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Think there’s no need for sepia-toned filters and hashtags in your classroom? Don’t write off the world of #selfies just yet.
Instagram is one of the most popular social media channels among generation Z, or those born after 1995 and don’t know a world without the Internet. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this is a generation of visual learners and communicators, where sharing your life-from the food you’re about to eat to your thoughts about anything and everything-is a part of your everyday routine. So, why allow Instagram in your classroom?
For starters, preparing students to be college and career ready involves helping them build their digital literacy skills on a professional level, and Instagram is a technological tool that offers educators innovative ways to motivate and engage students, opening up a new platform for collaboration, research, and discussion. Secondly, we all know the importance of interest and ownership for getting students excited about learning, and since your students probably already love Instagram you’ve already won half the battle.
Teacher/Classroom Instagram Accounts
Create a private classroom Instagram account that you control and can use to connect with your students, their parents and guardians, and other grade team members. Invite them to follow your account and catch a glimpse of your everyday classroom moments and adventures.
Student of the Week: Each week, feature a different student on the class Instagram account, posting photos-with their permission- of their favorite classroom projects and other examples of their hard work and achievement. This is a fun opportunity to highlight your students’ individual strengths, positively reinforcing their behavior and progress.
Daily/Weekly Classroom Update: Similar to student of the week, you can instagram your students’ classroom projects and activities on a daily or weekly basis. From photos of new classroom reads to capturing field trip memories, this is an excellent way to build a sense of community while allowing parents to see what lessons, topics, and exciting activities are happening in your classroom. This is also a great way to easily and quickly share your classroom ideas with other grade team teachers.
Student takeover: If you’re not able to encourage students to create their own individual Instagram accounts, invite each student to “take over” the classroom account for a day or week by sharing photos from his or her everyday life. This is a great opportunity for students to learn more about their peers by instagramming their interests, hobbies, routines, and even cultural traditions.
Photo Inspiration: Finding inspiration to write can be one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. Spark your students’ imaginations and help them discover new ideas through instagramming writing prompts by playing with different angles, perspectives, and filters to capture random moments and objects that you encounter throughout your day-to-day.
Caption That! For a variation of the writing prompt, post an interesting photo and ask your students to write a descriptive caption in the comments. Differentiate how challenging this task is by asking students to write their caption using specific sentence types, different parts of speech, clauses, prepositional phrases, and their current vocabulary words.
Daily challenges: If your students are able to follow the classroom Instagram account on a regular basis, you can use it to post daily challenges in the form of visual word problems, review questions, and bonus questions. Instagram photos of important learned concepts and pose questions to your students in the caption, asking them to write their answers in the comments. For example, this fifth-grade teacher used Instagram to review who Henry Ford was and other important events in history.
Student Instagram Accounts
Asking your students to follow the classroom Instagram account with their personal accounts is one, highly unlikely, and two, probably not the best idea. What you can do is ask your students to create additional Instagram accounts that would only be used for school or classroom purposes. You know how LinkedIn is your professional Facebook? A similar idea applies here.
A Day in the Life: Challenge students to assume the role of a fictional literary character and share images that he or she believes the specific character would post, highlighting the character’s interests, personality traits, and development throughout the story. The 15-second video option is a great way to really let students get into character through recorded role-playing and even performance reenactments. These activities can also be applied to important figures in history, such as the creator of Honda, Soichiro Honda, or jazz musician, Melba Liston.
What the Kids are Reading: Students can snap photos of their favorite reads and write a brief 1-5 sentence review in the caption. To take it a step further, ask them to record 15-second long persuasive book trailers to hook their peers. Boost further discussion among your students by asking them to comment on other book reviews and book trailer videos to share their opinions. Tip: Encourage your students to use a unique #hashtag (ex.: #SMSGrade4Reads) for each book review posted, and by the end of the year you will have a visual library of all of the books your class has read.
Math Hunt: “Why do we have to learn this?” “I won’t need this in my everyday life.” Sound familiar? Help your students see the real-world math applications all around them by sending them on a hunt to document or illustrate their knowledge of different math concepts:
Geometry: lines (parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting), angles (right, acute, obtuse, etc.) symmetry, and three-dimensional shapes (prisms, cubes, cylinders, etc.)
Everyday fractions and arrays
Concepts of money
Examples of volume vs. mass, area vs. perimeter
STEM Research: Students can watch, observe, and record science experiment data and results over time by documenting any step-by-step process with photo and video narration of learned science concepts. Outside of the lab, students can use their Instagram accounts for observing science in nature or sharing their own scientific findings. What makes this special is how quickly and easily students can share and revisit their visual references and recorded data.
Physical & chemical changes
Weather patterns and phases of the moon
Habitats in nature
Note: Instagram, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat, has a minimum age limit of 13 to open an account, but according to Instagram’s parents’ guide, there are many younger users on Instagram with their parents’ permission since you don’t have to specify your age. Always check with your school’s administrator and obtain parental permission before sharing photos of students or their work.
Know of any other interesting ways to use Instagram or other social media sites in the classroom? Already using Instagram in the classroom? Let us know in the comments!
Veronicahas a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I didn’t pay much attention to math. I specialized in literacy and focused on reading, speaking, listening, writing, social studies, and science instruction. Math? My third graders went down the hall each day to the “math classroom.” My co-teacher and I collaborated over best teaching practices, family relationships, and classroom management, but I didn’t spend time delving into the third-grade mathematics standards.
It wasn’t until I entered into our first parent-teachers-student conferences in September that I realized I couldn’t afford to compartmentalize my students’ learning.
In those conferences, we had students who loved math and had excelled in math every year leading up, but were now struggling to advance. They seemed to have hit an invisible wall. What happened?
Two words: Word problems.
Some of our students who were English Language Learners, reluctant readers, or who struggled to read at grade level for other reasons all of a sudden “couldn’t do” math anymore because the vocabulary, text length, and sentence structure were increasing in complexity. Even though they knew what 9 x 5 was, they couldn’t read and decipher the sentence:
Rene enjoys wearing a new outfit every day. His father bought him nine pairs of shorts and five shirts. Rene doesn’t want to wear any outfit twice. How many different outfit combinations does he have?
