Category Archives: Books

War

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2018 was presented by a group from Richardson ISD.  #4CoresonFire focused on some cross-curricular activities using tools that I’ve used before.  However, I got some great integration ideas I hadn’t thought of – which makes the session a success in my book.

One of the teachers described how she had used StoryCorps and Newsela to start a unit about the Civil War.  (Here are my previous posts on StoryCorps and Newsela.)  I starred my notes wildly as she spoke; this is my secret code for, “USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO SCHOOL!”  My 5th graders were about to read the chapter in The Giver that describes Jonas’ first introduction to the concept of war, and I knew these would be great connections.

In the lesson described at TCEA, the teachers posed the question, “When do the costs of war outweigh the benefits?”  Their students discussed this, and then watched, “The Nature of War” on StoryCorps.  After a post-video discussion, the students read an article about the Civil War in Newsela (you do need to register for free to read the articles).  Then they launched into a study of the Civil War in their history class.

I tweaked the lesson to use with The Giver.  I used Pear Deck to give an interactive, student-paced lesson.  Here is the link.  If you want to use the presentation as intended, you will need to register for Pear Deck.  You can find out more about Pear Deck, as well as a link to get a premium code that lasts the rest of this school year, here.  Also, the StoryCorps video link is embedded.  Do to our district filters, students had to log in to YouTube on a separate tab before they were able to watch the video on their own devices.

I chose to use an article from Newsela about, “Just War Theory.”  Student responses at the end of the presentation varied widely from their initial ideas about whether or not war is ever justified.  Many of them agreed with the quote I posted at the end about war being banished from the earth – until I brought up The Giver.  There is no war anymore in this dystopian world, but there is also no freedom.

Is it possible to banish war without giving up most of our freedom?

That was a discussion that definitely engaged the class!

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Wonder Hyperdoc

If you haven’t been formally introduced to Hyperdocs, you may want to check out this post from last year.  Michele Waggoner tweeted out a link this week to an incredible Hyperdoc using Google Slides.  The Hyperdoc is to be used for a literature circle activity based on the book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.  It embeds Depth and Complexity into this collaborative presentation using David Chung’s ideas for literature circle frames.  This doc is 139 slides long, and gives students many opportunities to do meaningful reflections, activities, and discussions.  It looks like Michele put weeks of work into preparing this, and I, for one, am grateful she is sharing it with the world!

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slide from Michele Waggoner’s Hyperdoc

Holiday Ethics Lessons for Primary Students

One of my favorite activities posted on Joelle Trayers’ Not Just Child’s Play blog is the lesson she does with her Kindergarten students on ethics using The Gingerbread Man story. “Ethics” is one of Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity icons, and an excellent way to take a topic to the Analyzing and the Evaluating levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I think that we spend a lot of time in school teaching students right from wrong, but we forget to tell them that not everyone agrees on what is right and wrong.  It can be shocking to a child to discover that her own judgment differs from someone else’s when it comes to morality, and it’s important for kids to learn to question the “obvious” and consider other perspectives.

Trayers also recently posted, “In Defense of Grinch,” which was a lesson where her students explained why the Grinch should not be put in jail for stealing the gifts.  With older classes, you could have students argue both sides.

Another good holiday ethics lesson could be done with the video, “The Snowman.”    Asking if the snowman should have saved the rabbit would be too simple, but “Should the snowman have kept the carrot at the end or given it to the rabbits?” could probably generate some good controversy in your classroom.

Speaking of snowmen, should Frosty have gotten a ticket for ignoring the traffic cop?

Of course fiction does not have to be your only resource.  Newsela (free to register) has lots of great news articles that I have used in the classroom for ethics discussions.  When we discuss the juxtaposition between freedom and safety in my class, I like to use, “Some Cities Say Sledding Too Dangerous.”

For a few more ethics resources, you can find a free animated video about ethics on BrainPop (most suitable for 2nd-5th grades) and Teaching Children Philosophy has a list of children’s books that you can use for teaching ethics, along with suggested discussion questions.

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image from Pixabay

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

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Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we are in November already.  The day after Halloween, my satellite radio station was already touting their Christmas music stations.  I still have cobwebs all over my house.  However, I do have Christmas lights kind of up because we did a Stranger Things themed Halloween party.  So, that worked out well.

Anyway, as you can see from the blurb above, I am back to doing my weekly “Gifts for the Gifted” column, which might seem like I am caving to the commercialism of the season.  I don’t really have a defense for that, so I’m just going to move on to this week’s recommendation.

I wrote a poetic post about this poetry book earlier this month.  (I wouldn’t read it, if I were you – my post, I mean.  It’s a poor excuse for a poem.)  Chris Harris’ poetry is much better than mine.  My students from 1st-5th roll on the floor when I read them, “The Old Woman Who Lived in Achoo.”  They raise their eyebrows at the title poem, “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming.” (How can this person be so daft as to not know simple rhyming words?!!) From the cover jacket to the last page, this book defies the rules of poetry, indexes, dedications, and acknowledgements.

But don’t take my word for how great this book is.  To read more about the book and Chris Harris, check out this article from Publishers Weekly.

