Tag Archives: RWT

Ways to Celebrate the Eclipse!

On August 21, the Moon will block the Sun, as seen from North America and down through mid-South America. The Sun will be entirely blocked on a path that is about 60 miles wide. This path will go through parts of 14 states. 

When I was in grade school, I remember working with a few other students to build a pinhole camera out of  of cardboard. We stood with the sun at our back, while trying to look at the projected image on a second piece of cardboard. Here are some more modern ways to get students engaged with the eclipse.

Invite students to look at historical and primary sources about eclipses throughout history. Then compare that coverage with the news we see today. What is the same? What has changed? Student can record the similarities and differences as a Venn Diagram or in a Compare & Contrast Map.

All Summer in a Day” is a science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury that was first published in March 1954. The story is about a class of school children on Venus, which in this story, constantly has rainstorms and the Sun is only visible for one hour every seven years. Invite students to make connections from the short story to this current eclipse. If you would like to engage more with the text, check out this lesson plan from ReadWriteThink.org.

In this lesson plan from ReadWriteThink.org, students listen to and discuss poetry that pertains to the study of astronomy and write their own poems to enhance their learning of the subject. As a final project, students use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to compose original poetry books about astronomy.

What makes a shadow? Do shadows change? These and many other questions provide the framework for students to explore their prior knowledge about shadows as fiction, informational texts, and poetry. In this lesson, language arts skills are linked to the learning of science in a literacy-based approach to the study of shadows.

Will you be able to watch the eclipse? What are you planning to do with your students?

Happy Birthday, Harry and J.K.!

It’s a double birthday! J.K. Rowling was born July 31, 1965, in Bristol, England. From the stories that Rowling tells about her composition of the Harry Potter book series, Harry was born on a train one day when she imagined the story. Harry’s official birthday as recorded in the novels, however, is July 31. Combine the celebration of both birthday!

The Harry Potter series is one of the most challenged series of books in the United States. The series is singled out because of its fantasy and magical elements. Young adult author Judy Blume, no stranger to challenges herself, wrote an article appearing on Censorship News OnlineIs Harry Potter Evil?, which outlines her reaction to the debate.

Have your students think about why people challenge the Harry Potter books and whether they agree or disagree with the arguments. For a more structured exploration, try A Case for Reading-Examining Challenged and Banned Books, which invites students to take on the roles of concerned citizens, public librarians, school librarians, and fans of Harry Potter and decide whether the books should be banned from the public library. Censorship in the Classroom: Understanding Controversial Issues leads students in researching the reasons several books are banned or challenged.

Please remember, if you face a censorship challenge yourself, you can receive help from NCTE.

Celebrate Mandela Day

In 2009, the United Nations declared July 18th “Mandela Day”, an international day of honor for former South African President Nelson Mandela. Also his birthday, Mandela Day invites everyone, particularly young people, to take action to promote peace and combat social injustice. According to the official Mandela Day website, Mandela Day “was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made [in 2008], for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that ‘it is in your hands now’.”

Familiarize students with Mandela’s life and legacy by reading aloud Kadir Nelson’s Coretta Scott King Honor book, Nelson Mandela. Share the illustrations and stop frequently for questions and discussion of Mandela’s early life, determination to change social conditions in apartheid-era South Africa, and eventual presidency. Fill in any gaps with resources from the biographical websites found here.

Then explain the purpose and mission of Mandela Day before inspiring students to brainstorm their call to social action by sharing this page from the Mandela Day website. There, students will see examples of service projects around the key themes of awareness building, food security, literacy and education, service and volunteerism, and shelter and infrastructure.

Finally, invite students, as a class or in small groups, to determine a project they can undertake to plan and publicize their contribution to a more just world.

How do you plan to recognize this day?

Summer Learning

summerlearningonlineSince we are past Memorial Day, now seems like a good time to plan for summer learning for students. Summertime is a great time for growing minds! Here are a few ideas that can be passed on to families so the learning can continue even when school isn’t in session:

  • Ask for help with shopping.

Work together to make a shopping list. Younger children can help brainstorm items to add to the list. Older children can create the list for you. A step further? Have children and teens work within a budget, use problem-solving skills to create lists, and buy their favorite treats at the store. See more in this lesson plan.

  • Use a map.

It used to be that when people wanted to know where someplace was or how to get there, they’d buy a paper map. And even though many people now use GPS systems or websites that provide directions, basic map-reading skills are still important for times when these resources are not available. This activity will help kids develop these skills by having them analyze the features found on a state map; locate—and estimate distances between—familiar landmarks on a local map; and research statistical information using an online atlas.

  • Go for a ride!

In the car or while on a bike, notice surrounding things: weather, people or traffic signs. These activities for younger children will have children reading signs, logos, brand names, and other words all over their home and community. While driving around town or surfing the Internet, teens are sure to see “Pass It On” billboards brought to them by The Foundation for a Better Life that are meant to inspire and motivate people to do good.  In this activity, teens will study examples of these billboards and create their own original billboard and inspirational phrase for a person of their choosing.

While it’s important that children see you choosing, checking out and enjoying books, also let children see you using the library as part of an inquiry. Work with a media specialist to find answers. Visit an online library to see what resources are available there. Have the child or teens select some books to check out. Then, ask the child to tell you about one of the texts, why it was picked, and predict what it might be about.

  • Find time to read together every day.

Book clubs have come back as a popular way to allow readers to discuss books in an informal setting. Children can enjoy the same kind of community-building experience by meeting with friends to choose, read, and discuss books together. Their meetings can come to life with discussions, arts and crafts, and activities.  Different book clubs will need different amounts of adult supervision, so provide guidance but don’t be afraid to step back and let them run the show!

  • Play games!

Playing board games or card games can be a fun activity, so why not make your own? Working together, the players will decide what the game will look like, how it will be played, and what kinds of materials are needed. When the game and directions are complete, have fun playing it!

Research tells us that children and teens who don’t read and write outside of school, especially during long breaks such as summer vacation, face a big loss in their literacy growth compared to those who do continue learning all year long. This means the summer months and other breaks from school offer wonderful opportunities for families, caregivers, and out-of-school educators to help improve reading and writing.

Reading, Writing, and Spelling

The National Spelling Bee Finals are held this week! Hundreds of student spelling champions, ranging from 9 to 15 years old, will travel to Washington, DC to compete in the National Spelling Bee.

Most students won’t win the National Spelling Bee, but most students can learn to spell. They need to see words in print through lots of reading and lots of writing, and they need strategic help from their teachers. The sixth standard of the NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts states that “students [should] apply [their] knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation)” in their speaking and writing.

In this article in Primary Voices, Sandra Wilde suggested the following:

The Speller’s Bill of Rights

  1. The right to express yourself in first-draft writing regardless of what words you do and don’t know how to spell.
  2. The right to do a lot of reading, which is probably the greatest single factor in spelling acquisition.
  3. The right to actively construct knowledge about the spelling system.
  4. The right to developmentally appropriate education in spelling.
  5. The right to learn that spelling does matter.
  6. The right to know about and have available a lot of ways to come up with spellings (including just knowing how to spell the word).
  7. The right to learn to proofread.
  8. The right to have spelling placed in its proper context as a small piece of the writing and language-learning process.
  9. The right to be valued as a human being regardless of your spelling.

Will you tune into the Spelling Bee?