Tagged: nancy jo turner

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On teachers and classroom libraries

favicon Today I visited with Nancy Jo Turner, a good friend and former colleague, at Realm Charter School in Berkeley.

We chatted and talked about life and about teaching, and I was reminded of her beautiful classroom library and her commitment to independent reading.

Beautiful: Clean design, covers facing outward!
Beautiful: Clean design, covers facing outward!

Hanging out with Nancy Jo also reminded me how hard it is for teachers to maintain robust classroom libraries. (She’s doing it, though, very well.)

It’s (at least) a part-time job:

– Encouraging students to read,
– Checking books out to students,
– Conferencing with students,
– Finding money to purchase new books,
– Checking in returned books,
– Re-shelving returned books,
– Keeping track of completed books,
– And more, of course.

I honor the work that Nancy Jo and other teachers are doing across the San Francisco Bay Area to ensure that students have immediate and ongoing access to high-interest books.

It is also praiseworthy that teachers celebrate the reading of their students. Here’s just one of the ways that Nancy Jo does this:


When I visit teachers in their classrooms, it gets me inspired to continue thinking about the best ways to build reading cultures in schools. It’s not easy work, but it’s worthwhile work.

After all, when students make reading a habit, and when they start liking it again, and when they’ve completed several books, there’s something big that happens. Conversations improve. There are more hopes and what-ifs. And students start building a bigger life that is their own. favicon

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At the Kindle Classroom Project, something special is happening every day

favicon The Kindles aren’t even out yet (they go out beginning next week), and already, there is a ton of magic happening this year at the Kindle Classroom Project. It seems like every which way you turn, there is something exciting.

Yesterday’s donation from Matt (Fremont, CA), a former student, stopped me in my tracks, not just because of its generosity, but also because of my realization that I have a large group of former students (about 1,500 people over 15 years of teaching) who are kind and want to give back to their communities. They can give in many ways, and I am honored that Matt and other former students contribute to the KCP.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. My former students have done it before. Remember last year, when more than 20 former students bought books from the KCP Amazon Wishlist?

Or how about earlier this year, when former students donated a Chromebook to Nancy Jo Turner‘s students in Berkeley?

If you’re a teacher, it’s a great feeling when students come back to visit you in your classroom. Because I don’t have one classroom anymore, I feel the same way when I receive a donation from a former student.

Former students helping current students. There’s something that sounds right about that. favicon

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Here are some of my ideas for this year and the Kindle Classroom Project, 2014-15

Nathaly Bookshelvesfavicon Summer is a great time to reflect, take stock, and figure out next steps for the Kindle Classroom Project. Because so many of you are generous donors to the project, and you like to know what I’m doing, I just wanted to write a few of my ideas so that you know what I’m considering.

First, the things that definitely will be happening:

1. In just a few weeks, the 156 (and counting) Kindles will be in five schools: City Arts & Technology High School (San Francisco), Leadership High School (San Francisco), Envision Academy of Arts & Technology (Oakland), REALM Charter School (Berkeley), and Impact Academy of Arts & Technology (Hayward).

2. Like last year, I’ll be working with excellent teachers and administrators who care as deeply about students and their reading lives as I do. The list is not final yet, but some of those educators include Marni Spitz (CAT); Michele Godwin, Beth Silbergeld, and Kathleen Large (Leadership); Nancy Jo Turner (REALM); and Tess Lantos and Abby Benedetto (Impact).

Next, the things that most likely will be happening:

1. The 501-title Kindle Library will be organized by genre and available online on Iserotope for teachers, students, parents, and YOU! to view. This is going to be an important step for book browsing and discovery.

Up until now, students had access to all the books in the Kindle Library, but there wasn’t a very good way for students to browse. Sometimes they’d find a new title by window shopping the classroom library, none of which yet contain a truly mirrored experience of all 501 Kindle titles. Other times they’d get recommendations from their teacher or their friends.

If I work hard, I can get the new Kindle Library catalog up and running before the first day of classes. It’ll be a major improvement.

