Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Develop Your Students’ Love For Reading

ELL BOSTON4May is Get Caught Reading Month.  Looking for inspiration for readers young and older? The following Annenberg Learner resources will get you started.

Observe 5th-grade teacher Bileni Teklu teach her students to make connections between what they read and their own experiences. The young readers then discuss what they enjoy about reading. Build a strong community of engaged readers using the classroom examples and ideas in Engaging With Literature, A Video Library, Grades 3-5.

Why do you read? Conversations in Literature, for middle school and high school teachers, will inspire you to revisit your passion for literature. Inspire the same love in your students by helping them identify their own effective reading habits. For example, readers “step in” to a text by sizing up the characters and the atmosphere the same way they would in a social situation. See program 3, “Stepping In.”

Glimpse the appeal and power of great literature as celebrities, academics, and people who just love to read talk about their fascination with The Epic of GilgameshPopol VuhOne Hundred Years of Solitude, and more in Invitation to World Literature.

Watch authors Katherine Paterson, Leslie Marmon Silko, and J.K. Rowling discuss literary works that inspired their own writing in the Author Notes, Part III of In Search of the Novel. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the VoD.

More resources for Get Caught Reading Month:

Making Meaning in Literature, Grades 6-8 Library

Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

American Passages: A Literary Survey

Literary Visions

Latino Books Month: Celebrate Great Authors With Students

TML_GracielaLimon

Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens uses a cultural studies approach to help students understand Graciela Limón’s novel Erased Faces about the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico (from The Expanding Canon).

Celebrate the perspectives and writing of great Latino authors with your students during the month of May using the following resources:

Americo Paredes collected “corridos,” songs that narrate the struggles of Mexican heroes against Anglo oppression, and wrote the novel, George Washington Gomez, about a Chicano growing up in the borderlands.  Gloria Anzaldúa’s stories challenge traditional racial, cultural, and gender boundaries.  Both writers are featured in American Passages, unit 2, “Exploring Borderlands.”

Julia Alvarez’s essay “I Want to Be Miss America,” from Something to Declare, describes her Dominican family’s reaction to the pageant and the cultural and racial issues the pageant raised for them. See Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for Middle Grades, workshop 1, “Engagement and Dialogue.”  In the video, watch teacher Carol O’Donnell’s students discuss the work, then share their own writing about a family cultural practice. See summary #7.

Students read and discuss Graciela Limón’s novel Erased Faces about the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. See this cultural studies approach to interpreting a text in The Expanding Canon, session 5, “Cultural Studies: Ishmael Reed and Graciela Limón.”

More resources for Latino Books Month

Invitation to World Literature, program 11, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez

American Passages, unit 12, “Migrant Struggle,” includes authors Rudolfo A. Anaya, Alberto Ríos, Tomas Rivera, and Helena María Viramontes.

American Passages, unit 16, “Search for Identity,” includes authors Sandra Cisneros and Judith Ortiz Cofer.

Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for Middle Grades, workshop 7, “Social Justice and Action,” includes authors Alma Flor Ada and Pam Muñoz Ryan.

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School, session 1, “Reader Response,” My Own True Name by Pat Mora and session 3, “Inquiry,” Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

National Poetry Month: Grab Your Quills and Start Writing

POETRY123rfIt’s Poetry Month! Grab your quills (or laptops) and start writing. When the Academy of American Poets started National Poetry Month in 1996, one of their goals was to assist teachers in bringing poetry to their classrooms. Find activities and resources on the Poets.org site.

Start laying the foundation for young writers by encouraging them to keep a writer’s notebook. Students learn to record their thoughts about their experiences and choose the formats (including poems) to deliver those thoughts. See Inside Writing Communities, Grades 3-5, workshop 2, “Reasons for Writing.”

Teach students to distinguish between poetry and prose. One way to do this is to have students write in layers of drafts until a poem starts to emerge. Find this 5th-grade lesson plan in Write in the Middle, workshop 3, “Teaching Poetry.”

