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Tag Archives | Wonder

Creating a Curriculum and Culture of Kindness in the Classroom

bk_wonder_140by Maurna Rome

When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Wouldn’t our classrooms be grand if students were given opportunities to learn about and experience what being kind looks like, sounds like and feels like on a daily basis? Wouldn’t life be grand if we could all simply choose true collaboration with our teaching colleagues to promote kindness? Wouldn’t our schools be grand if our districts would invest in kindness? My answer is a resounding “YES!” to these questions, and I hope other teachers would agree on all counts.

True, we are faced with constant pressure to prepare students for “those tests.” You know, the ones that are used to determine just how accomplished we teachers and our students are. Many of us still feel the urge to just close the door and do what we do in isolation. And yes, in many districts, significant funding is being used to buy new and comprehensive “core” reading programs (remember those test scores). Yet what about the content of our students’ character? What about their current level of engagement and future happiness? Could the answer be the pursuit of kindness and utilizing authentic literature in our classrooms? Do books really have the power to change lives? Again, my answer is a resounding “YES!”

from Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “Thought Bubble on Kindness”

Despite the challenges, my incredible colleagues and I have sought out an intentional approach to weave kindness into our teaching. As “humanities” teachers, it seems only fitting that along with lessons on parts of speech, comprehension strategies and writing literary essays, we include a commitment to teaching kindness. It is after all, an integral aspect of belonging to this thing we call humankind.

Smart teachers know there is a sense of urgency in our classrooms. Time is always in short supply while meetings, lesson planning, paper correcting, and grading are a constant demand. It helps to have a team like the one I work with. The strong levels of trust, mutual respect and shared enthusiasm for what we do is invigorating. We encourage each other to want to be the best teachers we can be. We continually brainstorm, test, succeed, fail, and try again, as we share our ideas, resources and instructional strategies with one another. This is a recipe for professional kindness that works. If you want to teach kindness in your classroom, it is much easier if you have camaraderie among your colleagues.

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Global Read Aloud (aka Glow Ball Read Dahl Loud) day. Click to enlarge.

And kids seem to notice when their teachers love what they do. On November 13th, classrooms near and far participated in two simultaneous events: World Kindness Day and Global Read Aloud (aka Glow Ball Read Dahl Loud). My teammates and I wore our glow sticks and ball gowns, while reading poetry by Roald Dahl (loudly). We also shared the short film, Snack Attack, to promote a message of kindness and generate lots of discussion. Our unusual attire and this award-winning movie with a twist were excellent ways to reinforce the concept of “Contrasts and Contradictions” a signpost from Notice and Note; Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. 

It’s up to us teachers to work our magic to carve out the time, to create an integrated curriculum and culture of kindness. Kids who learn the importance of kindness are kids who develop empathy and compassion. They are more apt to be selfless in a world where “selfies” rule. Consider these “Words of the Wiser” (another Notice and Note signpost):

I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else. Kindness—that simple word. To be kind—it covers everything, to my mind. If you’re kind that’s it.”  ―Roald Dahl

The following kindness resources have been field-tested and have earned a solid stamp of approval from dozens of wise (and kind) 6-11 year olds.

Film

 Children’s Picture Books:

  • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  • My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems
  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

YA/Middle Grades Chapter Books:

  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Misfits by James Howe
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

In addition to reading books to and with kids to teach kindness, these professional books are well worth the investment of time and money:

  • Beyond Nice: Nurturing Kindness with Young Children by Stuart L. Stotts
  • Bullying Hurts, Teaching Kindness through Read Alouds and Guided Conversations
    by Lester Laminack
  • Secret Kindness Agents: How Small Acts of Kindness Really Can Change the World
    by Ferial Pearson

Finally, if you are looking for ways to bring a kindness campaign to your classroom, consider these special events.

