I can’t believe it’s all over!  Looking back at my FOKI pre and FOKI mid posts, it made me smile to realize just how much I’ve grown this semester.  Let me tell you about it 🙂

Professional Self

At the beginning of the semester, one of my largest professional goals was simply to find more books that my students might enjoy.  Remember how I said I’d like to explore different kinds of books that will appeal to a wide range of students because “it only takes one good book to make someone interested in reading”?  Well, I definitely achieved that goal—with the help of my classmates of course!  I was introduced to so many different types of books this semester.  The main way I grew in my professional self this semester is the fact that I was introduced to non fiction books, and I came to realize that non fiction books are legitimate books even though I never used to think so (when I didn’t consider my brother to be a reader when he read science books all the time).  Also, from the FOKI mid, I made a new goal of learning how to handle a situation in which I don’t really like a book that I have to teach.  I actually met this goal in one of my other courses- ECI 509.  My professor told us that often times we should research stuff that has to do with the book, like history or current events, and it’s almost impossible to not find some aspect that interests us.  I thought this was a great idea!

Literary Self

I definitely completed my literary self goals.  Not only did I get to find a lot more young adult books that I think my students will enjoy (and me too!), but I also got a more in-depth education on non fiction and graphic novels, too.  I’m especially glad I got to learn about the benefits of non fiction, because that was probably what I was dreading having to teach the most.  I thought it was all boring and dry, but through Aronson, I realized that it can be interesting.  Also, I now realize that it’s definitely possible to find appealing non fiction books for my classroom.  I’m glad I learned this because now I can whole-heartedly recommend non fiction books to my students.

Virtual Self

This part of my “self” is definitely the one that I improved most on this semester.  Get this—I tweet now!  Not just for class, but because I actually enjoy it now!  Try not to faint.  If you remember, I was a total tweet Grinch at the beginning of the semester.  I just didn’t see the point, and I didn’t like doing it at all.  Now, I get on twitter all the time just to look at other peoples’ tweets and I even tweet a lot more myself.  I found a lot of my favorite authors on twitter, and I just love scrolling through the things they say and write.  It’s a little addicting, I must say.  Another way I improved my virtual self is through second life.  I think I got the hang of it now (though I still have some wacky technology problems every once in awhile).  I even got to experience “phoenix viewer” one time when my second life viewer wasn’t working.  I didn’t like it as much as the second life viewer, but I’m glad I got to experience it.  Also, I found that I absolutely love making videos!  Especially bookcasts.  I can’t wait to introduce bookcasts to my students and possibly have a project where the students make bookcasts for books they’ve read.  I also think I’ll use my new video skills to make book “trailers” for the books that my students will read as a class.  I think it’s a great way to get them excited for what we’re going to read!


Overall, I learned so much this semester.  I met all of my goals, and I really surprised myself in how much my three selves improved.  I guess the biggest takeaway I have from this semester is that you often have to get out of your comfort zone in order to learn new things.  For me, the overall question/theme for this semester is “Why not?”  Because why not try new things?  You never know what could come out of it.  This is definitely a notion that I will take with my throughout my future teaching years, and I will try and teach it to my students as well.


Radical Change

I’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t like poetry in high school.  It wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered reading poetry out loud, and I learned to love it for its beautiful language.  I was excited to read “Skeleton Sky” because I love learning about poetry that isn’t simply “words on paper.”  When I started to read it, however, I was just plain confused.  It blew my mind.  To me, it was disorganized, confusing and overwhelming.  So, does this mean I’m not up for radical change?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just not in love with this example.  I can see how students would enjoy it, though.  They would like how it’s new and fresh, so I would consider showing something like this to my future classes. 

Honestly, I can’t think of anything I’ve read that would be considered “radical.”  Other than the books I read for school (Brave New World, 1984, Beloved), I usually like to read easier, lighter young adult books that often take place in fantasy worlds.  One of my favorite series, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, gets a lot of negative attention for her inclusion of “incest” (which ends up not really being incest), sex and gay relationships.  Also, Cassandra Clare includes a lot of mix-raced characters in her books, and she’s quite known for insisting that they are portrayed as mix-raced characters in the movies.   So perhaps that could be considered one?  Also, I really enjoyed the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, which I’m sure a lot of people don’t agree with. 

