Sunday, November 25, 2012

Close reading of literature

I'm going to try "close reading" (of the Common Core Learning Standards infamy) of literature this week, using a book that has intrigued me ever since I read it last year, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I will attempt a read-aloud, mainly because I don't have extra copies of the book (yet), but also because students enjoy read-alouds. This book is a good choice because the dominant question in my mind when I was reading (and enjoying) the book was - "How would my students make sense of this novel, with alternating time/narratives, unfamiliar setting (1980s New York City, which were my own stomping grounds), and surprise ***SPOILER ALERT*** fantasy element?"

By the way, recently I read Rebecca Stead's new novel, Liar and Spy. It packed quite a punch, but I wasn't really interested in the story until halfway through. AGAIN - how would my students ever get to the GOOD part on their own? Readers like my daughter, who would read a book just because her teacher (or mom) assigned it, would have no trouble with it, but my "too cool for reading" students? Guided reading may be a good way to go.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Close reading of informational text can be a thing of beauty

Meaningful work gives me energy to continue working. Yesterday afternoon I pushed paper at work in a frenzy, and it was not meaningful work, just work. Rest gives me energy! So these four days of vacation should help me swing back into school with a spring in my step, right? I have plans to visit with family and shop small local stores.

I've been using the "Shallow Seas" episode of the Planet Earth series (Discovery Channel) to teach "close reading" comprehension of informational text. The text we use is the narration itself, beautifully presented by Sigourney Weaver, full of figurative language. I transcribe the narration and write the questions, which students preview before watching the video and answer after watching.

The video itself is just a thing of beauty, with built-in opportunities to show students (most of whom profess to hate school in general) some good reasons to stay in school. "Wouldn't it be cool to shoot this scene with high speed cameras on a boat near Australia?! Well, the longer you stay in school, the more options you have to get cool jobs like that."

Clips of the Planet Earth series are available on the Discovery Channel web site, though my school is fortunate to own the DVD set. Each time I watch it, I remember why I love to teach, to show students the wonders of the world and encourage them to grab every chance possible to be part of this wonderful world. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Too tired to blog

Here's my excuse for not blogging:

"The exhaustion of the American teacher" by John Kuhn. He explained it perfectly.