Do you teach reading?

When I started this blog a few months ago, with the intention of having my own stretch-your-legs space on the internet, at least professionally, I labeled myself as a “literature teacher.” Now I’m rethinking, I’ve gotten involved in the whole class vs. workshop reading debate (at least in my head.) Saving most of my professional TBR pile for summer, I decided to order Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer mainly because she is so amazingly nice. 🙂

I am lucky I have a great writing teacher who does grammar with my students, also that I freaking love teaching vocabulary more than anything (expect maybe Shakespeare). So what I am left with is to teach informational, persuasive, functional and literary text. But like most teachers I spend a majority of my time on literary text, because that is traditional and because functional and informational text are boring to teach and boring to learn and I think that they get enough of that elsewhere.

But what I really love is when my students who aren’t readers become readers. And I also love the huge project of building and rebuilding and getting donations and Goodwill Half off weekend for my classroom library. And I think my classroom library makes my kids readers. And I love book talking books I read to my kids, and I bet I’m going to love it when they have to do their own.

Does a middle school “literature” teacher love all that stuff? Or is it only a reading teacher? And for next year, if I cut down to only one (much speedier!) class novel, and give my kids tons of reading time, and still teach mini-lessons every day… will that work?

So funny, in this crazy manic time of year, I just think….(huge tangle of thoughts for next year)…will that work?

Less than a month until the readingest class goes to see Richard III! I desperately need to find a summary for us.


Man, 4th quarter sneaks up on you, and we do tons of field trips, activities, and an 8th grade promotion. Plus yearbook deadline and state testing!

Regarding my personal tech initiative, I’m super happy to be part of two awesome social networks, classroom 2.0 and the English Companion. I think maybe nings were more what I thought twitter could/would/might become, maybe because I’m more comfortable with the format. Not giving up, though. Trying to follow #edchat but it is a bit daunting.

I desperately want a flip camera to film Shakespeare scenes! The yearbook cameras don’t have audio (due to an oversight on my part when ordering). I’ll probably buy one.

Great vocabulary powerpoint games (some are better than others). I am excited about Millionaire and Password.


Also really enjoying jeopardy labs. I have enough powerpoint in my life.

Burning Questions:

How am I going to pitch email for students to the admins? Had some superheros on CR2.0 offer to help, differences between gaggle and epals, verification?

Is anyone actually going to use our team wiki next year!?

Is there a way to streamline the standardized test goal setting that I did on paper last quarter, maybe using google docs or excel? Google docs would be good because then math teacher and I could both have kids access it.


Starting to compile the summer professional reading list, too. That should be another post.

Also on my mind is becoming a “tween” teacher, entering year 4 next year, no longer being a rookie, moving towards mentoring others and mastery.

So I’m several weeks into my initiative to be more professionally digital, and I am surprised at the results. What I thought would be the most revolutionary is falling flat. Old, old lessons that I should’ve learned years ago are what are changing my online environment.

So Twitter is a ticket to nowhere so far. I have added tons of local nonprofits, educational and otherwise. I’ve added all the local education reporters, and a bunch of YA authors and book bloggers. Really, I’ve had few people follow me back. Without that, Twitter is a pretty useless tool. Tucson has a great presence of teachers on twitter, and I could piggyback off of that, but I don’t want to. It’s making me sulky, quite honestly.

What is amazing is Google Reader, and keeping up with a few simple education blogs and news outlets. Google Reader is so far superior to Bloglines, what I used to use back in the knitblog days. It’s amazing. I feel more connected just glancing through posts that are of interest to me.

So the question is, how do you establish a true community on Twitter when you’re not entering with a ready-made audience? I can continue to add and not be added, but I know enough about Twitter as a networking tool to know that it won’t work the way it’s truly supposed to.

The dream, part I

I’ve been sifting through twitter and blogs for YA book reviewers. I would love to do what they do, honestly, but would I ever have time? Reading their posts about huge TBR piles

Then it came to me. Part of the dream. The dream is unbridled idealism, what I would do as a teacher if I had no restraints or at least money and support all the way down from the top. I’m talking round tables with macs.  Live with me for a moment in the dream. Speak to me not of permission slips, of “inalterable online presences of minors” (Please get a grip!)

What if, my students and I could review books on a blog? Meaning, we would get fresh new book protein straight from the publishers and we could read them and give our 2 cents? You have no idea what it’s like in my classroom on the day new books arrive from donorschoose. But what if they didn’t have to come that way?

I can foresee requiring my students to review one new book per quarter, and offering extra credit for more. Or better yet, those who wanted to do more could meet biweekly after school and post to our blog and have snacks and share book recs. I imagine my room filling with books. I imagine it filling so much I might relinquish some of them to the K-6 focused school-library. You might not think that they would do it, but I know my kids, and they would.

Why can’t I live in that dream? The dissonance starts in my head — permission slips, aliases, (how-should-we let-them-have-email-addresses-through-the school-they-will-be-stalked-even-though-they-all say-they-are-16-on-myspace), the parents, the district, the intertubes, on noes! Exploiting children for commercial purposes. And just the blank stares.

Does anyone know of any teacher who does book reviews with their students on a blog? I have kind of done it, but I mean for REAL, as in getting books from publishers and having an audience outside of the school.

Got to keep fighting the good fight. The first step to all of this is really gaggle.

Where have I been?

During my first year of teaching an amazing 2 years ago, I felt I had my finger on the pulse of edtech. By the last quarter, my students were blogging. And then I fell off the face of the internet. Really, I feel into a new job in a less technology-focused district. A school without a web site!  A district that has the resources (because of substantial subsidy based on SES level) but not the organization or initiative to support students and teachers tackling web 2.0. And I am not being vitriolic. We have the hardware, the software, but not the time and support to reach heights beyond wikipedia articles and google searches.

A blessing or a curse, at my new job I was able to focus on other parts of teaching that are so important, especially for much maligned middle-schoolers– classroom management, pacing, building trust, group work, projects, collaborating with a fantastic team. I am so amazingly happy to be at the school where I am.

But personally, I became a bad digital citizen.  I stopped reading all RSS feeds, I discovered facebook and allowed it to set a mundane tone for all my online life.

I’m happy to be back, to replace bloglines (yuck) with Google Reader, to start thinking about how we can challenge our students to become good digital citizens, too. Because for all their “digitial nativity,” they don’t know what “url” means.

I’ve written a tech plan for our junior high team for next year, with ten objectives.  My personal tech plan involves blogging and reading blogs, tweeting, and seeing where that takes me. Of course I don’t have an audience or a cadre yet, but that will come, I hope.

Just a week in and I feel more connected and inspired to keep going. I am amazed how quickly social networking took over my online life. And I kept saying before, I want to teach the kids there’s more to the internet than myspace, I fell victim to the trap I was trying to avoid. So welcome back to me, I hope I can begin again to make connections.