Monday, July 16, 2012

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Six years ago, I informed the professor leading my American Literature seminar course on writing influenced by Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings should be on the syllabus the next time he taught the course.  I have no idea why I told him that: I hadn't read the book and didn't know much about it beyond the title.  Six years later, I finally decided to read it.  Now I definitely think this book should be considered for the syllabus.

Maya Angelou is perhaps best known as a poet.  While this is not officially a work of poetry, what makes this memoir, er, memorable is the language laid out to describe and interpret each scene of her childhood and teenage years.  While its subject matter is not entirely uplifting (if you're going to read it, be prepared for descriptions of racism, child abuse, poverty), its tone is.  Angelou infuses her stories with realism and hope, which is probably what makes this a popular choice for high school reading lists.

On a side note....
It's funny what makes you decide to read a certain book at a certain time.  This book made the cut this week because it fit in my purse and I need something to read on a train trip to Toronto.  The trip passed in a flash, as I was completely wrapped up in the story shortly after rolling out of the station.  Next on my reading list is a phonebook-sized tome that not even my largest purse can hold.  Guess I'll be staying close to home for the next couple of days. ;)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lives Of Girls and Women Audio Book

I spent the first four hours of my weekend road trip alone in the car, but in good company: at the last minute, I doubled back into the house and grabbed the audio book version of Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women.  I had originally purchased this with the thought that I could listen to it while I crocheted something, but it turns out audio books are great for long drives, too.

I really enjoy reading Alice Munro, in case my blog posts on Too Much HappinessRunaway and Dance of the Happy Shades didn't make that clear already.  I count Lives of Girls and Women among my top 10 favourite all-time books, but it had been years since I actually read it, so the audio book was a bit of a treat from memory lane.  I enjoy this book so much because it falls squarely into the category of outsider fiction, which is my default setting when it comes to choosing fiction.  Give me a realistic story of a lovable misfit and I'm pretty much guaranteed to give it four stars.  What gives this particular work a place on my top 10 list, however, is the extra layer that Munro's poetry adds.  This is great gifting material, but I think the giver should read it first, of course!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Where Great Teaching Begins

Subtitle: Planning for Student Thinking and Learning
Author: Anne R. Reeves

For those non-teacher types, this is not a book recommendation for you.  Sorry.  Save yourself a few moments of reading and move on. ;)

This book was one of the ASCD Select Membership selections for the 2011-2012 year.  This means it arrived in my mail box at some point over the school year and it travelled from the table at the front door, to the hallway table, to my desk, to the upstairs bookshelf, to the office bookshelf...and no matter where it rested, I was in a state of unrest--or guilt, more accurately--for not finding time for professional reading.

Now, summer's here!  (Cue Alice Cooper....).  I've got a stack of books to read and the motivation to get through them.  I made this my BookADay selection for today and--seven pages of handwritten notes later--I'm glad I did.

It's worth noting that the first half of the book is all about defining/creating/designing learning objectives.  Essentially, Reeves argues that a good learning objective is half the battle when it comes to planning.  The other overarching message of the book is making sure that student thinking and learning is the focus of our planning.

Assessment should be based on the learning objectives.  We need to stop thinking about lesson plans as lesson plans and start thinking of them as plans for student learning.

I would recommend this resource to any beginning teacher.  (Five years into my profession, I'm still counting myself as a beginner!)  I've compiled my notes into a Google Doc, so that I can access this info when/where I want it (and anyone who follows that link can, too).

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Element by Sir Ken Robinson

Purchased: Elora Book Sale ($2.00)
Started: June 13, 2012
Finished: not yet. :)  100 pages to go.

Subtitled: "How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything"

Recommended For: new grads, people seeking new direction in their careers, educators

My introduction to Ken Robinson came through Youtube videos, such as this (amazing) mind-mapped video on "Changing Education Paradigms"  and this TED talk, asking, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?"

If you're familiar with these videos (and others), then much of the first 30+ pages of The Element is going to read like a repeat of information you've heard before.  If you're looking for an inpsirational gift, however--for yourself or someone else--this will likely do the trick.

Robinson subdivides "the element" (that place/space/state of mind where passion lives and comes alive) into four features/conditions:
1. Aptitude (I get it)
2. Passion (I love it)
3. Attitude (I want it)
4. Opportunity (Where is it?)

Educators will appreciate this book because it focuses on all kinds of "smart."  Robinson encourages readers to ask not "How intelligent are you?" but "How are you intelligent?"

Creative types will enjoy Robinson's descriptions of "the zone" and the importance of "finding your tribe."