Tagged: kathleen large

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“This Kindle is for you.”

Kindle Giftfavicon Too many programs for students have caveats and conditions. Too many rules and responsibilities. Too many if-thens.

“If you agree to do this list of items,” these programs say, “then you get these rewards.” Sign this paper, follow the requirements, and later, you’ll reap the benefits. If you don’t, too bad; your lack of follow-through demonstrates your lack of interest in the program.

I understand this reasoning. It’s an American tenet, after all, that consistent hard work leads to progress and success. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging these values in students.

But at the Kindle Classroom Project, there is a different message: “This Kindle is for you.”

This is what I tell the students when I give them their Kindle. The only rule is not to break or lose the Kindle. Otherwise, they get to use it as they like. They can read a lot or a little. They can choose what they read and request books they want.

This message emerged from conversations last year with KCP teacher and close friend Kathleen Large. Miss Large is an extraordinary teacher because she loves her students unconditionally and pushes them to a build a life of the mind. Gifts with conditions, she would argue, do not appropriately demonstrate the care, respect, and love we wish to offer our students. We must instead give and trust.

“This Kindle is for you” is powerful because it means, “I believe in you, I care about you, and I encourage you to read. This gift contains a library of books. Choose any of them to read. If you don’t find something you like, let me know, and I’ll buy it for you.”

If we want young people to read, we can’t complain that they don’t read, or say that they’re lazy, or that teen culture repudiates the quest for knowledge, or wonder why they don’t go to the library. Instead, we must put books in students’ hands.

Respected reading teacher Donalyn Miller calls on us to be “book patrons.” Here’s my favorite passage from her recent piece, “Patron of the Arts“:

“Many of my students over the years haven’t owned a single book they can call their own. It’s heartbreaking. While I recognize that many people lack the resources to purchase books, we must accept that for children to have access to books, someone—a parent, teacher, librarian, or generous donor must buy books and put them in children’s hands. If we truly value reading, the artists and publishers who create children’s books, and the children themselves, we must embrace our role as book patrons.”

According to Ms. Miller, the if-thens shouldn’t always be for our students. Rather, they should be for us. If we put books in students’ hands, then they will read.

I’m proud to be a part of the Kindle Classroom Project, and I’m very appreciative of the many donors, teachers, and students who make it possible. favicon

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Book Review: Crank, by Ellen Hopkins ★★★★☆

Ed. Note: The following book review is by Nicholas G., a student in Kathleen’s class in San Francisco.

crank2favicon Crank, by Ellen Hopkins, was one of the most interesting fiction books I’ve read in a long time. The writing style author Ellen Hopkins employs is odd, yet it provides for a much more entertaining read. It is almost like reading a poem, yet it still is very unique.

The story tells of a girl and her downfall into the depths of drug addiction. I would recommend this book for someone looking for an unusual but quick read. Since the pages are like a poem with unorganized stanzas, it actually doesn’t take too long to get through this book. favicon

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Mateo reviews The New Jim Crow

coverfavicon Mateo, a student in Kathleen’s class in San Francisco, has this to say about Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.

I extremely enjoyed this book, and I admired Michelle Alexander’s courage to raise issues that are plaguing our society.

Alexander goes in depth about the prison industrial complex, in which we continue to see black men incarcerated for drug crimes. She states statistics that show that white men actually use and sell drugs at astronomical rates, but still black men are being imprisoned.

Alexander concludes that we are in “The New Jim Crow Era.” Many people feel as though we are no longer fighting against explicit racism; however, with the incarceration rates of young Black men, it shows people of color are still being “tamed.”

Alexander’s passion for and knowledge of the Prison Industrial Complex really inspired me to raise these same issues to people who are ignorant to the injustices people of color are facing. favicon

Readers: If you’ve read The New Jim Crow, please leave a comment for Mateo. What did you think of the book?

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“Rigor is love.”

Lexile Books

favicon Kathleen at Leadership High School in San Francisco is celebrating Valentine’s Day with love. She is challenging her students to read a book of their choice above their Lexile level.

