Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Type is that Blog?

Found this on my reader today. It's a site called Typlealyzer and supposedly analyzes the 'personality' attributes of the blogger. Here's mine:

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

I thought that I was more of a Duty Fulfiller than a Mechanic but this is what came up. Further analysis shows what part of the brain is active during the writing of this blog. It seems that the thinking, practical and sensing parts of my brain were most dominant - it happens to be mostly the left side of the brain - nothing going on in the right according to the diagram (which won't copy here). I couldn't get it to analyze my wikis (here and here). Interesting stuff!

One Year Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of this blog. I have to say that I had no idea of the amount of time, energy, researching, soul-searching, and tongue-holding it took to write this weekly post when I decided to start last year. I've been able to share some really neat things that have applications to education and some that are just fun. The most gratifying are the comments have been posted. It's just like getting mail from someone unexpected - a real treat!

Just a brief post today about the highlights of the keynote speech by David Warlick from the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee Symposium held in London on Dec 11. This was not the first time that I've heard David. Last year at the OLA Superconference, he was the OSLA keynote speaker. Here is the list of critical points that I feel he made:
  • The 21st century teacher must be a master learner
  • Print resources are beginning to disappear - what are the implications to schools?
  • The world is moving from a competative stance to a more cooperative stance.
  • Future job opportunities will be in science, engineering and the ARTS
  • Students of today are different
  • Video games are learning engines
  • Broadband access is an equity issue
  • Information is raw material
  • To be literate in the 21st century means: learning literacy, learning habits and adoptin of a learning lifestyle
  • What are the pedogogies of information abundance?
To me, what really stood in mind was the issue of equity in this 21st century world. David said that many countries are moving to wireless. For example, he said the whole county of Macedonia is wireless and Mexico will soon have broadband access for all in a short time. I fear that our country's politicians are really not focusing on what needs to be done to assure that Canada is able to compete in this flat world. If investment in infrastructure is needed to stimulate the economy, then providing broadband access to all Canadians seems a good infrastructure investment.
I look at many school boards and see issues of equity - new schools have all kinds of technology (computers with Smartboards in every classroom) and old schools struggle with poor wiring and lack of equipment. There hasn't been a new secondary school built in our area since the 70s. Our secondary teachers say that the biggest barrier to implementing read/write web tools is lack of access to computers.
Comments from David's 2 cents Worth blog post about his presentation said that many of the teachers at the keynote would not do anything about the message. I really think that teachers want to integrate more technology into their teaching but are deterred by the lack of access and the reliability of some of the technology.
And what about all of those students who don't have computers and Internet access at home? I fear that they are being left behind. That's my 2 cents worth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nearest Book Meme

In essence, what I have learned from teacher research has made me breathe Eleanor Duckworth's (1996) question as a mantra:"What if it were otherwise?"

* Get the book nearest to you. Right now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write this sentence - either here or on your blog.
* Copy these instructions as commentary of your sentence.
* Don't look for your favorite book or your coolest but really the nearest.

This was lying on my kitchen floor, waiting for me to get in my "to be read" pile. You Gotta' be the Book by Jeffrey Wilhelm, who will be coming to present in our district in February.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

You As The Dewey Decimal System

Sharon Seslija's Dewey Decimal Section:

085 In Italian, Romanian & related languages

Sharon Seslija = 9818549592901 = 981+854+959+290+1 = 3085

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Couldn't resist this one. Check out You As The Dewey Decimal System. Just fill out the form and see what comes up. I don't know how this came up , but I do have Romanian roots.

Last Reflections On NCTE

So many sessions, so much to write about! Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke talking about 25 years of lit circles and the absolute importance of creating community for the circles to work. Writing and inquiry circles as the next generation of students collaborating to make meaning. Jim Burke, Jeffery Wilhelm and Alan Sitomer presenting effective adolescent literacy instruction. They speak about the new 3Rs: relevance, relationships and rigour as being the foundation. Janet Allen, who uses the following definition of literacy:

"Literacy involves the ability to encode or decode meaning in any of the symbolic forms used in the culture."

and quotes that:

"Learning is not doing; it is reflecting on doing."

Yvette Jackson, who works with underachieving adolescents in New York has a symbolic representation of learning:

L: (U + M) (C1 + C2)

learning: (understanding and motivation) (competence and confidence)

So what does this mean? We need to focus on strengths, building on what our students know and can do and supporting them as they try new learning. Underachievers have the following characteristics: they are resilient, verbal, sociable, tech savy, creative, passionate, energetic, and problem solvers. So as teachers we know our most challenging students have these characteristics and use this information to create engaging, motivating lessons. And we need to expect HIP for them: high intellectual performance by using HOP: high operational practices (critical thinking: evaluating questioning, critiquing, analyzing, judging and synthesizing). One way to do this is through analogies.

Sara Holbrook showing us how to use summary frameworks that lead into poetry. Lee Ann Spillane showing us how to collect survey data using cell phones (can't wait to try this one). And finally, back to Janet Allen who hopes that all teachers embrace lifelong learning. But to remember that the new new literacies are built on the old literacies. She closes with the quote:

" The quality of the education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers."

So everytime we attend a conference, a pd session, a plc or read a professional book/article/journal we remember that these professional learning sessions contribute to the improvement of the education system as a whole and ultimate to the people we serve, our students.

