Raising a Reader

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I love this time of year when the Vancouver Sun Newspaper “Raise a Reader Campaign” guarantees that you can pick up the newspaper and participate in a very public celebration of parents, teachers, sports stars and children in the pursuit of reading. I love that on one Wednesday morning, it is possible for people in Vancouver to come together and raise $21,000 to support literacy programs in B.C.  It is a commendable yearly campaign but what captures my full attention are the stories.   I was thrilled when the hard work of the staff of Pacific Immigrant Resource Services (PIRS) was featured for The Vancouver Sun for the work they do with our preschoolers and caregivers in our school community on Friday mornings at Tecumseh Elementary School.  I thought the Man in the Moon Program was inspiring and loved reading about Moa and her Dad’s quest to become a storyteller.  I was encouraged to learn about programs like Books, Bags and Babies offered by the Downtown Eastside’s YWCA Crabtree Corner and Carla Mann’s efforts to engage her kids in reading books.  As an educator, I know these adults and children are on a path to cementing relationships and developing reading habits that will help them as they progress through all aspects of school life.

 

As a parent, it also is a time that makes me nostalgic about the time raising my own children and the significance of reading in our lives. Excuse my indulgence as I share some of my significant “reading moments” with my children.  Tyler was still in preschool and we were reading Franklin in the Dark by Paulette Bourgeois.  This was one of his beloved and battered rereads about his friend, Franklin the turtle. Tyler looked up from the book and said, “But Mommy, you’re not afraid of anything. (Big smile. Pause. Quizzical brow) Except for underground parking lots. You are VERY afraid of underground parking lots.” There was no conversation about why. It was just a stated truth. The conversation that ensued was about what makes people afraid and what makes them stop being afraid and what they do if they don’t stop being afraid.  Another conversation about life that flowed naturally in the course of reading together and learning about each other.

The next ” reading moment” was on parent teacher night. My husband was doing a contract out of town and I picked the kids up late from daycare. I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to put my babies to bed!  The kids, not so much.  They were in the midst of action drama play and busy karate kicking the air dangerously close to one another,  just beyond my sight line.  My daughter, Larkyn, apparently jumped back to avoid contact. She caught the corner of the wall with the back of her head.  As the blood was gushing with the intensity that comes with a head wound, Tyler ran for her shoes and I grabbed a dish towel, my purse and Junie B. Jones by Barabara Park.  We had experienced the Emergency room before.  Tyler was racked with guilt and went in my purse to retrieve the Junie B. Jones book as soon as we were waiting in Emerg.   Normally not a big fan of oral reading, he didn’t stop reading to his sister until the doctor entered the room.    Once the stitching was over, Larkyn with her frightened eyes and little, white face looks at Tyler and says, “Keep reading”.  Larkyn needed a dose of the fearless and the irreverent Junie B. and she negotiated through the crisis with hero.

Then the Harry Potter era begins with new releases, costumes, the late night “party” during the long line-ups in the local Chapters and the family reading events. By this time, the kids were old enough to read on their own, but the choice was for me to read with practiced intervals by the kids and occasionally Dad. Larkyn was particularly masterful at English accents from retelling taped versions of Sherlock Holmes stories en route home from Los Angeles one summer.  From this one series, we discussed pretty much every major life event we could encounter – life, death, sorrow, betrayal, fear, friendship, romance…  I think back fondly to skiing up Grouse Mountain on a Sunday afternoon and the kids deciding that we should just go home and read Harry Potter and drink hot chocolate. It wasn’t until the last book of the series that we didn’t have the time or patience for a read aloud.  We had a lottery to decide who got to read the book first. I infuriated both kids by reading all night so I didn’t have to wait my turn. Yes, all of us LOVED the books and the kids even committed to take turns carrying the latest hardcover edition when we travelled.  By the time the final movie came out, the kids were old enough to visit a pub after the movie.  The characters, the challenges, the responses, the discussions and the quotes were all part of growing up and family history.

