Tagged: impact academy

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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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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

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Best practice for classroom libraries: Multiple copies of fewer titles

favicon Here’s one that used to escape me.

Let’s say you’re a teacher, and you care about reading, and you want to start building a classroom library. Let’s say you raise $1,000. How do you spend your money?

Choice #1: Buy 100 different books.
This way, there is a lot of selection, and students will be impressed that you have tons of different books to choose from.

Choice #2: Buy 20 different books 5 times each.
This way, there is way less selection, but you encourage students to read books together and talk about them.

What do you think?

When I was a teacher, I thought that Choice #1 was the answer. In my mind, the more titles, the better. I never really considered buying multiple copies of the same book. After all, wasn’t that wasting money?

But then, over a few years, I began to change my mind. Erica Beaton’s beautiful classroom library was the first thing that got me thinking.

Classroom Library - Erica Beaton

Great library, right?

But that wasn’t enough. I was still stubborn and ignorant. Then came Tess Lantos, excellent ninth grade English teacher at Impact Academy in Hayward. (You will likely hear more about her in upcoming months!)

Tess helped me come to my senses. She has always built her classroom library through multiple copies of high-interest books. “Is there another way?” she asks kindly, so I can save face.

Because of Tess, now the trend is everywhere. Take a look!

It makes total sense. Single copies of tons of titles are overwhelming. The bookshelves look too much like the public library, which is scary for some students. You don’t know where to look, how to browse, which book to pick up and try. This is particularly true if you’re a struggling reader or your teacher expects you to read 18 books this year even though you haven’t finished a book since you were in the third grade.

Multiple copies of fewer titles, on the other hand, make a classroom library resemble a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Books pop, whether you stack them spine-out or cover-out. The bookshelves are beautiful, and if you’re a student, you’re lured to check out all that color and pick up a book.

The only concern with the multiple copies approach, of course, is that there is a greater risk if the teacher chooses poorly. Spending $10 on one book that no student reads isn’t a problem, but spending $50 is another story. I totally relate and understand the anxiety teachers feel when purchasing books.

That’s why I think it’s so crucial to ask your colleagues, public librarians, and students to determine which books will “sell.” It’s true that if you have 150 ninth graders, not all of them will like the same 20 books. On the other hand, I can assure you that 80-90% will like Tyrell. And away you go to your list of Top 20 Books.

What do you think of this approach? Would you modify anything? Please leave your thoughts. Also, if you have a book that you believe 80-90% of ninth graders will love, share it, please, and say why! favicon