Posted in Books

The Read-Aloud Handbook – What have I learned?

I finally finished Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook.  It was nice how he finished the book, and wrapped everything up by telling his own story.  There were two things I highlighted in this chapter.

Personal interest can be a powerful driving force with boys, whether that interest is sports, auto repair, model racing, war, music, or computers. (page 169)

A California professor, once tol me that girls tend to be extrinsically motivated in their reading (favouring the choices of their peers, mom, and teacher), while boys are intrinsically motivated (favouring what they themselves are interested in).  Call it selfish or pragmatic, but guys are drawn more to what interests them, not what interests the crowd.  (page 169)

When I think about this and my class last year it kind of makes sense.  We have a treasure chest in our class and every time I read aloud a book it goes into the treasure chest for students to revisit later.  It is usually the girls who go here to get books.    The boys are less frequently looking for books independently but if I can find a book on something they are interested them, they will spend a much longer time ‘reading’ that book, and usually come to me for another.

So now that I am done reading what have I learned that will affect my teaching practice this year?

  1. I NEED at least 1 read-aloud every day.  I have gone through and taken a long look at my daily schedule.  My ECE and I decided last June that there are some changes we need to make so this is a great time to switch things up.  In the morning we will start with some brain exercises / DPA as we give everyone time to enter and prepare for the day, and then we will go straight to a Read-Aloud.  Sometimes it will connect to a lesson but sometimes it will just be a read-aloud for the fun of reading.  There may be read-alouds at other times throughout the day but we will ALWAYS have one in the morning.  I would like to try and use one book from Trelease’s treasury per week.  Later in the year I would really like to introduce chapter books to my class but we will see how the year goes.
  2. This year we are going to have B.E.A.R. time.  I love this acronym from Pre-K pages that stands for “Be Excited About Reading”.  We have a large class (27 students) so this will take some work.  Our school is on balanced day so we are going to have BEAR time at the beginning of block #3, right after second nutrition break.  I am going to introduce the concept on the very first day by reading Otto the Book Bear by Katie Clemson.  Otto is a character in a book with a special secret – when no one is looking he comes to life.  This is a cute story of how Otto gets accidentally left behind one day and his journey to find a new home.  After reading aloud to the class I will introduce them to our book bear (I am still looking for the perfect stuffed bear).  We will discuss what B.E.A.R. time will look like everyday.  Everyone will get to select a book from the class library and read at their seat.  Because the class is so large we are going to start with everyone reading at their table but hopefully as the year progresses they can select a quiet place in the class to read.  We will also put a bin of books on each table.  If they finish their book they can read one from the bin but not get up and walk around to find a new one, hopefully this will reduce chaos.  The student who is the ‘Star of the Day’ will be able to read with our class book bear.
  3. One of my main goals is going to get the parents to read to their children daily.  I am going to use Trelease’s phamplets that he has available on his websites and send them home at different times throughout the year for the parents.  During September interviews I am going to stress the importance of reading to your child every night.  For the entire first term I am not going to have any homework sent home with my students.  Instead I am going to have families log time that they read-aloud together.  I have read aloud record sheet in their communication folder for parents to record ever time they read aloud with their child.  I found an awesome idea at theteacherswife to use dog tags and beads to track how much each child has read.  I really like this idea, and I could display these in the class using minimal space (wall space is a premium).  I have already started looking for dog tags.
  4. When choosing books to read-aloud I will now be looking at them in a different way.  In the past my primary concern was how the content connected to what we were learning or what I wanted to introduce to the class.  Starting at the beginning of the year my goal is to select books to hook my students and build their attentions.  Next we will work on building vocabulary and background knowledge.  Later in the year I hope to expand into longer picture books and short chapter books.  There is an excellent example of the progression on pages 58 an 59 of The Read-Aloud Handbook.
  5. As students are tracking their reading at home we are also going to track the books we read-aloud in class.  We will make a ‘book worm’ who will curl around our wall/door (haven’t figured out exactly where he will go yet) as a new circle will be added with the title of each book we read.
  6. Finally I would like to create a Newstand in our class to highlight magazines and newspapers as forms of reading.  To help build our collection and create variety I am going to invite families to send in their old/used copies of magazines and newspapers (appropriate ones of course).

