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Why Do We Like Dystopian Novels?

Why Do We Like Dystopian Novels? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
War. Death. Despair. Oppression. Environmental ruin. Yup, when it comes to demoralizing literature, dystopian novels have it all! Yet many of us love this genre, and there are good reasons we do.

 

 

_______________

And, my question? Why do we TEACH dsytopian novels?

 

It would be difficult to become a licenced literature teacher without knowing a bundle of reasons for doing so. Many of which are adequately identified in this article. 

 

However, attentive literature teachers also know that there are many young students who are not fans of dystopian literature at all. In fact, there is a fairly common refrain among high school students running something like, "Mr. ______, Why don't we ever read anything with a happy ending? All we ever read are depressing books!"

 

I would suggest that although we know exactly why there is value in reading these stories,  and may even resent the question, perceiving it as a short coming in the student's literary appreciation, that perhaps it isn't so much a case of THEIR inadequate appreciation, but "something else."

 

AWKWARD SEGUE:

Last night I attended a local theatre performance of Arthur Miller's infrequently staged, "Incident at Vichey."  A couple of weeks ago I attended a performance of Eugene O'Neill's "Moon for the Misbegotten." Both were powerful and challenging works capable of raising feelings of depression in even the seasoned literary scholar. 

 

Both playwrights, as do many of the authors taught in high schools, address the "hard truths" that we hope our students can learn from in order to survive as good people in a not so good world.

 

But, those "implied" lessons too often become lost in the perceived "Truth Tsumami" of just how "not so good" the world too frequently is.

 

We obviously can not allow ourselves to support the naivete of innocence by avoiding these stories as too many "Wannabe Book Burners" might desire. We can not consciously send our students out into the "real world" wearing "happily-ever-after-blinders."

 

But, we can make professional decisions about HOW we attempt to use such literature as valued learning experiencing for our young charges who, we must remember, are in the midst of the transition from their innocence and naivete to a more knowing understanding of the "real world" they are preparing to live within.

 

We can craft intelligent "counter-balancing" experiences applicable to the real world as we see Atticus lose the case, yet continue to believe that good people can do good things in and for a society that has not yet overcome the evils of unquestioned cultural beliefs and biases. We can focus upon why Holden's distain for Stradlater is to be admired because he cares about the right things. Rather focusing ONLY upon his underdeveloped "immature responses" to life's disappointments, we can focus upon the rightness of his caring and the possibilities that optimism and hope depend almost entirely upon how we react to life's disappointments. That, the best of our heroes look for what can be done given the situation rather than sit and complain or resort to meanness or fatalism or contempt or cursing or ... other reactions, all of which produce fairly negative responses from the perpetrators and to the question, "So how's that (complaining/whining/sarcasm/pessimism/name calling...) working out for you?"

 

We can invite young minds to contemplate the responsibilities of good people in a world where there are bad people. To teach Animal Farm as though it was simply a story about how bad the pigs were and how innocently victimized the other animals were is, as Orwell even suggested himself, a "fairy tale." 

 

If, however, we read Animal Farm as a fairy tale we can too simplistically"blame" the dystopia upon the perpetrators while absolving the victims feeling, well... "innocent," and thereby distancing ourselves from responsibility for being part of the solution rather than leaving us to suffer feeling sorry for ourselves accomplishing nothing by doing noting to help.

 

Yet, the animals weren't exactly innocent were they. Boxer failed to doubt; Molly failed to care about anything beyond her superficial vanity; Benjamin failed to believe that "something could be done;" the sheep failed to remember history.

 

These are the kinds of thought-provoking challenges to "basically" good people that can stimulate introspection in young readers to wonder about how they can rise to the call of goodness and to get beyond waiting for the knights in shining armor to ride into to town to save them.

 

It's actually quite invigorating to young people to see the lights go on illuminating a "deeper understanding of what it takes to keep optimism alive." 

 

A last thought... I remember when I asked students to try to figure out the difference between the optimism of Pangloss and the optimism of Martin Luther King jr.

 

"That's easy! Pangloss did nothing to change anything because he kept rationalizing that everything was great just the way it was. Martin Luther King understood that everything was not great but had the ability to continue to believe that in spite of how "not great" the world was, he had the ability to believe that the "not great" could be made better. 

 

Like Atticus who knew from the day he was assigned the Tom Robinson case, that he would lose that case, and teens just like our students who know they can't end poverty or hunber, but still make it a point to volunteer at a nearby food kitchen, we can help our students see not just the downside of the real world, but more importantly to find inspiration in those who believed that they could be part of the solution even if they could not solve the problem themselves. 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

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Apple iPod classic 6th Generation Silver (80 GB)

Apple iPod classic 6th Generation Silver (80 GB) | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

Selling one of my pride and joy collectibles to support Google Lit Trips! Still in original packaging!

One of these sold just the other day for $900!

 
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

iPod Classic 80GB Silver

Selling one of my pride and joy collectibles to support Google Lit Trips! Still in original packaging!

One of these sold just the other day for $900!

 

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25 Christmas presents for booklovers | Scottish Book Trust

25 Christmas presents for booklovers | Scottish Book Trust | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

Christmas? Hanukkah? Three Birthdays? Anniversary? They're all coming up in the last two weeks of December around my house.

 

Even if you're "only celebrating Christmas" here are some totally great literary presents booklovers will love you for!

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

19 December 2014

 

I always love checking out these sites. 

 

How cool would a teacher be wearing gift #19?

 

I so wish gift #12 had crossed my path...so many times in the past! 

 

One of my all time favorite gifts was the Huck Finn version of gift #23 that my daughter and son-in-law gave me a couple of years ago.

 

And what's really cool is each of the 25 suggestions links to a different site bursting with other literary gift ideas.

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit.

 

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What Books Do for the Human Soul: The Four Psychological Functions of Great Literature

What Books Do for the Human Soul: The Four Psychological Functions of Great Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
"Writers open our hearts and minds, and give us maps to our own selves."

The question of what reading does for the human soul is an etern
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

19 December 2014

 

Love Literature? You'll LOVE this. The video is great. So many memorable phrases capturing the essence of the value of literature. 

 

A couple of favorites...

"It looks like it’s wasting time, but literature is actually the ultimate time-saver — because it gives us access to a range of emotions and events that it would take you years, decades, millennia to try to experience directly."

 

"...they (writers) make us sympathetic to ideas and feelings that are of deep importance but can’t afford airtime in a commercialized, status-conscious, and cynical world."

 

"In the best books, it’s as if the writer knows us better than we know ourselves — they find the words to describe the fragile, weird, special experiences of our inner lives… Writers open our hearts and minds, and give us maps to our own selves,..."

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit

 

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The Librarians - And the Crown of King Arthur - TNT Drama

The Librarians - And the Crown of King Arthur - TNT Drama | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Someone is killing off potential Librarians and it's up to Flynn Carsen and his new Guardian, Colonel Eve Baird, to save the three that are left.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

13 December 2014

_____

Please consider favoriting our efforts at:http://ebay.to/11vhysK

And, if so motivated, while you're at it, you are also quite welcome to support our efforts with a tax-deductible donation of as little as $5.00.

