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Monday, January 27, 2014

And the Winner Is...

Today the 2014 American Library Association Youth Media Awards were announced, and as always are a fantastic list of deserving authors and illustrators. While I'm a little late with this, I'm using the ALAYMAs to launch my list of #MustReadin2014 books. (Because apparently the excitement generated by the announcement keeps overloading the ALA website, I'm linking the list from the CBC website here. Also take a look at the Horn Book reviews.) Congrats, too, to Brian Selznick for being announced as this year's Arbuthnot lecturer. I've included links to the author/illustrator websites. Please visit them, and buy from your local indy book store.

My favorites off the list this year are (out of the ones I've read so far)...drumroll please...

Journey by Aaron Becker (Caldecott Honor recipient)

Locomotive by Brian Floca (Caldecott Medal and Sibert Honor recipient)

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson (Scott King Honor for illustrator recipient)

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli (Geisel Award recipient)

Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner (Caldecott Honor recipient)

And the book that gave me chills and a major brain worm:

Doll Bones by Holly Black (Newberry Honor recipient)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Productive Failure

There has been a lot of buzz about teaching failure in education lately, so I'm sure you've thought about how to incorporate failure into your instruction. Not all types of failure, however, are useful for growth. So, how do you incorporate productive failure into your instruction?

Outcome failure is simple to evaluate; the end result fails. Put in education terms, the student fails to complete the task properly or demonstrate understanding in an assessment. Process failure can be more difficult to assess. In process failure, the outcome may be achieved, but the way the student got there is flawed in some way. To assess process failure or success, the teacher must evaluate not just the end result, but the steps along the way. In order to have both outcome and process success, the student must go through an iterative and reflective process.

Iteration is a term used in many design fields, and it means simply (in my words) to try, fail, fix, repeat. After watching the music video by OK Go, 7 year old Audri was inspired to create his own Rube Goldberg machine and documented his failures and success.

 Manu Kapur's research on productive failure shows that, when guided, students are able to demonstrate understanding of difficult concepts better than students who were either allowed to fail with no guidance, or students that were in a more controlled environment. The process of learning productive failure builds stamina, perseverance, analysis, critical thinking and creativity; skills that are difficult if not impossible to teach, but must be instilled and nurtured.  In the Choice Literacy article linked by the principals this month, the author reinforces the idea that research is a great arena for students to experience productive failure. As students go through an iterative process like research or making a Rube Goldberg machine, have them document their process along the way and reflect on it. If you need ideas about how to incorporate reflection into an iterative assignment, take a look at this article from School Library Monthly.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chatterpix: Fun Little Add-on Element

As an add-on to a biography unit, a third grade student created a 30 second summary of her famous person. (And apparently, Jacques Cartier wasn't the most honest person.)

As a product, it's a slender demonstration of knowledge for intermediate students, but as a puzzle piece to a larger product it has some fun possibilities. And for younger students, it's a great way to show a snippet of their own work with their voice narrating to work on oral presentation skills. If I were going to take this app further with the third grade product, I'd take the written report, the hand drawn poster of the person, the Chatterpix, and combine those into a more polished product.

With those three pieces (student art, written report, and Chatterpix), students can start creating something a little more interesting. Keep the traditional report and the hand drawn work. Take a picture of the art and use Aurasma, Layar or Glogster as the vessel for making an interactive experience for other students and parents. Instead of making one long recording of the report, have the student rewrite the report in first person from the subject's perspective, and record a different Chatterpix for each subtopic. Embed each Chatterpix in a different area of the photograph of the hand drawn art using an augmented reality app or Glogster. House them on the class blog, and have the students investigate each others' reports. Or, even better, have classmates read the report and create Chatterpix based on what they've learned from their classmates.

It sounds complicated, but if you start with a small project and teach them Chatterpix by itself (and the same with the other tech tool), it's much easier to teach them to integrate these different tools with an academic concept.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

FanFiction Writing for Kids

In my burgeoning 40th birthday crisis (that started with a nine season X-Files marathon and went where Journey and U2 are suddenly cool again, video games are the priority for spare time, and tshirts are the preferred mode of self-expression), I've been reading Star Wars Extended Universe (EU) fiction, Doctor Who comics, and countless Tumblr blogs with mashups and spins on my favorite characters. In the process, I've come to appreciate the creativity of fanfiction. So, based on a handful of blogs I found wondering why people write fanfiction, I found a few things to consider for young writers:
Using a 4th grade Common Core writing standard for an example, (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3b Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.) students could use a well-known character such as Percy Jackson, and give him a new situation to respond to. Such as what if Percy went on vacation to Colorado and encountered Choine the snow goddess? How would he react? In X-Files fanfiction, writers try to tell a story with the characters in 155 words or less, which means you have to tell your story succinctly and with careful word choice. Can you describe how Percy reacts in 155 words or less and have it be believable? Can you draw your readers in that quickly? You could even do this with a novel read-aloud or as a guided reading activity. Which brings me to my second point:
When writing shorter pieces (because in reality, most of our kids aren't going to be writing full length novels), why not take advantage of the groundwork another author has laid to establish the world? If the readers are already familiar with the world of Bone, the writer can jump into the new storyline without having to provide a lot of tedious backstory to familiarize the reader with a strange world's landscape, history and odd indigenous characters. They can focus on a single coherent plotline, a limited number of characters to develop and connecting with their audience. So, why not have students...
Fanfiction is far older than 60s sci-fi television. Shakespeare spun tales his audience was used to hearing, and relocated them in settings they understood to boot. Virgil's Aeneid was based on one of Homer's minor characters in the Odyssey. Myths, fairy tales, legends, all these were types of fanfiction in their day. ("Tell us a story of the hero Jason!") Storytelling of that sort involves audience reactions and immediate feedback. It would be easy and fun to establish fanfiction collections in notebooks or using something like a class wiki or Edmodo site for students to respond or add onto each others fanfiction stories based on their personal interests (imagine the Minecraft story collection!). And if the writer's interest is a little more obscure, try reaching out to the fanbase online via fansites or official blogs. Having a reblog of your work can be highly motivating for a budding writer. And if you're looking for that authentic tie-in...
On this site you'll see some familiar names that are great examples to hold up to your aspiring writers. Fanfic is a hot debate among writers. One author of a popular series says it's a waste of time but in my opinion every writer should be honing his or her craft writing fanfic on a daily basis if only to write something better. (But maybe that author's upset that a more popular book started as the fanfic of a frustrated reader.)

Follow-up Jan. 12: I just watched the Bronies documentary on Netflix. Did not know there was so much My Little Pony love out there!