Friday, May 27, 2016

What Novels in What Grades?

In my travels within the district, a question I have heard a number of times is: what novels are typically studied in what grades....

So I have started to curate lists of novel titles that taught in our district. These lists are not meant to be prescriptive or all inclusive. These are just the titles of books that are often taught in different classrooms across our district. You will note several titles are taught at different levels. The intent of the list is to provide support for teachers and also to help with sharing of resources (when and where preferable and possible). 

I have chosen to curate this data using Because of this, when you click on the lists below you will see titles of novels/plays accompanied by a variety of digital resources that you may find helpful if you teach any of these texts. (I have written about the resource here and here.)

The lists are a work in progress. If I have missed any titles, let me know and I will add...  

I am also collecting titles of poems, short stories, etc. That list will be forthcoming. THANK YOU to all the EIPS teachers who have shared titles with guys are awesome. 


Thursday, May 12, 2016

So This One Time at Tech Camp…

On April 27th we held a half day technology camp session for interested secondary teachers. The premise of the Tech Camp session was to introduce several technology tools that teachers could use with students to increase student engagement.

We spoke briefly about the need to focus on students tasks (not specific tools)...acknowledging that there are a lot of different tools available for students to complete tasks; teachers don’t need to know every tool available. But teachers should have a handle on what some of the possibilities are.

We also spoke to the fact that these tasks can (should? will?) be done using a variety of devices, so one of the main links we used to find tools was the Create site, which lists creation tools by task and also allows you to filter the tools by platform (tools for use on a PC or laptop, on an iPad, on an  Android table, or for Chromebooks or browser).

The feedback from the practical hands-on session was very positive. If you would like to take a look at some of the tools we looked at, the handout is embedded below.

p.s. Thanks to Tara C. for her help with the Tech Camp session! She rocks!

Friday, May 6, 2016

All Secondary Schools NEED this: a Quick Reads Section. Seriously.

If you work in a secondary school/school library, I am going to strongly suggest that you have an established Quick Reads Section.

What is a Quick Reads Section?

This a special section in your library where you place all kinds of texts that are short, easy-to-read and highly engaging for secondary students. The target audience of this section is any student who does not like to read or who does not read well. Think: Reluctant Readers, Struggling readers, ELL, Boys Readers

As a side note, elementary libraries usually do something like this by having a place for EASY books or by having books sorted by reading level. So, what I am speaking about is a similar kind of section, but one that is much more hip, so as to provide some motivation for our secondary kids to want to pick up a book and attempt to read it.

The Reading Agency (a UK organization) promotes Quick Reads in the UK and writes on their website the following as their rationale: “some people say they find books intimidating, that they struggle to find the time or that books are difficult or boring. Quick Reads sets out to challenge these beliefs and to show that books and reading can be for everyone.”  Although The Reading Agency's target demographic is adults, the ideas are very translatable for secondary school students.

After I have a Quick Reads Section, what do I need to do?

The most important thing to do after you have created the section is tell every staff member in the school about it. Everyone needs to know about what the section is, who it is trying to target and some of examples of what kinds of books are actually in the section. They need to know this because we can’t expect  all school staff to know what books are right for what students. But we can help all staff be able to direct kids to a place where there’s a lot of Quick Reads that would be a potential good fit for students who are struggling with reading. That way all staff can help with the effort, even if a particular  teacher isn’t that familiar with HI-LO books and/or reading  instruction.

EDIT: This section should be easy-access, easily located, highly visible THINK: first display tables in a Chapters store. 

