Monday, March 30, 2009

Six Word Memoirs

Online magazine SMITH has a great six-word memoir project. Click here to check them out and submit your own!

Clay Burell: Literacy Redefined

Clay Burell writes a great education blog on the network. A couple of his recent posts urge us to change how we think about literacy.

First, take a look at Burell's thoughts on an interview with Muhammad Ali. If you've ever heard Ali speak, you know of his brilliance with language. After you watch the video, think about the questions Burell poses here:

And teachers - English teachers, especially, but any teacher using writing to assess understanding and merit in your classrooms - ask yourself, in this age of user-created video and audio, if it makes any sense to keep giving the Muhammed Ali's of our classrooms a D- because they can't write well, when they can speak well enough to be honored, like Ali was, at Harvard and Oxford. The English teacher in me is uncomfortable with this question, but the history teacher in me thinks it's justified: Writing is no longer supreme since the Digital Revolution. It's now on equal footing with Speaking and Graphic Communication. Isn't it?

In another post, Burell features the work of an AP Literature teacher from Pomona, CA. During a unit on The Great Gatsby, he realized the questions that the book posed about the nature of the American Dream might have relavence to his students, whose families have been hit hard by the current economic crisis. The result moved me to tears and earned the students a visit from President Obama.

Take a few minutes to read Burell's reaction to this video. In it, he posits that only anonymous writing can lead to authentic, moving results such as these. he also points out that the Internet, and YouTube specifically, ought to change the way we think about "language arts."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Schott's Vocab Blog - New York Times

Lovers of words, especially newly-coined words, will love Schott's Vocab on the New York Times website. Ben Schott is an author living in London. He calls his blog a "repository of unconsidered lexicographical trifles. "

Schott's entry on the word "amortality" is a good example. Think about what it might mean before you check.

If you like this kind of thing, you'll enjoy Erin McKean's TED talk about the future of dictionaries.

If you're talking about dictionaries to students and getting blank stares in return, try talking about some of the word that are being added to dictionaries. People tend to find this stuff interesting. Here's a link to a good search for "added to the dictionary." Bling bling: in or out? Pick a side!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Strategy and Web Resource: Construct A Word

Read Write Think offers a free, online game called Construct A Word. It is intended to bolster phonemic awareness by giving students practice with onset and rime. I found myself playing this game for about 15 minutes after I discovered it. Try it out!

This game could be adapted for environments where Internet access is not available. A teacher would simply need to write the onsets and rimes on 3x5 cards and ask students to match them up and say the words they have created.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Strategy: Word Sort

This is a simple vocabulary strategy that can be used in any subject and at any grade level.

Gives students a list of vocabulary words. Provide three or four basic categories and ask students to place each word in one of them.

People like to find patterns in assortments of things; it's a basic part of how our minds work. As such, this activity is intrinsically rewarding. It is also a great way to help students solidify their understanding of important concepts.

Florida Online Reading and Professional Development featured word sorts as their Reading Strategy of the Month. Their page offers a few examples of how this strategy can be put to use.

Web Resource: Big Ideas in Beginning Reading

Associated with the University of Oregon, Big Ideas in Beginning Reading is a great site for those who would teach young readers.

These are the Big Ideas:
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Alphabetic Principle
  • Fluency With Text
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension
For each of these, the site provides definitions, teaching strategies, and videos of the strategies being used with young children.