Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It is the surprising outcome of letting go.
James Arthur Ray
Years ago when I was a professor at the University of Maine I was sitting in my office, chatting with a colleague on a snowy January afternoon. We peered out the window, wondering if we should head home early or wait for the plows to clear the roads. There was a lone figure in the faculty parking lot braving the snow, writing out parking tickets. “Hey, there’s Joe Cook,” my friend Connie exclaimed. “You know the name of that officer?” I asked. “Joe’s not a campus security guy — he’s an engineering professor,” Connie explained. “For years he would call the parking office to complain about students parking in the faculty lot without receiving tickets. Finally they got so tired of the calls they deputized him and taught him how to write tickets. Now it’s his hobby — he spends a few hours every week prowling the lot and writing tickets. They send him a new ticket pad every month.”
I was horrified and fascinated at the same time — horrified at the thought that maybe that would be me someday, a crazy old professor shuffling through the snow and ruining some unlucky students’ days. Yet I was also fascinated at the ingenuity of the parking department, turning calls from a cranky guy into useful work.
Last fall I met Derek, a second grader who held a clipboard and quietly took notes throughout his teacher Cindy’s morning meeting. I asked her later why Derek was the only child with a clipboard. “Those are Derek’s cleanup notes, ” Cindy explained. “The first few weeks of school he drove me nuts, interrupting morning meeting every minute or so to remind me that permission slips were due that day, or that I’d forgotten to change the date on the assignment board. I finally realized he wasn’t seeking attention — he was truly distracted by all the things he saw that needed to be done or changed. So now that is his task during the morning meeting — to note those things, make changes (like the dates on the board) when he can without disturbing anyone, and have a quick conference with me after morning meeting to run down the list. It takes less than a minute to go through his notes and it is time well-spent. He is happy, some of the notes quite honestly are helpful to me, and the whole class gets an uninterrupted morning meeting.”
Sometimes you win battles of control by letting go — by turning over the ticket pad or clipboard or a chunk of your book budget to the person who values the task more than you do. And in the end, you and the person you’re in a tug-of-war with may not only be on better terms — more good work might get done too.
This week’s newsletter is all about previewing books, highlighting some terrific websites students can use to browse texts and authors independently. Plus more as always — enjoy!
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Franki Sibberson finds the Internet is changing the ways her students find new books in Expanding the Ways We Preview Books:
The Big Apple Book Club is a great place for kids to find book preview videos created by other children:
The YouTube channel Book Trailers for All has many short video book trailers of children’s and young adult books suitable for viewing by students:
Book Trailers for Readers is another terrific site for students who want to browse independently. The site also has tools and advice for creating book previews:
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Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan provide how-to advice for grades K-2 teachers in Previewing and Picture Walks with Fiction Texts:
Peer pressure among teens can lead to many students reading the same book. In Eyes on the Fries, Gretchen Taylor addresses the issue of “peer-pressured reading” in middle school reading workshops, with a practical example of how she helped her students move beyond the fad book of the moment to more thoughtful previewing and independent reading choices:
We have a video-rich edition of the Big Fresh this week, since we captured so much wonderful footage last month of teachers previewing books with students in different ways at multiple grade levels.
Tony Keefer previews Infinity Ring with his students, and explains in a debrief why these book talks are crucial for building the reading community in his fourth-grade classroom:
Franki Sibberson’s goal is to provide her students with more tools for previewing books independently and making wise selections. In this lesson, she makes full use of technology to set up sites and resources for students to browse at school or home:
Picture walks are essential in the early grades to help students preview texts and use picture clues to make sense of stories. We’ve posted two video examples of picture walks in kindergarten classrooms.
Max Brand leads two English language learners in a kindergarten guided group. He first has the students reread a known text, and then uses a picture walk to preview a new book:
Finally, Mandy Robek takes her kindergarten class on a picture walk through a beloved Mrs. Wishy Washy book, bringing together home, school, and previous reading experiences:
That’s all for this week!