In the Schoolyard: Exploring Books

We continue our outdoor learning series with Herbert Broda with a new post that includes some helpful book recommendations and activities for outdoor learning in the winter.

Using Books as a Springboard

moving-the-classroom-outdoorsWinter is a great time to explore books that could be incorporated into outdoor teaching. A few years ago I met Florence Milutinovic of Park Forest Elementary in State College, Pennsylvania who shared with me a wonderful way to incorporate outdoor learning into a unit about prehistoric life. Here is the activity she shared with me for Moving the Classroom Outdoors.

Florence takes her students outside and reads the book If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most to her second grade class. This whimsical children’s book entertains kids by showing dinosaurs in a modern day setting, catching lost kites and pushing away rain clouds. She then poses the question, “What if dinosaurs came to our schoolyard?” Students then draw pictures of what that might look like and also write about what they think might happen. Creativity as well as a sense of scale come out as kids write things like, “They would eat all the leaves” or “They would give children rides.”

As students continue to learn more about dinosaurs, Florence poses the question, “Could dinosaurs fit in our schoolyard?” She then cuts yarn to the lengths of various types of dinosaurs—the longest was 180 feet, while the smallest was three feet in length. The class took the yarn outside and held the various lengths to see for themselves where the various “dinosaurs” might be able to go on the school grounds. As a culminating activity, dinosaur “eggs” were hidden on the schoolyard and the class trooped outside for a new twist on the traditional egg hunt!

The dinosaur in the schoolyard activity is a great example of using the outdoors as a venue for learning. Although Florence could have read the book to students seated in a classroom, the concept of “dinosaur” and the scenarios portrayed in the book are enhanced by an outdoor setting. Simply talking indoors about the size of dinosaurs just doesn’t make the same dramatic impression that is created when twenty-five kids hold 180 feet of yarn and try to imagine the body that occupied such a large space.

schoolyard-enhanced-learningPark Forest teachers also suggested two books by Lois Ehlert as great springboards for outdoor activity and discussion. One is Leaf Man, a delightful picture book that tells a story with leaf collages that take the form of different shapes and animals. The book can inspire wonderful art projects using fall leaves, and most certainly makes children more aware of the variety, beauty and complexity of the autumn landscape. What a great precursor to a walk!

Planting a Rainbow is another Ehlert book designed for primary level children. The book is a perfect way to build excitement for planting on the school grounds. It begins in the fall and introduces children to several types of familiar bulbs that can be planted on most school sites. Beautiful pictures then show the springtime flowers that emerge from the bulbs. The book progresses to familiar annual flowers that can be planted as the weather warms. I love the last third of the book that shows the spectacular colors found in common flowers around the schoolyard and in home gardens. The color section would be a perfect segue into an outdoor color matching activity. I like to use paint chip samples (usually readily available from paint or home improvement stores if you explain that you are a teacher) and have children try to match the paint sample with something in the outdoors.

At the primary grades, there are hundreds of picture books that can create enthusiasm for outdoor exploration. Like the books described above, many books written for very young readers immediately and almost instinctively lead to outdoor activities.

If you are looking for a good source of current outdoor related books, the National Outdoor Book Awards (NOBA) website is good place to begin. NOBA is “a non-profit, educational program, sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and Idaho State University.” The program was founded in 1997 and includes a children’s books category. You can look at lists of book winners for every year since the program began. You can search only for children’s books and get a good listing of books that have been selected since the beginning of the program. At a time when traditional outdoor-themed books are being eclipsed by social issues and dystopian topics, the NOBA site provides a helpful compilation of books that emphasizes the outdoors.

Add comment January 21st, 2015

Now Online: 59 Reasons to Write

59-reasons-to-write“Writing with my students made me a mentor and a far better teacher. Because I was in the middle of the messy process, just as they were, I understood the feeling of wanting to finish but being stuck. I could relate to their fear and their failures–and that made all of our successes so much more to celebrate.”

The more you write, the better writing teacher you will be. But how do get started, find the time, and make the most of it to benefit your students?

Award-winning author Kate Messner draws on her popular summer writing camp (Teachers Write) and more than 50 professional writers to inspire you to write every day–on your own, or with a group of colleagues–in her new book, 59 Reasons to Write.

You’ll get a concrete framework for a writing program that can be used in any school, with groups of any size, led by anyone who wants to support teachers and librarians as writers and as mentors for the young writers they serve. Prompts and mini-lessons will hone your skills on organizing, characters, voice, setting, plot, pacing, poetry, revising, critiquing, and more.

If you’re ready to write (or write more), now is the time, and 59 Reasons to Write is the resource you need to start and sustain this essential part of your work as a teacher of writing. The book is available now, you can preview the entire text online.