If you are looking for a good gift for an elementary school student, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is a great choice.  And do yourself a favor – don’t let the recipient read it independently the first time.  Sit with him or her, and read it out loud.  Just give yourself ample time because neither one of you is going to want to stop.

If you are reading this in time, and live near Austin, TX, Chris Harris will be at the Texas Book Festival on 11/4/17, reading out loud and signing books.  An even better gift than this book would be this book signed by the author!

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I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

If you think it’s rotten to be sad,

Here’s a book to make you glad.

Chris Harris tried to write a poem.

(It’s okay if you don’t really know him.)

In truth he wrote more than one,

(poem)

And they are more than just a little fun.

(not ho hum)

Lane Smith did every illustration,

Except maybe went on vacation

For the “Alphabet Book” portion –

Kind of a surprise distortion

Of what you might have expected,

But let’s not get redirected.

From author’s note to the last rhyme,

Read and laugh and postpone bedtime.

Your kids will love this cheerful book

More than a chef loves to bake.

I highly recommend I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith, for your child or your classroom.  It’s clever and fun, a refreshing book that will make you smile.  To hear more, you can listen to Harris’ interview with Scott Simon on NPR here.

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Purchase the book here

 

storymamas

As pretty much anyone who attends an ISTE conference will tell you, one of the most important features of the entire event is the connections that you make.  With the explosion of social media many educators have been able to find like-minded colleagues around the globe through Twitter chats, Facebook Posts, or blogging.  But when 20,000 of these people convene in a single city, these bonds can be strengthened as we get to meet each other in-person.

Two of the people I was fortunate to meet up with this week happen to be 2/3 of the storymamas team, Kim and Ashley.  These two, along with their friend Courtney, are the women behind the storymamas blog, a site dedicated to sharing book recommendations for children.  The three all have elementary school experience, and coincidentally they each have 2 children. (Did you have the second one three months ago, Kim, just to even things out?) As soon as I met Kim and Ashley, I knew that we all shared the same passion for reading and education, which definitely makes this an ISTE connection worth celebrating.  If I could just get them in the same room with my Twitter/Blog pal, Joelle Trayers, I think we might become a new alternative source of energy 😉

What is great about storymamas (besides the cool people who created it) is that the blog is a great resource for busy teachers and mothers who are looking for new children’s literature.  Now that my daughter is a teenager and stubbornly choosing to decide her own reading materials, I don’t find myself in the children’s book section very often.  It’s nice to have another place to get ideas for books to use with my younger grade levels.  I also like that they include author interviews on the blog with 3 questions about the story and 3 questions about the author.

So, want great new book ideas and insights into what makes writers tick?  Check out storymamas.  You can also find them on Twitter and Instagram at @storymamas, #storymamasbookaday & #authorsaturday

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Cultivating Communication in the Classroom

In this recent article from Huffington Post, the writer poses the following questions to students preparing for their future careers:

  • “Are you adaptable?
  • Can you quickly learn a new skill?
  • Can you draw on different, seemingly unrelated knowledge and then connect that knowledge in a meaningful, creative and effective way?
  • Can you throw yourself into a job or career and learn quickly without needing a supervisor to hold your hand?”

In essence, employers are rarely interested in how well potential employees can memorize or fill in the right bubbles on standardized tests, but in their abilities to be flexible problem solvers who are able to leverage available resources (or create new ones) to meet unprecedented challenges.

Lisa Johnson’s new book, Cultivating Communication in the Classroom, offers teachers tools they can use to prepare secondary students so that they will thrive in the “real” world that will envelop them after high school, and be able to answer the each of the above questions with a confident, “Yes!”

Lisa Johnson is well known in the ed-tech community as TechChef4U.  As an instructional technologist, writer, presenter, and even jewelry-maker, Lisa’s creativity and massive portfolio of shared resources have already made a huge impact on innovative educational practices.  She continues to add to her legacy with her new book, a practical but fun guide to infusing curriculum with important 21st century skills.

In each of the 7 chapters in Johnson’s book, you will find great visuals, industry insights on the value of each topic, and plenty of use-it-right-now resources.  One of the unique features is the inclusion of  “Communication Catchers,” which can be printed and folded just like those fortune tellers that seem to fall in and out of fashion as often as tides ebb and flow.  The Communication Catchers, designed for student use, are great tools for reflection and review of the key topics covered in the book.

Throughout chapters on topics such as e-mail etiquette and social media involvement, Johnson is careful to remind us that educators who ignore or ban technology in the classroom will not be doing their students any favors.  Instead, we should be teaching our students how they can benefit from responsible use of unlimited information and the ability to communicate in so many ways.

Although Johnson’s book is targeted for a secondary audience of teachers and students, much of it can easily be adapted to students in higher elementary as well.  To be honest, many adults, whether or not they are educators, could benefit quite a bit from its wisdom.  I would even recommend this book to parents so they can guide their children through the complexities of our digital age.

If you want to learn more about how to prepare your students for a world that requires critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication, then I highly recommend you purchase and read Cultivating Communication in the Classroom by Lisa Johnson.

Full Disclosure: I did receive a digital copy of this book to review.  However I received no compensation, and all opinions are my own.

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Click here to purchase.