Sunday, May 10, 2009

Talking about Books Using Book Clubs to Foster Adolescent Literacy and a Love of Reading in Class, Outside of Class, and for Life

Presenters: Deborah Appleman, Carleton College
Carol Jago,,

Deborah Appleman is professor of educational studies and director of the Summer Writing Program at Carleton College. She also serves as the Associate Director of the American studies department. Professor Appleman is on sabbatical for the 2008-2009 academic year. She is teaching college-level language and literature courses at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater for inmates who are interested in pursing post-secondary education. (Inmates can earn an associate's degree while incarcerated.)

Carol Jago is a teacher with 32 years of experience at Santa Monica High School in California. The author of nine books on education, she continues to share her experiences as a writer and as a speaker at conferences and seminars across the country.

The speakers were so qualified to deliver this presentation as you can tell from some of their published works above. They inspired all of us to start a club before school, after school and even on weekends. The conversations they shared of the students were so empowering. Below is their suggestions of kick starting a book club. Check it out!!

Opening and Closing Questions
Getting Started: Some Suggestions for Opening Book Club Conversations
"Book Club is not my classroom. Book Club is not my classroom. Book Club is not my classroom." I love discussions with students about books and ideas where ever they happen, but I have to remember that the Book Club is designed to be a different experience than students have in class.

Here are some questions to get you started. Many of them are like the questions we ask in our classrooms. Maybe the difference is that since we have only a half hour or so, we really need to stay on the sidelines. One or two of these and kids will take off on their own. (In some cases I've tied the question to one of the books we've read.)

Questions about characters:
How does Susie (or_______) surprise you? Lovely Bones
What seems to be _______'s most important characteristic?
Does this character seem familiar? How is he or she like or unlike you? Getting In
What does it mean to be a winner? --in this book? To you? It’s Not About the Bike, In These Girls Hope
is a Muscle
What would it be like to have to fight so hard to learn? What was it like for these boys? Balzac and the
Little Chinese Seamstress
How (or why) has the author used a figure from popular culture to explore philosophy? Is he effective?
Simpsons, Tao of Pooh
Who do you like best (or least) in this book?
Who is the most important participator in the story?
What does _______ (main character or someone else) believe?
Questions about conflict:
What is the most important problem in the book?
Why is the story resolved in this way?
Would you have done what the character did? Did you like (approve of, disapprove of) the decision of
What does _______ have to say in this book (a character or the author)? What do you think about that
What are the "rules" of this world? Would you like to live there?
What idea or character do you think the other is most interested in? Who or what were you most interested in?
Was the book interesting (entertaining, important)? Why or why not?
What made the book worth reading? Worth discussing?
What did you find important in the text? (Or surprising? Or reassuring? Or troubling?)
How did you feel about a character, the end, a decision the character made.
What does mean to you. (Heaven if you read Lovely Bones, for example. Or getting into college if you read I Getting In. Or winning if your read Lance Armstrong or In These Girls Hope is a Muscle.)
Possibilities for students to bring to book club
Bring one important question that has to do with a character (or the problem, or the end of the work) to
talk about.
Bring a line or passage you really want to talk about to Book Club.
Transcript Excerpts
Deborah Appleman, Carleton College
Deep Talk- Discussing the Tao of Pooh
In book clubs, students seem willing to offer their perspective on themselves, on high school, and on life in general in ways
that feel more authentic and more substantive than what sometimes happens in class talk. Consider, for example, the following excerpt from a discussion of The Tao of Pooh:

Student 1: Well, I really enjoyed, like on page 112 of the same chapter that talks about how “enjoyment of the process is the secret that erases the myths of the Great Reward and Saving Time.” It just like shows, like, every year we go through Christmas and you just anticipate the gifts, but then once it’s over you’re just back where you started.
But that anticipation is the part that is the most fun. So it’s kind of not necessarily the reward, but the time before it.
I like that idea.
Like everyone just goes through high school and tries to get good grades, so that they can get into a good college.
But high school is four years of your life that you could be enjoying. Obviously, that doesn’t stop you from enjoying necessarily, but if you focused more on enjoying the process of your life… That doesn’t mean don’t work, but it just means, like, enjoy where you are right now. I think, you know, that people would be a lot happier.
Student 3: I thought Katie brought up an interesting point about how he shows contrast between Pooh and the Chinese proverbs. On page 68 and 69 when he’s talking about the Wu Wei, he says, “Literally, Wu Wei means without doing, causing, or making,” and then he kind of talks about that. Then, right at the bottom, he says, “Let’s take an example from the writing of Chuang-Tse,” and then right after that on the next page he goes, “Now look at the most effortless bear we’ve ever seen” and then he goes through examples of Pooh. I think it’s cool how he can, like, show the contrast and show the parallels between those two. I think it’s interesting.
Student 4: Well, what you where saying about high school, I though that was one of the most interesting things too.
And my favorite passage was, “ ‘It is today, sweet Piglet, my favorite day’ says Pooh” and that everyday could be his favorite day. And he just enjoys it. That would be incredible to embrace, and that’s what I like best about the book.
Flying On Their Own: An excerpt from the The Kite Runner conversation
What follows now is an extended exchange between two students. This exchange is particularly noteworthy for those skeptics who might be tempted to conclude that book club discourse merely changes the setting for participants who always dominate, in almost monologic turns. As Marshall (1991) points out, most classroom talk is comprised of student-teacher turns. Here
there is a sustained exchange with no mediating adult.
Student 1: I mean, didn’t he try to put him in the orphanage after he saved his life? It’s just ridiculous how much he
owed this boy and he still did that.
Student 2: But wasn’t the whole point of putting him into the orphanage that he could help him to escape?
Student 1: Yeah, but I mean, come on, you can’t have children and your wife really wants a kid an you find a blood
relative, this little boy, who is sweet and you owe him a ton, I mean…
Student 2: He was trying to get him out, though.
Student 1: No, that’s good, but after his friend like came to Pakistan…
Student 2: But how’s he supposed to know before that he was a relative…
Student 1: No, but once he knew, he’s like, ooh, I just made the decision…
Student 2: But how would you react to that?
Student 1: I know it’s scary, but…
Student 2: It’s one of those situations that its hard to know. It’s hard to judge his moral decisions in that extreme circumstance that none of us has ever had to experience.
The conversation then resumes with other participants.
Student 6: Personally, I think Amir was kind of afraid to take Hassan’s son into his home because that would be a constant reminder of everything, all the things that happened in his childhood. And how much Hassan suffered for him, because he looked exactly like Hassan. I mean, don’t you think it would be kind of hard to go back and accept
this child who would be a constant reminder every day that you let Hassan get raped. I think that would be really hard. I think he had the chance to redeem himself, but it was just really hard.
Student 7: Do you guys think it made it more believable that he first didn’t think he should take him back, or do you think it would have been more believable if he had instantly though this is my future son.
Student 4: Well, it kind of goes along with how he isn’t really an adult yet. Well, he is an adult, he does go to Pakistan and decides to go into Afghanistan, but still he’s not, like, all the way there yet. I think he doesn’t want to be reminded of what he did and doesn’t want to take him home now, but once his journey is over, ideally, he should take Hassan back. And he should have to look at him and deal with what he did, and he just kind of owes him.