I blogged about all this to share my thoughts but also to give myself a check in.  Every couple of months I intend to reflect on how our literacy program is running an I will share our successes and re-thinks.

I really enjoyed this book study, but now that I have spent most of the summer focusing on reading and my literacy program I am going to switch gears.  My next book is Christine Moynihan’s Math Sense as part of the book study hosted by Math Coaches Corner.  I love following her blog and seeing all the ideas she posts so I am looking forward to this book study.

Posted in Books

Dad’s Job in Reading

This chapter was a bit out of my realm on familiarity.  My husband has very high expectations of our children (even though I am starting to realize mine may still be a bit higher).  As they get older, if their grades should drop sports and extracurriculars that they love to do, will be cut back.  Saying this our children are still young (3, 5, and 7).  The 5 and 7 year old are girls and both advanced readers.  My 3 year old boy loves books, but I think that sometimes it is because he loves to do what his sisters are doing.  Since reading chapter 5 on SSR we have been trying it at home and even the 3 year old loves to participate.  We have yet to have Daddy participate.  This is because it is summer and we are reading when he is not home but I wonder if he would be reluctant to participate if he was present.

Daddy reads to the kids when they ask but I am working on getting him to see the value of reading to them everday.  He is the one often saying it is the first thing to go if everyone is busy and tired but I am trying to get away from this way of thinking.  I am going to get him to read chapter 9, and will ask his thoughts, but I think that the beginning few chapters may be more important to him.  He very much already ‘gets’ many of the concerns Trelease mentions in chapter 9 of The Read-Aloud Handbook.  He is more than aware of the business changes in the past decade – he is a chartered accountant and news junkie.  The only sport that is frequently watched is Hockey Night in Canada, and that has even declined in the past couple of years.  The girls both played hockey, my 5 year old still does, and my 3 year old son is starting this year, but it is the the center of the universe.  At times we are a bit guilty of the girl’s dance over taking our lives but even on competition weekends we always take a few books with us for down time.

The one thing that he could improve on is letting the kids see him read.  He reads the newspaper daily, but only online.  I have looked into traditional subscriptions but we live in a rural area and the only thing we can get delivered is our small local paper.  He gets the Economist weekly but the kids rarely see him reading it.  If we can swing it in our busy lives I think we need to try and get daddy to join us for SSR (quiet reading time).  The other thing I would like is for him to sometimes pick books to read aloud to the kids.  He always asks them to grab a book but at times it would be nice for him to share his favourite books with them.

Posted in Books

TV & Audio – Chapter 8 Comments

TV is a very big part of may of our student’s lives as they are growing up.  It is part of the environment my own kids live it.  It is our responsibility as parents to monitor and regulate their consumption.  We have three TVs in our house.  Our main one is in our media room, not our main living room.  This was a design decision when we built our house and I love it!  When no one is watching the TV it is off.  We never watch TV while doing homework, eating dinner or other tasks. In my opinion this makes it much easier to monitor usage.  Our winter routine is all on a schedule. My children have a number of extracurricular activities so for practicality we made a TV schedule.  They each get one night a week that they get to pick a 30 minute show.  Friday nights are family movie nights.  For 10 months of the year that is pretty much it (with the exception of sick days and the odd rainy Saturday afternoon).  Because they know the schedule, and can see it (we post it in the media room) they rarely argue.  We have two other TVs in the house.  One is an old one in the basement hooked up to the Wii and one is in our room.  I don’t usually consider Wii time TV time as the girls are usually doing very active dancing games on it and not that often (if it ever becomes an issue we will deal with it then).  I resisted getting a TV in our room but my husband really wanted to (especially for hockey playoffs) and I regret it.  Too often I fall asleep watching TV instead of reading, like I did before.  I am a firm believer that children should NEVER have TVs in their room.