What kinds of books go into the Quick Reads Section?
Your school's Quick Read section should reflect the school's student population, but here are some ideas and lists to get you started:

  • Anything High Interest, Low Vocabulary (HI-LO).
    • The HI-LO book is a book that deals with more mature ideas, plots and themes, (higher interest) but is written at a lower reading level (low reading demands). This is an area more book publishers are looking into. Two publishers that specifically publish HI-LO are Orca and Saddleback Education.  Orca has sports, fine arts, and teen issues HI-LO collections.  Ocra also publishes books in French.
  • Shorter Books
    • This is NOT the place where we put books that look old, long and/or daunting. This is the place for short, quick reads.  Books that look light and engaging can be shelved here.
  • Anthologies and Collections
    • This is sort of a contradiction to what I just said, but books that have a collection of short, episodic and/or image based chapters are good for this section. THINK: The Chicken Noodle Soup collections, or list books like, 1001 Albums You Must Listen to Before You Die.
  • Magazines  about cool stuff and comics
    • Magazines have a great appeal of not being a huge reading commitment. There are easy ways to circulate these, without having to catalog each issue.
  • Books About/Involving Video Games, Pop Culture, or Counterculture
  • Books About Careers
  • Anything you can get that targets areas of interest in future possible careers is great.
  • Audiobooks
  • Dual Language books to support students in learning English.

I could write on and on...but I think you get the picture: the Quick Reads section is a whole section (the bigger the better) of reading material that is not intimidating and looks highly engaging.

I am available to help school libraries with developing this kind selection to help support our secondary  readers. There are also several resource lists posted below.

Happy Reading,

P.S. Here are some links you may find interesting: 

  • Quick Reads for Reluctant Young Adults - American Library Association

The Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list identifies titles aimed at encouraging reading among teens who dislike to read for whatever reason. The list selects both fiction and nonfiction.  Select a link below to view the full annotated Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers lists.

  • Reluctant Reader Book List - Alberta School LIbrary Association(ASLC)

If you are  interested in books for schools, check out the ASLC’s website and sign up for their awesome reviews which have written about here. But here are two of their lists that are particularly relevant to the Quick Reads section:

  • The Reading Agency Quick Reads List

Quick Reads sets out to challenge these beliefs and to show that books and reading can be for everyone. Each year we commission big name authors to write short books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. They are the same as mainstream books in most respects but are simply shorter and easier to tackle for adults who are less confident in their reading skills. Learning Resources are available for the Reading Agency Quick Reads List

P.P.S. Read on if you want to get library-geeky:
Creating a Quick Reads section can be a messy process in terms of library cataloging. But my take on that  is SO  WHAT? School libraries, more than any other  kind of library, need to be set up to support students and teachers. Period. We have some ideas over here on how to create and catalog a Quick Reads section, so if this is a concern, please me know and we can help!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Best of the Best: 2016 Lit Picks for K-12

So, yesterday I attended the Alberta School Library Council’s Best of the Best Lit Picks for 2016. Basically what happens is that United Library Service (ULS) sends preview copies of tons and tons of newly published books to the ASLC and then those books are reviewed by Alberta teachers-librarians and teachers.

Hundreds and hundreds of 2016 shiny new books were on display. 100 of them were book talked. The two hour session whizzed by and those several hundred books that could not be book talked within in the 2 hours have online reviews that are worth checking out. The highly entertaining book-talkers were informative, witty and super knowledgeable. As a listener I found the book talks to be all of the following:

  • fun to listen to (anyone wanting to see book talking in action should attend the next event in October)
  • tied books to Alberta curriculum outcomes
  • exemplars of  how to use certain books in Alberta classrooms (and students' reactions to the books)

Below are some of my favorites from yesterday, spanning  K-12. The links with more info will take you to the ASLC website where you can find out a lot more about the books listed here...and many, MANY, more (organized by grade & genre). You will need to register on the ASLC website to access the links.

Create a free account on the Alberta School Library Council website so that you will have full access to the links below. You  will want full access! Just saying…

A Caldecott 2016 winner about the real life inspiration for Winnie the Pooh. For the full book talk click here.

The story of Anne Frank told from the perspective of a tree. A great story on perspective, has real-life connections and a teacher guide. Fascinating. Amazing review here.