Now several of my students weren’t only struggling to read in my literacy class, but also struggling to read in math class. This was disheartening and confusing for them because math was a subject they loved, excelled at, and didn’t feel “below their grade level” because of language abilities or background schema. Yet reading challenges were following them down the hall and across instruction periods.
Guess what: Reading teachers are ALSO math teachers.
Let me explain.
A text is a text no matter the form. Those ELA standards about determining the central idea and unknown or multiple-meaning words apply to word problems along with poems, plays, and biographies. Word problems can be lengthy, involve two or more steps, and contain new and unknown vocabulary that require examining context clues to solve.
Great English teachers improve students’ math scores. According to The Hechinger Report, researchers from Stanford and University of Virginia looked at 700,000 students in New York City in third through eighth grade over the course of eight school years. Results: Students of good English language arts teachers had higher than expected math scores in subsequent years.
Starting in second-grade mathematics, students are reading, interpreting, and solving two-step and multi-step word problems. Even as early as kindergarten and first grade, students are encountering one-step word problems. Bottom line:If they can’t read, they will get left behind in math, too.
So, how can literacy teachers embrace math?
1. Nice to meet you, Math. I’m ELA. The Common Core website also falls victim to sequestering the ELA and math standards. Whether you teach both math and literacy or only one, compare the math standards to the ELA standards of your grade. Open two windows on your computer setting the Reading or Language standards of your grade side by side with the Operations & Algebraic Thinking standards for your grade. What do they have in common?
(Hint, hint: determining central idea of a text, interpreting unknown words or phrases, using context clues, and learning general academic and domain-specific words)
2. Share what read aloud or model text you are reading for the week or unit if you have a separate teacher for math instruction. In word problems, you or the math instructor can write a few of the problems about the characters. Reading In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage? Make Augusta the main character in the word problems.
This book has several money references because Augusta earned money from her teaching and from competitions she entered. Use some of the scenes in the book to review the values of currency. For example, Augusta earned a dollar every day from the principal of her school. How many different ways can you make $1.00 using combinations of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies?
3. Reward students with a math problem during the reading instruction block. (I’m telling you—students LOVE seeing you break out math during a literacy block). This gives students a break, uses a different part of their brains/thinking, and allows them to display their abilities in another subject (which is especially important if English makes a student feel doubtful or shy). Students can do this if they finish their required assignment early or you are transitioning between periods.
4. Allow students to create a word problem using the setting and characters of a book they are reading as an incentive, extension opportunity, or way to engage reluctant readers. Students can submit problems for you to review at the end of the day and the next day you can post one with the student author’s name. Students will have a chance to model (and observe) high quality writing and thinking, as well as delight in their peers’ recognition.
5. Word problems ARE story problems. Treat a word problem like any other fiction story. Have students identify the main character(s) and the problem. Give the word problem a setting. Encourage students to expand the math problem into a fiction story through writing or drawing.
6. Make a math bin in the classroom library. Whatever gets a student excited to read and pick up a book, right? Just as we will scour web deals and dig through yard sales for books on tiger sharks and poison dart frogs, don’t forget to hunt for math-themed books to add to your classroom library if math is your students’ passion.
7. Pick math-themed books to align with units students are covering in the grade level’s math standards. Great read alouds and leveled readers exist to help teach concepts around counting, money, time, geometry, and mixed operations, such as:
If Hoy was born in 1862 and died in 1961, how old was he when he passed away? If Hoy started playing in the major leagues in 1888 and retired from baseball in 1902, how many years did he play in the major leagues? How many years ago did Hoy last play baseball? If Hoy were alive today, how old would he be?
Frederick’s mother walks twelve miles. How many yards does she walk? How many kilometers and meters does she walk?
If students can’t read, they will struggle to succeed in math (and science and social studies). These challenges will compound with each year affecting self-confidence and commitment. Bridging math and literacy for students is a powerful way for students to see that learning how to derive meaning from text has real world applications and that you are invested in their entire education.
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
A perfect pick for kids who love Percy Jackson, Kingdom Keepers, or Seven Wonders series, The Copernicus Legacy is a Da Vinci Code-style story for young readers. The book follows four kids who stumble upon a powerful ancient secret of the famous astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. Protected by notables throughout history, it now falls to our young heroes to become guardians of Copernicus’s secret, racing across the globe, cracking codes, and unraveling centuries-old mysteries in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of a vast and evil shadow network called the New Teutonic Order.
It’s the worldwide adventure and historical scope that makes the series both page turning and educational, earning it many great reviews including a starred review from Kirkus: “With engaging characters, a globe-trotting plot and dangerous villains, it is hard to find something not to like. Equal parts edge-of-your-seat suspense and heartfelt coming-of-age.”
To celebrate the launch of the next books in this exciting series, on Saturday, September 13th, Tony Abbott will be leading a scavenger hunt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where four lucky winners of a national sweepstakes will work together to find hidden clues amongst the exhibits, crack codes, and earn prizes. You and all readers across the country will have another chance to win a trip to New York for the second Relic Hunt starting October 7 at www.thecopernicuslegacy.com!
After the Relic Hunt, Tony Abbott will be signing copies of The Forbidden Stone at 2:30pm at the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway in Manhattan. The Barnes & Noble event is open to the public, and we invite you to join us there for a pizza party! It’s no mystery—the whole family will be in for good food and fun!
Tony Johnston and Wendell Minor's new book, Sequoia, will be published later this month. Recently, both of them were gracious with their time and granted me interviews. Hear what they have to say about writing and illustrating. Get a sneak peek at this exquisite text you can use to infuse your students' informational writing with poetry.
The Common Core has become a hot-button political issue, but one aspect that’s gone largely under the radar is the impact the curriculum will have on students of color, who now make up close to 50% of the student population in the U.S. In this essay, Jane M. Gangi, an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College and Nancy Benfer, who teaches literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and is also a fourth-grade teacher, discuss the Common Core’s book choices, why they fall short when it comes to children of color, and how to do better. Originally posted at The Washington Post, this article was reposted with the permission of Jane M. Gangi.
Children of color and the poor make up more than half the children in the United States. According to the latest census, 16.4 million children (22 percent) live in poverty, and close to 50 percent of country’s children combined are of African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American heritage. When the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were introduced in 2009—2010 , the literacy needs of half the children in the United States were neglected. Of 171 texts recommended for elementary children in Appendix B of the CCSS, there are only 18 by authors of color, and few books reflect the lives of children of color and the poor.
