Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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Review of Matthew L. Jockers, 'Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History' | Inside Higher Ed

Review of Matthew L. Jockers, 'Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History' | Inside Higher Ed | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I wonder if it is even possible to read this article while steadfastly maintaining an unbiased curiosity about it's impact upon literary analysis?


There are so many trigger points that challenge my own ability to be unbiased, that I actually found myself becoming more and more intrigued by the concept of "'Macroanalysis' the anti-sentimental and technophile attitude toward literature defines how scholars understand the literary field, rather than how authors imagine it. 

The bottom line? Data Crunching as a literary analysis tool.

One of the many intriguing challenges to my effort to restrain any pre-existing biases, came in the reference to "distant reading" rather than our typical adoration of "close reading." I suppose this references a completely different set of valuable purposes served by distancing literary analysis from our natural tendencies to want to interpret from within our inherent biases because, "Text-crunching methodologies offer the possibility of establishing verifiable, quantifiable, exact results in a field where, otherwise, everything is interpretive, hence interminably disputable."

Lest you dismiss this entire concept too quickly, the article is describing the work of Matthew L.Jockers, an assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln based upon the work of Franco Moretti who teaches English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Check out this link to see what literary analysis based upon data crunching looks like.


But, be forewarned, Paradigms may be shaken; or perhaps "rattled" might be a better verb. ;

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Anne Frank's Diary Too Pornographic For 7th Grade, Claims Parent

Anne Frank's Diary Too Pornographic For 7th Grade, Claims Parent | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Since being published in the Netherlands in 1947, "The Diary of Anne Frank" has become a staple in American classrooms.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

It seems as though Anne Frank is making the news quite a bit recently.


From Justin Beiber's self-centered and shallow note left in the guest book at the Anne Frank Annex.


To what I assumed was well-intentioned, but questionable and certainly insensitive assumption behind the Mormon Church baptizing Anne Frank posthumously. ;


I don't know, but neither imposing one's"beleibes" or one's beleifs on another without consent just seems a bit audacious; well-intended or not.


However, does the same imposition by parents of their beliefs upon their children, or the children of others fall into a different area of concern?


It is the parents' duty to raise their kids as best as they can, and whether we as educators or neighbors or strangers may recognize that it may not be within our purview to impose contradictory influences. We've already recognized that parents have a right to approve or not approve the viewing of videos they do not want their children to see. We don't have to agree, however, I don't think it's right for any educator to believe they have the right to trump the parent's right to make such decisions.


We've also for the most part accepted the notion that providing alternative options for that child is a professional obligation. However, the touchy edge of this issue is whether or not a parent has the right to make such calls for the children of other parents.


There is a sort of Venn diagram between censorship and professional judgment. There were books I chose not to teach due to professional judgment. And, while teaching  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ALOUD, I chose to replace the "N-word" with "N-word." Yet we would also discuss the controversy over the use of the word both in the book and in contempory times. 


And by the way, I happen to think that Mark Twain's use of the original term was quite intentional. And, that the intention was to be abrasive to ethical ears. The book is awash with examples of the negative impact of what many people at the time believed was acceptable behavior. Huck was raised within that society where slavery was defended in churches.


And, the whole point of the story comes down to Huck's coming to realize that his default upbringing was faulty in many ways. Why else did Mark Twain have Huck decide, after spending time with Tom who had not had Huck's experiences, decide that he didn't want to go back to Tom's world?


So, back to the article. The references objected to dealt with Anne's wondering about the vagina and it's role in reproduction. The entire passages is as follows:


"Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn't realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn't see them. What's even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you're standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you're standing, so you can't see what's inside. They separate when you sit down and they're very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there's a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That's the clitoris."

Read more:

What would your call be? But, before you answer too quickly...

There's certainly no doubt that it wasn't the writer's intention to titillate. If anything, it was more in the nature of  simplly expressing a pubescent curiosity in the biological structure of the female genetaila. With this in mind I don't see the issue here of being whether the passage is pornographic. However, even if we excuse the loose use of the word "pornographic," there is still the issue of parents' rights to determine what they believe is the proper approach to sex education for their children. And, again this is not the purview of educational systems to feel they have a right to trump the parents' decision in this regard, whether we feel it is justifiable or not.

The two elements and perhaps a third, that I think might be of most concern here have to do with the grade level at which the protest is being made. The parent in this case is objecting to the passage which only appears in a "Definitive Edition" (unedited). This is apparently not the traditional edited edition that has been in standard practice for years. If this the case, the question becomes are all 7th graders ready for this level of "condoned" exposure to the description Anne gives? In my own recollections of my readiness for "sex ed" information when I was a 7th graders, I think my own response would have still been a bit on the "Yuck! That's disgusting" level and certainly not at all as being titillating. Heck, when I was in the 8th grade I could not get through my oral report on the plant Uranus! And, even when I was a sophomore I was really nervous about even listening to my biology teacher say the words "penis" and "vagina." 


Yet, I knew a lot of "dirty jokes" about everything sexual, most of which in retrospect were disrespectful and sexist along the lines of those blonde jokes only a bit more sexually focused.


I suppose also that girls in middle school are already quite aware of the biological changes they're going through and might be less "harmed" by the passage.


But boys really are a different animal at that age, many boys are still much more like "big little boys" than like "young men." Some might be less ready or incapable of sufficient maturity or more than ready and/or mature to read such passages.


I would not see the teacher's role in this case as having to "tolerate or take a stand against" censorship. I would see this as an issue regarding professional judgment. 


