Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cultivating a Culture of Reading

Sometimes trying to cultivate readers in middle school has felt like trying to grow a garden on a sidewalk. The only places where reading was encouraged and promoted was by their language arts teachers and me, the librarian. We provided the cracks in the otherwise barren surface, hoping readers would spring up even under the "harsh" conditions.

So, in an attempt to harvest a greater crop of readers, I formed a reading committee at the end of the school year. I invited teachers of all subject areas to participate. To my pleasant surprise, I received a lot of interested from math teachers to social studies teachers to language arts teachers. We met 2 times over the summer and came up with some fun ideas to create a rich environment for cultivating a love of reading.

Our goal is to create an environment where teachers from all subject areas are promoting the importance and the love of reading. All our initiatives are voluntary (except the SSR) because we want students to choose reading instead of only doing it because it is required.

One Book-One School - We will be encouraging all teachers and students to read Three Cups of Tea

Reader of the Week - Each week a teacher or student will advertise a book over the morning announcements and (hopefully) a blog I would like to set up for this

"I'm reading" Signs - each teacher will have a sign outside their door where they can post the book/magazine/newspaper that they are currently reading

Book Discussion Groups - 3 times a year teachers will choose a book on which to host a discussion group and then students will sign up to participate in the various book discussions

Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) - 15 minutes every Monday morning (it may not be a lot, but it is a start!)

5th Grade Orientation - presentation to parents on the importance of reading and how to encourage their child to read

I would love to hear what do you do to promote reading with students!

Seedling in pavement photo used under Creative Commons license from

Seedling in soil photo used under Creative Commons license from

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Test Driving Edmodo

With the emergence of Twitter this past year as a mainstream source for news (Iran and Venezuela), updates from government officials, info from businesses, etc. I want to make sure my students understand microblogging. I do not feel comfortable having my 5th grade students set up individual twitter accounts, so I am planning on using the education friendly Edmodo.

Setting Up Accounts
I have already created my account and created my classes. Each class receives its own access code. As students create accounts on Edmodo (no e-mail address required!) they enter the access code to join their class.

Edmodo provides a calendar and a file management system along with the microblogging. While Edmodo lacks the @ and # that Twitter uses, it provides for them in a slightly different way. Instead of using @ to direct message someone, you can choose a specific person to send it to by choosing from a list. Instead of using a hashtag to create "groupings" on a specific topic, students can tag their posts (tweets). While these are slightly more cumbersome and a little less authentic, I believe students will still learn the fundamentals of microblogging that will easily transfer to twitter or plurk.

Edmodo - Home via kwout

Classroom Ideas

  • Resource Sharing - ie: You are doing a project on the Oregon Trail, find a website that you would recommend to others to use for this project. Briefly, in about 15 words, summarize the website/why you would recommend it.
  • Submitting final products - students could message you directly and attach their file
  • Bell-ringer activity/Exit Ticket activity - students respond to a prompt at the beginning of class or the end of class
  • Reminders - remind students about project deadlines, tests, homework
  • Online Discussions - discuss books, current events, music, etc.
I'm sure that I will discover more about Edmodo as I begin to use it with students this year. Look for a future post about additional features I am not yet aware of and more ideas for use in the classroom.

Steering wheel photo used under Creative Commons license from