_____

 

Oh I LOVE this! Imagine a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and your love of Libraries and Librarians all wrapped up in a brand new TV series.

 

Yes! It's THE LIBRARIANS who will save the world

!

I just caught Season 1 Episode 1 on the TNT Drama / TBS website (http://www.tntdrama.com/shows/the-librarians.html

 

The first two episodes are available to watch. And, it appears as though there are 10 episodes in the series.

 

Within the first 10 minutes I had to hit the pause button on my computer, turn on the TV and set my DVR to automatically record the entire season.

 

It's campy. It's fun. It is poetic license gone wild. And, it is so full of literary allusion that I had to stop counting the literary references I recognized.

 

It may not be as exciting to the absolute purist, but if you have a bit of receptiveness to the concept, it would be worth your while to catch the first episode or two. 

 

Here's what I'm hoping. You know those "crazy" people who adore "anything Star Trek and Star Wars" so much that they can identify any of thousands quotes from these shows. You know, those who can spot, argue, and provide extensive analysis of even the tiniest minutiae? 

I can see that kind of fan base growing for this brand new show. It just drips with literary love.

 

That's where I'm heading. 

 

Any place for recommending this show to your students?

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit.

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7 Reasons Why 'Harry Potter' & Lord of the Rings Should Be Required Reading

7 Reasons Why 'Harry Potter' & Lord of the Rings Should Be Required Reading | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Students would be more actively engaged and wouldn't dread coming home to do boring "homework." Instead, they would embark on innumerable journeys at night and come to appreciate the art of storytelling....
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

13 December 2014

_____

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And, if so motivated, while you're at it, you are also quite welcome to support our efforts with a tax-deductible donation of as little as $5.00.

_____

Love the headline and the article even though I tend to be skeptical about claiming any specific book is a 'Must" read for every reader.

 

Mackenzie Patel's seven identified reasons why Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings meet important objectives admirably match my own when criteria for articulating desired outcomes. 

 

Her list may not be a perfect match in that I might put some of her reasons higher on my list, others lower perhaps. And, maybe I might even move one or two of her reasons to the number 11 and 12 positions (figuratively speaking) on my list,  in order to add an item or two to my top ten reasons that did not make Mackenzie's top 10 list. The bottom line is she creates a pretty darn impressive list of desirable outcomes for classroom reading.

 

I must confess that when checking out articles built upon lists, I tend to read the headline, skip the introductory paragraph(s) and jump ahead to the list itself. 

 

Okay, yes, I did that with this article as well. However, after reading Mackenzie's list, I was so impressed that I wanted to find out more about the author and scrolled back to the top of the page.

 

Discovering that Mackenzie is 17 years old, I was compelled to read her introductory paragraphs and I'm glad I did. To use a term Mackenzie herself used in her introductory remarks, I found them "riveting." Why? because she forced me to concede the truth that there is room to question the default reasoning behind many choices we make or are expected to accept in the selection of required reading titles.

 

As teachers of literary reading we tend to come from a point of view heavily influenced by our having gained some scholarly appreciation for literary reading. Mackenzie admits that she is, "...neither an adult nor a seasoned human being with oodles of life experiences.." Nevertheless she is obviously quite bright. Her challenge may well represent an important variable in our considerations for how we build a successful reading program.

 

Personally, I found the most thought-provoking of her entirely thought-provoking introductory remarks, were the 4th and 5th paragraphs. Her pointing to specific titles that she did not find "particularly riveting" (how charmingly polite), points at the elephant in the room. HER list of less riveting titles is HER LIST. Riveting Reading is incredibly personal. The very titles she lists may well have been quite riveting for other students. 

 

In fact, her defense of the Harry Potter series and of Lord of the Flies, may have been titles that other students might have used in their versions of Mackenzie's 4th paragraph as titles that they found "not...particularly riveting."

 

What a predicament we find ourselves in. We want our students to discover many of the values of reading good literature, that Mackenzie discovered while reading Harry Potter and Lord of the Flies. Yet, there is no reason to believe that should those specific titles be moved to the required reading list that they would somehow magically NOT receive the same "not...particularly riveting" critique as her response to Frederick Douglass or Othello. 

 

Though it is unfortunate that Mackenzie uses two titles that might be riveting to many of her classmates, particularly "those of color"  who might find  books aimed at the historical tensions associated with racial relations, she does point at the very dilemma we struggle with in our classrooms. How do we build a reading program that provides each of our students with the kinds of outcomes that Mackenzie articulates while reducing the kinds of issues that she articulates in her fourth paragraph?

 

My concern is that her "solution" as expressed  in her fifth paragraph suggesting that REQUIRING the specific titles that worked so well for her does not ensure that those specific titles would work for the student sitting next to her.

 

But she sure does nail it when she suggests that regardless of whatever titles we use in the classroom, aiming for titles that students themselves find "exciting and relevant" is at the core of a successful reading program. 

 

 

A SLIGHT, BUT ASSOCIATED DIGRESSION

I won't express an opinion upon whether or not required reading has a place in your classroom practice. There are pedagogically sound reasons on both sides of that question. However, though it is an opinion, I would endorse the concept of significant "required reading of personal choice" facets in every classroom. 

 

No, this does not give them permission to read "crap." Just as we would never give a kid credit for reading pornography, we can "corral" their choices in ways that give them a wide range of acceptable choices from which to select titles that have indications of redeeming value. 

 

For example, in the personal reading projects that I incorporated, students could build their projects with any books they wanted to read as long as their reading list fell within at least ONE of the following corrals:

  1. Historical Fiction

  2. Literary Award Winners

  3. Single Author Study

  4. Is or has been a best seller

  5. "other" cultural literature

  6. "personal" cultural literature

  7. Genre-centered literature

  8. Special Interest Fiction

  9. Biography

10. Any combination of the above

11. MY FAVORITE: Build a unified reading project and run it by me. 

 

Why is number 11 my favorite (and generally a standing option for most assignments}? One of the most incredible experiences I witnessed was the project that turned a reluctant high school student into an avid reader was created by a student who absolutely loved baseball. He proposed a project that included five baseball-centric books, two of which were fiction, three were nonfiction. 

 

The number 11 choice also had a couple of really wonderful opportunities. Because the student had the widest range of acceptable choices, I knew the initial motivation was exceptionally strong. So strong in fact, that I was in a great position to negotiate or offer a particularly strong enticement to the student to go "even further" if he or she was interested.

 

"I'll tell you what. I love your concept and am am almost ready to approve it. What do you think about this idea,? We've got a deal if you add one more fiction book to balance out your fiction/nonfiction ratio?" 

 

He grinned and reached out to shake my hand saying, "Mr. Burg, we've got a deal!" I grinned and shook his hand.

 

In the end, he told me that this was the best reading experience he'd ever had. And, to top it off, a couple of years later when this kid graduated, he made a special point of introducing me to his parents who wanted to thank me for "whatever it was that turned (their son), who never liked reading at home or at school into an avid reader."

