Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Just my opinion, but…I hate AR (Accelerated Reader) March 9, 2012

Filed under: independent reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:33 pm
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This is just my opinion, but…I absolutely hate AR (Accelerated Reader)–always have, always will. At least I’m consistent and most people have had to hear me talk about this subject at nauseum. I’m bringing it back up again and here’s why. The past several weeks I have had conversations with one of my own children that have pained me greatly. I’ve managed to bite my tongue with the child, but on a personal and professional level, it was extremely difficult and I can’t keep quiet any longer. I have the research to back up my professional and personal beliefs, as well as personal experience.

I should give you the background that last quarter I took a hands-off approach to my child taking AR tests and he got 50 out of 200 possible points for the quarter–not a stellar result.

I am a fan of reading logs that go back and forth between home and school where students record how long they’ve read and how many pages. You can really learn a lot, both as a reader (or as a prying parent) by looking at how much they accomplish in a home setting compared to a school setting. You won’t always learn the same thing-some kids are consistent between home and school, some will spend 20 minutes “reading” at either home or school and only get 2 pages “read”, while accomplishing 12 at the opposite location. That tells me that at the 2 page location, the student is really distracted or just pretending to read.

I am also a fan of having individual reading conferences with students based on their independent reading and reading log. Not everyday mind you, no teacher is Superwoman, but on a regular basis which becomes even more frequent with reluctant or struggling readers.

So I’ve been riding herd daily on my child about their home reading, ensuring that they take the same independent reading book back and forth between home and school. We read with the child as a model in the same room, we listen to books on tape in the car, we have Kindles, bookshelves full of books, we have conversations about books compared to other books, books to life, etc.

I thought that I had dealt with the issue for this quarter, but based on these conversations, I have not. Here is a sample:

“Mom, I need to read a 11 point book so I have enough points for the quarter. I’m going to search 11 point books on the internet and see what I can pick from.”

“Mom, I need to check the name of a (certain minor) character in my book. The name of a character is the kind of question I am sure to be asked on an AR quiz.”

“Mom, do you know any 7 point books that I can read? Maybe I can buy one on the Kindle.”

me-What about that new series you were so excited to read and you started over the weekend? Child-”Well that doesn’t have enough points so I’m not going to be able to read that AND another book to have enough points for the quarter.”

“Mom, I know I picked out a book to read, but since it’s worth 14 points, I’m going to save it for next quarter because it gets me almost all my points for the whole quarter.”

Never once does said child talk about genre, reading interests, series, or any of the things I consider important and necessary. I’m worried about said child’s reading stamina, their love of reading (or more like their lack thereof), their exposure to multiple genres, some of which should include non-fiction.

In no way do I feel that the 10 AR questions said child is going to have to answer about any given book a good reflection of their comprehension. Nor do I feel that reading for points, pizza (Pizza Hut Book-it–hate it), or any other reward is necessary. Not that I’m above an old-fashioned bribe now and then, but for something so essential to success as an adult, no.

 

Check out this New York Times article about book choice and older kids August 31, 2009

Filed under: independent reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:11 pm
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The Future of Reading:

A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

 

Books for Teachers June 24, 2009

Filed under: books,Calkins,independent reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:25 pm
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I had the privilege (really read-giant blast) of purchasing books for teachers again. I’m not sure there is much greater fun for me in the world! These are books for fourth, fifth, and sixth grade independent reading within classrooms. 

AlvinHoHere are some of the newest gems I am so excited about:

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look

Mudshark by Gary Paulsen

The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

City I Love by Lee Bennett Hopkins

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson 

Billie Standish was Here by Nancy Crocker

Septimus Heap: The Magykal Papers by Angie Sage

 

 I am embracing the idea put forth by Lucy Calkins in The Art of Teaching Reading regarding independent reading-(Oops-you can tell I got distracted during writing. The reference to Calkins’ Chapter 17-September in a 2-8 Grade Reading Workshop: Reading with Stamina and Comprehension)-One of the sections is titled “Reading Easy Books with Understanding”. Calkins recommends that “every teacher of reading starts the year by steadfastly directing children toward reading a lot of easy book, and reading these books fluently and smoothly, with clear comprehension, and at a good pace” (p. 339). Calkins states that this is a TEMPORARY goal-I loved this section! It so clearly puts in words what I have known about students, but had a hard time explaining to parents who fret about their fourth grader loving Babymouse or insisting that they are ready to reading Twilight at the beginning of fourth grade.  Often parents’ sense of self is so tied to their child being a good reader that they have a hard time seeing the trees in the forest. This has continued to be a big issue every year I taught fourth grade.

Calkins also has a great section in this chapter about how often students use their desire to be a good reader by picking books to “read” that showcase their future selves, rather than their current reading selves.  

 

Here are some of the other titles I bought for their classrooms.

Percy Jackson and the Olympiads series by Rick Riordan

The Warriors: Code of the Clans by Erin Hunter

39 Clues Series   

Babymouse Series by Jennifer Holm

Castaways of the Flying Dutchmen series by Brian Jacques

The Mysterious Benedict Society #1 & #2 by Trenton Lee Stewart

Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism Series by Georgia Byng

Patricia Reilly Giff books

 

For my own reading pleasure I picked up When Readers Struggle by Pinnell and Fountas and plan on reading all the new books I can before giving them to the teachers in August. 

