Monday, June 8, 2009

Clippings: 6.8.09

People are finding new uses for old card catalogs.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary, I learned that our "etymology" comes from the Greek etymologia, which combines etymon ("true sense") with logos ("word").

Chicago Public Library unveiled an archive of a historic black newspaper.

Some school districts are ditching textbooks for online curricula of their own design.

NPR detects some patterns in this season's commencement speeches.

And one student is running an underground library of banned books from an empty locker.

(Thanks to Read Street for the first link! Warning: textbook link involves math. Picture from Flickr: CC user bitsandbobbins.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spreading The Word With Twitter

If you are wondering about the utility of Twitter, take a look at The Friday Project's Twitter feed here. The Friday Project is "the only publishing company that specialises (sic-Brits) in sourcing the brightest talent from the web and developing it into great books."

The started a Twitter account yesterday, offering a free book to their first ten followers. They had ten in less than an hour and now, fifteen hours later, they have 74.

What implications might this have for educators, you ask? Well, imagine a world where all of your students and their parents were hooked up to something like Twitter. This would be helpful in my native South Dakota where school cancellation is just a mid-April blizzard away. It makes phone trees look like smoke signals.

Or, let's say you are hooked up with hundreds of other teachers from all over the world. You need a good attention-getter for your second hour language class; first hour never really got on board with your lesson about how speakers of other languages make sounds we've never even thought of. Within minutes, you have found the perfect thing:

Pretty cool, eh? And The Friday Project has five more followers than it did when I started this post.

Oh, and you can follow Literacy Log on Twitter here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Strategy: Morning Message

Here's a little metacognition from Jack Woodson at Learn Me Good, who shares year-end "Five Ways To Improve My Class." The most interesting for our purposes here is #4:
Do the "Morning Message" more frequently
This was my first year (7 months, actually) of teaching language arts. So it took me a while to get my feet under me and find out what I was doing. OK, who am I kidding, I'm STILL trying to find out what I should be doing! But one of the things I would do about once a week or once every 2 weeks was the Morning Message. This was a short passage -- 2 or 3 sentences -- filled with grammatical and punctuational mistakes. The kids had to copy it down exactly as it appeared on the board and then make the necessary corrections. It was a fun exercise, it helped the kids recognize mistakes, and it showed them part of the editing process. Next year, maybe I'll up it to 2 or 3 times a week.
Sounds like a pretty good idea to me. We want our students to be able to recognize and correct their own mistakes. Peer editing and review teacher corrections are useful toward this end, but doing a bit of guided practice can't hurt.

(Photo from Flickr user, Nic's Events. "Editing a Paper- 19")

Web Resource: Using Twitter to Aid Disussion.

Below, you'll find a video that may confuse, intrigue, excite, or anger you. Most people are unimpressed by the idea of Twitter at first, but it is clear that people are coming around. Twitter's popularity has exploded. I'm sure it is blocked in many schools, but I am of the opinion that this technology, like instant messaging and YouTube, has something to offer us.

This post by Marshall Kirckpatrick at ReadWriteWeb goes into more detail about how this teacher uses Twitter. Enjoy!

Success Story: Marius "Mimi" Kothor

Via Mary Ann Zehr at Education Week, I came across the story of Marius "Mimi" Kothor, who arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from her native Togo at age 10 and is about to graduate with honors from high school. If you're looking for a pick-me-up, this should do the trick.

I like these comments from Zehr:
What's interesting to me about the story is how it took a very long time—until high school—for Kothor to find her educational stride. More than a year after her arrival, Ellingwood said she was shy and seemed depressed and some teachers suspected she had a learning disability. Over time, she was able to catch up with her peers and excelled as a student. She didn't have a learning disability.
What struck me was the influence of Lyne Ellingwood, an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher assigned to Mimi. Ellingwood refused to believe that there was something wrong with Mimi that hindered her learning, as others asserted.
Ellingwood, meanwhile, took Mimi's education personally. She enrolled her in special weekend English clinics at Nazareth College, found a way to make payments and drove the little girl to her intensive lessons.
Mimi had two things that all struggling students need: a tireless advocate and plenty of time. You will enjoy the news story and Ms. Zehr's blog post, with a lengthy comment by Ellingwood herself.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Scripps National Spelling Bee: You Are Dumber Than a Fifth Grader

Kavya Shivshankar, a 13-year-old girl from Kansas, won the 2009 Scripps Spelling Bee last week, becoming the seventh Indian-American student to win the competition in the last ten years. CBS News won't let me embed their video of an interview with Ms. Shivshankar, but you can click here to watch it.

