Posted in Close Reading, Reading

Runs in the family.

Please read all the heartfelt comments in this thread: many teachers and parents reached out with amazing resources, love, and ideas.

Last night my younger son, Daniel, who’s 23, was hanging out with me, and I asked him how reading The Hobbit was going. He had mentioned he was reading it because, well, he never had, and thought he’d go through Tolkien’s books. He said he hadn’t made it through the first chapter. He said with ADHD, he has to read paragraphs repeatedly, and he just gives up. I asked how that made him feel in school, like everyone knew some secret magic that he was left out of, and his body language and face, his deflated posture, broke my heart. Yes, he confirmed. And it made him feel ashamed. School was a place that took a bright, funny, smart,* laughing little boy and turned him into someone who’s had to fight hard to find his own path. Like every other kid out there. He’s not special. His generation has never gone to a public school building without testing from kindergarten through their senior years, and drilled skill after skill, without little experience or joy knowing what those skills were for. Reading logs and extrinsic motivations, academic achievement, meetings with the principal and band director because the band director was going to flunk him because we needed to go on a family trip for personal reasons. Time and again, the cruelty was the point. My older son followed all the rules and fit their mold. Daniel did not. Nothing I did or didn’t do. And yet these two beautiful sons of mine taught me so much about how horrible a place school can be.

But why does this have to be this way? Why does school have to be a place that most of us ends up hating? We end up resenting?

I told him during the pandemic, this past year, I’ve struggled to read. My escape of novels and fiction just isn’t there. Friends posting book after book on Goodreads while I languish. I find myself reading the same paragraphs, too. I just started reading Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians and am embarrassed to admit I am going to have to start over again for the third time because I don’t understand what happens in the first chapter. Is that an elk? A fight? A fight with an elk? And please don’t step in and explain it to me. I’ll get it. About all my brain can handle right now is watching old episodes of Inkmaster and

My dad, who’s 79, tells a story with some trace of bitterness, how one teacher told him his fate would probably be jail. I don’t know what my dad did or said that prompted this reaction from his high school teacher. My dad was a middle child of three boys, all close in age, with two parents who worked outside the home. And I guess he was mischievous, a troublemaker? Prone to staying out late, maybe? I don’t know details of my father’s high school years. I do know my dad is one of the sweetest, funniest men I know.

My own troublemaker self was almost kicked out of kindergarten, and often sent to the corner or hallway many times for talking in first and second grades. The teachers simply did not understand that I was trying to help others near me understand the material. But those corners of the room smell like tooth-fairy breath and shame. And I didn’t learn a damn thing about staying quiet, except that when I do share ideas and thoughts, it comes with anxiety and sometimes pain.

Okay, enough of this. We have a family history of ADHD, this seems pretty clear. Now what? Whenever I am overwhelmed, I make a list. Here are some of my initial thoughts, and many of these were echoed on Twitter. I promise I was not ‘workshopping’ anything — what a breathtaking community you are. I love you, my teacher out there — ready to jump in, share ideas, with love, compassion, and without hesitation.

  1. Reading is not just print on paper. It’s audio, acting, movement, illustrative, and beyond. Let’s embrace a culture of reading.
  2. Love of stories must come first, and remain, the goal.
  3. I want Dr. Gholdy Muhammad to head up change in our education system with her ideas on Cultivating Genius.
  4. Burning questions (allow students to co-construct their units of study with teachers and shifting classrooms– this is a seed of an idea I have)
  5. More money for better early reading instruction that extends throughout all grade levels
  6. All teachers have a partnership with specialists
  7. Art at every grade
  8. Music at every grade
  9. Physical movement without ableism
  10. Multi-modal essays and collaborative work
  11. Sketchnoting, and other interactive ideas to express glorious passages of the ‘grand conversations’

There is so much more, and we’ll keep talking adding, and thinking.

My son will probably finish The Hobbit someday. Right now he’s switched to Recording Unhinged by Sylvia Massey because he’s been playing a lot of music lately with his dad, (who does not have ADHD), going to school, and working. I’ll finish my books, too, and figure out what that elk is doing.

