New Page at readingbyexample.com: Recommended Reads

I’ve reviewed enough educational resources now that I am starting to have a hard time remembering where they are all located. ūüôā

With that, I have created a page on this site that organizes my favorite reads. My reviews are located on Goodreads, Middleweb, Nerdy Book Club, and this site. You can follow the linked text in blue to read my review Рclick here to go to the page. Or, select the menu item located near the top of this site.

recommended-reads-

I will continually update this page with both new and old reviews. I am also listing books that I am currently working on a review for and will post soon. If you have a book to recommend, please list it in the comments of this page. I can’t promise to read it – so many books, so little time, right? – but I will consider it, and I am sure the author appreciates it. Maybe another reader on this site will follow your suggestion.

IMG_0956

Happy reading!

Reading Year in Review – 2013

Inspired by Regie Routman’s most recent post about what she’s reading, I thought I would do the same on my blog. Below are the books I read in 2013. I am sure I read a few more than what was listed here, but I was too busy reading to post them on Goodreads! Some of these titles are rereads, noted with an *. These books deserved another read because they had more to offer than one round would provide.

The Sandwich Swap
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Portfolio Edition)
The End of the Beginning
Tiny Titans Vol. 8: Aw Yeah Titans!
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Underwater Dogs
Coaching Conversations: Transforming Your School One Conversation at a Time
Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives: Comprehending, Analyzing, and Discussing Text
Motion Leadership in Action: More Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Projecting Possibilities for Writers: The How, What, and Why of Designing Units of Study, K-5
The Fault in Our Stars
Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
Shift Omnibus Edition (Silo, #2) (Wool, #6-8)
Wool
Everything Bad is Good for You
Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives
Wherever You Go, There You Are (ROUGH CUT)
Big Red Lollipop
Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)
Assessment in Perspective:  Focusing on the Reader Behind the Numbers
Marty McGuire
Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits
No More Independent Reading Without Support (Not This But That)
Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
Galaxy Zack: Hello, Nebulon
To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
An Orange for Frankie
Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age
The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way
Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
John, Paul, George & Ben
Abe Lincoln's Dream
So What Do They Really Know?: Assessment That Informs Teaching and Learning
The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition
Embedded Formative Assessment
Each Kindness
The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)
World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students

Books of Note

Favorite Fiction: The Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey

Humanity is sequestered to a silo underground, due to some event that made the surface of Earth uninhabitable. How the remaining members of civilization live and interact in this alternative world makes for a fascinating read. I have read the first two installments and plan to read the final book soon. If you investigate the back story on this series, you will discover the author self-published his writing online as a short story, in order to sustain ownership and to get feedback on how the story should proceed. Using his fans’ input, he crafted the rest of the Wool series, which then lead to a larger book deal. Is this the future of writing? If excellent science fiction like Wool is the result, I wouldn’t mind.

Suggested Nonfiction/Informative: The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

This resource should be in the home of every young family. Some hospitals hand this book to new mothers and fathers after delivery. Whenever a parent asks me about what they can do to help their child become a reader, my response is usually, “Read aloud to them, every day.” My school received a grant to promote reading aloud with our families. We will be hosting a book study on The Read Aloud Handbook with parents starting in January, along with putting up Little Free Libraries in our community. Look for a post¬†on the Nerdy Book Club blog on January 4th to learn more about this essential title.

Recommended Paired Reading: The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley and World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Dr. Yong Zhao

Although I did not read both titles at the same time, I believe they would work well together if someone were studying education in the age of technology and globalization. In The Smartest Kids,¬†Amanda Ripley follows three U.S. students as they participate in foreign exchange programs in South Korea, Finland, and Poland. That all three score higher than the U.S. on the PISA, an internationally-based standardized test, is no accident. This piece of investigative journalism gives the audience an anecdotal perspective of the difference between the U.S. educational system and these three countries. Although I felt the author gave too much credence to one assessment, she does make a compelling case that the U.S. does need to ramp up our expectations for students’ learning, especially in mathematics. Ripley also showcases the greater amount of respect other countries have for the teaching profession.

Where The Smartest Kids gives the reader an up close and personal report about education, World Class Learners provides a more aerial, 20,000 feet in the air point of view on learning. Dr. Zhao also looked at the PISA scores, and placed them side-by-side with an assessment on students’ engagement and entrepreneurship potential. The result: A strong correlation between high test scores and low creativity. The author, a professor in the University of Oregon’s College of Education, surmises that when schools focus on one right answer due to tests, students’ imagination and innovation skills are not as developed. When you combine this evidence with the fact that standardized test results cannot be used to teach more responsively, one wonders what we are really measuring and why. As Dr. Zhao astutely points out in his most recent post on his blog, “Global benchmarking can only give you the best of the past.”

