These chapters focus on WHAT REALLY MATTERS: Authenticity, Intentionality, and Connectedness. These are the “anchors”.
Starting with authenticity, “keeping reading a meaningful experience that extends beyond the classroom”, I think this is the core of what I do as a gifted reading teacher. Most of my kids are voracious readers. But often they are consumers of fiction for pleasure (which is great mind you) but I want them to also love and appreciate all kinds of reading. I also find that my kids love digital tools and want to “play” so I have to bring things back to the importance of the learning task. For example, when I discovered the Chatterpix app, I began to think of how students could use this tool to examine a character’s point of view or perspective by speaking as if they were the character. This task would require truly understanding that character’s traits. At first my kids thought they would just play with the app to look cool and sound funny. Once we really re-evaluated the learning goals, my kids came up with some extra-ordinary things. I loved that the assignment had them carefully thinking about how another person might think and feel based on his/her experiences. Being understanding and empathetic of others is an important authentic life skill. Another example with http://www.ifaketext.com… a student read a picture book and wrote a ‘text dialogue’ for two characters. He spoke as if he were the two characters having dialogue. What was “authentic” about this task is the role social media plays in our world today. Any chance I can introduce and practice digital citizenship with my students BEFORE they are old enough to get access to these things WHILE teaching learning content, I’m all over it.
Also important in authenticity is using tools that fit the task. I’m a fan of reciprocal teaching; the fab 4 strategies of predicting, questioning, monitor/clarifying, and summarizing. There are digital tools that lend themselves well to building scaffolds and releasing responsibility of these skills to students. For instance, I like Blendspace to set up predicting practice with short video clips, InstaGrok for questioning; I use Educreations for monitor/clarifying, and Popplet is great for summarizing (and determining importance). Of course there are many other tools that do the same things, but the point is that I like helping my students learn to be flexible with the tools they use. I don’t want them dependent or locked into one device/app/platform. I want them to go to the resource that best fits their needs. This is perfect for gifted children as it promotes choice. It gives them control and ownership of their learning. I love Ann Marie Corgill’s “Technology Tips and Techniques” idea; I want to create my own version of this with ‘help and how to’ video tutorials or clips (so students can get the help they need when they need it and because I see 4 separate groups a day for only 1 hour). I’ve already started creating this using Augmented Reality with Aurasma. I have a short video clip as a reminder or tip and I connect it to a ‘trigger image’. When students scan over the image, the video plays. They find the help they need if/when they need it. This lets me have my gifted learners be more independent and self-directed so that they don’t have to ask me or find someone else (not that I won’t encourage that, but sometimes my class size can be smaller and my kids like to be self-sufficient when they can).
Chapter 4: The first thing that struck me as I read more about intentionality, or “making meaningful choices as readers”, was the ‘debate’ between print vs. digital texts. I loved a tweet posted yesterday from Octavia Spencer at ILA’s end keynote stating that print and digital literacy can and should coexist. I completely agree. This clip really speaks volumes to me:
This then led me to considering how I would explore this ‘dilemma’ with students…so I made a video about how I feel about print and digital texts by comparing the same magazine article both in print and digitally:
Now I love “just as we fill our classrooms with great children’s literature, we must also fill our classrooms with great online resources for students to read and explore”. I could write volumes on this (since I’ve really invested in ‘putting content on a screen for kids’) but some quick ideas to consider are using QR codes to direct students to specific content quickly or through engaging students in digital discussions with sites that allow them to read and respond to text and each other such as nowcomment.com. As I think about my gifted readers, keeping up with their varied interests and abilities can be a challenge (and could get expensive if I tried to stock my classroom with only print sources) so turning to free or inexpensive digital sources is sort of a ‘no brainer’ for me. (Inexpensive in that I can purchase an electronic book or magazine once and load it on several devices for the one time price.) Figure 4.1 has a nice list of websites that I would like to add to:
- http://tweentribune.com/ (Smithsonian)
Finding a great article on any of these sites and making a QR code out of it is super easy. There should be a video (oh wait, I made one!)
I LOVED the gem form Julie Johnson (All About Explorers website). I should shout out to her as I just used this site in my ILA presentation… teaching our students to look for credible sources is so important. I have used ads. Here’s a screen shot I took from the Tervis site on April Fools Day: Looks real doesn’t it?!
Connectedness as “finding and creating connections between texts, readers, and experiences” is probably what I find I need to guide my gifted readers into doing at higher thinking levels the most. I’m not sure why but it seems that they think connecting means ‘oh this book is about a boy and I’m a boy too’. Ok Captain Obvious… now let’s dive deeper (and yes I really say that…one of the perks of working with gifted kids who get sarcasm!) I haven’t taken advantage of student blogging yet, but last year I had my kids do weekly ‘delve into discourse’ sessions (they love the alliteration and more formal vocabulary…) Every Friday I would randomly put them into small groups to discuss a chapter of a novel. They recorded their discussions and we turned them into podcasts (Delve into Discourse-Podomatic and GREEN ROOM Listening station-podcast archives). I think gifted students often need extra ‘social’ coaching on just listening to each other and responding thoughtfully. They often can be a bit inflexible in their thinking so learning to appreciate and empathize is important. (But then this could be a whole different post…)
Chapter 5 on connectedness has me thinking about some other things to explore with my kids. I have been considering how to build collections of texts/resources on themes. Last year my students and I really got into texts that were about slavery and civil rights issues (Henry’s Freedom Box, My Brother Martin, Through My Eyes, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, to name a few). They discovered on their own that the common thread was inequality or injustice. So now I’m thinking of ways to curate resources digitally to explore these ideas. I’ve already started with the Great Depression (as we read Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm in the fall; it is set in Key West, Florida during the depression.) I’m finding PBS LearningMedia invaluable for this! (Have to get a plug in for that too as a 2015 PBS digital innovator…but seriously PBS LearningMedia is amazing!) What I’m doing to foster independence and more self-directed learning for my gifted readers is create a learning “module” where they can access all of the digital resources they need for a month centering around our learning goals and topics. I’m still playing around with it, but… if interested check out the webmix: http://www.symbaloo.com/home/mix/aug-septmodule4thgrade).
Next on the list of ‘to do’ for fostering connectedness is get more into RSS feeds…
Always learning more…