And please follow Nicole Biscotti, M.Ed:

Some books folks recommended, on my reading list:

I Can Learn When I’m Moving By Nicole Biscotti, M. Ed.

ADHD and Me: What I Learned from Lighting Fires at the Dinner Table by Blake ES Taylor

*He’s still funny and smart. And very darn cute.

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Argumentative Reading and Writing, being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Close Reading, Communication, Culturally Responsive Teaching, ELA, ELL, Equity & Cultural Competency, Series: White People Homework, Writing

Series: White People Homework- What’s in a name? (14) (Updated)

We’re not a football family in our house. And like many areas of fandom, it’s okay–no judgment on those who love football, and as far as we know we aren’t judged by others. Wouldn’t matter. So forgive me for not knowing who Emmanuel Acho is. Turns out, he’s pretty amazing! And I am so grateful for other media formats who bring people such as him into my life and help me learn.

And I am an ELA/ELL teacher; however, full disclosure, I was not an English major in college. Most of what I learned about mechanics, style guides, and conventions I relearned and created lessons while teaching. My next question is what are the current grammarians and style guide writers determining about the capitalization of Black and White. Here’s what I’ve found:

Black should be capitalized. “White” — not as clear. From the Diversity Style Guide, they link further articles. The consensus isn’t clear (as are many grammatical discussions).

The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. Many of the terms related to Black and White people in The Diversity Style Guide come from 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans. The team that put together that guide decided to capitalize Black and White, according to editor Joe Grimm. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context, but most would say it’s not incorrect to lowercase those words.

https://www.diversitystyleguide.com/glossary/white-white/
This article was written in 2011: When referring to race, should ‘black’ and ‘white’ be capitalized?
Original Post: http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/10/when-to-capatalize-black-and-white/

However, when words labeling an entire people are at the root of a language dispute, that’s reason enough to seek direction outside of our usual resources, especially if the resources are outdated. If your editorial directive is to call people what they want to be called—including names, pronouns, and labels—then look to Black media outlets like Ebony and Essence for accepted usage and avoid overriding their terminology. By capitalizing black and white, we also make necessary distinctions between color and race—black hair and Black hair—similar to distinguishing between native and Native. Don’t wait for your style guide to catch up, because it’s waiting for you to demonstrate sufficient usage.

From https://consciousstyleguide.com/capitalizing-for-equality/

This article lead me to this page: Center for the Study of Social Policy: https://cssp.org/2020/03/recognizing-race-in-language-why-we-capitalize-black-and-white/

This is the dilemma we need to address:

We believe that it is important to call attention to White as a race as a way to understand and give voice to how Whiteness functions in our social and political institutions and our communities. Moreover, the detachment of “White” as a proper noun allows White people to sit out of conversations about race and removes accountability from White people’s and White institutions’ involvement in racism. We are also reckoning with the threatening implications of capitalizing “W” in “White,” often used by White supremacists, to establish White racial dominance. The violence of capitalizing White in this context makes us grapple with the history of how Whiteness has functioned and thrived in the United States; acknowledging that, yes, White people have had power and still hold power in this country. While we condemn those who capitalize “W” for the sake of evoking violence, we intentionally capitalize “White” in part to invite people, and ourselves, to think deeply about the ways Whiteness survives—and is supported both explicitly and implicitly.

https://cssp.org/2020/03/recognizing-race-in-language-why-we-capitalize-black-and-white/

Language is powerful, and oftentimes I think ELA teachers don’t teach the true power of capitalization, punctuation and syntax. Because it “wasn’t on the test” we spent the past 14 years teaching to a test that uses excerpts like out-of-context entrails on an autopsy slab. I am going to call on my other experts on history and language to ask their thoughts. I will and do capitalize Black when referring to race, and have been using lower case “w” for white people. My instinctual response was because capitalizing the “w” felt like a nod for white supremacy. However, CSSP makes a strong case. (No pun intended.) Language is ever-evolving and shifting, sometimes for honest, descriptive and precise communication and sometimes for nefarious and subtextual racist communication. This article was written in 2015 by the Columbia Journalism Review: I think we can all agree that we need to be mindful of language and do our best to stay current and mind the impact.

