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DigiLitSunday will be back on July 9, 2017. In the meantime, take time to enjoy the sunsets.

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I know, it’s summer and who wants to think about problems during summer?  I didn’t expect to, but I do enjoy having more time to read.  I’ve been reading Dynamic Teaching for Dynamic Reading by Vicki Vinton.  This book was chosen for the CyberPD book for July. To follow the discussions around this book, tune in to #cyberpd and Michelle Nero’s blog Literacy Learning Zone. 

In Dynamic Teaching, Vicki sets us up to think more about the complexity of and the authentic purpose for reading. She leads us into the problem solving process for students when reading.

 

It’s one thing to read theory in a professional book, but quite another to see the theory play out in your own life.  I started reading Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.  This book is intended for middle grade students, the students I teach. Immediately in the first chapter, I have to enter into the process of solving a problem.

Jinny heard the bell.  She threw down her book, rose from the stale comfort of the old brown sofa, and scrambled to the door.  When she burst from the cabin into the evening air, Jinny ran.

I can assume from the title of the book that Jinny is an orphan.  This first paragraph makes me think she is at camp.  A bell rings, and she runs from the cabin.  As I continue to read, though, I find clues that she is not at any camp I’ve ever known.

My purpose for reading is heightened.  I have to figure out why Jinny is at this camp.  Who else is there?  What happened to her parents?  Reading only this first chapter, I am full of questions.

It is time to honor this process of problem finding and problem solving with our students.  How could I set my students up to do this?

  • What do you think is happening?
  •  What are your questions?
  • Why do you want to keep reading?

My summer reading has taken on a different dimension.  I’m not only reading for understanding, but I am reading to find the problem.  Where can I apply this problem to my teaching?  How do my students find problems?  How do I present problems that will interest them enough to solve?

I have found a problem that interests me.  In fact, it came in the mail.  I think it’s from someone in the CLMOOC postcard exchange, but that in itself is a mystery. I received a postcard with a snippet of text glued to the back.  The instructions are to create a poem out of the text, black-out style.

As you may be able to see, I’ve started underlining words in pencil.  I haven’t committed to any of them yet.  The fact that I have to black-out and send the postcard back with some sort of meaningful text selected has heightened this problem from one of mere play to a serious thoughtful process.   How can I take this experience and apply it in my classroom?  I want my students to both play with language and see the serious potential of making meaning with words.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to send a postcard to each of my students with these same instructions?

Problem seeking leads to problem finding to problem solving.  This is the way of language in reading and in writing.  I invite you to contemplate problems in your own literacy learning and teaching and link up your blog post below.

 

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Some weeks call for combination posts. Today I am celebrating story in my DigiLitSunday post.

I am privileged to be in a family of writers. After her retirement as a district judge, my mother-in-law started writing crime novels. In each of her books, she fictionalizes actual cases that came across her bench in the courtroom. Sunday I am hosting a book signing for her third book, Blood of the Believers.


In this book, Detective Ted D’Aquin is struggling with the disappearance of his wife. But after a year and a half of leave from the St. Martinville Sheriff’s office, he returns to investigate two homicides. I know from my mother-in-law, Anne Simon, the parts of the cases that are real and which ones she made up. Sometimes real life can be crazier than fiction.

Reading her latest book, I could hear her voice. Even though she was writing as a male character, some of her ways of saying things came through. The average reader may not recognize these idiosyncrasies that our family lovingly calls “Minga-isms.” (Minga is her grandmother name.)

My father has published his first novel, Into the Silence. He’s been writing this book since 1975 when I was still a young teen. I encouraged him to get it published with my friends at Border Press. He will have a book signing in my home town of Jackson, MS at Lemuria Books on June 16th at 5:00.  Diane Moore wrote a glowing review on her blog, A Word’s Worth. 

