By Amanda Jansen and Leah Simon
In order for students to fall in love with reading they need a lot of books from which to choose and a lot of time to read and write about them. But finding the right books can be difficult for the students and the teachers.
By Angela Kohnen and Wendy Saul, authors of the new book Thinking Like a Generalist: Skills for Making Sense of a Complex World
In this episode of Teacher's Corner, Stenhouse authors, Paula Bourque, Matthew Kay, and Terry Thompson discuss the myth of the perfect teacher, what we get wrong—and right—about teacher appreciation, and how we can show appreciation year round.
Educators of young children know that their small students are capable of having big mathematical ideas. But it can be difficult to find instruction that emphasizes the importance of making space for them to talk about, play with, and be curious about those mathematical ideas. Luckily, math educator and author Toni Cameron wrote a whole book of routines that do exactly that!
May you find the strength to continue to rise until you can clear away some of this new “noise” and hear, once again, the sweet “normal” of the classroom kettle.
"This really is a crazy situation!"
In the classic Jewish folktale, Too Much Noise (retold by Ann McGovern and illustrated by Simms Taback; Sandpiper Books, 1992) the man in the story, Peter, finds his home too noisy. The kettle whistles, the floor squeaks, the leaves brush against the roof. In an effort to find some peace in his noisy home, Peter visits the wise man in the village to get advice. The wise man tells him to take a cow into his home.
Peter does this and the mooing of the cow joins the other sounds. Much to his dismay, Peter has to revisit the wise man to say that his home is actually noisier.
So, the wise man sends him home to adopt a donkey which, of course, makes his home still noisier.
This process of visiting the wiseman and bringing another animal inside to live repeats until the kettle and the floors and the leaves are drowned out completely by the sounds from a cow, a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a chicken.
When we read this story and the first animal moves in, we find ourselves thinking, “This is really a crazy situation.” As the story continues and yet another and another animal moves in, our hearts bleed for poor Peter. “How much more can he take?!” we think.
Recently, we had a Zoom conversation with a district curriculum leader to problem-solve and plan summer professional development, all of which she must now provide virtually. She described the lengths to which she and her district are going to meet the technology, food, and instructional resource needs—to name a few—of the more than 40,000 children in their vast district. As she spoke, we were thinking, “This is really a crazy situation!” Then the conversation shifted to figuring out how to take a full summer of professional development to virtual formats for thousands of teachers. Then we thought, “How much more can she take?!”
Staring down the unknowns
All over the United States (and beyond), stalwart educators work from virtually connected dining rooms, kitchens, and spare bedrooms while toddlers crawl over them, yesterday’s oatmeal is dried in their hair, and their grocery delivery melts on the front porch. These intelligent and compassionate souls are McGyver-ing completely novel solutions to a relentless volley of incomprehensible and urgent needs. Today’s “noise” makes yesterday’s “noise” look like a little light housekeeping, and yesterday’s “noise” was not at all for the faint of heart. Like Peter, we are all longing for the halcyon days of our much quieter noisy. But unlike Peter, we have no easy or immediate way to reclaim them.
When we are staring down unknowns, when we feel confused, helpless, or overwhelmed, we turn to books to give us insight into our experiences and the experiences of others. Just as Too Much Noise offers us some perspective on the escalating normal of today’s “classroom,” our favorite books both comfort and inform us.
Books to help us through
Here are six titles that may offer you and/or your students some wisdom, some comfort, or some insight.
Some Things Are Scary written by Florence Parry Heide and illustrated by Jules Feiffer (Candlewick, 2000).
The young boy in this story encounters a host of scary events, from being kissed by his aunt to things he imagines—”Thinking you are never going to get any taller than you are right now is scary.” This sometimes funny and sometimes poignant book normalizes being scared and can help children make space for and name their feelings.
Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012)
This dear text has already become a classic. The teacher in the story uses a bowl of water to show students concentric ripples and illustrate the way that kindness spreads. “This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple into the world.” At a time when it is easy to be focused on ourselves, each kindness is a salve, both for us and for the recipient. This book is an invitation to kindness, and there seems no better time to teach children to accept it.
All the World written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 2009)
The social distancing going on around the world, and the knowledge that many are experiencing similar stressors, can ironically lead to some sense of connectedness. This gorgeous, large-format Caldecott Honor Book explores all the ways we are the same all over the world. The rhyme and the meter of the text give it a lyrical quality, while the profundity of the message and the intricacy of the illustrations will touch your heart. “A fire takes away the chill / All the world can hold quite still”
My Diary from Here to There written by Amada Irma Pérez and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Children’s Book Press, 2002)
This biographical story, presented in both English and Spanish, chronicles the author’s childhood move from Mexico to Los Angeles. In moving detail, she records events in a diary, such as this reflection where she thinks about the people she misses in Mexico, “... they’re here in your pages and in the language that I speak; and they’re in my memories and my heart. Papá was right. I AM stronger than I think…” In addition to helping children understand how they can hold fast to the ones they love while being separated from them, this book serves as a mentor text for writing to log our experiences and understand our lives. Use My Diary from Here to There to illustrate the power of personal writing. Who knows? Your students may later use their diaries to publish a book, just as the author did.
The Knowing Book written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Boyds Mills Press, 2016)
This book is sound advice for living, expressed with gentleness and honesty. It offers a satisfying and comforting read for thinkers of any age. The Knowing Book is really perfect for pretty much any important life event or milestone.
“. . . look up.
The stars have always been above you,
Are above you now,
And will always be above you.
You will come upon
delicious things and dark things,
But all the paths you take
Will join to lead you home."
We wish you connection despite physical isolation. May your hands and hearts land on books that bring you the most precise comfort. May you find the strength to continue to rise until you can clear away some of this new “noise” and hear, once again, the sweet “normal” of the classroom kettle.
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris are the authors of the Who's Doing the Work? professional book and Who's Doing the Work? Lesson Sets, Grades K-2. They are the writers and thinkers behind Burkins and Yaris—Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience and made them thought leaders in the field of literacy instruction. Their most recent publication is Who's Doing the Work Lesson Sets, Grades 3-5.
The following blog post by author, Peter Johnston, was originally published on July 23, 2012. To view Peter's most recent publication in collaboration with several colleagues, go to Engaging Literate Minds on the Stenhouse website.
Powerful instruction — powerful engagement
What would happen if, rather than focusing on teaching reading strategies, we focused instead on getting students engaged? I can tell you what happened in four eighth-grade classrooms. At the beginning of the year, the teachers simply introduced their students to a range of edgy young adult fiction and told them to read what they liked, no strings attached—no book reports, comprehension questions, or other controlling strategies, and less teaching in front of the class—but there were only one to three copies of each book.
For the past ten years, Gail Boushey and Allison Behne have worked with hundreds of teachers and students nationwide, gaining insight into best practices for reading instruction. Using those insights, they developed The CAFE Book, Expanded Second Edition: Engaging All Students in Daily Literacy Assessment and Instruction to help teachers apply what their research has shown— that reading instruction isn't about the setting, the basal, or the book level. Effective reading instruction is based on what that students needs in that moment.
Here at Stenhouse, we like to think every week is Teacher Appreciation Week, which is why we always provide free shipping on our books and as much free professional learning opportunities as we can! But that won’t stop us from spoiling you this week, especially after enduring one of the toughest times in your careers. So take a look at the goodies we’re offering this coming week, and—from all of us at Stenhouse—WE THANK YOU!
These are tough times. It's understandable that we would feel tested while we just try to make it through each day. Thankfully Lisa Lucas has some ideas and techniques we can use right away to help reframe our thinking and become more responsive than reactive.