And also, ELA teachers, be especially mindful of your use of Martin Luther King’s, Jr. works.

Update:

Posted in Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Close Reading, Critical Thinking, Curriculum Ideas

Heroic measures: teach critical thinking

My big question this morning: how do we teach, and learn, to think critically?

Not the surface-level fluff–but the hard questions, the wrestling with the trifecta of intellectual stagnation: cognitive dissonance, justification, and rationalization?

Do we need heroes/heroines?

What would happen…if…we…didn’t?

What if…we were good to each other, did no harm, and made our classrooms, lecture halls, and online spaces engaged and safe places to discuss questions and seek ideas and answers?

Consider and read this thread: keep track and curate the narratives you teach: by every figure, do a character study. We need to face and review the decisions of the past and reconcile and come to terms with our future.

Example: what if Ruth Hopkins didn’t follow this path? Discuss the narrative of Lincoln’s heroism and his great, grave flaws?

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But we don’t really teach critical thinking because that would cause a potential revolt to order.

What Does ‘Critical Thinking’ Mean?

This feels very big to me right now, and scary, but this is the gift I want to give my students most of all: the courage to question, and draw their own conclusions, and then have the mindfulness and mental flexibility to adjust those conclusions if necessity demands.

Now: that is a big idea. How to go about it?

Okay. Any ideas welcome.

Posted in Argumentative Reading and Writing, Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Close Reading

the devastating abyss

 

I am not a fan of Ayn Rand.

At all.

Clearly, this is not an image of Ayn Rand.

It’s Colin Kaepernick.

There is a name on this T-shirt of someone I have seen. I didn’t know him, but my colleagues did. His name is on our gymnasium wall as an athlete of the year from a previous time.

A few months ago at a gathering, a dear acquaintance stated how much she hated Colin Kaepernick. Since I was a guest in someone else’s home I didn’t pursue the topic nor challenge her opinion. We’ve already been divided and our friendship diminished by these current political times. She would be the first to say life is about choices, and she’s chosen identity politics.

And I cannot tag her in a social media post to let her know that one of my school’s former students, who was shot and killed by police, is another name in a long, heartbreaking legacy of names that many respectfully and somberly ‘take a knee’ for. Young men and woman of color whose lives were cut short in a nation of violent responses for prejudicial fear.

We all have this story. We all know friends, relatives, and colleagues with whom we now look upon with disdain and suspicion because of 1. their political views 2. their apathy which leads to 3. privilege –their personal endowment of their own rights to ignore what is happening because they don’t perceive it’s happening to them. It’s happening or affecting “others.”

That is not to say that those who chose to remain silent are not affected, nor does it mean they don’t help the affected. There are many teachers out there who may have voted for the current president, and believe themselves to be good people: they’re not, though.  They may coach teams, help struggling students, continue to give to charities, work long hours to create the best lessons and instruction they can. They’re working hard to help students read, write, tap into a love of science and wonder. (Well, maybe not science. That would be a hard cognitive dissonance working there.) But they can’t possibly be helping anyone if they support racism and bigotry, even if indirectly. Because there is nothing indirect about it.

My horrifying epiphany came when a few things came on my radar from varying social media teacher pages, this T-shirt, and just thinking about things in general: my own identity politics led me to believe that banning books is bad, censorship is always wrong, and we all need access to great writers.

Coming back full circle, I still believe that.

But I hate Ayn Rand’s works.

And I realized that teachers who use her novels in singularity, without commentary, juxtaposition or nuance may be selling students the same load of garbage I was sold when I was in high school. But now, more than ever, her novels may need to be taught so students have historical context.

In other words: some teachers are still teaching crappy novels, and posturing them as great works.

But that is just like, my opinion, man.

