Month: September 2012

Book Trailer Thursday: Shatter Me

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Fans of Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched might find a new heroine to emulate.  Meet Juliette, a lonely, powerful, lethal young woman who is desperate to touch not be touched.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

available at The Library @ the Ridge!

Remind101: A Safe Communication Tool for Students, Parents, and Teachers

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 Technology Tuesday #2

Yesterday, I was at my parents’ house for our Labor Day smorgasbor. My niece Kylie, a high school senior, received a message on her phone during dinner (not an uncommon phenomenon in our family).  Our conversation continued as normal while she flipped to her text message screen.  “Oh, good,” she said, “I’m glad she reminded us.”  Immediately, my ears tuned-in with the topic of today’s blog fresh on my mind.  Something told me I was witnessing an example of the exact tool I hoped to share with you for this installment of Tech Tuesday.  I decided to be nosey and ask her about the message.  She turned the screen my direction and sure enough, I was right!  From an unidentified number, the message read, “Don’t forget to bring your ASL II textbook to class tomorrow.”  

Signing up is free and easy!

Kylie was eager to tell me all about the ways that her ASL teacher was using this new website,  The site is a free tool for educators that allows them to send messages via text to their students through an private number.  Privacy is retained on both ends of the message;  the student does not have access to the teacher’s private phone number, nor does the teacher know the students!  Cha-ching! In addition to texts, students and parents can receive messages through email. I asked her what the class thought of the tool, and she shared that her classmates loved it and wished that all their teachers used it. 

Create classes with custom tags.
 students enroll themselves through text or email. 
Select which classes will receive the message.
You can even tell it when to send the message
 if you want to schedule them in advance.

I hear a lot of rumbling from colleagues about communication with students.  Often times, teachers are “encouraged” to use district-created sites that are burdensome and difficult to maintain to communicate with students and teachers.  While ideally, all teacher pages would be networked through the same service, contain the same features, and tools, these sites can be just as difficult for students and parents to access, involving multiple “clicks” and browsing to locate an individual teacher’s page.  The reality is that teachers want  to get information to their students and students want to be informed.  Distributing your pesonal phone number to students, although convenient, may not always be the safest way to maintain communication.  Many districts have created privacy policies that prohibit teachers from contacting students through personal numbers or Facebook pages, citing federal privacy laws. (See more about Texas’ student privacy laws and FERPA
Students feel connected to their teacher when they recieve updates, reminders, and announcements through text or email.  The teacher is “speaking their language.”  For educators, remind101 allows them to distribute information quickly and safely while complying with privacy laws and policies. 
With Open House right around the corner, you might consider setting up your classes on remind101 and invite parents to subscribe.  The website provides .PDF handouts with your customized information that can be distributed to parents and students.  There is very little work for the teacher when creating classes as students and teachers subscribe themselves to a class using a customized number and code.   
When communication is clear, concise, and consistent, students are free to engage in learning rather than becoming bogged in the amount of information and tasks distributed to them over the course of a school day. Parents, too, appreciate the free-flow of information as stakeholders in their child’s education. Remind101 is one of many free services that helps students become task-managers and supports their success.
A video tutorial is available on Vimeo for Remind101. 
Curious about other web-based tools that can support communication and even be integrated into instruction?  Check out Twitter!
Quentin Donellan’s Blog about using Twitter as an instructional tool.

Module 2: Freight Train

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Book Summary: A colorful train in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple speeds across a simple track.  Simple, block letters describe  the types of car on the train through repeated sight words and short sentences.

APA Reference: Crews, D. (1978).  Freight train.  New York, NY:  Greenwillow Books. 
Impressions:  From the first sentence on a nearly blank white page, I was captivated, “A train runs across this track.”  With each page turn bold, vivid colors and text capture the eye and imagination Although very simple and two dimensional, the illustrations still manage to convey the motion and detail of the various cars.  As the train begins to move, the colors blur to create a perfect spectrum of color.  Simple phrases and verbs build early readers’ confidence with sight words while maintaining the action and speed of the train.

Professional Review:  From School Library Journal (1978) “Happily, Crews did a fine job with Freight Train’s illustrations which aptly convey the excitement of a train rushing by in a blur of color” (p. 131).

DeVinney, G., & Gerhardt, L. N. (1978). Freight train/rain (Review of the book Freight train). School Library Journal25(2), 131.

Library Uses: This text would make an engaging story time text for early readers.  Children could re-enact the story by using felt cut-outs of the train carts, tunnel, track, etc. and the teacher can help to label the motion of the train using the action verbs from the story.  

Module 1: On the Night You Were Born

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Book Summary:  Tillman celebrates a newborn’s unique contributions to the world from the magical sound of a name to “wiggly, wonderful toes.”  Across the earth, animals and nature join in the celebration;  polar bears dance, the wind whispers, and even the moon stays up extra late.  

APA Reference:  Tillman, N. (2005) On the night you were born. New York, NY:  Feiwel and Friends. 

Impressions:  The lilting, lyrical quality of this book recreates the comforting, rocking motion of a lullabye and leaves the adult reader with the desire to curl up in a rocking chair with an infant in his or her arms.  Much like a lullaby, the images and words combine to create a peaceful sense of night with dreamlike illustrations that incorporate music notes symbolic of the night wind.  The pages where text is limited to a phrase or short sentence such as, “Over the ocean….” “And through the trees…”  invite very young children to explore the accompanying illustrations focusing on one idea at a time.  Towards the end of the book beginning with “So whenever you doubt…”  children may become restless waiting for a page turn as the text lengthens.  Because of the sentimentality, abstract quality to the illustrations, and lengthy poetic pages, adults might favor this book over their young children.  It will, no doubt, still help to create the bond between parent and child during a shared reading time. 

Professional Review:  From School Library Journal (2007), “The dark blue night skies make a beautiful and dramatic setting for this special night.  The painterly art and poetic quality of the text make this an attractive book.  Parents and grandparents are most likely to appreciate it, but they will undoubtedly want to share it with a child.”  

Janssen, C. (2007). On the night you were born (Review of the book On the night you were born)School Library Journal53(3), 186-187.

Library Uses:  
This picture book would make an excellent mentor text for students to imitate poetry, particularly rhyming couplets.  By following the basic form of the text as a poem, students could create a “On the Night I was Born” book to introduce themselves through unique facts about their own birthdays.  Integrate research by having students find events that took place on the day they were born throughout history.