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Getting the new Kindle Voyage? Donate your old Kindle to my students!

Kindle Voyage-578-80favicon Wow, the new Kindle Voyage is beautiful.

I’ll be getting one. How about you?

If you get one, I have a proposition: Donate your old Kindle to my students!

For the past four years, generous people from across the country have given me their used Kindles so that I can encourage high school students to read.

My students and I would like you to do the same!

The Kindle Classroom Project now serves 166 students in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Hayward.

If you donate now, your Kindle will be the 167th in the collection!

Donating is really easy. Just fill out a quick form on this page, and then I’ll let you know next steps.

Hope to hear from you soon! favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Why Poor Students Struggle”

favicon I appreciated Vicki Madden’s recent op-ed piece, “Why Poor Students Struggle,” in the New York Times. Her argument is nothing new — that the achievement gap does not explain why poor students have low college graduation rates. For Ms. Madden, an instructional coach and former teacher, the issue is social and emotional. It’s an issue of belonging.

But the article did get me thinking: What’s the role of a high school, given limited time and resources? Let’s say that a student is poor and enters high school several years below grade level. What’s the best approach?

If you’re a school, what do you do with those four years?

“As the income gap widens and hardens, changing class means a bigger difference between where you came from and where you are going. Teachers like me can help prepare students academically for college work. College counselors can help with the choices, the federal financial aid application and all the bureaucratic details. But how can we help our students prepare for the tug of war in their souls?.”

Source: http://j.mp/1mqecR8 (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Here’s what students in Hayward are reading and saying about their Kindles

EastOfEdenfavicon Today I had my first meeting with about 25 ninth graders from Hayward. It was really fun! The students and I talked books, and they got to share with me their first impressions using a Kindle.

This is what a few of them said:

+ Destiny
Now reading: Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I love the long-lasting battery.”

+ Matthew
Now reading: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like the size management of the letters.”

+ Alex
Now reading: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like how the Kindle is slim.”

+ Flor
Now reading: What Happens Next, by Colleen Clayton
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that it has many books I want to read.”

+ Kevin
Now reading: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that it runs out of battery slowly.”

+ Rogelio
Now reading: East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
Thoughts about the Kindle: “It’s easy to read on.”

+ Luz
Now reading: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that you can only use it for reading.”

+ Bamery
Now reading: Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman
Thoughts about the Kindle: “I like that it reads to me.”

I enjoyed spending time with the students, getting to know them more, and reiterating my promise: that if they want to read a book that’s not currently in the Kindle library, I’ll purchase it for them.

Plus, I gave each student a business card so they can contact me and spread the word about the Kindle Classroom Projectfavicon

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Another easy way to promote reading: Make public a list of who’s reading what

favicon Here’s another quick and easy idea to promote reading from the classroom of English teacher extraordinaire Tess Lantos at Impact Academy in Hayward.

Post what students are reading. Make it public. Make it big and put it up on a wall. Like this:

Status of the Class

Tess tracks what her students are reading in a Google spreadsheet. Then, she gets huge paper and prints it out. Simple — and very effective!

With this tracker, students can check out what they’ve read, what their peers have read, and which books are most popular. It also helps Tess recommend books to students and push them to new reading levels.

The tracker also highlights how students tend to read “the biggies,” particularly at the beginning of the year. If you’re a ninth grader, you’re reading John Green, Coe Booth, Allison van Diepen, James Dashner, Luis Rodriguez, Suzanne Collins, and Stanley Tookie Williams.

It’s always better to have more copies of popular titles than a classroom library with wide selection but little depth! favicon

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Things are getting serious! The Kindle Classroom Project gets business cards.

favicon When you have a business card, you know you’re legit. Right?

Well, everyone, it’s time to bask in the Kindle Classroom Project’s legitimacy. Because of the generosity of Iris and Donovan (San Diego, CA), the KCP now has business cards.

And they look absolutely great!

Let’s take a look. Here’s the front:

2014-09-19 10.35.54

And here’s the back:

2014-09-19 10.36.28

I am very, very appreciative of the time, effort, and care that Donovan and Iris put into making these cards. They have been long-time supporters of the KCP, and their enthusiasm for the project never wanes. They’ve also pushed me to think bigger, which is sometimes hard for me.