Add comment January 16th, 2015

Here is why you write

We asked a simple question yesterday on Twitter: Why do you write? Here are some highlights from your responses. Keep writing and to get more inspiration go online to preview Kate Messner’s new book: 59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers.

1 comment January 14th, 2015

Preview now: Up & Running with the Daily 5


In their new video, Up & Running with the Daily 5, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (“The 2 Sisters”) take you and your staff into real classrooms where they work with teachers to demonstrate key components of the Daily 5 literacy structure, including:

• the 10 Steps to Independence;
• brain & body breaks;
• differentiating student choices;
• Math Daily 3; and
• strategies for “barometer students.”

The perfect companion to the second edition of The Daily 5, Up & Running with the Daily 5 is essential for any school starting or sustaining the structure used by hundreds of thousands of teachers to help students achieve literacy independence. And you can get five three-month subscriptions to The 2 Sisters’ Daily CAFE website for each video ordered by using the code 5FREE (valid through 3/31).

You can now purchase this video and all Stenhouse videos in streaming format in addition to DVD. Streaming offers access for an entire school from any online device, enables you to embed clips and/or playlists into your learning management system, and provides tracking/reporting features for PD leaders. Get details and a free 48-hour trial here!

Add comment January 7th, 2015

Stenhouse now offers streaming video

video-previews-cover-cropped

Stenhouse now offers video streaming—powered by our partner Kanopy—directly to your school, allowing teachers to watch professional development videos where they want, when they want.

For as low as $150 per title you can stream Stenhouse videos directly to your entire school! Or you can save up to 30% on a one-year subscription and 45% on a 3-year subscription when you purchase one of our ten collections.

With Stenhouse streaming you can:

 

  • Enjoy more than 75 hours of quality professional development
  • Watch videos anytime, anywhere, on any device
  • Embed videos, clips and/or playlists into any learning management system
  • Pull clips and create playlists of favorite moments with just a few clicks
  • Receive 30% off a one year subscription and 45% off a three year subscription
  • Access reports to track teacher progress

To sign up for a 48-hour trial or to find out more, just visit our website!

 

1 comment January 5th, 2015

Happy New Year from Stenhouse!

We are wrapping up another great year at Stenhouse and I want to thank you for following us along on our blog. I hope you found some interesting reading this year and that you will join us again in 2015!

Here are some of the highlights from 2014:

What were your favorite teaching and/or learning moments in 2014?

See you next year!

Add comment December 30th, 2014

Now Online: In Defense of Read-Aloud

in-defense-of-read-aloudSteven convinces us that reading aloud must be a cornerstone of every teaching day regardless of the age level, subject matter, or discipline we teach.
—Regie Routman

Should be on every teacher’s must-read list.
—Jim Trelease

What do you say to someone who questions the value of reading aloud to your students? How can you use read-aloud to teach reading and writing skills? And how can you enhance your performance to leave your students engaged, transfixed, and begging for more?

Drawing on the latest research, Steven Layne provides a convincing argument for reading aloud every day across the grades, and gives teachers practical advice and specific strategies in his new book, In Defense of Read‑Aloud. You’ll learn how to:

  • arrange the best seating plan;
  • select the best read-aloud;
  • prepare for and launch a new read-aloud;
  • plan for teachable moments; and
  • read with expression to maximize engagement.

Correspondence between teachers and noted authors Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, Nancy Werlin, Andrew Clements, and Ben Mikaelsen open each chapter, and the book is filled with reflections and book suggestions from teachers and prominent educators such as Brian Cambourne, Richard Allington, Debbie Diller, Doug Fisher, Kelly Gallagher, Linda Hoyt, and Donalyn Miller.

In Defense of Read‑Aloud will entertain, challenge, and inspire you to make the most of this essential literacy teaching practice. You can preview the entire book online now!

Add comment December 15th, 2014

Preview the full text of 5 new books

We just posted the full preview for five new books from our Canadian publishing partner, Pembroke Publishers. They are all available in print and e-book formats!
8301Q-Tasks
How to Empower Students to Ask Questions and Care About the Answers (Second Edition)
Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan
Grades 4-12 • 160 pp • Available now
$24.00 print • $21.60 e-book • $34.00 print/e-book bundle
Helps you develop a questioning culture and empower students to think critically, with 103 activities on curiosity, question types, building good questions, comprehension, opinions, interviews, surveys, writing, and more. The new edition incorporates technology tools and collaborative learning.
 

