In the midst of a cold, snowy spell in New England, word spread last week that beloved author, teacher, and colleague Bernice (Bee) Cullinan had died on February 5. Saddened by this news, I was catapulted back to 1992 – 1994 when we served together on the Standards Project for English Language Arts (SPELA), a joint venture between the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) to write standards for K-12 students in partnership with the Center for the Teaching of Reading at the University of Illinois. I was a middle school teacher at the time, well acquainted with Bee’s books, especially Literature and the Child, co-edited with Lee Galda and Laurence Sipe, and Weaving Charlotte’s Web, coedited with Janet Hickman, so I was honored to encounter her at our week-long meetings in Chicago, Utah, and Washington, D.C. These sessions were long, fascinating, and often difficult, but it was the time after hours that made us friends. In restaurants and pubs, in museums, and on meandering walks, it became evident that we shared a love of teaching and a passion for poetry. Before long, we were sending each other newly discovered poems via email between meetings.
Bee grew up in Ohio and taught primary students there for fifteen years. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at The Ohio State University before moving to NYU, where she taught reading and children’s literature for three decades, influencing countless students at the Steinhardt School for Culture, Education, and Human Development. Working there for several years myself, I loved running into her on campus, at poetry readings, or on the streets of the city. She always had a smile on her face, a story ready to share, and a new project in the works.
Professor Gordon Pradl remembers Bee with affection: “She was a gracious lady of the old school. . . with a dogged advocacy and support of people in the field. One could not wish for a warmer or more generous colleague than Bee.”
Bee believed that reading should be, more than anything else, a joyful experience. All 40 of her books promote love of reading and support both parents and teachers in the quest to help all children embrace words, poems, and stories. She was a past president of IRA and won NCTE’s 2003 Outstanding Educator Award, and her influence on literacy education was boundless.
Her comprehensive study, “Independent Reading and School Achievement,” funded by the United States Department of Education (1998-2000) offers compelling evidence that students who select their own books show remarkable growth as readers. “Bee was the one who compiled all that research, and I was grateful to her,” says Nancie Atwell, whose students have been selecting their own books to read more than 30 years. “Choice is the wellspring of literacy and literacy appreciation,” she writes.
Shelley Harwayne remembers Bee’s kindness when Manhattan New School opened in 1994. “We went out to her house on Long Island,” says Shelley, “And Bee put box after box of children’s books into the car. Those books became the heart of our new school.”
Professor Emeritus Bee Cullinan, writer, scholar, and lover of poems, shared her passion with everyone she met. She helped children find surprise, solace, and joy in reading. She loved a good meal and a good poem. I am going to miss her.
Atwell, Nancie 2014 In the Middle, Third Edition: A Lifetime of Learning about Writing, Reading, and Adolescents Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
Join us for a free online webinar with Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, “The 2 Sisters” on Wednesday, February 25, at 3:30 p.m. EST.
Whether you’re new to the Daily 5 literacy classroom management structure or have been using it for years, this informative webinar will give you practical ideas that you can use immediately to build student independence and success.
Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (“The 2 Sisters”), authors of the Daily 5, will present live on-camera, and the webinar will feature an exclusive clip from their new video, Up & Running with the Daily 5. At the end of the presentation, Gail & Joan will answer questions from attendees submitted in advance or during the webinar. You’ll get tips on introducing Daily 5 tasks, teaching behaviors, building student independence, and more. Space for this free webinar is limited, so register now! @StenhousePub will be live tweeting the event using #Daily5Tips.
We sat down with Kelly Gallagher recently to talk about his new book, In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom. In this clip Kelly talks about the book and cites the potential overemphasis on close reading as an example of where application of CCSS can go awry.
The issues swirling around the adoption of the newest set of standards, much like the issues generated by the NCLB era, have again diverted our focus from the best practices of literacy instruction.
In his new book, In the Best Interest of Students, Kelly Gallagher takes stock of how recent educational reforms have driven changes in classroom instruction that are counter to what we know works. He invites fellow educators to pause in the midst of the tumult and remind themselves to do right by their students—to ensure that their reading, writing, speaking, and listening are grounded in deep thinking—and to foster a lifelong desire to read.
Kelly helps you navigate standards and the realities that accompany them while not neglecting proven literacy practices. You’ll get concrete examples of where the Common Core and other state standards provide a target for good instruction, and where they fall short. And you’ll get dozens of practical lessons and instructional strategies that Kelly successfully employs in his own classroom.
In the Best Interest of Students will leave you ready to respond to the pressures you encounter during this time of rapid change, keeping your focus on the best interest of your students. You’ll gain a clearer understanding of when to embrace the standards, and when to take a different course.
Preview Chapter 1 online, and when you preorder the print version of the book with code BESTEBOOK by February 16th you’ll get the e-book for free, and we’ll waive the shipping charge.
To teach and reinforce the building blocks of literacy, we must show our students how to interact with others, develop self- control and persistence, and find their own voices as well as value the contributions of peers. But how do you find the time to explicitly teach these skills within a crowded curriculum?
In Sharing the Blue Crayon, accomplished primary teacher Mary Anne Buckley gives you a flexible, practical program for teaching the interpersonal and emotional skills that your students need to succeed as they learn to read and write.
Using a workshop model, lessons are integrated throughout school day and week–not as add-ons–and will help you build and sustain a caring, supportive classroom community that learns and grows together. You’ll discover how to reframe your reactions to student behaviors to understand and address the underlying social/emotional needs, ultimately leading to better academic outcomes. Throughout the book you will find real classroom examples and literacy connections that allow lessons to do double duty, giving kids the language to learn.
Sharing the Blue Crayon improves your classroom management and helps you build the kind of skills that students will use throughout their school years and beyond.
Kids love to talk about their passions and tell stories about their experiences. How can you transfer this enthusiasm to writing? And how can you use other types of talk–one-on-one and in small groups–to build trust, inform revision, and develop confident writers?
Veteran instructional coach Mark Overmeyer gives you five useful structures for making the most of talk in writing workshop in his new book, Let’s Talk.
In addition to the classic one-on-one student-teacher conference, Mark guides teachers on how to incorporate teacher-led small-group conferences, teacher-led public conferences, peer conferences, and small-group peer review conferences. Along the way you will pick up dozens of tips and examples–effectively giving feedback, asking better questions, assessment, meeting the needs of ELLs, conference & record-keeping forms, and more–that will help you become a better writing teacher.
We continue our outdoorlearning 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
Winter 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.
Park 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.
“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.