Monthly Archives: November 2009

6 Reading Habits to Develop in Your First Year @ Harvard, Part 1

This series is from a handout given to Harvard freshman titled “Interrogating Texts: 6 Reading Habits to Develop in Your First Year at Harvard.” It’s never too early to practice, even if we’re not all going to Harvard. But first, some background from Susan Gilroy, Lamont Library, Reference Services.

Critical reading – active engagement and interaction with texts – is essential to your academic success at Harvard, and to your intellectual growth. Research has shown that students  who read deliberately retain more information and retain it longer. College students rarely have the luxury of successive re-readings of material, either, given the pace of life in and out of the classroom.

Picture 1Previewing: Look “around” the text before you start reading.

Preliminary impressions (looking around) offers you a way to focus your reading. For instance:

  • What does the presence of headnotes, an abstract, or other prefatory material tell you?
  • Is the author known to you? How does that influence your perception?
  • How does the layout of a text prepare you for reading? Is the material broken into parts–subtopics, sections, or the like? How might the layout guide your reading?
  • Does the text seem to be arranged according to certain conventions of discourse? Newspaper articles, for instance, have characteristics that you will recognize (inverted pyramid with the important information at top); textbooks and essays are organized quite differently. Texts demand different things of you as you read, so whenever you can, register the type of information you’re presented with.

Next up: Annotating

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Flat world teaching

flat_earth editThe World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman is about the economic turn of the world economy caused by technology’s ability to raze global barriers. The  title also alludes to the perceptual shift required for countries, companies and individuals to remain competitive in a global market where historical and geographical divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

What that does for education is that it opens up our classrooms and crushes the “sage on the stage” pedagogy. We may still be boss of our own domain (the pysical walls of our classroom), but we are facilitators of learning (including our own learning), and not the gods and goddesses of wisdom. Shucks!

The positive of this movement is that I have FREE access to quality resources at my fingertips, and without a lot of time commitment on my part. Here’s my example:

1. In the 6th grade language arts classroom, kids are working on a poetry recitation about Africa (tie-in to their social studies research on. . .Africa) They go to the internet link

2. They use their handy-dandy class generated rubric to find an appropriate poem for their group.

3. Maybe they need help memorizing and reciting a poem. I go to google and find:

4. I found examples of sites with people reciting poems on video

5. I created a powerpoint with what I learned from the poets, inserted Billy Collins talking about reading poetry, copied some poems from videos I was going to share with the class and voila – the lesson is ready to go in an hour.

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Share Tabs

Picture 1Share Tabs is a free site that allows you to put all your bookmarks in one place for a specific event or assignment. This works much better than handing out a paper of websites to students because they are notoriously sloppy typers that rely on shortcuts anyway, (OMG), so when they are faced with long urls, they are USELESS.

The screen shot is from a workshop that the elementary teachers had with teacher and author Stephanie Harvey on non-fiction reading and writing. The tech teacher would go to every link that Stephanie talked about and by the end of the presentation, she was able to send us the personalized link to Harvey’s resources that she mentioned in her workshop.

We’re trying this with 8th grade science next week where the students will read an article on the hoopla of the 2012 end of the world prediction based on the Mayan calendar, and the students will go to the share tab site to find other science web sites that will debunk the myth with scientific facts.

It’s free, it’s simple, and it will save everyone time so that more teaching can focus on the basics like how to read a website, and what the different entry points are to non fiction writing.

Hui Heluhelu reading club

heluheluThe middle school reading club, Hui Heluhelu is a mostly online book club that offers students a way to talk about books and meet fellow readers. Here are some benefits:

  • The club is mostly online, so it doesn’t take away precious school time like study hall and recess
  • The book club members choose themes so that if someone is not interested in a particular book, they can find a plethora of other books in the same theme. (November’s theme is mystery)
  • Members are able to form sub-groups around particular books so that they can have specific online conversations about what they’re reading
  • The faster readers can jump from group to group and read more than one book a month
  • There is no minimum amount of posting that students need to make, although they are encouraged to post a response to the regular discussions (What are you reading on Monday and Teaser Tuesday) as well as blog about a book they finished.
  • The book club includes all three grade levels, so students meet students that are not in their grade level.
  • The online site is private, secure and well-monitored, so our students are safe.

If your child would like to get involved with Hui Heluhelu, see any of the English teachers, or catch me in the hallway. Hope to see you in the technosphere.

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Tab October Recommendations

If you want information on how to order online, go to the scholastic book order page on this blog, or see Mrs. Ikeda in 1103.

Picture 8Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – This is the fight-to-the-death sequel to The Hunger Games.

Picture 9Savvy by Ingrid Law (2009 Newberry Honor book).

For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy” -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day.

As if waiting weren’t hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs’s birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman’s bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up -and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

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Tab November recommendations

If you want information on ordering online, go to the scholastic book page on this blog, or see Mrs. Ikeda in 1103.

TruceTruce by two-time Newberry Honor book author Jim Murphy is an amazing true story.

On July 29th 1914, the world’s peace was shattered as the artillery of the Austria-Hungary Empire began shelling the troops of the country to its south. What followed was like a row of falling dominoes as one European country after another rushed into war. Soon most of Europe was fighting in this calamitous war that could have been avoided. This was, of course, the First World War.

But who could have guessed that on December 25 the troops would openly defy their commanding officers by stopping the fighting and having a spontaneous celebration of Christmas with their “enemies”?

In what can only be described as a Christmas Miracle, this beautiful and heartrending narrative will remind everyone how brotherhood and love for one another reaches far beyond war and politics.

