Posted in Food for Thought

The Power of Words

I think the power words have is often underestimated. I think because they’re so easy to say and so small and casual when printed that people forget how much weight and power words have. But the truth is, in my opinion, words are the most powerful thing out there. Words are everything. Let’s think about the enormity of this for a minute:

  1. Words are how we communicate. We might not all speak the same language, but we all communicate using the same foundation – words. Without words there would be a lot less communication, sharing of ideas, and collaborating.
  2. Words are how we share stories. They’re how we share fiction and non-fiction. Think about how sad a place the world would be without stories.
  3. Words are how we connect with other people. Words can lift someone up or break someone down. We have an enormous amount of power with our words, and we choose on a regular basis if we’ll use that power for good or evil.

Words have power, but that power is often underestimated or undervalued. I think it’s time we do something to change that. We need to teach our students about the power of words.

BB

Posted in Food for Thought

Comparing Books and Movies

There are people in the world who like books. There are people in the world who like movies. And there are people in the world who like both. I’m the kind of person who likes both.

It’s great to like both if you can understand that books and movies are not the same. They are never going to be the same. It simply isn’t possible. But people who like books and who like movies often struggle because they do not always like movie adaptations. It can be hard to separate a beloved book from its big screen counterpart. People who love books and movies claim that plot lines are altered, characters vanish, it just wasn’t as good as the book. These opinions are not always wrong. I just think there’s more to it than those simple opinions.

Let’s remember that movies aren’t claiming to be books. They’re interpretations of the books. They’re reimaginings of the story the book told. Sometimes they give viewers a fresh perspective or a scene not in the book because it didn’t quite fit. It’s a new way for readers to understand the story; readers should embrace and appreciate that.

Sometimes the beauty lies in comparing books and movies. Were the story lines the same? Was the point of view the same? Were there new characters or different twists and turns? Compare and analyze the two versions of the story and see what the results are.

Remember to be open to change, to different interpretations, to reimaginations of stories. A book and a movie not matching perfectly isn’t the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to embrace a new perspective, learn something new, and see a familiar story in a new life.

BB

Posted in Food for Thought

The Importance of Reading Things You’re Interested In

I think I long ago established that I think it’s important to read. And I do. Books have been, are, and will continue to be an important part of my life. Not only do I think it’s important to read, but I genuinely love to read. I love immersing myself in stories and meeting new characters and going on new journeys and adventures. My parents, especially my mom, have fostered a love of reading in me, and over the years it has completely bloomed and blossomed.

With my love of reading pronounced, it might be easy to assume that I like to read everything and anything. That’s not true. I do try to be open about reading new things. I think as a young teacher it’s important to read often and to read a wide variety of texts. I won’t always get to handpick the texts I teach, and I also want to be able to talk with my students about what they’re reading, even if it isn’t necessarily something I would have chosen for myself. At the same time there are things I love to read and things I have very little interest in reading. I love young adult literature and children’s books and fairy tales. I have very little interest in most non-fiction.

I think it’s really important to know what you like to read. I had to read texts in school that I had very little genuine interest in reading. Not every text is interesting to every reader. That’s just not the way the world works. And if those texts were all I’d ever taken the time to read, I probably wouldn’t love reading as much as I do.

In my mind, a love of reading comes from having choices. It’s great to be able to grow up in a house full of books with parents who love and encourage reading. But even if that’s not the situation of your students, you can still do your part to foster a love of reading with your students. Build an expansive class library if you can. Take your students to the library at school or arrange a field trip to a local library. Let students explore books and find what they love and what they’re interested in. Talk with them about books, and have honest conversations about them. Let them know it’s OK to not like something, but they need to be able to explain why. Work to help your students find books that make their hearts sing, whatever those books may be.

BB

Posted in Food for Thought, Regular Update

Updating and Pondering

First, a simple update. I have finished grad school! My certification paperwork is in the works. I am moving into the next chapter of life, and I am very excited about all of that. I am currently substitute teaching and looking for jobs. I am also very excited about the holidays and everything the future holds.

Now to move onto the pondering. I have a journal where I keep notes for this blog, teaching ideas, teaching resources, professional development notes, and all sorts of other job related things. This journal goes to work with me every day. And sometimes when I’m at work I just sit and think. Today I started thinking about technology and the classroom and how the two relate and all sorts of other related things. And as I thought I came up with a list of questions. I thought that here would be a great place to share those questions and see what all of you thought.