Use poetry to help students connect personal experiences and feelings to themes they are reading about. In a technique called “copy-change,” students follow the form of a published poem, and insert their own words, ideas, and emotions. View the lesson in this classroom video for Teaching ‘The Children of Willesden Lane.’

In program 12, “A Sense of Place: Setting and Character in Poetry,” of Literary Visions, hear readings and discussions of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach, and listen to Maxine Kumin discuss capturing New England landscapes in her poetry.

Emily Dickinson used her science training to write poetic observations of nature. Her life and work are discussed in Voices & Visions.

Students can compare how poets use images of a city to describe the human condition. See question 5 in American Passages, Context Activities for unit 10, “Rhythms in Poetry:” How do Eliot’s London, Sandburg’s Chicago, and Hughes’s Harlem all represent particular interpretations of the city and the modern condition?

For additional poetry resources:

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School, session 1, “Reader Response: Pat Mora and James Welch

Engaging With Literature: A Video Library, Grades 3-5, program 3, “Starting Out

Image Copyright: pixelsaway / 123RF Stock Photo

Using Poetry to Facilitate Discussions

TML_2_GrimesStudents

Poet Nikki Grimes talks with students. Click on this picture to watch the classroom video in Teaching Multicultural Literature.

If you present poetry as if it were castor oil, no one will be interested. Instead, teachers can approach it as something fun, and also explore poetry that connects to the students and their lives (as opposed to choosing poetry that they feel “should” be studied).” – Nikki Grimes, in Teaching Multicultural Literature

Poetry is a type of genre with which many students have a hard time engaging. In fact, it’s also a genre that many teachers struggle to teach, as a result of its complexity and form. I, for one, am one of those teachers. Helping students to decipher lines, tropes, and the meaning of poems, while at the same time keeping the lesson engaging was a struggle for me. Consequently, I was a little worried before the start of a poetry unit that my students would be disengaged from the lesson. As a result, I decided to ask students to bring songs, lyrics, or poems that they enjoyed and that conveyed a special message or meaning to them.

To my great surprise, while many students opted to bring song lyrics, a large number of them shared poems that they liked and that resonated with them. One particular student shared Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.” As she read it, she started tearing up making for a very emotional read.

I asked her about what made her tear up. She answered me with the following, and I will never forget it:

“We’re always put down by society, men, and sometimes those who love us. It’s why I have this on my mirror, it gives me strength every day to walk into the world as a black woman.”

Maya Angelou’s poem resonated with my student and many students who heard it that day, because it touched on what it means to be a woman of colour in society. The poem challenges traditional notions of beauty constructed by society and elevates the beauty of a woman to which we can all relate.

For this lesson I learned three things.

  1. Never underestimate the interest of students in a certain subject area. It might not be a popular subject or theme or unit, but what students might share may allow us to get to know them and understand them.
  2. Poetry, just like literature, has the power to start an open conversation about issues that students care about and that directly touch students’ lives.
  3. By giving students a choice to bring their own examples, I opened room for discussions about topics that are relevant to them. Our particular conversation taught my students about what feminism means and that everyone, not just women, shares a responsibility in advocating for women’s rights.

Facilitating a conversation by teaching poetry began with sharing selections and samples. To help my students start the conversations, I asked them: Why did you choose the piece? What was so special about it? What resonated with you? From there on it’s crucial to build on that conversation through more questioning, inquiry, analysis, and reflections.

In Teaching Multicultural Literature, workshop 2, “Engagement and Dialogue,” read an interview with writer Nikki Grimes about teaching poetry to students. Also explore methods of teaching poetry to help students engage in the work. Find strategies for helping students to connect with the texts they read, and instructions for how to host an open mic event with students.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the experience of teaching poetry and learning with and from students.