I enjoy reading Trelease’s chapter 8 on Television and Audio: Hurting or Helping Literacy?  Often I hear in the news people saying children watch too much TV and some parents take that to mean they shouldn’t watch any TV.  I strongly feel this is unrealistic for us to expect of some parents.  With a bit of leeway, letting them know that a small amount of watching is OK – I think they would be able to manage it much better.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a limit of ten hours a week, and no TV for children under two. (page 148)

That is a fair amount of TV.  When you add up the hours my own children watch it is approximately 3 to 4 hours a week.  What do my children do – they play.  Today my youngest is a daycare  but my girls are home (as it is summer).  They are 5 and 7.   They watched one 1/2 hour program this morning. What else have they done today.  They played ponies, barbies, dolls, they planned a birthday party for a teddy bear, they read, they danced, they made their beds and tidied up a bit, they were kids!!!  I didn’t have to even suggest a single thing for them to do – and I accomplished a lot today!  A TV is not a babysitter – it is an excuse.  I love it when Trelease writes:

If there were a babysitter who interrupted your child’s natural growth that much, you’d never hire him or her again, right?

After reading this chapter I think I need to re-examine my own TV watching.  I am fine watching a show in the evening after the kids go to bed but the one thing I notice is that I often have the bedroom TV on throughout the day.  It is usually on CBC News or CNN but I forget that the kids are often walking around. I think that I need to make my tea in the morning, sit and watch the headlines and then TURN IT OFF!  I often forget that they might see something that they shouldn’t – even on the news.  I like to have background noise when we are moving around the house – so maybe I will just start putting on music in the morning.

The final thing I wanted to highlight was the study Trelease mentions on page 148.  The vocabulary used on the CBS Evening News was studied between 1963 and 1993.  It went from the level of a high school graduate level in 1963 to a junior school level in 1993.  To me this is very concerning.  Is the vocabulary decreasing because the viewing population has a lower vocabulary – or is the programming a cause of our lower vocabulary???  Food for thought!  Maybe even more of a reason to keep reading thought provoking and challenging material as adult!

Posted in Books

SSR – Reading Aloud’s Natural Partner

I know I am playing catch up but still wanted to post my thoughts on Chapter 5.  I am not new to the idea of Sustained Silent Reading.  Before I taught Kindergarten I was a Teacher-Librarian and for a course I took I did a Sustained Silent Reading project (click for attachment).  I know I have a number of great professional books on SSR but as one of my goals this summer is to catalog and organize all my books I was only able to find one: Building Student Literacy Through Sustained Silent Reading by Steve Gardiner.  I love the program and had used it with older grades but it never crossed my mind to use in my Kindergarten class (JK/SK split ages 3-5).  I was happy to read this chapter and it has given me a bit to think about on how I may be able to implement it in my current class.

Key Highlights:

  • “Until it is explained, silent reading is sometimes a mystery to young children.” (page 81) At one point in my education I remember learning about the developmental stage when children are capable of internal thought.  I can’t remember the age or stage but to me it connects to how young children feel like they always need to read out loud.  I need to go back and research a bit to see at what age they are capable of reading ‘in their head’.
  • My analytical mind really appreciated the ‘Fraction of Selection’ illustrations on page 84 and 85.  I thought it was really ironic that as I was reading about the difficulties of distractions my daughters were practicing their tap dancing – just a bit of a distraction!
  • I often see the summer slip with some of my student between JK and SK (they are usually in my class for 2 years).  I really appreciated the comment by Trelease on page 88 that “the better readers don’t take the summer off and thus the gap widens”.  As a parent I use the summer as my opportunity to work with my children myself, and even when we are not doing formal learning we are always exploring.  As a teacher I find it so frustrating that some parents won’t even read with their children over the summer.  Especially when it doesn’t take much: “reading of four to six books during summer was enough to alleviate summer loss” (6th graders)
  • “The teacher stands before the class and daily gives mini-book talks based on the classroom library” (page 101).  Another great idea I need to figure out how to fit in my day.

So I would love to hear how preK and K teachers use SSR in their classroom, please share your ideas.  I am trying to figure out how to implement in my class next month when school starts back.

Posted in Books

Do’s and Don’ts of Read-Aloud

I am a few days behind so I am trying to catch up on my blog posts before we go to Boston tomorrow.  Chapter 4 is a short chapter that is a list of Do’s and Don’ts for Reading Aloud.  I thought I would just comment on a few that really resonated with me.