8299Exploding the Reading
Building a World of Responses from One Small Story, 50 Interactive Strategies for Increasing Comprehension
David Booth
Grades K-8 • 160 pp • Available now
$24.00 print • $21.60 e-book • $34.00 print/e-book bundle
A fascinating look at how hundreds of students respond to the same story, and how a variety of teachers at different grade levels tailor instruction using different modes of response such as text talk, role play, writing, and technology to improve comprehension.
 

 

82953-Minute Motivators
(Revised Edition)
Kathy Paterson
Grades K-12 • 160 pp • Available now
$24.00 print • $21.60 e-book • $34.00 print/e-book bundle
More than 200 simple, fun activities for any grade that will help you use “a little magic” to take a quick break, engage students, and refocus them on the task at hand. 150 of the motivators are new to this edition.
 

 

8298Stop the Stress in Schools
Mental Health Strategies Teachers Can Use to Build a Kinder, Gentler Classroom
Joey Mandel
Grades K-6 • 128 pp • Available now
$24.00 print • $21.60 e-book • $34.00 print/e-book bundle
You may not always be able to remove the source of your students’ worries, but you can employ the strategies in this book to respond in the most positive way and help kids calm themselves, become more resilient, and build their confidence, even during the most difficult moments.
 

 

8300Dramathemes
Classroom Literacy that Will Excite, Surprise, and Stimulate Learning
Larry Swartz
Grades 4-12 • 160 pp • Available now
$24.00 print • $21.60 e-book • $34.00 print/e-book bundle
Presents a set of games, activities, and resources based on 10 themes such as identity, bullying, fantasy worlds, and the immigrant experience. Each unit uses games and drama to make connections to a variety of literary genres and enrich your literacy instruction.

Add comment December 8th, 2014

In the Schoolyard: Taking Math Outdoors

We are excited to have another great post from Herb Broda, author of Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning and Moving the Classroom Outdoors. In this post he offers some ideas for taking math outdoors to re-energize your classroom and to provide some important math visuals for your students. Check out Herb’s earlier blog post about the Tale of the Tape.

Taking Math Outdoors

It was a strange sight—twenty three fifth graders forming several head-to-toe lines as they stretched out on the playground. Although it looked like a game, these students were actually taking an abstract concept and translating it into concrete (pardon the pun!) terms.

Teacher Laura Grimm had been teaching the concept of data representation through graphing. A variety of examples had been provided indoors through books and other media. But just looking at examples and doing an occasional worksheet was only part of the instructional design. Laura wanted her students to also experience the concept. The playground provided a perfect venue for using the outdoors as a teaching tool.

bar graph

The human bar graph.

Students grouped themselves according to birth month. Signs had been placed on the ground for the twelve months so students found the correct month and stretched out to form their head-to-toe lines on the pavement. The activity visually verified that most students in this year’s class were born in August.

As an extension activity, Laura has kids line up according to birth dates. The long line is closed to form a circle on the blacktop. She then draws lines on the ground to show where the four seasons would fall and an instant circle graph/pie chart is created.

Although students had fun with the activities, there also was a subtle learning process taking place. Abstract concepts like “data representation”, “bar graph” and “circle graph” suddenly take on new meanings as students experience these ideas rather than only read about them. After you have been a part of a living bar graph you definitely have a stronger perception of the concept!

Students line up by birth month.

Students line up by birth month.

Chalk lines show the four seasons in a year.

Chalk lines show the four seasons in a year.

I want to emphasize that the indoor instruction that took place prior to going outside was just as important as the outdoor experience. It was very helpful for students to hear about the abstract concepts first, and then have the clarifying activity outside. Another variation could have been to do the outdoor activity first as an advanced organizer or motivator, and then do the indoor instruction. My preference with this content, though, would be to frontload the abstractions and then use the outdoors to provide clarity.

This activity is a great example of how the outdoors can be used as a venue for instruction, not just as a source of content. We often think that going outside has to mean doing some type of analysis or investigation of nature. Although that’s certainly a valid use of the schoolyard, often going outside can provide a motivating change of pace and place just because we are in a different venue. The change of place can revitalize and refocus activities that have become overly routine indoors. Reading a story, having a class discussion or even practicing spelling words (with sidewalk chalk) are often approached with renewed energy and focus simply because of the outdoor venue.

Outdoor activities do not have to be lengthy. In the human bar graph example described above, Laura’s class was outside for only about 15-20 minutes. I feel strongly that the best use of the school grounds for instruction is to take students outside briefly to re-focus on a specific concept that is currently being developed indoors. The brief outdoor activity gives a change of pace and place and provides an opportunity to approach the concept from an experiential perspective.

1 comment December 3rd, 2014

How Expert is Expert When You are In Eighth Grade?