My inclination is to continue to share more of these reading stories.  My point is that in none of these cases were we practicing reading.  Starting before pre-school, reading books was part of family life.  It was hypothesizing about favorite characters;  Connections with our own lives;  Empathizing with people who were very similar or very different from us;  Encountering new experiences or adventures or tragedies.  Reading as a child is much like the experience of reading as an adult.   We become more proficient readers with better vocabularies throughout our reading lives.  Researchers have told us for years that the best way to develop reading skills is by reading.  I certainly am in favour of students developing reading proficiency.  I strongly believe that this needs to happen as children are reading, as opposed to “practicing” for a time when they will be reading in the future.  My hope is that all children will have positive experiences and conversations that make them feel good when they curl up with a good book, which leads to another book, and another…

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Making iMovie Magic

Thanks to SD38 and their SummerTech Institute at Westwind Elementary School, I’m inspired and ready to start to another year of tech learning with Tecumseh students.  In my role as Vice Principal, I am enrolling a Grade 3 class and teaching computer skills to Grade 5-7 students this year.  Last year I dipped my toe into using iMovie on the iPad with students. Students in Grade 3 and 4 had no difficulty learning to take and edit photos, plan video clips, insert audio clips, airdrop and use templates to make their movies more effective.  We made movies for a variety of purposes:

  • A way of showcasing Remembrance Day art in the school to the Last Post

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  • Highlighting some of the items not always easy to share during student led conferences such as friends in class,

gymnastics skills and presenting practised, low pressure oral readings of text to parents.

  • Event sharing including student interviews about using BookCreator for content area projects and presenting at the                          Celebration of Learning

Video Jedi, Dylan, from the Apple store did a great session on making iMovies in Richmond last week.  3 steps to make a movie

1.  Import

2.  Create

3.  Share

Sounds pretty basic.  I do find the process is easier on the iPad than on the computer but that could be because I’m more familiar with it.  Dylan’s best advice was to BE ORGANIZED.  The events folder is a good idea to hold content such as pictures, videos, voice-overs and other audio clips.  The entire Apple team was very helpful and invaluable for their trouble shooting.

A fantastic online discovery has been the iMovie Trailer Planners.  It provides the structure to help students storyboard their movies with fillable PDF’s for all 14 trailer templates that are included in iMovie for iPad, iPhone and the iPod touch.  The planning sheet helps students to decide the appropriate trailer for the content and mood of the material being shared.  The results are very professional looking and the limited amount of text requires careful selection of images.  The sample of The Giver demonstrates how effectively the trailers can be used to demonstrate understanding of texts.  Certainly a more engaging project than the book reports that I did in school.  Virginia Bowden used the narrative trailer to have her gifted students to do autobiographies last year.  Even the 4th graders came up with impressive results.

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I am looking forward to sharing this material with VSB Teacher Librarians at their Kick-off/ Orientation / Speed Geeking event.  It’s exciting that so many teacher librarians in the Vancouver School Board are enthusiastic about using technology to engage Kindergarten to Grade 12 students.  I’m also excited about continuing the learning and discovery of possibilities with students and colleagues this year.

Book Review: Nine Words Max By Dan Bar-el

Written by Dan Bar-el
Illustrated by David Huyck

Tundra Books 2014 

Dan Bar-el brings his strength as a storyteller to audiences of young children to his work as an author.  He works magic captivating young listeners.  Max, the main character of his story, is every bit as verbal as the author but less successful at captivating his audience.  Maximillian, is a young prince with many questions, the background knowledge to draw on and the tenacity to drive his brothers crazy.  A magic spell limits him to quick jolts of only 9 words at a time.  Sometimes less is not more and the book opens the discussion of the power of language.  David Huyck’s love of cartoons is evident in the illustrations of the book.  The illustrations provide as much information as the text.  Good fun  and lots of laughs for capable primary readers and intermediate students. IMG_0085

The Vancouver Kidsbooks Experience

Vancouver Kidsbooks is the quintessential Children’s bookstore. Phyllis Simon opened her first Kidsbooks in Kitsilano in 1983.  Since then stores have followed in North Vancouver and Surrey.  The constant has been knowledgeable and friendly staff who exude enthusiasm for matching books with kids.  I became an International Reading Association member (now International Literacy Association) as a first year teacher.  My administrator, Jack Corbett, at Dormick Park invited me on the staff trek to Schou Centre in Burnaby for a LOMCIRA session (local council of IRA).  He promised it would be fun and we’d all learn something along the way.  I learned early on that Phyllis Simon was the person we depended on to provide a wide array of high quality books to bring reading and writing to life for our students.  She generated a lot of excitement at events where she set up a table.