When the CCSS were open for public comment in 2010, I (Gangi) made that criticism on the CCSS website. My concerns went unacknowledged. In 2012, I presented at a summit on the literacy needs of African American males, Building a Bridge to Literacy for African American Male Youth, held at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Emily Chiarello from Teaching Tolerance acknowledged the problem and connected me with Student Achievement Partnership, an organization founded by David Coleman and Sue Pimental, “architects” of the English Language Arts standards.
In the fall of 2012, representatives from Student Achievement Partnership came to Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York, to ask our Collaborative for Equity Literacy Learning (CELL) to help right the wrong. SAP wanted us to provide an amended Appendix B. In July 2013, CELL presented SAP with a list of 150 multicultural titles, which were recommended by educators from across the country and by more than thirty award committees. All the books were annotated and excerpts were provided. The 700+ PowerPoint slides of the project can be found here. SAP then sent the project to Stanford University’s Understanding Language Program for validation of text complexity. The Council of Chief State School Officers has yet to make the addition to the CCSS website.
Why does seeing themselves in books matter to children? Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita of The Ohio State University, frames the problem with the metaphor of “mirror” and “window” books. All children need both. Too often children of color and the poor have window books into a mostly white and middle- and-upper-class world.
This is an injustice for two reasons.
One is rooted in the proficient reading research. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers asked, “What do good readers do?” They found that good readers make connections to themselves and their communities. When classroom collections are largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to make connections and become proficient readers. Appendix B of the CCSS as presented added to the aggregate that consistently marginalizes multicultural children’s literature: book lists, school book fairs and book order forms, literacy textbooks (books that teach teachers), and transitional books (books that help children segue from picture books to lengthier texts). If we want all children to become proficient readers, we must stock classrooms with mirror books for all children. This change in our classroom libraries will also allow children of the dominant culture to see literature about others who look different and live differently.
A second reason we must ensure that all children have mirror books is identity development. For African American children, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are not enough. They must also see African-American artists, writers, political leaders, judges, mathematicians, astronauts, and scientists. The same is true for children of other ethnicities. They must see authors and illustrators who look like them on book jackets. Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.
I (Benfer) was one of the annotators for the project. Each year I tell my incoming fourth-grade students, “None who enter here remain unchanged” (from Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven). Participating in this project made this statement come true for my students and me. Before working to amend Appendix B, I had been teaching for 16 years, and had always been serious about my classroom library.
Reading a great book changes us. I had not yet encountered the metaphor of mirrors/windows until hearing Gangi’s talk in our children’s literature course, based on her article “The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction.” After the talk I found myself reflecting on the books to which I was exposing my students. I expanded my library to include many texts reviewed in the project, which allowed my students to see the wonderful diversity in the world. As my classroom library grew, my students began to read and discuss these diverse texts I began to hear students say things like, “I like books which have a black main character,” and parents emailed me to say, “I just wanted to say thank you for acknowledging Black History Month and having such a wonderfully diverse reading library for fourth grade.” Filipino students gave me a standing ovation when I purchased Anthony D. Robles and Carl Angel’s Lakas and the Manilatown Fish/Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatow (see Lee & Low Books for this and other multicultural books.)
I recommended Rukhsana Khan’s Wanting Mor, the story of a young girl in Afghanistan to one of my students (see Groundwood Books for this and other multicultural books). This student’s parents were astounded by the change in their daughter. She had been an uninterested reader and was transformed into an enthusiastic one. She began to request copies of books featuring girls in Afghanistan. The students and I spent countless hours creating lists of recommended texts.
What do we do with this issue now, educators? The CCSS have yet to adopt the expanded and enhanced Appendix B, but the message is too important to be filed away. This work must be must shared with educators. The expanded Appendix B contains recommended texts that are mirrors and windows for our students’ worlds.
“None who enter here remain unchanged.” Teaching Tolerance will be publishing the list in the near future. In the meantime, children of the United States are waiting for us to make this change for the better.
This year, I started a new role as the 8th grade Humanities teacher. I began the school year with an ambitious “Novels of the World” plan that would flawlessly integrate every Common Core standard in Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking along with the world history.
Then reality hit me in the throat.
I realized that even though I’m technically teaching “English Language Arts,” the colorful demographics of my class means I am also unofficially teaching a lot of English Language Development. I started noticing that in the mushy realm of “middle school humanities,” history ends up getting the shorter end of the stick — probably because English is more heavily tested than history. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to choose which area to skimp, but this is reality.
So, to make sure that some history gets into each ELA lesson (and to provide yet another lens for students to learn history), I correlate the novels I teach with the history unit. There are also times when I can’t devote that much time or depth to the history unit. In those cases, I give book talks to let my students know about different leveled books available for their enjoyment.
Below are books in bold that I’ve personally used either in whole-class or small group instruction.* There are also books that I’ve included that I plan to use in the future. Also, as I compiled the list, I realized this post was getting too long, so I’ll have the second half up next month!
Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett
To be honest, this book was difficult. I had to explain much context and there were not too many exciting plot jumps. My students were still curious, but I would say that this would be a more advanced reading level and probably not the best way to start the year. It was great, however, for teaching figurative language, point of view, and character development. Anna is also a great female protagonist, and there are many teachable moments throughout the book.
Rise of Islam
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
This is one of my favorite books. Although the reading level is a bit lower, the text is complex especially for students who do not have an understanding of the Arabian peninsula. This is a frame-tale narrative so students are able to practice looking at plot structure, setting, character development, theme, and figurative language. This book is full of similes and personification. I differentiated by reading some stories together as a class and expecting extra stories from more advanced readers. I have actually started 7th grade with this book twice now.
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski
So yes, according to the Horn Book Guide, this is meant for K-3. But this book is gorgeous, and I hope to use this and a few other Sundiata narratives to help my students grasp an understanding of the African narrative style and create their own historically accurate play.
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
This is a fun mystery that takes place in 18th century Japan. Students clearly enjoyed seeing what they learned about samurai, dishonorable samurai, and the Code of Bushido coming alive in this fast-paced chapter book. I focused on mainly covering suspense, setting, and characterization here.
The Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard
I have only read an excerpt and it seems a bit more high level. I could see this book being very engaging, however, as it starts with quite a lot of action, betrayal, and suspense in the first chapter.
