I’m in beautiful Florida this week for spring break, and it is obviously very different from New Mexico. First of all, there is water everywhere! And what is up with all of the green stuff growing from the ground? Where is all of the dirt?
Oh. Right. On the beach.
On the flight out here, I was finally able to finish reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. It was an excellent read about a dystopian society in what used to be Chicago. I was quite tickled during our first flight because we had a layover in Chicago and I was reading a story that takes place in Chicago, and because I’m a huge nerd who finds joy in small coincidences.
I travel a lot, and this isn’t my first trip to Florida, but I can’t help but think about my students. I know! It’s spring break! I’m not supposed to think about work while on vacation, right?
But here’s the thing: many of my students have never left New Mexico. Some of my students have never even left their hometown! When reading Divergent, I was able to connect my prior experiences visiting Chicago to the setting of the book, which might be why Roth decided to set the story in dystopian Chicago instead of a dystopian made-up city. It helped me to comprehend and connect to the story, and isn’t that what we want our students to do when they read, too? Connect to the story?
Now, back to Florida. Kinda. Imagine you grew up in a small town where the only naturally occurring body of water is the mostly dried up Rio Grande River. You need sprinklers to keep your grass alive, so most homes have yards full of beautiful rock gardens and a few drought-resistant plants. When reading a story that takes place in Florida, you’ll read about yachts, waterways, drawbridges, and hibiscus flowers. I can tell you right now, most of my students will not know what a yacht is.
Something language arts teachers love to do is give students books that they can relate too. We live in New Mexico, so we just read The Last Snake Runner by Kimberley Griffiths Little which takes place at Acoma Pueblo during the time of Oñate. Now that we’ve finished the book, the students are going on a field trip to Acoma with the social studies department. It’ll be a great learning experience for them.
As expert readers, we know that the beauty and joy of reading comes from experiencing new places and experiencing new things without ever leaving home, but that’s because we have either the prior knowledge necessary to connect to the story, or we have the skills necessary to seek out those connections. Heck, for avid readers, prior knowledge was often acquired from something we read before!
So, my point: how can we hook students into the cycle of reading for learning and building to more reading for learning and building at a young age? It reminds me of something I read by Kelly Gallagher in his bookDeeper Reading (and I don’t have the book with me, so forgive me for any errors). He says that as readers, we have many reading branches that continually grow into new branches over time. For example, as a student, I grew a branch for books about magic after reading the Harry Potter series, which led to other YA series such as Hunger Games, which led to dystopian books such as Divergent. After reading and enjoying Kite Runner, I developed a branch for books that take place in Afghanistan, which lead to me reading more books about Afghanistan, but it also led me to reading books about different cultures, such as Ceremony. This led to more Native American literature, but it also led me to historical fiction as well. Each branch leads to more branches of your “reading tree.”
Having my students read a story that takes place near their hometown is a great way to hook them into reading, but now I have to help them develop new branches on their reading tree.
Exposing them to different genres is helpful, but we must also nurture the need for prior knowledge. Reading a book about Florida? Take a trip to Florida with the whole class using Google Earth. Give the students the information they need in order to feel connected to the reading. Then expose them books that might start new branches on their reading tree.
They may not be able to physically visit Florida, but they can read about it. And that’s almost the same thing.
*Disclaimer: I typed this entire post on my phone. It was hard. Please forgive any typos and mistakes.
Hot diggity, the Diction Door was a success! Here’s some proof:
Student A: “Geez, class is already over? It feels like it just started!”
Student B: “This was fun, Miss! Can we do it again?”
Student C: “Aw man! I wanted to define Aesthetics!”
Student D: “Miss, it says that bantam is a chicken! Are they saying that Kit Carson was a chicken?!”
Student E (in response to Student D): “Ooh! That’s a metaphor!”
Here’s how it all went down
When the students walked into class, their desks were already arranged into groups so they could work in their literature circles. Since we’ve been reading the first four pages of Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides, I had each literature circle pick one difficult word from the text to contribute to the Diction Door. They were not allowed to choose a word that was already on the door.
Once they picked their word, I passed out the Diction Door Templates (one of each color per class), a black Crayola marker, and a pair of scissors. I told the students that they were to write down the definition and the original sentence that used the word, and that they needed to create a new sentence using the word. Finally, I gave each group four small pieces of paper that matched the color of their template, which they used for synonyms.
After that, I simply walked around the room and listened to the students work and talk to each other. Once they finished, I taped their word and synonyms onto the door.
But not all went as planned…in a good way
I’ll admit, I was a little stressed out about it during 1st period. Originally, I thought that it would take the students about 10-15 minutes. I was wrong. Like, WAY wrong. It ended up taking the entire class period, which surprised because I expected the students to just look up the word and then write down the definition. Instead, they looked up the word, didn’t understand the definition, looked up more words in the definition, and then rephrased the original definition so that it made sense to them!
The Diction Door also provided many teachable moments that I hadn’t originally anticipated. For example, one group of students realized that the word “deliberate” could be an adjective or a verb. Then they had to decide if it was being used as an adjective or a verb in the passage. Not only did this help them understand the word, but it also helped them understand the difference between verbs and adjectives!
