself often, and you will need to walk through this with them slowly. I promise, it’s worth the time!

Day 1:

(25 Minutes)  I announce groups, have students get together, and they plan out how they are going to finish the book by the 4th week. Some students divide pages, some students divide chapters, and some students try to pace themselves by reading more in the beginning and less at the end. They also assign roles for the first Book Circle meeting. I write everything down on a large chart, and I hand out role-specific sheets to each person.

Day 2:

(15-20 minutes)  Students get time to read and prepare for their lit circle. Normally, students would do this on Day 1, but since Day 1 was spent preparing for the rest, I give them an extra day to read in class.

Day 3:

(20-25 minutes)  Independent Preparation

Day 4:

Remind students to prepare!

Day 5:

Lit Circle Meeting 1! (25 minutes)  For the first Lit circle meeting, I give class-wide reminders. About every 5-6 minutes, I call out where students should be (“Reporters should be finishing up now.”) I walk around and take copious notes as I listen to students. I give constant positive feedback and suggestions.

At the end, I give students a self-reflection checklist. Then I provide time for students to assign roles for the next week. I remind them that this week, they did not get the weekend to prepare, but they will have more time this upcoming week to prepare. I go over really great contributions as well. I love this part because since each group is specifically prepared so that students are reading their level books and approaching discussions at a level of accessibility, I get to bring up students who are usually more wary or withdrawn and remark on their contributions.

Lit Circle Weeks 2-4: Regular Schedule

Day 1 and 3:

(25 minutes):  Independent Preparation

Day  5:

Discussion Group Meeting (20-30 minutes — depends on your kids!)

The first round of literature circles was definitely exhausting. I spent much time scrutinizing student contributions, encouraging students to ask “higher” questions, and walking around the classroom. It was also important to keep my mouth shut when it came to their discussions.

I am tempted to end this with “there is no single method to run literature circles,” but to be honest, I was taught this method through a mentor teacher and when I followed it step-by-step, it worked! The second time I did my literature circles with my students, I began to add more of what I wanted to see with my students and assign different roles. This was also because I gave this round a historical theme.

So, with that said, I would suggest that beginners should keep everything simple. Pick great books, do not overload on extra work for the students, and make this a privilege! I used DonorsChoose and received an awesome array of books because of the generosity of friends and of a local foundation. DonorsChoose loves literacy-based projects, so I really encourage you to look at these outside sources.

Questions? Comments?  I know this is a lot!  I just wanted to get this all out here though, before the school year begins.

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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/#comments 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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