Sunday, 22 December 2013

#LoveReading #LoveBooks

I have a distinct advantage when it comes to reading, my name regardless of spelling, conjures up questions about reading. Especially when people have known me long enough to start name jokes. There's never been anything witty, amusing or even original but they occur often enough.

"You're name is Reid and you like to read, hahahaha, make sure you spell your name right".

I don't remember learning to read, or even having my parents read to me, but my brothers and I were surrounded by books at home.  Grandma was a particularly avid reader and as a former school teacher must have had a positive influence on my attitude to reading, going to her house was always fun and every time we would pore over her collection of Asterix titles. One set of cousins had the full Munch Bunch and Sesame Street collections, while at my Nana's I always looked forward to buying more Commando comics from the dairy.  By the time I'd finished primary school the Hardy Boys, Willard Price adventures, amongst countless other series, had all been read, enjoyed and put aside for the next enthusiastic reader. Like many high school bored me with the never-ending list of activities to prove that had read and knew the book! I can tell you some of the book choices I loved: The Outsiders, Z for Zachariah, and Owen Marshall's Fat Boy (an amazing short story). I was one of those kids reading ahead so I didn't know where the rest of the class was up to, even worse some teachers would say that you couldn't take the book home.

"Its not fair on the others, everyone needs to be at the same place".

The real joys of high school reading were in discovering the harsh realities of war through countless World War II biographies and adventures of Colditz Castle, the Victoria Cross, El Alamein, Tobruk, Cassino. Sports, music & political biographies were churned through as well as all sorts of spy novels. However, I have to confess I never read classics like Lord of the Rings or the The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

After university I even spent about 3 years working in bookstores, during which time I introduced myself to Harry Potter, Frodo, Neil Gaiman and even some contemporary literature. I now consider myself a very well rounded reader (excuse the pun for those who know me well).

Becoming a teacher has presented its own challenges for reading, already I've developed a tidy collection of picture books for use in the classroom, some like "I need a new bum" are purely for entertainment. The picture book section at the Sylvia Ashton-Warner was a constant place for relaxing during training. But I was also exposed to many great books and some cool things for learning to read, my favourite being reciprocal reading and a title called The Mozart Question.

Reid = reading, #lovebooks #lovereading

After two years I'm proud of the reading time in my class, kids have nearly always made progress, although a few have still not been able to achieve National Standards. I have a healthy programme during the year that includes independent reading, KiwiKidsNews, reciprocal reading, blogging, Starfall. One highlight of this year undoubtedly was when the class burst into song during shared reading of Alice in New York, fabulous interactive book that we never finished. We've also had several engaging bodies of work to celebrate our enjoyment of books, especially the The Day the Crayons Quit and Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore.

Alice is indicative of a few problems in my class though, we didn't finish it because some of my boys were getting bored with the plot and for others it was just too long. So why were they down there? Did I naively believe that by forcing them to sit still and listen that they would enjoy the book and come to #lovereading. One group of boys regularly asked to continue with this shared reading activity, they would load it up on the smart board and take turns at reading. This mixed ability group would help each other with the vocal, making meaning of the text and occasionally would turn to me to clarify something, but this highlights problems too. This was working for them, but not others.

Providing books for the whole class, shared reading at a class level and plenty of time for reading isn't going to create lifelong readers, it's tantamount to a shotgun marketing approach.

In hindsight I haven't modelled being a reader very well. I read aloud often but not as regularly as possible and one of the first things to go in any day has been my SSR time. Compounding this I often do marking or tidying during reading time and in the interest of keeping the class happy will allow some to sit there and draw, am I subconsciously saying to the class that if they've got something better to do than reading then that's ok? This doesn't promote the importance of reading, Donalyn Miller attributes her success at creating readers to her status in the classroom as a reader. I need to do better!

Picture these three little scenarios that happened towards the end of this year and think about how it would affect your budding readers.

Boy 1: Was always trying to find books to read but had a low reading age, the books he would independently select were too difficult and would result in him being back at the class library very quickly trying to choose another book. But he was crestfallen when in trying to help him select an appropriate book I told him that particular books were too difficult or well above his reading level. 

Boy 2:  Told me that he knows how to read enough and the only thing he likes reading is the comics about the Incredible Hulk.