The same thread occurred over To Kill A Mockingbird. However, so many amazing educators provided critical analysis from authors about this seminal work. I love Scout, but I can also criticize her father.

It’s a mourning process when we revisit beloved texts and find out that they may not be the pillars of justice and societal right we once believed. And I guess my wish, my hope –is that educators, have the responsibility above all to make sure students know not what to think, but how to draw their own conclusions.

We are faced with students who come to us with very different political views than we have. There are conservative teachers who are making the more liberal child feel embarrassed. There are liberal teachers who may lecture only one side of an issue.

Please: help students curate and discover connection and nuances in thinking. Support them when they grieve the loss of a favorite media or text.

This is a daunting task. Just please: we must consider and reflect deeply on what we’re offering to students. There is too much anti-intellectualism out there in the ether for us educators not to be incredibly mindful of this. Be brave.

 

Posted in Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Close Reading, Language News, Lesson Ideas, Literary Analysis, Notice & Note, series: the good stuff

series: the good stuff

Things I think about in the middle of the night:

  1. What was that noise outside?
  2. What are the best ten to twenty best, time-tested lessons for middle and high school students?

The noise was nothing. Probably just a small monster or trashcan panda. The best lessons, now that’s something else.

The first post in this series is something new: Bob Probst of Beers/Probst renown gave us teachers this gift:

It’s a dialogue booklet that helps students move through a text with purpose. I haven’t vetted it yet, but it holds much promise.

 

Posted in being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, book recommendations, Classic Short Stories, Close Reading, Common Core, Notice & Note

Something wicked +1

Architecture of a Story
Architecture of a Story

Is it just me or does one become a veteran teacher far too soon in one’s journey? Meaning, how did I get so old?! Well, as scary as that is, it’s better than the alternative, right Poe?

Allow me to present the context: through December I have a student teacher, and boy oh boy am I happy to know her. She’s going to be a fantastic teacher, wants to do well and jump right in. This has been an especially chaotic start to the new school year for me: our administration takes great care and time to balance the master schedule, so it’s had to change multiple times to get it right. When one considers how many of our students need what is called “Essentials” in our district (it’s probably called that other places, too), it changes the dynamic quite a bit. To the point, for me personally I gave up my planning period and will be teaching six periods a day, so having an eager student teacher/intern will be enormously helpful.

One of the requirements of her program is a three-day scoped lesson, and since she and I are both enthusiastic fans of all things macabre and October, we sat down to discuss a possible text. One of the first short stories I planned on handing over to her was The Monkey’s Paw. I’ve used this story for many years and add the Vimeo film, too. It’s accessible in terms of understanding themes/tropes (be careful what you wish for! Magic has a cost! Be grateful for what you have!) and is grand, classic fun.

And that was the problem.

As I am describing the story, written in 1902, with its archaic language and cultural tropes (exotic foreign lands! Grand Fakir! Seargent Major in the grand India wars….!) her eyes seemed to glaze over, not in boredom, but in overwhelmed fear: these old stories are not this generation’s stories. She’s two years older than my oldest son, and if I may make one sweeping generalization about millennials it’s not that they haven’t read the classics, but perhaps have rejected them because they are not multicultural or diverse. Coming from my old white lady perspective, many of my beloved stories are from a narrow Victorian smelling salts place of overly tight corsets and ladies locked in boxes/towers/coffins.

The Monkey’s Paw is not a place to start when you’re a 23-year-old student teacher.

 

I put the word out on the Notice and Note page:

I’m going to the well once again — 🙂 I have a great student teacher, and many of the classic horror stories are not in her wheelhouse. We’re thinking of her three-day filmed lessons of doing RL8.3 and a scary story. Things like The Monkey’s Paw or The Raven are not comfortable for her necessarily, so was wondering if anyone knows of poetry or short story horror that’s more contemporary? The guiding question is ‘what do we know as readers that the character(s) don’t know?’ among others. Please and thank you–

To all of you: you honor me with your amazing resources and suggestions. What I think we all struggled with though was at the heart of my question: something more contemporary. I should have just flat-out said: diverse. Multicultural. Not Dead White Guy. Not that there’s a darn thing wrong with dead white guys. Those are some of my favorite guys.