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit

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Ten Well-Travelled Ed Sites for Google Earth Field Trips and Tours

Ten Well-Travelled Ed Sites for Google Earth Field Trips and Tours | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

"The (Google Lit Trips) tours are complete with links and facts that can make any reading block a reading block party."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

5 December 2014

 

It is quite moving to this retired English teacher to find expressions of appreciation such as this one, knowing that in my own way that after nearly 40 years as a classroom teacher,  I've been able to continue to support teachers and their students from Kindergarten through grad school from over 150 countries with the Google Lit Trips resources they find valuable.

 

One of the treats for me has been a result of  bloggers who've created comments that capture better than I have done, an essential element of the Google Lit Trips project. 

Mr. Clayton, this blog's author came up with, "The tours are complete with links and facts that can make any reading block a reading block party."
 

To me, this quote is much more than a wonderful compliment. It actually reflects two of the primary pillars upon which the Google Lit Trips pedagogy rests. The first being, that reading stories whether for personal enjoyment or as a focused learning experience, relies upon engaged enjoyment.

 

I hadn't thought about comparing reading to a party. In fact, I can even recall, with regret in retrospect, being slightly disappointed when a well-intended student would take the time to thank me for having such a fun class. Yes, I did try to make learning fun. And, yes, I did appreciate that the student was expressing his enjoyment for having taken the class. But somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I wanted to hear the kid say something like, "Mr. Burg, I just want to tell you that I really enjoyed the class because it gave me so many new ideas to think about that I hadn't really thought that much about before." 

 

My sense of the value of reading fiction was in the enjoyment of the  "on the lines" plot elements and the "ah ha" pleasures of discovering the "between the lines" themes.

 

My default metaphor was that great stories are like candy-coated medicine. The candy-coating, the "on the lines" plot elements being so enticing that they served to quickly break down resistance to taking in the intellectual medicine that the story's "between the lines " themes provide. From the earliest days of every reader, who didn't love the plot first and THEN gradually begin to discover both subconsciously and consciously, an engaging  burst of enjoyment in the realizing that stories can have thought provoking lessons to think about. From Aesop who gave us the "the moral of the story" to finding them myself, the "ah ha!" moment of realizing there's more to the story, was as fun as it was to actually find Waldo on a page where I had not previously done so. And, then the "fun" was further enhanced by the discovery that there were millions of visual jokes in the Waldo books that I hadn't even thought to look for as I simply scanned the page for red and white stripes. And, oh my gosh. There was even history to be found. 

 

To me, the metaphor of candy-coated medicine worked...sort of.. But, in a sense, once the discovery of the joys associated with the candy coating's ability to successfully disguise the "unpleasant taste" of the medicine itself, the metaphor began to break down as I began to come to believe that the "moral of the story" ONCE DISCOVERED was perhaps even more "delicious" as the candy-coating itself.

 

Hopefully, the metaphor ought to transition to comparing the natural attractiveness of plot (the candy-coating) and the medicinal value of the unpleasant taste of the medicine (the themes) to a metaphor more like a lollipop! Though it's actually still medicine under the candy coating, the desire to get past the plot to  "really good stuff" in the story's themes becomes pretty darn motivating.

 

Yes. Reading fiction engages first, then teaches. It is as "fun" a party of sorts. And, in classrooms, if managed (choreographed?) elegantly enough that engagement can become contagious engagement from plot through the discovery of the themes. It's more than a party, it's a block party. Each student's engagement is enhanced by the sharing of the many reasons why it is enjoyable to learn via well-written fiction. 

 

The REST OF THE LIST...

The other nine sites in Mr. Clayton's list, also are built upon place-based instruction. Google Earth is so much more than a geography resource. Placing history, math, science, or pretty much any subject (really!) in the context of it's place in the "real world," the same world our students are spending their days learning more and more about, acts as a Vygotskian bridge of sorts. Kids know about the world they live in. Reading place-based stories enhanced by visual connections to real places, adds to their understandings of their own world. And that like plot, has its own motivating engagement. Bring the two together and kids are "pre-connected" on some level that invites the kind of engagement we want all students to love about learning.

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit

"bringing wonder and wisdom to information-age learning

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It's Giving Tuesday! How far will your small tax-deductible donations reach? This far!

It's Giving Tuesday! How far will your small  tax-deductible donations reach? This far! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

Did you know Google Lit Trips (officially GLT Global Ed)

has been 100% volunteer for over seven years? has distributed over 25,000 Lit Trips this year on a budget of less than $2,000?   http://ebay.to/11vhysK

 

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

2 December 2014

 

It’s Giving Tuesday!

Please consider favoriting us, tweeting, posting to your social networks or even making a small tax-deductible donation to help us continue sharing our resources with teachers, students, and parents around the globe. 

 

Did you know Google Lit Trips (officially GLT Global Ed)

has been 100% volunteer for over seven years? has distributed over 25,000 Lit Trips this year on a budget of less than $2,000? 

 

Just think... a $10 donation could bring the Google Lit Trips resources to over 100 classrooms! Imagine how many thousands of students that represents!

 

 http://ebay.to/11vhysK

 

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How Self-Expression Damaged My Students

How Self-Expression Damaged My Students | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
A former South Bronx teacher recalls how his own idealism kept his class from learning how to write.
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____________________

If you enjoy this Scoop-it blog, please consider "Favoriting" GLT Global Ed (dba Google Lit Trips) on our eBay Giving Works page at: http://ebay.to/11vhysK

____________________

 

30 November 2014

So... I have no idea whether you decided to read the article before reading my commentary or whether you read my comments and then the article. But, I know one thing for sure.

 

There is something to hate about the article for everyone.

 

And, there is a challenge for every teacher of writing to be open-minded in spite of his or her first impression.

 

Though there are other examples earlier in the article, here's a simple test. What is your initial reaction to the following quote?

_____

"... Earlier this year, David Coleman, the principal architect of the widely adopted Common Core Standards, infamously told a group of educators, "As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don't give a shit about what you feel or what you think..."

_____

Your reaction? Are you cheering or expressing chagrin because the Common Core's "principal architect" gave opponents a sound bite to use when criticizing the common core? 

 

Did you notice the ellipsis at the end of the quote above? Here are the following two sentences.

_____

His bluntness made me wince, but his impulse is correct. We have overvalued personal expression..."

_____

 

Personally, I struggled with the author's challenge, but met its demand and have much to think about as a result.

 

It seemed clear to me that I had some very clear differences of opinion with the author. I found serious criticisms of many of the practices that I did (and still do) consider best practices.  

 

YET... there was "something" that kept whispering to me that caused me just a bit of discomfort as the article's author, Robert Pondiscio, built his case. 

 

I had not previously heard the term "Cargo Cult." The authors explanation of the term provided an "ah Ha!" moment that at least to me was worth its weight in gold. 

 

I"m intentionally not commenting on my opinion of the the term so as to not bias your reaction.