When my kids were young, we would make the trek from the suburbs to line up for author events  sponsored by Kidsbooks in the old Hollywood Theatre, book signings in the Kits store and to spend the day shopping for the very best read.  Fiscal restraint never included Kidsbooks because the store and staff were able to inspire such enthusiasm for the possibilities.  It was a favourite place to pick out birthday and Christmas gifts.  Phyllis Simon’s support for parents and educators has not waned over the years.

Each year, Elementary Administrators in public schools in Vancouver, host an event featuring a great recent publication of a picturebook.  The author and/or illustrator is invited to talk about the writing process to student representatives, librarians and an administrator from every school in the Vancouver School Board.  Each student goes back to school with a special addition for their school library and the author’s voice in their head.   This year, Phyllis Simon, continued as she has every year to select some of the finest new publications in British Columbia for our consideration.  Choosing one is always hard.  This year I have decided that I’m going to review these books for Inquire2Inspire because I can see a place for each and every one of her choices in my work and play with children.  You just might too.

If you are from out of town, be sure to include one of the Kidsbooks stores  in your travels.  If you are an International Literacy Member, an educator, a parent or a lover of children’s literature, you will not be disappointed.  Even if you don’t run into Phyllis, there will be a knowledgeable staff member to open some possibilities for your consideration.  I promise!

PILOT – Professionals Investigating Learning Opportunities with Technology

Four teachers at Tecumseh Elementary committed to working together on PILOT. Our job was to engage in an inquiry using technology with our students. We were provided with an iPad cart with 20 iPads for class use, 3 iPads for use of Resource teachers, 5 desktop computers in the library and Apple TV.

Students and parents in all of the classes were taught about iPad care and signed a use agreement.  For much of the term, teachers explored the technology with their classes with a focus on the tools. We had general discussions about developing writing and thinking skills but specific definition of an inquiry question was vague and the focus was how do you…

It was once we started to share what we were doing that our learning intentions became more defined. On teacher had started writing a Seasons Book with her Kindergarten students using Book Creator. Marion Collins started working with her Grade 6 students using keynote and Book Creator.

Virginia Bowden continued the work she had started with Kidblog with the Gifted students attending pull out Gifted programming in the district, used iMovie to have students create trailers on themselves and Prezi to develop research skills.

I continued the word I was doing with the Gifted students (in the district Multi-age Cluster class) during computer prep to develop their own blog on Kidblog and focused on having my Gr 3/4 class use Raz-Kids to support home reading and Book Creator to develop writing skills and explored search engines to answer questions.

Initially the focus was on learning how to use the tools and it looked like each of us were taking some very different directions. We narrowed the common elements down to the focus that each of us had taken in developing literacy skills.

Our discussion and questions were great:

  • How can we develop fluency in writing?
  • Adding pages encourages younger or less proficient writers to extend their writing. What about older and more proficient writers?
  • Does a lack of a keyboard limit the amount that students write?
  • Are templates available for report writing in Book Creator?
  • Is Book Creator more conducive to writing picture or poetry books?
  • Is the best way to teach note taking still having students write phrases with facts on paper; outlining / sort facts into groups, and creating their own paragraphs?
  • Are library books still the best way to match ELL students with reading material at their own level?
  • How can we get students to question the source of the information they read online? Hear on media or read in books?
  • Does using iPads break down gender barriers in oral communication?
  • Does adding sound clips lend itself to developing expressive reading skills?

Our inquiry question is still broad enough to let us pursue our individual interests but narrow enough to focus our discussion on how we are using the tools to support the language development of our English Language learners. Our intention is to make observations and reflect on the ways that technology is being used in our classrooms to develop oral language skills, reading skills, writing skills and the ability to represent ideas in visual formats. We have a general direction. The thinking and focusing continues. We’ll keep you posted.