Like showing films in the gray area, if the professional judgment is that the "unedited" version of the book is justifiable, then I don't see an issue with parental permission slips being required, and alternative assignments being available. It would be inconvenient and perhaps even resented, but the question is not whether the parent is right or wrong, but whether the parent has the right to make certain decisions about what their child are exposed to.


So would the traditional edited version be a suitable compromise?


Does the unedited version provide a learning experience of such value that compromising on the traditional version is unacceptable?


I hesitate to mention the last concern that arises in my mind about this objection. Though there is no evidence in the story to suggest that the parent in this article is in any way an anti-semite, we live in times when racism, anti-semetism, anti-immigrationists, gun control advocates and anti-gun control advocates have taken to using "code" language to express their positions.

 I will just leave it at that. You either already know what I mean or you haven't been paying attention lately.

 ~ ~

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The Great Gatsby - Movie Trailer, Photos, Synopsis

The Great Gatsby - Movie Trailer, Photos, Synopsis | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
In theaters May 10. From Baz Luhrmann, the director of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, “The Great Gatsby” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

There's always great potential for the creative English teacher on a film adaptation's official website. Many offer resources they think might be valuable for teachers. 


Though what they offer may or may not seem adequate on the surface, what they offer in the eyes of the creative English teacher can be adapted to levels well beyond merely adequate.


As I perused the Gatsby movie official site I noticed several opportunities to build engaging bridges between the contemporary adaptation, the student's contemporary interests, and the original story.


For example, under the GUIDE TO STYLE link, though the first view is just a bunch of images of fashion logos, clicking on each logo takes you to great info on the role of style, or a bit of the history of the brand, or a short film clip followed by behind the scenes interviews with the costume designer.


You know that your students are either openly fashionistas, or sub-counsciously tuned into the clothing trends they choose to follow. Maybe, a parallel project based upon the design of this portion of the website but based upon the various campus groups would be interesting. Or perhaps paralleling the concept here with the fashions of Cyrano or The Crucible or a favorite musical group or the characters on The Big Bang TV show, or they way people dressed in their parents' high school year books or... well, you get the idea.




Be sure to note that when you click on one of the main menu links that there may be a sub menu.


For example, under the ABOUT THE FILM link, the synopsis is pretty minimal. But, if you click on the PRODUCTION NOTES sub link, you'll find a 49 page document. And, it's actually a PDF file so under the FILE menu of your internet browser you should be able to actually save the entire document to your hard drive.


Under the SOUNDTRACK link there are audio samples from the film. But rather than using contemporary music, all the film's music was done by contemporary musicians. 


Why not consider giving  students an opportunity to see if any of their favorite comtemprary artists is on the list and then explore the relationship between what they already know about the artist and the artist's decision to be a part of this adaptation of a classic?


Or perhaps, they might feel intrigued by creating a "soundtrack" for a  film entitled "The Great (their name here)."  I'd add a little spice by telling them that the production company only had a couple of requests for budgetary and production purposes. 


1. For marketing purposes they had to have exactly 12 songs. no more no less.

2. The total play time had to be less than 1 hour so it would fit on a CD.



Be sure to notice that the main menu links seem to run right off the screen on the right. Clicking the right arrow icon takes you to a few more interesting pages.


One is a page of downloadable images that might be useful in all sorts of projects.


But, don't overlook the MONOGRAM MAKER link. Here students can actually design a personalized monogram with their initials, their choice of background shape for the monogram, and  then actually create stationery that they can add a message to and send via email or use on a variety of social media posts.


What other creative bridges might be built by you OR by your students?


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50 Best Children's Literature Blogs - Zen College Life

50 Best Children's Literature Blogs - Zen College Life | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"Inasmuch as we may like to reminisce about some of the books we read ourselves as children, this guide to the 50 Best Children’s Literature Blogs is more about modern books which young adults and teachers may want to incorporate into young lives in an educational way."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

A quick listing of 50 Children's literature blogs with short preview comments and direct links. Way faster than having to find so many good leads oneself.


Just might be a great resource for teachers and their students' parents.


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Monique German's curator insight, April 25, 2013 7:43 AM

Some of these blogs are already in my Feedly reader.  It looks like I may need to explore a few more. 

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WATCH: 'The Last Bookshop' Is A Beautiful Tribute To Books

WATCH: 'The Last Bookshop' Is A Beautiful Tribute To Books | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
"The Last Bookshop" is a delightful 20-minute video set in the future, about the power of reading. "As a lad," says the elderly bookseller, "We all queued up at midnight for a book about a wizard.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Maybe it's because it's 1:43 am...

How to react to this video?

Who is the intended audience?

Would it sell to your students?

Does it sell to you?

Is it charming or annoying?

Does it reveal or distort truth?


Is it a beautiful tribute to books as the headline suggests?


~ ~

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Book Fetish

Book Fetish | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"Custom Literary Thumbprint Portrait: A three-foot-high completely personalized piece of bookish art? The only question is which bookcase you’ll have take down to free up some wall space."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I always love running across sites like this that promote a visual presence of reading in our lives. 


Not important, but if I had to pick a favorite from this collection I'd struggle for some time between the headboard and the personalized thumbprint!


As I'm contemplating that choice, I do know that several variations of the  thumbprint concept could certainly be a very cool classroom project.


The thumbprint symbolic of how very unique each one of us is, is a perfect set for selecting either personal favorite lines from a book, or great books we've been personally affected by, or even just a collection of favorite quotes that have touched us personally. Heck, even a collection of favorite lines from favorite songs arranged as a thumbprint would make for a very engaging personal introspective activity. 


This may be an odd way to start, but what if each student was given an opportunity to make an actual thumbprint and then asked to reproduce that thumbprint, (simplified of course) on a larger piece of paper in light pencil. Then they could cover the lines with strips of text, quotes, titles, or whatever as best they can? That would be a truly personal connection to the words they've selected to represent the influence of literature in their lives.