  • What are good ways to use cell phones in the classroom?
  • What are good ways to bring technology into the classroom?
  • How can technology be used for differentiation?
  • How can social media connect to English class?
  • How can students connect with English class?
  • How can writing be made fun and accessible?
  • What are ways students can connect with older/classic texts?
  • What are students reading and how can that be brought into the classroom?
  • How can grammar be fun?
  • How can I get my students to read on their own and on a regular basis?
  • How can I make a great class library?
  • What are good ways to connect texts to today’s world?
  • How can I make reading and writing relevant?

I’m sure that with time I’ll add more questions to the list. And please feel free to share your own questions with me or give me your thoughts on my questions.

BB

Posted in Classroom Ideas, Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

Guided Note Taking

I love the idea of guided note taking. I’ve always been the type of student who wants to write everything in a presentation down; that’s just how I’m wired. And sometimes it’s hard to write down everything that’s on the board and listen to the professor and actually learn something. There are probably many ways to work around the dilemma, but I’m partial to the idea of guided note taking.

Here’s how it works. Make your presentation. Your PowerPoint or Google Slides or whatever it may be. Then make another copy. Take out the really important parts – key words, statistics, diagram labels. Whatever it is. Print out this copy – the one with the blanks. Give that copy to students. Allow them to fill in the important information, but don’t make them worry about the fluff. They’ll take better notes, pay more attention, and really learn the material because they aren’t panicking. (This is my theory at least.)

So give it a shot. See how it works for you. Maybe guided note taking isn’t the best fit. But I think it’s great to try something new, something a little different, and see if there’s a way to make it work. You certainly have nothing to lose.

BB

Posted in Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

The Importance of Literary Analysis

In past posts I’ve written about young adult literature and literary classics. In this post I want to talk about literary analysis.

Analysis is one of those things in the world of English that I really struggle with. It’s not the same type of struggle that I face with reading the classics. That’s something I can grow into, learn to love. Analysis is a little bit different. I know that analysis is important. I know that analysis is kind of a big deal. But I struggle with it.

I think that part of the problem is that much of my reading is done for pleasure. I don’t want to analyze a text when I’m reading it for pleasure. I don’t want to be looking for figurative language or themes or anything like that. I want to embrace a story and let it absorb me when I’m reading for pleasure. I just want to love what I’m reading.

But as an English major and an almost English teacher, I have to embrace analyzing literature. I have to actually actively analyze literature. I have to teach students how to analyze literature.

And I will. Over the years I’ve developed tips, tricks, and techniques for analyzing literature. I have Post-Its and annotations and all sorts of other knowledge. And I know that analysis is important, so I’ll teach it as such.

But in the interest of full disclosure, when I’m reading for pleasure, I’m just going to let myself be absorbed by the story. Sometimes that really is the most important thing.

BB

Posted in Classroom Ideas, Food for Thought

The Importance of Reading the Classics

Last week I blogged about young adult literature. In that post I talked about the fact that reading the classics is important and is something that needs to be done. Really I wrote an entire paragraph on the importance of balanced reading. So this post is all about reading the classics and my thoughts on that.

Reading the classics has always been something I’ve struggled with. The classics aren’t something that’s ever truly and deeply interested me. I know that some people are really drawn towards the classics, but I’ve always been pulled more towards YAL. It’s where I felt I fit best; they’re the books that felt like home.

But as I’ve grown up and moved forward in life, and especially as I’ve moved closer to becoming an English teacher, I’ve realized I want to be more well read. I think it’s important for a couple of different reasons.

  1. I want to be well read so I can have educated conversations about literature. I majored in English, and I want to be able to sound like I did.
  2. I want to understand the texts I’ll teach my students. A lot of times these texts are classics. Therefore, I need a certain level of familiarity.
  3. The classics I have read, I’ve largely fallen in love with. To Kill A Mockingbird anyone?

These are all good reasons, but there’s one more I think is really important. I think it’s important to model good reading habits for my students. I think to model good reading habits I have to read a variety of books and texts and talk about them. I think we have to be honest about our likes and dislikes and explain why we feel the way we feel. This will allow students a solid example and foundation to build their own reading habits on. And ultimately, don’t we want our students to be readers?

BB