From Notice and Note Educator Experts:

But these are wonderful pieces of literature, and though I’ve used most of them extensively, have some new ones to check out:

The Landlady by Roald Dahl (short story)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (used this for years) (novel)

Don’t Ask Jack by Neil Gaiman

The Wife’s Tale by Seamus Heaney (poetry)

The Lady or the Tiger by Frank Stockton

Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

The Right Kind of House by Henry Slezar

Reverse Insomnia – not sure (?)

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Cornell

The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Waxwork by AM Burrage

The Highwayman (romantic/gothic/poetry) Alfred Noyes

Darkness Creeping Neil Shusterman (collection)

Fever Dream by Ray Bradbury

The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

All in a Summer Day by Ray Bradbury

Twilight Zone/Monsters are Due on Maple Street

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Three Skeleton Key by George G. Toudouze

Heading Home by Ramsey Campbell

Miriam by Truman Capote

The Open Window by Saki

The Severed Hand by Wilhelm Hauff

Under the Weather by Stephen King

E-books for Stephen King

Cabinet of Curiosities 

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (I still have students trying to hand me pieces of paper with black dots)

What I found:

http://theweek.com/articles/458062/9-contemporary-horror-stories-read-right-now — ooh there are some good ones here

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2015/10/19/diverse-horror-folklore-ya/ — just bought some Rin Chupaco

http://www.livescience.com/48515-10-haunted-house-ghost-stories.html – these are ancient stories from around the world

 

And of course, there are always quick films. I have film versions of almost all the classic stories above.

Lights Out – Who’s There Film Challenge (2013) from David F. Sandberg on Vimeo.

Bloody Cuts/Who’s There Film Challenge -some are NOT appropriate, but some are pretty great.

I want to thank you all for your suggestions and insights: it reminds me again that we cannot do this alone. It’s up to my student teacher to poke around and find one that feels comfortable for her now, just like all of us have and had to do. She’s going to craft and curate her own stories to tell — and I can’t wait to hear them!

 

PS http://onebooklane.com/mistletoe-bride-short-story-kate-mosse/

 

and

The Life of Death from Marsha Onderstijn on Vimeo.

 

Posted in being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, Close Reading, Common Core, Themes

Thematic Thursday

Last year one of my students had one of those lightbulb moments, that eureka shake up, awesome anagnorisis,  where she completely understood what I meant by the concept of the difference between topic and theme.

This is a biggie. It’s important because it means I can do it. Because teaching theme…teaching it well that is..isn’t easy.

So on Thematic Thursdays, there is intentional time to do just that, however the strategy, whatever the current unit of study.

I am a lifelong devoted scholar of the study of themes, and yet, it is as painful to teach for me as doing my own dentistry sometimes. I need to just get over myself. Some teachers know how to simplify teaching theme, distill it to its most essential elements. This anchor chart isn’t a bad place to start, but it’s that last sentence starter that doesn’t hold up for me. Is theme a formula–if x then y? I don’t think it is. And I am also not sure if the author is always in control of one lesson in a work, be it a novel, poem, dance, art, or music. The danger is telling students there is only one answer. Theme is not a main or central idea. The central ideas help create the possible themes.

 

Grabbed off of Pinterest
Grabbed off of Pinterest

This site does a solid job of discussing literary devices. I only take exception with calling topics themes.
This site does a solid job of discussing literary devices. I only take exception with calling topics themes.

However, I approach teaching and discussing themes more like an alchemist. So what happens on Theme Thursdays? Again, any number of things. An exploration of a current unit, question, time to bird walk and discuss, muse, or laser focus on symbolism and motif? Creation of personal themes, missions, pledges, for one’s own narrative. We can look at art, read a poem, or perhaps prepare for Film Fridays.

This is a PowerPoint I created years ago. It still holds up pretty well. 