From the ASLC website, “this book is highly recommended as a read-aloud for grades three and four, as a book that focuses on Character Education qualities: Caring/Kindness/Compassion or Kindness  and Alberta’s Health unit: Understanding and Expressing Feelings/Interactions...more

Need a new Christmas book? This is it! More

From The ASLC website writes, “Kami, a thirteen-year-old Japanese-Canadian girl suddenly finds her life upside down when she must move to Edmonton. Lonely and upset, Kami discovers a family journal with newspaper clippings that send her hurtling back in time to 1929, where she meets the heroic World War I flying ace Wop May as he embarks on a dangerous mission to the North, as well as Judge Emily Murphy of the Famous Five fighting for womens’ rights. Kami is shocked more

From the ASLC website: “often, we are at a loss when we talk with children about death. Cry Heart, But Never Break broaches the taboo subject of death in a gentle, reaffirming way. The opening spread shows a cottage in the more

This book is great for new to Canada students, ELL, and possibly for use with peer tutors who will be working with ELL students. From the ASLC website, ”What does it feel like to come to a new country where you know nothing of the culture or the language? Cartwheel, a young girl in a war-torn African country, moves to another country to be safe. Her new country is strange and everything is different from what she knows. Most telling, she and her aunt are separated from people by the language. More

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book! From the ASLC website, “Tallec has created a puzzle game, inquiry book and social story all rolled into one. On the top of each page of this sideways book is the only text on the spread – a question starting with Who.  Underneath there are nine to ten characters, some human, some animal, who are lined up, police style, on a white background. While some of the characters look like they are lined up to find a culprit...more

...a little creepy, a little steam punk,a suspense and thriller for junior high students….more

Kahlen defies the rules of her service in order to follow her heart in this mythical story of many kinds of love – sisterly love, friendship, parental love, romantic love, and learning to love yourself. Fans of the author, young adult female readers, will be enticed by the intrigue and romance in the fascinating siren world….more

Great read for high school boys with current event tie-ins and short chapters. Writes the ASLC reviewer, “high school senior Kamran Smith goes from the triumph of the football field, dating the most popular girl, and feeling 100% American, to being labeled as the brother of a terrorist when his big brother Darius, an army hero, is filmed making threats against his country, hinting about an upcoming deadly terrorist attack….more

Yesterday, the book reviewer stated that this was the “best book [she had] read all year.” The online review writes that this is a “novel in memorable free verse to share the true story of two Jewish girls enslaved in Auschwitz during World War II. Using alternating entries, Zlatka and Fania give the reader intimate glimpses...more

Apache legends in a post apocalyptic world. Dystopian novel for mature readers. From the ASLC website: “In this sequel to the award-winning “Killer of Enemies,” master aboriginal story-teller Joseph Bruchac continues to weave a tapestry of intriguing Apache legends and myths, following fearless teen warrior Lozen as she leads her family and allies to a place of refuge from evil technically augmented human rulers in a terrifying post-apocalyptic world...more”.

Stephen King’s Misery, but for teens….more

Debut author Alex Gino states “this is their first novel”, approaching the subject of trans-identity in an insightful, clear, positive, and relatable way. While the world interacts with ten-year-old George as if she is a boy, the third person narration uses feminine pronouns throughout the story, validating her struggles for acknowledgment and acceptance of her gender identity….more

Graphic novel format. This honest and touching graphic memoir reflects debut author Maggie Thrash’s journey through self -discovery  and her realization of her lesbianism during one monumental summer at Camp Bellflower, ...more

Space Pirates. Science Fiction. Male and female POVs, first in a series. Engaging...more

"..the teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, will appeal to all mystery fans. Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited more

The list of books above is a very small sample of yesterday’s book-talking event. I strongly urge you to check out the ASLC website for more great reads for kids or every age. It is amazing.

Happy reading!

If you are not yet a member of an ATA specialist council, I’d highly recommend you join the ASLC. That way you get access to free things like yesterday’s Best of the Best 2016 Lit Picks event. If you're interested here is the link to join.