Boy 3: Was that child who would rather draw than read, but late in the year I discovered his fascination with World War II.

I'm in the business of creating readers and all three of these children were not being led towards being  lifelong readers. I buy a lot of books for my classroom with my own money,  but these holidays I'm on the lookout for books that will rectify these problems. Books by Jim Eldridge are top of the list, along with Commando comics and a couple of books I remember loving as a boy. I also need a pile of  superhero comics. However, many of new class were excited just at seeing the existing book collection.

Most importantly, I need to become more like the person who is reading at home at school. The Book Whisperer had a huge impact on me, not because of some big revelation within the text. Simply for the fact that I came to understand that I was asking children to commit to being lifelong readers without ever really showing them my commitment to reading. As a teacher I have established great book resources, valuable connections with book people through Twitter and blogging but I need to take that passion to another level.

I look forward to undertaking the 40 book challenge with my class next year.

Monday, 16 December 2013

New class = new learning

We've reached the inevitable end of another school year and although I have accomplished many things this year, my teacherbrain has been in overdrive thinking about next year. Today I got to start implementing these ideas when we had Meet the Teacher, particularly some ideas revolving around getting to know your class.

In trundled 25 of my 30 children full of wonder, intrigue, apprehension and no doubt some worries. 

My first two attempts (in previous years) at this were about laying down expectations, the culture of the class and getting to know some names. This year I wanted to lay the foundations for getting to know them but first I outlined several of my passions (ICT, reading, art & sport). They reciprocated through a post it note - 25 little jewels that tell me something they wanted to share about their likes.

What a treasure trove! 

Nearly half of this class love Minecraft, I have been quite curious about integrating Minecraft in the
classroom but this year I only had 2-3 kids who were avid participants. The first question my new class asked me as I expressed delight at this finding, "Could you please set up a Minecraft server for the classroom?".  In order to leverage this passion, I have to up skill but what an exciting prospect. Writing, reading, art, maths & reading will all be able to piggyback on this finding.

Lego also featured among the likes, similar to Minecraft there are 1000s of ways that a teacher can utilise this.

I was also pleased to hear that some of the kids love to read, most importantly, they saw the book collection in my room and oohed & ahhed. One child's enthusiasm was especially important. I'll need to work hard to keep her engaged before she becomes enraged so hearing that she loves reading was a small victory. I've been reading Donalyn Miller's "The Book Whisperer" lately, so have been reflecting constantly on my reading programme and wonder if she became an underground reader in her previous class. Another year means a fresh start.

Lots of other things were divulged in the PostIts, none of it is earth shattering but I now have 25 of my class each showing me a way to personalise or differentiate their learning. I've got a class that includes children who like play dough, chess, art, role playing games, spiders, swimming and many others.

Next year I'll have a new class and the learning journey will continue, when my new class returned to their old rooms I was the one left full of wonder, intrigue, apprehension and worry.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My 2013 school report

"He has a cool teaching personality"

My class receive their final reports at the end of week 8, no doubt there will be anxiety, nerves, pride and hopefully a little humility when facing their caregivers with these treasure troves of information.
Compiled on Notability

It hardly seemed fair that I would send these home without giving my students a reasonable opportunity to comment on my progress this year. I asked them if they thought this would be fun and although they were surprised they were definitely excited. Admittedly, I was definitely a little worried that some might get carried away!

Socrative was my method of delivery vehicle, as its easy to use and I knew that the report produced would be user friendly.

I'm impressed by their honesty and feel very humble at the love they have shown for our classroom. But it was reassuring to see that they also offered some constructive criticism that is quite reasonable (Te Reo, talking/fidgeting).

The criticism actually highlighted a couple of things which I will definitely take on board. It was quite a fun process and I've enjoyed the chance to let the kids have a go, we need to show them that we can take constructive criticism as we certainly dish a fair bit out as teachers.  Along the way I've also had a little play with some Notability and Sketches.  Notability gets some huge wraps from many reviewers but it doesn't have a "Save to Photo Library" option, a basic for many Apps, however its easy to take a screen shot but that's just not the same is it!

I'm aware that there are many formal tools that schools implement to give students a chance to provide feedback for their teachers, I'd love to hear from some of you who do this as I think it would be beneficial to do this again next year.
Compiled on Sketches