Check out the NCTE Ning for handouts, powerpoint and discussions from the various sessions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sessions at NCTE

My first session was called Applying the Reading Strategies to Enhance Writing, presented by Karen Lanning and Carol Harrell of Kennesaw State University. They worked with students from grades 9 to first year university worked with students to gain insight into how reading and writing are intricately connected by having students apply the reading strategies: questioning, connecting, visualizing, predicting, inferring during revision. They presented a series of lessons to students that connected the reading and writing process and ultimately led them to read what they wrote from the stance of a reader. If we can get students to this point and to be constantly aware of their readers then the quality of writing will improve. The students were working on metacognitive skills as well, reflecting on how connecting, questioning, predicting and inferring could help them write better for their readers. Overwhelmingly, students had improved writing but also realized that writing is hard work.

My second session was called Designing Teaching and Writing Assignments for the 21st Century. The first part of the session was about genre theory. In summary what genre theory says is that texts grow out of situations and reflect patterns of instruction, and the roles, relationships and beliefs of the people using the texts. texts are social, rhetorical, dynamic, contextual and ideological. Ok so what does this mean? My understanding is this: that all ways of writing are genres and we need to help students understand the patterns of a particular genre and when that genre is most appropriate. So the OSSLT is a genre that requires a certain way of reading and writing; blogs and wikis are genres; twits (i.e those short 140 word messages in Twitter) are genres as well as all the traditional genres (forms) of writing. Unless we immerse and teach a genre to students, they will revert back to what they know. And the problem in writing is that students have difficulty moving genres of writing out of expected places. One of the ways of teaching students to understand genres in writing is through compare and contrast, i.e. comparing one genre to another. This portion of the session required a lot of concentration and thinking - since it was around 2:45 pm and I had been up since 3:00 am I was beginning to fade. However the second part was very practical and very read/write web oriented. Here's a list of 21st century genres the presented suggested:

* Amazon Book Reviews (or Chapters for us)
* Ad Analysis (why are commercials different from show to show?)
* Facebook/My Space Page for Literary Character (too bad they block these here)
* Chat/Instant Message Transcript (brainstorming activity, discussion, debates on chat)
* eBay Listing (what would a character from a novel sell on eBay?)
* Blogs
* Digital Narrative or Photo Essays ( traditional personal narrative in digital form)
* Infomercials (e.g. write an infomercial for metaphor)
* Wikis (create a class textbook)
* Podcasts (check out Radio Willow Web This is from an elementary school but one of the presenters was sitting beside a university student in a writing class and the student was listening to a podcast about the 6 traits of writing from this site)

Monday, November 24, 2008

NCTE Convention in San Antonio, Texas

My colleague Lisa Bott and I are attending the 90th national convention of the National Council of teachers of English. We flew in on Friday morning and have been attending inspiring sessions about a number of topics. It’s my intension to write a brief summary of the main ideas that were presented at the sessions I attended. Since I have to write a report for the pd committee, the contents of this blog will be my report. Currently, I’m in the hotel lobby at 6:00 am on Sunday. I’m an early riser and have been meaning to get to this blog sooner than this. Last night we spent out time on San Antonio’s Riverwalk. We ate dinner at a river side restaurant after taking a boat ride on the San Antonio River. The night was balmy - not warm as we are in the middle of a cold snap here (cold being around 56 degrees F) and it was quite pleasant. The River walk is filled with people, locals and tourists alike and is quite lively. Today after our last session, we’ll head to the Alamo, another short walk from our hotel. Our days have been spent at the Convention Centre a short walk away – it’s huge, bigger than Toronto’s Convention Centre. The participants are from all over the States and Canada – Lisa spoke to one who was from England.

One of the things that I have noticed, being a Canadian in the midst of mostly American teachers is the overwhelming sense of hope and renewal as a result of Obama’s victory. From what I gather, the No Child Left Behind legislation has wrought low moral, low level, teaching to the test instruction, scripted instruction and loss of creativity and the ability to respond to student needs, lack of differentiation, a shocking lack of respect to learners whose first language is not English and only one pathway for students (college). I know that I will be leaving this conferences knowing that I am lucky to be teaching in Ontario – we are far more advanced in education. The US has a long way to go, but there is a permeating sense of hope and excitement that things will change. Many speakers have spoken about a ‘sense of urgency’ for literacy instruction in the US especially with African-American and Latino children and Kylene Beers spoke about "segregation by educational rigour".

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Reminiscing on Ancient Rome

Found this on my blog travels this morning. Google has created Ancient Rome in 3D. You can actually see what the Forum and Coliseum looked like when they were fully intact. Here's a promo video:

Ancient Rome in 3D includes snippets of information about the various structures that the user can read as she travels through the city. You can:

* Fly into Rome as it looked in 320 A.D.
* Tour the interior of famous buildings.
* Visit the sites in 3D such as the Roman Forum, Colosseum and the Forum of Julius Caesar.
* Learn about how the Romans lived.

And there's a curriculum competition for educators who integrate this new tool into their lessons.

What a great resource for Ancient History for Grade 5 Social Studies, the Grade 11 World History course and English classes who study Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

And Latin. I took Latin in secondary school (from grade 9 to 11) and part of that course was the study of Roman life, history and great writers. I remember completing a project about life in Rome and I still remember meticulously drawing buildings and clothing as part of the project. It actually was one of my favourite assignments in secondary. I went through an ancient Rome reading kick - I read every historical fiction book that I could find in my school and public libraries (and believe it or not there were quite a few). I remember Miss Stone my grade 9 and 10 Latin teacher - she was a wonderful teacher: young, engaging and she challenged her small group of students to the point where we actually completed 3 years of Latin in 2. And the school system was flexible enough then to allow 3 credits to us. The next year Miss Stone was gone - not enough students took Latin so we had to take grade 12 Latin with Mrs. Closser. Mrs. Closser was ancient and smelled of cigarettes and booze - we were all convinced that she kept a mickey in her desk drawer. We didn't make it easy for her and I feel bad about that now. After losing Miss Stone, Latin didn't quite hold its appeal anymore.