Where their two philosophies converge is the belief that U.S. schools can do better. Whether it is through better teacher preparation programs, or through professional development focused on student interests and project-based learning, both authors believe life long learning and high expectations are the key to our country’s future success.

What’s On Deck? Books I Want to Read in 2014

Sophia's War: A Tale of the Revolution
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
The City of Mirrors (The Passage, #3)
Life Itself: A Memoir
Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance
Dust (Silo, #3)
Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age
High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching
Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction
Let the Great World Spin
Sunshine
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.
Children Want to Write: Donald Graves and the Revolution in Children's Writing
Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
The Long Earth
The Abominable
Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time

Any thoughts on the titles and perspectives I share? What books did you thoroughly enjoy this year? What’s on your to-read pile for 2014? Please share in the comments.

Examples of Practice: Goodreads and the Common Core

Literature and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the very first standard is titled “Reading: Literature”. I say this because some educators have expressed concerns about fiction being pushed out of literacy instruction. A deliberate review of the CCSS should clear up this misconception.

Another component I appreciate about our new national standards is a focus on the reading-writing connection. My building has participated in professional development on this topic for three years now. We believe that when we develop better readers, students’ writing also improves and vice versa. Last year we collected data that supports this belief.

20121219-195227.jpg

An example of the reading-writing connection is in Standard 4 – Writing, under “Texts Types of Purposes” for Grade 3. The first element expects students to write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view or reason. An important component to this type of writing is using specific information from the text to support an assertion.

Because we simply don’t have enough initiatives to take on this year (notice the sarcasm?), we are also exploring different ways to leverage technology to enhance student engagement and learning while addressing the CCSS. One Web 2.0 tool that has lots of potential is Goodreads. You can connect with other readers and their personal libraries to discover your next book. I have described it to others as Facebook for bookworms.

Recently, I read aloud The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco to a group of third graders. After the book was finished, we did a shared writing activity by forming an opinion about the book in my reading journal.

20121219-195030.jpg

You’ll notice the quotes above the rating and paragraph. While I wrote, I stressed with the students how important it is to document text from the story to support our opinion.

This book review served as a first draft for posting our review on Goodreads. Using an iPad with the screen mirrored on the whiteboard, we wrote our final draft together.

20121219-212659.jpg

Posting our opinion on my Goodreads account provided an authentic purpose. Our audience was anyone online looking for a reliable review of this book. We then compared our rating with some other readers, including Goodreads friends Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) and Laura Komos (@laurakomos).

20121219-213213.jpg

Seeing experts share the same opinion as ours about The Junkyard Wonders was both exciting and affirming for us. As well, the students had the opportunity to read friends’ exemplary writing as a model for future opinion pieces. I believe this is a strong example of integrating a Web 2.0 tool to facilitate an authentic literacy activity that addresses the Common Core for students.

My Students’ Favorite Read Alouds

In a previous post The Principal as a Writer, I described how I used Moleskine journals and a document camera to write book reviews with students. These reviews are based on a book I just read aloud to them. Here were their favorites from 2011-2012:

Best of the Year (five out of five stars)

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

20120716-120420.jpg

Review (4th Grade): “I love that dog?? I love this book! It’s great because there were a lot of good poems to feel happy when feeling bad.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farms by Jon Katz

20120716-120639.jpg

Review (2nd Grade): “This is one of the best books we have read because the different dogs had different jobs. For example, one dog makes people feel better and another dog herds the sheep.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

20120716-120747.jpg

Review (1st Grade): “Owl Moon is a five star book because the pictures are colored in really nicely. Also, lots of details helped us know what they mean. It was awesome!”

20120716-152822.jpg

Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin

20120716-121042.jpg

Review (Kindergarten): “We thought this was the best book ever because it was funny. Pete kept stepping in colored things like fruit.”

20120716-152822.jpg

A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter

20120716-121312.jpg

Review (5th grade): “Really interesting, hard to put down. Edge of your seat and intriguing story. Amazing.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

20120716-121702.jpg

Review (3rd grade): “This book was excellent because it was funny, like when Fudge ate Peter’s turtle. These funny events remind us of silly things kids do that we know.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

20120716-121945.jpg

Review (4th grade): “The good, rhyming words and his voice made you want to read more.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Honorable Mentions (four out of five stars)

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart by Vera B. Williams

20120716-123021.jpg

Review (3rd grade): “We thought it was very good because in the end, the girls’ father came back. The author gave different personalities to each person.”