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Creating a Classroom Community with 31 Letters

by Maurna Rome

Long gone are the days of “Don’t do this or that or the other thing” lists of classroom rules. At least I hope they are long gone… The influence of “responsive classroom,” greater awareness of the power of being positive and much research on effective classroom management have ushered in a new approach to establishing expectations in our schools. Most educators know that in order to learn, there has to be order in the court. Most educators know that “buy in” from the kids is the shortest route to arrive at the destination. Most educators know that it is a worthwhile investment of time and energy to lay a solid foundation at the start of each school year that incudes discussion about goals, hopes and dreams (see First Six Weeks of School, Responsive Classroom). 

Yet after 24 years (this year marks the beginning of my 25th !) I have just recently realized how much easier it will be to establish and reinforce the shared classroom agreements we will be creating using some of my favorite literary treasures. My vision includes a fair amount of “guided discovery,” AKA, I know what I want the outcome to be but I want the kids to feel like they have come up with it on their own. Here’s my plan…

The 31 letters are scrambled on the wall. This invitation is posted above.

  Dear Students,

   Please think about the kind of classroom where cool kids make

   awesome things happen every day. A place where we are all making   

   our hopes and dreams come true. The type of environment where  

   learning and looking out for each other are the name of the game.

   Using the 31 letters below, can you help build the 9 words that will

   guide us as shared agreements on this wonderful journey together?   

   Thanks!  Mrs. Rome

Rome_31Letters
My hope is that my students will think, discuss and work together to take 31 letters and turn them into our classroom creed containing just nine words. Nine powerful words that when combined become five simple and short, yet powerful sentences. Just 31 letters that will guide us all year long as we design and navigate the roadmap to success in our 4th/5th grade Humanities classroom.

Be safe. Be kind. Work hard. Have fun. Grow.

These nine powerful words encompass all that I hope to accomplish with each one of my 50 scholars in the coming year. I am convinced that this mantra is something we can all agree on. Bringing these words to life, making them a part of our daily actions and most importantly, what we feel compelled to do in our hearts, is another order of business. A tall order of business. Yet this IS my business… to keep kids safe, to help them be kind and develop a strong work ethic, to experience joy as often as possible, and always, to cultivate their talents so they can grow and develop.

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As is most often the case, when I find myself searching for wisdom from a reliable friend, I turn to the vast collection of books in our classroom library. As I begin my 25th year as an educator, I marvel at just how important my books and the lessons they provide are. Allow me to share how my treasures—picture books and chapter books—will pave the way to creating our classroom community in Room 123.

I will begin by sharing some of my favorite picture books, stories that can be shared in the first week or two of the new school year to help us establish the importance of our 31 letters. I don’t hesitate to read aloud these books that are usually reserved for the younger crowd, because I know that the big kids benefit from picture books just as much. The insights and discussions that come from these terrific titles help my students learn more about how our shared agreements will support our learning. The chapter books will unfold over days, weeks, months, yet again, the stories will illustrate how those 31 letters take our fictional friends through many life lessons.

At this very moment, educators all across the country are carefully planning or presenting lessons that are designed to promote enthusiasm for reading. At the same time, those dedicated individuals are working on building a positive classroom community. Most educators know that the right book in the hands of the right kid can make an enormous difference. Some of us even believe books have the ability to changes lives. I am grateful to know, love, and share these books with my colleagues.

Rome_stripBe Safe

The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Be Kind

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Work Hard

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Have Fun

Wumbers (or anything by Amy Krause Rosenthal)

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Christopher Grabenstein

Grow

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg and Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi

Wonder by RJ Palacio

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Middle Kingdom: Nebraska City, Nebraska

Middle Kingdom: Nebraska City, Nebraska

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to Nebraska City Middle School in Nebraska City, Nebraska, where Lisa talks with Media Specialist Alice Harrison.

Lisa: What would you like to tell our readers about your community?

Alice: Nebraska City, Nebraska is home to the national holiday Arbor Day, celebrated every year the last Friday in April. J. Morton Sterling, the founder of Arbor Day, migrated to the Nebraska Territory in 1854, where he later became the Secretary of Nebraska Territory. Sterling saw the agricultural and economical benefits of planting trees, and in 1872 he convinced the Nebraska Board of Agriculture to establish a specific holiday for everyone to join in planting trees. April was chosen to correlate with Sterling’s birthday, and several presidents since then have declared Arbor Day a national holiday on the last Friday in April. Since the first Arbor Day celebration to the present day, Nebraska City has celebrated with a parade down the main street where area middle school and high school bands come to perform. Tree starters are distributed to the attendees, as well as tons of candy!

