Reading Conversation

During my time in my 5th grade placement classroom, I had the opportunity to meet individually with a student to discuss what she is currently reading. Before meeting with this student I had planned several questions to ask including what she enjoys to read most and what she enjoys to read the least, and why. However once I asked the opening question, “So what book were you reading before I asked you to talk?”, the conversation led itself! I was able to find out a lot of information about this particular student’s experience with reading, her attitude toward reading, and more. I learned that she had recently finished reading the book Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, which (as you can assume) made me extremely excited! We were able to discuss the book, our favorite characters as well as our least favorites, and how we felt about certain situations the main character was put in. Although this student is a 5th grader, I felt that our conversation was very similar to many book conversations I have had in this course with my college peers. It was obvious that she received the same message from the book, which proved to me that her comprehension level is well up to par for a 5th grader. After a few minutes of discussing the book, she showed me the book she is currently reading and briefly explained the plot of it.

It seemed as if she finds enjoyment in reading, but when I asked her that very question she responded by shaking her head no. She explained that she doesn’t get enough time to read the types of books she enjoys most because in class they are assigned different workbooks and other texts to read. This isn’t necessarily a flaw of the teacher’s; it isn’t entirely possible to cover all literacy curriculum using fiction text or fairy tale text. She continued by explaining that the only time she is allowed time to read books of her choice is when she finishes the weeks center work, which typically doesn’t happen until Friday afternoons. Surprisingly enough, I remember being in a very similar situation when I reached 5th grade. At this age, students are expected to read more informational text and for the purpose of learning and completing various assignments using the text. Before this age, students simply practice reading by reading various books they choose that are appropriate for his/her reading level. I could sense this frustration of not being able to read books of her choice when conversing with her. However, she informed me that she spends time reading for pure enjoyment outside of school, which I was happy to hear!

I found this conversation to be very comfortable. The student I met with had a lot to say in response to my questions, so it felt much more like a conversation between two fellow readers rather than an interview between a student teacher and student. There was never a point in the conversation when I felt uncomfortable or unsure of what to say. This student was chosen to speak with me because she is considered one of the typically achieving students in the class; this impressed me, considering how knowledgeable and involved in reading she is! The next step I would take with this student would be to focus on comprehension of a more difficult and more informational and formal text. She seems to have no problems comprehending texts of her choice, but comprehension of a more informational text requires a different type of thinking that I was unable to assess during this conversation.

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Post Digital Reading Reflection

I chose to read my e-book, A House for a Mouse by Rebecca Westberg, on my iPad and computer. I read the book first on my computer because that is originally where I found the e-book. I really enjoyed reading it on the computer because it was easily accessible, flipped pages like an actual handheld book, and because the words and pictures were very clear. However, I had a very similar experience with my iPad. If I had to choose which device to read it on, I would most likely choose the computer simply because I know it can be quickly connected to a SmartBoard or other board device where I could easily project the e-book to a classroom full of students.

After having this experience with reading an e-book on a device, I am sold on the e-book! Don’t get me wrong I love print text, but I now love e-books simply because they are user friendly, easy to access, and there is an unlimited supply of them. They also don’t require storage space in a classroom or school media center. Last but not least, I love e-books because they are free! There are hundreds and hundreds of books that are influential and beneficial for the classroom, but finding the money to pay for all of them can be very difficult for teachers. Having access to free e-books gives teachers the opportunity to incorporate those influential texts without having to pay money out of pocket for them!

As a reader, I did not feel that my experience with reading an e-book was much different than my experiences with reading print text. Once I got past the fact that I had to click a button to change the page rather than flipping an actual page, it really didn’t feel that much different. I did not feel that the e-book hindered my reading comprehension in any way. The e-book I read was set up like a book, with text and pictures on all pages. In fact, I felt it supported my reading comprehension because I was able to read the book with expression, view the pictures, and turn the page when I was ready to move on. As a future teacher, I think that this way of storytelling could be even better because by having the book on the screen, I will have both hands available to read aloud with expression, walk around the room, and interact with students all while reading the book.

Although I did not use any tools or settings when reading my e-book, as I read I noticed words that would serve as great vocabulary words in a 3-5 grade classroom. Words such as terrain, beneath, racket, shuddered, cautiously, and suspicious are all words from the e-book that could potentially become vocabulary words for students. If I were to read this e-book to students, I could use the highlighting tool to focus their attention on the words and use them as class discussion tools.

