Posts Tagged 'comprehension'

2010: The Year of the Cell Phone Novel

“Keara, Ethan, wake up! Quick!” the urgent sound of their grandfather’s voice cause both Keara and Ethan to sit bolt upright.

“Why Grandpa Jim? Why did you wake us up? Is it morning?” Keara always full of questions peppered her grandfather with this series of questions.

Grandpa Jim was moving quickly around the room gathering clothes and shoes for each of them so they could dress quickly. Since Grandpa Jim usually moved at a slower pace, both children knew something important was happening.

“A fisherman from the village was just here, he found a whale tangled in a fishing net. If we cannot help the whale, it could die.” (Excerpt from “Set Me Free,” Said the Whale, a cell phone novel by: KJL)

If the Classics don’t seem to get your students excited about reading and writing, why not try a cell phone novel?

Recently while reading, “I ♥ Novels:Young women develop a genre for the cellular age”—a New Yorker article that discusses the rising popularity of the cell phone novel genre throughout Japan—I thought it would be fun to look for kid/teen-friendly English language cell phone novels…

My search quickly brought me to the kids section of the website textnovel—“a social network for authors and readers of serial fiction and the first English language cell phone novel website, allowing members to write and read fiction with their cell phones or computers, using text messaging, email and online tools”. What I like about the site is that it not only welcomes users to contribute stories, but that it encourages them to rate stories, become fans and leave comments—digital literacy skills that are increasingly important for students (and teachers) to cultivate in a hypermedia and social media age.

With a new year (and new decade) around the corner, how about teaching a cell phone novel in January?

If you’re looking for ideas on how to incorporate this new genre into your unit of studies, take a look at the m4Lit Project—a cell phone novel project and research study based out of South Africa that aims to support student leisure reading and writing in both English and isiXhosa and to understand whether cell phones can be used as effective tools for developing literacy and a love of reading amongst teens. While browsing through the project site, make sure to visit the cell phone story Kontax—“about the adventures of 4 cool teenagers”.

Happy texting!

Anna (@bon_education)

P.S. For more ideas on how to incorporate cell phones into your classroom, take a look at the post Using cell phones as teaching and learning tools.

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Ideas for Before/During/After Reading!

I Love to Read“I Love to Read” Image by Carlos Porto

I recently came across a fabulous article by Jim Burke on Reading Rockets titled, “103 Things to Do Before/During/After Reading“. Given that I am about to lead several workshops on reading and digital literacy for parents at the Magrudy’s Education Resource Center, Jim’s article will surely be on my recommended reading list for moms and dads.

Upon clicking the above link, you will notice Jim’s article was originally written in 1998. While that might seem like ions ago to some, rest assured, the recommendations are still 100% relevant. That said, I thought it would be useful to create a supplement to Jim’s article that includes a few ideas on how recent software and web applications can be used to get kids excited and thinking about what they read Before/During/After a book!

Take a look at the ideas below and feel free to add your own in the comments section of this post!

Postcard: Write to a friend, the author, or to a character about this book.”

  • Select one student to be a character in the book you are reading and to write a blog post from that character’s point of view. Other students can then submit questions and ideas to the character via the comments section of the post. To learn how to set up a blog for this project, click here.

Mapmaker: Draw a map of the book’s setting.”

  • Have students create a Google Lit Trip–using Google Earth to document and map the settings within the book at hand. To learn how to use this tool, click here.

Trailer: Movie previews always offer a quick sequence of the best moments that make us want to watch it – storyboard or narrate the scenes for your trailer. Focus on verbs.”

  • Create a movie trailer in the form of a digital story using tools like VoiceThread or iMovie. For tips on how to get started, click here.

Collage: Create an individual or class collage around themes or characters in the book.”

  • Use Wordle to create a digital word collage around key themes, characters or vocabulary in the book.

Draw! Translate chapters into storyboards and cartoons; draw the most important scene in the chapter and explain its importance and action.”

Dear Diary: Keep a diary as if you were a character in the story. Write down events that happen during the story and reflect on how they affected the character and why.”