Sounds, like I'm leaning towards the thumbprint... 


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In an Era of Global Competition, What Exactly Are We Testing For? | MindShift

In an Era of Global Competition, What Exactly Are We Testing For? | MindShift | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Renato Ganoza/Flickr   In this era of global competition, test scores are used as the primary benchmark to call out which countries will produce "s
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

If you haven't tuned into Yong Zhao yet, here's a taste of his "other point of view regarding standardized educational assessment structures. 



"Similarly, in his analysis of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test that analyzes how countries score in reading, math and science, Zhao found a negative correlation between attitude and attainment. In other words, the countries with lower scores had students who reported higher interest in the subjects. Zhao analyzed media stories from high scoring countries like Korea and Japan, where students don’t show enough confidence or enthusiasm for subjects in which they excel."


Though both Zhao and Sir Kenneth Robinson are both well known within the progressive educational reform community, I'm concerned that they may be significantly under represented in the main stream media that seems to spend much more time and ink on assuming, and therefore endorsing the idea, that standardized testing tells the story without a significant margin of error.



Don't think that there's a possibility that reading assessment is potentially capable of turning kids off to reading while at the same time, providing them with an incentive to become proficient cheaters?


Watch this:


Don't think that if we inadvertently are "also teaching" the value of cheating that we need not worry about those students might also become adults who take that attitude to their workplaces and businesses?


I often pause and wonder how well Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff, and National Superintendent of the year in 2009, former Atlantic Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall did on the standardized tests they took along the way towards their various careers.

Perhaps it is time to measure not merely what tools they have or can appear to have in their intellectual toolboxes, but also what they might build with those tools. 

And of course, that's a foolish notion since what they might build with those tools would be impossible to test.

But, taking the simplistic "if-we-don't-have-a-panacea- approach-to -important-issues-then-making-no-change-to-the-status quo-is-acceptable" response would be equivalent to suggesting that Mother Teresa had wasted her time attempting to end hunger, or that attempting to address other issues such as gun violence and health care can't be addressed so the status quo is good enough.

Perhaps those of us who do care about accountability in a quality education system, but who have reservations about the existing system's margin of error, might accept a bit more responsbility for helping the media and the masses recognize that the situation IS important enough to invest more time and energy in informing and becoming informed about how we might reduce the margin of error in our assessment structures while also avoiding the misdirection regarding the value placed upon what it is that we're actually attempting to assess. by those whose educations we all care about.

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Jack Kerouac on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show (1959)

Taken from Daybreak Films/Mill Valley Film Group's documentary "Kerouac, the Movie" (1985). Edits were in the footage already. Wanted: this complete intervie...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Kerouac to this day is controversial. Not just because of the drugs and language which pose a significant road block for novel adoption in high schools, but for literary "style." 


Call it "stream of consciousness" or just plain rambling, Kerouac's style was probably as disruptive to traditional novel writing paradigms as Picasso's cubism was to the existing paradigms in portraiture.


Bob Dylan disrupted folk music similarly.


Yet in retrospect all were trail blazers disrupting established practice, maligned in their oddness, and eventually glorified in their visionary contributions.


Truthfully, I was more of a Steve Allen fan than a Kerouac fan. Though my exposure to Steve Allen was far greater than my exposure to Kerouac. But, my interest in both drew me to this short video.


My attraction to Steve Allen was entirely based upon his disruptive influence on entertainment particularly the talk show. His humor was "modern." His piano playing, interview styles, and cast of regular sidekicks such as Louis Nye, Bill Dana, Tom Poston, and Don Knotts were all "fresh" and "refreshing" comedians. At the time a bit edgy, though time has softened the edge considerably.


In watching this clip, enjoying Steve Allen's "hip" style, interviewing Keroauc while tossing in an occassional jazz riff on the piano brought back fond memories.


But, my memories of Kerouac were less fixed due to the lesser exposure I brought to the clip. Yet, I found myself absolutely amazed by his reading. It was poetry passing itself off as narrative. It sang the narrative with a pronounced rhythm and coolness.


I had never made the connection before between Kerouac's "stream of consciousness" and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's prose poetry. And, I've never spent much time listening to rap music, yet it's clear that many rappers, are following in the footsteps of Kerouac's style.

And while writing that last sentence, I had the thought that another big influence in the same area of disruptive innovation was immediate the first time I heard Ken Nordine's Word Jazz.

Perhaps whatever the lesson might be in disruptive creativity or in revisiting examples of those who were disruptive to their contemporaries, it might be worth considering whether such literary efforts today such as those found at PoetryTweets ( and Google Poetics ( might raise criticisms among one generation of literature educators that will be well received in retrospect.


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Literature Is Hard to Remember—Compared to Facebook - IEEE Spectrum

Literature Is Hard to Remember—Compared to Facebook - IEEE Spectrum | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
And gossip is more memorable than the evening news, according to a new study
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Okay two points right off the bat.


1. I do agree that schools, as is the case in all human endeavors, have room for improvement.


2. I really try to look at both sides of an article and try to avoid imposing my opinions on readers of this blog, rather preferring to simply post and comment about articles that might challenge our own existing paradigms in case that might be a viable road to discovering "room for improvement" in our own practice.


That being said, I found so much to be annoyed about in this podcast and so little to be encouraged by. So, the best I can do before proceeding is to admit that the following comments might be unfairly biased.


Ok...Who says the ease of memorizing is the essential or valued metric in comparing literature to facebook or tweeting?