So Latin gradually disappeared from the high school curriculum in Windsor and hasn't been seen since the mid-seventies. There are probably no teachers in our area around anymore to teach it even if there was interest (Latin has a curriculum document in Ontario). I know that I benefited from the study of Latin - it made learning terminology in my anatomy course in university easier because I was familiar with Latin vocabulary.

I wonder what course will be the next to become extinct?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Student Body: Classroom Exercises to Increase Mental Focus

I've been working with new teachers and Daily Physical Activity for the past couple of Teacher Connect sessions (the old NTIP). Browsing some of the videos on Edutopia led me to this one:

I know that I have to move after focusing intently on some task - I'm a kinesthetic learner (as well as a visual learner). We've also been working on differentiated instruction and I'm thinking that for those learners who need to move to concentrate, these 4 exercises might help them do that.
If you try some of these in your class, please tell me how they worked.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Some Recent Tags on

Here are some of my recent tags:

Redefining Rigor: Redefining our Future
This links to Vicki Davis' Cool Cat teacher blog who links to the original article. I didn't immediate link to Tony Wagner's article because I found Davis' summary and analysis to be just as insightful. You can access her comments and the original article from the above link.

Boolify Project

Neat site to help students and teachers with Boolean search strategies. It's interactive and includes some handouts for teachers to use when teaching website evaluation, Boolean search operators and refining search strategies. There are also links to Teacher Tube videos about searching.

Online Literacy is a Lesser Kind
Interesting article about how online reading differs from print reading. The author argues that 'slow' reading counterbalances web skimming". Here's another interesting paragraph from the article:

Another Nielsen test found that teenagers skip through the Web even faster than adults do, but with a lower success rate for completing tasks online (55 percent compared to 66 percent). Nielsen writes: "Teens have a short attention span and want to be stimulated. That's also why they leave sites that are difficult to figure out." For them, the Web isn't a place for reading and study and knowledge. It spells the opposite. "Teenagers don't like to read a lot on the Web. They get enough of that at school."

Hmm... implications?

Reading Between the Lines - and Everywhere Else: Where Literacy is Headed

An article from Kent Williamson, executive director of NCTE. According to a poll taken by NCTE of English language arts teachers:

Nearly two-thirds of the poll respondents indicated that their teaching methods had undergone marked changes reflecting new concepts of literacy. The most important 21st century literacy skills identified by poll respondents focus on decision making, interpretation, and analysis. Specifically, the top three abilities required for student success by poll respondents are:

1. The ability to seek information and make critical judgments about the veracity of sources (rated very important by 95% of poll respondents).

2. The ability to read and interpret many different kinds of texts, both in print and online (94%).

3. The ability to innovate and apply knowledge creatively (91%).


Consistent with this view, the teaching/learning methods most strongly identified with building 21st century literacies were

1) learning through cross-disciplinary projects/project-based learning,

2) inquiry-based learning, and

3) incorporating student choices as a significant part of instruction.

Here's further support for a strong school library program, a consistent research process and collaboration between classroom teachers and teacher librarians.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Getting In Touch with Your Inner Tortoise

Last week was insane and so was the week leading up to it. Four days of full day workshop sessions plus another day attending a session by the literacy and numeracy secretariat. The week before spent preparing everything because you knew that you were going to be out of the office for 5 days. Ideas flitting in and out of your head but not sticking because you have no time to think because you are trying to fit in your exercise program, eat nutritiously (try this when eating catered all week), attend choir practice, a charity fundraising event and go watch your son perform a concert that's located across the border. Oh, and help your daughter study for a major exam for her medical degree.

I woke up Saturday morning fully intending to keep to my regular schedule of reading my feeds, blogging, catching up with Thursday and Friday's emails and watching a presentation or two from the k-12 conference. But I couldn't - I absolutely could not keep to the pace that I usually set. So I ended up not doing much of anything and felt absolutely guilty about it. After all, in our culture, slowing down is frowned upon. It's not the N. American way of life; of packing in more and more into our day and making the most of every single minute.

Well, imagine my surprise and delight to find this little gem sitting in my reader from TED. watching it alleviated my guilt for "wasting" a day. It's from Carl Honore author of the book In Praise of Slowness. In the video, he speaks about the effects of cramming too much into a day, including the effect of our speed-rushed culture on our students. Take a look:

I found that today, Sunday, I am much more relaxed and ready to get back to work. I'm going to get in touch with my inner tortoise more often.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

K-12 Conference is Here!

On Monday, October 20 the 2008 K-12 Online Conference begins. For those of you who are completing your Annual Learning Plans for this year, this is a great way to attend professional learning sessions from presenters who are leaders in the field of 21st century learning.
Stephen Heppell, who is Europe's David Warlick and was featured at last year's OLA Superconference, posted the keynote address last week but you can still access it here as all of the presentations are archived.

