For the next installment in our series on Sensational Summer Read Alouds, here’s another title that has a high student-interest level, can be used to hit multiple Common Core learning standards, and is super rich in terms of content.
Hook: Your homework: stay up late and look up at the night sky.
It’s almost as if Marilyn Singer anticipated the Common Core when she wrote this collection, which is probably why Book Links named it one of their 2011 Lasting Connections titles. The poetry can definitely be used to teach some key literature standards, but the content is so clearly science and social studies related! She also includes amazing maps and an incredibly informative “About the Poems” section that gives further information about the content covered in each poem.
We had a great time this year at the American Library Association in Anaheim! It’s been a while since we were out on the West Coast, and it was fun to be able to see old friends who we haven’t seen in a while and make some new ones, too. Attendance was high, enthusiasm was up, and we had a lot of fantastic conversations about both bookish and non-bookish things. A few things I learned from the people I met at ALA, in no particular order:
1. E-books haven’t wiped out hard copies of books yet – especially picture books, and especially in school libraries. “Please don’t stop printing your books,” one school librarian told me. “We can’t do anything with e-books; we need hard copies.”
2. Everyone loves nonfiction these days. Or, if they don’t love it, they’re still looking for more of it, thanks to the new Common Core State Standards.
3. The West Coast equivalent of the Mets/Yankees “Subway Series,” a game between the Angels and the Dodgers, is called a “Freeway Series.” Go figure!
In the first in our new series, resident literacy expert Jaclyn DeForge shares her tips for educators on reading comprehension, the Common Core, and much more! Prior to joining Lee & Low, Jaclyn taught first and second grade in the South Bronx, worked in teacher support and development, and wrote English Language Arts curriculum as a literacy coach.
July is *just* around the corner, and for many, it conjures images of fireworks, barbeques and lazy days at the beach. But for many of our struggling students and dedicated educators, July means something very different: the start of summer school.
I’ve taught summer school several times over the years and keeping my students engaged and learning was sometimes a challenge, as little minds wandered and the gorgeous weather outside beckoned. As summer school programs across the country kick into high gear, I’ve compiled a list of Sensational Summer School Read Aloudsthat really go the distance: 1) the topics have a high student-interest level 2) they can be used to hit multiple Common Core learning standards, and 3) they’re super rich in terms of content.
Throughout the history of the United States, equality for all people has been fought for and won time and time again. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence ”that all men are created equal,” and over time equal rights have been gradually extended to different groups of people. However, equality has never been achieved without heated debate, despite our country’s founding principle that all people are created equal in the first place.
The language used to seek equality has remained familiar over time. Posters demanding equal rights (pictured) contain messages we have all seen or heard. One of my theories is that since the human life span is finite, the message of equality has to be relearned by each generation as it comes to realize that more work needs to be done.
If humans lived longer, would full equality across racial and gender lines have been acquired by now? Ask yourself: Would women suffragists from the 1920s, who so vehemently demanded the right to vote, think it was fine for African Americans to be denied this same right? It depends. My theory also includes the caveat that empathy for others does not always translate into citizens banding together for the greater good. Then again, the social evolution of the United States is progressing. This progression is the reason the language and message of equality remains relevant.
Over the weekend I listened to a band called Flame perform at a fundraiser for my youngest son’s school. The school offers a socialization program for special needs kids which my son, who is seven years old and autistic, goes to on weekends.What was unique about the ten members of the band is they all have some form of developmental and/or physical disability.
At the fundraising event, my son was supposed to sing “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley with the other kids in the program, but he is sensitive to loud noises so he refused to go on stage. While he was sitting on my wife’s lap, I noticed him singing softly to himself during the song, which was good to see since he is usually non-verbal. He even applauded when the song was over.
I did my first Skype visit last week. It was with the students of a publishing course being taught by Simmons College at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, that needed a guest speaker. My visit was scheduled for Friday, which is the dress down day at the office, so I wore a dress shirt with jeans and sneakers and donned the spare tie I keep in the office. I looked presentable from the waist up.
Recently, I gave a presentation to a college class of future teachers. Their professor asked me: “What advice would you give a teacher who has introduced to her or his class a controversial book that has been challenged by a parent?” I am not sure the answer I gave at the time was a good one, but I have pondered the question some more and would like to offer a few suggestions.
Talk about what the book does well. Point out the main themes of the book and how it is important for today’s children to learn about them in a safe environment. Our book Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan tells the story of a group of boys who escape the slaughter of their people in Sudan. I recall a reviewer, who was also a mother, stating that her child did not need to worry that she might come home one day and not find her parents there. I am a parent myself, and I can empathize with this sentiment. But being a New Yorker in a post 9/11 world, I know that bad things can happen to good, innocent people close to home. Brothers in Hope keeps the most grisly violence off the page, and while there are scary parts throughout the book, the story does an excellent job of emphasizing the fact that when faced with the most dire of circumstances, the boys organized, stuck together, and looked out for one another. The boys became a family in the absence of family, and what they accomplished is a testament to children’s courage and the inner strength that enabled them to face insurmountable odds and survive. Brothers in Hope is a sad story, but it teaches children about the world we live in and shows that even acts of extreme cruelty can lead to amazing acts of grace.
We know we’ve done something right when readers share their excitement for our books with the entire Internet. Amy Cheney, librarian at Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, is one of those excited readers: she made a video with other staff at the ACJJC, all explaining why they love Yummy and why it’s great for the kids they work with every day.
Jen Cullerton Johnson is an educator and the author of Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace, a biography of biologist, environmentalist, and activist Wangari Maathai. We asked her to blog about ways teachers can bring awareness of nature and environmentalism into the classroom; here are her five key suggestions. We hope you find them useful, and of course, feel free to add your own suggestions and methods in comments!
Green teachers everywhere know that students can’t become stewards of the environment without hands-on interactions with nature. Describing the root system of plants puts third graders to sleep, but if you bring in several plants and allow the students to feel, see, and discuss, the room becomes atwitter with curiosity. Active learning impresses the mind. Passive learning depresses it. Green teachers facilitate a nature-based experience for their students. In each lesson they teach, in each interaction with their students, they look for ways to connect the environment with other subjects.