Teens and Libraries Reunite via Virtual Field Trips

At the beginning of the school year, I asked my students to obtain or recover their public library cards. Since my students commute from several towns, this involved three local libraries. I hoped the assignment would encourage students to take advantage of the many resources available through the library.

I asked students to upload a photo of themselves with their library cards, and offered additional points for photos that conveyed “a love of reading.” Here are some examples (shared with permission). [ . . . ]  Read More

Get Your Public Library Card!

The start of the school year presents an opportunity to encourage a new group of students to fall (or stay) in love with reading.

To kick off our yearlong independent reading unit, my students are signing up for library cards at the local library. As a homework assignment, students will obtain (or dust off) a library card, and snap a photo of themselves holding their cards. After talking it over with students, I decided to offer additional points for photos that convey enthusiasm for reading. Check back for an update of student photos posted with permission. [ . . . ]  Read More

What Reading Looks Like

When we think about what reading looks like, we might picture someone curled up with a good book in a comfy chair with a hot beverage nearby. We might picture someone perusing the news over breakfast, or reading an e-book during the morning commute.

If you ask someone outside of the education field what teens’ reading looks like, however, they might not picture anything. For example, when I mention to someone that I’m researching teens’ reading, many lament, “kids these days don’t read anymore!” [ . . . ]  Read More

Guest Speaker Offers a New Perspective on Mental Disability

Last month, three of my classes were treated to a visit by our Student Assistance Counselor, Mr. Jason Grabelsky, a social worker whose role is to offer students support and counseling.

Fiction Helps Us Confront Discomfort

Though I’ve taught Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men for nearly ten years, I’ve never been comfortable with how my students talk about one of the main characters, Lennie, who is cognitively impaired.

Steinbeck introduces Lennie in a comic fashion—he gulps water from a pond so excitedly that he dunks his head underwater, “hat and all” (p. 3)—so it’s natural that students are amused by his childlike behavior. Students often ask if Lennie is “all there in the head,” “stupid,” or “special.” My students were doing exactly as I’d trained them to do: reading closely and analyzing the character’s words and actions. But I had not equipped them with the appropriate language to talk about Lennie’s deficiencies in a sensitive way. [ . . . ]  Read More

Print vs. Digital: Students Choose How to Write

Now that all my students have a school-issued Surface tablet, I let them choose how they want to take notes. When we were reviewing literary terms last week, I instructed students to take notes and snapped a picture of this tableau:

  1. A student taking digital notes with the stylus and touch screen (using the highlighter tool to emphasize key words)
  2. A student taking notes by hand in a spiral notebook
  3. A student typing notes using the keyboard

While some research worth sharing with students suggests that handwritten notes may be better for learning, I’ve noticed that now that they have the option to type, my students are less reluctant when I ask them to take notes, and even more likely to start taking notes on their own without my prompting. [ . . . ]  Read More

Authentic Writing: Turning Heads and Saving Necks

They hurtled into the room, grabbing the thickest, most neglected books from my shelf—titles like The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare and The American Tradition in Literature—rushing them into the hallway, returning for more, until they’d built a wobbly skyscraper of books. What kind of assignment could spark such enthusiasm?

When educators talk about authentic writing, they are talking about assignments written for real audiences—not just for the teacher—that provide students with opportunities to make choices and write about ideas that matter to them. Ken Lindblom argued in a recent Writers Who Care blog post that good writing instruction offers opportunities for students to write in a variety of genres, invites students to write for real audiences and make meaningful choices, and incorporates feedback from multiple audiences throughout the writing process. [ . . . ]  Read More