Student 2: I agree, like, I don’t want to sound too harsh, ’cause I did like the book. I think you are right. I think he was afraid of that reminder, but that is kind of weak. He saw what the orphanages were like, but if he couldn’t look beyond himself in that extreme of a circumstance, then that’s not that good of him. But, that said, I don’t think the author was trying to make him an awful person. It think a lot of it was to keep things going.
Student 6: And also, he’s only human too. It’s so much easier for someone on the outside, and most of us will never
be in that situation, hopefully. I think that just helped his character development, because at first you hate him because you know that he should take this boy back with him. And he doesn’t. But I think it is important to remember that Amir is only human, and that’s just something to keep in mind.
Student 8: I think Amir is portrayed pretty realistically in his selfishness and his fear of the unknown. Amir is really grappling with his past and his life.
Student 1: I think this book gets a lot of its effectiveness because Amir can’t really be blamed for all his shortcomings. He’s living an easy life, even though he’s growing up in Afghanistan. For us that’s, like, rough. But
he’s got this nice house, he’s an only child, his father takes him on trips, he gets to escape to the U.S. even though
that was kind of hard. I mean, you know, basically, even though he’s had life probably a lot more rough than we’ve had, it’s easier to understand him because, I mean, personally, I’ve had everything in life handed to me, like, on a
silver platter. Like, I have everything. And I think Amir kind of has that same kind of thing going for him and that kind of is what makes him who he is. If we think about it, we can see a lot of ourselves in him.
I think maybe that is why I have so much scorn for him, because I see exactly what I hate, not hate, but what I don’t like in myself, and what people maybe see in the mirror, and it just makes you think because there’s always something worse, there’s always somebody worse off. I think, reading the book we all kind of thought, just go into Afghanistan, even if you die it’s worth it. But, like everybody says, if you are faced with that decision, what are you going to do?
Teacher: But what do you do with the circumstances that you’ve heard? That’s what you’re talking about. Like, not to your credit or your fault that you are here and he is there? What do you think the book suggests about that?
Student 1: I don’t think Amir shows what we should do, rather more what we should try to avoid. Not that he screwed up entirely. But, um, I think Amir did do some good things. I’m gonna follow my dream and be a writer. He didn’t let his father make him do something he didn’t want to do. And he did take advantage of his opportunities as far as, like, education goes. But I think he lost sight of a lot of things, and I think that is what happens to everybody.
Student 7: Amir was really just able to accept things without standing up for others. And you need to balance those two. You need to be able to stand up for yourself, but Amir was really stunted ’cause he wasn’t able to stand up for others. So I think you need, like, both, in order to be the ideal person.
Student 5: But I think the book is saying there is no such thing as the ideal person. Because, the Hassan boy listens to everyone and obeys everyone, but he can’t stand up for himself. And Amir can’t stand up for others. And at the end he realizes that Baba made mistakes too. So he talked all about this human nature stuff, everyone makes mistakes, so that is really an inherent theme in this book.
Student 6: I think this book isn’t about courage but is about regular people who have human flaws, and they all make mistakes and I think this book is about how they try to deal with these mistakes.
Student 1: Then, what’s it really telling us to do? You know, Amir is really just trying to forget about it and leave, but it keeps coming back to bite him. So how do I compensate for all the chances and luck that I’ve been given? Like, what am I supposed to do?
Student 6: You have to just do to the best of your human nature. You can’t always do what the ideal person reading the book of your life would do. But, like, you just have to try, ’cause once you do something it’s done, you can’t go back and change that.
Student 1: Still, at the time you could change it. That’s what kind of irks me. I’ve always thought you can have your past and you can make mistakes but you have to get over them. So in that respect, I’m Amir, you know I was just trying to like, okay I screwed up, I was 12, trying to get over that, but in that respect, I am stuck.
Student 8: I think what you were saying about what do I do to compensate for all the things I have in my life… I am now just thinking about when you make a mistake, no matter how much good you do afterward, it doesn’t necessarily make the mistake you made any easier to deal with or more justified.