• • •
In my next post, I will list the books I’ve used for China, South America, Feudal Europe, Renaissance, and the Age of Exploration. Have you used any of these books before? Am I missing some must-have gems? Let me know by commenting below!
*In California, middle school spends one year learning about medieval to modern world history. It usually consists of the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire’s rise, the Arabian Peninsula and Islam, West Africa, Medieval Japan and China, South America, and then Europe, Europe, and lots more Europe.
Two weeks ago when I read the latest article about the Common Core in the New York Times titled Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes, I knew this would be the topic of my last post. Things have sure changed in the last six years. When Linda Salzman first started this nonfiction blog and invited nonfiction writers from all areas to write a monthly post, I was all about speaking out about art and creativity books for kids. Now, the popular nonfiction buzzwords are Common Core, STEM, digital publishing, marketing, and graphic novels. These were main topics discussed at last weekend’s Second Annual 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference --- as pointed out in this Publisher’s Weekly article about the conference.
In the aforementioned New York Times article, 9-year-old Chrispin Alcindor had been a star student but was struggling with math under the new Common Core teaching and was worrying about not passing to the next grade. I was drawn into his story by “his dream of becoming an engineer or an architect, to one day have a house with a pool and a laboratory where he would turn wild ideas about winged cars and jet packs into reality.” Chrispin’s excitement towards learning changed, as he grew frustrated by the new Common Core math. His enthusiasm was crushed. His dream of "walking across the stage at graduation in sunglasses and white sneakers, claiming his award and basking in the applause of the entire school" banished from his mind.
Trish Matthew, Chrispin’s teacher at Public School 397 in Brooklyn, saw the frustration in her classroom. The article continued, “Many struggled with basic math skills. Ms. Matthew, concerned about morale, called each student to her desk at the beginning of the year. “Please don’t think you are a failure,” she told them, one by one.”
I was so touched and moved by Ms. Matthew’s actions, which prompted writing this post and fueled my final comments.
Last week, Arne Duncan went on CBS This Morning to talk about the Common Core. If you missed it, I’ll post it here. And, if you're interested in reading a few pros and cons on the Common Core, check out the 505 comments on the New York Times article. Warning: it gets a little heated.
Recently, I've noticed while sitting down with editors to discuss new book projects, the Common Core is often mentioned. They highlight new book projects that have sold because they support the Common Core---fodder for reader discussions on why they thought the author wrote the book, compare and contrast aspects within the story, etc.
As I set off to work on the next chapters in my writing career, while the Common Core and their writing strategies will be in the back of my mind, inspiring young readers will be my main focus. Inspiring them to think. Inspiring them to achieve whatever they want to be. Inspiring them to be creative. Inspiring them to dream.
I will be continuing my blog posts on my website: AnnaMLewis. Please check there for my next posts and the latest book news.
Here’s to Interesting (and Inspiring) Nonfiction for Kids!
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I am posting a day early this week because of the July 4th holiday. Topics this week include: authors, awards, book lists, common core, growing bookworms, events, kidlitcon, publishing, teaching, libraries, and summer reading.
Rest in Peace, Walter Dean Myers. Here's an appreciation from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland http://ow.ly/yIbNs
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors, book lists, the Cybils, common core, aging, ebooks, apps, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, reading, writing, play, schools, libraries, and summer reading.
Looking for some recommendations for a middle grader who loves fantasy? Well, we’ve got just the list for you!
Here are some stellar picks for the kid looking for magical powers, mysterious forests, heros, and villains to take to the beach with him.
THE THICKETY, by J. A. White, is the start of a new fantasy series set in a world where magic is forbidden but exists in the dark woods called the Thickety. This book would be a great recommendation for fans of the Septimus Heap series, and here’s a book talk prepared by librarian, author, and Common Core workshop presenter Kathleen Odean:
How would you like to have the power to summon amazing creatures to do your will? When Kara finds a book in the Thickety, a dangerous forest, it awakens her magical powers. Local villagers view magic as evil but for Kara, it’s a connection to her mother, who was executed as a witch. The spells thrill Kara until the magic starts to change her in frightening ways. Is Kara in control of the magic—or is it in control of her? If she doesn’t figure it out soon, she could lose everyone and everything she loves.
There’s even a Common Core-aligned discussion guide with activities written by the author, J. A. White—an elementary school teacher! (You may not want to send this to the beach, though. Maybe save it for September.)
THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS, by Schneider Award winner Merrie Haskell, is a magical adventure set in an enchanted castle that will appeal to fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Shannon Hale.
When Sand wakes up alone in a long-abandoned castle, he has no idea how he got there. Everything in the castle—from dishes to candles to apples—is torn in half or slashed to bits. Nothing lives here and nothing grows, except the vicious, thorny bramble that prevents Sand from leaving. To survive, Sand does what he knows best—he fires up the castle’s forge to mend what he needs to live. But the things he fixes work somehow better than they ought to. Is there magic in the mending, granted by the saints who once guarded this place? With gorgeous language and breathtaking magic, THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS tells of the power of memory and story, forgiveness and strength, and the true gifts of craft and imagination.
Thinking ahead to the new school year, Common Core applications include: Comparing and contrasting texts in different forms or genres; determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; and analyzing the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
THE DYERVILLE TALES, by M. P. Kozlowsky, tells the story of a young orphan who searches for his family and the meaning in his grandfather’s book of lost fairy tales.
Vince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and father in a fire when he was young. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was interned in a group home, dreaming that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. When a letter arrives telling Vince his grandfather has passed away, he is convinced that if his father is still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for the small town of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a fantastical story of witches and giants and magic, one that can’t be true. But as Vince reads on, he finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.
If you’d like to bring this one into your classroom next year, Common Core applications include: Determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text; analyzing the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone; describing how a particular story’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes; and describing how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don’t you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they’re on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar’s murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.
And Common Core applications for this one include: Explaining how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text; comparing and contrasting texts in different forms or genres; and analyzing how differences in the points of view of the characters and the reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
Jim Averbeck is an author, illustrator and author/illustrator of picture books (including the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room) and novels. His first novel is just out, A Hitch at the Fairmont, and it has been positioned for use with Core Curriculum State Standards.
