Category Archives: Teaching

Article: Motivating Readers through Voice and Choice

“Keeping students motivated to read and write throughout the school year can be a challenge for any classroom teacher.”

This is the opening line of an interesting (and short article) by Wendy Ranck-Buhr from NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English (in the U.S.), that I just read titled “Motivating Readers Through Voice and Choice.”

https://habitsofeffectivewritingteachers.wikispaces.com/file/view/Student2Student_Column.pdf 


After this relatable opening, the author then goes on to wonder:

“Sometimes it is not the reading or writing itself that drains motivation from middle school students but the ways we ask students to demonstrate what they know.”

The rest of this short article goes on to provide suggestions for how to engage students in writing and reading throughout the school year. Although technically aimed at middle school teachers and students, I imagine the strategies are applicable to high school English classes and students as well. 

For example:

  1. Blogs: teachers can use blogs to communicate with both students and parents, and students can use blogs to showcase work.
  2. Literary café: the teacher can host a book chat or book sharing session once in a while in their classroom along with beverages on tables covered in cloths. 
  3. Showcase: providing an audience beyond the classroom can be a great motivator for students and their writing. Teachers can showcase writing on the Internet, for example, or or in literary publications.

The author concludes by wondering:

“What would it take to make every student in your class a self-motivated reader and writer?”

I love comics – but is this one safe for class?

I love graphic novels and comics. 

While I admit to being a lifelong fan of comic book heroes and their adventures, I am always on the lookout for comics and GNs that tell non-superhero stories –particularly ones aimed at young adults. I do this because I want to find new reading material for my high school students — but am also looking to change the minds of teacher colleagues who may think that comics and GNs are only about Batman, Superman or The Hulk – not that those are bad! 

I digress.

Two excellent examples of recent non-superhero graphic novels that I have read (and tweeted about as @mistercooke on Twitter) include: 

  • The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings: after being sent to jail for murder, a young First Nations man strives for redemption through an exploration of his own culture.
  • A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo, Kris, and Vincent Bailly:  a Jewish family living in Paris must make the heart-breaking decision to send their children away as the Nazis rise to power.

   

I would love to get both of these books into the hands of students and teachers to show that powerful, disturbing, beautiful, humane, transcendent stories can also be told through the medium of comics. Or as comics guru Scott McCloud says “sequential art”.

I have discovered, in my own practice, GNs can be light reading, entry point reading, a gateway to other reading or a challenging reach book, depending on the reader, as there is a literacy unique to comics that some are more familiar with than others. 

Indeed, I love comics and graphic novels because the visual nature of comics adds both an immediacy and a new layer of complexity that both invites me in and challenges me as a reader.

But could this immediacy be dangerous?

I discovered a longer comic today that presented a difficult conundrum for me as a teacher: can this visual nature of comics and GNs be too immediate? Should some subject matter be left to the reader’s imagination? 

What is that comic, the content of which vexed me so? It shall appear in my next post, posted post-haste.

Much Ado About Tweeting

How lucky am I: my friend and colleague, the uber-talented Danika Barker, invited me to take part in her project to use Twitter to explore Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with actors speaking as

And I get to play mone other than the prickly cad Benedick, who verbally jousts with the snarky Beatrice.

 

Me in silly costume as Benedick

 
As of today, we are exploring Act II, scene 2, the masquerade ball.

How does it work? Ten or so of the major and supporting characters are being ‘played’ by ‘actors’ and we ‘speak’ in everyday language: being Benedick, my Twitter handle as that character is @2_benedick, and I tweet as if I am Benedick in his scenes.

Danika has organized this thoroughly: for example, a Google Calendar with dates for each scene; scene summaries and insight for each scene; and a Twitter list where all characters’ tweets appear in one handy place.

    
A confession: although I jumped at the chance to participate, i also felt some trepidation as the start date neared. But now that we are underway, I am thoroughly enjoying this experience.

Thank you, Danika! What an inventive way to teach Shakespeare!

Image

Out on a limb… Mark Twain

Interactive Bloom’s Taxonomy

My pal Heather J. sent along a link to this site. Looks pretty nifty… (Note: it is the revised Bloom’s where synthesis / create appears last as opposed to second last.)

Barrie Bennett referenced this during his workshops, suggesting that students need to be exposed to all levels of the taxonomy but that student engagement tends to increase with higher order thinking. He challenged teachers to reflect on what types of questions we are using, to use the taxonomy intentionally,  and to add variety to our lessons and units.

Click on the picture or here is the link:

http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/RevisedBlooms1.html

 

Where English Teachers go to help each other…

The English Companion Ning

After allowing it to lapse, I decided to reactivate my Ning account yesterday. Ning is a site that, for a small fee, allows users to create their own social network on whatever topic they desire.  Ning originally was a free service and during that time, I created a few social networks that were contained to just a particular class. So, for example, I create a Ning site for my English Media course and because Ning has almost all of the same basic functionality as Facebook, the students were able to interact with each other in a non-traditional way. Ning eventually did become the pay site it is today and, for reasons I can’t remember, I stopped using Ning about 1 year and a half ago.

But as I was re-activating my account, I remembered the ECN — English Companion Ning — which is created by and for English teachers. In my new role as a Literacy Learning Coordinator, I plan on delving a bit deeper into this site and even suggesting it to teachers as a resource.

Here is the link: http://englishcompanion.ning.com/

Mother of Sandy Hook victim writes a heart-wrenching letter

https://m.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fthefw.com%2Fmother-of-sandy-hook-massacre-victim-writes-heart-wrenching-letter%2F%3Ftrackback%3Dfbshare_mobile&_rdr