When I was home last weekend, I got one of the hot-off-the-presses copies. I read furiously, couldn’t put it down. The protagonist is Todd Sutherland, a cardiologist, but to me, he is my father. Dad admits that he wanted to be a cardiologist. He was a radiologist by profession. Interspersed in the story of how Todd falls in love with one of his patients and is faced with her certain death are parts of my father’s life story, the death of his own father to Parkinson’s and his intense study of shamanism, Greek literature, and theology. The fictional story is intriguing, but I will hold on to the parts of my dad that live on in this story.

Why do we write? For both my mother-in-law Anne and my father John, they write to reveal the deepest parts of themselves while creating a strong compelling story. I am blessed to be among such mentors.

If you have stories about stories, please leave a link below. Click to read more DigiLitSunday posts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please add your links below.  Click to see more posts about Better.

 

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I didn’t tweet out a topic for DigiLit this week because I’m in an end-of-the-year funk. In some ways I’m ready for this school year to close. I’m tired. I want to have time to relax, read, write, visit my parents, etc.

However, this time of year sends me into a sadness that I don’t really understand. The classrooms around me are loud. The teachers are out in the halls talking. Announcements over the intercom are warnings about the things we teachers need to turn in. Learning, questioning, quiet reading have all stopped. This week brings award ceremonies, splash days, and early dismissals. It’s time to pack up and put everything away for the yearly floor waxing.

“The classroom is so empty!”

While I was packing up, I filled a bag with books to take home. Some are middle grade books I haven’t read, a few poetry books to inspire my writing, and professional books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

Cathy Mere and Michelle Nero lead a Cyber PD each summer. I didn’t join in last summer because I was traveling a lot. But this summer I’m ready. They are asking teacher bloggers to share their professional book stacks on the Google+ #cyberpd page.

Michelle’s post here explains how to participate. They will announce the chosen book on June 3. The reading and posting will happen in July.

If you are writing a post today, please link up. If you are reading my post, please click the link to read more #DigiLitSunday posts.

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The end of the school year came too quickly this year. The Two Writing teachers blog series, however, helped prepare me for the inevitable- summer writing slide. Kidblog.org published this blog post of mine around summer writing.

The gifted program in my district has always recognized the need for summer reading.  We carefully choose a list of books and send home a required reading packet.  Last year we tweaked the requirements and the kids actually responded that they enjoyed doing the work.  The packet was designed around choice and activities that were interesting and motivating.

What about summer writing slide?  My students actively write every day of their time with me.  Will they keep writing over the summer?  Not likely.  So I took it upon myself to encourage summer writing.

I found a stack of summer postcards in my endless supplies of teacher stuff.  On each card, I placed a label with our kidblog site address, my home address, and my email address, three different ways my students could keep in touch over the summer.

Friday was our last official day together as these last two weeks are full of end of the year activities.  I brought out marbleized journals.  We start the school year decorating a journal for the year, so why not close the year with decorating a summer writing journal?

Have you started thinking about summer slide?  What are your plans?  Share your blog posts in the link below.

 

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On Monday evening, I participated in #Wonderchat on Twitter.  The topic was led by Dr. Mary Howard: Instilling a Sense of Professional Wonder. If you are here reading this post, you are likely a person who wonders, reads, researches, and is always learning.

We are nearing the end of the school year and yet, I am still filled with professional wonderings. Three new books have arrived in the last few weeks, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton, Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, and Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher.

If anyone is interested in a summer book study of one of the books above, let me know in the comments. Wouldn’t it be more fun to read if you have someone to discuss it with? Google docs work well for housing a book study.

Why do I keep buying professional books? You’d think I would know what I was doing after 30 years of teaching. But I am still learning. I want to continue to question what I do and why I do it. I think that is the definition of a professional. When I stop wondering about teaching, I should stop teaching.

During the #Wonderchat, Sarah Eaton posted a padlet for teacher wonders. I remade the padlet wall to house our posts today. (A test run for using padlet for the round up.) Double click inside the padlet to add to it. In addition to voicing our professional wonders here, perhaps we can also post ideas and links to further research. Be sure to put your name and a link to your post, so we can continue the conversation.

 

Made with Padlet

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