Ed Porter is a former superintendent of schools in Long Island. Currently, he is an educational consultant who, among other things, coaches schools in understanding and implementing the Common Core Standards.
Jim Averbeck (left) and Ed Porter
Ed and Jim start with explaining that The Common Core is evolving. "Call it Common Core 1.0"
The handout packet is hefty, and its cover is a map of which U.S. states have adopted Common Core (most), which have similar standards (a handful), and which have rejected it (four.)
Ed gives us an overview of the evolution of Common Core so far.
Today, we're asking students to have skills and attributes beyond what the old K-12 standards could offer them. Things like self-regulation, critical thinking and problem-solving, effective oral and written communication and resilience.
And Common Core is one of many responses to this. Another response is "The 4 C's in STEM: Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking."
Jim and Ed also share a metric called "Webb's Depth of Knowledge" that breaks down knowledge about a book into four levels. Here are examples of text questions at each level:
1st level of knowledge: What are the names of the characters? 2nd level of knowledge: What happened? 3rd level of knowledge: Why did something happen? 4th level of knowledge: What would happen if…?
Common Core aims to have students go deeper, into those 3rd and 4th levels.
Jim aims to have his book and Common Core tie-in
"Easy for teachers to choose, easy for teachers to use."
Jim explains how texts are evaluated to be used in classrooms, based on "text complexity." It's a mix of Quantitative (like Lexile scores determined by computer - Jim's Hitch book was a Lexile 770, recommended for grades 3 and 4), Qualitative (like judging the complexity of the story, an evaluation performed by educators, and based on this analysis by teachers, Hitch moved up to 4th through 6th grades) and Reader & Task measures (individual teachers choosing things for individual classes and students.)
So what might we do to help teachers choose our books to use in the classroom?
There are group exercises through, like one that demonstrate to attendees how contemporary and speculative fiction can tie into the common core, and also tap into those 3rd and 4th levels of knowledge.
Jim shares his advice on what to do before the writing, during the writing, and after the book is published.
Here's one example for each:
Before: connect your fiction to research
During: Include appendices and author notes that surfaces research where appropriate
After: Create a "Common Core Selection Guide" that summaries the text complexity
Over the summer, I’ve been doing some literacy work with an educational consulting group here in Boston — we’re taking some of their existing professional development (PD) and classroom tools and modifying them to better address the Common Core. Last week, I went with some other members of the team to a PD session for high school teachers titled “Who’s Doing the Thinking?” In light of the Common Core, this workshop was designed to help teachers accurately assess the thinking demands in their classroom, and to make informed decisions around when we should guide students in diving into complex texts, and when we should let them do it on their own.
As part of this workshop, we watched a video of a high-performing 9th grade ELA classroom. The students were seated in a modified semi-circle having a whole-class discussion around themes in the latest chapter of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — a literary nonfiction text they were reading together. As the teacher facilitated the discussion, she skillfully asked probing questions like “What makes you say that?” “Where in the text can you find evidence to support that?” “Why do you think that?” Her questions enabled students to really ground their thinking in textual evidence — a key piece of Common Core reading.
However, I couldn’t help but notice another teacher move that happened often. After each student finished giving evidence and making a statement, the teacher almost always offered a “summary plus.” That is, she concisely restated the student’s point and added some of her own thinking to the student’s comment. I likely noticed this because I do it all the time: taking a student comment and adding more detail. Now, I think this is sometimes wholly appropriate, but after watching about ten minutes of this video and reflecting on my own practice, I wondered, Shouldn’t we be trying to get students to do these “summary pluses”? In a perfect world, wouldn’t we be nearly absent from the conversation?
The video clip I watched happened towards the beginning of a unit, and I have no doubt that the discussion was more “teacher heavy” than later discussions would be. But the video still got me thinking. In addition to simply probing students to give evidence, what can we as teachers say and do to encourage students to give those mini-summaries? One thing I’ve decided I’d like to try in my classroom this fall is to be very explicit about my “summary pluses.” During early discussions of text, I will tell my students exactly what I’m doing when I rephrase and add my own thinking, and then I’ll slowly try to release the responsibility to them.
Giving up control of the thinking in a classroom is so much harder than it looks, but as I delve into the Common Core this summer, I’m realizing more and more how necessary it is. I’m excited to really practice what I preach this fall, and I’m looking forward to hearing from other educators on how you navigate the thinking balance in your classrooms!
The following post by bookseller Melissa was cross-posted with permission from her blog, Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books. Thanks to Melissa for allowing us to share her perspective!
Fall has (almost) arrived. Cool weather, pretty fall color, yummy drinks composed of apple cider or hot cocoa, and I get to wear scarves (I like scarves as an accessory).
And standardized testing, if you are or have a school-age child.
In my area of the country, it seems school districts have chosen testing that calculates a Lexile score for a child’s reading level with an associated score range. Lexile is a company that uses a software program to analyze books for word usage, sentence length, etc. and produce a Lexile Text Measure for each book (I copied the description from the Lexile Analyzer site):
The Lexile ® measure of text is determined using the Lexile Analyzer ®, a software program that evaluates the reading demand—or readability—of books, articles and other materials. The Lexile Analyzer ® measures the complexity of the text by breaking down the entire piece and studying its characteristics, such as sentence length and word frequency, which represent the syntactic and semantic challenges that the text presents to a reader. The outcome is the text complexity, expressed as a Lexile ® measure, along with information on the word count, mean sentence length and mean log frequency.
Generally, longer sentences and words of lower frequency lead to higher Lexile ® measures; shorter sentences and words of higher frequency lead to lower Lexile ® measures. Texts such as lists, recipes, poetry and song lyrics are not analyzed because they lack conventional punctuation.
I’m not a huge fan of putting a “score” on a book based simply on a computer generated metric because the software doesn’t take into account context or content of a book. Or form, cf poetry. But this seems to be accepted by the educational powers-that-be, so it’s here for the time being. However, I don’t know how well or often the scores are explained to parents, because I wind up in a lot of parent-bookseller conversations like this:
Parent: My child has a Lexile score of XXXX. She has to read books in the range of XXXX-XXXX. Will this work? Bookseller [thinks]: Craaaaaaaaap. Bookseller [says]: Well, let’s pull up the Lexile site to see what it suggests for that range and go from there. The major problem here is that the parent hasn’t THE FOGGIEST IDEA what books go with the child’s Lexile score or how score ranges line up
The Sun Also Rises, a title with a confusing Lexile identity
with likely grade-levels. They don’t have/haven’t been provided with a list of suggestions for the range. They haven’t looked up Lexile on the Internet to get a handle on what this thing is (I mean, hello, the Internet is the Information Superhighway, Google it). And their poor child is off in the corner trying desperately to read another Warriors book by Erin Hunter or Wimpy Kid or the new Babymouse before the “grown-ups” force her into reading stuff that she thinks she doesn’t want to read.
