Monday, December 19, 2011

Whistleblowers and Winterwonderlands

As I listen to the Polar Express train blow past my backyard, I can't help think that we Americans love a good story.   The Polar Express is growing into one of those timeless tales about which this younger generation will reminisce.   Why else would a family of five pay  $100.00 to ride a train in their PJ's  with make-believe elves, just to wave to Santa?  It's not for the toys--its' for the memory. 

So it should be with our schools.  I hope that this generation will hold fast to a few memories of good teachers.  Or, will they just say, "Oh she was so great...she prepared me for the was so painful."  I would call that the polar express.  Freeze the brain and hurry the pain.

The Common Core (CC) has stated in their anchor standards that they want to see teachers cover less and dig deeper.  We call that-- uncover and discover.  In the library world, we are loving the CC focus on rich text.  This is a librarians wonderland.  We are totally able to provide these texts that teachers need to dig up to enrich their classroom pedagogy. 

I have previously posted a guide to Lexiles and the CC, but this embedding of rich text is taking the recipe and enjoying the content.   As you find great articles of rich text, correctly Lexiled for use in the classroom, please take a moment to consider how research and Inquiry Based Learning can be a companion activity to reading a document.  For students to just "read" a document, there is no application or transfer of ownership and relevancy.   When you ask the students to "do something" with the content of a rich text document, then you have the formula for student-centered learning activities.  Here's the recipe:
  • Find a wonderful reading article in a database. 
  • Check the Lexile via a database notation or on (Lexile Analyzer)
  • Identify core content, rich words that enhance the reading experience
  • Brainstorm an Inquiry based question to foster research and additional digging.
  • Create a lesson plan(s) which will encourage the asking of questions, digging for info, synthesizing of facts--> knowledge, and the creation or formation of new knowledge. 
This week, the middle school librarian at Hudson Falls shared that she and a history teacher did this with their students.  The article which was read was a piece on the Salem Witch Trials.  After reading, examining, discussion and debate, the class was asked,"Where else in history, or today, have there been witch trials?"  

A wonderful inquiry project ensued with collaborative working models examining historical events such s the Holocaust, "mean girls,"  Sri Lanka witch hunts,  the Trail of Tears and more.  This was a wonderful way of examining whether "history repeats itself."  This could go on and dig deeper.  The class could hold trials for the events.  They could discuss the Bill of Rights and why these things shouldn't occur in America.  They could embrace mathematical learning objectives and create graphs and infographics.   The possibilities are endless. 

So,  use your databases, your creative brain, your marketing skills, and create wonderful, correctly-lexiled rich text lessons aligned with the vision of the Common Core.  That would melt away the disbelief and warm the CC creator's hearts.   Let those students express themselves and share their knowledge.  Give them something to get excited about--rather than prep for the test. 
Helen Keller's letter to Alexander Graham Bell

This primary source letter from the collection, is a letter sent to Mr. Bell.   In the research endeavor that follows this letter, students discover and uncover secrets critical to the invention of the telephone (such as Mr. Bell was married to a deaf person and his mother was deaf.  It was in his research to assist deafness that he invented the phone). The inquiry question could follow... How does promise come from adversity?   Now, that's an educational wonderland.

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