 

I will say that in a sense, I've contemplated variations of the implications of the "Cargo Cult" concept as I've made a conscientious attempt to continually refine my personal understandings of best practice over the decades. Those contemplations I believe served me and my students well. 

 

My most recent personal metaphor for the concept has to do with lessons I learned while studying the science (as opposed to the art) of creating better black and white photographs. 

 

I have not read 50 Shades of Gray, but I did study Ansel Adams' Zone system whereby he broke black and white photography into 10 shades of gray. Simply put Black and white photographs are much more  an artistically arranged collection of  controllable shades of gray than they are images that are only black or white.

 

It's an obvious truth about photography in the literal sense. However, as a personal metaphor it's those shades of gray that make the difference between a snapshot and an exquisite final print. Once one accepts the obvious that there are shades of gray; and more than 10 at that, one can adapt that "truth" to one's opinions about "best practice" in the classroom. This is especially if one's opinions have begun to to huddle nearly exclusively towards either the nearly bright whites or nearly complete blacks of an opinion long held without adequate attention being given to revisiting the grayer areas between the black end or the white end of the grayscale. 

 

You may choose to speculate upon what I might be saying between the lines if you wish. But, I do hope that this article stimulates valuable contemplations about your current beliefs about best practice, as it did for me. 

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit

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Favorite us on eBay's givingworks campaign

Favorite us on eBay's givingworks campaign | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

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The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis UPDATED!

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis UPDATED! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

The Watsons Go To Birmingham v4 by Christopher Paul Curtis added to list of refreshed Lit Trips in preparation for the launch of our updated website.

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

25 November 2014

 

The Watsons Go To Birmingham v4 by Christopher Paul Curtis added to list of refreshed Lit Trips in preparation for the launch of our updated website.

 

Google Lit Trips fans using any of the following Lit Trip titles can upgrade now. All previous versions will become obsolete once the new Google Lit Trips website is launched sometime in the next few months.

 

The Watsons Go To Birmingham v4 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Pedro's Journal v3 by Pam Conrad

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan v4 by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars v5 by Lois Lowry

We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Fever 1798 v2 by Laurie Halse Anderson

A Small Dog's Big Life v2 by Irene Kelly

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Slave Dancer v5 by Paula Fox

The Kite Runner v6 by Khaled Hosseini

The Grapes of Wrath v7 by John Steinbeck

Flotsam v3 by David Wiesner

Sam Patch Daredevil Jumper v4 by Julie Cummins

Going Home v3 by Margaret Wild

A Walk in London v4 by Salvatore Rubbino

A Family Apart v5 by Joan Lowery Nixon

Abuela v3 by Arthur Dorros

Big Anthony: His Story v4 by Tomie DePaola

Make Way for Ducklings v4 by Robert McCloskey

Number the Stars v4 by Lois Lowry

By the Great Hornspoon v4 by Sid Fleishman

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Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad UPDATED!

Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad UPDATED! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

Pedro's Journal by Pam Conrad added to list of refreshed Lit Trips in preparation for the launch of our updated website.

 

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

22 November 2014

 

Pedro's Journal by Pam Conrad added to list of refreshed Lit Trips in preparation for the launch of our updated website.

 

Google Lit Trips fans using any of the following Lit Trip titles can upgrade now. All previous versions will become obsolete once the new Google Lit Trips website is launched sometime in the next few months.

 

Pedro's Journal v3 by Pam Conrad

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan v4 by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars v5 by Lois Lowry

We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Fever 1798 v2 by Laurie Halse Anderson

A Small Dog's Big Life v2 by Irene Kelly

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Slave Dancer v5 by Paula Fox

The Kite Runner v6 by Khaled Hosseini

The Grapes of Wrath v7 by John Steinbeck

Flotsam v3 by David Wiesner

Sam Patch Daredevil Jumper v4 by Julie Cummins

Going Home v3 by Margaret Wild

A Walk in London v4 by Salvatore Rubbino

A Family Apart v5 by Joan Lowery Nixon

Abuela v3 by Arthur Dorros

Big Anthony: His Story v4 by Tomie DePaola

Make Way for Ducklings v4 by Robert McCloskey

Number the Stars v4 by Lois Lowry

By the Great Hornspoon v4 by Sid Fleishman

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5 Stunning, Prophetic Quotes From Ursula K. Le Guin's National Book Award Speech

5 Stunning, Prophetic Quotes From Ursula K. Le Guin's National Book Award Speech | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Ursula K. Le Guin, a science fiction author venerated for her poignant diction, gender-bending characters and eerily accurate speculations about politics and technology, was honored for her life's work at the 2014 National Book Awards. Her acceptance...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

20 November 2014

 

What an incredible speech. Every teacher of literacy, literature, and informational reading should watch this video! And, that's coming from someone who is not fond of those who tell me what I "must" watch or "must" read.

 

There  is much more to this six minute speech than is excerpted in the text of the article. And, I think it is well-worth the six-minute investment.

 

Whether it is Le Guin's defense of Sci Fi as a legitimate literary genre or her condemnation of the power of the publishing and marketing industry, or the fact that she makes an extremely disturbing, yet thought-provoking suggestion referencing the selling of slaves down the river, the question I could not help but hear "between the lines" is, 
"What are we, the deliverers of literary education, NOT doing that is unconscionable?" 

 

There are too many incredible quotes to choose as a favorite. However, as a tease, I'll offer this one...

_____

"We need writers who know the difference between the production of a commodity and the practice of an art."

_____

 

I couldn't help but wonder if there's a place for a new literary term to apply to the forces of the current publishing industry's undue influence upon the writer's art.

 

That term?

 

"Pre-Bowdlerize:" To pre-empt writers' ability to get anything published that might be found objectionable by those who might have otherwise purchased the book.

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

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The 12 best business books of all time

The 12 best business books of all time | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Reading is the best way to gain experience without having been there yourself.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

14 November 2014

 

Okay, the lead quote above by Dan Dzombak of The Motley Fool, wasn't written by an English major. Not because it has grammatical errors, but rather because it has connotations that suggest that reading is the lazy/passive/sedentary/_____ way to gain without actually doing.

 

Maybe I'm to harsh. Dzombak regains my interest quickly by quoting Warren Buffet's business partner Charlie Munger who said,...

 

_____

"In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time -- none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren reads -- at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I'm a book with a couple of legs sticking out." 

_____

THANK YOU. Reading IS a powerful gateway to Wisdom. 

 

Dzombak follows the previous quote with another that got me thinking about reframing my own wording in a few areas. That quote...

_____

"While there are mounds of terrible business books out there, there are some hidden gems."

_____

 

Though I have been attempting to defuse a tendency of some English teachers to resent Informational Reading as an unwelcome interloper, as a de facto imposition upon their desire to emphasize Literary Reading, I have also often referred to one distinction between the two valuable reading areas.  I've promoted Literary Readings' emphasis upon bringing wisdom to the information age as though Informational Reading somehow falls short in the area of offering valuable wisdom to 21st century learners.