As booksellers (and by extension librarians, a population I am not a member of but respect greatly), we are the information gatekeepers the parents turn to in this situation. We are the ones to take an abstract range of numbers and turn it into a physical pile of titles and authors. We have to differentiate between editions because scores can fluctuate wildly and Lexile isn’t very informative (type “The Sun Also Rises” into Lexile – the old Scribner edition has a score of 610L, the ISBN for the reprint isn’t found, and the Modern Critical Interpretations edition is listed with a score of 1420L….confusing, right?). And we are the ones who have to know what stories lay between the covers of those books so we can explain the contents to the parents.
In almost every customer interaction regarding Lexile, I have had to find books for a child who reads significantly above grade level (at grade level is generally pretty easy and parents with children under grade level often have a list of recommended titles as a starting point; for some reason, those children who read above grade level don’t have many recommendations). For reference, Lexile gives a grade approximation for the score ranges:
Even though the approximate ranges are pretty wide, a book or series that is popular among peers isn’t often in the “right” score range for an advanced reader. Some titles are marked “NC” meaning a non-conforming score (higher than intended audience) but it’s hard to tease those out of a range during a search (I’ve tried). It can get pretty emotional when the child cannot find anything he or she wants to read or that parents will allow them to read that “counts” for their Lexile score.
The biggest grade-to-score discrepancy I’ve come across was a seventh grade boy (and a bit young socially for his age) who had a Lexile score greater than 1100. His Lexile range was approximately 1150 – 1210. The boy had to read at least five books that semester in his range to pass English and he was already behind. His father had done some online research and was at a loss – he was having trouble finding content-appropriate books in that score range (there was also a religious consideration, so a lot of recommended fantasy titles were automatically out). The boy was very open to reading Stephen King, who has a lot of high-Lexile score titles, but the idea was vetoed by Dad due to language (and probably the religious consideration as well). Dostoevsky was perfectly acceptable to Dad, but the kiddo really couldn’t get excited about it (he was into Gary Paulsen’s Brian series, but that wasn’t even close). Some Dumas was in the right range but not the more appealing titles (The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask are both under 1000). Gary Paulsen’s My Life in Dog Years was just in range, so I was able to interest both parent and child in that. I sold them on The Hound of the Baskervilles and then hit paydirt with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The boy had a friend with an Asperger-like syndrome and they were friends in their advanced math classes. Whew. Finally, three books and a reasonably happy father. But I couldn’t help but think – what are they going to do as the child continues through the school system?
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this since this isn’t quite the usual tone for a “‘Tis the Season” post.
Well, I really just wanted to put this out there to maybe help save parents, children, and teachers (and possibly other booksellers and librarians) some grief. I would like to ask school administrators and teachers to work with children and parents to come up with lists of possible books appropriate to both grade-level and Lexile range (and I understand if you do this and the parents forget, are obstinate, or leave the list at home when they head to the bookstore). For parents, Lexile provides a map with lists of titles for score ranges. It’s a good place to start when trying to find books.
I would also like to ask teachers to be less rigid when assigning Lexile-related reading assignments because this seems to be where children have the most trouble. I have so often helped kids who love, love to read but have found that none of the books they find appealing “count” for a reading assignment because they aren’t in the “right” Lexile range or have no score because either the book is too new or has an un-evaluable format. These kids feel disheartened, that they’re failing, that the things they love are unimportant, and I hate seeing their disappointment when I’ve gone through the entire stack of books they’ve picked out and not a single one was in the right range. I had a little girl just burst into tears once when I told her The Last Olympian – the book she so desperately wanted to read – had a score of 620L; she had to have books greater than 700 or her teacher wouldn’t count them at all. Please let children with high Lexile ranges count some of those lower-scoring books toward their reading assignment (say, an exchange of two non-Lexile books for one Lexile book, not to exceed half the assignment) or perhaps give them extra credit for those books as long as they’re keeping up with the Lexile assignment (if you’re already doing that, bravo!). These kids are reading because they love reading and they’re already reading outside of school, which is sort of the point of those types of assignments. I rarely hear of a child being penalized for reading above his or her range so I think there’s a compromise that can be reached for those kids who want to read but have trouble finding books due to age or content.
So bring your Lexile ranges to me and I and my fellow booksellers and librarians will do our best to find what you like to read as well as what you need to read – if we’re very good, that book will fill both requirements. ‘Tis that sort of season.
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. We are light on book lists this week, but heavy on events (World Book Night, Children's Choice Awards, National Poetry Month, etc.).
Author Tanita Davis on why she's supporting the ALTERED PERCEPTIONS anthology in support of author Robison Wells http://ow.ly/w84Wy
I confess that I have been known to say that many, many books are my absolute favorites, to the extent that sometimes people roll their eyes and avert their attention. And I think that as a reader, this is true — I fall in love a little with story after story. But it is not true that as a teacher, I fall in love with every book that passes by. I read with different eyes for my classroom, and given limited time and resources, I get to choose fewer books on that front.
So recently Mitali Perkins released an edited volume called Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, a collection of pieces about being bicultural, and I fell in love twice. As a multiethnic person who loves thinking about these issues, I was on board immediately with the poignant, wry, and funny accounts about being in-between. Those are feelings I know well.
But I didn’t just fall in love with Open Mic as a reader — I feel in love with it as a teacher. The Common Core Standards (if your state is into those) push us to teach across genres more, to use multiple texts to work on synthesis skills, and to expand our text repertoires in ways I think could be important and useful. But in practice, I have found that my repertoire of texts is going to need some shoring up if I am going to shift my teaching that way.