The abundance of apple trees planted in Nebraska City has led to another celebration—the AppleJack Festival  was established to celebrate the harvesting of all those apples. Taking place the third weekend in September, people come from all over to consume apple pies, apple bread, apple donuts (my favorite!), several varieties of fresh apples, apple jams, and a long list of other apple items, along with participating in other celebratory events.

Lisa: What changes are ahead this year for your school or library/media center?

Alice: Nebraska City Middle School has 325 students, predominately white with a large population of Hispanic students. It is a Title 1 school with 45.8% free and reduced lunch. The district school board passed the implementation of a technology 1:1 initiative, beginning the school year of 2015-16, as a pilot program in the Middle School. All the students, staff, and faculty will have Chromebooks to use (at school only) by checking them in and out of the homerooms or alpha classrooms. Presently, the Middle School is the only school in the district approved to participate in this pilot program. Every classroom teacher will be using Google Classroom (a Google Apps for Education app). The goal is to help teachers save time by organizing lesson plans, incorporating interactive curriculum, allowing for student and teacher collaboration, and providing immediate teacher feedback, along with displaying and accessing class assignments and grades. To incorporate this 1:1 initiative, our IT director is setting up every student with their own personal Gmail account.

To teach digital citizenship and personal responsibility with the Chromebooks, every teacher, including myself, will be teaching and utilizing the Common Sense Media curriculum. I am only a ¼-time Media Specialist at the Middle School (I teach at the elementary school for the other ¾-time), so I am fortunate to have a marvelous full-time assistant in the Middle School library. The first few days of school this coming year, all the students will be attending training sessions taught by the faculty and staff to instruct students in the use and care of Chromebooks. In the past, I have taught 6th grade keyboarding, but to date, I do not know of any plans for keyboarding instruction.

The Nebraska City Middle School band preparing to perform in the Arbor Day parade 2013

The Nebraska City Middle School band preparing to perform in the Arbor Day parade 2013

Lisa: What else will be new for the Middle School library this year?

Alice: I am excitedly anticipating this new school year at the Middle School because this past May I purchased 37 e-books, our first time to acquire this format. The e-books that I purchased were from Follett, but our library automated system is the online, cloud-based version of Library World. Follet sent me detailed instructions as to how to set up the e-books for checkout. The students and faculty will be able to read the e-books on the Chromebooks, but only online. However, they can be accessed on all other devices for online or offline reading. I’m ecstatic!

Sixteen of the e-books are our state award nominees, which are called Golden Sowers . There are a total of 30 books nominated every year for three levels, with 10 nominated in each level: Primary, Intermediate, and Young Adult. And that leads me to how I came to connect with Lisa Bullard, who asked if I would participate in this interview for Bookology—her book Turn Left at the Cow is a Golden Sower nominee for the 2015-16 school year.

Lisa: Alice, the Golden Sower nomination is such a huge honor for me, and I’m so delighted that it brought the two of us together! Can you tell us more about the impact of the Golden Sower titles on your library and student reading?

Alice: Each summer, I try to read as many Golden Sower nominees for the coming school year as I can. READING…my favorite pass-time!

As you can imagine, a major concentration of our promotion at the Middle School library is devoted to the Golden Sower state nominee books. Our literature/reading teachers also heavily promote these in their classrooms. At the end of every school year, the students are awarded certificates for four different levels of completion for reading the Golden Sowers. From these students, three names are drawn for additional prizes.

Some of the Golden Sower nominees are books from a series—then I usually purchase the whole series, because the students are so interested in the nominated books. For example, some of the series with recent Golden Sower nominated-titles are: Richard Paul Evans’ Michael Vey series, the Starters series by Lissa Price, Rob Buyea’s Mr. Terupt titles, the According to Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, and the Legend series by Marie Lu. Two years ago, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, was chosen as a Golden Sower Award winner and our Middle School selected this book as an all-school read.