 

Yes, there are a lot of crappy business business books out there, as there are a lot of crappy TV shows, movies, and works of fiction out there. But to not give credit to the value of the wisdom and insights of the gems among each of those categories is short-sighted and dangerously simplistic. 

 

Dzombak then proceeds to list 12 business books that combine both Informational reading and wisdom. Among the titles is The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen.

 

Christensen later turned his business insights in the direction of educational reform in Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

 

Both books address the difficulty of making change, even in the presence of great new and upcoming pedagogical shifts. 

 

I really found Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns to be one of the very brightest gems of the professional reading that I've done as an educator; much of which, like Dzombak's distinction between the gems and the "mounds of terrible business books, are terrible "education books." And, I got to thinking about informational reading titles. 

 

What are the gems? What are you reading specifically in the area of educational reform that raises the professional and the public discourse in the area of  educational reform above the mediocre and simplistic?

 

What titles are so well written that we've enthusiastically accepted the author's invitation to deepen our understanding and to even revisit our existing opinions?

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit

 

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The Ethics of Sarcastic Science

The Ethics of Sarcastic Science | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Every year the British Medical Journal publishes an issue of joke science. But years later, those papers are cited as real.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

23 August 2014

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_____ 

Here's one for the Informational Reading folks. And, it's actually quite informative despite its reliance upon references to intentional "Joke Science" articles as its starting point.

 

"Joke Science" in such satirical venues as The Onion, IS FICTION of course. And, only the densest of readers would miss The Onion's clear signals that nothing it publishes is true. The stories are ludicrous and surrounded by stories that are also ludicrous. And, it would be hard to even imagine that someone would wind up on The Onion site without knowing that it's a modern day Mad Magazine.

 

"In context" the signs are hard to miss that it's just funny stuff intended to amuse us without intention to misinform us. 

 

But, what happens when those amusing stories or stories like them published in any number of "April Fools-type" issues of otherwise serious publications are taken "out of context" and redistributed via social media or gossip or via conspiracy-adamant sharing venues by those who like to share funny things, or those who like to share  ill-informed/misinformed/disinformed "information" they've read with the rest of the world?

 

The  signals that The Onion or "April Fools issues surround their articles with are gone and it becomes more likely that if not read carefully, the reader might easily assume with unquestioned trust that the article originally was published by a reliable source. 

 

No this does not ONLY FOOL THE FOOLS. This article notes that much of this amusing fiction winds up being cited in very serious scholarly work. 

 

Truthfully, I was shocked that I hadn't considered the obviousness of this finding prior to reading this article. Social networking for all of its benefits does also raise the likelihood that information is often quite divorced from its source. and probably more often than not, divorced from an assumption that the information will be read with the same level of intellectual scrutiny as the original article in its original context would be read. And, unlike Wikipedia, where we have come to be cautious about the validity of any article at any time, we also can recognize that Wikipedia itself has instituted practices intended to reduce its content's margin of error. We know enough to warn our students that Wikipedia is NOT original source information and that it should never be relied upon as a sole source of information. Wikipedia continually warns us of this possibility.

 

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:General_disclaimer)

 

Wikipedia also is pro-active in warning us. Anyone who had used  Wikipedia enough has seen header banners on articles warning that the article lacks reliable citation or expresses a bias. 

 

Many people have learned that one quick way to use Wikipedia as a starting point is to search for a subject and then immediately scroll to the bottom of the page to see a list of links to the article's referenced sources. In this mode, the Wikipedia article might serve as a useful starting point and possible overview of a subject AND a quick way to find sources that might be likely "go to" sources for more reliable places to dig deeper.

 

But what happens when the bridge between information and all references to its reliability are severed?

 

This is not to say that information received through redistribution severed from its original context is to be assumed unreliable. But, it is safe to say that information received through redistribution severed from its original context ought to be read with caution. 

 

It's quite a bit like that old classroom game called telephone where a story is shared from one student to another who shares what he or she believes he or she heard to another student who... well, you've probably played the game. The last student when asked to share the story aloud to the class generally shares a story with very little, if any, resemblance to the original story.

 

And, this is what happens when the story was only shared among a group that knows the rest of the group.

 

An interesting question might be to brainstorm all of the many possible explanations for why the original story inevitably fails be to be accurately reflected once it goes through the multiple incarnations of its redistribution.

 

I would suggest that poor memory or poor hearing/listening are only the most obvious explanations. It is the less obvious causes that reveal the essential elements of a sophisticated  informational literacy skill set. 

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit

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51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature

51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

. “She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
—Kate Chopin, “The Awakening”

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

19 December 2014

 

What's your favorite sentence (anywhere)?

 

Kids quote a lot! Maybe from literature; maybe not. But, they love individual sentences that somehow stick in their minds. And, they use those special sentences repeatedly as a means of expressing "something" that someone else expressed so well in their perception.

 

Where do these sentences come from? A favorite movie, TV character, bumpersticker, poem, song lyric, book, celebrity, teacher, ....

 

Who knows, but wherever a kid is touched by a single sentence, there is a magic worth paying attention to.

 

What if kids were asked to find and document the source for a single sentence that has captured their interest in ways that no other single sentence has captured them?

 

Don't judge the source. Don't judge the kid. Just listen to the honesty even if that honest is actually between the words they share.

 

I'd give it a try just to see what happens.

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit

 

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Support Google Lit Trips for as little as $5... and it's tax-deductible too!

Support Google Lit Trips for as little as $5... and it's tax-deductible too! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

We are 100% volunteer and have delivered over 25,000 Lit Trips supporting reading, literacy, and literature students and educators from more than 140 countries JUST THIS YEAR.

 

It's just two clicks away. http://ebay.to/11vhysK

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Nonfiction Book App To Eliminate Books, Reading From Reading Experience

Nonfiction Book App To Eliminate Books, Reading From Reading Experience | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

"What’s the worst part of reading nonfiction? Is it having to sit through an entire, exhausting book? Is it having to look at words with your eyes? Maybe both of those obstacles leave you daunted. Blinkist is here to help."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

13 December 2014

_____

Please consider favoriting our efforts at:http://ebay.to/11vhysK

And, if so motivated, while you're at it, you are also quite welcome to support our efforts with a tax-deductible donation of as little as $5.00.

_____

 

Had to scoop this one. No long commentary, just  two questions that popped into my mind. Maybe you can help me decide...

 

Does this technology enable us to take in more informational reading more efficiently?

OR

Does this technology enable us in ways similar to enabling an alcoholic?

 

I suppose it depends upon the way the user perceives its value.

 

But, I tend to want to not blame technology as much for how it is used as I blame the intentions of the user of the technology.

 

What am I talking about? It's a sort of Alfred Nobel conundrum.