In addition to having an exciting theme that I absolutely love for my classroom, the texts in Open Mic vary in genre. There is a poem, a personal account, a graphic opinion piece, and so on. Those different genres give me a whole new window into how we can build the skills to synthesize and analyze, because crossing genres necessitates that work. I can see the great usefulness of a collection like this, and I hope lots of other cross-genre collections around themes are on my near horizon. I can hardly wait to get started.
I just did a quick revision of a picture book that’s in progress.
Shorter. One goal was to shorten the story whenever possible. I cut out an entire page, and an entire sentence. Doesn’t sound like much? At only 700 words, the story is as streamlined as I can make it. Well, no. I just cut out one page and a sentence. Honing the text to the tightest possible is important for picture book texts.
When I’m asked to read someone’s manuscript, here’s my main comment: Cut it in half.
And a friend adds this: After cutting it in half, cut another 100 words.
Classroom reading center: Will your picture book be useful in the classroom?
Common Core. The Common Core education standards are a couple years now and their requirements are definitely on my mind. I am constantly consulting the standards for each grade level and working to make sure the picture book is useful in the classroom. Because I write for early elementary, I consider this a crucial aspect of what I do.
First, I focus on the story. Is the story itself compelling and interesting for the audience? If so, then can I add anything that will enhance it’s use in the classroom, without changing the essential story elements? For example, my picture book, THE JOURNEY OF OLIVER K. WOODMAN is now ten years old and still selling well. Part of the reason is that the story is told in letters and postcards. Of course, children’s learn about writing letters and postcards in early elementary, so this book is a natural for teachers to use as a mentor text. The story came first and demanded to be written in an epistolary (big word for letters) format. But after the story worked, then the layout and design decisions enhanced its usefulness in the classroom. Story first; but don’t ignore the book’s classroom usefulness.
Details. The Work-in-progress is about cats and I’m looking at about 20 cats that could be used in various places in the story. Which cat goes where? It’s a balancing act which requires me to know something about different cat breeds and match them to my story. I also have to carefully tabulate and re-tabulate which breeds I’ve used. I can’t use one breed twice, but each of the 20 breeds must be used. Check. No, move that one to this place. Re-check. It was a morning of detailed work!
I know–everyone loves cat videos. But have you ever seen a Devon Rex cat?
In case you were wondering, according to the Cat Fancier’s Association, here’s the top 20 most popular cat breeds in 2013. (In other words, I am doing research to document and justify the breeds I am using in the story.)
3 Maine Coon Cat
5 British Shorthair
7 American Shorthair
10 Devon Rex
11 Norwegian Forest Cat
13 Scottish Fold
14 Cornish Rex
19 Russian Blue
20 Egyptian Mau
Just so we’re clear: I’m not asking schools to “teach the controversy,” allowing students to decide for themselves in an all-viewpoints-are-respected-here kind of way about the historical reality of the Nazi genocide. What this lesson should instead teach them is how to distinguish facts from the ravings of racist whackjobs. The Anti-Defamation League’s L.A. office called the assignment dangerous, citing “the large volume of misinformation” on the internet, but doesn’t that volume also mean that people need to learn how to recognize pernicious claptrap when it’s presented to them?
My school uses a play-based approach to teaching math, which is advantageous because as an early childhood teacher, my students still love math and they love to play games. They enjoy learning and working with numbers and I can build on this through math games.
For me, teaching math is often challenging because my own mathematical background emphasized “doing” math over understanding with drills, formulas, and math algorithms rather than reinforcing why we use specific math procedures. Add to this the new Common Core Math Standard’s focus on conceptual understanding, fluency, and application and you get a recipe for highly reflective lesson planning!
One way to bridge this gap between doing and understanding math is with picture books. They provide purposeful ways to ground students intuitive use of math and easily get them using and talking about the most effective strategies.
There are so many wonderful math concept and picture books out there, yet selecting books that effectively support mini lessons and launch play requires a bit more searching. The books need to interest students, embed rather than simply present math concepts, lend themselves well to differentiated extension activities, and of course, be fun!
Some books I’ve successfully used and that meet these criteria are:
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean — This is a Kevin Sherry’s story about a giant squid who thinks he’s bigger than everything in the ocean. He’s very big, but is he the biggest? This book is great for introducing relative size, comparisons. This is an alternative text for introducing standard measurements as well as scale when students are challenged to rank by size or to think of reliable ways to determine how much bigger he might be than other animals.
Rooster’s Off to See the World — This classic Eric Carle book can help launch math activities about number sets. In the book, Rooster seeks company as he travels around the world. Along the way, he encounters different types of animals and invites them along. The best part of this book is that every time he meets a new animal, the number of them increases. It’s a great way to introduce students to counting in groups and helps students to distinguish between total numbers and sets of numbers. With this book, students played sorting games and counted number sets.
Pigs Will be Pigs — This is the hilarious tale of a family of pigs who need to find enough money to pay for dinner at a restaurant. The author Amy Axelrod wrote this book to teach explicitly about money and she does a fabulous job. I especially love this story because it can also be used across the curriculum. I’m connecting this to a social studies unit on access to healthful food. Grocery store or restaurant math games using coins are natural extension activities with this book.
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday — Judith Viorst’s Alexander tales normalize my students’ every day experiences and emotions. This one is no different. Alexander has just spent every cent of the money his grandparents gave him. As he recounts how he spent it, students add up how much he spends or can subtract from the initial total. I love this one because a few of the items have prices that some students might find awkward to work with. As with Pigs Will be Pigs, it also lends itself well to cross-curricular connections, especially the basic economic principle of scarcity: Alexander had to learn the hard way about saving versus spending his limited income. For this book, a game to help Alexander save is also a next step for money.
When using picture books to teach math, pre- and post-assessment of student understanding can easily get lost. Talking to students about the math concepts in the books before sending them off to play math extension games can give you a sense of their thinking. For post-assessment, reviewing student work and requiring them to either to write or share out their strategies for success on the games lets them talk about their math knowledge and provides natural entry points for correcting misconceptions or pushing learning.
I started writing for I.N.K. in March 2008.With nostalgia and curiosity, I went back to look at some of my initial posts.I kept on reading and realized that I was also looking at a history of what has happened in the field of kids’ nonfiction from then to now. At least, some of its zeitgeist, its ups and downs.