I definitely think graphic novels are considered examples of Radical Change.  I did a project on graphic novels used for the classroom in one of my other classes, and I was telling my dad about it.  My dad is super conservative and old-fashioned, so he thought this was the craziest thing I’ve ever thought to do.  He actually said “Won’t parents be angry that you’re teaching comic books in the classroom?”  I tried to explain to him that graphic novels are more than “comic books,” and they have a great place in curriculum, particularly for middle school students.  He wasn’t buying it.  I have a feeling that I will encounter parents like this when I start teaching, so I’m really looking forward to learning some rationales for using graphic novels in the classroom as well as finding new graphic novels to possibly teach.



Aronson Interview

So, of all the classes I had to miss, I’m really disappointed that I had to miss the one that Marc Aronson joined us in class!  I really enjoyed his work that we read this semester, and I think he’s an extremely talented writer.   The fact that his visit was possible is one of the coolest parts of second life.  It really connects everyone on a whole new level.  In the past, it would have been much harder for Aronson to come speak with us.  With second life, however, he was able to visit us from anywhere in the world!  It’s such a cool concept.

One of the most interesting parts of his author interview was when he spoke of his experience in the publishing industry.  Aronson stated that the response he often gets when he is proposing a new non-fiction book is “where does that fit into the curriculum?”  I never even thought about that, but it makes sense now that he said it.  It makes me wonder– do publishing companies assume that people only read non-fiction books when they are in school?  Are they the ones that are limiting non-fiction books?  

Another part of the interview I enjoyed was also about the publishing industry.  Teresa asked him how he got his funding to do all of his research.  Aronson explained advances and how he has a good enough reputation that people will often trust him enough to give him a large advance.  Then he has money to do the research he needs.  The talk about publishing really interested me because I love writing and it’s always been a dream of mine to one day get my writing published!

During one part of the interview, I realized that Marc and I had something in common.  He explained how he looks at footnotes as a “treasure map” and uses them for his research.  I do the same thing!  Whenever I’m doing research papers, I often look at the footnotes and use them to find more sources.  I thought it was so cool that I use the same kind of strategy as him.  Also, I liked his thought that authors shouldn’t only state the source, but they go even further.  He said that they should state what they think about the source, do they think it’s credible, do they agree, etc.  

Another thing Aronson said that I found interesting was how he said writers need to find an intersection between writing what they want to write/what interests them and writing about something that will interest an audience.  Throughout undergrad, I took several writing classes.  My professors always preached that you should always “write for you” and “forget about audiences,” but personally I agree with Aronson.  Of course there are some formats where you may not want an audience, but you should always take an audience into consideration if you’re hoping to write something that will be published one day.

At the end of class, I really enjoyed listening to everyone talk about what they were currently studying/doing.  I know several of our classmates from other classes, and I feel like I’ve gotten to know a few people from this class, but I still learned a lot of cool things about people.  For example, I had no idea Alden was involved in homeschooling!  Part of me wishes we would have done something like that at the beginning of the first class in bookhenge.  

Well, that’s it for now.  I’m off to finish working on my ALP presentation!

It’s that time of week again

In last week’s CR post, I wrote about my experience helping one of the students in my observation class to pick out a fiction novel when he normally only reads non fiction.  I went into school on Tuesday eager to figure out if he enjoyed the book we picked out together.  Shortly upon his arrival to class, however, I was a little disappointed.  On his desk was a science fiction book, but it wasn’t the one we picked out.

I immediately called him back to my desk and asked him what he thought of the book we picked out.  I thought he was going to tell me that he didn’t like that book, but he’d decided to check out another one.  That would have been OK with me– at least he was still trying to find one!  Except that’s not how it happened.  Joseph told me he loved the book!  Not only did he finish it that night, he read another science fiction book in that same weekend.  The book on his desk was his third one, which he’d gotten when he begged his mom to take him to the library.  Words can’t even describe how excited I was!

With that said, I have to say that the thing I’ve realized most this week is just how much this class has helped me with technology.  I noticed when Kelly, Curtis, Johnny and I were making our website this past week.  I hate to brag, but I’ve pretty much mastered Weeblys.  Not only that, but this class has introduced me to so many other things– virtual blogging, voicethread (even though I’ve had some troubles, second life (I was able to teleport to the solar system for our group meeting last week with no trouble at all!), book casts, animoto, iMovie, etc.

All of this technology would have been daunting just a few short weeks ago, but I’m starting to realize now why we’re pushed to get out of our comfort zone and try it.  My students are definitely going to benefit from this knowledge.  Without it, they’d have a boring pen and paper classroom.  Now, they’re going to learn (and have the opportunity to teach me) so many new and great technologies.  I guess the whole point of this CR post is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.  Try new things.  You never know– what you learn could change your life.

Real or Not Real?