The great thing about this is you can attend the 'live event' ( it's in GMT, but they include a time converter. For example 12:00 noon GMT is 8:00 am here) or you can attend at your convenience; they archive all sessions. You can load presentations onto mp3 players to listen to while you run, drive, bike.....

There are 4 main strands: Getting Started for people new to the read/write web; Kicking It Up A Notch for the more experienced; Leading the Change and Prove It

Here's some sessions that caught my eye:
Stephen Heppell's keynote
Free Tools For Universal Literacy Design
Reading Revolution: New Texts and Technologies
Web 2.0 Tools to Amplify Elementary Students' Creativity and Initiative
Parental Engagement in the 21st Century
Monsters Bloom in Our Wiki
Beyond the Stacks: Using Emerging Technologies to Strengthen Teacher Librarianship
The Write Stuff with Blogging Buddies

I've linked to the teasers. Some teasers are posted to You Tube, so you probably won't be able to access from a school computer, but others have used other tools that are accessible at school. These sessions are for elementary teachers, secondary English teachers, teacher librarians, really any teacher who wants to see how students of the 21st century can be engaged in learning - students as young as grade 1.

For the complete schedule look here. There are some other sessions listed that don't have teasers, so check the whole schedule. Here are some others:

Using Online Argument Role-Play to Foster Learning to Argue and Arguing to Learn in a High School Composition Class
Promise into Practice: What It Now Means to Teach Adolescent Readers and the Impact of the Results

Names to look for: Vicki Davis, Bud Hunt, Sylvia Martinez, Chris Lehmann, Donna DesRoches, David Warlick.

I hope that you'll pick at least one session that interests you and is at your level of initiation. This is a way of providing opportunities to differentiate for your professional learning. So find a friend, pick as session or two and go from there. If you want you can join in the online discussions and reflect with colleagues from around the world.

The best thing about this? It's FREE!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ten Thankful Things

It's Thanksgiving today and I have a bit of time to blog before the family comes. I thought that today I would write a list of things for which I'm thankful. Here it is:

1. I'm thankful for my wonderful husband. He' s been my very best friend for 30 years.

2. I'm thankful for my three children Dana (27), Petar (25)and Stefan (22) who amaze me everyday with their accomplishments and good heartedness.

3. I am thankful for the health of my family. Good health is both hard work and a blessing.

4. I am thankful that both my husband and I are working and have decent jobs. Many, many people in our area have been hit by closures of the automotive and other manufacturing plants and are not so fortunate.

5. I am thankful for my extended family - my children still have both sets of grandparents, several aunts, uncles, and cousins many of whom live close enough for visits.

6. I am thankful that I live in Canada. My apologies to our American neighbours but there are some truly scary things going on in your country. Clay Burell, one of the ed-bloggers I follow posted this on his blog the other day.

7. I am thankful for my friends. They 'get' me.

8. I am thankful for my colleagues. Their support is too valuable for words and they help make me look good everyday.

9. I am thankful for authors who write good books. I don't know how I would spend my summer vacations without you.

10. I am thankful for my running partner Andrea. We have been running together every week for the last 15 or 16 years. Some marriages don't last that long.

Well there you have it. It's nothing profound but a list of the things that have an effect on my life everyday.

For what are you thankful?


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Inconvenient Youth

Find more videos like this on Inconvenient Youth

Blue Man Group has waded into the global warming arena with this video posted on a Ning site called Inconvenient Youth a site developed by teens about global warming. This video lead me to think of one of geographies or sciences that examine global warming. What a great hook for beginning a unit or as a model for students to create their own video about the effects of global warming. Or classes could develop their own Ning focused on local issues associated with global warming.

Vicki Davis who writes Cool Cat Teacher blog also reflects that:

This video from the blue man group on the environment has been widely viewed around the world. Such videos spark social change -- these are not TV commercials but viral videos that spread from blog to blog and email to email. How information travels has fundamentally changed.

I find her comment about viral videos thought provoking. The opportunity that individuals have to cause change - for good or for evil - connects me to what I heard about a year ago when I was able to attend a session given by David Warlick at an OLA Superconference in Toronto. He spoke about the 3 Rs - reading writing and 'rithmatic and what they looked like in the new information landscapes of the 21st century. But he added a fourth component - the ethical use of information. As teachers we must teach our students the responsibilities connected with this ability to spread viral videos or viral podcasts or viral anything over the Internet.

I think that this responsibility ties in nicely with Character Education
. This was taken off our school board's web site in regards to character education:

Schools play an active role in organizing, developing and implementing programs that serve to foster and develop character. We believe that all members of our school community should strive to be: Caring, Responsible, Fair, Self-Disciplined, Respectful, Diligent and Trustworthy. These traits were determined in consultation with our staff, parents, students and community partners. Our interest in developing character is derived from the fact that these attributes affirm our human dignity, promote the development and welfare of the individual person, serve the common good and define our rights and responsibilities in Canadian society.

I'm not sure how this post started with a video about global warming to a connection to character education and ethical use of the Internet. But it did and I am constantly awed by the importance of our jobs as teachers and by the scope of what we do with kids on a daily basis.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Google Books

Today I thought I would write about Google Books. Google is trying to amass a number of free downloadable books in full text. Most of these books are classics and some like Animal Farm are still being used in our English classes today.