 

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit

 

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APS - Snapshots - 6x06 - "Lit Trips" at Swanson Middle School - YouTube

In this week’s episode, Snapshots profiles a new program created by social studies supervisor Cathy Hix that links history, literacy and technology. “Lit Tri...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

10 December 2014

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Just a few clicks could help us win $25,000. Plus, you could win a $2,500 #ebay gift card! www.ebay.com/mfc #eBayFavoriteCharity

_____

 

Though many people use the term "Google Lit Trips" not realizing that the term is actually the fictitious business name for GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit, I've always been flattered by those educators who incorporate the concept in their classroom practice.

 

This is one of the best articulations of the Google Lit Trips concepts I've found on the web.

 

The educators behind the video have really nailed some of the most important elements of the pedagogical vision behind the Lit Trips project. And, the students clearly represent some of the most desired outcomes targeted by the Google Lit Trip vision.

 

I was particularly excited to see that they have used the basic pedagogical foundations to engage students, not only in exploring the journeys of characters from literature they are reading, but also to explore the value of telling their own journey stories.

 

Many thanks to educators such as Cathy Hix, Emily Halley and Tony Philippon for their wonderful articulations of the unique qualities that help Google Lit Trips "go beyond" more traditional literacy resources.

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit

 

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Banned Mexican-American Studies Curriculum Boosted Student Achievement: Study

Banned Mexican-American Studies Curriculum Boosted Student Achievement: Study | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
The Mexican-American Studies curriculum in Tucson public schools banned by the conservative-dominated Arizona legislature helped boost student achievement and offers a promising approach to bridge the achievement gap between Hispanic and white studen...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

2 December 2014

 

I can't help but wonder why it is news that an educational system that includes opportunities to discover personal cultural relevance might be more engaging than an educational system that forbids the exploration of personal cultural relevance.

 

Discovering Personal Relevance -> Interest -> Engaged Attentiveness -> Receptiveness to new ideas -> Motivation to learn more.

 

Our goal ought to be to widen each student's Zone of Proximal Development and each student's personal motivation to explore.

 

I can't help but wonder what the motives might be of those people who believe that learning more about one's personal culture and history is a bad thing.

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

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8-Year-Old Book-Lover Gives Enthusiastic, Inspiring Speech About Reading

8-Year-Old Book-Lover Gives Enthusiastic, Inspiring Speech About Reading | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Eight-year-old Madison Reid might just be the new unofficial spokesperson for child literacy.

The third-grader took the Internet by storm last week with her impassioned speech about the value of books, as part of a WKYC Channel 3 broadcast coveri...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

2 December 2014

 

You have to watch this 3 minute video to the very end! Smiles guaranteed!

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

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'Voice' Isn't the Point of Writing

'Voice' Isn't the Point of Writing | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Whether crafting fiction or how-to manuals, self-expression is a negotiation.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

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____________________

 

30 November 2014

 

The gauntlet has been thrown down in this article.  Will you accept the challenge? (rhetorically speaking that is.

; -)

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

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Why Are We Embarrassed To Have Guilty Pleasure Reads?

Why Are We Embarrassed To Have Guilty Pleasure Reads? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Why are we so precious about what we read? Admitting to a guilty pleasure TV shows is the stuff of Cool Girl celebrity profiles. Plenty of brilliant women are open about the "Real Housewives" backlog on their DVRs, but loving un-literary bo...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

26 November 2014

 

PREFACE: When I began writing this blog, I had no idea that it would wind up being a Thanksgiving appreciation for the efforts of so many teachers with whom I have been blessed to know and work with for what is now the last 46 years.

_____

 

Now about that article...

 

Yes! Why do we feel this way? The answer is that somewhere along the line, we've come in contact with "junk lit" scorn. Okay, I just made up that term. Can it be "Lit" and "Junk" simultaneously? My mom had a more direct term when I expressed early interest in Mad Magazine. She called it "garbage" which I came to believe was the polite synonym for my father's term, "crap."

 

This is not to say that they did not encourage me to read. I was a pretty dedicated reader early on. Regular trips to the library that involved a 20 mile round trip journey; permission to check out any book I wanted without question granted, perhaps on the assumption that libraries wouldn't have "garbage" or "crap" available for kids to check out. 

 

(no segue/transition intended)

 

I've often downplayed my enthusiasm for Chanukah's eight days of gifts; citing new socks as a bad day for Chanukah. But, the one Chanukah tradition I cherished was the sure fire gift that I knew was  coming every year was the World Almanac. To me it represented hours and hours of interesting "trivia" ahead. I couldn't wait to dig into this goldmine of fascinating information. Though I knew my first stop would be the sports section where I'd explore all sorts of sports records, I also knew that "one thing would lead to another" and before long, I'd be exploring all sorts of areas for which I had not previously found reasons to find interesting. But I did NOT read the almanac so voraciously to learn. I read it because it was so interesting. Learning was a by-product.

 

I loved my parents. I loved their encouragement for me to be a reader. But, when I discovered Mad Magazine I could not help but become deceitful and ashamed of myself every time I went to my friend's home and devoured his collection of Mad Magazines that his parents, also wonderful parents; apparently did not have such objection to as my parents had.

 

I believed that my mom and dad were good and caring parents. I didn't really question their beliefs on the matter. I just figured that Mad Magazine's uniquely edgy brand of comic book must be at the heart of their concern. So, I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I had begun to resort to a kind of deception that in my heart I could find no way to justify.

 

For the most part, I willing read the stories my teachers asked us to read. They ranged in my perception from "interesting" to "okay I guess" to let's just say "not so interesting." I generally liked my teachers and felt that they, like my parents, had my best interests in mind. But, there were sprinkled throughout my school years, "experiences" where I was led to believe that some of my personal reading favorites were not considered by some of my teachers as being worthwhile. Some books I read were not accepted as being "challenging enough" for credit in an outside reading project; even at times when others were considered much "too challenging" for a person of my age. 

 

I even had an experience where my honesty was questioned by a teacher who suspected that I couldn't possibly have read a book that I wanted recorded on my "outside reading" chart. My teacher with a kind, yet sort of suspicious tone wanted to know why in the world I would have chosen to read a book on Jewish participation in the Civil War, pointing out it's clear lack of fitting the pattern of other books I'd already taken credit for in my outside reading. 

 

No. It wasn't the obvious to those who know me. Though raised as a Jew by parents whose own connection to their faith had thinned to the point where they thought it right to give us "some" degree of religious experience. But, that was limited to the high holidays and Sunday School. We rarely went to Sabbath services. I was not destined to be required to have a Bar Mitzvah. Truthfully, I perceived my Judaism as a reason to feel like a "liked outcast" among my friends and classmates. My being Jewish wasn't why I read the book. 

 

But at the same time I didn't want to admit to my teacher that I had not actually CHOSEN to read the book, but rather chose it as the least potentially boring book for my Sunday School teacher's assigned reading. In my naive mind, I thought I'd get in trouble for claiming the book because it didn't really meet my understanding of "a book of my choice." 