My daughter picked News for Dogs by Lois Duncan, the sequel to Hotel for Dogs and The Pocket Daring Book for Girls: Wisdom & Wonder by Andrea Buchanan. news for dogs

My son picked by Roscoe Riley Rules #6: Never Walk in Shoes That Talk by Katherine Applegate, Magic Tree House #34, and The Curious Boy’s Book of Adventure by Sam Martin. He is still obsessed with us reading all the Hardy Boy original books aloud to him, but he sometimes takes a break for other things :)

 

Summer Reading Kick-Off Event May 4, 2009

I admit it. I am obsessed with getting kids to read, and not just read, but I want them hooked on reading like a junkie in an alley.  One of my school friends described me as a Book Geisha, but assured me that she meant that as a compliment.  Since it did make me laugh, I guess I’ll take it. 

Last year I became intrigued with the idea of planning for summer reading after reading an article by Franki Sibberson at Choice Literacy with my fourth graders. I have followed similar lines of thinking when it comes to planning for reading over the year or setting a reading goal for yourself at New Year’s. In many ways, a Book Challenge, is like a plan.

Since I don’t have a classroom this year, but I am still peddling books, I’ve decided on a Summer Reading Kick-Off Event for elementary and intermediate families (kindergarten through sixth grade), as well as inviting local preschool families.  

Here’s how I tried to recruit one friend to help with the event…

Hi R,

Thanks for the fast response. I think I’m looking for someone to bounce ideas off of/partner in crime (without the responsibility of planning the crime). I do have quite a few resources including book lists, tips, etc. but I almost have too much. I need to condense it to parent-friendly usable materials. The last week of May I am a Summer Reading Kick-Off here at GIS with an emphasis on planning for summer reading. I can’t have one at both schools because there isn’t enough of me to go around, but I want to the Family Reading Night/Summer Reading Kick-Off to be of interest to families from both schools. J. Patrick Lewis and Tim Bowers will do a brief intro of their new book First Dog and it will be for sale for autographing, along with an array of books that might make good “summer reading”. I’m even kicking around having choices of “sessions” (15-20 minutes) that are age-appropriate. I want to have book lists, but if 4 or 5 books are highlighted for each age group, I know kids are much more likely to read them versus selecting them off a list.  I’m not out to sell books to everyone, but want to provide a service.

I know how many parents really struggle to get their kids to read over the summer and isn’t not unusual at their age to be willing to try or do something because the “teacher said” versus giving mom or dad a hard time about the exact same thing. I want to give the parents the “teacher said” clout to help them keep their kids reading over the summer.  

I’m also kicking around having an event in August for those who participated in Summer Reading.

What do you think? Thanks for offering to help!

I’ve gone on to try to recruit: the elementary reading specialists to work on something for parents of pre-schoolers and incoming kindergartens; intermediate teachers to host parent-child book clubs; local librarians and I’m not done yet. 

 

Stay tuned as I firm up the details in the next week. It’s not too late to plan one for your school!

 

 

The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser “The Sisters” April 15, 2009

I became a fan of “The Sisters” with their publication for The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence. Even though the book was aimed at more primary students than my fourth graders were, I was game to give some of their strategies a try. I had been a huge proponent of individual reading conferences for many years, but the management of the rest of the class as well as the organization to ensure I was meeting with students in a way that met their needs was still a challenge. The Sisters got me with their quote, “Did those things (centers, projects, worksheets…)just keep our kids busy or were they engaged in literacy tasks that will make a difference in their literate lives.” Their concerns mirrored many of mine.cafe

You can read the entire Cafe Book book online. I made it about halfway through before my copy arrived in the mail Friday.  You can also hear a  blog interview on Stenhouse to see some more information from the sisters. They do also have their own website-part free, most subscription.  

The Cafe system makes record-keeping and organization accessible for teachers who feel often feel overwhelmed by the management of workshop or conferences.

They are coming to Columbus, Ohio this summer for some workshops in conjunction with Choice Literacy and I am thrilled a few of the elementary teachers I work with will be in attendance.  They did a great job presenting at the Dublin Literacy Conference-very engaging and had me laughing quite a bit. My favorite story was from the one sister who tried to make post-it notes into wearable jewelry so she wouldn’t keep losing them. 

Many of us have made their “Pensieve” notebooks and love having all our records in one place. It’s a nice complement to any reading or writing workshop, not just one new thing to try.

 

The Girl Who Could Fly January 25, 2009

girl-could-flyThe Girl Who Could Fly by first-time author, Victoria Forester, is a great book! I really enjoyed the first fifty pages, but  LOVED the next 250ish pages.  

The book was completely different than I anticipated from when I started reading and I LOVE a book that can surprise me! The cover shows a girl in an old-fashioned nightgown and the names of the characters reinforce the idea that the book is set in an “old-fashioned” time or at the least a very rural area.  I’m not implying that the cover or inside flap are misleading, but they don’t give away any of what had me reading compulsively. The school (its name!!), the headmistress, the classmates, the quote the book starts with, etc. make for compelling reading!

I’m torn between wanting to write about it and just telling you that you need to read this book! 

I really enjoyed the character Letitia Hellion who instantly brings to mind  Mrs. Colter from The Golden Compass, (watch out Philip Pullman!). The beauty and smarts that cover up a deviousness you can’t even begin to imagine exists makes Dr. Hellion a character with depth and facets that you’ll just have to read to appreciate.  

I was also reminded of the movie War Games(80s review here) that I  enjoyed when I was in high school. It starred a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and just looking at the review on-line brought back all kinds of 80s nostalgia that I didn’t even know that  I had. 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, dreamalittle421 Jump Street, oh my. 

Well, no matter what happy reading and viewing memories The Girl Who Could Fly brings back for me, you’ll need to read this and find your own. I’m very happy this will be a sixth grade read-aloud, but want to give to every intermediate teacher I know as well as wanting to recommend it to countless young readers. Must. Behave. And. Not. Ruin. A. Potential. Read-aloud.

 

Reading toolbox January 17, 2009

 

 

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