2. Students from all five schools will log their reading on one unified Google Form. This will help me gather important data. For example: who’s reading a lot vs. a little, which books are most popular, and whether the Kindles are making a difference.

Up until this year, I have had a good sense of what students were reading, but the process wasn’t always simple and streamlined. Now everyone (including YOU!) will be able to look at the reading progress of students. (Don’t worry: No last names will be published.)

Finally, the things I hope will be happening:

1. My first hope is to tell more stories, involve students and teachers more in those stories, do some interviews, and overall do a better job documenting the successes of the KCP. It’s time that YOU! get to experience all the good news that I get to experience every day.

To that end, I am excited to announce that I will be inviting my collaborating teachers to become guest bloggers. Whether they write just one time or regularly, I think it’s absolutely essential to get their voices out there. For teachers who are too busy or shy to write, I’ll be sure to encourage them to do video and audio interviews.

And why stop at the teachers? Wouldn’t it be great to meet some of the Kindlers? I think it’s time. If I get the appropriate permission from schools and families, I would love to put more student stories up on Iserotope. That could be posts, pictures, interviews, and even a short documentary video (if someone will help me, of course).

2. My second hope is to be able to answer the question about whether the Kindle Classroom Project should remain a little project or grow into something larger.

I won’t go into too many details right now about this possibility (because it’s exciting and scary), but I will say this: I’ve seen the positive impact of the Kindle Classroom Project, and that makes me happy. Because of your generous support, hundreds of students in the San Francisco Bay Area have reconnected to the power of story and reclaimed their interest in reading.

But there is also more work to do. Students of color in urban schools should have easy and plentiful access to books. The books should be high quality and help students see themselves, who they are, and who they want to become.

And though there are may ways to achieve those goals, it makes a lot of sense, given the limited resources of urban public schools, to build hybrid classroom libraries that mix Kindles, e-books, and physical books.

Please let me know your thoughts! favicon

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Students give thanks for new Chromebook

favicon Remember when I challenged you in February to help me surprise Nancy Jo Turner and her ninth graders with a new Chromebook?

Well, because of so many generous donations (including some contributions from Ms. Turner’s former students, now in college), the Chromebook is now a reality!

Here are some pictures of students with the Chromebook:

And here are a few thank-you cards that Nancy Jo’s students wrote:

Thank you again! favicon

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2 quick ways to promote a reading culture

NJTfavicon Today I got to visit my friend and former colleague Nancy Jo Turner, an excellent ninth grade English teacher in Berkeley.

The first thing Nancy Jo did when I arrived was to show off her fancy new HP Chromebook! Last month, I challenged loyal Iserotope readers and Ms. Turner’s former students to help fund a Chromebook for her classroom. It was a huge success! Then, just for fun, I asked for another Chromebook over on DonorsChoose, which will arrive next week. That means that Nancy Jo now has four Chromebooks, with just 26 to go.

The rest of the visit, we hung out and talked about reading. This year, Nancy Jo has built a classroom library of more than 750 titles. More important, she’s building a reading culture. Here are two quick ways that she’s doing it:

1. A new arrivals bookshelf.

2014-03-06 16.35.20 copy

Nancy Jo understands that the whole point of having a classroom library is to get books “sold” (like a bookstore), to circulate them, to get them in the hands of students. One of the best ways is by having a display for new books. Nancy Jo’s is clean and classy.

2. Celebrating completed books.

2014-03-06 16.28.16These certificates are prominently displayed in the hallways outside Nancy Jo’s classroom, and they’re perfect. What’s great about the Renegade Bookworm Club is that it honors students by welcoming them into a reading community. The Dr. Seuss quotation is also perfect. And so is the language in the certificate that emphasizes celebration.

That’s what reading is, after all — it’s a celebration! (Re)building a reading culture takes time, resources, patience, and passion, and it’s wonderful to see Nancy Jo and other colleagues create classrooms where students reclaim their love of reading.

Please leave comments for Nancy Jo! favicon

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Surprise ninth graders in Berkeley with a Chromebook to help improve their writing skills

NJTfavicon Nancy Jo Turner is an extraordinary ninth grade English teacher in Berkeley. She’s also a good friend of mine and a former colleague. There she is on the right!