Lisa: What other books and series have been popular reads in your Middle School?

Nebraska City Middle School

Nebraska City Middle School

Alice: The list includes the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, the Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord, the Selection series by Kiera Cass, Erin Hunter’s Warriors series and Seekers series, the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan. Other popular authors with our middle schoolers are Mike Lupica, Laurie Halse Anderson, Meg Cabot, and Carl Hiaasen.

Lisa: I’m amazed at all you have going on—especially since with your split schedule, you don’t have a lot of time to do it all! Are there any other initiatives you’d like to share?

Alice: In the past year, I have been trying to focus more on our reluctant readers in the Middle School. I’ve been purchasing more nonfiction graphic readers and fiction graphic novels. Also, this new school year I am incorporating a new promotion at the Middle School for the Golden Sowers. I have been making audio and printed text QR codes for each Golden Sower book and printing the book covers to apply them to the covers. I will be displaying them in the Middle School library and hallways. The audio portion features me reading the book’s summary, and the printed portion contains links to book trailers, author websites, and book theme links.

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Middle Kingdom: Shakopee, Minnesota

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to East Junior High in Shakopee, Minnesota, where Lisa talks with media specialist Amy Sticha.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

ph_shakopeeeastAmy: East Junior High is one of two junior high schools in Shakopee, Minnesota, a rapidly growing suburb of the Twin Cities. Because of our district’s growth over the past several years, we have gone through a lot of reconfiguration of grade levels at all of our buildings. Currently, our junior highs house students in grades 7-9, but with the passage of a referendum to build an addition to our high school a few weeks ago, we will be changing to grades 6-8 by 2018.

As a result of all this shuffling, the EJH library has been split twice in the last eight years to accommodate other schools’ libraries. It has been challenging to maintain a relevant collection with the loss of so many materials, but thanks to a supportive administration and community, we are in the process of adding technology like mediascapes, charging tables, Chromebook carts, and 1:1 iPads, and updating our district’s media centers to add makerspace areas and other spaces to stay current within the changing scope of a school library/media center space. I invite you to visit my media webpage

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often? 

Amy:

  • the Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
  • the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans
  • the Brotherband Chronicles series by John Flanagan
  • the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into students’ hands?

Amy:

  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Swim the Fly by Don Calame
  • Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • Emako Blue by Brenda Woods
  • Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?

Amy Sticha's list

Amy Sticha’s list

Amy: Promoting reading is probably one of my favorite things to do as a junior high media specialist.  In addition to book talks and displays, my para and I work closely together to come up with a variety of fun and interactive reading promotions throughout the year. We use Facebook and Twitter accounts to announce contests, special events, and updates about new books or what we are currently reading. I actually just finished putting up my favorite display of the year, which is our Top 10 Summer Must-Reads and is made up of my para’s and my favorite books we have read throughout the year and would suggest for fun summer reading. Both students and staff members around the school make comments about our lists every year. Several times over the last few hours today, I have looked up from my desk to see someone taking a pic of our lists with their phone. 

Para's List

Para’s List

Every month, we have a student book club that is led by a different staff member. At the beginning of each year, I ask for staff volunteers who would be interested in leading the club for one of the months of the school year. In preparation for the upcoming month’s book club, the staff member and I decide on which book they would like to choose, and students who participate get a free copy of the book and free breakfast at the two meetings held during the month. Some months have better participation than others, but overall, it is a fun way to show students that staff members read for pleasure outside of school, too.  

We also have a Tournament of the Books every March to coincide with the NCAA basketball tournaments. Thirty-two books take on each other in our annual tournament to see which one is chosen by our student body to be the ultimate winner. This year’s winner was The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  

This year for the first time, we had a spring break reading competition during which we encouraged students to take pics of themselves reading in unique, strange, fun, or interesting places. Our overall winner took a pic of himself reading in front of a mountain range while visiting his grandparents in Arizona. This year we also participated in the Young Adults’ Choices project sponsored by the International Literacy Association and were introduced to a number of really great titles!  

