Friday, February 03, 2006

Books I recommend # 3

The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl by Virginia Hamilton

This book is a little bit difficult to get into at first but it is a good read. It combines African myth and folktale with an adventurous story of exploration. The main character travels from Africa to America. It talks about slavery and human condition but in a way that includes a lot of magical realism. I would suggest it for Grade 6/7 readers or an independent reading shelf in an intermediate classroom. My mom got it for me as an intermediate reader and I enjoyed it.

Books I Reccomend #2

Cathy talked about these books in class. The Macdonald Hall series by Gordon Korman are a set of my favorite books. However I thought I would let you know you should check your Scholastic Canada book orders while on practicum because these books are being re-released! They have an updated cover but the story should be just the same (and just as good). These books are great intermediate reads (Grades 6/7). Gordon Korman uses a lot of humor and the children in his books are portrayed as intelligent, crafty, and fun.

I would suggest they could be a good read aloud or good on your independent reading shelf. It is also neat to know that Gordon Korman wrote the first book in this series when he was a kid, only 12 years old. That should be inspirational to young authors in your own classroom.

Books I Recommend #1

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

I loved the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. She is a wonderful author with engaging stories about realistic thoughts and questions of a young girl at home and at school. Ramona is usually in conflict with her older sister Beezus and usually getting into and out of trouble. I would recommend these books for Grade 3 and 4 level readers. There used to be a television series on PBS that dramatized the Beverly Cleary Ramona books. Canadian actress Sarah Polley played Ramona. I remember watching this as an 8-9 year old myself back in the 1980's. There are lots of good connections to themes about friendship, sharing, and sibling rivalry (family).

I know the DRC has Beverly Cleary books available as novel studies. I also found this website that provides teacher resources for anyone interested in using them during their practicum

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Books on Tape : Books on Film

Recently Tim helped me put together a compilation of audio books for a friend with cancer. We sent 4000 minutes of reading over 2000 Km around the globe. This friend and I talked last night and it got me thinking about different types of literacy. For a person who is struggling with an illness this type of literacy is a great relief and an escape. The audio books accomodate a reduced level of mobility and lower concerntration levels because they require little energy from the "reader" to handle. I wonder though how this "reading" compares to the experience of picking up a book and creating a pace for the experience of reading oneself, the ability to develop characters, and visualize the happenings in a book. My experiences with audio books have been on car rides or on a lazy weekend. I do not remember the stories as well as other books I read in a traditional sense. I also did not feel they were like oral story telling because the narrative form of an audio book doesn't represent the meter and style of an oral story and less often did I listen to the same audio book again. I have been thinking about having a listening center in my classroom during practicum. I am a big advocate of "the spoken word" and oral poetry. I like attending improvised and prepared poetry slams and I like to go to author readings. I have always enjoyed stories read aloud. However, I wonder if these experiences can be captured in a listening center. I think of these auditory learning experiences as performances and I don't view audio books the same way. I wonder if my students will feel the same way?

On the otherhand I think for many students recent examples of books adapted for film like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe excite students. I think they see the representations of literature in a dramatic and performative context "reading" through the medium of film on platforms that an audio book can't reach them. I also wonder however, if this limits the possible understandings of such books to "see" them vs. read them. The Harry Potter books are another example where books and films are closely entwined. When I watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I was interested to hear children in the audience comparing the movie to the book. I heard them comment on parts that were missing or elements that they liked and didn't like. I thought these conversations were valuable and meaningful. I also thought it was interesting that in this case the book was the authority vs. the movie. Its my own bias that I think of the written text as the authentic text. I wonder if I had a different background I might feel differently about accepting audio and visual "reading" experiences as equally authentic. I find it interesting though that I didn't hear the same conversations taking place between children when I watched the Narnia movie as I did during and after the Harry Potter movie. I wonder how many children accept this movie version as the authentic telling of the story.

I chose a book for a novel study this term that does not have a film or audio version. I'm looking forward to my students "performing" and "reading aloud" parts of our novel. I'm looking forward to representing parts of the book through fine arts activities. I think however maybe it is partly my bias that I didn't think to have an audio version for the classroom. I wonder if it is a personal bias and maybe if I should include it in a listening center. I still have a hard time thinking about this as "reading" though. I'm glad this topic came up in my personal life because it's making me ask myself some questions about how I can accomodate learning styles and my willingness to do so.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