Kathleen has been meeting and conferencing with every student. The conferences are conversations about what students are reading. They’re also how Kathleen is sharing with students their results on the latest online reading assessment.

When hearing their Lexile levels, this is how students have responded:

– “Thank you.”

– “It’s important for us to know the truth.”

– “How can we improve, if we don’t know the truth of where we are?”

– “Thank you.”

This truth-telling is a form of love. So is giving students choice. So is pushing students to challenge themselves with books above their Lexile level.

Here is a photo from Kathleen’s classroom.

You are loved

What a great way to move into Valentine’s Day weekend. As Kathleen says, “Rigor is love.” I’m lucky to be able to partner with her on this Kindle Classroom Projectfavicon

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Books students finished reading today

favicon The Kindle Classroom Project is taking off.

Recently, I set up an add-on to my Google spreadsheet that emails me a message whenever a student has completed a book.

The emails come in every day, hour by hour. Students are reading, and they’re completing books, and they’re telling me about them.

Here are a few books that students completed today:

My Bloody LifeMy Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King
By Reymundo Sanchez
Review by Eduardo, Kathleen’s class, San Francisco

This book was amazing due to the format it is set up in. This is actually one of the first books I’ve finished, but what helped out was how interesting the book was and how I could relate to some parts of the story. It was more like a movie than a book because I could picture all the scenes in my head. I like how it deeply explains what caused him to become gang affiliated. It inspired me to count my blessings and to appreciate what I have — because people have realities that I probably would have never survived. I recommend it to those who like gang- affiliated books because it does a great job explaining the struggles of a gang banger as a whole.

The ShallowsThe Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
By Nicholas Carr
Review by Nicholas, Kathleen’s class, San Francisco

While reading The Shallows, I found it incredibly informative and provided a lot of useful information; however, it is not without its faults. The main problem with this book for me was that I found that it dragged on for too long. It takes Carr quite a long time to actually get to his point, but he does fill the in-between time with some interesting information. This alone should not divert you from reading this book. It is quite interesting if you are patient when you read; however, I suppose it all depends on your own reading style. As someone who reads a plethora of books at once, yet at the same time at a slower pace, I found this book to be interesting and recommend it for fans of non-fiction or people looking to get into non-fiction.

Paper TownsPaper Towns
By John Green
Review by Melissa, Kathleen’s class, San Francisco

I gave this book four stars (out of 5) because I loved it, but it is very predictable. It is very similar to Looking for Alaska and Abundance of Katherines, some of his other very popular books. It is pretty unoriginal that he writes about a dorky teenager secretly loving another mysterious teenager over and over again. Even though the storylines are very similar, the book has many quotes and metaphors that I enjoyed.

The completed books keep coming and coming. Over the weekend, one student in Hayward requested a book on Friday, and then requested the second book in the series on Sunday. Another student in San Francisco finished his book on BART on his way home.

The Kindle Classroom Project is removing many of the gaps that deter young people from building robust reading lives. Some are:

– I don’t get to read what I want to,
– I don’t have the extra money to buy books from the bookstore,
– I don’t like going to the library, or it’s too far, or I have too many fines,
– My school doesn’t have enough good books,
– I always have to wait to read the book I want to read.

Those deterrents are real, and I’m very pleased to see how getting Kindles in students’ hands is addressing those obstacles, solving many of them, and encouraging students to reclaim their love of reading. favicon

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What students are reading this weekend

favicon The epicenter of the Kindle Classroom Project has recently moved to San Francisco, where reading activity has skyrocketed, thanks to excellent English teachers Kathleen Large (Leadership High School) and Angela Barrett (City Arts and Technology High School).

Kathleen and Angela are new teachers to the KCP, and they’re infusing energy, passion, and high levels of reading instruction into the program.

Their students are reading and requesting books, then reading and requesting some more. Today, one student requested Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please after reading a review that Michele Godwin wrote at LHS Books.

