Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekly Roundup: GoodReads and Science News for Kids

This week was mainly about pleasure reading. (yay!)
Here's what we did:

Grade 9 English: 
Guiding Question - Why use GoodReads?

Grade 9 English teachers have set themselves a goal to increase their students' pleasure reading outcomes. They have agreed that students will read whatever they choose and that they will give time in class for silent pleasure reading. When they came to me to ask about a way to structure this, I jumped on the idea of setting students up with GoodReads accounts.

My reading goal ends in December
GoodReads has been the #1 way I sustain my motivation to read. As I tell students, I love to read, but I also love to watch TV! Sometimes it's hard to make time to read when it's easier to sit and chill. What keeps me going with books? GoodReads. Knowing my friends are out there reading and sharing keeps me motivated to do the same.

My Shelves
Students created accounts, set their privacy and notification settings, created avatars for their profile pictures, and set a reading goal for now through December. We talked about adding "shelves" to help sort or categorize their books. They "friended' others in their classes and their teachers and are expected to check their updates at least once a week. In short, they accomplished a lot in one session!

We'll meet next week to see how it's going and talk about writing good "blurbs." 

Grade 6 Humanities: 
Guiding Question - What's the difference between "Middle Fiction" and "Fiction"?

"Middle" Fiction books
Our sixth grade Humanities teachers are committed to making time for students to find books in the library and giving students time to read for pleasure. In this first session, students learned how to find books using the catalog, "Destiny Quest," and we talked about the difference between "Middle Fiction" and "Fiction." 

Middle Fiction books are chosen for their topics; these books deal with issues appropriate for sixth through eighth graders. The reading level of these books covers a wide range from elementary level through high school level. The topics also vary widely: school stories, friendship issues, horror, light romance, and historical fiction such as the Holocaust. It's a section that's good for everyone.

"Fiction" books
Fiction books are chosen for their topics and reading level. The topics are appropriate for students in grades 9 and up, although some middle school students may find topics of interest to them as well. The reading level of books in the "Fiction" section is geared toward the upper grades. 

Middle Schoolers checking out books from the "Fiction" section learn to read the back cover and inside flap of their books to make an informed choice about the content, and they learn to read the first pages to make a choice about the difficulty of the text.

Grade 7 Science: 
Guiding Questions - How should we choose a news article for our Science project? What's the difference between browsing and searching?

Our grade 7 Science teacher asks students to complete four reviews during the year about science articles they have found interesting. In our session, we reviewed the two key "musts" for finding a good article: 

1) it's interesting
2) we can read and understand it! 

We talked about the difference between browsing and searching. Browsing is when we're poking around and getting ideas about what we're interested in. Searching is when we know exactly what we want to find. To begin this assignment, most students chose to browse. 

They started the browsing process using selected online resources (linked from our new library website). We also showed our print collection of magazines. Science News, Popular Science, and National Geographic all have articles for seventh graders ready for a more challenging read. Current and back issues can be checked out to read at home, and we have a photocopier in the library for student use, too.

After showing various science news sites,
we talked about how to search by reading level in google. 

We can filter or narrow our search by choosing "Search Tools" after entering our search terms. One of the search tools is "Reading Level" and that gives us three filtering options: basic, intermediate, and advanced. 

We looked at sample sites at each reading level to get a sense of how dense the text can be in various websites.

Finally, we talked about saving articles. Students learned to use the "Share" button found on most websites to send articles to their email. 

EAL (English as an Additional Language):
Guiding Question - How can we find books for our age with words we can understand?

An "Interest Level" search
Students in middle school who are just starting to learn English have a special challenge when it comes to finding books. They need simple vocabulary, such as those written for elementary-age readers, but they want stories that deal with topics for teenagers. 

Then add a "Reading Level" search
Happily, Destiny Quest lets students narrow their search for books by interest level and then by reading level. Students can choose their current grade for interest level and a lower grade for reading level. This gives them a book for a teenage audience with basic vocabulary.

We also have a section of books put aside especially for EAL readers. These are shorter books with beginning vocabulary that have covers with teen appeal.

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