Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sometimes a good book is hard to find

* Since we had a day off on Monday and a PD day on Tuesday, this week's Monday morning musings have turned into Wednesday morning musings.  Even though we are now halfway through the week, I hope you will still take a few minutes to read what I wrote!

Principal ponderings...
On Monday, I spent the day at Heritage Day in Southborough with my family.  It was a beautiful day to be outside watching a parade, enjoying homemade ice cream, and shopping from local vendors.  The event look place in an open field right next to the town library.  Of course the library was having a used book sale.  And of course I had to meander over and check out the book sale.  Even though the voice of reason in my head was saying "you do not need to buy any more books until you read all the ones you have"...I couldn't not just take a quick look to see what was there!  There were tons of folding tables set up outside the library, full of boxes of books, and every few feet there were neon pink posters telling us book lovers where exactly to find the the biographies and memoirs or the children's books or the classics or any genre we we were looking for.  And so I began my book box shopping, quickly scanning the spines, looking for good titles to jump out at me.

Now here's the tough thing about used book sales...there are a lot of bad books in the mix.  I find that people hang onto the good books in their collection and donate the books that were not so good to the library.  As I was hunting for a few good books, it got me thinking about our classroom libraries.  I know I have been having conversations with many of you about how you have set up your library, how you have re-organized your library, and how we are focused more this year on students spending more time reading books from classroom libraries during the literacy block.  The question is...how do we make sure we create effective classroom libraries in our classrooms?  Are the books that we make available to kids 'good books'?

We know that in order to teach kids to read, they need to have time to read.  But that also means we need to have a lot of books available for them to be able to choose during independent reading time.  As a classroom teacher, I remember that over the years I built a rather large classroom library.  Some books I acquired from teachers who had left, some books were from Scholastic, some were donations, some were from used book sales, some were bought new from bookstores, some were ordered through the school, and some were even from my childhood.  When I think back, I know that not all of the books that I had in my library were what I would consider 'good books.'  How do you know it's a 'good book' or not?  I came across this article that was published in the Journal of Language and Literacy Education in 2009, "Building an Effective Library":

In the article, they list several sources to help teachers find 'high quality' literature.  The article also argues that as teachers we need to be "discriminating consumers of high-quality selections."  Some factors that can help you decide if the book is high-quality include: the cover, characters, plot, theme, language and illustrations.  When it comes down to it, you need to know all of the books in your library.  We don't just want lots and lots of different books in bins so we can say that we have hundreds of books for kids to choose from.  We want them choosing 'good books' so we need to know what books are in our classroom libraries.  We don't want our kids to feel like they are shopping at a used book sale at the library.  We need to remind ourselves that this is another time to think about quality over quantity.  Spend some time like I did on Monday, scan the spines and titles of the books in your library.  Make sure that your students have lots of 'good book' choices.  If it's not that great of a book...take it out of your classroom library.  I'm sure your local library will have no problem adding it to their used book sale!

Currently reading:
I am halfway through one of the MCBA books, Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  I spent part of the long weekend reading Rafe Esquith's book, Lighting Their Fires: How Parents and Teachers Can Raise Extraordinary Kids in a Mixed-Up, Muddled-Up, Shook-Up World.  The whole book is him sharing lessons while he is at a Cardinals vs Dodgers baseball game with some of his students.  Each chapter goes through the innings and you learn about different concepts that can help kids build character and become extraordinary kids.
Here's a book that I just started skimming, it focuses on reading in K to 3 classrooms, talks about how to teach kids to read with "power, intention and joy", Reading for Real, by Kathy Collins:

And a cute book that I read with a student who earned some time with me last week:

This book I just got in the mail today.  A great book to use as a read aloud, to use as a model for writing, to use with a lesson on point of view...lots of possibilities with this one:

Events this week:

Monday - No school
Tuesday - Curriculum day @ PAC, guest speaker, Mike Schmoker
Wednesday - 4th grade at Wachusett, Staff meeting, 3:30-5:00, Grace will be with 1st grade, Sue will be with 2nd grade during PLC time
Thursday - 4th grade at Wachusett, Dr. Bent visits FloRo in the morning, PTA meeting @ 7:30, Grace, Dianna and Liz will be discussing homework with parents

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 4th graders in Mr. Coronis's class were watching a short video clip on line of a volcano erupting and discussing what they knew about rocks and minerals.
  • Staff getting their pictures taken for our ID badges!
  • 4th graders in Mrs. Nissi's class participating in peer editing conferences and giving each other some good constructive criticism about how to make their writing better
  • 2nd graders in Mrs. Jacques class having a discussion about how to add more detail to a piece of writing
Check it out
After I have more time to process Mike Schmoker's presentation today, I will write more about it on this blog, but I did want to share one of the sites of a person he referenced.  This is Madeline Hunter's site which describes lesson elements that he discussed a lot today:
An article in the Globe recently about the impact of the new standards:

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