Picture 6The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

A charming and inventive story of a child struggling to find her identity at the turn of the 20th century. As the only girl in an uppercrust Texas family of seven children, Calpurnia, 11, is expected to enter young womanhood with all its trappings of tight corsets, cookery, and handiwork. Unlike other girls her age, Callie is most content when observing and collecting scientific specimens with her grandfather. Bemoaning her lack of formal knowledge, he surreptitiously gives her a copy of The Origin of Species and Callie begins her exploration of the scientific method and evolution, eventually happening upon the possible discovery of a new plant species. Callie’s mother, believing that a diet of Darwin, Dickens, and her grandfather’s influence will make Callie dissatisfied with life, sets her on a path of cooking lessons, handiwork improvement, and an eventual debut into society. Callie’s confusion and despair over her changing life will resonate with girls who feel different or are outsiders in their own society. Callie is a charming, inquisitive protagonist; a joyous, bright, and thoughtful creation. The conclusion encompasses bewilderment, excitement, and humor as the dawn of a new century approaches. Several scenes, including a younger brother’s despair over his turkeys intended for the Thanksgiving table and Callie’s heartache over receiving The Science of Housewifery as a Christmas gift, mix gentle humor and pathos to great effect. The book ends with uncertainty over Callie’s future, but there’s no uncertainty over the achievement of Kelly’s debut novel.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Picture 7The 39 Clues Book 6: In Too Deep by Jude Watson. In this 6th book, Amy and Dan Cahill must follow the clues and travel across the deepest oceans on the trail of a famous aviator. Six more cards are included in this book for your participation in the online 39 Clues game.

TRC Teen Readers’ Club Fall Recommendations

Want to know how to order these books online? Go to the scholastic page on this blog or see Mrs. Ikeda in 1103.

Picture 2 Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (*some mature content)

“For years, Grace has been fascinated by the yellow-eyed wolf that saved her from its pack when she was a child. Sam, bitten by a wolf as a boy, is that wolf. Long obsessed with each other at a distance, they finally meet after a wolf hunt (inspired by the apparent death of a local teen) sends a wounded and temporarily human Sam into Grace’s arms. Their young love is facilitated by Grace’s hands-off parents Once upon a time, I would’ve leaped at the rare opportunity of curling up with Mom on the couch. But now, it sort of felt like too little, too late, Grace muses), but threatened by two linked crises: the fact that Sam will soon lose the ability to become human and the instability of a new lycanthrope. Stiefvater skillfully increases the tension throughout; her take on werewolves is interesting and original while her characters are refreshingly willing to use their brains to deal with the challenges they face.” – Publisher’s Weeky (starred review)
Picture 3 The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
If you’ve ever wondered what your dog is thinking, Stein’s third novel offers an answer. Enzo is a lab terrier mix plucked from a farm outside Seattle to ride shotgun with race car driver Denny Swift as he pursues success on the track and off. Denny meets and marries Eve, has a daughter, Zoë, and risks his savings and his life to make it on the professional racing circuit. Enzo, frustrated by his inability to speak and his lack of opposable thumbs, watches Denny’s old racing videos, coins koanlike aphorisms that apply to both driving and life, and hopes for the day when his life as a dog will be over and he can be reborn a man. When Denny hits an extended rough patch, Enzo remains his most steadfast if silent supporter.
Picture 4The One Left Behind by Willo Davis Roberts – feeling as though the rest of her large family has moved on, 11-year-old Mandy continues to struggle with the death of her twin. Left alone in her house over a long weekend, she pretends that Angel is still with her, but it no longer worked to pretend anything beautiful, or exciting, or magical. Without Angel to share, Mandy felt broken, destroyed. Midway through the weekend, she discovers a runaway boy, Zander, who has broken into her house. Fugitives from a kidnapping plot, the teen and his toddler brother seek her help, and now she, and not her daring twin, must become courageous and independent.  Mandy and Zander face troubles that leave them incomplete, and the drama of outthinking and outrunning the kidnappers imbues what might otherwise be just an issue book with page-turning pacing. Give this quick read to girls not quite ready for Caroline Cooney or Lurlene McDaniel.
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Double Entry Journals

Double entry journal is an old strategy, but it’s still a good strategy.

Double-Entry Journals – a while reading strategy

Print a Graphic Organizer


The Double-Entry Journal strategy enables students to record their responses to text as they read. Students write down phrases or sentences from their assigned reading and then write their own reaction to that passage. The purpose of this strategy is to give students the opportunity to express their thoughts and become actively involved with the material they read.


Double-Entry Journaling improves students’ comprehension, vocabulary, and content retention. This interactive strategy activates prior knowledge and present feelings, and promotes collaborative learning. It fosters the connection between reading and writing as students are able to “reply” to the author or speaker as they write their responses.

The technique offers flexibility in that teachers can use any form of written text, read alouds, or listenings that are assigned in class.

Create and use the strategy

Introduce a passage of text to the students. Discuss the Double-Entry Journal technique and model the procedure including specific guidelines for writing. Have students read the selected text making journal entries whenever a natural pause in the reading occurs, so that the flow is not interrupted constantly.

  1. Students fold a piece of paper in half, lengthwise.
  2. In the left hand column, the students write a phrase or sentence from the selection that was particularly meaningful to them, along with the page number.
  3. In the right hand column, the students react to the passage by writing personal responses to the quotes on the left. The entry may include a comment, a question, a connection made, or an analysis.
  4. Students can share their responses with the class or literature discussion group.

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Joyce, M. (1997). Double Entry Journals and Learning Logs. Retrieved 2008, January 23, from

Litwiller, D.(2003). Helpful ESL Links. Retrieved 2008, January 24, from

Ruddell, R. (2002). Teaching Children to Read and Write: Becoming an Influential Teacher (3rd Edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.