The first thing that I have really been thinking about for a few days now was sparked by reading the Managing Interruptions post on Teach Preschool from an interview with Jim Trelease.  Trelease discusses interruptions by both reader and listener.  I understand and agree with his comments on student interruptions – managing them is a skill.  It is interruptions by the teacher that I have more of a struggle with.  When we are learning how to ‘teach’ Read Alouds much of the focus is on ‘Thinking Aloud’.  In Ontario a lot of this is outlined in Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading.

In the think-aloud process, the teacher models reading strategies – that is, the teacher says aloud to the students what he or she is thinking in order to make meaning of the text.

I understand Trelease’s comments on maintaining the flow of the story and avoiding stopping but there are times when teaching that it is useful to stop and ‘think aloud’.  The goal for a teacher is to determine when it is more valuable to comment and when it is better just  to keep reading.  A few points in this chapter discuss this idea.

  • As you red keep listeners involved by occasionally asking, “What do you think is going to happen next? (page 74)

  • When you come to a part of the story that the audience might not sense is important, pause and then whistler, “Mmmmmmmm.  That could be important”.

I think that while considering this, often as a teacher I sometimes ‘Think aloud’ a bit too often.

Here are a few other Do’s that jumped out at me:

Set aside at lease one consistent time each day for a story. (page 73)

I need to work on this one in my class.  I think it may be first think in the morning but as I work on my daily schedule for next year I need to find a way to schedule in a time every day.

Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their bodies and minds to the story. (page 74)

In my class we sing a lot, and often our singing indicates transitions.  I have been looking for a while for a song to sing with the the class to signal that it is time for a Read-Aloud.

Create a wall chart or back-of-the-bedroom-door book chart so the child or class can see how much as been read (page 76)

I love this idea, I just need to find the way that works in my class.

Chapter 5 up next, if I don’t get it read today it will probably not be posted until next weekend.

Posted in Books

Chapter 3 – The Stages of Read-Aloud

The main thing that struck me (again) in chapter 3 is that I really wish I had read this book before I had kids.  I think it may be on my list of baby shower gifts.  In chapter 3 Trelease breaks down read-alouds at different ages and stages of development.  I found it particularly helpful that he highlights the key features of each age and some recommended books.

Infants: “… parents frequently read aloud books and stories that rhyme.” (page 49)

Toddlers: “As much as possible you want the child to interact with you and the book” (page 51) “labelling the environment” (page 52)

Some other key things that jumped out at me:

  • Taking a short time to introduce the book and some unknown vocabulary prior to reading can increase learning benefits.
  • The transition from picture book to novel should be smooth.

While you don’t want to drown the child in words, you do want to unconsciously entice him away from a complete dependence on illustrations for comprehension and into more words. (page 57)

  • I love how he discusses the difference between novels that are meant to be read aloud and those that should be read silently.  I hadn’t thought about it before but  it is a great point!  There are some things that need to be processed more slowly as you read to yourself but others that have so much more power when you hear them.  This is a concept I would like to further explore.
  • bowdlerize 1: to expurgate (as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar 2: to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content (Merriam-Webster app).  I learned a new word!
  • I love the rule of 50!  I don’t know why I haven’t come across this before but I am totally using this in my own reading.
Posted in Books

The Read-Aloud Handbook Chapter 2 – When to Begin (and End) Read-Aloud

I have  a bit of a confession to make, I didn’t really ever read to my children until they could sit up with me (approx. 6 months).  I have a really cute picture of my husband reading to Kaitlyn with 1 week old Eileen in his lap but usually they were not read to as babies, especially Kaitlyn (my eldest).  Since then we have read to all of our children and filled our house with books.

Much of the first part of chapter about the impact of reading-aloud to children starting young and continuing to read to them as they grow up. There are a number of very inspiring stories of different families in different situations with different challenges.

I am a parent and teacher who likes specific an concrete steps to follow.  Before my teaching career I earned a degree in Microbiology and I have a pretty analytical approach to most things.  Because of these I appreciate the steps Trelease outlines throughout his book.  On pages 32 and 33 he gives 4 factors found in the home environment of every early reader (I love lists):

  1. Child is read to on a regular basis.
  2. Variety of printed materials are available in the home.
  3. Paper and pencil are always available to the child.
  4. People in child’s home stimulate child’s interest in reading and writing.