 

I was being surreptitious and deceitful. I was in that space where being embarrassed and being ashamed were not distinguishable in my mind. And, I was a good kid. I wanted to be a good kid and I still believed that both my "regular teachers and my "Sunday School" teachers as well as my parents and others like them knew better than I. So the combination of my inherent respect for them and my limited comprehension of pretty much everything, added up to a facet of my love of reading that I believed I really ought to be ashamed of. And this was amplified by my inability to be mature enough to "do the right thing." I found myself borrowing Mad Magazines from my friend, hiding them under my shirt and then between my mattresses so that I could indulge in the the guilty pleasure of reading materials that I knew would greatly disappoint my parents should my deceitful behavior be discovered. I was guilt-ridden but could not stop... and sometimes could not sleep.

 

In middle school (it was called Junior High School in those days), my love of reading served me well. This was not because I was eager to learn. I actually wasn't. I was just a well-behaved kid who was a good reader. 

 

It was then that another factor became "clear" to me. Many of my classmates had not developed a love of reading. Many were obviously struggling readers at best. And, they seemed to be being treated as "bad students" because they were so far behind where "they should be." And, some of those kids, happened to be friends of mine because we'd played a local version of little league together or had been in cub scouts together. And many of those kids had been raised in Mexican or Filipino families with limited incomes and in multi-generational homes where the family's English skills  ranged from fairly competent second language skills to parents with very limited English skills and grandparents without English skills at all. Many even had worked in the nearby fields picking cucumbers or roses to add to the family income while both of their parents worked one or more jobs in the fields or nearby canneries. Reading may have actually been a luxury given either money or English proficiency or their own or their parents' time availability. 

 

Regardless of whatever reasons had existed for those kids who had "fallen behind" in their reading skills, I knew many of them as friends and buddies. And, I knew that like the "good readers, most of them were really nice people and a few of them were not so nice at times.

 

By Junior High School, friendships as well as the fear of bullies, takes on a very influential role in a young boy's "moral compass." 

_____

NOTE: Having neither sisters nor female cousins, I was completely ignorant about how my female classmates most of whom were good readers were influenced by their female classmates who were struggling readers; few of whom were girls. 

_____

 

Those friendships and fears of bullies led me to be quite receptive to peer pressures. Reading books was a subject of teasing from some classmates; friends or foes; struggling or proficient readers. And, I found myself keeping my reading habits to myself and translating my interest into an ever present potential for public humiliation should it be discovered.

_____

 

NOTE: see "OK, Johnny Can Read. So Why Doesn't He?" by Adrian McCoy (http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/2007/08/27/OK-Johnny-can-read-So-why-doesn-t-he/stories/200708270224)

_____

 

Much of my embarrassment/shame/guilt is easy to understand if one considers what the world looks like through the eyes of many typical pre- and pubescent boys. And therein lies what I suppose is the source of my contemplations about this scooped article.

 

Ironically much of the embarrassment, guilt and shame in guilty pleasure reading has roots in the well-intended efforts of those who care most about us; our parents, teachers, and friends. 

 

Those of us who are today parents, teachers, and friends might do well to keep in mind that kids are in the midst of transitioning from the innocence and its inherent naiveté regarding academic interest and receptiveness. And, this transition occurs at very different rates for very many reasons. 

 

Though we who teach literature have in general gotten past such naive understandings of the value of being a reader, we might glance backwards to see whether we, ourselves were struggling students in some "other" area as I had been in math and grammar (as in passing grammar rule tests at least).  I've had multiple experiences with colleagues in the Language Arts department who still harbor beliefs that they just aren't any good at math or science. Or, has quite often been the case while wearing my technology support hat, teachers who express serious discomfort about their ability to "learn about computers." 

 

Perhaps some of my childhood teachers considered me a to be a struggling student even in my English classes. Unlike reading and probably because I had read so much, I figured I could speak English "good enough" and therefore really couldn't find much of reason to find interest in learning the difference between an adverb, adjective, direct object, or dangling modifier. So, those exercises in sentence diagramming were summarily pre-judged as being nothing more than "bafflingly stupid" to me.  It wasn't really the fault of my well-intended English teachers. I never gave grammar a chance. Unlike my love of reading, I never discovered  "perceivable reasons" to find enjoyment in grammar. 

 

I was one of those students who was quick to judge some subjects as interesting and others as boring. And, my report cards generally reflected that youthful lack of maturity. And, too often my lack of interest manifested itself in defense mechanisms that included sarcasm, scorn, and even condemnation and teasing of my fellow students who happened to do well in those subjects.

 

Was I struggling or lazy as a few teachers and counselors suggested? Or was I truly just not very smart? 

 

In retrospect, I wasn't struggling. One has to try to struggle. I just didn't care. I knew I was smart and not without capability. As to being lazy...OK I bought that appraisal. But, try as I might, my interest in being popular by being the friendly class clown seemed to bring me more rewards than being more diligent about my studies in the areas where "just passing" was good enough.

 

I came around eventually.

 

Though I lost my father when I was twelve, there were little league coaches, parents of some good friends who cared enough to fill a bit of the void left by my father's death and my mother's deep grief. And, there were a few great teachers who not just the content they were tasked with bringing to our attention, but who also had mastered art of bringing kids like me through that crazy cocoon of obliviousness that is a boy's life.

 

There were those who thought of me as struggling or lazy, or just not that good at math or grammar or other areas of study. But, there were also those who saw a late bloomer and invested caring in a goofball kid who didn't quite understand his own potential. 

 

And, it is to those teachers in particular that I dedicated my own teaching career where I wanted to be for my own students what Mr. Kay and Ms Fitzgerald, and Mr. Tinling, and Ms Conley, and Mr. Green, and Miss Sai, and other compassionate and caring teachers had been for me.

 

These are among the many reasons why I am thankful on this Thanksgiving day.

 

I hope your Thanksgiving is joyful and that you know that you may well be being remembered fondly today by former students in whose lives you played such an important role. 

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit.

 

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How do I search in Google using the reading level filter? | The Spectronics Blog

How do I search in Google using the reading level filter? | The Spectronics Blog | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
The Reading Level feature in Google is a great tool to filter results based on three broad reading level categories: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced.

To access and use...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

24 November 2014

 

Did you know it is possible to search Google by reading level?

 

Once again a confirmation of one of my favorite truisms...

 

"The more you know the more you know how little you know."

 

I've been a fan of Google's advanced search features for some time. Yet I have no idea why I never discovered this feature. 

 

The question is, "How might a teacher employ this feature positively without imposing a potentially negative self-opinion upon students with lesser literacy skills?" 

 

It is certainly an advantage to struggling readers to be able to narrow search results to resources within the reach of a student's zone of proximal development. Yet, at the same time if that student, as is often the case, is already sensitive to having inadequate literacy skills, might it be a delicate balancing act on the part of the teacher to present this skill as an advantage rather than another "negative label" the student attaches to him or herself?

 

Perhaps, the solution is to change the paradigm. The ability to adjust reading level may be as valuable to all students as it certainly would be for struggling readers. I've certainly encountered students with admirable literacy skills finding themselves quite challenged by search results that require advanced degree-level understandings, particularly in the area of "professional jargon." 