3 Robbers

The Case of The Three Robbers SOLVED!
Cynthia Ballenger's article "Reading Storybooks with Young Children: The Case of The Three Robbers" provides the reader with a sense of the internal thought processes a teacher undergoes when trying to make a lesson fit an expected goal or outcome. Ballenger encounters a problem when student behavior and responses in a story telling setting are different from her own experiences and desired outcomes. The process of teaching can be frustrating when objectives and results do not match. The situation prompts one to be flexible and creative to find a resolution. Ballenger is guided towards reflection: “before trying to fix anything, we needed to know… what the children were saying and doing” (2004). In the case presented by Ballenger her reading of The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer to her class was recorded and needed to be supplemented with a careful reflective analysis of what her students did and said during the reading process. This allowed her to reflect on the process of teaching with the BTRS (colleagues). She reconsiders her goals and the practice of story telling based on this documentation of experiences, problem solving with the BTRS, and working further with students in a bilingual (ESL) early childhood classroom.
As a teacher candidate I find that Ballenger’s article contributes to my understanding of the process of teaching. I understand that most teachers’ are guided by a philosophy of education that informs their practices in the classroom. Ballenger’s problem is not unique to bilingual (ESL) classrooms because any teacher may encounter a situation when their beliefs and experiences differ from the experiences of his or her students. How a teacher faces this conflict of philosophy and experience is telling of his or her professional aptitude. It takes time and creativity to document and go through the process of self-reflection. What I liked about the process that Ballenger undertakes is that she does not just question why the students interrupt during story telling but why she should be so bothered by their discussions. Ballenger seeks to understand and meet the needs of her students following different cultural patterns for discourse and story telling. She makes the experience of learning about and through cultural difference very real.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I found a great website for some lesson plan/question ideas regarding children's literature. I was looking for some information on The Giver that we are reading in class and stumbled across this website hosted by Carol Hurst. There is a link to a lesson that integrates the math concept of probability through a problem solving game for The Giver. There are a number of other books used for novel studies and read alouds that are reviewed and supported with some resources on this site. If you are interested check it out!

I am looking for some short poems or stories about Monsters. Specifically the portrayal of friendly and unfriendly monsters and to examine what a monster really is. If you have any ideas please leave me a comment. I'm doing a novel study entitled Monster Madness about a sandwich that takes over a town. Anyone with some empty cereal boxes (again) please also let me know in class!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I really enjoyed the Christmas play. I thought everyone did an excellent job. I also think Lorinda deserves bonus marks for "breaking a leg" and making it a lucky night for us. I hope that she feels better soon that ice was a bit tricky out there.

I really appreciate the amount of time it takes to put a performance together. In many ways I felt like the creative juices had just started flowing at our first rehearsal. It would have been nice to continue to build on the ideas that were shared.

I really appreciated as well how everyone came up and sang for "We wish you a Merry Christmas!" It will be a Christmas I will remember for a long time.

I was really proud of all the elves. I thought there was a lot of attempt to use expression and add some humor. I was really proud to stand up with everyone in our class. It was a really great job on a short time budget!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Festival of Trees & Downtown Lights: Time to Get Your Jingle On

This holiday season, Downtown Prince George Business Association is launching their new “Downtown Lights” campaign to celebrate all that is great about the season while beautifying the downtown with lights. Set to coincide with the Civic Plaza Light Up on Wednesday, November 23, lights and decorations will be in place for six weeks of viewing throughout the holiday season to delight children of all ages. (Prince George Business Association)

This weekend Tim and I checked out the Festival of Trees at the Civic Center. It was a great suggestion to see how Prince George really gets into the holiday spirit. The trees were terrific, the decorations were dazzling, and the donations from community members to the Prince George Hospital were impressive. It got me into the Christmas spirit.

I always loved helping to decorate the Christmas tree at my own house. My sister and I made many dough decorations with my mom. An annual decoration we loved hiding in our tree was a Canadian classic... demonstrating how you can really recycle materials (when you're a high school biology teacher). My dad received a Canadian Moose ornament on skates, made out of varnished moose droppings. This is taking science and art integration to another level. It was always something that got a few comments from our Christmas company.

I do like to make my own decorations and put ornaments with pictures of my family on my Christmas tree. For me it makes the process of decorating very personal and memorable.
If you would like to make some ornaments with your students or kids check out the salt dough recipe on my links or click here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

comes to Prince George.




If you are home (in Prince George) for the holidays and you want to take your friend, signficant other, or a perfect stranger out for a good time check out the Corb Lund Band playing at Vanier Hall December 20, 2005.
Think of it as a cultural experience seeking to learn about your neighbors to the East.

"Corb Lund grew up 'in Southern Alberta, in the foothills of the Rockies.' His music is influenced by his experiences riding horseback, chasing cattle and rodeoing in Southern Alberta and living on the family farm and ranches near Taber, Cardston and Rosemary. Coming from four generations of ranchers and cowboys, Corb left his hometown of Taber and moved to Edmonton where he attended Grant MacEwan Performing Arts School to study jazz guitar and bass." (Corb Lund 2005)

You may have heard Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans on Prince George's local 97.3 "The Wolf Fm." This would be a good place to check the band's latest single to preview it and see if it is worth the $25 ticket for you.