Cooper author photo bigger resolutionWe continue our series of blog posts about teaching social studies by author and teacher Sarah Cooper with this thoughtful piece where Sarah wonders about teaching depth and breadth, helping students become experts on a topic, and helping them make arguments that will stand up outside of the classroom.

How Expert is Expert When You are in Eighth Grade?
By Sarah Cooper

What obligation do we have to make our students experts on a topic before they give opinions about it?

Or, said a different way: are we being irresponsible if we encourage our students to tackle big questions before they have enough information to address them? What constitutes “enough information,” anyway?

Recently I’ve been wondering about the balance between exposure and depth, between familiarity and expertise. The questions above filled my head at the end of our recent unit on the American Revolution in eighth-grade history. In addition to the 1760s and 1770s, we also discussed current events: a United Nations summit, the fight against Islamic State, the spread of Ebola, the California drought, and other articles students brought in.

The unit’s culminating assignment was a debate on Wednesday, which students knew would also be their essay prompt for a test on Thursday. The question for both the debate and the essay was this:

Given what you have learned in the Revolution unit (about freedoms, rebellions, etc.), how much do you think the United States should be involved in world problems, and why?

I hoped students would see connections between the freedoms the colonists fought for and the opportunities that people in countries around the world are fighting for today.

Students were assigned to groups of interventionists, isolationists, and moderates. Every idea they brought into the debate had to be supported by a fact, either a historical one or a current event. The goal was for the debate—and the two days of preparation for it—to serve as brainstorming and prewriting for the test essay.

Debating did allow them to practice their thoughts before writing them down, as well as borrow ideas from their classmates to help their case. In their essays, students cited evidence they had heard in the debate, from France’s becoming an ally after the Battle of Saratoga in 1777 to the need for the United States to address its nearly $18 billion national debt before helping out other countries.

Yet I realized as I read the essays that the excitement and intensity of the debate may have oversimplified things. Here’s an example of a strong argument from one of the essays:

If you don’t have the steady base it will be imbalanced and fall. The United States is that base that starts a new creation. . . . Like in 1775 we met again for the Second Continental Congress for discussing war against Britain. We also continued to fight, and created a Declaration of Independence for what we wanted: freedom. Taking these actions and fighting for what we wanted led to a victory. From then on we have had the obligation to intervene and help solve world conflicts. I believe this is right, because it is the moral choice.

I liked the building logic of this essay’s argument, and the vocabulary is excellent. The student is thinking. This excerpt contains a specific and accurate fact from 1775, and it gives commentary on the Revolution that links history to today.

On the other hand, there’s a big part of me that feels negligent because this writer has leaped over 200-plus years of history—with almost zero knowledge of 1783 to 2014—and ended with a grand, sweeping statement about the United States’ “obligation to intervene.”

Many other essays took a similar leap, with some attempting to land on World War II in the process. We had studied that time period only through FDR’s “Freedom from Fear” speech from January 1941, in an attempt to relate his freedoms to the Revolution’s ideals, but many know about World War II from their parents or popular culture.

One writer put it this way in another essay:

Even though we did not want to get involved we soon learned our lesson, and learned that we have to [get involved] after the Pearl Harbor attack. This attack shows the idea of us just being an open target for attack if we are trying to stay out of conflict and not defending ourselves. . . . The example with World War II is similar with our involvement in Ebola. This is because Ebola is a deadly disease that Africa does not have enough money or supplies to cure and if the US does not help stop it the disease will eventually spread to the US and kill several American people just like World War II would have if we did not jump in and help.

Again, the cause-and-effect is good. The analogy, as far as it goes, is a decent one. Yet there’s a part of me that thinks I’m encouraging students to oversimplify, to believe they have something to say even when their analysis would not stand up in the world beyond our classroom.

Maybe the key lies in welcoming the imperfect. As I often tell my students, the answers to the questions we’re asking could fill books. Maybe I need to accept that they’re going to take a reasonably informed stab at the idea and, ideally, get excited while doing so.

David N. Perkins, founding member and senior codirector of Harvard’s innovative Project Zero, suggests that “ways of knowing can come in junior versions,” as meaningful entry points to historical or mathematical thinking.

In Perkins’s book Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World (Jossey-Bass, 2014), he describes a teacher in Australia who tackled number theory with her third graders: “The conjectures were not very sophisticated and the ideas about proof and evidence not very fancy, but the point is that these students were making a start, and doing so with some enthusiasm” (160).

Despite my reservations, the middle schoolers last week were definitely “making a start” at solving the world’s problems. Now I think I’ll make a start, during the rest of the year, at filling in some highlights between the end of the Revolutionary War and the second term of the Obama administration!

Add comment November 25th, 2014

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