Not Your Everyday Book of the Month: Taking Reader's Beyond the Binding

Last year KK Cherney and I were contacted by children's book author Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrator Henry Cole about presenting our school's book the month work with them at IRA. Our presentation focused on how a piece of children's literature can be paired with an adult professional text to deliver strategies to a faculty or classroom of students. We also illustrated how combining the forces of a school team with the works of an author and illustrator can impact engagement for both teachers and students. Our Symposium was held on Thursday afternoon and while the crowd was small I can absolutely say it was a pleasure to work with KK, Pam and Henry. Thanks to Melanie Holtsman we were able to unvail our Chets Creek Book of the Month Wiki and showcase Pam and Henry's latest book The Old House. We even got a sneak peak at their newest, soon to be published, collaboration - stay tuned for some "perfectly piggy" fun!

The Newest from the New Standards Project

One of the real highlights from the trip for me was getting to hear the latest research behind the new publications from the New Standards movement. Their newest findings about how students in the later elementary years acquire the all important skills they need for comprehension and written expression have been published in the work Reading and Writing With Understanding: Comprehension in the Fourth and Fifth Grades, by America's Choice's Sally Hampton and University of Pittsburgh's Dr. Lauren Resnick. (This team also revised the Reading and Writing Grade by Grade book that has served as our standards bible for the last ten years.) This newest work develops the new Science of Reading which involves determining how students think as they are learning and provides ideas for use in the classroom, examples of student performance and detailed commentaries. Harvard's Graduate Scool of Education's Dr. Catherine Snow also shared the latest research that went into a revision of the Speaking and Listening for Preschoool through Third Grade standards. Practice of oral language skills and the need for meaningful accountable talk was reiterated as a way of building a student's experiences that will carry over to their reading and writing experiences. In my opinion these are must have professional reads in continuing to develop teacher insight and meaningful literacy experiences for students.

Interactive Read Aloud: Developing thoughtful readers, thinkers, speakers and writiers

Marica Uretsky and Martha Heller-Winokur presented work on how important talk around read alouds is to strengthening comprehension from their book Fourth Grade Writers: Units of Study to Help Students Internalize and Apply Strategies. They maintain that teaching children to think through text by providing structured opportunities in the classroom is essential in teaching reading. Teachers must pick the right text, teach students how to converse and allow for the exploration , debate and sharing of all ideas. Good topics for interactive read aloud include those that teach lessons on life, behavior, history or humanity. Interactive Read Alouds take planning and careful questioning on the teacher's part and a classroom that has the ground rules established for students to participate in meaningful accountable talk.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Could this be a dream?

Books, Books everywhere!
Another one of the benefits of attending any convention is having the opportunity of visiting the exhibit hall. Not just an ordinary exhibit hall selling their wares but one that is almost too much for a "book junkie" like me.

The International Reading Association exhibit hall is a little bit different. For example, can you imagine walking down an aisle of the hall and bumping into an author like Bruce Lansky or Pamela Duncan Edwards? It happens here, that's for sure. It is delightful to flitter from booth to booth and see the latest, greatest in literature. The icing on the cake is to happen upon an author/ illustrator signing.
As a elementary school media specialist, one would think they had died and gone to "literature" heaven. Are you book lovers salivating yet?

My mission on this particular day was directed by thoughts of my "math coaches and math teams" back home. I had decided before I left for Minn. MN. that I would have math books on my radar and I would not dissappoint them this school year. So I leave with you a sneak peak of a few titles in my bag.

Featured Authors: Betsy Franco and Debra Fraiser

Refresh your math, science and creative writing ideas with tips from author Betsy Franco (her biography).
I loved how Betsy introduced herself and her family. Her family are all featured artists and very much involved with her works. For example in her first young adult novel, METAMORPHOSIS, from Candlewick Press in October 2009, her sculptor son Tom is the illustrator, and her actor sons, James and Dave, read the audio version!

She was animated and excited about her works for children. Her mission today was to share her books as a support tool for the subjects of math and science. Once she modeled the creation of her books she shared the works of children by displaying what the children created using her style with other topics of math, poetry, and science. I found this great interview posted by Paticia Newman and I think you will understand this author/illustrator a little bit better after reading it.
Interview with Betsy Franco

Betsy's Website

Debra Fraiser presented Books in the Classroom-What Happens After Reading?
She shared how schools across the United States of America have extended her books with individual projects or full school events.
Her site is rich with resources and ALA awarded this website a place on their GREAT SITES FOR KIDS list!
The Miss Alaineus Vocabulary Parades were outstanding and get this she is offering to all of us to enter her contest. If we do and create our own Miss Alaineus Vocabulary Parade, she will come down and give us a free author visit. You know I am all over this challenge. Check out her site and see just how amazing the other schools performed.

