Monthly Archives: September 2008

Easy political site for students

Where They Stand… is an online interactive site from The Sacramento Bee which compares and contrasts the various positions of Barack Obama and John McCain.

The language is short and simple. The display is helpful, too, since it’s done in the form of a Venn Diagram and demonstrates where they share common ground, too.

This would be a great way to assess students on what they know if you’re covering two people, characters, events, or anything that can be compared and contrasted. They come up with their venn diagram and then write short blurbs on the differences of each or the similar beliefs of both.


Who are the reluctant readers among us?

Reluctant readers are:

  • male and female
  • young and old
  • able and struggling
  • overscheduled and overwhelmed

I’ve talked to some adults who just don’t read books, in fact they haven’t picked up a book since school. It doesn’t matter if we came from literature-rich homes (our parents had books at home and bought books for us) or literature-poor homes (there were very few to no books in the house and reading wasn’t a priority for anyone). Of my three boys, only one of them is a reader, yet their rooms were filled with books and they were read to daily. My husband and I both are readers, and visiting the library was a weekly ritual. Since I have reluctant readers in my two older boys, for the past five or six years I’ve been on a mission to find books that reluctant readers, especially reluctant boy readers would enjoy.

So what factors play a role in motivating reluctant readers? Over the next five weeks, I’ll be talking about the following factors and offering book suggestions for each category.

Factors that get reluctant readers to pick up a book:

  1. Titles that grab their attention
  2. Cover art that catches their eye
  3. Authors that they’ve come to rely on for a good story
  4. Opening paragraphs that draw them in
  5. A book that they just can’t put down.

Week one: Catchy titles

how-to-steal-a-dog.jpgHow to Steal a Dog by Barbar O’Conner – “The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.”

memoirs.jpgMemoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin – After high-school junior Naomi conks her head, she can’t remember anything that happened since sixth grade.

humptydumpty.jpgHumpty, Dumpty Climbs Again by Dave Horowitz- Humpty Dumpty used to love climbing, but after his big fall his confidence is shattered. The doctor can fix his shell, but how will he get his nerve back? When one of the King’s horses gets stuck on a cliff, Humpty has a chance to show the world what a resilient egg he can be.

horseradish.jpgHorseradish : Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid by Lemony Snicket- “It is not very polite to interrupt a person, of course. But sometimes if the person is very unpleasant you can hardly stop yourself.

Vocabulary Strategy: List-Group-Label

Two teachers (one social studies, one math), came up to me for help with teaching vocabulary in their classrooms. If you were here last year, maybe you remember a vocabulary session that Kapua and I had where we said the students should get no more than 5-7 new words per week, PERIOD (as in, not PER period, but total). Anyway, the first list I looked at had like 30 words (I may be exaggerating, but not by much) and the second list had maybe 20 words. None of these words could be eliminated, they were pretty much all essential to the unit and many of them were very content-specific words (not used in normal conversation, or outside of that content’s classroom). Dilemma.

One idea that they’re both going to try out is what I call a word sort, but it’s also called list-group-label or categories and labels.

How does it work?

Teachers choose important technical vocabulary that is critical to students’ comprehension of content or a text. Variation: if students have some prior knowledge, or they read a piece ahead of time, they can brainstorm words as a whole class by asking them to think of words that come to their mind when they think of the concept.

1. Provide each student with a copy of the critical vocabulary.

2. Read each of the terms aloud as students follow to match pronunciation to print.

3. Assign student groups.

4. Ask groups to discuss the words and decide on how to categorize the word into logical groups.

5. Groups give each category a label.

This is just an initial classification before the teaching starts. You can now engage students in the background building activities of the lesson and tweak/refine the list and the labels along the way.

6. At the end of the unit, students can again group and classify the terms and justify the categories as needed.

Why would I use this strategy?

  • students need to access and gain background knowledge related to the topic based on encountering the technical vocabulary related to the topic.
  • by discussing and grouping the words into categories, students are creating attributes of the words in relation to each other and the topic being studied.
  • by labeling the words, students create a structure for remembering the words and the information they have gathered related to the words.

Sample worksheet:

Web 2.0 tool of the week

The Awesome Highlighter

If your students are doing web research, this web 2.0 tool is pretty cool. It allows students to highlight key points in their web research and if you like them to use Post its, or sticky notes while they’re reading, this tool lets them add notes on the site. The notes can be downsized by pressing the hide button and a little “read” widget will stay by the text where the note is located. The note feature can be used to demonstrate the reading strategies you’re working on in class like summarizing, evaluating, predicting, connecting, etc.. Awesome Highlighter is easy to use and no registration is required. Students copy the URL to the site and the site will pop up with the highlighter menu bar on the top. It saves their sites with their highlights and their notes.

*Caution – some sites are not compatible with this free tool, but it’s still a user-friendly, valuable tool.

Hot new book series

Link to Rick Riordan’s talk on his latest book 39 Clues

The Cahills are the most powerful family the world has ever known. Two Cahill kids, Amy and Dan are the main characters. When their Grandma Grace dies, they find out that this large family needs to find the 39 clues around the world. If they are the first team to find the 39 clues, they will find the secret to the Cahill power and all the riches will belong to them. If they don’t take the challenge, they will just inherit 1 million dollars. The kids take up the challenge. Each book will unlock one clue. Learn about history and geography while you read the books.

The 39 Clues website

Rick Riordan 51l8hin6wal_sl160_aa115_.jpg is the author of the first book The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones, but there will be other books that follow, written by other authors. If Rick Riordan sounds familiar, he is the author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (Lightening Thief, Sea of Monsters, Titan’s Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth).

The next book, 51jrfkuypxl_sl160_aa115_.jpg The 39 Clues: One False Note is written by Gordon Korman (Island, Dive, and Climbed series) and will be coming out in December. There will also be a movie coming soon.

Check this series out alone or as a family. This sounds like it’s going to be exciting! Happy reading!!