[embeddoc url=”http://mrskellylove.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/themes_in_literature-2ii4cvh.pptx” viewer=”microsoft”]

Tim Shanahan has a pretty good post about this: http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com. I invite anyone who has something to add to this discussion to please do so: how do you ‘teach theme’ — is it by definition and then exploration, or the other way around?

 

Posted in being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, book recommendations, burning questions, Close Reading, Communication, Reading

Match up: texts, teachers, and students

The back of the cereal box of our times?
The back of the cereal box of our times?

This morning I promised myself not to touch either hand-held device, my cell phone or i-Pad, for at least five hours today. So far, so good. Lately I’ve acquired the odd habit of setting up arbitrary goals for myself, little mind games where only I know the rules. For example, in June, I told myself ‘no beer for a year.’ I really like beer, and though not trying to punish myself, just wanted to see if I could do it. Last night it got a little tricky because all I wanted to do was go out for a beer and nachos with my hubby, and instead we went through Dairy Queen drive-through and I traded a beer for a Peanut Buster Parfait. I have about one to two of those a year, so I guess I met my quota. Dang, it’s only July, too.

The other goal I set for myself was to try to do Camp NaNoWrMo. It’s July 7, and that means 6 days of only blog writing, which “doesn’t count.” All that’s happened is I am acutely aware that I haven’t written any drafts of fictional substance for months, and I’m overthinking everything. Too distracted, too grumpy, too much caffeine and not enough water. Focus, woman! Focus!

//giphy.com/embed/48zjXYRwBg5IQ

via GIPHY

This post is born of the fantastic Facebook pages/groups I’m honored to be in, specifically Notice & Note. Subscribers/members tend to post two types of questions: ‘What are some good text suggestions for X age group/Y skill or literary device,’ and ‘Does anyone have any suggestions on how to track student growth?’ I’ve already explored my plans for The Book Whisperer’s ideas, and am very excited about the how/why.

Now for the ‘what.’

I can’t read anymore. If a real, paper and bone book is in my hands, I have misplaced my reading glasses, or the light’s too far away, or I can’t get comfortable. If the text is on my Kindle, no problem, except something is kind of broken right now in my reader brain. Perhaps the paradox of choice is hitting me. I have too many unread books. Or perhaps it’s related to the ideas in this article, Why Can’t We Read Anymore by Hugh McGuire . And now I realize when I was gaming too much or flitting between devices, my brain seduced my actions with dopamine:

So, every new email you get gives you a little flood of dopamine. Every little flood of dopamine reinforces your brain’s memory that checking email gives a flood of dopamine. And our brains are programmed to seek out things that will give us little floods of dopamine. Further, these patterns of behaviour start creating neural pathways, so that they become unconscious habits: Work on something important, brain itch, check email, dopamine, refresh,dopamine, check Twitter, dopamine, back to work. Over and over, and each time the habit becomes more ingrained in the actual structures of our brains.

How can books compete?

Well, this blunt and honest conversation will take place at the beginning of my school year with students, that is what digitalization has done to their brains. All of our brains. Last year, my students who were readers were the ones who tended not to have a lot of television or screen time (remember those hippie parents, back in the day? Who didn’t have TVs? I gasped in bewildered horror anytime I came across a situation like that.)

Is the same thing happening to (other) teachers? Are teachers just not reading as much as they used to, grabbing a few YA novels or short stories, and curating them for themselves? Or it is just a means to share tried and true texts with one another? Probably the latter. But there may be some instances where it’s the former, or perhaps I’m projecting my own failings.

novels

I have my list of books/stories to share. I have an extensive classroom library, both hard copy and digital. There are apps and sites galore to help teachers find texts. There are news outlets, story sites, like This American Life, Storycorp, The Moth, Radiolab, etc. to explore, to name a few. It would take a lifetime to read or listen to all the infinite stories. Sites like Artifact App and CommonLit help educators ask the essential questions to guide reading, too. And there are still libraries, with real librarians, who love nothing more than to talk and share ideas about texts. But that involves getting out of my bathrobe and the house. Hmmm. Tough call. (Oh, like you’ve never hung out in your robe until 1PM on summer break!)