Frederick Law Olmsted: Urban Planning as Art

Frederick Law Olmsted / engraved by T. Johnson ; from a photograph by James Notman. LC-USZ62-36895

Frederick Law Olmsted / engraved by T. Johnson ; from a photograph by James Notman. LC-USZ62-36895

In 1857, Frederick Law Olmsted (b.4.26.1822) and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in New York City as a work of art, a space distinct from the urban life. Learn how this park was deliberately designed and constructed with a sensitivity to nature in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”

See the “Lagoon Bird’s-Eye View” photo of Olmsted’s design of the Chicago World’s Fair site in Activity 2: Campaign for World’s Fair 2010 of Primary Sources, workshop 5, “Cans, Coal, and Corporations.” Consider how this city design and the design of Central Park have inspired future urban landscape plans.

Frederick Law Olmsted was also a writer. He wrote about the differences between Northern and Southern societies during the 1850s, and critiqued the slave labor practices of the South vs. the paid labor of the North. Watch the video for A Biography of America, program 9, “Slavery.”

U.S. Thanksgiving Day: Historical Perspective

quakersimagenovupdateThe first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors and allies in 1621. While the holiday is often depicted as emblematic of the American experience, historical records tell a different story about relations between native peoples and European settlers.

The first theme in America’s History in the Making, unit 3, “Colonial Designs,” delves into the period between the 1580s and 1680s when European nations and trading companies competed to establish colonies in North America and define colonists’ relations with Native American tribes.

Learn about the early American settlers, including Puritans and Quakers, and their optimistic plans to create utopian societies in the New World in the video for American Passages, unit 3, “Utopian Promise.”

To spark discussion, questions about conflicting early views and persistent stereotypes of Native Americans can be found in the Context Activities section of this unit.

Authors covered in this unit include William Penn, William Bradford, and Anne Bradstreet.

You Don’t Have to Be an Adult to Write a Novel

notebook stack with coffeeWho says writing novels is just for the adults? November is National Novel Writing Month, when the nonprofit NaNoWriMo challenges adults and children around the world to channel their inner novelist to write that first draft by the end of the month. Students and educators may sign up through NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. Online resources allow students to keep track of their word count and provide prompts and tips to keep creative juices flowing.

Add the following Annenberg Learner programs to your list of novel-writing resources:

  • Where do novels come from? After watching workshop 4 of In Search of the Novel, you will be equipped to create a lesson plan that helps students develop their own stories by connecting imagination, experience, and reflection.
  • It’s easy to think that professional writers just sit down and write a perfect piece on their first attempt. So why does it feel so hard when we (and our students) try to get something, anything, down on paper? One writing strategy is imitation. In workshop 7 of Developing Writers, students read works by different professional writers and then write by imitating the voices of those authors. This imitation helps students develop their own voice by building their confidence.
  • Younger students learn about the crucial elements that make up a story using the fairytale Cinderella in an online interactive. Students explore the function of characters, conflict, and resolution as they break apart this well-known childhood story.

Image: bluelela / 123RF Stock Photo

 

Let Kids Read Whatever They Want!

“You can’t read that.”

“You shouldn’t read that.”

“Why would you read that?”

Leave kids alone. Let them read, for goodness sake!

Well-intentioned adults (teachers and parents) are doing a huge disservice to kids when we doubt their ability to read, when we censor what they read, and when we judge what they read. What happens? Kids stop reading.

We should celebrate that our kids are reading! Especially if they’re reading books (and not scores on video games). We shouldn’t be putting them down.

Isn’t it fabulous that our kids want to challenge themselves with a complex text? It shows initiative. It shows their willingness to grapple. It shows their desire to read more. STOP telling them they can’t read certain books.

Children looking at picture books at school, Santa Clara, Utah. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF35-1326]

Children looking at picture books at school, Santa Clara, Utah. Credit: LOC, Prints & Photographs Division

Isn’t it fabulous that our kids want to read books about controversial or gritty topics? It shows intellectual curiosity. It shows an interest in perspectives and worldviews different from their own. STOP telling them they shouldn’t read certain books.

Isn’t it fabulous that our kids want to read all kinds of books? It shows they’re lovers of many types of writing and storylines instead of book snobs. Who are we to determine what are good and bad books for individual readers? Allow kids to form their own opinions. STOP judging their choices.

