Sunday, July 17, 2016

DigiLit Sunday - Digital Multigenre Projects

I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.

     Margaret has taken an hiatus away from DigiLit Sunday because of her travels to Africa.  She's back now and sharing her amazing adventure.  When she gets back to DigiLit Sundays, I'll link up then, but I've been meaning to chronicle a wonderful 6th grade project that we did at the end of the year, so I wanted to do that before the summer got away in case anyone wanted to put something like this on their radar this school year.

     Recently, Megan Ginther and I presented at the OCTELA (Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts) spring conference in Columbus.  Our session was on Exploring Fear and Courage in History Through Multigenre Projects.  I've been doing multigenre projects with students since 2005.  When I first started, I gave students choice in whatever topic they'd like to explore.  One year I had students choose a U.S. President to go with a social studies unit, and Megan has had students do some on the Titanic.  A friend and colleague has students do a multigenre memoir in a binder form.  I've always had students use trifolds.

     After presenting our session, we opened up to questions and discussion, and we started to think about digital options since now we are moving toward 21st Century Skills and beginning to have 1:1 technology in our classrooms. Several educators in the session gave suggestions for digital tools that would work well.  I love when you go to present a session, and you end up learning from those who attend!! Teaching is all about collaboration!  I decided to take those ideas back to the classroom later that spring.

     Because of the unique characteristics of my gifted program, May is a crazy time in my classroom.  Not that it isn't for everyone, but my class is a pull-out gifted ELA class, so many times homerooms and teams don't send their kids because of special activities at the end of the year.  This poses a conundrum that I've been trying to solve since I started.  I still need my students to be engaged, challenged, and learning, but they don't always come every day, so it's much better to have something completely student-driven and high-interest as opposed to direct teaching.  Our ELA department teaches in themes (I also teach with literacy contracts), and I have my students for two years, so they've had a lot of experience with many themes and contracts.  In 2015, I experimented with having my 6th graders choose their own themes (they can't choose one we've already explored) and write their own contracts, complete with self-selected text sets and projects.  I loved how engaged the contracts kept them, and I was amazed by their themes and projects.  This year, I decided to do the same, only have their projects be multigenre and digital.  This worked well because they were already doing big History Day Projects on trifolds.  They didn't need another trifold project!  I decided on Thinglink to help them put these together (in the future, I will give them a choice in what digital tool to use, also).  They chose their own groups, themes, text sets, and they were on their way! I was thrilled with the result!! They were required to include one created genre for each member in the group and 4 found ones.  They had to include explanations for each.  One extra created genre had to be a mind map, which they generated as a group.  They used Mindmeister for those and linked them.  The mind map had to include 10 major concepts with 3 sub-concepts for each.  It had to show evidence of their reading and media finds. Take a look and let me know if you have further ideas for multigenre projects!











Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Nonfiction Wednesday - Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies


I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the fifth year in a row!

     In lieu of featuring nonfiction picture books this week, I thought I'd share a professional book I'm reading and an online book study in which I'm participating.  I appreciate Beers' and Probst's senses of humor, self-deprecation (I appreciate their realness in reporting their interactions with students), and simple yet thorough way of presenting their material.  Because we are all "encouraged" to be teaching more nonfiction, and therefore, our students are reading more nonfiction (I would assume), we need more strategies for helping our students with healthy skepticism (p. 146).  Is the nonfiction they're reading actually true, or is the author intruding upon our world with his own agenda (pp. 39-40)?  Beers and Probst encourage us to teach kids this distinction. 

     Because I teach gifted students, I agree with the authors' assertion that the "least skilled and most skilled readers tend to see the fewest signposts."  They go on to say, "Our most skilled are often fast readers and, grasping the big meaning, rush right past the details that we want students to notice."  So true!  I look forward to using some of the strategies offered in this book this fall.

     One of my big takeaways so far (I'm on page 148) is that the kind of critical thinking Beers and Probst encourage us to teach will stretch kids' thinking and help them challenge any assumptions/opinions they may already have.  In this current cultural climate, I think this is huge.  This is not to say their assumptions or opinions aren't okay or correct, it just makes kids read widely and deeply to either validate their thinking or possibly change it.  The struggle to get kids to acknowledge anything that challenges them seems to be pervasive among adults as well. Not just "other" adults, but me! I have to think deeply about whether or not I allow myself to be challenged by different thinking before I can expect my students to do so. It's an incredibly sophisticated way of reading. How many adults do you know that only watch a certain news show or read a certain newspaper because it already reflects their thinking? This may be okay if those adults have already explored the various sides of an issue, but not if it is a knee-jerk reaction or a reflection of hearing someone else talk/write about it.   If we can get kids to open their minds early in the game (and I don't mean "open" as non-decisive or passive, but as open to new/different thinking), maybe we can hope for a better future! I think it would be important to let kids know that we adults struggle with this, too. I hear Extreme or Absolute Language (signpost 2) coming from my students often, so if they're taught to recognize and analyze this kind of language, it may help them realize that it doesn't always reflect the truth.

     A teacher extraordinaire from a nearby district, Heidi Weber, is offering a free online book study for anyone who would like to work through this book this summer.  It's not too late to jump in!  We'd love to hear from more educators and their thinking on the big questions and signposts Beers and Probst teach us.  If you're interested, click here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Slice of Life - Conference Envy


 I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a                                                                        story, reflection, or musing.

First Nerdy gathering at the original 2013 nErDcamp - it's certainly grown since then!

The power team! 2013

What's a literacy conference without book shopping?  Janet Frost, Louise Borden, and I stopped at Bookbug on the way home. 2013

Arrival night gathering 2015

Day one at the 2015 nErDcamp

     Usually, I love the Facebook feature of memories popping up each day, but this week, it's just reminding me of what I'm missing!  It's always an opportunity cost to figure out which literacy conferences/workshops/camps/retreats to attend throughout the year.  The choices are rich in learning and experiences.  My favorites in the past have been the NCTE Annual Convention, the OCTELA (Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts) spring conference, Dublin Literacy, the Choice Literacy Writing Retreat, OMLA (Ohio Middle Level Association), and nErDcamp.  My cohort, when she can come with me or I with her, is Megan Ginther.  We love attending these events together, and usually co-present. My Slice of Life about our escapades together can be read here

     Unfortunately, we just can't attend all of them - money, time, and family obligations keep us from going to every one.  This summer, we decided we wanted to go to All Write in Warsaw, IN for the first time.  Because of that, we decided to skip nErDcamp.  Both were several hours away, and we had other trips with our families planned, so it was difficult to go to both.  However, seeing the pictures of the surprise speaker and guest, Kate DiCamillo, and all the tweets of learning going on, I'm having conference envy!  Fortunately, I can follow on social media, and the folks at nErDcamp usually put together all the resources from the camp for those who can't be there, but's not the same.  I think I'm going to have to go back next summer!!