With the word “Womanize,” the students found the dictionary.com synonyms first. They used words and phrases like “flirt,” “fool around,” “stud,” and “ladies man” as their synonyms. I explained that these words were too positive, and that womanizing isn’t a good thing. I told them that “objectify” would be a good synonym for womanize, but I couldn’t think of any others and the students were struggling to find appropriate synonyms online. I sent them across the hall to ask their social studies teacher. He started rattling off words like “chauvinistic” and “sexist.” Perhaps the feminist side of me kicked in during this exchange, but I’m totally okay with that.
Originally, I just wanted to have a Diction Door because I didn’t think I would have enough space for a word wall, but I actually ran out of space on the door. I had to extend it a bit and now the word wall is covering a white board that I don’t use very often. I made a sign for the word wall, and I still have a sign for the diction door up, but I decided to make a poster to maintain the diction door theme. It says: Deliberate diction unlocks the door to success! We navigate our whole lives using words. Change and improve the words and I believe we can change and improve life.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with my diction door/word wall. The students had a blast with it, and I added a word to the wall today: allusion. I also referred to a couple of the words on the wall while talking to the students about avoiding redundancies in their writing. Next year, I’ll have to rearrange my classroom so that the word wall has room to grow. I’m sure it’ll end up spilling out into the hall outside of my room like this teacher’s word wall.
Oh, and for the record, my diction door/word wall is very aesthetically pleasing! Too bad I’ll have to cover it up when we have NMSBA testing in a couple of weeks.
‘Twas the eve of the Diction Door
and all through the school,
every student was wondering
how it would be used.
But nobody knew –
except for Ms. Bloom –
who smiled mysteriously
at every question anew.
She said, “Tune in tomorrow,
it’ll be quite a show!
Just come prepared
to learn the lingo!”
And as she walked off,
the students replied,
“That Ms. Bloom
OH EM GEEEE! I won something! Thanks for nominating me, Mary!
So, according to the person who nominated my nominator, “The Liebster Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. So, what is a Liebster? It is a German word and it simply means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.”
Official rules for the Liebster Award are as follows:
- Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
- You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you.
- Nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
- Come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
Here are the questions Mary had for me:
1) Describe, in detail, your favorite beverage.
Lately, my favorite beverage is beer! Ha! I really like Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, but I’m also a big fan of some local breweries that I’m not going to name for the sake of anonymity. I can tell you about a brewery I really enjoyed last time we drove down to Denver, Colorado, though. Wynkoop Brewing Company has a delicious beer called Rail Yard. It had hints of caramel and vanilla, and it’s kind of like drinking a cookie. Yum! I just wish it was closer to home.
2) What’s your pet peeve?
Spelling “a lot” as one word. Allie explains this pet peeve perfectly in her blog, Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven’t already, check it out. It’s hilarious.
3) Tell us the book that has most impacted what matters most in your life.
Ummm…this is an impossible question. Picking one book is like picking children! I love anything by John Steinbeck for his excellent analysis on human nature. I also like all of Khaled Hosseini’s books and his incredible talent for writing about ugly truths in a beautiful way. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, of course, will always be a favorite for obvious reasons. There are many, many more, but I’m short on time so I need to move on to the next question.
4) How do you take care of your soul?
Walking, blogging, and drinking beer with close friends.
5) Favorite quote or Scripture?
6) What’s your favorite post you’ve written and why? Include a link.
A Trip to the Principal’s Office: Turning Negative Experiences into Positive Outcomes because it is a big reason why I decided to start blogging again. I’ve blogged before, but I wasn’t writing for me, I was writing for an audience. It didn’t work out. I got bored and lost interest after only a few months. After that experience with my principal however, I realized that I had stopped focusing on my passion, and started focusing on politics. In typing that post, I felt like the fog had lifted and I was able to enjoy my job again.
7) What’s your favorite post of mine and why? Include a link.
When Saying No is Saying Yes, because it is so, absolutely true! As a young teacher, it is WAY to easy for me to take on more than I can chew. The problem is, I can do everything and be mediocre, or only take on a couple of extra responsibilities and be spectacular. That was a difficult lesson for me to learn, and an even more difficult thing for my boss to accept.
8) What is the greatest joy of blogging?
Discovering new ideas through reading others’ blogs and reflecting my own practice!
9) What is the greatest anxiety of blogging?
Honestly? That my secret identity will be revealed!
10) Which blog speaks most poignantly to you? Why? Include a link.
Becky Says Things. I love laughing, especially as a way to lighten up some of the uglier things in life. She’s awesome!
11) Bonus question, if you’re so inclined: give my some feedback on my blog.
You have some great posts! Since you have a static homepage, use your Top Posts widget to direct your readers to the posts you would most like them to see.
Introducing Harriet’s Liebster Nominees…drum roll please….
- Magpie That
- My Strange Brain
- Teacher Versus Mum
- Unsolicited Tidbits
- Teaching +
- Norah Colvin
- Cathy Miyata’s Blog
- Joystick Learning
Congratulations! You now have homework. Please answer the following questions:
- Congratulations! You just won the Liebster Award! What are you going to do next?
- Describe yourself in three words.
- Describe your thoughts on your very first job.
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- I like food. What is your favorite recipe?
- Give a short summary of the book you are currently reading.
- What inspired you to start blogging?
- How did you come up with the name for your blog?
- What do you do when you experience writer’s block?
- Which post are you most proud of and why? Provide a link.