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Read & Reading, Exponentially

I signed up for Meenoo Rami‘s digital newsletter a few weeks ago after she hosted a #G2Great chat. I have been a huge fan of Meenoo’s work since I read her book Thrive last year (in fact, I loved it so much that a colleague and I are using it as the core text for a course we are teaching this fall for teachers).

In her newsletter, Meenoo shares her “Open Tabs”—things she’s currently reading. In her latest email, Meenoo shared a piece on the “scientific evidence for doodling.” This article on sketchnoting was particularly timely since I’d recently reignited my own interest in improving my visual notetaking. A few weeks ago, for example, I participated in Tammy McGregor‘s Heinemann webinar on sketchnoting. And so as I was reading Flipping Your English Class to Read All Learners by Todd Cockrum that week, I decided to use sketchnotes to record my thinking: 

 

Ever since I actively joined Twitter about two years ago—I created an account in 2011 and just let it sit there for a few years—I’ve come across more new ideas and opportunities for thinking and reflection than I’ve probably had in the my first decade of teaching. That’s not to say that I wasn’t exposed to great professional development before Twitter. After all, I joined my local writing project site a few years ago, which changed forever the way I teach reading and writing. But being surrounded by the ideas of so many talented educators at any time online, anywhere I am, has broadened and deepened my teaching in ways that just weren’t possible before.

It’s an exciting time for connected teachers. Yes, I still purchase, read, and annotate physical copies of 99% of all my books. I guess I’m just old school that way, and research has shown that reading a physical page is better for long-term retention.  But those books I’m reading? I first found out about most of them through my Twitter (and sometimes, Facebook) PLN. It’s how I learn about the latest research and conferences. It’s how I connect to educational mentors like Penny Kittle, whose simple Tweet about the Heinemann Fellows Program prompted me to apply—and thanks to that reminder, I did apply and was recently accepted. For the next two years, I’m grateful (and humbled) to have the opportunity to work with a cohort of teachers from across the country under the guidance of the esteemed Ellin Keene.

So in the spirit of building upon the idea that the best knowledge is that which is shared, whether that sharing is done in person, on Twitter, or in a blog post, I thought I’d take a cue from Meenoo Rami and share my own list of things I’ve read and I’m reading.

innovators mindsetThe Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros / I picked up The Innovator’s Mindset shortly after learning that our school district was going to 1:1 next school year (the director of technology actually recommended it). Although Couros addresses the innovations made possible by technology, it’s not really about technology at all. Instead, it’s about how to foster a culture of innovation in schools by looking at our instructional design, questioning the school structures that impede curiosity, supporting teachers (I think I underlined every time Couros mentions how much teachers need time!)—and, most of all, by making important changes, sometimes uncomfortable ones, in the best interest of students.

Visible Learning for Literacy by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fischer, and John Hattie / I’ve been meaning to read up on John Hattie’s research for years, as I’ve heard his name mentioned by almost every educational guru I admire. I also had the opportunity to see Frey and Fischer at a conference one year, and their session was one of the best I saw. In Visible Learning, Frey, Fischer, and Hattie present a meta-analysis of the teaching strategies that have the maximum impact on student learning.

The Journey is Everything by Katherine Bomer / I’ve only read the first two chapters, but wow. Reading this book is like reading a love letter to the essay, in all its wonderful and powerful forms. The first essay she includes, “Joyas Voladoras” by Brian Doyle, is beautiful in its own right, but then reading Bomer’s analysis and watching her interact with the text is like being in the presence of a master teacher showing us what it truly means to read like a writer. I can’t wait to read the rest this summer.

“Just One More Game” by Sam Alexander / I reread this essay this past week with my AP Lang students. I love that feeling you get when you reread something a second, third, or fourth time, and notice again the details and moments that you loved when your first read it. Aside from the compelling topic—it’s about the value of “stupid games” like Tetris and Angry Birds, and what such games say about us as  society—there is also so much craft in this essay to share. It’s the type of long-form essay that captivates.

simon homosapiensSimon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli / I haven’t done a lot of fiction reading recently, but with the new 2016-17 PA Young Readers’ Choice Awards list out, I’m making my way through all fifteen titles, starting with this gem from Becky Albertalli. I appreciate the voice of narrator Simon, who is outed as gay by a fellow student seeking revenge. Though its subject matter is serious, its positive message is also infused with warmth and yes, even humor. I know this will be a favorite for many students.

Next on the PYCRA list is Girl, Underwater by Claire Kells, a novel about Avery, a girl who survives a devastating plane crash. The narrative jumps back and forth between the time of the crash and weeks later as Avery recovers. So far, so good.

That’s it—Here’s to another week of happy reading!

4 Comments

  1. Kelly Deatherage

    Congratulations on becoming a Heinemann fellow. I’ve been following your blog and Twitter feed for a year or so, and am looking forward to the learning and sharing you’ll do in this new role. Thank you for sharing your growth and thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m floored by the volume you read, especially knowing how many classes, students, and little ones you have. Well done you! I do have questions about how you make this work – 1) How do you maintain the motivation for it after a full day of teaching? 2) Literally, where do you find the time? Are you reading with students during the day, after school in your classroom, at night after the boys are in bed? All of the above? Just genuine mechanics questions. I am a confessed TV watcher – it’s how I turn my brain off after school – but I would like to shift that habit to something more productive and that comes with less guilt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rachel. To answer your questions, 1) I don’t find the motivation part hard at all, actually. I’m exhausted after a full day of teaching, but I find the pedagogy books I read (or just books in general) to be energizing. I think the PD books, in particular, actually help me make sense of what I am seeing in the classroom and/or inspire me to try something new. 2) Mechanics – I read everywhere/anywhere. I just do. I read in carpool, I read at night before I go to bed, I read in the morning before work. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Just some specific shows with the kids, but we usually DVR that stuff, and even then, sometimes I am half watching with them, half reading my book. 🙂

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