About a month ago, Nancy Jo shared a dream with me. She wants a class set of Chromebooks so that her students can work on their writing and revising skills.

(I share that dream. I’ve seen what Chromebooks do for students, particularly to improve writing, and I’m hugely impressed.)

Nancy Jo means business. In just two weeks, she already has one Chromebook, thanks to several people who made contributions on DonorsChoose.

Here are a few pics — one of the Chromebook and one of Nancy Jo’s classroom library, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Now it’s our turn! I’d like to surprise Nancy Jo with a Chromebook for her students, and I’m asking for your help. With tax, the computer is $300, and I’m committed to donating 10 percent of the cost. That leaves $270. This is going to happen!

Update! This project is complete! Thank you, LeAnne (Fremont, CA), Laura (San Francisco, CA), Zoe (Oakland, CA), Rashada (Ann Arbor, MI), Marilyn (Los Angeles, CA), Gavin (Berkeley, CA),  Jasmine (San Francisco, CA), Kyle (Sacramento, CA), Pauline (Davis, CA), Franklin (San Francisco, CA), Stephanie (Santa Cruz, CA), and Elaine (Stanford, CA)!

Want to help out? Here are two easy ways you can donate:

Donate an Amazon Gift Card!
I’m going to buy the computer on Amazon (for free shipping). So an easy way to contribute is to donate an Amazon gift card! It’s super easy. Click on the card below and fill out the form. My email is iseroma AT rocketmail DOT com. Be sure to leave your name and email address in the message box so I can get back to you!


Send me money over email!
There’s this new app called “Square Cash” (affiliated with Twitter) that lets you send money via email. You don’t need to start an account. All you do is click on the button below. An automatic email will pop up. In the subject field, change the amount to what you want. Then type your name in the message field before clicking send. You’ll receive an email that will request your debit card number. Easy peasy!
cash-button-blueThank you, Loyal Iserotope Readers, for thinking of making a donation to surprise Nancy Jo and her students with a new Chromebook. (Just don’t tell her!)

If you contribute, you’ll receive a thank-you letter from me (for tax purposes) and a thank-you card from Nancy Jo’s students (for heartwarming purposes).

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Can’t wait to see what happens! favicon

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Classroom library love in Berkeley!

favicon This is big news!

My good friend and former colleague Nancy Jo Turner, who teaches ninth graders in Berkeley, has launched a new and very impressive classroom library.

Want to check out the awesomeness? It’s right here waiting for you.

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I’m very excited and can’t wait to share more pictures once the students see what their teacher has built for them. (Yes, teachers do work over the summer!)

What’s also great is the story behind this beautiful classroom library. When Nancy Jo and I were colleagues in San Francisco, we shared a classroom and often talked about one of our core beliefs: the importance of reading. She introduced an additional novel to an introductory leadership course and also had her students read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Nancy Jo understands the power of reading not only to educate but also to transform.

Fast forward more than a year later. Nancy Jo had moved to a school in Berkeley and I had become an instructional coach in Oakland. We kept in touch, and Nancy Jo grew more and more interested in building an independent reading program. She already had many excellent titles. But why not supplement her books with the books stored in my garage?

And so it was done. In June, I stuffed all my books into my Honda Civic and headed over to Berkeley. We unloaded all the boxes and stacked them into her immaculate classroom. My part was finished, but Nancy Jo had just begun. Since that day, she has organized all the books, cataloged them, built beautiful bookshelves, and completed two DonorsChoose projects for additional resources. And now she’s on Facebook and Twitter promoting the cause. (Check her out and please donate!) Nancy Jo is focused and knows what’s best for kids. I can’t wait to see what she does this year!

All told, her classroom library stands at 600+ titles right now.

Independent reading is spreading in high schools. We need to re-introduce students to the fun and power of stories. I’m so happy that Nancy Jo is leading this work for ninth graders in Berkeley.

Please share your thoughts in the comments! Or share this post with friends so they find out about this greatness! favicon