Now the reason that I'm writing about this is that I'm thinking that there is a practical use for these online books:
1. If you are studying one of these books in class, then students can't use the excuse of forgetting the text at school and not doing homework - the book is online.
2. A student doesn't have to cart the text home - the book is online.
3. A student can't complain that the book from school (which is 20 years old) is falling apart - the book is online.
4. Now this is the cool part but one I'm having trouble with. Google Operating System blog has some code listed that can be used to actually embed these books into a wiki or a blog. If you had a library wiki you could create a page that housed a collection of classic texts or if you had an English class blog you could have access to the book right on the blog.

Apparently, you just have to copy the html code and then substitute the book id into a part of it and - Bob's your uncle - the actual book pops up in its full version that you can read right from the page you put it on. Joyce Valenza says that it's fairly simple and really, it looked simple. I've embedded code into my wikis and blogs and it usually works fine.

However, this time it isn't and I don't know if its me or Blogger or Wikispaces 'cause I can't get the darned thing to embed.

I'm nothing but persistent. I left a comment on Joyce's blog and sure enough, within 24 hours she responded (I wasn't sure what part of the book's URL held the book id that I had to insert and both Joyce and another reader who also got this thing to work helped me out). So I'm thinking that if they could do it, I could do it. I also read the comments on the Google Operating System blog and tried to do what they said as well. Honestly, I tried to get the code all on one line by doing what they said but Blogger wouldn't let me. I was so much into the flow of trying to get this to work that I lost track of time and was almost late for a wedding (not mine - I sing at these things sometimes).

To make a long story short, I still can't seem to get it. So this entry is minus the book that I was planning to embed. If anyone is able to do it, let me know how.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Too Busy To Be Betty

For this week's post, I'm going to link you to the Adolescent Literacy Book Club blog. I wrote a post in response to a chapter that I read on Saturday morning. The previous week was so darned busy that I needed the weekend to catch up on my program work. So, here's what I blogged about if you want to take a look. It's about writing and part of it's about drawing as thinking. The chapter is written by Linda Reif and she writes about using a "tellingboard" to aid reluctant writers. Next week I hope to have a regular post.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book Banning and Palin - The List

I just received the list of books vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tried to ban when she was mayor in Wasilla, Alaska. The list originated from a colleague who received it from a colleague who received from a colleague at the University of Windsor. You may or may not have heard or read about it but you can get some background here, and here.

Here's the list of books that she wanted banned (this information is taken from the minutes of the Wasilla Library Board):
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen

Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner

Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes

More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective

Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl

Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster

Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween
Symbols by Edna Barth

Quite a list, isn't it?


Check this out:

It's made from a neat online tool called GoAnimate. I'm playing with it now.

K12 Online Conference 2008

Found the poster for the K-12 Online Conference this morning as I was going through my reader.

I found this last year and emailed our board email conferences as a personal professional learning opportunity that can be attended from the comfort of your own computer. It was through this conference that I was introduced to people such as Konrad Golgowski, a teacher and PHD candidate from Toronto using blogs with his junior students and Dean Shareski in Saskatchewan who is a leading web 2.0 presence and one of the organizers of the conference.

The conference is free. You can attend in real time or attend sessions as they are archived. There are sessions for people just starting out and sessions for more experienced users. You can check out some of the conference sessions here. Catching my eye are the following:

Beyond the Stacks: Using Emerging Technologies to Strengthen Teacher-librarian Leadership
Carlene Walter and Donna DesRoches and

the Getting Started section.

There's a support wiki that has a section for first timers. And if you've heard of David Warlick but haven't heard him, you can do it hear as he is one of the keynote speakers.

I'll be attending, hope you will too!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What Gets Tested Gets Taught; What Gets Reported Gets Measured

I started this post by first going on a bit of a frustrated rant regarding the lack of a specific curriculum document from the Ministry of Education for information studies and the MIA vision statement for libraries that was submitted to the Ministry last year. Then I changed my mind and am going in another direction because as I was writing I realized that we do have curriculum - it's just that it's embedded into the content curriculum documents and it's not in one convenient spot. It would be nice if it were in one spot but it's not so I'll move on.

So now the challenge is how do we assess these expectations in a precise way? How do we collect data on student achievement with information literacy skills? And how can we use this data to advocate for students in this information-age?

Well, I found this interesting FREE assessment tool for information literacy skills linked in my PLN (personal learning network). It's called Trails: Tool for Real-time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills developed at Kent State University. It's free (did I say this already?), it will assign student logins to take an online multiple choice test, gives individual student reports and class reports in pdf. I took the grade 9 test and scored 94% ( I got 2 questions wrong). In the class report it told me exactly what areas needed improvement (topic development and evaluating sources). I can't attach the exact reports that it generated for me (Blogger doesn't allow it) but there are samples available on the site and you'll get an idea of the type of data it's collecting.

It's worth a look. If you can get by some of the American content, it's an excellent outline of the types of skills that need to be taught to help students achieve. For example, I created an account (it's easy) and had a look at the grade 6 test (only tests for grade 6 and grade 9 are posted). One of the first items is narrowing a topic. Let's think about this. Narrowing a topic is really important in this time of information overload. Where else are we asking students to narrow their topics? In writing! And where does this fit when we teach writing? In ideas - the first traits of writing. So you see when we teach skills in information literacy, we are not only teaching them how to research but really how to read and write and think. Literacy skills.

But back to the main theme of this post, how can we use this little tool? In a couple of ways. One, it would make an excellent diagnostic to get both class and individual student base-line data. Based on the data, as a teacher librarian you could target the exact skills that students need to improve. You could then test at the end of the year and look for growth in individual students and classes. Even though it has tests for grade 6 and 9, you could use the test items and modify them for other grade levels based on the expectations in the curriculum docs.

