Every year in January Choice Literacy contributors share some of their professional goals with our community. This is the second installment in a two-part series. See below for a link to part one.
Colby Sharp is a fourth-grade teacher in Michigan. You can keep up with his latest thinking at his SharpRead blog:
My students are developing a love for booklists and book awards. I'm pretty sure that this fascination comes from my undying devotion to the Newbery Award. In January, we will be adding book award stickers to the winners of our Mock Caldecott competition. We will display these winners in both our classroom library as well as the school library.
Mid-January we will watch the American Library Association Youth Media Awards. As books are honored we will move them to the award-winning section of our classroom library. It's very exciting to watch a student grab a book like The One and Only Ivan and move it from the fantasy tub to the award-winners tub.
Celebrating excellence in children's literature is a really fun way to kick off the second half of the school year.
Gretchen Taylor blogs at gretchenetaylor.blogspot.com and is a sixth-grade teacher in Dublin, Ohio:
During the last few units of study, my students and I have worked to instill habits of thinking about our thinking. In January, I want to devote more time to helping students be reflective and strategic about who they're becoming as independent readers. I need to give them the space to reflect on where at mid-year they are as independent readers — how their book selection processes have evolved, how engaged they feel with reading (challenging as they rapidly approach seventh grade!), and how they're applying our reading work to the quiet time they have alone with the stories they've chosen. I'm hopeful that devoting time to consider their growth will make the rest of the year's work more meaningful, and it will give them renewed interest in their personal reading lives!
Julie Johnson is a fourth-grade teacher in Hilliard, Ohio. Her blog is Raising Readers and Writers:
The first half of the year gave the students in my classroom many opportunities to create a strong community of readers. We read and talked about a lot of books. I have loved looking out into my classroom and listening in as small groups of children pore over books, research new ideas, or notice ways the author captures the reader. However, I’ve noticed that several of my students have gotten into reading ruts where they are reading the same kinds of books over and over again. I’d like to see them challenge themselves to stretch as readers and try something new.
I’m always looking for ways to create authentic reading experiences for my students as well as ways to strengthen and grow our community. In my own reading life, I turn to colleagues, friends, Goodreads, blogs and Twitter when I need something new to read. My Goodreads “to read” list and Amazon Wishlist are always growing. In order to create some of these opportunities for my students, I am going to begin using Biblionasium with my students. Biblionasium is a safe, online social networking site where kids can connect with other readers (kids, parents, and teachers) by building virtual bookshelves similar to those on Shelfari and Goodreads, recommend books to their friends (and get recommendations from others), rate books, and keep track of what they’ve read digitally. I will also be asking students to reflect on what they read during the first half of the year, and set a goal to try a new genre or author. We can use Biblionasium to keep track of their progress. It is also my hope that we will be able to connect with other students outside of our classroom and that parents will feel more in touch with what their children are reading. I’m looking forward to introducing this new tool to my students when they arrive back to school. Based on my students’ interest in connecting with others through blogging and other projects, I know that Biblionasium is going to be well received and will give us one more way to build an even stronger reading community.
Andrea Smith teaches in Dublin, Ohio. She is writing a book on nonfiction reading and writing for Choice Literacy:
My students and I are in the middle of a long-term project. We are lucky to have an outdoor learning lab at our school and we use our outdoor classroom to support many facets of our learning. Over the past year, students noticed an abundant rabbit population that feeds on our vegetable gardens, the strawberry patch, and even our herb garden. They realized that due to land development, our local habitat has lost many necessary predators while the rabbit population has dramatically increased. In an effort to bring balance to our local habitat, the students decided that attracting owls to the area might be one possible solution to our problem.
They are researching local owls, developing a variety of educational tools to share with the community, and will write a proposal requesting funds to build and maintain owl boxes. The children want to see if they can attract at least one pair of owls to our area, owls that will hunt and bring a balance to our local food web while raising their young owlets.
As we began our research efforts, the kids formed teams. Each team was responsible for teaching the community about the different owls found in Central Ohio. Their first plan was to share their learning on our classroom blog. As teams collaborated and read one another's posts, they realized that the blog did not allow teams to combine their research. Student work was "hidden" in posts across our linked student blogs, housed on our class blog.
The kids decided that our next step was to create, share, edit, and revise our owl projects on a class wiki and then publish the work on a website to share with the public. We will write together, using a protected, but collaborative wiki provided through our district's technology department. The wiki allows teams to collaborate and combine their research efforts without a public audience. Once teams are ready to share, they will add their work to our public website, sharing their research, collected resources, and the students' owl box proposal. We plan to add documentation of our work in 2013 as we build the boxes, place them near our school, and monitor the boxes for use by owls.
The variety of technology tools were selected by students as a result of wrestling with many real-world problems encountered by scientists. My students are learning as naturalists while writing like collaborative citizens. I am looking forward to this writing adventure with my kids as they solve a meaningful problem they identified in their own backyard.