For the past few weeks, I’ve spent every Monday and Friday observing a 6th grade classroom.  While some days I sit and watch, other days I get to spend my time conferencing with the students about the books they finish.  It’s part of a “40 book challenge,” in which the students strive to read 10 books a semester.  After they finish, they conference with either me or my cooperating teacher so that we can ensure their comprehension.  The challenge requires them to read books in a number of different genres.  For example, it requires 2 realistic fiction books, 2 science fiction books, 2 fantasy books, 2 biographies, 1 autobiography, 2 graphic novels, 2 non-fiction books, and some other genres along with 10 “reader’s choice.”

Students talk to me about a number of different books, and I never really paid attention to the type of book each student read until after our non fiction discussions this past week.  When I went to the school this Friday, I looked at the worksheets for each of the students with whom I conferenced.  There were very few exceptions, but for the most part, I was astonished to find just how correct the readings for this week were.  The majority of the girls had completely filled up their fiction slots (historical fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, and science fiction), and they had gone onto their reader’s choice slots and continued to read fiction novels.  Most were saving their non-fiction slots for last.

The boys, however, were the opposite.  In fact, one boy in particular (I’ll call him Joseph) came to me to talk about a book he’d just read on America’s past hurricanes.  Joseph is an extremely talented reader, and he flies through books at a fast pace.  The majority of his books, however, were non fiction.  His favorite books are books about science– facts about earth, weather, plant life, etc.  On Friday, after Joseph finished telling me about his book about America’s past hurricanes, he handed me the sheet to initial that he’d finished.  I saw right away that there was a problem– Joseph had not only filled up all of his non fiction slots, but he’d filled up his reader’s choice slots with non fiction as well.  Therefore, the book he read couldn’t count for the 40 book challenge.  

My cooperating teacher and I decided to count it, but I sat down with him and told him that he needed to try other genres.  Needless to say, he was very disappointed.  He even asked if a fact book about America’s history could count as historical fiction.  At this point, I thought back to all of the posts I read from this past week.  I decided to try my best to help bridge him from non fiction to fiction.  Knowing his love of science, I pulled some science fiction books from the classroom bookshelf.  Together we read the summaries of them and found one that interested him the most.  When he left, he seemed really excited to mix his love of science with a cool story line.  I don’t know who was more excited– him or me!  

Well, I’m done rambling on.  Knowing his speed reading, I’m sure he’s probably already finished with the book.  I plan to speak to him on Friday and see how the bridging worked for him, and I’ll mention it in my next CR post!  I feel so lucky that I encountered this situation right after having the non fiction readings.  I’m off to bed.  Until next time…

The Gap between Fiction and Nonfiction

“Young people are eager to know new things, fascinated with discoveries large and small, hungry to make the world around them their own.  Fiction requires us to invent it, and we may not be talented at that.  Nonfiction is simply giving kids what they want and need.  It is offering a kind of basic sustenance that they crave” – Aronson pg. 113

When I first looked at this assignment, I felt a little out of my league.  Let me clarify– when I named myself a book lover, I didn’t mean nonfiction.  I didn’t even consider it.  I am a nonfiction lover.  I am a lover of poetry, drama, novels, etc.  I have never been interested in nonfiction.  Why is that, and how can we, as teachers, change it?

I’ve mentioned several times that I’ve loved books since I was just a little kid. I can remember coming home with armloads of books from the library over summer, and finishing all fifteen or so of them in the two-week span.  I never, however, sought out nonfiction books.  Why?  Aronson mentions a few times in his articles that boys have a natural craving for nonfiction whereas girls tend to grab fiction.  So is it because I’m a girl?  Or is it because the nonfiction books I would enjoy aren’t being published?  Before I even read Aronson’s essays, I started thinking about the types of fiction books I enjoy in order to see if there’s any relation to non-fiction.  I love picking up a fiction book because it takes me somewhere I haven’t been– but is it the fictional telling of it that I enjoy, or is it the nonfiction facts woven in?  For example, I’ve said several times already that I devoured The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  While the writing was fantastic and the story riveting to me, I think the main thing I found interesting was the fact that it put me in someone else’s shoes.  I was able to see through the eyes of someone who had cancer.  I was able to learn about the symptoms, what it might feel like, the treatments, etc.  I was using fiction to vicariously learn nonfiction facts.  Another genre I love is historical fiction.  I’ve read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory three times, and watched the movie times than I can count.  Not to mention, I loved the show Tudors.  The story of Henry VIII and the English court in the early 16th century fascinates me.  Because of this, I can’t help but wonder:  If there were interesting nonfiction books available to me when I was younger that centered on court life in the time of Henry VIII’s reign or the symptoms of cancer, would I have been more likely to read them?