Bottom line is that data needs to drive instruction. We need to collect data on student achievement in information literacy. This little tool may help you do this in a more precise way.
Remember, what gets tested gets taught and what gets reported gets measured.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hole in the Wall

I spent the morning doing some maintenance on my blog, reading twits and blog posts and moving my RSS feeds from Bloglines to Google Reader.
I really like Google Reader because it has allowed me to put a feed from Reader on my iGoogle page. So when I go to my iGoogle page, I just get the new feeds without having to go through them all and I don't even have to leave iGoogle to read the posts - they pop up when I move my mouse over the feed. I love this! Talk about having information come to you!
In the same vein, I found this from a recent twit from Joyce Valenza. She is using Pageflakes to create resource feeds for Global Studies, Science and Spanish. Students at her school can go to this site set up for current web-based information that is updated regularly - in some cases on a daily basis. You'll also see that she has linked to her school's databases. So add a Pageflakes link to a pathfinder wiki and students have access to vetted resources by the teacher or teacher-librarian.
Another twit from Bud the Teacher, had me checking out this mind-boggling presentation by Indian researcher Sugata Mitra posted on TED. The experiment is known as Hole in the Wall. :

It's only a 20 minute video, but does it pack a punch! Check out the comments to this video. If you don't wish to watch the video, you can check out this summary here by Gary Stager Here's a quote from the summary that really spoke to me:

Mitra describes his learning theory as minimally invasive education--a hypothesis that even in totally unfamiliar situations, children in groups will learn on their own with little or no input from others, provided the learning environment induces an adequate level of curiosity (my emphasis). Like in minimally invasive surgery there should be no more expert intervention than absolutely necessary.

This work proves that when provided with access to a computer in a social context, all children will become computer literate with or without a traditional teacher. Mitra's careful experiments confirm the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky. Most of all, "The Hole in the Wall," offers a glimmer of hope for concerned global citizens who do not know where to begin in increasing educational opportunity in the developing world. The "Hole in the Wall" project is a testament to the competency and capacity of children to construct their own knowledge in a community of practice. Internet access can connect children to each other and the 21st century.

So how does this impact on our traditional roles as teachers right from the first day they enter school? What do school do to prevent learning as a self-organizing system? I'm still trying to get my head around this.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Research Projects That Motivate

As we begin the new school year, we need to think about student motivation and engagement. Inquiry-based learning is one of the best ways to motivate students. Students who are able to inquire about things they are passionate about or about things that have a direct impact on their lives are engaged and motivated. So how can we bridge the content we have to teach with student's passion and interests? Design good research projects.

Doug Johnson has 2 posts where he outlines what this means. In his first post he writes about research questions having an 'action element' to them. Take a look at his post where he shows a level 4 research question:

Level Four: My research answers a personal question about the topic, and contains information that may be of use to decision-makers as they make policy or distribute funds. The result of my research is a well support conclusion that contains a call for action on the part of an organization or government body. There will be a plan to distribute this information.
Primary example: How can our school help stop the growth in unwanted and abandoned animals in our community?
Secondary example: How might high schools change their curricula to meet the needs of students wanting a career in manufacturing in Minnesota?

Think about the motivation of adolescents who work at finding the answer to the above question.

Johnson linked to a post he wrote back in 1999 characteristics of excellent projects. Here is a summary:

  1. Motivational research projects have a clarity of purpose and expectations.
  2. Motivational research projects give students choices.
  3. Motivational research projects are relevant to the student’s life.
  4. Motivational research projects stress higher level thinking skills and creativity.
  5. Motivational research projects answer real questions.
  6. Motivational research projects involve a variety of information finding activities.
  7. Motivational learning tends to be hands-on.
  8. The use of technology can be exciting for many students.
  9. Good projects often use formats that use multiple senses.
  10. Interesting projects are often complex, but are broken into manageable steps.
  11. Collaborative learning is often stimulating and results in better products than individual work.
  12. Motivational research projects have results that are shared with people who care and respond.
  13. Learning that is assessed by an authentic tool is more meaningful that a paper and pencil test.
  14. Samples and examples give the learner a clear idea of what quality work looks like.
  15. Well-designed projects allow the learner to reflect, revisit, revise, and improve their final projects.
  16. Teachers and media specialists who enjoy authentic, project-based learning are comfortable with a loss of control over time, the final product, and “correct” answers.
  17. These teachers and media specialists accept active students rather than passive students.
  18. The professional’s belief that given enough time, resources, and motivation, all students are capable of high performance is critical.
  19. Like media specialists, teachers who do exciting projects recognize that their expertise in the learning and research process rather than in any particular subject area.
  20. Teacher enthusiasm becomes more important than ever.
  21. Teachers and media specialists who work on these kinds of project know that they don’t always work the first time.
Keep these in mind as you design projects for your students. In Johnsons's post he elaborates on these points with examples. You can also get more information about quality research projects by accessing our board's resources: Imagine the Learning, Research Success@ your library (see page 23 and 24 of the link for ordering info) and our new Research web page that you can access here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Learning to Blog

I haven't posted for a bit - I've been busy posting on the book discussion blog that a group of us started as a way of developing a professional learning group over the summer.

Right now, I am in Will Richardson's session on blogging that's being held during the Vision to Practice conference by the Greater Essex County DSB in Windsor, ON, Canada. Will is working with teachers new to blogging.

