A School Teacher talks to his Mom and Dad about Reading

“Read, read, read, read, read. Read everything. You can’t work unless you know the world, and outside of living in the world the best way to learn about the world is to read about it.”    

           -John Goodman

 

I wrote this piece on the plane back to Hong Kong. I left home with a heavy heart as saying goodbye to my mom and dad is becoming increasingly difficult as we age.

Alas, both are mentally as sharp as ever. My dad’s caregivers all rave about his reading habits and kind soul. My mom still consistently has magazines, newspapers and books by her sofa.

On my last night, while packing, I told my wife that both continue to teach me how to live. Both model how I want to grow old. It is especially good to see my dad held in such high regard by so many new acquaintances.

My parents have influenced my reading life more than anyone else. More importantly, they have made me see the value of teaching kids how to read. Indirectly, both remind me that teaching kids to read is the best part of my job.

Each workday, I gather, promote, share, encourage, analyze, and celebrate the reading of great texts. I then watch the kids grow as readers, pruning here and there, along the way. I know that my life has meaning as long as I can help kids become readers for life. This is what I want to do in some aspect for the rest of my days.

With that in mind I have recorded podcast interviews with both Jean Mernin and Bill Mernin. Both are around six minutes long and I think each is time well spent.

Enjoy and happy reading to you.

 

How to Teach Fourth Grade: The Fantasy Reading Unit

 

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”

Maya Angelou

 

Mary Ehrenworth has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College. I first learned of Mary from her work with The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.. I heard Mary speak a few years back on the magical power of literacy in transforming the lives of middle school students. I found her to have a bit of magic herself.  When I realized that she co-wrote Constructing Curriculum:Alternate Units of Study, I knew I had to take a more active role in developing our school’s 4th grade Fantasy Reading Book Club Unit.

Simply put, Mary is one of my heroes of literacy teaching.  If you teach literacy, you should follow her.

From Mary’s writing, our fourth grade teachers are able to teach readers to appreciate that it is ok to find a bit of empathy in villains and recognize the struggles for the protagonist.  She instructs teachers to celebrate the heightened complexity of characters and to acknowledge that we all struggle with good versus evil. This unit is powerful and my students are dripping with excitement to start their book club conversations.

Mary pushed me to realize that not only is it acceptable to teach fantasy to my students, it is wise. To wit; ““Fantasy has been a force for good in literacy” On Harry Potter, Mary writes:” Who wouldn’t love a book that has MILLIONS of children to read.” On the art of teaching: “The best things we can do is to put books into the hands of children….and let those books teach.”

Mary has helped me teach my students that experienced readers take extensive notes to deepen the engagement and to extend the book chat conversations. She helps me to acknowledge and celebrate the different ways students use a pencil to track the actions, thoughts and feelings of the hero. Mary helps me teach “those habits that let you prepare for your book club discussions.”

Mary’s work helps me connect with my students. She instructs me to push research in making up a professional sports team and then compares that work to the research that a writer needs to merge all her characters into a meaningful fantasy.Mary understands the complexity in a classroom setting: “Getting to know a new class of children each year is like getting to know characters in a book.” This quote alone makes me realize that this unit is right for my students

Next week, my students will begin their fantasy book club discussions. Today, as I took notes on their reading work, I realized that many of these kids are profoundly different readers than they were at the beginning of the school year. I am immensely proud of their growth. Alas, I realize that I am merely a conveyor of the wisdom of many fine educators.

Mary Ehrenworth is one such master educator. I am deeply indebted to her work in helping me inspire nine and ten-year olds to read.

 

Mary Ehrenworth

Mary Ehrenworth

 

Constructing Curriculum: Alternative Units of Study

Constructing Curriculum: Alternative Units of StudyRelated articles

Student Led Conference Week- A Letter to Parents

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”Lao Tzu

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Dear Parents,

This is my favorite week of each school year and a somewhat notable week in the life of your child. This is the week of student led conferences (SLC).

I have just finished up my plans and we are a go for a marvelous week of learning. We will together celebrate social, academic and emotional growth in your child. I am proud of each student and I look forward to our continued learning.

We highly value differentiated instruction. That said, each child in our class is intelligent, thoughtful, witty, kind, caring, soulful, hardworking and optimistic.  Each is learning to lead and make a positive impact in society. All are reading and writing daily. This keeps me ever hopeful for their future.

My role during the conferences will be to facilitate the discussions between you and your child. I will also spend a little time with each of you conversing about the remaining school year and summer goals.

Each year at this time, I remind students to share their love of learning and not any particular test score. I remind them to share their personal growth and not their “rank” in the classroom. I remind them to celebrate all that they are. Please help your child in this endeavour.

Teaching, for me, is a sensitive and complex profession. It always has been. I work best when I remind myself that the students in my keep will remember little of my day-to-day instruction. Instead, they will remember the habits, both good and bad that I have taught them.  I am positive that I have instilled more good habits than bad and I am positive that your child has benefitted from our partnership. Your child is receiving a world-class, international school education

Enjoy your conversation with your child. Have a great week and see you at SLC.