  • Have students create delightfully illustrated diary entries using the online collaborative storytelling tool Storybird.

Haiku/Limerick: Create one about a character.”

  • Use Twitter to share poems with parents and classmates.

Notes and Quotes: Draw a line down the middle of the page. On one side write down important quotes, on the other comment on and analyze the quotes.”

  • Create a collaborative “wiki-style” notes and quotes page using Google’s collaborative document tools. Feel free to host online book discussions using the live chat functions within the collaborative document applications.

Of course there is nothing wrong with a good ol’ fashion book review assignment, but why not share the reviews with other kids around the world? Check out the Spaghetti Book Club: Book Reviews By Kids For Kids.

Happy Reading!

Anna

Twitter: @bon_education

Website: Bon Education

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On October 8, 2009 Celebrate Literacy and Early Education with Millions Around the World

I recently received an email from Jumpstart about the wonderful literacy event above. See what Kisha has to say below and make sure to open a book with your children and the children of others on October 8th (as well as the rest of the year as well)!

To Reading!

Anna

Hey there,

Just from reading your site, I can tell you know the importance of developing
solid reading skills and improving reading comprehension in classrooms and
schools.

Please join Jumpstart’s Read For The Record on October 8th, 2009 and
celebrate the joy of reading with children. I’d truly appreciate you sharing
this message with your readers, by posting this PSA from Weeds’ star
Mary-Louise Parker on your website.

Read for the Record
www.readfortherecord.org

Link to Mary-Louise Parker Jumpstart PSA:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8agDSSiiDAA

Thanks in advance,
Kisha


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Childhood Dreams

I just finished listening to “the Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. After seeing the book in airports and bookstores across the Middle East, Europe and the States, I figured that I might as well see what all the press was about, not to mention all of the hype on You Tube.

So, prior to my journey last week to give technology trainings to teachers in a small village in the mountains of the UAE, I downloaded the audio book to pass the car ride along—desert, followed by rocks, followed by jagged mountains amidst 120 degree heat and haze.

In a nutshell, the book left me thinking for hours, reminding myself of life’s pleasures and priorities and the gift and responsibility teachers have of inspiring, challenging and enabling young (and old) minds to achieve their dreams, imagine, think big and do.

For those of you that need a bit of background information, The Last Lecture website summarizes:

On September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” With slides of his CT scans beaming out to the audience, Randy told his audience about the cancer that is devouring his pancreas and that will claim his life in a matter of months. On the stage that day, Randy was youthful, energetic, handsome, often cheerfully, darkly funny. He seemed invincible. But this was a brief moment, as he himself acknowledged.

Randy’s lecture has become a phenomenon, as has the book he wrote based on the same principles, celebrating the dreams we all strive to make realities. Sadly, Randy lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 25th, 2008, but his legacy will continue to inspire us all, for generations to come.

Pausch for the most part tells us the lessons he wished he could teach his kids if he were around to watch them grow into adults. His messages are simple, easy to relate to and grounded in a ton of Disney World metaphors and examples (one of Pausch’s dreams was to become an imagineer—a dream he accomplished), making the book very digestible across a wide variety of audiences. Perhaps it is his simple lessons and prose that make the messages so sticky (see Will your lessons stand the test of time?).

In the addendum of the audio book, there is a live interview with the real Randy Pausch (the audio book of course was read by someone else) in which Pausch is asked, “What inspired the topic of your lecture?” Pausch responds, “A list that I made at the age of eight, ‘My Lifelong Dreams'”.

As you think about topics to teach this summer or next fall, consider having your students write or create a multimedia response to the theme, “My Dreams”. While you’re at it, take a moment to recollect yours.

Happy Dreamin’!

From Dubai,
Anna

P.S. My favorite quote from the book, “Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them – even if someone practically had to throw you over – it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it”.

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Shmoop will make you a better lover…

Love

of literature, history, poetry and life (or so the website claims)…

Shmoop is what I like to call CliffsNotes with panache!

