Sunday, November 25, 2012

Launching HIgh Wire

Friday we had a book launch thanks to Melanie Jackson and Orca Publishing.  One of the best parts of being a teacher has been the excitement of having authors visit our school.  Living in Vancouver we are fortunately to have many authors who do live here and many who come to visit the city.  As an adult I have always been thrilled to get to see an author reading their own words or in the case of an illustrator, talking about their illustrations.

I first got to know Melanie as a result of her volunteering her services to help us with the formatting of a cookbook of BC authors and illustrators that our British Columbia chapter of the International Reading Association put together.  It turned out that she worked at the time for the British Columbia School Trustees Association  right across the hall from me at the school board.    After that she did a couple of workshops for me and became involved in the British Columbia Literacy Council.

She is always generous with her time and books!  When I went back to teaching, she became a favorite of my students with The Big Dip and Fast Slide, local mysteries, written for the the Orca Currents series.  The Big Dip is based on the favorite wooden roller coaster at our local amusement park, Playland.  Fast Slide takes place in a water park resembling our local one, Splashdown, and both these settings are familiar to our students.  Melanie has visited our school before but this class of students was hearing her for the first time on Friday. 

Her new book, again a Orca Current book (a high interest series for reluctant readers) is about a boy who is performing in a summer circus for young people.  His dream is to be a wire walker like Phillipe  Petit, who walked between the Twin Towers in New York City.  Things become problematic due to a roommate that hates him, a dog his aunt dumps on him, and the disappearance of a valuable necklace.

 Prior to Melanie's visit, I briefly introduced the book to students in our three other upper intermediate classes and in my own class, I read the first chapter and students wrote and drew responses about it that we presented  to her.    I had also given them a bit of background about high wire performers.

It was a fun afternoon with Melanie doing two sessions, each with two of our upper intermediate classes.  Students were also buy an autographed copy of the book, just like a real book launch, with a generous portion of the cost being donated back to our school.

I think I have mentioned before how the Orca Current series has been wonderful in my class in the past, enabling students with English as a Second Language or with reading problems to find books they could enjoy and read successfully.  Even my best readers enjoy a good simpler read at times.

This year, I am sure that I have students who will one day be professional writers and illustrators, and these author sessions really are an inspiration to them.  And there is much talk about boys being reluctant readers but writers like Melanie are able to bridge this gap.  I honestly don't have reluctant readers in my class. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Remembrance Day Projects

I am back.    I had a cold that seemed to last from Thanksgiving Day until Halloween.   Life became hectic with Halloween and Remembrance Day and things just didn't seemed to be going quite right with my class.  I felt really ready to retire.
Last week I decided what was needed was a project.  Last year my class did a project I have done a few times before, War and Peace Newspapers.  They did an excellent job.
Now since I had half my class last year, I didn't want to repeat this project but I have to admit I kind of threw this year's project together.  I discovered an excellent website and basically told them to be creative, that they could make prezis, glogsters, newspapers, do top ten booklets etc.
 I basically gave them a week to do the project and only a couple of periods of class time.  It was the long weekend as well.  They could do the project on their own or with a partner.  I made the projects due on Wednesday but did give them an extra day.

 I really wasn't sure what they would be like.  And then I have to admit I was kind of amazed.  I arranged for them to present to each other in the classroom.  Half the class presented and the other half looked at their projects.  And they switched.  They were given post its and they had to write a positive comment and then they could write suggestions.  I gave them about five minutes at each station and then they moved to the next.  I have found this an easy way to do this and having a wireless classroom and ipads makes this quite easy.  On this page you can see some of their great work.
Since the projects were so good-we moved to the library and computer lab Friday afternoon and they presented the projects to seven other classes, generally two classes at a time.  I am not sure how much the first graders understood, but they love to see the older students' work and have their attention.  Those who had prezis presented in the lab and those who didn't were spread out in the library.
The kids were quite tired by the end but feeling proud of their work.  The adults were touched by the power of their words and the art.
Once again I felt the power of projects! And the joy of teaching!