How many decisions do you think kids make in a day? We decide what they eat. We decide when they go to school. We decide what they read. We might give them options but ultimately, we decide what those options are. Kids make very few decisions – the ability to choose what they want to read should be one of them.

I take great pleasure in choosing books. One of my favorite things about finishing books is being able to choose the next one. I love being in book clubs because I eventually get to choose the book we read. (I pity the fool who tries to take that decision away from me!)

Instead of denying students the pleasure of choosing books, we should model our passion. Take, for instance, Ms. Bileni Teklu in Engaging With Literature, program 8, “Finding Common Ground.”

“…her students come to love reading because she is not dictating what they must read and when they must read it. These students have few choices in their personal lives, and so are especially appreciative of being able to choose what they read.”

In Classroom Lesson Plan: Independent Reading (also watch  the classroom video here), Ms. Teklu models her own decision-making process with students. She empowers them to make reading choices by sharing her personal experience.

I’m a literacy scholar. I’m a teacher educator. I’m a former classroom teacher. I know we need to teach district-sanctioned instructional materials. I know kids should be reading books at their independent level to build fluency. I know kids should be reading books at their instructional level during guided reading. I know kids should be reading complex texts during read-alouds. Effective literacy instruction requires us to make decisions about what kids read.

But, we should ensure kids have opportunities to choose their own books. And, we shouldn’t make them feel bad about their decisions. The consequences are too great.

New (Online) Literacies for Your Elementary Researchers

TeachRead_5Are your 3rd-5th grade students learning the skills they need to conduct online research? Last year the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey of over 2,000 advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers to determine their perspectives on students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.

The survey report How Teens Do Research in the Digital World concludes that virtually all (99%) survey participants agree “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available.” At the same time, a significant majority of these teachers strongly agreed that students expect to be able to find information quickly and easily using the internet. 83% felt that the amount of information available online is overwhelming to most students. 71% agreed that today’s technologies discourage students from using a wide range of resources for their research. 60% agreed that these technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information.

There’s a lot that 3rd to 5th grade teachers can do give students the foundational skills they need to tackle rigorous research projects throughout their academic careers AND address the Common Core State Standards that concern informational text:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.8 Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Check out session 5, “New Literacies of the Internet,” in the video workshop Teaching Reading 3-5. In the video, Donald Leu of the University of Connecticut clarifies some of the differences between reading narrative text and reading informational text, and then defines five skill areas that students need to draw on to learn from online information.

  1. Identifying important questions: In the video you’ll see educators helping students generate questions on topics such as global warming and colonial American history. Good questions lead to good searches.
  2. Searching for information: Young researchers can too easily get in the habit of clicking on anything that turns up on a search results page. The teachers in the session 5 video walk students through taking a close look at search result summaries to make inferences about which sites will be the most useful.
  3. Analyzing and evaluating information: You can learn a lot from an “About Us” page. When was the information created? Who created it and why?
  4. Synthesizing information: Dr. Leu points out that synthesis is different on the internet. In print, the text is contained. Online, the text is constructed as students navigate from link to link. Skimming and scanning with purpose are important here. Students need to practice monitoring themselves to keep from getting distracted from their purpose for reading. Graphic organizers to the rescue!
  5. Communicating information: Students can practice safe and authentic online communications by sharing their research efforts with other students. How about 3rd graders creating a shared list of the “best” sites for learning about Egyptian civilization?

You can use the session’s Literacy Practice Portfolio to reflect on your current practice and to plan for implementing new techniques. And when today’s third grader astonishes his future AP teacher with his online research acumen, you will hear distant applause.

 

Monday Motivation: Teaching Kindergartners to be Story-Tellers

Arts_Bringing Artists_warmups In The Arts in Every Classroom, “Bringing Artists to Your Community,” theatre artist Birgitta De Pree involves a kindergarten class in a storytelling activity that engages the imagination while reinforcing story structure skills. She warms the students up with activities that relax them and build trust. Watch the video until 14:00. While Ms. De Pree served as an artist-in-residence in the school, these engaging activities can be adapted by any language arts teacher willing to take on the role.