Is that different from "proving" that it's easier to get kids to eat candy than it is to eat vegetables? Or, to sit and play video games than to go outside and play? So what?


Of course it's easier to pay attention to what people we agree with say  than to give serious consideration to what those with different opinions say.


I suppose it's easier to stay up to the minute on what the Kardashians are doing than what our senators are not doing about gun violence.


The path of least resistance requires the least challenge. But, imagine what kind of society we'd have if we determined what we would do based upon what was the easier of two options.


Where might we go if we chose not to face difficult challenges in favor of simple, wait, I meant simplistic, solutions to important issues?


Oh I don't know... I suppose we'd have serious ongoing and inadequately addressed problems with obesity, or narrow-mindedness, or racism, or poverty, or children's health, or rampant charlatanism; all issues that would continue unabated because they would require long term attentiveness to doing what's right.


BUT, does this mean that there's nothing worth considering in this podcast? I was intrigued by the reference to what Ms. Mickes refers to as "mind readiness." And I can't help but wonder how "mind readiness" relates to Vygotsky's "zone of proximal development." 


At one level they seem to be very similar concepts in that there is a window of opportunity when thinking about things within our "readiness" zone for receptiveness. Speak to me in Croatian and I won't understand a word you say. Speak to me in Portuguese, and I won't understand a lot of what you say, but because I learned a bit of Spanish, I'll be able to listen for similarities I might notice between Spanish and Portuguese. But, of course that's still more difficult than if I just insisted that everything in the universe came to me in English.


I think the essential distinction between Ms Mickes' "mind readiness" concept and Vygotsky's "zone of proximal development" is the lack of attention to the shallowness of the implied suggestion that it's better "JUST because it's easier." Whereas, Vygotsy is suggesting that it's easier to go beyond if the challenge is "just beyond" what is easy. 


The telling distinction is Ms. Mickes suggests that a valid proof is the ease of remembering gossip compared with the ease of remembering crafted articulations of important and often challenging issues.


If she had mentioned at least in passing that mind readiness provides a window of opportunity for contemplating what we think and care about so that drivel such as the Kardashian affairs and other gossip eventually fade in our world view in favor of mind readiness for more important issues, she might have been more apt to have discovered what Vygotsky discovered long before her. 



So, a last thought...

Those who have read Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind or paid attention to Tony Wagner, and Sir Kenneth Robinson might recognize the case being built for the pending doom to professions and jobs that rely upon memorizing. We will never be able to compete with computers whose capability for memorizing is obsoleting memorizing as a valuable job skill. 


So, if it is valid to first challenge this podcast's value by challenging the premise of "memorizability" as a point of weakness in reading literature and a point of strength in reading facebook and twitter, then what single premise would you use when comparing the reading of literature to the reading of facebook and twitter?


And even more challenging, what value might we actually take in accepting the possibility that ease of memorization might actually increase retention?


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Motivate struggling readers with joke books, comics and other "junky" reads

Motivate struggling readers with joke books, comics and other "junky" reads | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Dana's simple hack of using humor to dial down reading anxiety for her son Wenxin could apply to any struggling reader.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Though this article is not terribly deep, it does strike a bit of gold that I've been giving much thought to recently.


There is a huge elephant in the literary reading classroom. No, it's not in the desks where the kids who are struggling with basic literacy are sitting. No, it's not in the front rows where the future English majors are sitting. It's right there in the middle of the classroom where those kids who can read, but either have never taken a strong enjoyment from reading or who once enjoyed hearing stories and even reading them by choice have somehow, frequently somewhere during middle school, begun to lose that essential element of literary reading called enjoyment. 


The gap between the various levels of enjoyment derived from reading and their enjoyment of reading the kinds of assigned stories for which they have not previously developed much appreciation, combined with the requirement to analyze literary devices, to pass quizzes, and write essays may be a fairly obvious set of circumstances connecting the reading of "good" literature to a gradual, and if truth be told, often steep decline in literary reading.


Do we need to "dumb down" expectations for these kids? I don't think so. But, we really ought to keep in mind that if, in our good intentions, we inadvertently kill the enjoyment of just reading a good story about things they like to read about, we may actually be contributing to losing them as life long readers. 


As I look back  on my own experiences with learning to appreciate the value of quality I clearly recall that in every instance it was a transitionary process.


I loved comic books, Mad Magazine, and junky reads before those interests widened into an appreciation for great satire and great story telling. 


I hated Romeo and Juliet as a pimply-faced teen age boy before I came to appreciate Shakespeare. Of course I read R&J as a freshman at a time when romantic love just wasn't anything I was interested in reading about. I never had a girlfriend; never had so much as a sister, a female cousin or even anything like a friendship with a girl that was as rich as my deep friendships with my guy friends.  And, like it or not, I truly believe that Shakespeare's language was a barrier that I just wasn't all that interested in overcoming. The language combined with my lack of having discovered any other reason to read the play pretty much made for a miserable experience.


 Ironically, because of my wobbly-at-best connection to my Jewish heritage, and a couple of years of maturity, I found myself much more receptive to the storyline in The Merchant of Venice.


It's a pattern that takes some transition time...


I also enjoyed junk food before I enjoyed fine food, and long before I appreciated healthy food.


I enjoyed the Three Stooges before I enjoyed dramatic films. In fact, I still remember the paradigm expanding impact of seeing The Graduate. Funny and thought-provoking! A perfect bridge.


I enjoyed having trendy clothes and cars before I found the shallowness in devoting huge chunks of money and concern to giving a darn about such superficial things.


So what's my point? Instilling, nurturing, and encouraging an ongoing LOVE of reading comes before, and perhaps in the long run is even more important than the development of an appreciation for literature. This may be particularly so if the appreciation for literary reading rests upon experiences that are deadly to pre-existing levels of reading enjoyment derived by many of our struggling and reluctant readers. 


And, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that like myself, if my pre-existing enjoyment of reading, junky as it might have been is built upon, we just might find that, as was also true in my case, that we might wind up with far more life long readers than we currently do; and perhaps even far more English majors as well.


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On Common Core | Nonfiction as Mentor Text | School Library Journal

On Common Core | Nonfiction as Mentor Text | School Library Journal | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"Many people still hold to the belief that nonfiction writing is “just the facts,” often synonymous with formulaic, dull writing. Nothing could be further from the truth! For years, authors of all genres have honed their writing by reading literary nonfiction by the likes of David McCullough, Anna Quindlen, John McPhee, Susan Orlean, and so many others."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I've been on a nonfiction binge of sorts over the past few years. And, I've noticed a serious shift in the way authors are documenting nonfictional stories.


Whether I'm reading Mary Roach's Stiff and Packing for Mars,  Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman, or Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: the World as a Stage or others such as  Toby Lester's The Fourth Part of the World, Marc Aronson's and Marina Budhos' Sugar Changed the World or Elizabeth Partridge's Marching for Freedom, the last three of whom I had the pleasure of working directly with in developing Google Lit Trips for their books, I've come to realize that even when recording the facts of an event, it's the story of the event that makes the facts interesting, engaging, and perhaps even meaningful. It is the narrative quality of modern nonfiction writing that captures and engages readers. 


I think among my earliest experiences with this phenomenon were my encounters with Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States and Ronald Takaki's A Different Mirror.


I've also come to realize that whether the story is fiction or nonfiction, neither is capable of telling the "whole story." I've long understood the truth in fiction. And the short comings in telling the "whole truth" in non fiction.


But rather than condemn either as not being trustworthy, I prefer to recognize that the whole truth has many facets. And, to be more fully informed, we need to first be cautious about the extent of our knowledge of the whole truth and second to recognize that neither fiction nor nonfiction can provide quite enough of the various facets of the truth of the human condition and yet each can contribute more of the whole truth when read together.


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Literature class a service alternative for some county offenders - | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information - Williamsport-Sun Gazette

Going before a judge in a courtroom with a probation officer by your side generally means that you have offended society and need to pay the price.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:



Though it was probably not the ability to identify the use of extended metaphor or the ability to select a correct definition for "protagonist" or "iambic pentameter" from a multiple choice list of 4 possible correct answers that changed the lives of these offenders, there is a more difficult to measure, but far more important potential value that results from reading literature.


Perhaps we ought not to lose sight of what literature brings to our lives whether we happen to be inclined towards becoming English majors or not.


I just wonder how we can best quantify that value. 



 ~ ~





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Common Core Literacy Standards: Portrait of College & Career Readiness or Habits of Mind

Common Core Literacy Standards: Portrait of College & Career Readiness or Habits of Mind | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
I am an idealist. I am an optimist. I credit my optimism for carrying me in times of trial and grief. I look for the best in people and in situations. I believe positivism generates enthusiasm and ...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

An interesting read for teachers of reading who find themselves "pounding tables" during faculty and department meetings devoted to the Common Core Standards. 


When we find ourselved either literally or metaphorically table pounding about the pros or cons associated with the Common Core Standards, we might find ourselves so locked into our position that we might have great difficulty identifying the elements of the opposing argument that are worth considering and conceding as having merit not particularly well addressed by our own positions.


The first task in taking a thoughtful position is to inform ourselves regarding the defenses and critiques being put forward  by the intelligent and well-informed on both sides. Actually I suppose this means to weed out the loud and less well informed white noise. 


Is the 70% informational reading /30% literary reading controversy a demotion of literary reading or a spreading of the responsibility for all reading instruction across the curriculum?


Does the stated goal of college and career readiness include or overlook the other literary benefits to life beyond college and career such as being good parents and neighbors, responsible and understanding members of our various communities, and being open to at least an appreciation and respect for the perspectives, cultures, points-of-view, histories and traditions of others?


This article is a thoughtul endorsement of the Common Core Reading Standards. Though it is clear that the author has not addressed some major concerns such as whether or not the Common Core is a sufficiently funded mandate or whether assessment structures for literary reading are done in authentic conditions capable of adequately limiting the margin of error factor caused by a cold reading of an excerpt under the pressure of high stakes testing, are capable of measuring whether the student takes value from reading or has only gained the advanced literary skills useful for scholarly analysis, whether or not the benefits of being able to do so are indicators of whether the benefits of liteary reading are even received. 


But, raising and intelligently addressing counterarguments one way or the other is a necessary obligation of those entrusted with the education of any society. To pick a side and expect those with opposing points of view to be open to respectful consideration of those points of view while being open to reconsidering or refining their own points of view without being willing to do so ourselves is folly. 


In reading this article, I found myself at times in agreement with some positions and defenses and  disagreeing with some positions and defenses at other times. 


It seemed like a perfect opportunity to employ my standby practice of color-coding my initial reactions whereby I'd pull out my three different colored highlighters and highlight parts of the article that I had a strong positive reaction to in green, parts that I had an initial strong negative reaction to in red, and partis that I had quite mixed feelings about in yellow. 


And then after a day or two, I'd go back and revisit my initial "gut reactions" and challenge myself to understand the thinking behind intelligent and informed people who might well have a very different distribution of green, red, and yellow highlights than I had. And, rather than take the position that my only obligation at that point was to fiercely defend my positions as "trump cards" in a winner take all debate, to take the position that the debate is too important to not constantly be reconsidering my own opinions in light of any thought provoking influences that respect for and openness to the thoughts and concerns of other points of view might bring.







