Monday, July 19, 2010

A new skin and 100 bags

I have taken ownership of my laptop. Against the "rules."  I now have a forest green keyboard and my trademark "web" around the white apple.  The "web" is the nicer skin, but the keyboard skin came with cleaning pads (alcohol, like you get from a doctor) and a great smoothing tool that pushed all the bubbles out.  Yes, they cost a little, but the expense worth it.  I am no longer a random MacBook user - I am now a Mrs.Mac's MacBook user.  

What does this have to do with Literacy?  Tons. 

It's about ownership.  I and endless others have written about the value of the ownership of reading - choice, circles, choice, discussion, listening to discussion, publication.  What I realize from my readings of blogs, nings and cries for help is this: student ownership of literacy learning is all important to success, but unfortunately it is not the administrative goal du jour.  There is a nice little skin available that promotes online learning, literature/reading circles, alternative demonstrations of learning - and most teachers are told not to wear it.

When the cake is on the table this fall, I suspect that most public school teachers will be asked to work with, or develop, a uniform literacy curriculum - many are already doing so. 

Where does this leave the teacher who believes in the 4 C's (critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity and innovation)?  Often, high and dry.

I wear my skins in protest.

But, I am also working on my own to make change happen.  Here is part of my plan:

Frustration Addressed: Absolute benchmarked quantities of reading required outside of school - whether a challenge or a graded activity (400 pages, 20 minutes/day, 25 texts, 4 novels, 40 journal entries, etc.).  I have wrestled with this all summer. There is no doubt in my mind that personal reading is the greatest indicator of - What?  Truthfully - I don't know What, save the data that points to college completion and employment.  I am going with the deep emotional, creative and intellectual gains made from time lost to reading.  It can not - and is not - assessed, but it is the most crucial skill I want my students to hone.  My district expects me go spend hours with graphic organizers, test scores, personal benchmarks, standards, and vocabulary and reading skill-sets and activities - and to pass these hours on to my students.  Ho, Hum.  I expect my students to want to learn because they want to learn.  And to read because they want to read.  60% or more of my kids are there already.  I am frustrated by the other 40%.

Action Plan: I have ordered 100 cotton tote bags (at my own expense - might be able to charge it to supplies) with the logo:  LEGO ERGO SUM (I read therefore I am).  I will put in each bag, over the course of the summer and the year, a pair of texts (novels, plays, prints, story collections, picture books, manuals, guides, histories, photocopies...) and challenge my students to make connections between them and with them (self, author, world...).  In the bags will be questions and challenges that surpass dry worksheets.  The work will be independent,  partnering will be always an option, collaboration with previous readers an option, and it all will be by choice. Most discussion will be online - I will be available for an hour every evening for chat, mail and Skype.   Students will be encouraged to create their own Book Bags for peers and students in Grade 6, to guide this reading, and to leave me totally out of the learning loop. 

Anticipated Outcome: I expect to see LEGO ERGO SUM all over the school. 

Other Comments: If I could afford it, I would give every reader a skin announcing LEGO ERGO SUMOr perhaps LEGO ERGO COGITO.  Wouldn't that be a message to the administration!

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