So I thought I would check. 1 – Our kids are read to on a regular basis, we could do better but we could definitely do worse.  2 – We have tonnes of books in our house, if we weighed them they might actually come close to a tonne.  Both the girls have bookshelves in their rooms (we are working on Michael’s), there is one in the kitchen, our raingutter shelves in the playroom, and many drawers are filled with books.   We have some magazines but could improve on the variety of material available.  3 – There are definitely writing materials everywhere, from and early age the goal has been to keep them writing on paper and not the furniture.  4 – I like to think I am pretty good at stimulating their interest in reading and writing.  I am always answering my children’s questions in proper detail and posing new ones to them, even Michael’s thousand why questions a day.  If I don’t know an answer we always go to a book or the computer to find an answer.  We go to the school library frequently and in the summer the public (even though right now I am a bit scared to due to over due fines we owe).  This summer both of my girls are keeping journals and as I expect this of them I am also keeping my own journal, and sharing it with them.

Some other thoughts from chapter 2:

  1. Page 35 talkes about reading to each child separately if possible.  At school, in my class of 30+ kinders this is virtually impossible but I encourage co-op students, volunteers and anyone else in my class to read to individuals and small groups.  At home, when my husband is home, we try to divide up so that throughout the week everyone gets some one-on-one reading time.  I was happy to get a little reminder how important this is.
  2. “When a child has little or no experience with books, it is impossible for him to have a concept of them and the pleasure they afford.” (page 36) Very simply but honestly put!
  3. Bed lamp – my girls each have a bed lamp but I like the idea of suggesting to them that they are old enough to read for 15 minutes.  My eldest has a really hard time falling asleep and this might be the one thing to help her wind down, she loves to read and loves to think she is ‘big’.
  4. Can I still read Dr. Seuss to my kids?   Eileen went through a phase where she loved Horton Hears a Who and we read it every night.  I personally feel this is still important as it is her pleasure in reading, but maybe I need to throw in a few more challenging (vocabulary books) for her.  With Kaitlyn we are in to reading chapter books but maybe Eileen, my advanced reading (almost ) 5 year old, is ready for read-aloud chapter books

Looking forward to chapter 3!

Posted in Books, Uncategorized

The Read-Aloud Handbook – Chapter 1: Why read aloud?


At a cottage in Muskoka this week, I enjoyed sitting in a screened porch looking out over the lake, as I read Chapter 1 last night.  I enjoyed reading the introduction a few days ago so I had no trouble getting in to the book.  Prior to starting I made sure to first read with my girls – Kaitlyn a chapter from The Wide Awake Princess and Eileen a story from her Cars anthology.  Michael was not sitting for a story last night but I was not too worried. There are a few distractions here at the cottage and at home where he can pick one of his hundred own books he always brings a book to “Family Reading Time”.  Trelease often writes of making reading enjoyable for children and this can’t happen by ‘forcing’ them to sit and listen to a story, to me that seems counterproductive.

Trelease starts chapter 1 with statistics, there are a lot of statistics in this book and a lot of research.  The first shows the decline in the number of students who read for pleasure as they age.

“We have 100 percent interest in kindergarten but loose three-quarters of our potential lifetime readers by the time they’re eighteen.”

Trelease has a a good discussion on his thoughts on electronic reading – tweets, email, facebook etc.  His points on vocabulary are important and became more concrete when you see the table on page 18 comparing the number of rare words per thousand in different forms of oral and written communication.  This kind of sums of the content of this chapter.  Trealease goes from discussing the reading problem, discussing what needs to be done to fix it, and then finishes with discussing why this is important (background knowledge and vocabulary).

