Sunday, February 28, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 2-28-16

Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.

Speaking of apropos of nothing, yesterday I celebrated getting stuck in the snow since the first memory in our new house was getting stuck while trying to pull in the driveway for the first time.

Did you see the video of the 106-year-old woman who met the President and First Lady? If you didn't watch it, please do. It's sure to put a smile on your face.

Speaking of President Obama, the #ObamaAndKids hashtag that took Twitter by storm last week is an even bigger smile-inducing piece of clickbait.

Need more reasons to smile? How about kids reading to shelter dogs?  Or asking yourself what does the sloth say?

I found this article to be incredibly thought-provoking and discussion-worthy:
America loves women like Hillary Clinton -- as long as they're not asking for a promotion

This week Travis Jonker shared some covet-worthy books:
2016 Books from Caldecott Winners
2016 Books from Newbery Winners

One of my favorite authors had a book birthday this week. Natalie Lloyd's new book The Key to Extraordinary finally hit bookstores.

Lots of great resources were shared during last weekend's #nctechat about celebrating and supporting African American writers. Check out the archive.

Back in 2013 my friend Sarah Andersen wrote a blog post that responded to the many people who ask her why she's just not a librarian if she loves to read so much. She shared this post again this week and her words really resonated with me: 

"The reason this question bothers me isn’t because I don’t love and appreciate librarians (schools need librarians), but because it’s asked under the pretense that teachers, English teachers in particular, shouldn’t be so excited about reading and shouldn’t be reading so much. Maybe I’m wrong in that assumption, but the tone when the question is asked, especially at school, leaves me feeling like they think my passion for reading is misplaced. That it’s better suited for a library than in my classroom. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the people asking that question wonder to themselves why they aren’t as excited about reading?"

Pernille Ripp started a fabulous hashtag this week: #1s1w, which stands for 1 School, 1 World. It is a way for students and teachers to see how schools around the world are alike and different.

I loved this Atlantic article about the wrong way to teach grammar. I was criticized by colleagues when I first began teaching because I was told my method of teaching was "new fangled" and that it was just a trend that would pass. Except for the fact that there's decades of  research that proves traditional grammar instruction is detrimental to student success in writing. So whenever I come across articles like this I always add another mental tally mark for proving my former colleagues wrong.

My friend Kaitlin Popielarz, a PhD student and social justice warrior, wrote a beautiful poem: Stepping into the Uncomfortable.  

As someone who grew up in this town, Brian Stone's Huffington Post article really resonated with me:
What If America Looked Like Dearborn, Michigan?

Given who is currently leading in the presidential race and the media's misplaced fascination with this person, we need to talk about why decency has suddenly fallen out of favor. Max  Lucado is making the case for decency for president

"We take note of the person who pays their debts. We appreciate the physician who takes time to listen. When the husband honors his wedding vows, when the teacher makes time for the struggling student, when the employee refuses to gossip about her co-worker, when the losing team congratulates the winning team, we can characterize their behavior with the word decent.

We appreciate decency. We applaud decency. We teach decency. We seek to develop decency. Decency matters, right?

Then why isn’t decency doing better in the presidential race?"

*Mic drop*

Friday, February 26, 2016

Celebrate Getting Stuck in the Snow

Here in Michigan, we had been expecting a big snow storm on Wednesday and Thursday. All week I have been dreading this snow storm because I knew we would be closing on our new house and was worried that the inclement weather would prevent it from happening. Not only did we close without incident, but the snowstorm ended up being a blessing in disguise for two reasons. 1) We had a snow day at school today so I could spend the rest of the day at the house helping my husband clean. 2) As we were inside cleaning the house I looked out our front window and noticed that our next door neighbors were shoveling our sidewalk and our neighbor across the street finished clearing the rest of our driveway with his snowblower. So not only did we get to meet our neighbors, but we quickly realized that we have AMAZING neighbors.

First memory in our new house: getting stuck in the snow trying to pull in the driveway. LOL!

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 2-21-16

Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.

I'm looking forward to tonight's #nctechat on Twitter about the African American Read-In. I hope you'll join us at 8 PM ET.

On the Huffington post, Ali Owens discusses 4 problematic statements white people make about race -- and what to say instead. 

This week, thanks to the Grammy Awards, I finally got hip to why everyone is so obsessed with the musical Hamilton. You can now add me to the growing list of people who desperately want to get tickets to see the show. I am also obsessively searching YouTube for interviews with Hamilton's creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda because I just find him so fascinating. He's a musical genius yet so down to earth and amiable. Kanye could take a lesson or two from him.

On the Cult of Pedagogy blog, Jennifer Gonzalez has 5 questions to ask yourself about your unmotivated students.

As the research points to the importance of having school libraries with certified librarians, an advocacy group in Harlem is demanding school librarians. Yes!