We have a great time promoting reading to EJH students!

 

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Teaching the Future

by Rob Reid

Animal Shenanigans

Animal Shenanigans, Rob Reid’s latest resource book for teachers, parents, and librarians.

I am fortunate to teach three sections of children’s literature each semester to future elementary teachers, future special education teachers, and future librarians. It’s truly a fun gig. I was asked by the Bookology folks to share those books and topics I teach to these budding professionals.

I open each semester by introducing myself and reading my current favorite interactive picture book. The last few years, it has been Press Here by Hervé Tullet and the students are delighted to know such a book like this exists. I then ask them to tell me what comes to mind when I say, “Children’s Books.” I write their responses on the board and…the same titles appear year after year. Titles from their school years: Arthur, Amelia Bedelia, Magic Treehouse, Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss—the usual suspects. All good choices but no surprises and nothing recently published. That’s my job then for the next 15 weeks: combine history of children’s literature with the best of the newer stuff, so they can share those with kids down the road.

Next, we look at current trends in children’s publishing: trends I pick up from Publishers Weekly, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the American Library Association, and my own observations. We also look at the current NY Times bestseller lists for picture books, middle grade books, and series. I read a few of those bestselling picture books to the class as well as selections of the chapter books. (I read aloud children’s books to my college students pretty much every class session.)

I contrast what sells with what wins the numerous awards: quantity vs. quality (and luckily, the two go together with many titles) and how kids need to be exposed to all. Over the semester, my students learn what the following awards are for, who are the most recent winners, and many of the notable past winners: Newbery (and I share my own experience being on that committee), Caldecott, Geisel, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, American Indian Youth Literature, Scott O’Dell, Sibert, Orbis Pictus, and the Schneider Family Award.

Sibk_wonder_140nce that last award originated at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where I teach, and because I have many special education students, we put special emphasis on this award that recognizes portrayals of people with disabilities. As a class, we all read Wonder by R.J. Palacio (before that it was Rules by Cynthia Lord) and I will also be adding El Deafo by Cece Bell this upcoming year as a required read to represent graphic novels (I have been using the first Babymouse and the first Lunch Lady as examples of elementary school graphic novels).

The other required read is Love That Dog, and I introduce the other works of Sharon Creech and Walter Dean Myers (who is a fictionalized character of himself in the book). We look at dozens of poetry books not written by Shel Silverstein (and I have some good Silverstein anecdotes to share) and learn ways to make poetry fun for kids.

Out of My MindStudents pick an elective chapter book from a list I provide (which includes Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Out of My Mind, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Coraline, Tale of Despereaux, Princess Academy, Elijah of Buxton, and several more) and they create a literature activity guide to go with their novel.

Students draw the name of a children’s illustrator and put together a PowerPoint to share with the class what they learned about the various artistic elements present in the picture books.

We also look at the timeline of diversity in children’s literature, traditional folklore from around the world, fantasy and science fiction, controversial books, informational books and biographies, easy readers and bridge books, realistic fiction, historical fiction, and Minnesota and Wisconsin book creators (since most of my students are from these two states and we have so many talented, published, award-winning authors and illustrators here).

Each student also has to tell an oral story to the class based on a folktale. They are sent to the 398 section of the library to look through both the picture book editions and anthologies of folktales, learn one, and share it without notes.

We finish the semester with competitive rounds of Kiddie Lit Jeopardy, they fill out their student evaluations that all read “This was a lot of work!” and I send them off to explore the remaining 99% of the wonderful children’s books we didn’t have time to cover in class.

[Reid-Rob-bio]

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Chapter & Verse picks the winners … or not

In CLN’s Chapter & Verse, with six of our bookstores reporting, we had no clear winners for our mock Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz Awards. Steve and I have visited many of these locations, talking with the book club members. Each book club has its own character. The members bring different life experiences, different reading preferences, […]

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