It's interesting as I sit back and listen to the discussions and concerns. It's evident to me that the message that social networking is a dangerous thing is very strong and that many teachers are not aware of the message that networking through the read/write web can be a very powerful learning tool that can motivate and engage students. Will showed us Anne Davis' blog post Rationale for Educational Blogging where she lists a number of reasons why blogging is pedagogically sound. She says,
There are many skills and concepts that need to be addressed to effectively help teachers learn to use blogs throughout their curriculum to foster these new literacies. It is not just a matter of transferring classroom writing into digital spaces. Teachers need to address writing for a public audience, how to cite and link and why, how to use the comment tool in pedagogical ways, how to read web materials more efficiently as well as explore other ways to consider pedagogical uses of blogs. Blogging requires us to teach students to critically engage media. Students need instruction on how to become efficient navigators in these digital spaces where they will be obtaining a majority of their information.

She writes about new literacies and I think that this is important. I think that we are in real danger of narrowly defining what literacy is. Literacy is not just a highly publicized score on a standardized test. In the quote above, Davis defines other literacy skills that are not part of these tests but are certainly part of what it means to be literate in the 21st century. And we know that what gets tested gets taught. So how do kids get proficient with 21st century literacies if we don't value them enough to place them within our curriculum or our testing systems? The reality is that blogs, wikis, rss, text messaging and social networking sites are part of the daily literacies of our students. If we don't teach them how to navigate and ethically use these technology who will?

If you want to know more about 21st century skills check this out here. There are lots of links on this site that will lead to articles that examine what it means to be literate in the 21st century and the types of skills that we need to foster in our students so that they will be prepared for a world that is totally different then the one for which we were prepared.

We had almost 50 teachers attend Will's 2 sessions. I am excited to see teachers at both secondary and elementary extending their learning by becoming familiar with blogs.

Here are 2 sources for more information on blogging that Will shared:

Support Blogging

Weblogs in Schools

Happy Blogging!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

An Online Book Club for Professional Development

At the end of the year, I offered the opportunity to the English Department Heads in my board to participate in an online book discussion over the summer. I set up a blog to facilitate the discussion and offered to contribute to the cost of the book. I had 3 teachers who were interested and this past week we began our discussion. So far, so good.

One of the things that Will Richardson says about the read/write web is that teachers must use the technology and become comfortable with it before they use it with students. This blog will provide a vehicle for 3 teachers to become comfortable and see the ways they can apply it in their classrooms next year. I'm hoping to expand this and have more teachers involved next time.

Our blog is called Adolescent Literacy. Drop in some time and feel free to comment.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Trojan Women

So much to write about, so little time. Here's my impressions about the Stratford play Trojan Women.

I didn't plan on seeing this play. My husband and I had an early dinner and were walking along the river admiring the swans and laughing at the antics of the ducks. We wandered into the Festival Theatre to see what was playing that evening. I think it was Romeo and Juliet. We saw this play before at Stratford and although each staging is different, we really weren't interested in seeing it again. The ticket seller suggested that we walk down to the Tom Patterson Theatre and check out The Trojan Women. She said that it was a short play and that we could get rush seat prices for it. So that's what we did. We'd never been to the Tom Patterson before. It is a small theatre with seating on 3 sides of the stage so the audience is quite close to the action.

The Trojan Women

This play, written by Euipedes, takes place right after the defeat of Troy by the Greeks. Here's the story (taken from the program):

After 10 years of siege, Troy has fallen to the Greeks. Outraged by the desecration of her temples, the goddess Athena persuades the god Poseidon to help her harass the conquerors on their journey home. Meanwhile Hecuba, Andromache and the other women of Troy grieve for their husbands, their children and their home. Now the property of their captors, they are destined to become either slaves or concubines, and Hecuba is desperate to learn the fate of her two daughters, Polyxena and Cassandra. As the day wears on, Cassandra arrives in a state of frenzy, uttering dark prophecies of the misfortunes awaiting the Greeks on their return home. the Greek herald, Talthybius, bring terrible news for Amdromache, and King Menelaus reclaims his wife, Helen, whose actions provoked the war. The women's anguish reaches fever pitch as they prepare to be taken away to endure their new lives in Greece.

Women are so often absent from history - most history is the history of men. This play takes us beyond the history of the Trojan war itself and into the aftermath when all the men are dead and the women are left to pick up the pieces and deal with the consequences. Euripides wrote this play thousands of years ago, yet here we are in the 21st century and women are still picking up the pieces and dealing with the consequences of war. We don't often think beyond what is displayed in our media about war - war is still mainly a male event characterized by soldier deaths and collateral damage (such a sterile term for death of civilians). We have brief glimpses into what happens to some women but usually it is just a line or 2 in a history book or a 30 second sound bite. So when I think about this play, my main reaction is that is refreshing to see history from a female perspective. Apparently, Euripedes was know for his strong women characters and this play was full of strong women whose perspective in this play was not a positive one.

I was surprised at the way Helen was portrayed - as a manipulative, selfish creature who was despised by the Trojan women. In many versions of this story that I have read, I have not seen her portrayed in this manner - usually it was Paris who was shown as weak, selfish and unconcerned by others' needs except his own.

This was the first Greek play that I've attended. I don't remember reading one or studying one in school. One of the drama teachers at my former school did some work with her students on Greek plays and I remember that one of the things that her students had the find out about was the purpose of the chorus in Greek plays. Now I understand what this is. In this play, some lines are spoken 'in chorus' by the actors on the stage.