20120716-152822.jpg

The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skeene Catling

20120716-123509.jpg

Review (3rd grade): “I like how the book teaches you a lesson, of eating too much chocolate being a bad thing.”

20120716-152822.jpg

The 500 Hundred Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss

20120716-123823.jpg

Review (3rd grade): “We thought it was really good because it had math in it. For example, it was interesting when the squire was keeping track of the hats as they fell off.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

20120716-124101.jpg

Review (4th grade): “It only had Jack’s voice; wish we could have heard from someone else. We liked how he changed from hating to loving cats.”

20120716-152822.jpg

The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown

20120716-124358.jpg

Our Poem (Kindergarten): “The most important thing about a fire truck is it has a ladder. It is on wheels. It is red. But the most important thing about a fire truck is it has a ladder.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

20120716-124838.jpg

Review (5th grade): “We really liked this book because it was humorous. For instance, we laughed whenever the grandma spoke nonsense.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

20120716-125129.jpg

Review (4th grade): “We really like this book. The models of the buildings, the way the pictures described the story, and the way Ben’s and Rose’s story relate made this a unique and intriguing book.”

20120716-152822.jpg

Book Reviews as Book Marks

I was recently strolling through my local super department store when I came across these notecards.

They are book mark cards.

 

 

As you can see, they have a flap on top. It allows you to slide the card onto a book jacket or a page.

 

They come in five colors, fifteen cards in each color.

 

 

 

I think these book mark cards would be great for writing book reviews. Students could get blank cards from their school librarian or from their teacher.

Before they had a card in their hands, it would be wise to model how to write a book review. For me, I like to keep reviews short and reveal just enough to tempt the potential reader. Brevity is a virtue.

My present format for a quick book review:

  • I (liked, really liked, loved) the book (the title) because (give reason to support opinion).
  • For instance, (use evidence from the book to support your opinion).

To differentiate for students who struggle with writing, the bolded words could be provided on the cards as prompts.

Here is an example of what a book review could look like on one of these cards, using the excellent Wonder by R.J. Palacio:

 

Books with attached student reviews coud be displayed on the top of the book cases. Featured books could also have their own shelf in the library or classroom. It would be similar to how book stores designate an area for staff to attach reviews for their favorite reads.

How do you a) encourage students to recommend what they read, and b) celebrate your students' writing? Your comments are appreciated!

 

I Read (and Wrote) to the Principal

When I moved into my new office last August, I found approximately 800 green pencils with “I Read to the Principal” printed on them, left for me by my predecessor.

Save that thought.

In my last blog post The Principal as a Writer, I wrote about how I modeled writing for my students and staff using Moleskine notebooks and a document camera. The modeling component of instruction is essential, but so is giving students the opportunity to practice their skills. As I have learned, student work should be authentic and relevant to their own lives.

I hoped that the students would be as motivated as I was to write about books I enjoyed. With that, I purchased one Moleskine journal for each classroom in which I regularly read aloud. Once they had seen me write a review, I handed off their classroom journal, with the following expectations:

1. They only put books in the journal that they truly enjoyed (four out of five stars or better).
2. They had to write to an audience, namely their classmates, their teacher and me.
3. They had to include their name as the reviewer. The idea behind this is classmates would presumably read the book review journal looking for their next great read. When they found a book that interested them, they could talk to the reviewer to get more information.
4. When students completed a review, they were encouraged to read their review to me in my office. Their purpose was to convince me to read the book they liked, as I had limited time to sort through all the literature out there.

Moleskine journals were now available in an opportune place in the classroom. Student book reviews commenced! Some classrooms used them more often than others. When I had not recently received a visit from a room, I again modeled a book review for that class in my own Moleskine journal, then encouraged the students to do the same.

Here is a third grader reading aloud his book review to me back in April.

20120707-181012.jpg

This is the book that he was trying to convince me to read through his review.

20120707-181037.jpg

He had me at “gruesome”.

After sharing, I gave each student one of the “I Read to the Principal ” pencils. What was nice was that they read to me their own writing. This practice corresponds with a number of my building’s beliefs we unanimously agreed upon as a staff, including:

Young children do not need to know all their letters and sounds before they can write stories and read back their own writing.

Shared writing text involving common experiences are often the easiest text to read.

A Couple of Reflections

– Writing for an authentic purpose is so critical. I couldn’t imagine writing this very post if I didn’t think I had an audience to read it or an opportunity for some constructive feedback. I imagine students feel the same way.
– Book reviews are a form of persuasive writing, an essential skill for students and for informed citizens.
– The reading-writing connection is a concept stressed by Regie Routman and other literacy experts. Reading makes better writers, and writing makes better readers.
– As a principal, this is another opportunity for me to visit with students in a positive context.