2010 = 10th Anniversary of Miss Alaineus, A Vocabulary Disaster!
Celebrate with your students in two ways:
Bring Debra Frasier to your classroom through the ongoing video shorts series: Small Answers to Big Questions about Picture Books
Enter the Vocabulary Parade Contest!
Grand Prize: A FREE Debra Frasier Author Visit!
Lots of other prizes, too!
Official rules posted Sept 1, 2009. Categories will include Most Original Use of a Word, Funniest, Ten Best, and the Grand Prize: ten excellent costumes, participation numbers, and teacher & principal costumes from a single school.
Plan to enter? September 1 - 30 all interested schools can download the 30 page Vocabulary Parade Planning Kit for free! See you here on Sept 1, 2009.
I enjoyed her so much and here is a special message from Debra.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Storytellers-Developing and Using Tandem Stories and Reader's Theatre

Presented by:
Betty Roe, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN
Michael Roe, Mikro Enterprises, Crossville, TN
This session demonstrated tandem stories and discussed the differences in required preparation between telling tandem stories and telling individual stories. They described the language instructional benefits of using tandem stories and explained how they turned literature selections into tandem stories.
I wanted to understand the tandem storyteller so I attended to find out more. I attempted to look up the word tandem, one of Wikipedia's definitions stated this: "Tandem" can be used more vaguely to refer to any group of persons or objects working together, not necessarily in line.[2] "In tandem", for example, in politics and business to describe joint plans and ventures. A tandem may also refer to Tandem language learning, a language learning method in which two partners of different mother tongues each help the other learn the foreign language.

Mike and Betty opened with this particular style of storytelling and explained how this strategy helps with language skills.

The story they shared was the "Magic Pot". Together, side by side they began. They opened speaking in unison, then they separately spoke a line or two, then they return back to a unison speaking part. It looks easy, but as a storyteller I can tell you it is truly difficult.

Timing, timing, timing.
Props aren't used. Michael and Betty changed the story to better fit their style and to make it better as a tandem story. I learned real quick it is better to have short sentences.

Tips on Telling a Tandem Story
  • Tell, don't recite word-for-word

  • Except for unison parts

  • Listen for cues from your partner

  • Practice to get your timing and cues right

  • Internalize the story, so a dropped line won't cause a problem.

  • Narrator: Face audience- allows eye-contact

What are the benefits of tandem telling?

Language Skills Development

  • Reading or listening to stories

  • Analyzing-vocabulary, sequence, cause and effect, characterization, action, story structure

  • Writing to combine versions or divide into parts

  • Repeated reading to learn stories

Speaking Skills

  • volume

  • pitch

  • enunciation

  • pronunciation

  • pacing register

  • vocabulary

Listening Skills

  • Audience- vocabulary and story structure

  • Participants- cues for speaking

Reader's Theatre

  • Interpretive oral reading experience

  • dramatic

  • script is right in front of you

  • no sets, costumes or props needed

Benefits of Reader's Theatre

  • many of the same benefits as tandem telling
  • reading fluency
  • reading vocabulary

  • reading comprehension

  • can be numerous readers

Benefits especially important for ELLs and struggling and reluctant readers

  • expands vocabulary

  • involves them in collaboration with peers

  • boosts self esteem

  • improves attitude

Materials for Reader's Theatre

  • play scripts
  • poems

  • stories with dialogue

  • selections from content area texts

  • nonfiction trade books

  • materials with few scenes and characters

Student Preparation

  • teacher modeling

  • discussion

  • development of assessment rubric or questions

Script Preparation

  • narrator and characters
  • large print

  • highlighting for emphasis

  • purposeful focus on story elements

Sources: free scripts and stories

Cast Parts

  • consider reading levels

  • allow group decisions in some cases

  • consider rotating parts for repeated performances

  • have teacher as narrator in lower level classes

Rehearsal Time

  • move from group to group

  • give suggestions

  • ask pertinent questions

  • offer encouragement

  • students sit or stand before the performance
Let's experiment with this new type of storytelling and use it to encourage the student that dreads the writing assignment. Can't wait to get back and try it at Chets!

Betty D. Roe

Michael H. Roe

The "Art of Conversation" Using the Arts to Promote Authentic Response to Literature in Struggling Readers

Presented by:
Neva V. Cramer, Ph.D.
Schreiner University

Angelle Stringer, Ph.D.
Louisiana Resource Center for Educators

Wow…that is all I can say is “wow”.