Free e-books open a new door full of opportunities for teaching reading skills and strategies in the classroom. As mentioned earlier, a teacher could begin by using the e-book to read aloud without being tied down with a handheld print book. It also provides opportunity to explore and learn new terms and vocabulary from the e-book. Teachers can also teach the importance of using context clues when reading different texts. E-books could also be used to teach other important aspects of literature such as the setting, the plot, the tone, and about the different characters.  Another way e-books could be used in the classroom, specifically for the more intermediate grades, could provide each student with a reading device and allow them to choose a book to read and dissect from a list of free e-books the teacher has previously made. By doing so, the teacher is providing a new and unique way of reading for the students while giving them book choices that they would not have from the choices of printed text.

After reading this book, I do not think that this book would be an appropriate choice for literacy grades 3-5. In my previous post, I chose a standard for my placement class in the lower grades (on accident of course!) The standard I previously chose was CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.7 which states “use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events”; I feel certain that this book would serve as a useful tool to teach this standard. However, when working with literacy grades 3-5 I would most likely choose a more challenging book to teach a similar standard.

As a future teacher, I plan to use e-books for various literacy lessons in my classroom. As mentioned earlier, I believe e-books give students more opportunities with influential texts that cannot be purchased or provided via print text in the classroom or school media center. It also gives students more choices and variety in the texts they read. The concern I have with e-books, especially with older students, would be the availability of such text. There is a countless amount of digital books available online by a few simple clicks of a mouse. It would be very important to limit the selections and be fully aware of what my students would be reading on personal devices.  Also, I would want to be very aware of the websites that my students would be using to read the e-books from. I found through this experience that there are several websites that say FREE E-BOOKS, but somehow find a way to charge the user by forcing them to make an account or through some other sneaky way. I would hate for a student to find the perfect e-book, and then realize it would have to be purchased to read! I feel sure there would be several other concerns and “bumps in the road” to deal with while dealing with e-books in the classroom. However, I am now a firm believer that the benefits of e-books outweigh the concerns!

My attitude toward e-books has absolutely changed from this experience. Before working with e-books, I was not fully aware of how to search for them and use them. However since finding an e-book and reading it on a computer and an iPad, I have found that they are extremely user friendly and easily accessible. I now feel much more aware of e-books and feel more educated on how to use them efficiently.  Thanks to this experience, I now am definitely planning to use digital text in my future classroom!

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A House for a Mouse

After searching the web for free online children books, I came across the book A House for a Mouse by Rebecca Westberg. I selected this book because it seemed to have one of the best illustrated covers out of the free books I found. Also, I can remember reading books about mice as a child and loving them! By the looks of this book, I could possible teach the CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.7 standard using this text, which states “use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events”.  The website offers the book as a purchased book, a read online, and as a downloaded PDF file. I figured it would be most beneficial for my students if I read it from an iPad and project the story pages as I read. By reading the story and projecting it on an iPad, the students will be allowed to enjoy the pictures as I read the story. I downloaded this book from www.freekidsbooks.org. As mentioned earlier, the book is also offered as a book to be purchased or as a PDF file. The PDF and the read online version are free, but the purchased version is $8.54.

I found this website to be very user friendly and easy to navigate. I was able to project the book on my laptop as an online version as well as a PDF file in seconds, with no difficulties. Not only that, it does not require me to download any sort of reader software or other programs to open the book. To make sure I wouldn’t run into difficulties on another device, I went to the website and clicked the reader online version using my iPad. Luckily I found the same easy results on the iPad as I did using the laptop.

My prior experience with e-books is very little; I have downloaded several books online on my iPad, and have stored the books on the iBooks app. My sister actually taught me how to navigate the ebooks website and how to download the books onto my iPad. I have also dealt with the Kindle app, where I have shared books with other accounts. However this experience did not require me to download any books from online, so maybe it doesn’t count! The books I have read from online downloads include leisurely adult reads such as Nicholas Sparks, etc.

I am looking forward to this completing this assignment, simply because this is a resource that I feel I will use very often in my future classroom. Especially with (hopefully) the SmartBoard device in my future classroom, I feel this would be a great way to download books online and display them to my class as I read them. They could also be used during centers activities with students reading to themselves, to one another, or even listening to a book being read to them. I look forward to this opportunity!