 

And, if this is the case, then simply presenting the ability to adjust the reading level results of a Google search as a valuable search tool for anyone might bring difficult text within that student's zone of proximal development. 

 

If I were teaching any material where my students might be expected to do their own research as might be the case in a flipped classroom, I'd be certain to share this "trick" with parents as well. 

 

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For those using Macs, there is similar tool that few people discover on their own. To the right of the Apple menu is a menu with the name of the browser. (Safari, Chrome) In that menu there is a choice called "Services."

 

There are actually many services available here, so if you haven't yet done so, select "Services Preferences..." to indicate which services you want to turn on. Once you've identified the desired services, you will see them in this menu any time you've selected some text on a website. 

 

One of the many services is called "Summarize." Rather than filter the search results by reading level, this allows you to select a level of summarization for any selected text via a sliding bar that reduces the amount of text shown with 100% meaning "show me the text as is," and 1% meaning "reduce the summary as much as possible." 

 

An interesting aspect of Apple's summarization feature is that the summarization whether extensively reduced or minimally reduced, can be saved as a text file, a sticky note, or even as an audio file.

 

Truthfully, I'm not certain how either Google's approach or Apple's approach does what each does. There is no doubt that whatever the algorithms are by which technology can make these determinations, there is room for some doubt. Perhaps similar to computerized translations, we might well keep in mind that these features might have a very valuable place in our students' repertoire of learning skills, while at the same time they may also have limitations in terms of accuracy.

 

I suppose my position would be, "If these tools bring students closer to a greater understanding than they might have had without them, then those students are better off than they would have been had they been confronted with text that was "too frustrating" and therefore less beneficial and perhaps even counter-productive.

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit

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Brothers in Hope: Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams

Brothers in Hope: Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

12 November 2014

 

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan v4 by Lois Lowry added to list of refreshed Lit Trips in preparation for the launch of our updated website.

 

Google Lit Trips fans using any of the following Lit Trip titles can upgrade now. All previous versions will become obsolete once the new Google Lit Trips website is launched sometime in the next few months.

 

Pedro's Journal v3 by Pam Conrad

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan v4 by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars v5 by Lois Lowry

We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Fever 1798 v2 by Laurie Halse Anderson

A Small Dog's Big Life v2 by Irene Kelly

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Slave Dancer v5 by Paula Fox

The Kite Runner v6 by Khaled Hosseini

The Grapes of Wrath v7 by John Steinbeck

Flotsam v3 by David Wiesner

Sam Patch Daredevil Jumper v4 by Julie Cummins

Going Home v3 by Margaret Wild

A Walk in London v4 by Salvatore Rubbino

A Family Apart v5 by Joan Lowery Nixon

Abuela v3 by Arthur Dorros

Big Anthony: His Story v4 by Tomie DePaola

Make Way for Ducklings v4 by Robert McCloskey

By the Great Hornspoon v4 by Sid Fleishman

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A New Paradigm for Accountability: The Joy of Learning

A New Paradigm for Accountability: The Joy of Learning | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Whatever you call it, Race to the Top has hurt children, demoralized teachers, closed community schools, fragmented communities, increased privatization, and doubled down on testing. But I have an idea for a new accountability system that relies on d...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

16 November 2014

 

In the Venn Diagram of a circle representing good pedagogy and a second circle representing the impact of attempts to assess the success of existing pedagogies, there are issues that appear to have been thrown into a sort of oubliette.*

 

Whether intended for the betterment of education or for less noble reasons, the question is what is it that is being forgotten and thereby left out of the very important conversation about how to improve education? 

 

Remember that old saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"?

 

I can't help but wonder whether an application of that wisdom to the Venn diagram would consider assessment to be the baby and existing pedagogical practice the water. Or, whether pedagogical practice is the baby and current assessment is the water.

 

It's a rhetorical question. There is an upside and a downside to both current assessment structures and to current pedagogical practice. 

 

Truthfully, to frame the question such is Jesuitical.** 

 

I'd propose that what is best for educational reform is NOT a black and white issue. To see it as such is simplistic whether one takes the side of any of the article's mentioned attempts to improve education or one takes the side of any of the critics of those attempts to improve education. 

 

I'd prefer to think of the situation as having to bathe two babies who happen to be siblings. What would you consider worth cleansing and worth disposing of in the CURRENT assessment structures baby? And similarly what would you consider worth cleansing and worth disposing of in the current pedagogical practices baby?

 

And, what would be a realistic plan to save the best of both babies while eliminating the dirty waters in which both currently exist that is not a plan merely built upon little more than a Panglossian*** brand of optimism? 

 

What has been thrown into the oubliette are the many forgotten (overlooked) shades of gray that deserve to NOT be forgotten (or summarily dismissed by proponents of either side). 

 

I will leave the question of which baby is "less dirty" than the other. I'll leave it at this; neither is clean enough. Both need serious bathing. But, one is probably dirtier than the other.

 

Annotated ENDNOTES: (or WHY Literary Reading is worthwhile)

 

* My first encounter with the word "OUBLIETTE" came when I first read Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.


 "An oubliette (from the French oubliette, literally "forgotten place") was a form of dungeon which was accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling. The word comes from the same root as the French oublier, "to forget", as it was used for those prisoners the captors wished to forget." 

 

** It should be recognized that this definition of a "JESUITICAL ARGUMENT" itself has proponents and opponents. I recognize the controversy. Though in this commentary, I'm referring to a common use of the term that takes the following position.

 

“In order to be successful, the Jesuitical Argument must be  pursued articulately, aggressively and forcefully, but perhaps not always sincerely – indeed, the most effect Jesuitical must at times be cunningly downright deceitful – mixing emotional half-truths and rhetoric into the answer."  

 

*** Thanks to having read Candide by Voltaire I came to understand an important distinction between the optimism of the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King jr,, and Mother Theresa and those who simply put on a pair of rose-colored glasses and scorn those who complain and feel no personal obligation to address those complaints

 

PANGLOSSIAN OPTIMISM (see: http://goo.gl/1eL5yo)

 

**** Most people would no doubt(?) be able to construct a fairly accurate understanding of the author's use of "GRADGRIND ACADEMY" without having an awareness of the term's origin. 

 

I'll just suggest that being an English major does provide extremely valuable insights into the extent to which modern issues have existed throughout time.

 

The term actually references Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Consider this explanation of a Gradgrind academy from English Literature: A Very Short Introduction, by Jonathan Bate...

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"... Gradgrind's academy sought to extirpate children's capacity for wonder, for poetry and imaginary play, in order to prepare them to become factory hands, mechanical cogs in the wheel of Victorian capitalist production. Conversely, the aim of literature teachers in the Leavisite tradition was to create beings of strong feeling and humane understanding. English was often taught with messianic zeal: the study of literature was to be a life-changing and, potentially, a society-changing experience."

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Who was it who said, "The more things change, the more they remain the same"? 

 

Was that pessimism or a challenge FOR ALL OF US WHO CARE to do better?

 

 ~ www.GoogleLitTrips.org ~

brought to you by GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit

 

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