I'm glad that we decided to see it. I'm not sure that I would go to Stratford just to see this play but it was certainly more entertaining than going to a bar/cafe or back to the hotel room to watch TV.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cabaret (and One New Tool)

PC from Quoteflections (see my blogroll) suggested that I write a post about the plays that I saw at Stratford. I'm no critic; my approach when reading, viewing or listening is for the entertainment value. I tend not to analyse but to feel and make connections. Since I don't want the post to be too long, I'll do this in installments. However, don't look for the next installment until August - I'm going away for a week and I'm not taking my computer with me.


My previous experience with this play is the well-known Liza Minelli/Joel Gray Hollywood movie version. I saw it in the 70's and mostly remember the songs more than the plot. So seeing this play performed in Stratford was like watching it for the first time. The movie version was heavily adapted and focused on the Liza Minelli character (Sally Bowles). The Stratford version is the original play from 1966. Here is a short synopsis (from Cabaret's program):

On New Year's Eve, 1929, a young American writer, Clifford Bradshaw, arrives in Germany to teach English and work on a novel. On the train to Berlin, he is befriended by a stranger, Ernst Ludwig, who secures him lodging at the boarding house of Fraulein Schneider and persuades him to sample the city's night life at the Kit Kat club. That club, presided over by an eerily flamboyant master of ceremonies, features and English cabaret singer named Sally Bowles, who takes an immediate interest in Cliff and loses no time in charming her way into his rooms and into his heart. But even as Cliff surrenders to the dream-like distraction of this love affair, he finds himself increasingly disturbed by the ominous changes taking place in the country (i.e. Hitler's rise to power and the anti-Jewish sentiment developing - my words here) around him - and by their implications for the people he has come to think of as his friends.

There is a subplot in the play about an autumn romance and the Fraulein Schneider/Herr Shultz subplot was new to me. Fraulein Schneider owns the rooming house in which Bradshaw lives while he is in Berlin. Herr Schultz, who is Jewish, owns a nearby fruit store and romances Fraulein Schneider with gifts of rare fruit. They decide to marry, but Fraulein Schneider calls it off when she sees which way the wind is blowing in her country.

I actually felt that in this version, the Sally Bowles/Clifford Bradshaw plot was almost secondary to the sub-plot of the Schneider/Shultz romance. Not sure why. The Emcee's constant presence in every scene was a joy to watch - his facial expressions (and other body parts) reflected the emotions of each scene. The music was excellent of course but it was really hard to forget about Liza Minelli's version of the theme song Cabaret and enjoy Trish Lindstrom's (the actress who portrayed Sally Bowles) version. This is probably because I've been belting out Minelli's version in my shower for the last 30 years!

This year, Stratford is moving back to it's Shakespearen roots, so all of the musicals have been moved to the smaller Avon Theatre rather than performing them at the much larger Festival Theatre as they have in the past. The Avon was packed for the matinee; not an empty seat in the house (in comparison, the evening performance of Taming of the Shrew, held at Festival, had a multitude of empty seats. I'll write more about this when I post about 'Shrew'). I do recommend this play if you like musicals. I'm never disappointed with my Stratford experience.

On a completely different note, I have to share a tool that was posted on a recent Joyce Valenza blog. It's called Glogster and it lets you design really cool graphic pages for your wiki. I quickly made one in about 10 minutes then added it to my pd wiki. When I have time, I'll play with it some more.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Voluntary Meme: My Seven Deadly Sins and Shakespeare

Clay Burell had this intriguing voluntary meme on his blog today. Since I tend to slide into the 'idle hands'/sloth mode in the summer, I thought that taking this Seven Deadly Sins quiz might be a bit illuminating. So here's a peek at my redemption factor - apparently I am not a candidate for living in an extremely hot place when I proceed to the next level:

Your sin has been measured. Happily for you, your sin profile leaves room for forgiveness. Just below, discover your full sinful breakdown and see the areas that you must improve, to save yourself from an eternity in hell.




Sloth:Very Low

Envy:Very Low

Lust:Very Low


Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

So there's a look at where my soul is headed. I'm surprised that wrath and pride are so low - I think that my husband might have a bit more to say about that. I tend to keep my wrath under wraps in public, but it generally comes out when I'm at home. I'm not going to tag anyone - it's just for fun.

On another note, last week my husband and I went to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (The Festival has a Facebook page that you can see here). Our trip is an annual summer event and this year we saw 3 plays: Cabaret (the musical), Trojan Women (a Greek play by Euripedes), and Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare). Stratford Shakespeare Festival is tradition for school field trips in Southern Ontario and watching Shakespearean plays being performed is the best way to appreciate his talent. It is well worth a summer trip.

I'm off to the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair today. I love summer!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Playing with Some Neat Sites

Spell With Flickr

L I - entrance lamp b Copper Lowercase Letter r A McElman_071026_2447_R y001

Spell with Flickr can be used with vocabulary and spelling lessons, and used to produce unique graphics for a variety of multimedia applications.

Motivational Poster Generator

This can be used to develop posters for many different content areas (character posters, setting posters, history, science - you name it).

Image Chef

The images generated in this site can be used in blogs and wikis. They can be saved as pictures and then used in powerpoint, on print and other applications.

In my wiki, there is a page called Media Making Tools. I have started creating a pathfinder for different tools for multimedia. I've added these tools to it. I invite you to add to the wiki - it is now unlocked.