Banned Books Week: More Than The Freedom To Read

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Courtesy of the American Library Association

Banned Books Week (Sept. 24 – Sept. 30) was founded in 1982 by the American Library Association and Amnesty International to celebrate the freedom to read through highlighting banned or challenged works, and the authors who have been persecuted for writing them.

For school librarians, Banned Books Week has evolved into an awareness campaign that provides information about attempts to prevent students from accessing a variety of books and websites that could have a meaningful impact on their education.

Books featured during Banned Books Week have been scrutinized for a variety of reasons, including racist or offensive language, sexual content, or political views that challenge the establishment of the time.

  • The Harry Potter series, a staple of many school classrooms and a favorite of even the most reluctant readers, offended some Christians because of its use of sorcery and witchcraft.
  • Classic children’s author Roald Dahl has faced international bans of The Witches over claims of misogyny.
  • Controversy stirs around William Stieg’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble for the depiction of animals wearing clothing, including pigs dressed as policemen.

The list of challenged books, and the reasons for their status, is as long and varied as the number of communities in which these books appear. Defenders of these works, including school librarians, provide several reasons why access to these books should not be restricted for our students.

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Why I Write Minecraft-Inspired Fiction

I came to writing books for kids through a very peculiar path. My journey began when my son discovered Minecraft.

According to Common Sense Media, “Minecraft is an open-ended, exploration- and creation-focused environment. Players can create items and buildings from scratch using materials they harvest from the world around them.” My son was very eager to be a part of this new phenomenon. In fact, if you asked him, he’d tell you he had to have it or he was going to die!

My wife and I put up a good fight, but our son was relentless. We ultimately caved and bought him the game. We were surprised and quite pleased with what he did with this new digital power. He built incredible structures, created cities and castles of glass, and floating giants. We’d never seen him so creative or engaged. It was fantastic.

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How I Got Started With Blogging In The Classroom

Getting Better Together

As a sixth grade reading teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to keep my students motivated. As a veteran teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to stay current in my practice. This year, as a Teaching Channel Laureate, I decided that I’d experiment with blogging myself, then give my students the opportunity to become bloggers.

Earlier this year, I worked with my students to ask questions using Blooms Taxonomy in order to have deep discussions about text. My next goal was to have my students get those deep discussions into written form, without feeling as though they had to write a “paper.” Blogging seemed to be one possibility. Blogs represented a venue for my students’ writing, a way to solicit responses, and a move into a modern form of communication.

First, though, I had to learn more about blogging. Once I did, I brought my new-found knowledge into the classroom.

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New at Tch Video Lounge: Reading Strategies and Fun with Fractions

Teaching Channel Video Lounge: Watch. Learn. Interact.

Our next installment of Tch Video Lounge is here, and we certainly have fun topics to talk about: middle school students and reading! 4th graders and fractions! Come on into the lounge where you’ll be able to watch, discuss, and learn with other educators. It’s a fun and easy way to deepen your viewing experience at Teaching Channel.

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Five Favorite Reads For Your Professional Bookshelf

I’m always looking for a good book about education — one that can put words to the many feelings that are part of this work, that sparks my thinking and creativity for my teaching, and that challenges me and opens my mind to see my work in new ways. I was fortunate to come across a number of just such books last year, and here are five favorites from 2015.

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Giving Away A Billion Books!

As a kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, I loved helping kids learn how to read. The joy in their faces as they sounded out words was priceless. I lived to see kids exclaim, “I can read!” But it wasn’t just about learning how to read. It was even more important to me to help my students develop a love of reading.

I read rich and captivating stories to my class every day, hoping to show students that reading can be magical and entertaining. I encouraged parents to read with their kids nightly, creating more opportunities for kids to see reading as fun. For families who didn’t have books at home, I sent home picture books from our classroom library. Above all, my goal was for kids to read many different books in many different settings.

So needless to say, I’m incredibly excited about the Billion eBook Gift, of which Teaching Channel is a proud partner, beginning on December 1st (#GivingTuesday). It’ll be the largest gift of books in history, with a billion classic eBooks given to families across the nation. This will be a great resource to pass on to families at your school! This gift was created to ensure that all children have access to high-quality books at home. Every family who signs up at BillionBookGift.com can get a free library of 50 classic children’s eBooks absolutely free. You’ll be able to access the books via desktop computer, your Apple or Android phone, and via iPads and tablets.

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One Goal, Two Lessons: Teaching Critical Thinking To 11th and 4th Graders

There are lessons we teach and lessons that teach us. It’s especially wonderful when those two maxims intersect.

The request started simply enough: “Sarah, would you be willing to come to our school district and teach our students? We love watching you in your classroom, but our teachers want to see how those lessons would work with our kids.” I jumped. What an opportunity to think about teaching from such a unique vantage point. So, the partnership with Tulare County Schools began and we turned this request into an incredibly unique professional learning opportunity for their teachers.

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Literacy in the Digital Age – Five Tools That Demystify Text Complexity

Literacy in the Digital Age

Editor’s Note: Teaching Channel has partnered with Student Achievement Partners on a blog series about digital literacy tools and their effective use by educators.

The Common Core State Standards emphasize the importance of students being exposed to and understanding texts of increasing complexity as they progress through grade levels. Often, though, it’s difficult to find an accurate way to measure texts.

Lexile and readability scores use features like sentence length and word frequency that are not always accurate measures. For example, the classic novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is considered to be at a lexile level for a 3rd grader. As educators, we know to use our better judgement because the themes and topics are nowhere near appropriate for that grade level.

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Literacy in the Digital Age: Five Sites With High-Quality Informational Text

Literacy in the Digital Age

Editor’s Note: Teaching Channel has partnered with Student Achievement Partners on a blog series about digital literacy tools and their effective use by educators.

One of the most exciting shifts in the Common Core State Standards is the increased use of content-rich, informational text.

Let’s think about this. As professionals, how often do we read texts that are outside of our comfort zone? Perhaps it was a legal document, a lengthy contract, or 16th Century prose. A lot of time, no doubt, was spent trying to decode the language used. Our human brain only has a finite amount of working memory available at any given time. And when we’re reading, our brain is either decoding or comprehending. It can’t do both well. The process is uncomfortable. And yet, many of us ask this of our students on a daily basis. It’s no wonder they struggle!

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Five Ways To Encourage Summer Reading and Writing

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on May 30, 2017

It’s that time of year when teachers start thinking about how to keep students reading and writing over the summer. To assign or not assign the summer reading or writing project? That is certainly the question.

As a middle school English teacher, I always struggled with how to encourage summer reading and writing without making it a chore. I remembered all too well the time my own English teacher assigned our class to read and reflect on 100 poems over the summer. With the first ten poems, I appreciated the fact that she had helped me go beyond my usual genres. But by the time I got to the 99th poem, I was done with poetry!

So, how do we encourage our students to continue their literacy skills without squashing their passions? I tossed this question out to the Teaching Channel community and got some great ideas.

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