Saturday, August 27, 2011

First week of school

What a week! Almost 7,000 textbooks checked out, which means 7,000 students passing through the library doors. Our students come in by class to get their textbook checked out, so many students were in 3 and 4 times in a day.  Every time I looked up from the computer, I saw a sea of bodies; tall, filled out bodies with loud voices attached. The first time I looked up and saw a bearded face looking back at me, I did a double take.  This is so different from my previous life in the elementary.
But, what was the same?  The energy in the room, students ready for a new year, with new opportunities. Students dying to get to the new books that arrived over the summer, sneaking in between classes to grab a handful of titles.  Teachers who need materials, yesterday!, and others who want to plan a time to plan.
My reflection on this week?  the media center houses resources in all formats, but the students bring the life to the room!  My long term goal for this year is to harness that energy, and use it to make the physical space the "center" of the school; a place where all feel welcome, comfortable, and supported, in social as as well as academic ways.  I want this space to become a true learning commons that is shaped by what kind of learning is happening, and a place where students want to share their learning.  And of course, I will be looking for the joy in everyday!
I will be learning so much this year and am hoping to get help from all of you as I experience life in a high school.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 on the 10th!

This year I am attempting to share picture books that can be used effectively in secondary classrooms. Because this is a new teaching arena for me, I have picked mostly personal favorites. I hope you enjoy these and I look forward to more ideas from you.  If you don't already know about this, it is a challenge by a bloggger friend of mine to share 10 great picture books.

1. Palazza Invorso by D.B. Johnson is a fascinating picture book. The Escher-style illustrations are accompanied by a story with its own twists and turns. This one would captivate anyone who likes mysteries or puzzles.

2. Me, All Alone, at the End of the World by M. T. Anderson and Kevin Hawkes is more thought-provoking and poignant. A young boy has a spot on the edge, at the top of a mountain where he sits to enjoy the world around him. Soon civilization encroaches, and he finds a new spot. A captivating man comes along and builds an exciting, fun expanse and the boy makes friends and enjoys the frenzy for a while. Finally, though, he longs for his place at the end of the world and leaves to find it. There are many underlying questions at the core of this book. Is it good to be alone or are people meant to be in communities? Where is our balance with nature? Just to mention a few. A great unit opener for global awareness. I love the illustrations by Kevin Hawkes, they make this story.

3. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds is just one of my favorites! A quick story that reminds you that talent is driven by passion, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I would read it before giving a challenging assignment.

4. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis is a perfect choice for inviting students to think outside the box, literally!

5. Weslandia by Paul Fleishman. I just love this book. There are so many uses. For social studies, how a culture is created; for guidance, be yourself and follow your passion, for science, diversity in a biome. OK, the science tie in is a stretch, but I would find any reason to share this with students!

6. Flotsam by David Wiesner shows the power of illustration. This award winning title is meant for older readers; it demonstrates that in graphic works inference is a necessary skill. One must “read” between the illustrations to follow the story.

7. 14 Cows by Carmen Agra Deedy is perfect for both American and global studies. Is it the size of a gift or the intent behind it? This is a true story, brought to life by Deedy and should tug on your heartstrings.

8. Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting shares in a simplistic way how the Holocaust was created and was able to spread.

9. A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulker. These bright, fun illustrations are a great contrast to the more serious topic, segregation. A child hears of a fountain in a nearby town with “colored water” and has an opportunity to go and see it. While at the top of the hill where this fountain is, a peaceful protest is happening on the street below. Use this title to introduce segregation and misunderstandings.

10. A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson and Eric Velasquez is memorable, first because it is in black and white charcoal illustrations with a touch of red occasionally. It shows two children who run to join a parade, which is a civil rights march. A first person account through the eyes of a child that could spark lots of conversation and lead to a unit of study. One discussion may be, why are only certain things shown in red?