Questions or comments are greatly appreciated.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/antoinedes121261.html#gqxFdF4pTJIGKLth.99

Book Clubs in the International School Classroom

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One of the cooler trends in elementary education is the push to book clubs. My readers’ workshop class has children that love the printed word. In 4th grade, my primary responsibility is to not get in the way and to share my mutual love of books. I do not take this lightly.

I was fortunate to attend a literacy conference at my school where Maggie Moon spoke of her thoughts on book clubs. Maggie is a former NYC schoolteacher and educational consultant from The Reading and Writing Teachers Project, Teachers’ College. She now works as an educational consultant with international schools. She is an invaluable resource. My fellow teachers  and I love her work.

Maggie promotes the liberal use of book clubs in the classroom for they help enhance reading, collaboration, and conversation skills. “When students talk, they provide a clear window to their comprehension,” says Maggie,” as well as strengthen students’ passion for reading good literature.”

Maggie spoke of her goals for elementary-age book clubs. She mentioned that teachers allow students to make title choices. The groups self-manage their groups. The talk should grow new thinking. The groups will increase reading volume and stamina.

Maggie spoke of the role of teachers during a book club conversation. She coached us to lean in and prompt the students to ask specific questions to keep the conversations flowing. She instructed us to model and to highlight the specific traits of a successful book club. She spoke of the teacher as the person responsible for students to become proficient members of book clubs. She spoke of the need to reflect on the conversations so that you can fine-tune your future teaching points.

In my classroom, I have watched my students conduct advanced book talks. They read, read, read, annotate, and then talk. The groups are messy at first but with time they settle into routines that adults would be happy to emulate. My first years at my current school left me agape at what my students could do as readers, thinkers and conversationalists. Now, I take their achievements in stride and push them constantly to think even more deeply. I owe a great deal of thanks to the  many folks such as Maggie Moon for pushing me to strive even higher as a literacy teacher.

They have renewed my passion for teaching.

References:

Moon, M. (2013, March 03). Maggie Moon LinkedIn. Retrieved from http://www.linkedin.com/pub/maggie-moon/3/490/2a8

Related Links to check out:

http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/book-clubs-reading-67.html

http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/reading-together/go-clubbing-book-clubs-kids

https://pinterest.com/pin/88805423872839139/

http://www.teachhub.com/student-book-club-guide

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/books.html#CsQCIwuS2jfp1HSk.99

How to Teach Literacy to Fourth Grade Students

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Fourth grade is now in session. The students know each other and each kid understands the rules. They are happy and they want to learn. Now, it is time to teach.  It is crucial that the effective fourth grade teacher offer an environment where all students can read and write. This takes investigation, knowledge of pedagogy, and confidence in delivering the curriculum. The master teacher is already developing short-range plans for each student entrusted in her care.

Teaching Reading: Humans are earth’s only cultural species. Our ability to read is perhaps our greatest achievement. The alphabet is an incredible invention that has shaped our lives. “Every teacher bears the burden of experimenting carefully and rigorously to identify the appropriate stimulation strategies that will provide students’ brains with an optimal daily enrichment.”(Dehaene, 2009)

As adults we forget how difficult it is to read. It is imperative to remember and provide connections with each child to their struggles. It is imperative to compliment, compliment and compliment each student’s accomplished goal. This means a teacher must provide daily, time-bound instruction, appropriate text, and time to read.

I am also of the belief that the master teacher should have at least some understanding of how the brain functions while reading.

Teaching Writing: Teach the kids to learn how to write from writers. This has been a game changer in my classroom. Each day, teach the craft of writing. Empathize with your student writers by writing each day yourself. Share your stories, struggles, pitfalls and achievements. The kids will appreciate you and offer you valuable insight.

The act of teaching children to appreciate and acknowledge superior writing is a gift. Give students the time to write each day. Allow them time to share their writing with writing partners. Celebrate with passion and allow for reflection after each unit. Provide ample opportunities for students to learn from mentor texts.

Read Aloud: Each day, after lunch recess, my students grab their water bottles, notebooks, and pencils and sit on the rug, waiting for me to begin my read aloud. My books are reserved for the year but I change titles depending on my mood.  I perhaps model reading with an overbearing sense of awe and drama. I figure that if books do not excite me, then I should not be teaching young ones. “Reading aloud is the single most important classroom structure there is.” (Ray, 1999)

This time is sacred to students and to me. I do not allow the students to lie down and rest during read aloud. I specifically teach them to be wide-awake and to notate during read aloud.

This year, my I have scheduled “accountable talk” time. This time is set aside for the students to talk about their connections, observations, predictions and wonderings about the current read aloud book. The circle discussion is student centered and a pleasure to conduct.

Word Study: Words study in fourth grade is essentially recognizing and developing control of spelling conventions. However, it is so much more in a master teacher’s classroom. When students understand that words are inventions and each word grew from different cultures and circumstances, they begin to appreciate the magic of language. Instruct students to analyze and sort words each week and reflect on their growth. Allow time for students to investigate idioms. This is always time well spent.

This is enough for today. Enjoy your students and have an amazing year of literacy.

Dehaene, S. (2012). Reading in the brain, the new science of how we read. Penguin Paperbacks.

Ray, K. W. (1999). Wondrous words, writers and writing in the elementary classroom. Natl Council of Teachers.