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Bluish

Bluish by Virginia Hamilton tells the story of a curious 5th grade girl, Dreenie, who finds herself consumed with thoughts about a new classmate who arrives to school in wheelchair everyday wearing a knit cap that covers most of her head and pale blue skin. Dreenie and her classmates nickname her Bluish, but other than the name-calling, no one pays as much attention to Bluish as Dreenie does. Dreenie and Bluish are both new students at school; Dreenie is not the most social or popular 5th grader, and as a result she is stuck with one sassy and flamboyant friend named Tuli who relies on Dreenie for reasons other than simply being a friend. Through a group project in school, a friendship blossoms between Dreenie and Bluish, and the two end up becoming very good friends. Through this friendship and the confidence built from it Bluish can finally feel like just another classmate to her 5th grade class, and her class can finally feel comfortable around her after learning about her blood cancer.

In the first literature circle meeting, I assumed the role of the discussion director. As the discussion director, my job was to write a list of discussion questions about the portion of the book that we were reading. I found this responsibility to be fairly easy; throughout the book I found myself asking questions about what was going on or why someone did/said what they did. When these questions popped in my head, instead of brushing them off, I immediately jotted them down. By the time I finished reading the assigned portion of the book, I had a list of questions that I was curious to discuss with my literature circle. During the literature circle meeting, I was relieved to find out that many of my questions were also questions that my fellow classmates had while reading the book.  We were able to discuss our thoughts about the questions. Some questions we were able to brainstorm and answer, while others we were left wondering about and hoping that the chapters that were left unread would answer them for us! For the second literature circle meeting, I was assigned the role of the literary luminary.  The job of the literary luminary is to choose several quotes that spark something interesting, powerful, or important from the book to discuss with the group. There were several quotes and paragraphs throughout the last half of the book that, as soon as I read it, I thought “wow this is a turning point in the book” or “this explains why/how Dreenie thinks of Bluish”. Although I feel like this role is equally as important as the discussion director, during the literacy circle meeting I felt that this role did not spark as much discussion with my group. I read the quotes that I felt were significant, and the most my group members could do was agree with me and share the same feelings toward the quote. I believe that considering my past experiences working in literacy circles, I knew the responsibilities of each role and felt comfortable fulfilling the roles I was assigned. In my opinion, literacy circles are unique in that they are a way to have students involve themselves in a piece of literature while reading books that are on their reading levels and that incorporate their interests. Teachers can do so much with literacy circles that they cannot do when using a traditional way of reading literature.

From this literature circle experience, I have gained a better understanding of the “teacher” side of literacy circles. As mentioned earlier, I have experience working in literacy circles as a student. However, during my experiences I never considered how beneficial they were for grouping students by reading levels and interests. Instead of the traditional literature lesson, literacy circles give students the opportunities to express their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and questions about a piece of literature in a structured manner. I learned that literacy circles teach students responsibility; each student is assigned a specific role, and they fully understand that the literacy circle cannot function properly without all roles being held responsible for. According to Tompkins (2014), “Literature circles prepare students for making choices by creating a community of learners in their classrooms in which students assume responsibility for their learning and can work collaboratively with classmates”.  Students also gain confidence in public speaking about something they think or are curious about, without feeling the pressure to speak in front of the entire class. Tompkins (2014) discusses the benefits of literature circles by suggesting that they allow students the creative opportunity to be involved in all five stages of the reading process. Students experience pre-reading when they prepare to read a shared text, assume a certain role, and schedule times to meet as a group. Students then experience reading when they read the book independently and prepare for the meeting. They then experience responding to the text, when they discuss the book as a group and come prepared to actively share their role assignment. Students are then allowed to explore by rehearsing the literature circle procedures and strategies and examine the text in depth. Last but not least, students are allowed to apply the text but giving presentations to the class about the book they have read. “As students make choices and move through the reading process, they assume increasingly more responsibility for their own learning” (Tompkins, 2014).

Tompkins, G. E. Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind is an inspirational story about the life of eleven-year old Melody. Melody is the brightest student at her school; not only does she have photographic memory, she has never forgotten a single word, song, television commercial, or number that crossed her path. However, most of her teachers and doctors believe she is incapable of learning or retaining information simply because of her disability.  As a young child Melody was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a condition that prevents her from walking or talking. Many children and adults allowed her disability to label her, to the point that in the 3rd grade she had no school friends that would acknowledge her and she was being taught pre-school alphabet lessons in the special education classroom. Although Melody cannot walk or talk and therefore needs assistance in almost every aspect of her daily life, in her mind she functions as any other eleven-year-old girl. To the naked eye it may seem like her biggest struggle is her physical helplessness, but her true struggle is never being able to voice the thousands of thoughts running through her mind at once. This remains her biggest struggle until a miracle finally allows her to have a voice for the first time in her life! This story is one full of distress, struggle, optimism, and joy. I would highly recommend this book to any teacher, parent, student, or child!