“Making meaning is good. Doing meaningful things is better.”- Peter Johnston, Opening Minds

The Principal as a Writer

As much as I love technology, nothing replaces putting pen to paper. I may be revealing myself as a digital immigrant. Regardless, whenever I am in a book store I find myself walking over to the journal section. In the bigger book stores, Moleskine journals have their own shelf.

20120630-234552.jpg

The draw for me is each one of these notebooks are a blank slate, new territory in which to be filled up with fresh ideas. With Moleskine, they tailor some of their journals for specific areas of interest, such as recipes, travel, wellness and music.

20120701-000442.jpg

Here is the link to the Moleskine website: http://www.moleskineus.com/

As you can see, the sky is the limit for different purposes for writing. For me, I regularly use three Moleskine notebooks to help me document my thinking for later review and to reflect on actions I have made.

20120701-223424.jpg

Red Moleskine: Read Alouds

I spend about 10% of my day reading aloud in classrooms. I find it to be a great way to connect with kids, to be more present in the classroom and to share great literature. To help me recall how each read aloud went, I write out a brief lesson plan for the book. I follow the basic format a teacher would use for guided reading: Before Reading Aloud; During the Read Aloud; After Reading Aloud. On the back of each page, I mark which classrooms I read a book to and when, so I don’t repeat (although rereads aren’t a bad thing, especially when the book is good).

20120701-223510.jpg

To better aid my organization, I keep my K-2 read alouds in the first half of the notebook and my grade 3-5 read alouds in the second half. I also “tag” the read alouds with special themes on the upper left hand corner, along with an approximate duration to read each book.

Black Moleskine: Book Reviews

Some of the classrooms in my building regularly post student book reviews on their bulletin boards. Great practice! To connect with classroom instruction, after I read aloud a title I write a review of said book in my review journal for the students. I model this type of persuasive writing using the document camera.

20120701-225624.jpg

This is not the best example, as this was our first entry and we didn’t actually write a review. Still, these 4th graders had lots of memorable quotes that they wanted to share and get documented in the book journal page we completed together via the document camera. To wrap things up, we voted on how good the book was based on our evidence and thinking. I was not surprised that Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein got five out of five stars.

Moleskine Knock-Off: Memorable Quotes

I got this calendar journal at a local book store around the time I signed up with Twitter last fall. Once I saw the amount and the quality of educational information that this social media helped send my way, I realized I needed a way to curate it before I lost it. It is not a Moleskine, but my wife was kind enough to spruce it up with a Moleskine pen.

20120702-194327.jpg

Anything and everything goes into this journal. The only criteria is that it is interesting and important enough to remember. Many of my PLN’s tweets have taken up space in this journal. As with all my journals, I regularly refer back to what I wrote to help current and future writing and decision-making.

20120702-195554.jpg

Digital Journals

Moleskine does have a journal app for the iPad and iPod Touch, but it is as bad as their paper
journals are good. I do journal using a variety of digital tools, all with slightly different purposes.

Evernote – Not so much a journal as a tool to store and organize information, such as conference notes with audio. This application has lots of potential for student portfolios.
Notability – Somewhat similar to Evernote, but information is stored via Dropbox. Doesn’t have the same accessibility as Evernote, but you can draw and handwrite within each note.
One Day – A very simple yet effective eJournal app for the iPad. I keep more confidential information here because it is password protected. If anything I write had to be considered a diary, this would be it.
WordPress – No description needed

What’s My Point?

I hope I have not wrote a post without much purpose.

As I reflect on my position as an elementary principal, I can think of a variety of reasons why I write and why all educators should be doing the same.

– Writing is a reflective act. It helps me coalesce seemingly disconnected ideas into one focus.
– All educators need to be modeling writing if they expect students to write. Kelly Gallagher, author of Write Like This, aptly stated that the teacher is the best writer in the classroom. To model this skill, we need to keep our own skills honed.
– Writing is thinking made evident. Concrete thoughts such as goals and opinions are much harder to ignore than thinking alone.
– With the Common Core State Standards, writing is expected to be taught across the curriculum. It’s about time.
– The medium for writing is not as important as the act itself. Some students are more motivated by pen to paper, while others prefer blogging. Ideas are ideas and should be shared regardless of the format. If technology can enhance this experience, I say go for it.
– Writing needs to be regarded with the same level of reverence as reading and math. As an example, many schools (including mine) annually spend thousands of dollars on books but expect students to bring a $1 notebook for writing.
– It is okay that different forms of writing demand different formats and mediums.
– Writing is meant to be shared.

What reflections do you have regarding writing in education? Please share in the comments as I am always looking for new ideas.