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A host of heroes - April Gudenrath

A host of heroes - April Gudenrath | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
can some of literature’s most famous heroes teach us? From the epic
hero (like Beowulf) to the tragic hero (like Oedipus), each has something
distinctive to share.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:




Sometimes we just run across a pretty darned incredible resource for teaching literature. This short video makes the different types of heroes in literature and the roles they play so clear...and best of all, the role they play in our lives.


Can it get any cooler? YES! You can actually "Flip" the lessons yourself and wrap your own lessons around each video. 


AND, it just keeps getting cooler. You can use the site to create a lesson for any video on YouTube! Host that lesson on 


You can assign the lesson and even track your students' progress through the lessons. 


And (I'm hyperventilating!) this is only one of several great lessons in literature. Check this out...


And, literature is only one of several subjects represented.


BUT... just watch this video for an overview of the project.


Probably the most inspiring 2:42 minute video I've seen in a loooong time!



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Luis Alfonso Romero's curator insight, June 15, 2013 2:04 PM

Héroes- Beowulf

Fabrizio Bartoli's curator insight, August 13, 2013 3:36 AM

Flipped English Literature tips...

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Are you as well-read as a 10th grader? Take our quiz. - "The Odyssey," by Homer -

Are you as well-read as a 10th grader? Take our quiz. - "The Odyssey," by Homer - | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
States all across America are adopting standards for what high school freshman and sophomores should be reading. Take this quiz to see how well you know the titles now appearing on many public US high school reading lists.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Take this quiz FIRST (really)


and then watch this video:


and then ask yourself, "What's the problem?"


And then take just a moment to leave a comment below. 



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Six Full Songs from The Great Gatsby Soundtrack

Six Full Songs from The Great Gatsby Soundtrack | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The only thing that may be more anticipated than The Great Gatsby movie is the soundtrack, executively produced by Jay Z. The soundtrack includes music by The xx, Florence + the Machine and Andre
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Love Gatsby?

Just found this site that might make a great bridge between your students' interest in contemporary music and your interest in teaching Gatsby.

Here's a list of some of the contemporary musicians on the soundtrack just in case you want to check them out so you can reference them in class discussions.


I'm just wondering how kids might welcome a teacher's modeling the kind of interest in learning more about what his or her students care about that the teacher hopes his or her students might have or develop in learning more about what literature teachers care about.


The soundtrack is executively produced by Jay Z.

The xx

Florence and the Machine

André 3000

Lana Del Rey






By the way, there's no doubt that these artists and their fans will be abuzz on the artist's official websites, Facebook pages, and on Twitter specifically about their work on The Great Gatsby project. Seems like a ripe opportunity to let students incorporate their interest in any of the artists into a personalized learning experience while reading Gatsby.



Something to think about...

I can't help recalling the reactions by various English teacher friends of mind when DeCaprio's Romeo and Juliet came out. Many loved it; many did not.


In either case, whether Romeo and Juliet was or Gatsby is great adaptation or not, keep in mind that if it engages your students in an receptiveness to the story, encourage the receptiveness. Treat it like the carrot dangled in front of the otherwise reluctant horse's nose.


By the way, one of my favorite post reading a book and a subsequent film-viewing activities was a brain storming activity built around the following questions...


1. What did the film maker leave out of the film that YOU think was really important in the book?


2. What did the film maker put in the film that the author might have liked even though it wasn't in the book?


3. Which character in the film do YOU think did the best / worst job of portraying the original character?


Students who could list important scenes left out of the movie were pretty pround of their knowledge and discovered their own reasons to critique the film.


Students who could list scenes added to the film that the author might like anyway, were pretty proud of their "seeing" the connection  between the scene and their understanding of the author's themes.


Students who could list reasons why a particular character was well or not so well represented, were pretty proud of their understanding of a character's motives and purpose for being in the original story.


The point being, that the students were always welcome to like or dislike the film, but they got the opportunity to express their opinion in a way that let them enthusiastically show what they knew about the author's intentions.


And, yes, it works with film adaptations we love like To Kill A Mockingbird that pretty much left out the importance of Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra. And, it works with the worst of adaptations like the most recent adaptation of Animal Farm that put a happy ending on the movie and with the children's book Cloudy with Meatballs that never really did get around to having much to do with the original story.



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IS's curator insight, April 30, 2013 2:33 PM

I cannot wait for this film - hopefully it will do the tale of corruption, disillusionment, dreams, glamour and  squandered love justice.  Fingers crossed - Baz hasn't let me down yet!

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Literature in the age of distraction

Literature in the age of distraction | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"A two-minute break from writing to fact-check something on the internet turns into a half-hour session of surfing the web; a difficult section of a short story in-progress becomes an excuse to repeatedly check my Facebook. I can’t sit down and read a hundred pages of a novel straight through without checking my texts or suddenly remembering that I have to email so-and-so and leave the book lying facedown to open up my inbox, which invariably leads to a chain of online distractions as I open new tabs, follow hyperlinks, and check out what that one girl I graduated from high school with made herself for dinner."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Certainly worth some serious contemplation...


I suspect that even the geekiest of technophiles might find a great deal of truth in this confession piece regarding our 24/7 technology-based treasure chest of distractions.


I don't play games or feel a need to check Facebook hourly, But, I'm a real Pavlovian dog when I hear the email bell ring. 


I've benefited immensely from embedded hyperlinks and found myself off on lengthy "oh this looks interesting" side trips. Many such side trips proved to be exquisitely serendipitous. But truthfully, just as many proved to be embarrassingly addictive, but a great waste of time that I did not have to waste. 