I found it very difficult to pinpoint and list all that I have learned from reading this novel.  As soon as I finished the novel and set it down, I made a promise with myself that in my future classroom there will be a zero tolerance policy for bullying of any kind, even something as small as a facial expression toward a certain person. Students in Melody’s class spoke negatively about her, laughed at her appearance, and called her names. However the worst part of this situation was the lack of discipline from the teacher; as a matter of fact, the teacher himself made comments and remarks that singled Melody out and put her down. I found this to be one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the novel. This type of behavior should be banned from all schools. It is inappropriate, rude, and hurtful to those whom it is targeted to. I was completely appalled by the students’ and Mr. Dimmings’ behavior toward Melody, and thanks to this novel I will always be mindful of my words and actions toward all students.

From reading this novel, I truly grasped the importance of the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. As a future teacher I will have students who come from various homes with various backgrounds and lifestyles; I am prepared for this. However, I also understand how subconsciously easy it is to make quick judgments and conclusions about people, even young students, based on their appearance. This book taught me how important it is to fight those judgments and work to develop a relationship with that person before making any mental conclusions about them. If teachers and students would have worked harder to get to know Melody, they would have realized how bright of a student and person she was. A prime example of this is Mrs. V. She developed a relationship with Melody and, before she could even talk, Mrs. V knew how bright she was and how eager she was to learn. It is essential that I, as a future elementary teacher, learn to brush off any judgments made by clothes students wear, what the smell like, how they talk, or how they look, and focus solely on the person who lies under the physical appearance.

Tompkins (2010) stated that effective teachers must adopt and maintain a balanced approach to instruction, and that this balanced approach must include all students. He stated, “What matters most is that teachers know their students well so they can adapt the components in their instructional program to ensure that all students succeed” (Tompkins, 2010). As I read this novel it quickly became obvious to me that the majority of Melody’s teachers, with the exceptions of Mrs. V and Mrs. Shannon, did not adopt or maintain this balanced approach to instruction. These teachers made assumptions about Melody’s abilities and intelligence level, and therefore never challenged her or effectively taught her.

Another principle of effective instruction that Tompkins (2010) discussed was working with parents. He stated that teachers must establish two-way communication with parents and learn from parents about their children’s strengths and needs and home-literacy practices (Tompkins, 2010). This could have been hugely influential if Melody’s teachers would have spent time talking with her parents and learning more about Melody, aside from her disability. Melody’s parents always saw a spark in her eye, and knew that there was more in her head than just a brain. They knew she was brilliant, but before she could vocalize it, the teachers put it past her. If her teachers would have taken time to establish a relationship with Melody’s parents, they could have learned more about her strengths and focused on them to further her education, rather than hinder it by acting as if they knew she was incapable of learning and retaining information.

Tompkins, Gail E. (2010) Literacy for the 21st century. Pearson Education, Inc.

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Reading Autobiography

For my reading autobiography, I chose to present it using a Prezi presentation. I chose this web 2.0 tool because I am most familiar with it. I have used it many times in the past and find it very user friendly. Before completing my autobiography on Prezi, I explored the other web 2.0 tools suggested to us on Blackboard. Although I found a few of them user friendly as well, I wasn’t as comfortable with them as I am with Prezi. I find Prezi very easy to use- in my opinion it is like an upgraded version of Microsoft Powerpoint! There are hundreds of different themes to choose from, and a variety of creative ways to present information. Another aspect of Prezi that I find very appealing is the quick and easy way to post pictures, documents, and links from other websites onto the Prezi presentation. For these reasons, I will absolutely use Prezi in my future classroom with my students. It is an organized and fun way to present information.

As I spent time reflecting on my reading life, I realized just how much I miss reading for fun! I read hundreds of great books in elementary and middle school that, if I had all the free time in the world, I would love to go back and re-read. They all have great morals and messages that a person at any age could take and understand. Reading has always been my favorite subject, and has always triumphed over math!

This activity was important to me as a student as well as a future teacher because I was able to reflect on my reading experiences thus far and think of all the ways my teachers influenced me as a reader ever since Kindergarten. I can now use these recalled memories and connect them with my experiences as a future teacher. I remember all the things I loved about reading at school- the variety of book options, reading centers, individual and group book assignments, book and author reports and projects, visits to the library, read alouds in class, Accelerated Reader books and point challenges, and so much more. As a future teacher,I hope to be half the teacher my elementary teachers were by providing my students with positive and successful experiences in reading and literacy. I truly believe my attitude about reading today is reflected upon the way in which my attitude was formed during my early years of school. If I would have had a troubling or negative experience in reading classes in elementary school, I would not have the love for reading that I have today.