One thing that stood out to me from Aronson’s article “Why Adults Can’t Read Boy Readers” was the following quote about the boy who was reading the book about catching yellow-fin tuna:

“Ironically, from the point of view of the children’s and young adult world, because of what he was reading, that boy passionately learning from those dense, printed pages, is a non-reader” Aronson pg. 99

As soon as I read that quote, it really struck true for me.  As I was growing up, I never considered my brother Michael to be a “reader.”  He never read novels or poems like me.  Now looking back, however, I can remember one specific birthday when my Grandpa (who was a science professor) sent him a box full of science textbooks.  My brother tore through them at an astounding pace.  I can remember him jabbering my ear off about experiments and the history of electricity and a whole bunch of other things that I found to be pointless.  Why is it that he could read all of those books and gain so much knowledge, yet I never considered him to be a reader?  Even my parents often said that I was the only one that inherited their passion for reading.  Why do we not consider non-fiction worthwhile to read?  Doesn’t this prove that the “neglected step-child” view of nonfiction is correct?

So, how can we fix this?  Aronson makes a great point.  He states that too often adults don’t know what students want or need to learn, so they often put too much or too little into non-fiction literature.  The result is usually dull reading.  Aronson states:

“We lack the confident gusto of an earlier era.  Think of, say, a granddad explaining how to make a special fishing lure, or an uncle pointing here and there as he tinkers with his ancient car to keep it on the road, or a neighbor with a sure hand showing how to sew and quilt.  None of these people needed to consult experts.  Our non-fiction has none of the cozy confidence any of these people had, or have” Aronson pg. 112

My mouth nearly dropped open when I read the above quote.  Aronson is so right.  How do I know?  Well, I’ve never liked science.  Despised it, actually.  I would probably rather get on a treadmill for an hour than read 15 minutes of a geology textbook.  However, like I mentioned before, my grandfather was a science professor, and geology was one of his favorite subjects to teach.  Every time I went to his house, I was awe-struck at the many bookshelves full of different rocks and minerals.  I remember sitting for long periods of time listening to him tell me about this rock and that, letting me touch it, educating me on its history, its uses, and so much more.  One thing I don’t remember is ever feeling bored or that what he was telling me was dull information.  Now that I think about it, I realize he wasn’t talking to me like an expert.  While his passion showed through, he told me the information in a way that was tailored to my age, my experience level, and things that I would understand.  He didn’t ramble off like a thesis paper, he told me things he thought I would find interesting.  I highly doubt he was sitting there second guessing himself on what I needed to know or if he would get a detail wrong.  He was just sharing about something he loved and was interested in.  So I say follow Aronson’s lead.  Let’s get that confidence back, and let’s start looking at nonfiction as legitimate literature.  If we start there, we might just be able to bridge the gap that we’ve made and create more readers than ever before.

The Right to Read

For the last wave in this past week’s voice thread (or my blogs posts since voicethread wasn’t working), I posed a question on the right to read and whether or not it can extend from the banning of certain books to the right to literacy as a whole.  I’ve thought about it for the last few days, and I’ve become increasingly certain that the right to read encompasses many different things.  Therefore, one can be the right to be literate.

Growing up, I figured everyone knew how to read.  My mom taught me before I went into kindergarten, and even though I knew everyone’s mom didn’t teach them, I assumed every child learned in school.  I have to say I even entered college with this view, and it wasn’t until my ECI 520 class that I realized just how naive I’d been.  My professor explained to the class that many people across the world (even some people in America) don’t know how to read and write.  Even some people who receive schooling never become proficient. He asked us to take 10 minutes and list all of the times from when we wake up in the morning to when we go to bed at night that we read.  The results were astonishing, and it really hit me just how hard it would be to function in society if I didn’t know how to read!  I mean, it’s essentially like going to a foreign country and trying to get around when you can’t read anything on the signs.  

As you probably know by now, books are a huge part of my life.  I don’t think I go a single day without reading for pleasure, and I probably don’t go more than a few minutes without reading anything.  Therefore, it really makes me hurt for the people who aren’t taught how to read.  I can’t imagine living without being able to get lost in a book.  I can’t help but wonder what I can do to help people learn to read?  What are some non-profits out there that help with literacy?  So, for this week’s critical reflection, I decided to make a small list of some non-profits that deal with literacy:

Jumpstart For Young Children, Inc.Room to ReadFirst BookPlanet Read and The Beat Within.  