But, I suppose that I shouldn't blame the ice cream that I know is in the freezer when I'm intending to find the salad ingredients and "really" work on losing that extra five pounds I've been meaning to lose for months.


And, I suppose I shouldn't blame the 49ers that I know are playing a big game when I'm intending to do some major yardwork that "I've been too busy" to get to for weeks.


It's true that temptation is a powerful force. But, to blame the temptation is also a temptation difficult to avoid. It's certainly easier to externalize the cause of issues that annoy, aggravate, or test our personal discipline.


And, whether we are prone to jump on the tendency to blame the temptation when it is related to issues for which we might have a negative bias, we might take another look when the temptation is that ice cream in the freezer because we know the power of temptation is not always as easy to resist as we wish it were. 


So, are the internet temptations that test our personal discipline something "new"? Looking back, there is no doubt that the temptations are more plentiful than when I was younger. But, in a sense that is meaningless. In those pre-internet days, unaware that the number of temptations would someday appear to have been minimal, were more than enough to test my personal discipline.


I never smoked cigarettes, but I did succumb to serious the serious temptation of wanting to entertain my classmates with my classroom buffoonery. 


Whether it was peer pressure to be at the cutting edge of trendy fashions, to have a car that was ridiculously pretentious my personal discipline levels were inconsistent at best.


Today, though I am pretty geeky when it comes to some aspects of technology, I can't help but wonder what percentage of my geekiness is peer pressure related. And, let there be no doubt that there is significant peer pressure tempting up to jump on every "new thing" that comes along or to feel "behind" at whatever it is that is the modern day equivalent of the water cooler.


But what's new about that? I suspect that if I were Adam and Eve tantalized me into tasting the forbidden fruit, I may well not have had the personal discipline to stay focused.


However, it would be unwise to consider that the power of temptation and the weakness of personal discipline has always been with us and thus, conclude that "it's always been that way so there's nothing we can do about it. Or, fool ourselves by concluding that the only thing we can do about it is to reduce the temptation.


Really? Good luck with that.


Perhaps rather than throwing rocks at the temptation we ought to be more mindful regarding our susceptibility to temptation and give some thought as to what we can do about that.


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Ed-Tech Readers’ Choice Awards nominations | eSchool News

Ed-Tech Readers’ Choice Awards nominations | eSchool News | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Have you had success with a particular ed-tech product or service? Want to recognize that product and share your success with your colleagues? Then nominate
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Anyone interested in nominating Google Lit Trips for this recognition? Deadline is tomorrow!


"Nominations must come from school or district personnel only, and the person submitting the nomination should have a valid school-issued eMail address. No nominations by vendors, please."


eSchool News did list Google Lit Trips as #3 on it's recent listing of Ten of the best virtual field trips.





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PHOTOS: Awesome Literacy Campaign Wins Major Award

PHOTOS: Awesome Literacy Campaign Wins Major Award | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
This French literacy campaign cleverly rewards closer reading. A creation of ad agency DDB Paris, and translated into English below, it has just been awarded an internationally recognized prize.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

So whaddya think?

Will this ad campaign work?


 ~ http://www/ ~

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John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!! | Video on

Does texting mean the death of good writing skills? John McWhorter posits that there’s much more to texting -- linguistically, culturally -- than it seems, and it’s all good news.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

An intriguing defense of txtng. 


I'm not a huge fan of texting myself. I text occassionally, but still prefer to just type what I would say if standing near the person. I make few attempts to save "valuable time" by abbreviating the spelling of words I'm using. Though recently I've picked up suggestions that not doing so is somehow sending red flags that I'm too old to be paid any attention to by those so much younger than I am and apparently so much wiser than I am.


Actually, part of my resistance to using texting abbreviation is probably motivated by the same forces that I used to perceive in others as being signs of a Luddite. 


So how to respond to this challenging talk?


What did I hear that I hadn't sufficiently considered before?


And, what did I not hear that I think should also have been considered?


I won't bother you with my lengthy responses to both questions. I actually meant them to be rhetorical anyway.


But, I did hear several thought-provoking and potentially opinion shifting ideas producing a positive response that I had not previously held regarding texting. 


And, at the same time, there were a few concerns that I still have regarding texting's place in the development of effective communication between people or perhaps that comes inbetween people that weren't addressed.


That's all, I'm just saying.


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Twitter / AuntieDote: Gone Reading! :) ...

Twitter / AuntieDote: Gone Reading! :) ... | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

No real comment, just sort of cute.


But I can't help wondering whether the cartoon leans towards iPads because they don't consume trees or leans towards paper-based books without regard for tree consumption.


But, of course, technology also has it's questionable resource consumption as well.


Katrina Marie Jarman's curator insight, April 30, 2013 3:12 AM

Kids need to read more. End of story.

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20 Literary Facts To Impress Your Friends With

20 Literary Facts To Impress Your Friends With | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Aside from scoring book nerd points, these will also help you dominate on trivia night!
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I don't know about you but I like these kinds of articles. As an English major and an English teacher for nearly four decades, I'm always pleasantly amused at the discovery of "new" back stories particularly about books I've taught repeatedly.


I don't know how many times I did dramatic readings of the entire Of Mice and Men complete with theatre style lighting in my classroom, dressed as a teacher sort of (denim jeans and shirt with tie and jacket... you know the look) and then as I began to read the story aloud I'd casually remove my jacket. A few minutes later I'd remove my tie, followed a few minutes later by rolling up my sleeves and then in subsequent several minutes gaps, I'd pull out a red bandana, wipe my brow and tie it around my neck. Another gap and I'd pull out my old cap just like the one I'd seen George wearing if one of the films. And then I'd hit the projector switch that was set to show a slide of the Salinas valley on the white board behind me.