I have copied the link of my Prezi presentation below. Enjoy!

http://prezi.com/jljyqzdcdruh/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

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Independent Travel Break II

After three short days of being back in Sansepolcro, on Monday morning we packed our bags again and headed out for our next independent travel break! This week six of us girls traveled together to Venice and Lake Como. We left Sansepolcro around 11:00 Monday morning and headed to Arezzo by bus. We took a train from Arezzo to Bologna, and another train from Bologna to Venice. Once we arrived in Venice our group split– half of us stayed inland at a hostel while the other girls stayed in the main square in Venice. Luckily we were only a ten minute bus ride from the main square, so we spent most of our time in Venice and only went back to the hostel to sleep!

When we arrived in Venice Monday afternoon, we found our way to the hostel and freshened up before hopping on the bus to meet the rest of the girls for dinner in Venice. We ate at a really nice restaurant overlooking the water- it was beautiful and the food was wonderful! We spent the rest of our night walking down a few streets and stopping to look in shops along the way. The three of us headed back to our hostel to get a good nights rest before our big day in Venice on Tuesday.

Bright and early on Tuesday morning we met the other girls to begin our day exploring Venice. We ate a quick breakfast before taking our first gondola ride! The long and narrow canal streets were so unique… I couldn’t believe that two boats could pass each other and fit without hitting the buildings on either side! Our gondola driver (I guess that’s what you call him?) was super nice and did a great job showing us around the ancient and beautiful town of Venice.

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After the 30 minute gondola ride, we spent a few minutes working with a map and figured out how to get to the Saint Mark’s Basilica and Main Square. We began our walk there, stopping at many local shops along the way. We quickly realized during our walk that Venice is known for Murano painted glass– it is everywhere! Once we arrived to St Mark’s main square, we spent several minutes observing the beautiful view and taking pictures before we took a gelato break in the square.

We then decided to take a boat taxi back to the common area near the train station where we began our day. The boat taxi turned out to be another fun and short tour of Venice!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking down the small and cozy streets off of the main touristy route.We had dinner at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that ended up being great! The three of us took the bus back to our hostel and crashed after the long eventful day.Venice is such a beautiful place- it’s probably my favorite place we’ve visited so far!

We had an early start on Wednesday morning to make sure we had a full day in Lake Como. We took the 6:00 bus to the train station in Venice to make it in time to board the 6:55 train to Milan, and once we arrived in Milan we boarded another train to Verenna. When we arrived in Verenna we walked to the ferry station where we boarded the ferry and traveled across Lake Como to the small island town of Menaggio. We walked up a steep hill to check in at our hostel. After we checked in and stored our bags, we walked to the small private beach owned by the hostel. The beach was small but the view was breathtaking!

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After spending a few minutes on the beach, we had lunch at a small cafe on the shore. We knew we only had one afternoon at the lake, so we decided to rent a boat to explore the lake and enjoy it while we could. We had originally planned to rent kayaks, but because there weren’t enough kayaks for the six of us we decided to rent a motor boat! I was shocked at how easy-going and trusting the boat company renters were- they had no problem handing over the keys of a nice motor boat to six American girls who don’t have any sort of boat license or operating experience. We were nervous as we pulled away from the dock, but we took turns driving and made sure to stay at a very low speed :) We drove around the lake and observed the captivating view of the surrounding towns and mountains.

After we safely returned to the dock, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town of Menaggio. It is a small town without many tourists at all, which was a nice change! Wednesday evening we had a nice dinner and headed back to our hostel for the night… The hostel was not the nicest or the cleanest place to stay, but we made the very best of it!

Thursday morning was another very early morning for us- we boarded the 6:30 ferry to make it in time to take the 7:30 train from Verenna to Milan. In Milan we boarded a train to Florence– we all decided we wanted to have a few hours in Florence to buy a few gifts that we didn’t get the last time we visited. However, we did not realize until we were on the train headed to Florence that we had no where to store our big travel bags while we were there, so we walked around for three hours with the bags on our backs! It definitely wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to us, but I’m sure people weren’t very happy with us when we ran into them or took out a whole shelf without even realizing it. It was an interesting experience!

We ate lunch in Florence before taking the train back to Arezzo. We all safely arrived back in Sansepolcro by 5:00 and had the rest of the night to unpack, rest, and catch up with each other and with friends and family back home. We are going to soak up as much of Sansepolcro as we can before we leave for Rome!

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