Key thoughts that jumped out at me and what is rolling around in my head:

  1. The opening stats discusses not only if children are reading but what they are reading.  It states that children are reading less magazines and newspapers than they are books.  Do I need to have more varieties of print in my classroom?   I have a bin of magazines (Chirp and Highlights) but do I need to have enough variety.  Maybe I need to have a bin/area for ‘environmental print’.
  2. We read the newspaper online in our house – is this good enough modelling for our children?  My husband gets one magazine (The Economist) in print and the girls each get two magazines but we don’t have any print copies of the newspaper. Is this something we need to reconsider?
  3. I don’t need to abandon what I am doing now in my class, I just need to re-jig a few things. “You need the combination of know-how and motivation (pg. 10)
  4. Background knowledge!!! As a parent this is the one area I feel very confident, our children have lots of experiences and adventures but I teach children from a diverse SEC group that don’t have as rice of background experiences
  5. Types of vocabulary, I found the illustration on the different types of vocabulary on page 14 very helpful – listening vocabulary, speaking vocabulary, reading vocabulary, and writing vocabulary.

Final favourite quotes from chapter 1:

The one prekindergarten skill that matters above all others, because it is the prime predictor of school success or failure, is the child’s vocabulary entering school.  (page 15)

The least expensive thing we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words. (page 16)

The eventual strength of our vocabulary is determined not by the ten thousand common words but by how many rare words we understand.

Posted in Professional Development

Summer Book Study Blog Party – The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

This year the Summer Book Study Blog Party is starting a bit later, which is so much better for me.  In Canada we don’t finish school until the very end of June so often I find I am playing catch up with the blog party.  This year I have had time to relax for a few days and just last night I read the introduction in Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Hanbook 7th Edition.  If you would like more information on the blog party you can check it out here.  I participated last year and really enjoyed it – a fun an relaxed way to do some professional development over the summer.

Let me start by saying I love books, and I love to read, however I often forget to give myself time to read.  My collection of professional resources I want to get through is daunting.  I have given up reading ‘adult’ books, with the exception of one great book I ‘make’ myself read at the cottage every year.  My ECE partner would confirm that I have an obsession with collecting picture books, between myself and my children we may have more books than the school library.  One of my goals this summer is to organize all my books so today I downloaded the app Book Crawler.  Just starting today I have already added 90 books.  But, I digress, the reason I say this is because even though I love books they are often the quickest way to solve my insomnia.  This wasn’t the case last night when I started The Read-Aloud Handbook.  

After reading the introduction a few key thoughts stuck with me:

  1. I need to read more with my own children.  All three of my kids LOVE books.  My girls (7 an 4) are both avid readers and advanced for their age and my 2 year old son loves following his sisters lead.  Saying that we have become a bit lax with family reading time.  We sometimes read throughout the day but our 20 minutes every night is much more inconsistent.  We rectified that tonight.  First Michael picked a board book Franklin’s Shapes.  Next Eileen and I read Stephanie’s Ponytail together (she insisted on saying the repeating lines).  Finally Kaitlyn and I started a new chapter book The Wide-awake Princess.  The key is for us to keep this up – I know how important it is but even I sometimes need reminders.
  2. How can I get the parents of my students to read this book?  I understand the importance of reading with my children (even though I need reminders) but sometimes I feel that the parents of my students don’t understand quite how powerful it is – which is VERY evident in the introduction to The Read-Aloud Handbook.  Prior to blogging I went on Trelease’s website to check out his brochures.  I am going to take a closer look at these later in the summer and see how I might use them in communicating with my students’ families.
  3. I am excited to keep reading this book, and like it says, I am going to try and get my husband to read chapter 9 (we will see how that goes).

I wanted to share a few quotes from the introduction that really jumped out at me.

It  comes down to simple arithmetic: The child spends 900 hours a year in school and 7,800 hours outside school.  Which teacher has the biggest influence?  Where is more time available for change? (pg. vii)

Contrary to the current screed that blames teachers for just about everything wrong in schooling, research shows that the seeds of reading and school success (or failure) are sown in the home, long before the child ever arrives at school. (pg. xvii)

What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn. (pg. xxi)

The first two quotes are great to show the influence of parents in education.  I know that some may take this as teachers trying to ‘put the blame on parents’ but I don’t feel that this is warranted.  I work very hard for the hours I have my students during the day to make their learning the most meaningful and relevant that I can but when I see it is number of hours it is overwhelming.  As always the education of children needs to be a partnership – “It takes a village”!

The final quote, I would like to blow up and put over top of the door to my classroom!  This is applicable to a love of reading but has a more broad context to a love of learning!