Okay, I was really into it, and within a single class period the kids were locked into a genuine suspension of disbelief and they wanted to know what was going to happen next.


So when I saw the trivia point about Of Mice and Men in this article, I had to smile since Of Mice and Men was one of the several books that I had dug deeper into than any of the books I taught over the years.


I had no idea about the trivia regarding Don Quixote or Roald Dahl, a writer who I truly like but had no idea regarding the trivia  mentioned here.


This is also the kind of "back story" stuff that I found many students intrigued by as well. It's not quite the same as the historical background stuff we also share. There's something about the "did you know?" impact of author and book back story that has a different engagement factor for kids than the traditional academic back story stuff.


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Karen Chichester's curator insight, April 29, 2013 9:32 AM

Very interesting information. Complete with different backstories. 

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LOOK: Gun Control PSAs Are Breathtakingly Powerful

LOOK: Gun Control PSAs Are Breathtakingly Powerful | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
A striking new series of PSAs produced by the organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America seeks to illustrate what the organization's founder calls "the absurdity of our country's current lax laws and weak regulation of guns." The...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

There are several ads in this campaign, but the first one in this article is especially worth contemplating for those who teach reading. 


I suppose there are plenty of "Yeah, buts..." 






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Justin Bieber Wishes Anne Frank Could Have Been A Belieber

Justin Bieber Wishes Anne Frank Could Have Been A Belieber | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
This kind of makes us cringe. Justin Bieber stopped by the Anne Frank House on Friday (April 12), touring the Amsterdam hiding place of the young Holocaust victim and diarist.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

And the other story of the day was that of the of the New York teacher who had students pretend to be Jew-hating Nazi's who had to "write a letter trying to convince an official of the Third Reich "that Jews are evil and the source of our problems." (

The description of the teacher's actual assignment leads me to assume that the ntent was probably well-intended, however the teacher's thoughtlessness may well equal that of the self-centered naivete behind Justin Bieber's thoughtlessness.

In thinking about the coincidence of the timing of these two stories, I began to wonder how I might turn the Bieber story into an effective learning experience and the teacher story into an opportunity for at least some introspective professional development.

In Bieber's case, it might be just as thoughtless as the probable well-intended thoughtlessness of the teacher's writing assignment to throw the ignorance (in the purest sense of the word meaning "not knowing" rather than in the ill-informed sense of the word as if it were a synonym for "stupid") in the faces of students who may well be as uninformed about the magnitude of the tragedy of the holocaust as Bieber. 

One need not excuse Bieber's thoughtlessness because it resulted from his youthful self-centered obliviousness any more than one need not excuse the teacher's thoughtlessness because it resulted from a well-intended wish to connect students' personal connection to the real world tragedy of the holocaust to the pending reading of Elie Wiesel's Night.

It might be an interesting learning experience to devote some class time to a discussion of "regret" rather than to a condemnation of Bieber's remark. First of all because Bieber is not a representation of the lack of empathy of "kids these days," but rather an example of someone who has done on a vastly larger scale because of his fame, something that we might hope he will soon feel enormous regret, so much so that he might actually soon issue a sincere and heartfelt apology in hopes of modeling for his fan base the importance of humility.

We all have, including the teacher who gave the Nazi writing assignment, regrets. Again, this is not offered as an excuse, but as an example of the truth that we all are capable of occasional poor judgment. The opportunity is ripe for addressing the way good people respond to the negative impact of our occasional poor judgment so that the inevitable poor judgment does not become "frequent" poor judgment because we did not take the opportunity to reflect on our actions and thereby to take to heart the thoughtful effort to "Prevent Regrets" of thoughtlessness in the future.

Does learning from our thoughtlessness undo the damage our thoughtlessness has done? Of course not, but reducing our own contribution to the damage caused by thoughtlessness is certainly a chagrin caused to all of us by the thoughtlessness of others and ourselves.

By the way, this article sharing some of Bieber's fan's comments about the Anne Frank story may also be of "interest." ;


It's clear that many of his fans recognize the thoughtlessness while many thinking, as Bieber did, only of their own interest in being entertaining, take the opportunity to make jokes rather than to think about the lesson Bieber's comments might spur.


Bieber, still young, still marinating in the dillusional power of wealth and fame, is at a crossroad. Will he step up and do the right thing or not? 


Will his handlers gather in intense discussions as to how to choreograph a damage control strategy designed to "control the damage" Bieber might have done to his own marketability?


Or will they too step up and help the young performer to see the damage he has done to others and then take responsibility for helping him to model for his millions of fans the "justness" of doing the right thing?


These are issues his teen fanbase can engage in, because every one of them has engaged in behaviors that were ill-thought out and for which they too found themselves having to decide what the right thing to do might be.


How different is the situation that the teacher and Justin find themselves in?


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Michael Holm's comment, April 20, 2013 8:33 PM
I don't think its that big of a deal... but he was really stupid for saying that.
Lexypries's comment, April 22, 2013 10:21 AM
I agree with sydney and Michael it's not really a big deal that he said that, and it definately did make him look pretty stupid saying it.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's comment, April 22, 2013 6:26 PM
So, why don't you think it's a big deal? Is your opinion any more well thought out than his was? Do you know enough to make your opinion worth considering?
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Ten of the best virtual field trips | eSchool News

Ten of the best virtual field trips | eSchool News | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
To help educators save time, we've chosen these 10 virtual field trips based on their relevancy, depth and quality of resources, and potential for student excitement.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Wow! Google Lit Trips in the # 3 slot on My eSchool News article, "Ten of the best virtual field trips."



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