Take a stroll through the literature section of the site and you’ll find countless study guides and resources to help you and your students discover and explore classics like Beowulf, the Pearl and Brave New World.

Click on Shmoops guide to The Great Gatsby and you will find an intro, summary, themes, quotes, plot analysis, study questions, characters, literary devices, trivia and more…

What I love about Shmoop, is its emphasis on the “Why should I care?” of literature. For example, why should a student of the 21st century take time out of his/her busy schedule of family, friends, Facebook, text messaging, sports, music, etc. to give Fitzgerald’s work the time of day? Shmoop writes:

The Great Gatsby is a delightful concoction of MTV Cribs, VH1’s The Fabulous Life Of…, and HBO’s Sopranos. Shake over ice, add a twist of jazz, a spritz of adultery, and the little pink umbrella that completes this long island iced tea and you’ve got yourself a 5 o’clock beverage that, given the 1920’s setting, you wouldn’t be allowed to drink.

The one thing all these shows and Gatsby have in common is the notion of the American Dream. The Dream has seen its ups and downs. But from immigration (certainly not a modern concern, right?) to the Depression (stock market crashing? We wouldn’t know anything about that), the American Dream has always meant the same thing: it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.

Yet Gatsby reminds us that the dollars aren’t always enough…

I’m skippin’ MTV today. Pass the F. Scott Fitzgerald please!

Anna

P.S. Don’t have a copy of The Great Gatsby on hand? Here is a free e-book. Thanks Shmoop!

P.P.S. Thanks zenera for creating the picture above!

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Help your students visualize the stories they read with Google Lit Trips!

Help your students understand the stories they read at a whole new level with Google Lit Trips! The site states, “Using Google Earth, students discover where in the world the greatest road trip stories of all time took place… and so much more!”

Imagine teaching Make Way for Ducklings with a tool that enables your students to visually follow the journey of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard as they look for a safe home for their family. Using Google Earth, students can track the Mallard family as the travel from the Public Garden to Beacon Hill to the State House and more! When students click on each location on the Make Way for Ducklings Google Earth file, they can see real pictures and learn factual background information about every place in the story!

This is an incredible tool for helping students visualize and learn about the places they encounter in stories! To get started on your journey with Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and other characters from famous children’s novels:

  • Download Google Earth (click here to download the program for free)
  • Return to Google Lit Trips
  • Click on one of the grade level links at the top of the page
  • Find a Lit Trip that suits your fancy!
  • Enjoy exploring!

Off to the Public Garden with the Mallards!

Anna

PS Thanks Kate Reavey (Peninsula College) for supplying the YouTube video above!

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Developing Young Readers: A Handout for Parents

Aside from developing technology tools for classrooms, universities and other professional education environments, I sometimes meet with parents and teachers to share tips and technology resources that are helpful for fostering child literacy development.

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of working with the parents of Dubai’s very own Knightsbridge Nursery, where I will:

  • Share research on the importance of reading with children during their nursery years
  • Discuss practical tips for developing reading skills and positive reading experiences with young children
  • Present resources on the Internet that parents and nursery teachers can use with young children to develop literacy skills and a love of books

I suspect many other parents are interested in these topics, so I’ve decided to post my presentation handout:

Feel free to print, distribute and share!

Anna

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Mad Libs!

1) Think of a noun: __________

2) Think of an adjective: __________

3) Think of a person’s name: __________

4) Think of a verb: __________

5) Now, fill in the blanks with your answers above…

My favorite book is titled, (noun). I adore this book because the main character (person’s name) is extremely (adjective). For example, in chapter three while preparing Thanksgiving dinner, he/she decides to (verb) while the turkey is cooking….

Does this exercise bring back any memories?!

One of my favorite elementary school pass times during long car trips to visit family members was playing Mad Libs with my sister and parents while driving on 495. So, when I came across Mad Libs Junior on FunBrain Reading, I had to play a few rounds!

Given that the holiday season means that inevitably your students will be spending time at home playing online games in between family gatherings, why not recommend that they play a few rounds of Mad Libs with family and friends? The game is perfect for practicing parts of speech and reading comprehension!