 

Artifact App
Artifact App

 

So what are we teachers looking for when we ask others about text suggestions? We’re looking the same things as when we recommend books to other adults. We want something relevant, that may speak to us, that we can find some universal truth, or help us connect. And this is where the digital dopamine can’t help us: texts, be they on the screen or paper, give us a much more powerful sensation than digital ones. Helping students understand these important brain functions will help them understand when a person hurts them on line, it feels real because our brains don’t know the difference. We want to share stories, and that drive gives me hope, for my students, and for myself.

McGuire writes:

I am reading books now more than I have in years. I have more energy, and more focus than I’ve had for ages. I have not fully conquered my digital dopamine addiction, though, but it’s getting there. I think reading books is helping me retrain my mind for focus.

While on the hunt for great texts, I plan on using my powers of digital organization and keep track, make a list, and add notes. But for the moment, I’m just going to make a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, book recommendations, Close Reading, Lesson Ideas, Mythology, Reading Strategies

Read the book, dummy.

 

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Noticed:

I belong to the Notice & Note Facebook group, and it’s marvelous. Teachers helping other teachers, all grade levels (but predominately K-8), finding books, helping with lessons/units, etc. The big focus is on Kylene Beer’s and Robert Probst’s new book, Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and therefore embarrassed myself a bit by one of my questions in a post. A teacher named Lisa Roth put together this PowerPoint intended to share with staff. (I hope she doesn’t mind if I link it here: if yes, I’ll take it down post haste.)

While reading through her presentation, what caught my eye was the idea that ancient stories or ‘campfire stories’ are nonfiction. Campfire and ancient stories are something I’m very familiar with, having created units on early human story telling for 8th grade, that ties in with the World Studies history. At least I thought I was an expert, but according to Beers and Probst, campfire stories are non-fiction. I asked for clarification, and Roth’s interpretation of N&N Nonfiction makes sense: those stories were meant to inform. Yes, they were. They were origin stories, creation stories, explanations for the beginnings and the endings of things. That makes sense. But–and here is where I ran out and clicked on the book link to buy it–I can imagine teaching the context of genre and how genre shifts with new knowledge is going to be critical.

But before a rush to judgment, I will be reading with a lens that my personal theory is not all campfire stories were meant to inform. Or rather, humans didn’t need to hear and share stories with pure entertainment and escapism value. Nonfiction connotes such dryness for me, and that’s wrong. And I am going to check my bias, because more likely than not, my students believe stories as if they were factual, and it’s time to deconstruct that notion. Think about it: urban legends, social media comments, texts –they are not meant to entertain, but to state opinions as facts.

I remember when introducing Greek/Roman mythology trying to put it in context for students, and dancing around a theological line: these gods and goddess died because no (human) believed in them anymore, but at the time, the cultural belief system was as strong as any current religion today. Some students, occasionally, would suggest we bring back Zeus and Hera.

Perhaps there is another word, a portmanteau, that integrates fiction and nonfiction: truthiction? Stories intended to inform but are based on limited knowledge? Maybe I’ll leave that one up to my students next year to discuss and decide. Yes, I think that’s best.

Here is a better idea: if stories are meant to inform, enlighten, or motivate, then perhaps a unit on civic engagement is in order:

Summer Readings to Inspire Teachers about Project Based Learning with Civic Engagement by Steven Zemelman

So while I’m waiting for my copy of Notice & Note, Nonfiction version, I’ll be brushing up on my legends and mythology, and continue to dig out the truths in those stories.

If you’d like some dedicated nonfiction articles about storytelling and ancient humans, here are some links:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/09/ancient-campfires-led-rise-storytelling

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/late-night-conversations-around-fire-might-have-shaped-early-human-cognition-and-culture-180952790/?no-ist

Oh, and I started a Youtube Channel:

love youtube channel