The above list is, by all means, not exhaustive.  There are tons of non profit groups that deal with literacy in the US and other countries.  If you love reading as much as I do (or teaching!) I challenge you to look into it.  Try to find one near you.  Volunteer or become a sponsor.  Help ensure that everyone has the right to read.  I’m off to do some research of my own!

Voicethread: Layer Two

Again, Voicethread isn’t working for me.  By the way, I thought this was so cool!  Bill Ferriter was my 6th grade language arts teachers at Davis Drive, and he’s a huge reason why I love reading and language arts.  He’s also a large reason why I wanted to teach middle school.  It was pretty awesome to click on the video and see him teach again! Here’s my layer two:

I’ll start by saying that I do agree that a teacher has a responsibility to introduce her students to new technology.  Valenza has it right– if we wait and wait until things are allowed in our schools rather than fighting for them, then we could be losing out on precious time for our students to learn and become proficient in these tools.  I think a lot of it has to do with teachers, administrators, and the county as a whole being a little scared of this new technology.  I know I was scared of a lot of technology, and I was even a little frustrated when I entered the MAT program and found myself constantly trying to learn new things.  Now, however, I feel so much more prepared and proficient when it comes to technology.  After all, we’re teaching the future, and technology is part of our future.  How can we leave that out and not fight for our students?

One thing I feel like I must mention, though, is the fact that simply putting an ipad in each students hands isn’t goin to accomplish this.  Any type of technology in a classroom is only effective if used in the appropriate way.  Teachers need to work for ways to use technology WITH their curriculum, and not just for the sake of using technology.  Make sure the technology is helping students synthesize what they’ve learned or search for new information, not just playing on the computer to learn new and savvy things.

As teachers, it’s up to us to fight for our right to use technology in the classroom.  We are the ones with experience, we are the ones that know what works in a classroom, we are the ones that understand that sticking an ipad in a child’s hands doesn’t create beneficial technological learning experiences.  Therefore, we should be the ones fighting and presenting clear arguments.  The people who make a lot of the decisions probably don’t teach, and therefore they need to hear our voices.

For the last wave, my question is this:  How far does the “right to read” go?  Is it only an issue of books being taken off the shelves, or can it extend all the way to everyone having the right to be literate?

Voicethread isn’t working: Layer One

So I tried to record on voicethread last night, but it wasn’t working on my computer.  I figured it was just because my internet was spotty, but I just tried again on my work computer, and it won’t let me record!  It keeps saying my sign in doesn’t have a picture, and then when I finish recording my little dice picture shows up then disappears.  I don’t know if it’s a probably with my account or what, but here’s the script of what I was reading in the voicethread layer one. PS.  I’m sorry if it actually did work, and I just can’t see it.  You might have to listen to me three different times on the voicethread.

There are many tough topics in young adult novels, but one of the topics that stands out most to me is suicide. One book on suicide that I read was The Pact by Jodi Picoult.  In this book, a suicide pact goes wrong and one boy is left standing and is accused of murder.  This book gave me a different look on suicide because the main girl who took her own life lived a pretty normal life.  She didn’t have anything horrible or traumatic happen to her.  She was just depressed.  I think this book served a great role of creating awareness about suicide and how depression can happen in anyone and it’s always important to be aware.  I understand how some people might reject books with suicide as a topic, though.  I think some people may think it gives kids “ideas” or “glorifies” suicide, but I think that being honest about topics like this is much better than simply sweeping them under the rug.  After all, if we’re honest with kids, won’t they be more likely to be honest with us if anything is wrong?

 Before this assignment, I never knew about the student’s Right to Read.   I was really interested in the article about Perks of Being A Wallflower, though, because I just read that book two weeks ago.  When I finished the book, I was shocked at some of the drug and sexual content and how it could still be considered a YA novel.   I agree that the decision to keep the book was a good one, however, because these are issues teens are going to face.  Why not read them and have an opportunity to discuss them with their peers and teacher?  I think the consent form brings forth a happy medium, but I think it should only be necessary if the book is part of the class’ curriculum.  I don’t think it’s necessary if a student wants to simply check it out from a library, but I do like that parents are willing to get involved in their students’ reading.  

I’ve never taught, and I’ve never faced censorship personally.  My parents knew I loved to read, and they always trusted my judgment that I’d read good books.  Do I think I read some books that were meant for adults when I was a young adult?  Sure.  Do I think it corrupted me? No.  I think it helped me understand this world that I was getting myself into as I grew up.  I’m a firm believer in discussing things with children and not making them this big scary unknown.  Sweeping the problem under the rug doesn’t get rid of it.