Happy (insert holiday)!

Anna

PS Thanks to the Literacy Web at UConn for pointing out this resource and many others on the page, “Literacy Websites for Students in Grades 5-6.”

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Raising Readers: Literacy Activities for Parents and Children

PBS KIDS Raising Readers is a great resource to share with parents of preschoolers and rising kindergarteners. The site states:

Kids love to learn. And with your help, they’ll learn to love reading with resources from PBS KIDS programs Between the Lions, Sesame Street, SUPER WHY, and WordWorld.

With PBS KIDS Island, children ages 2-5 can play reading games, earn tickets, and collect prizes. Then, track your child’s progress and get activities, lesson plans and tips just for parents, caregivers and teachers with PBS KIDS Raising Readers.

We’re adding new features often, including a Word of the Day and games for children 6-8. Come back soon to see what’s new!

I spent some time scoping out the site this morning and was pleased with its contents. For example:

1) I like that the site has extension activities based on characters from popular children’s shows and stories. Of course this is to be expected from a site created by PBS, but having children think and talk about character they love and relate to goes a long way when it comes to motivating them to read! Take a look at Fairytale Memory. This is a terrific game to play after doing an at-home “unit” on fairytales! For a list of stories to start with, click here.

2) I’m a big fan of WordWorld, so when I saw the Build a WordThing Activity on Raising Readers, I had to give it a shout out! This activity is a nice way to begin exposing children to the alphabetic principle.

3) I absolutely love the online read alouds! Take a look at Night in the Country and Spicy Hot Colors.
4) Practicing literacy related activities every day is important, but it can be tough to think of new ideas day in and day out. With these suggestions from the PBS KIDS Reading Activity Calendar, parents will be inspired to try all sorts of new and interesting literacy activities. For example, during the month of July make sure to do literacy-related activities in celebration of Independence Day, Read an Almanac Month and Chocolate Day!
Another nice thing about PBS KIDS Raising Readers, is that the site comes in Spanish.
May your month be filled with many interesting literacy activities!
Anna

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FreeReading.net adds over 250 free new printables, lessons and readers!

I am excited to announce that FreeReading now has over 250 new and FREE K-3 vocabulary, comprehension and morphology activities and printables! In addition, we just added 60 new illustrated beginning readers that focus on advanced phonics (compound words, word families, etc.), fluency and comprehension skills!

Vocabulary lessons target tier 2 vocabulary words from ~150 popular children’s stories including books like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Fancy Nancy. To see all of the Vocabulary graphic organizers and build mastery activities click here. You can also find vocabulary activities by common themes such as family and friends and my world here.

Comprehension lessons focus on important skills and strategies such as identifying a purpose for reading, story elements, prediction and more. For links to all of the comprehension printables click here.

Morphology lessons include activities for the most popular prefixes and suffixes K-3 student encounter in texts and everyday conversations. For links to all of the morphology printables click here.

Finally, you can find links to 60 new illustrated FreeReading beginning readers here. I particularly like A Firefighter’s Thanksgiving and Transportation.

Check the new FreeReading resources out and tell your friends about FreeReading by sending them a link to FreeReading here.

Enjoy!

Anna

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Another site to bookmark: FREE phonics, comprehension, vocab and fluency printables!

Today, while on a flight to Florida en route to give a FreeReading presentation, I spent some time going through emails and resources I bookmarked over the last few months. While doing so, I came across an email from my friend Cynthia recommending that I look at Steck-Vaughn’s Professional Development Resources. Once I arrived at my hotel this evening, I took a look at the site and was quite impressed by the number of free and high quality research articles and classroom resources in the areas of phonics/phonological awareness, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.

For example, take a look at:

  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Readers Theater, found in the fluency section of the site)
  • The story map chart (found in the comprehension resources)
  • The Frayer Model worksheet (found in the vocabulary section of the site)
  • The Amazing Alliteration worksheet (found in the phonological awareness resources)

This is definitely a resource to bookmark for use during summer school or next fall!