Balu Natarajan, the 1985 National Spelling Bee chamption, tells NPR that spelling competitors today seem far more "deliberate" and "scientific" than the competitors of his era. When asked why so many Americans of Indian descent seem to win the competition, he says it is mostly a matter of hard work, but adds:
"There certainly is some contribution from other entities. There is a foundation called the North South Foundation that serves the South Asian community and they have been holding spelling bees since 1993. It initially started as a means of raising funds for kids who needed education in India and that has turned into quite the training and breeding ground. There are a lot of kids who have done well in those contests who have then gone on to the national competition and some of them have gone on to win."
Let's hope the difficulty of Scripps Spelling Bee words can be taken as a sign of our society's overall literacy: Natarajan won in 1985 by spelling milieu; Shivshankar had to spell laodicean this year.

Bonus: My all-time favorite Scripps Spelling Bee Moment. A clutch performance if there ever was one!

(Picture: Spelling Bee Trophy by "litlnemo" on Flickr. CC This is not the Scripps trophy, but the Seattle Spelling Bee prize from 1979.)

Exploring Curriki

Anna at Literacy is Priceless is urging her readers to try out the Curriki Scavenger Hunt.
That's a little too structured for me, but I have been meaning for some time to check this site out, so I thought I'd poke around the site for a few minutes and share what I found.

About Curriki
Curriki derives its name from the words "curriculum" and "wiki," the latter being the software that is changing the way the internet is used by allowing more "readers" to become "writers." Wikipedia is perhaps the archetypal wiki site. Curriki is a non-profit corporation started by Sun Microsystems with a stated goal of supporting "the development and free distribution of world-class educational materials to anyone who needs them."

My Mission
My goal is to find an activity I can use during my next lesson with Alexi, a strikingly bright and entirely uninterested student that I work with two days a week. I've been working with him on recognizing main ideas in pieces of writing. He will talk to me without end about how little he cares for school; I figure he might as well be able to construct a proper argument for it. (Alexi is pseudonym).

It takes me less than five minutes to create a free account. I click the "Find" link on the left sidebar and choose the Advanced Search option, which allows you to specify the subject, grade level, language, etc. I type in "main idea" and check a few boxes and, within seconds, I am looking at this big unit on persuasive writing contributed by Andrea Chen.

On her profile page, I learn that Ms. Chen is a High School English teacher at the New Orleans Charter for Science and Math High School. This looks like a well-thought out unit plan. The massive block of text is a little daunting, though that isn't Ms. Chen's fault. Curriki ought to allow contributors to split these up into smaller segments.

But I have already found plenty of things I can use, such the "Vocabulary: Discussing the Art of Persuasion" lesson plan, which you can find by scrolling down about two screens into the unit. I can download the whole document and use it as I see fit. Thanks, Andrea!

Featured Resources
Curriki submissions can be rated and commented on by users, and some of the top rated materials are featured here. Just glancing at these, I find the following:
I get the feeling I could get delightfully lost looking through Curriki lesson plans and units. This is already a phenomenal resource, and I am very hopeful about what sites like this will do for education as they evolve. Not long ago, lesson plans were shared only in books and seminars and by word of mouth. Curriki allows teachers to conduct searches for resources, keep and modify them, discuss them with others, and add their own. Hallelujah!

I will keep you posted on my use of Curriki as I learn more. Please let me know if you have had success with Curriki or another site of its kind.

If you like this, check out Read Write Think, another great online lesson plan finder.