Pernille Ripp reminds us of the importance of getting students' permission before we just assume they would want to share their work publicly.

I love the message of this commercial of Be together. Not the same. A message our elected officials certainly can't seem to get right these days.

As the circus that has become the 2016 presidential race sends me into fits of despair, one hashtag has helped to cheer me up this weekend: #obamaandkids. I really am going to miss him as our president. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you can't deny that he has led our country with respect, kindness, and dignity. He embodies what public service should be and what it so often is not.

And Apropos of nothing...

Speaking of the 2016 presidential circus,  I'm voting for Canada.

I love these relationship comics about finding beauty in mundane moments.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Links Worth Talking About 2-14-16

Links Worth Talking About is my weekly post of curated links about education, books, and apropos of nothing.

If you've been following the drama with the book A Birthday Cake for George Washington, then you know the plot thickened this week when the author spoke out in a rather contentious article on Huffington Post.

Pernille Ripp wrote an important post this week about when we harm rather than help students when it comes to reading interventions.

Penny Kittle, president of the Book Love foundation, recently started a new podcast about the importance of classroom libraries.

Important words from Paul Thomas: What do college professors want from incoming high school graduates?

An interesting take on lesson planning:
Reflection over prediction, or why we should write our lesson plans after the lesson

#nErDcampMI registration is now open. I hope to see you in Michigan in July for this free two days of professional learning.

And apropos of nothing...

Life goal: sloth hug

Friday, February 5, 2016

Making Research Relevant

The research paper.

It's the bane of every English teacher's existence.

Why? Because students are either forced to write about a topic that is irrelevant to them, or they are disengaged from the research because they don't understand the point of the assignment.

I have been teaching language arts for almost ten years. And every single year I have gotten it wrong. I fully admit that my students have left my class disengaged from the research process.

Until this year. I am determined to get it right this year.

Thanks to my wonderful adviser at Eastern Michigan University, Cathy Fleischer, and her writing partner Sarah Andrew-Vaughan, I have decided to have my students complete an Unfamiliar Genre Project as their research paper this year.

The Unfamiliar Genre Project takes the research process and turns the focus to writing, asking students to immerse themselves in a genre they're interested in, but not familiar with, and then to eventually write in that genre. 

I just introduced the UGP to my 8th graders this week and already I'm seeing way more engagement and motivation than any research project I've ever assigned. And what I've loved the most this week is hearing the conversation around the room as students talk about what genre they're going to choose and are bouncing ideas off of each other.

So this week I am celebrating making research relevant in my classroom. 
What makes the UGP such an engaging research project and something I'd encourage you to try is as follows:

1) It teaches students that writing is not one thing but multiple things, and one must study the conventions of a genre in order to write well in that genre. So when we tell students things like, "avoid passive voice" or "no first person allowed," we're doing them a disservice because different genres call for adherence to different conventions.
2) It puts the research focus on writing rather than some random topic that bears no significance to English class.
3) It empowers students by showing them that if they can develop the tools to write in one genre, then it's possible to do this for many genres. It's essentially taking the mystery out of writing for them.

If this sounds like something you'd love to learn more about, I highly recommend you check out Fleischer and Andrew-Vaughan's book Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone. I can't say enough about how much this project has changed the way I view not only teaching research but how I teach genre as well. It also made me realize the importance of having students study multiple mentor texts rather than just giving them one to emulate.

So if you're like me and you'd rather scratch your nails down a chalkboard than teach another group of disengaged students the tired old research paper, then I highly encourage you to give the Unfamiliar Genre Project a try.

Book info:
Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone: Helping Students Navigate Unfamiliar Genres by Cathy Fleischer and Sarah Andrew-Vaughan
Published: January 9, 2009
Publisher: Heinemann
Pages: 184
Disclosure: Purchased Copy

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Of pens and procrastination

This weekend, while I was supposed to be grading essays, I decided on a whim that my favorite pens needed to be in a separate container from the rest of the "common" pens. I mean, when I want to use one of my special pens, I can't waste precious time digging through the giant flower pot on the kitchen counter to find my perfectly smooth and liquidy (yet quick drying!) Pentel EnerGel pens. Now instead of a giant flower pot, my special pens are hanging out in a dainty little mason jar, easy to spot and grab at a moment's notice.

Because that needed to be done rightthisveryminute, don't you know? Those essays have been waiting all week. They can wait another 5 minutes. 

Do you have favorite pens? What are they? I want to know so I can try them out. Because even though I am fiercely loyal to my EnerGels, I am willing to entertain other options.

What are some of your infamous procrastination techniques? Besides unnecessarily organizing pens, I also like to:
  • play the piano
  • clean out the refrigerator
  • clean off my desk
  • go to the library because I JUST realized I had a bunch of books on hold that I need to pick up rightthisveryminute
  • go grocery shopping to replace all the food I threw away when I was cleaning out the refrigerator

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