By 2008 we nonfiction writers had had time to road-test our liberation from straitjacket association with encyclopedic information.We had seen or written books such as Dance, Actual Size, and Action Jackson, celebrating the changes that came with cheaper color printing and more experimental styles and formats.It was no wonder my second post for I.N.K., A Rose by any Other Name? bridled against the confines of the word used to describe our field.I wrote:
As we all know, words matter. So what about the one that describes our genre of writing: nonfiction. I used to feel just fine about it, but now I have a slight twinge. After all, it does have a negative point of reference. The “I’m not fiction” instead of the “I am something” kind of writing…
If you link to the post you can see a discussion of the issue and the difficulty I and other commenters had trying to find a good solution.
Artistically booming , we were about to take a fall. In June 2008, however, most of us didn’t know that. I’m a glass-half-full-AND-half-empty type, perhaps I had a premonition.In The Lucky Thing about Friday the 13th, (prompted by my assigned post date) I amused myself with cheerful grumbling about the luck factor (or lack thereof) in writing nonfiction for kids.Here is part of it:
The lucky thing is that schools and libraries can always use a well-written book to update their collection on a particular subject. The unlucky thing is that they can’t afford to buy them. The lucky thing is that you can create books on subjects kids will love. The unlucky thing is that many publishers can’t imagine marketing nonfiction to the trade market, so the kids don’t find them.
If you click on rest of the post, please note I do end with the lucky side; I love what I do and have, luckily, managed to make a living at it.
Nevertheless a few months later, the fan was hit plunging us into the biggest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.It hit the book industry the same way it affected the nation at large.I know many people whose completed, even paid-for manuscripts were dropped by publishers looking at a shriveling market with no immediate change in sight.One of my own was pushed to a pub date over a year in the future so it could be “supported more successfully.”
Happily unagented for most of my career, I began to think about the comfort of having an ally.I started a search for an agent and was shocked by what I found on their web sites.Another post, Agents-Agents of Change was born.
A personal nadir perhaps, but hope springs and swings eternal along with changing fortunes for people and professions.In other words, if you stick around long enough, the pendulum swings.On a personal level, I had three books come out in 2012.More globally, picture books, declared a dying form, managed a “rebirth.” YA nonfiction is growing. Nonfiction books are more frequent winners and honor winners of the Newbery, Printz and Caldecott.
I’m not exactly sure when the phrase Common Core first appeared in I.N.K. posts, but it increased exponentially in 2012.My book Skyscraper was included in Math Reads, Marilyn Burn’s series using actual books to teach math; and I posted about future models of using our books in the classroom.When Penguin combined The Truth About Poop and Gee Whiz in a new edition, I wrote about what was lost and gained by very intelligently reissuing these books in black-and-white digest form for the burgeoning middle grade market.
I wasn’t the only one commenting on the Brave New World of nonfiction’s role in education.I.N.K. devoted the whole month of October 2013 to Common Core and nonfiction in the classroom with a spirited discussion about the author’s role in the process.
Is Common Core going to change the role and status of nonfiction in our culture?Who knows.I know more imprints are opening their lists to it.And I wish we’d have more time and posts to report on what happens as a result.But it’s been great to have an opportunity to think and write about all things nonfiction until now.Thank you, I.N.K.
This post, in fact, my tenure at I.N.K. is dedicated to Linda Salzman, without whom…
While writing today’s piece, I anxiously checked news feeds regarding the fire at the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building. By the end of the day, the fire service reported they were able to save 90% of the building and about 70% of it’s contents. Just thinking about the possible loss turned my stomach. Started in 1897, the Mackintosh Building was designed by Scotland's most influential architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Opened in 1909, the art nouveau building signaled the birth of a new style in 20th Century European architecture. A 2009 poll by the Royal Institute of British Architects voted it the best British building of the last 175 years. Imagine what we could have lost today.
About six and a half years ago, Linda Salzman contacted me. She asked if I’d be interested in writing for a kids’ nonfiction blog she was creating. Evidentially, someone noticed all the blogging I’d been writing promoting of art books for kids.Today, in preparing to write this second-to-last post, I reread all my pieces and perused the books I’ve promoted. I was curious if there has been any change in the educational world in regard to the arts. Here's just a few items that I found. There are many more. I wonder where we will stand in another six years.
In the last six years, we’ve become accustomed to the terms Common Core, and STEM and STEAM.
Common Core State Standards now aim towards a 50% nonfiction and 50% fiction classroom reading text; previously the classroom reading text was around 80% fiction.
In 2009, President Obama started White House Science Fairs as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign to inspire more girls and boys to excel in STEM subjects. Next week, on May 27, the 2014 White House Science Fairbegins. This year’s fair will include a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM. The Administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition grants states competitive preference if they demonstrated efforts to close the STEM gap for girls and other groups that are underrepresented.
In February 2013, the bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus was created, co-chaired by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL). “We frequently discuss the importance of STEM education, but we can’t ignore the importance of engaging and educating both halves of the brain,” Bonamici maintains. “Creative, critical thinking leads to innovation. The integration of the arts into STEM curriculum will excite creativity in the minds of our future leaders.”
Stanford University began requiring all undergraduates to take two units of "Creative Expression" classes, including design, dance, music, fine arts, drama or creative writing.
Sesame Street officially expanded its STEM-themed programming to include arts.
Art-themed nonfiction books introduce young people to the passion and inspiration of artists and creators. Years ago, reading Frida by Jonah Winter to an elementary class was an eye opener for me. The text and illustrations presented the art of Frida Kahlo flawlessly, complimenting my presentation. And, the book even caught everyone's attention in a room full of kindergarteners and a class of fifth graders – no small feat.
As the support for arts in the schools continues to grow, I’ll continue to spread the word about nonfiction art books, including STEM/STEAM, activity and creativity books. Tragically, we could physically lose our treasures, but the passion and creative inspiration is what stays in our hearts. That is what art books set out to accomplish.
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. There are a few links from last week, too, shared from my iPad while I was on vacation in Disney World. Topics this week include authors, book lists and awards, common core, diversity, events, growing bookworms, reading, publishing, schools, libraries, and summer reading.
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter over the past two weeks @JensBookPage. I have a lot of links because I was traveling last week, and wasn't able to do a post. Topics include book lists and awards, common core, diversity and gender, growing bookworms, kidlitosphere, reading, writing, schools, libraries, and summer reading.
Book Lists and Awards (find other lists in the Summer Reading section below)