Posted in Books, Professional Development

Teaching in the Digital Age – Blog Party (Chapter 1)

I had been waiting to see what the book was going to be for the pre-K/K blog party this year and  was excited to hear it was selected to be: Teaching in the Digital Age by Brian Puerling.  I like to thing that I am techie but I am always striving to find developmentally appropriate ways to use technology in my JK/SK classroom.  This past year I found that 75% of the time I was the one using the technology and my class were simply passively observing.  The only times they were engaged is when we were using the Smartboard but even then there was very little critical thinking taking place. I am starting the book study a bit late for a couple of reasons.  First it took a month for my book to come in – it was on back order.   Also in Canada we don’t finish school until the end of June so I didn’t have time to crack my book open until school ended.  Now that school is finished and I am starting to feel relaxed I am catching up on my reading!

I started by reading the introduction and chapter 1.   I love how it is written very simply.  I find too often I am reading education texts that I first have to think about decoding the vocabulary and it takes a bit more concentration to understand the deeper meaning.  It is summer and as a rule I don’t want to have to think too hard about anything!  Before I even got to chapter 1 I started to take advantage of the QR codes and I downloaded a QR code reader on my iPhone – I don’t know why I hadn’t done this earlier, it is so cool!  As an aside I also downloaded one on my new playbook but I can’t get it to work.  I especially like how it points out what should be obvious to me but I need to think about.  For example it talks about getting media consent.  I never post any pictures or names of my students on the web but this is something I need to figure out for September.  I would love to have a closed website/blog that parents can view with a password and then I can post student pictures and videos.  I need to figure this out.  With the new ELK program we are starting in September many of our assessments and observations will be done on my new playbook through a lot of pictures and videos I would love to be able to have the students use this material more interactively and also share it with student’s families.  That is one of the things I am hoping to get out of this book.

Chapter 1 is entitled “The Digital Classroom”.  This immediately reminded me of David Warlick’s Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century.  This was a great book I used when I use to run the school library but many of the strategies I found too difficult an abstract for my kinders.  Often the limiting factor is a requirement of basic literacy: reading and writing.

In chapter 1 Puerling discusses the world our students are experiencing inside and outside of the classroom.  As a parent I immediately thought of my own children.

This is not an unusual sight – to see all three of my kids sitting around the iPad.  What is more common is to see one on the iPad, one on my iPhone and one on the computer.  My youngest, Michael is very adept at using the iPad and can easily find his favourite apps (he is not 2 years old yet).  Now don’t worry my kids aren’t on technology all day.  Often they play a bit in the morning while they are still waking up and then maybe a bit in the afternoon on a really hot day, like we have had all week, when it is just too hot to go outside.  When they are not on technology they are usually dancing (to the same songs over and over again) or doing crafts.  But I digress …

The reason I mention my kids is because I feel they are not indicative of the population we live in.  Last year I set up a symbaloo site for my class to use at home and very few actually did.  I want to set up a class website/blog but I am not sure how many families may actually use it.  A few families in my class don’t have internet at home and of those that do some are still on dial-up.  Our county is expanding broadband to the more rural areas but this process is slow and frustrating.  This does not mean that I shouldn’t use the technologies in my class but it means that I need to be aware that my students will come with varying levels of background experience.

The key is to marry the use of technology with my play based classroom.  I love Bonnie Blagojevic’s comment that we need to: “Use technology to enrich, not replace, hands-on learning experiences so important to young children”.  We don’t use the technology to teach the technology but rather as a tool to learning.  If we keep this in the forefront of our minds I believe both teachers and students will be successful!

Take away from this chapter:

  • Check out the forms at the back of the chapter.  I may not be able to use all with the new way of planning in the ELK program but they will help me get organized.
  • I want a document camera!  After they were mentioned I looked them up and one would be awesome to use in my class.  We could use it to share the awesome work students will be doing and exploring in our inquiry based class.  Think how we can share the items my students bring in from the natural world!
  • Use my Evernote!  This is one of my goals for the summer.  Come September I am hoping to use Evernote to record assessments of my students (using my new Playbook) and why not start now.  I hadn’t thought of it until Karen on Pre-Kinders commented on using Evernote to record comments so I am going to try it with chapter 2.