Angelle identified herself as a 13 year old trapped in an adult body. Her passion is working with struggling students. Her mission is to reach the students that fall behind, you know the ones, the reluctant ones, the ones who are trying not to be the “dumb” ones so they become the “bad” ones. These two women started off with a bang and never let up for 2 hrs. and 45 min. They empowered each one of us with strategies enabling our students to connect with themselves, each other and the outside world.

Sidenote: The whole time that Neva spoke, I thought to myself, “I know this person”. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. She has a star-like quality and I later found out that she has appeared and starred in movies. No wonder she wants to use the arts.

After experiencing the hands-on workshop they prepared for all attendees, I was convinced the arts can motivate reluctant readers and you don’t have to be the art teacher to achieve the goal of promoting the love of literature.
Objective: Making the reluctant readers' thinking visible.

The encouragement of capturing the inner conversation of the artist's creation really makes one think about restructuring the way we each present literature.
Think of the composer…it is in his/her head first…we have to help the reluctant students to transfer it to others using paper, conversation or through illustration.

One of our activities involved one of my favorite books: "Tuesday" by David Weisner
She showed this wordless book through the tool of a laptop using the software of power point where she had previously scanned the pictures. She then asked us to use the tool of the story pyramid and to break into small groups to fill in the blanks.

Story Pyramid
1. Main Character-
2. Describe Character-
3. Setting-
4. Problem-
5. 1st event-
6. 2nd event
7. Solution/Resolution
Each group had conversation about the book. This is an amazing example of "pictures telling a story". There is no right or wrong answer, soooooooo, try it in your own classroom and watch your reluctant readers soar.
They referenced Project Zero project at Harvard as just one example to support their work.
Project Zero's mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels. Take a look at the site it will provide some clarity about this initiative.

Some of the books they shared in this total interactive workshop were:
The Outsiders

Just Like Josh Gibson

Grandfather's Journey

They also shared music and proved using all of us as the guinea pigs the results of leaving reluctant readers wanting to know more. They shared Don McLean's "Vincent" making all of us want to research about the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

I can't wait to share all of the handouts and ideas they shared. Where's my scanner?

It’s time to put the arts back into the literature!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

International Reading Association - Minneapolis, MN

54th Annual Convention North Central: Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 3 - 7, 2009, Minneapolis Convention Center

Finally here!
With great expectations I bounced out of bed to attend my first IRA Convention. It has been on my list of things to do for quite some time and I am finally here. I feel like I have stepped into the shoes of Mary Tyler Moore happy, excited, spinning around throwing up my hat in celebration, in fact we passed Mary's
statue on the corner in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota as we were driving to our hotel.

IRA's 54th Annual Convention North Central opened Monday with the Opening General Session, featuring keynote speaker Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I had read both books and couldn’t wait to listen to someone who had pulled on my heart and took my breath in the first chapter. Khaled shared with all of us his journey and how he always knew he was hard wired to be an author.
As a boy he dreamed of being Clint Eastwood, however his life’s path took him in a different way. His father was a diplomat and his mother was a vice principal of a girl’s school. They left their comfortable life behind. They were forced by war to come to this country. Hosseini shared his personal thoughts about what went wrong in Afghanistan and the huge challenges the country is facing. He talked about visiting Afghanistan and getting involved with UNHCR and his development of his own foundation, Hosseini Foundation. His last quote summed everything up as a keynote speaker. He said,” teachers can help the young break the shackles of apathy. It begins in the homes and in the schools.” Not only his books moved me, but his speaking stirred me to care about the lives of others.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Minnesota Here We Come!

Earlier this school year, my Media Specialist and I were contacted by children's book author Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrator Henry Cole about presenting a session with them at the International Reading Association Conference this year. They have visited Chets Creek a couple of times and love the Book of the Month work that we do as much as we love them! Our proposal was accepted and we will be presenting a symposium this Thursday afternoon at the 2009 IRA Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As always, we will be blogging the conference "live" on the Live From The Creek blog and can't wait to bring back all the incredible things we learn about Reading while attending the conference. Be sure to check in on our adventures as we head to the mid west!