It’s time that more people learn about the Kindle Classroom Project, and these business cards are a great way to get the word out.

Do you want one? Let me know in the comments!

(Advanced: See what happens if you scan that QR code!) favicon

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Let’s make reading public. Here’s one way.

favicon There are many teachers out there building independent reading programs, encouraging their students to read, raising money to buy books, and recommending good books to their students.

With all that going on, there’s not very much time left for teachers to invest in one crucial step: making reading public.

Too often, all that reading goodness is cooped up in classrooms. Students talk about their books to their classmates but keep things quiet with their friends. Teachers glow when Danny reads his 10th book of the year but dare not share that accomplishment with colleagues.

This reading bashfulness needs to change. It’s time for a reading revolution. The public needs to know that teenagers like to read. Let’s make this happen!

Take a look at what Math teacher Brandon Barrette is doing with his advisees at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco. Here’s what’s outside his classroom:

Sure, this takes dedication and effort, even with Mr. Barrette’s snappy template. But over time, book reviews will line the hallway, and students will take notice, get ideas about what to read next, and see their friends taking on academic identities.

In schools, what’s public is what matters. That’s why I’m happy to see Mr. Barrette taking part in his school’s reading revolution. favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress”

favicon There are more and more articles about the therapeutic value of reading. I think these articles have merit. My gut says that schools with reading cultures also promote mindfulness and empathy in students.

In “Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress,” Jeanne Whalen reports on a “slow reading movement” that is growing among adults. Instead of book clubs that discuss books that are read at home, more people are joining book clubs where silent communal reading is the goal.

There’s the controversy, of course, about whether e-readers are allowed. Ms. Whalen does a good job of distinguishing between distraction-prone devices (like tablets with wifi) vs. E Ink devices, where reading is the norm.

“Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.”

Source: http://j.mp/1meeeLM (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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It’s pretty simple: My quick vision for the Kindle Classroom Project

Kindle Libraryfavicon People have been asking me how I’d like the Kindle Classroom Project to grow. It’s pretty simple, I think. Here it is:

1. You’re a new ninth grader. You get a Kindle.

2. Your school has a beautiful physical library of excellent books, ones you want to read. The books have outward-facing covers. You browse the shelves, and when you want to read a book, you search for it on your Kindle, and it’s there.

3. If you want to read a book that’s not in the library, you request the title, and it’s bought for you. The book appears on your Kindle, and a physical copy of the book arrives soon in the physical library.

4. Your teachers care about reading. They give you some time to read in school, and they encourage you to read outside of school, too. They read themselves. They recommend books to you, and they care about your reading life.

5. You come to enjoy reading and make it a part of your life. Some years, you read 10 or 20 books. Other years, you read 40 or 50. You keep track of the books you’ve read and recommend your favorites to your friends.

6. When you graduate, you get to keep your Kindle. By then, you’ve signed up for your own Amazon account, and you know how to get e-books from your public library. You’ve become an independent reader. favicon

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Reading goals of ninth graders in Hayward

favicon By high school, many people think that you can’t improve your reading. Very few high schools assess their students’ reading skills, except on summative high-stakes assessments, and even fewer tell their students where they stand.

This is partly why, I believe, that students think reading is an ingrained skill, similar to intelligence, that is fixed.

I do not subscribe to that view. I’m proud to work in schools whose teachers care about reading and reading instruction.

Every ninth grader is assessed three times a year — Fall, Winter, and Spring — on a quick online reading test, and teachers conduct one-on-one conferences with students to discuss the results and to encourage students to make personal goals to improve their reading.

Tess Lantos, wonderful English 9 teacher at Impact Academy in Hayward, has students make signs to publicly announce their reading goals. Please take a look at these goals from ninth graders!

I really like the variety of goals. It seems like Tess’s students have internalized that reading is important, that it’s personal, and that growth is possible. By making reading such an important part of her curriculum, and by making reading data transparent, students rise to the challenge.

It’s inspiring to work with excellent teachers like Tess.

Tess also happens to have one of the best classroom libraries in the Bay Area. More about that in an upcoming post! favicon