And the students’ reading doesn’t stop over the weekend. It just keeps going and going. Here is what some students are reading this weekend:

As I’ve said over and over again, when students get to choose what they read, they choose well. The same thing can be said about requesting books.

I don’t have the data yet to back up the assertion that I’m going to make, but I’m going to make it anyway: On average, students read much more and more often on Kindles than they do in print.

It’s wonderful to see students coming back to reading, reclaiming their love of reading, building robust reading lives, building their reading identities, and living a life of the mind. favicon

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SF students give thanks for Kindles

favicon The Kindles have been in Kathleen’s classroom in San Francisco for less than two weeks, and already, students are writing thank-you cards.

Here are a few! (The first two didn’t photograph well.)

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“Thanks so much for the Kindles, Mr. Isero! You’ve opened me up to so many books. I am currently reading The ShallowsThe Alchemist, and The New York Times. Thanks! –Nick

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“Dear Mr. Isero, Thank you very much for the Kindles. I am excited to read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The Kindles will come in handy! —Sincerely, Eryka Q.

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“Dear Mr. Isero, Thank you so much for the Kindles! They have opened the doors even wider into the world of reading. You are so kind for donating all of these Kindles to us juniors! Because of this Kindle, I will never lose my interest in reading.” —Sincerely, M.C.

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“Dear Mr. Isero, I am very happy to know that someone like you takes pride in helping young adults. I would like to appreciate and thank you for the Kindles. They make reading so much better! I am reading The Cartel series, and I’m on Book 5, thanks to the Kindle. Thank you so much!” —Jada

* * *
I think these are wonderful — it’s great to get thanks. But really, the gratitude goes to the hundreds of people from across the country who have found the Kindle Classroom Project and donated their Kindles. (And to Kathleen, who is encouraging her students to read every day.) (And to Kathleen’s students, who are reading up a storm.)

This gives me an idea. It’s time that the students know the name of the generous donor who contributed their Kindle. That way, if they want to write a thank-you card, they can thank the donor directly. Once the student writes the note, I would fill out the envelope with the donor’s address and mail off the note.

Thoughts? favicon

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Today’s book request. Thanks, Brandon!

favicon I’m thinking it’s a good idea to let you all know, from time to time, what books students are requesting.

Why? (1) It’s gives us a sense of what’s popular, plus it helps us understand what students care about, (2) It confirms that one of the best ways to build the Kindle Library is to have students request books.

American Sniper

Today, Brandon, a student in Kathleen Large‘s class in San Francisco, requested American Sniper, by Chris Kyle. On the book request form, Brandon wrote, “My advisory teacher was talking about this book and how he’s read it, and I felt really intrigued by the summary he gave on it.”

I got Brandon’s request, and within five minutes, I was able to purchase the book, thanks to generous donors, and deliver it directly to his Kindle! (The book also appears in the cloud for other students to access, too, plus it’s available on the online Kindle Library, too.)

I like Brandon’s choice for several reasons: (1) He heard about the book via a teacher’s recommendation, (2) It’s nonfiction, a growth area for the Kindle Library, (3) The movie version of the book is coming out in full release on Jan. 16, directed by Clint Eastwood. (My experience is that students like reading books that have been or will be movies. It helps them with their reading process, plus it helps them talk about the book after they’ve finished it.) It’s pretty clear that Brandon’s choice will be popular with many other students, too.

Today, Kathleen launched the Kindle Classroom Project in one of her classes, and the response was extremely positive. I spent about $150 on titles — both for new books (like Brandon’s) and for additional copies of existing titles (for books where more than six students are reading it simultaneously). It’s a great feeling.

It makes me especially happy that Brandon and his peers got the message loud and clear that the KCP is totally and completely about choice, independent reading. This is a testament to the quality of Kathleen’s teaching. Together, we’re promoting reading, and we’re promoting readers. There’s a bit of a small movement happening here in SF!