Signing off from Ft. Lauderdale, FL!

Anna

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Universal Design for Learning: Scaffolded Online Readers from CAST

Last week my colleague Margaret forwarded me an email from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). As the website states, the mission of CAST is “to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through the research and development of innovative, technology-based educational resources and strategies.”

I am a big fan of the UDL Editions by CAST. Universal Design for Learning Editions are online stories that incorporate multimedia scaffolds to help budding readers develop important comprehension skills such as the ability to predict, understand metaphors, etc.

Take a look at the story How the Coyote Stole Fire. Notice how CAST has created animated animal reading coaches that pop up to help children read and understand various sections of the book. In addition, readers and teachers can determine the level of scaffolding appropriate before beginning the text. The following bullets describe the scaffold settings available for this story:

  • Maximum support-“Stop and Think” prompts are multiple choice. Highlighting critical features, models, and hints available. Immediate feedback on responses.
  • Moderate support- “Stop and Think” prompts elicit constructed responses and text revisions to explore author’s craft. Highlighting critical features, models, and hints available. Immediate feedback on text revisions only.
  • Minimal support- “Stop and Think” prompts offer strategy choice and open responses. Students are guided to highlight and collect key elements in the text, thus actively highilghting critical features for themselves.

If you enjoy the UDL Editions by CAST, try exploring CAST’s UDL Lesson Builder and UDL Book Builder.

Anna

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Thinking about formative assessment, RTI, comprehension and your summer holiday?!

This summer Wireless Generation will be hosting its annual Summer Institute in Chicago. If you are interested in learning more about formative assessment, RTI, improving comprehension outcomes and just about everything early literacy and math, this is a great event to attend. Click here to see the brochure.

The keynote speakers for the event are:

  • Dr. Catherine Snow, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education, Harvard University: Ready! Set! Achieve! Understanding How To Improve Reading Comprehension Outcomes
  • Margaret Heritage, Assistant Director for Professional Development, National Center for Research Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA: Making High-Quality, District-Wide School Improvement Decisions
  • Dr. Herbert Ginsburg, Professor, Columbia University Teacher’s College: I Didn’t Know They Knew That! Using Formative Assessment to Promote Children’s Early Math Development
  • Dr. Roland H. Good III, Associate Professor of Psychology, College of Education, University of Oregon; DIBELS® Author: Using Formative Assessment Data to Individualize Instruction: How to Meet Every Student’s Needs

There will even be a session on FreeReading and Literacy is Priceless! What could be better than a nice summer Chicago breeze, a slice of deep dish pizza and stimulating discussions about early literacy and math in July?!

Hope to see you there!

Anna

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Inviting book authors into your classroom

Last week I attended the International Reading Association Annual Conference in Atlanta to present FreeReading. While I was there, I met Nick Glass, founder of TeachingBooks.net. I love the concept behind his site–to invite book authors into your classroom as you read their books! The site states:

TeachingBooks.net specializes in creating original content with award-winning authors and illustrators to enable you to connect with the author the moment you are reading a book — for any subject area you are teaching.

Authors talk about journaling, doing research, bringing history to life, and working with inspiring ideas. Illustrators show techniques they use to create picture books, graphic novels, and more. TeachingBooks.net original content highlights the opportunity for you to have the author as a primary-source resource, sharing the professional work they do.

TeachingBooks.net original content includes:

Although I typically don’t talk about for-fee sites, this one is too good to pass up! To get a glimpse of what the site is about, check out the FREE author name pronunciation guides or start a free trial here.

Happy author studying!

Anna

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Happy National Poetry Month!

It’s National Poetry Month, so why not celebrate with these classics:

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Don’t Bump the Glump, The Giving Tree … Ring a bell?! Who doesn’t have fond memories of curling up with these Shel Silverstein hits! Check out Silverstein’s website! You won’t be disappointed. This site is SO much fun for both children and adults. You can watch animations for each of Silverstein’s books, you can find printables and activities about poetry, and you can try your hand at writing some poetry as well! Click here to start! -Anna


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