Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the man who walked between the towers

Is it possible this book is not well known? I wanted to use The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein as a read aloud for my tutoring sessions this weekend, seeing as Saturday is 9/11 I thought it would be an excellent chance to use this wonderful picture book. I had forgotten to request  it from the library and had my fingers crossed this evening that there would still be a copy available. I checked Akron-Summit County Library, and sure enough, all 20 plus copies were available.

Maybe the book is so well loved that people have bought their own copies and don't need to check it out from the library. But if that isn't the case, let me introduce you to a Caldecott Award winning piece of literature that honors the tragic events of September 11, 2001 by highlighting the inspiring story of Philippe Petit's 1974 tight rope walk between the World Trade Center towers.  

I love this picture book for the illustrations, poetic text, and inspiring story that urges us to remember the tragedy of 9/11 and the human spirit that enables us to over come all obstacles. If you haven't had a chance to read this book, I highly recommend it. It is an excellent and appropriate choice to read with your children or students this week, and currently there's at least 19 copies available through the Akron Library :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

word study

Word study is a key component of reading instruction - and according to a four blocks approach - should be about one fourth of your literacy instruction.

One way to incorporate word study is through the activity making words. The idea behind making words is to get students actively involved in creating words. Using this kinesthetic, constructivist activity keeps students attention and engaged in word study. (Nice use of edu buzz words, eh?)

Letters (either on cards, written on paper, I like to use magnets)
Surface (paper, table, or I sometimes use a cookie sheet with the letter magnets)

Come up with a "magic word" and from that word, derive smaller words, typically centered around a rime or word family. (ie, I've used the term wheelbarrow and used the rimes are, ole, ow, etc. to come up with words such as howl, owl, bowl, bow, row, etc.)

Determine the order you will have students construct the words, and think of cues. Either state the word you want them to make, or provide a clue to suggest what the words is. As you move through the words, you can say something like rearrange the letters in "bowl" to make the word "blow".

Walk the students through the activity. Let them know that all the letters can be used to make a mystery word. Students like to try and guess what the word is. End the activity with the mystery word.

Make sure the words you are asking students to make are age and reading level appropriate or you'll end up with bored/frustrated kids! Also, make sure that you gauge the attentiveness of the students to keep the activity from running too long.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

10 reasons your student needs more strategies beyond "sound it out"

The English language is a bit complex. Because of the many different origins of English words and the ever evolving nature of the language, students need more tricks-of-the-trade for decoding unknown words than the old mantra "sound it out."

Here's 10 reasons why:

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The soldier decided to desert the dessert in the

4. They were too close to the door to close it.

5. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

6. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

7. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

8. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Many literacy educators are familiar with countless word games - and they're great. I'm sure I'll post about some of my favorites in the future. But I think a lot of us are unfamiliar with wordle. Its a fun website where you use text to create graphics.  All the words use (removing all words except for nouns and verbs) are sized according to the number of times each is used in the text.

Below is an example of a wordle created from the most important sentences of manifestos on the use of multicultural literature in the classroom created in my most recent grad class.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

summer reading & a free book

Border's summer reading program - Double Dog Dare - gives a child under 12 a free book for reading ten books. Check out the link for the details. The free book is restricted to certain titles, but its still a free book! All you have to do is fill out a form you download from the website, read ten books, bring your completed form back to a Border's, and get your free book. Sounds like a great incentive for summer reading!

Monday, June 21, 2010

a window & mirror

I've started a class on multicultural literacy and the analogy used for its importance is a window and a mirror. This analogy, referring to exposing children to literature that reflects back an essence of themselves (a mirror) and provides a safe haven for exploring other cultures (a window) epitomizes why educators ought to search out the best books to engage young readers.

Think back to the first time you remember loving a book. Was it a window and/or a mirror? I would bet so. To really ignite a passion for books, we need to expose readers to those books that are worth being passionate. For an assignment in this class my colleges and I will be compiling a website highlighting some of these books we would like to share with students in the future. We will include both children's and YA lit from 5 regions as well as a sampling from the "new" multicultural categories including religion, gender/sexuality, ability, etc.

I've found a few sites which list some samplings of multicultural literature that might speak well to your student(s) or child.

Celebrating Cultural Diversity through Children's Literature

How to choose the best multicultural books, includes lists for different categories

Lists of books evaluated for the use of urban educators

50 multicultural Books Every Child Should Read

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

kick-off to summer reading

Research has shown over and over how important summer reading is to maintaining progress from year to year. Some schools have gone to year round school in order to shorten the time students are away from the classroom. This is one, but certainly not the only approach to maintaining the skills your child worked so hard to refine during the school year. 

I remember spending my summers playing kick- the-can until dark and riding my bike throughout the neighborhood with a sack lunch looking for an adventure. I also remember I had a friend who lived on the corner of my street that was forced to spend hours of each summer day studying. I would wave to her in her bedroom window as I raced by on my bike. Thankfully, there are simple solutions, beyond year-round school and studying all summer, to keeping reading and writing skills sharp during the three month hiatus.

In fact, the best thing you can do for your child is simply to keep them reading. Let your child choose the material they want to read (that is on their level) and encourage time spent reading. There are many programs that offer incentives. One of which is the make a splash -- READ! program put on by the summit county public library.

overview of the program:
runs from June 7 - July 31, 2010

1. go to your local branch of the summit county public library and fill out a card to join the program
2. each week let your child check out a book
3. your child, with or without your assistance, reads the book
4. return the book and fill out a slip to be entered to win a prize each week
* visit the library 4 out of the 8 weeks the program runs and receive a free McDonald's coupon*