Donate Now

(I really like the huge Donate Now button.) Let me know your thoughts or if you’d like to help out! favicon

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Next up for the Kindle Classroom Project: Building the Kindle Library to 500 titles

favicon It’s been a whirlwind of a Winter Break for the Kindle Classroom Project. Some highlights:

– I counted Kindles (226 on Christmas, now 233),
– I tracked where the Kindles have come from (including 29 states),
– Teacher Kathleen Large and I prepped 60 Kindles for her students in SF,
– The KCP has a new online business card,
– There’s a new book request form and a new books completed form for students,
– The KCP received a $2,000 donation from DSW (Saratoga, CA),
– There’s a new, super super easy and safe way to donate to the KCP,
– The Kindle Library is now updated and on Goodreads,
– The KCP was featured in an Edutopia interview,
– There’s a new application for prospective KCP teachers.

If I do say so myself, that’s not bad! So, what’s next up?

It’s pretty clear: 2015 will be the year of the Kindle Library.

The KCP is as good as its books. The Kindles are wonderful, and they’re obviously necessary, but unless the Kindles have good books, there’s no reading. There’s no magic. (Magic is good.)

I am very proud of the current Kindle Library. Thanks to generous donors, it includes 380 high-quality titles that are accessible to all 233 students. The library has books that students want to read. Like these:

My Bloody Life   Divergent   Buck

But I’m confident that the Kindle Library can get bigger and better. In 2015, I want to build the library to 500 titles. There will be two ways:

Continue honoring my promise to students: If they want to read a book that is currently not in the Kindle Library, I’ll buy it for them.

Introduce new high-quality books that students may not know about yet.

I would like to invite you to help build the Kindle Library in 2015. A $10 donation means a student gets a new book he or she wants to read.

Even better: The book never gets lost or worn, and it automatically becomes available to all 233 students in the KCP.

Donating takes less than a minute. (You can even be advanced and become a monthly supporter.) There’s an enormous button right here for you to click. Do you see it? It’s right here, ready for clicking.

Donate Now

(If you’d like other ways to donate, please visit the Contribute page.)

With your help, raising the $1,200 in 2015 to push the Kindle Library up to 500 titles will not be an insurmountable challenge.

As always, I want to thank all the generous donors to the Kindle Classroom Project. It’s simply unfathomable to think how much growth there has been the past two years. Thank you again, and Happy New Year! favicon

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New Kindle classroom! Kathleen Large’s students in San Francisco join the KCP!

Kathleen Largefavicon I am very happy to announce that there will be a new classroom joining the Kindle Classroom Project in just over a week.

Kathleen Large — whose beautiful classroom library I featured in September — is an outstanding English teacher at Leadership High School in San Francisco, where I taught for 12 years.

Kathleen runs a robust independent reading program in her classroom. She begins each class with silent reading, knows what each student is reading, makes recommendations, and conferences with students about their books. Kathleen’s students have read many books, given book talks to younger students, and written poignant essays about how reading has affected them. (Her students also read the New York Times!)

Here’s a sneak peek of her classroom library:

Kathleen's Classroom Library 2
Part of Kathleen Large’s classroom library.

It is an honor to partner with Kathleen in this work. She has already pushed me about the best role of Kindles in a reading classroom. The KCP is a reading program, Kathleen reminds me, not a technology program, and the Kindle is best introduced not necessarily at the very beginning of the year, but rather after a reading culture has grown.

That’s why Kathleen launched a “soft start” with 10 of her students before Winter Break. She met with them individually, asked them if they wanted to opt in, explained the requirements of the program, and answered students’ questions. So far, the news is wonderful: Students are texting Kathleen over Break to let her know they love their Kindle and are finishing books.

It will be exciting to learn how the rest of her students react on Jan. 5 when they find out that there are plenty more Kindles to check out!

It’s very clear to me that the quality of the teacher is the most important ingredient to a successful Kindle classroom. When a teacher understands reading instruction and how the KCP can fit into his or her classroom, things flourish, and the power of the KCP comes out.

I can’t wait to tell the story of Miss Large’s Classroom and its participation in the Kindle Classroom Project! favicon