Research Update – February

Better late than never, right?

I am feeling a little stalled with my Masters Research and upcoming Literature Review.

My activity:

  • I’ve downloaded about 15 articles
  • I’ve read a few articles and skimmed many others
  • I selected a citation tool! (That’s one for the “WIN” column!) Mendeley: free, easy, friendly, and shareable.

My inactivity:

  • I am not even sure which articles have any value for my project or my Literature Review
  • I have not been excited or inspired by any of the articles so far, except for a Lit Review from Great Britain from 2009. Too old.
  • I feel like I am reading FOR something, but I am not sure exactly what it is
  • Leftover from the summer sessions where I felt blindsided when I learned that the articles I had specifically selected from the University Library were not actually Peer Reviewed – although the Library had listed them as Peer Reviewed. I learned about this bizarre grey area where peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles cohabitate.
  • I struggle with formulaic writing. I know that I can do it, no one my age can make it through high school without learning how to slap together an essay, but I need a formula that works for me. I don’t know what I am doing or how to start.
  • My topic is still fuzzy. How can I start writing without a topic?

I’ve done everything to kick-start my process: web my ideas, journal informally, list ideas, re-list ideas, web my listed ideas, talk with people, read for more information, etc. I met with our professor earlier this month and she gave me great advice about telling my own story as part of this Masters project, and then looking for research to substantiate the actions or decisions that I made. Narrative writing makes me happy, and seems like a nice place to start. The most difficult thing about this is that I lost my “journals” about my process of initiating BYOD in my classroom last year when our blogs hosted at UVic were lost. Some of my most authentic reflections are gone. Those “in the moment” reflections are difficult to recreate.

I am excited about using Mendeley as a citation tool. A few of us got together to learn about it and will be blogging about it soon.

I’m not sure what to do next. Do I continue to read and hope something sparks? Do I continue to write sweet nothings on my so-called Lit Review? I know that I need to refine my keywords and pick a clear direction for selecting more articles to add to the pile. I also think that it is time to contact the UVic Research Librarian for help.

I also need to organize the articles I have printed. How much information do I need to keep with these articles? I believe that I need to have the location they were retrieved from and the search terms used. Anything else?

Taking some advice from Tracey Thorne means that my next step is to read, read, read and look for themes. It’s nice to have a plan.



Hanging with the #pdppposseRC

I was excited to connect with @mlleballen and the #pdppposse from #edci336 through BlueJeans on January 22 to chat Middle School book clubs. I was surprised by the number of people in attendance – a great group to meet!

I feel like I must first start by apologizing for the number of interruptions on my end – it was my prep block, but a closed classroom door actually means “welcome, come on in!” in Middle School!

I had an opportunity to hear about the books that everyone else was reading, and I got to add a couple of titles to my “must read” list. I discussed a few books that I often suggest to my readers for Literature Circles or Book Clubs, or just as great reads. I may have left a few titles off of my rapid-fire list (thanks your patience, #pdpposseRC!). Here are some of my favourite titles:

Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie – Jordan Sonnenblick

Elsewhere – Gabrielle Zevin

Schooled – Gordan Korman

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda – Tom Angleberger

Pig Boy – Vicki Grant

Out of my Mind – Sharon Draper

A Mango Shaped Space – Wendy Mass

The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke

Some of my favourite authors for Middle School readers are on that list: Wendy Mass, Sharon Creech, Gordan Korman and Jordan Sonnenblick.

Some of the group had heard about using Orca Currents as a resource for high-interest, low-vocabulary reads. Pig Boy is an Orca Currents selection, and I usually offer at least two choices. (My other favourite is Daredevil Club by Pam Withers) I love Orca Currents books, and even my keenest readers are drawn to them. My suggestion is to pre-read any Orca book before recommending it to a student reader, as some of the content can be a tad explicit!

One of my favourite resources for learning about great books and authors is Twitter. Great hashtags to follow include #nerdybookclub, #GRA (Global Read Aloud), #titletalk and #TLchat.

I have participated in the Global Read Aloud for the last two years. Last year we read “Out of My Mind” and this year we are reading two books from the list. During the actual #GRA15, we read “One for the Murphys” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. It was amazing! My students tweeted to many other classes and the author herself often responded to us. We will be reading “Fourteenth Goldfish” by Jennifer Holm, which was another #GRA15 option, starting in the beginning of February. This book ties in well with #geniushour, inspiring wonder, innovation and determination. The Global Read Aloud project only happens once a year, but I usually read aloud to my Middle School students year round. I think that it is important to share quality literature with your students, to model reading fluency, to share how I think a I read a book, and to explore the tangents, the imaginary worlds, and the emotions that a well-written book elicit. Sometimes I plan attached activities for my read aloud, but often I choose to read/listen/discuss a great book for the love of reading. Make time for it!

Thank you for including me in your meeting, #pdppposse! I enjoyed the chat. Many of my happiest moments teaching have been when a reluctant reader FINALLY finds a book that they truly love. I loved seeing the dedication you are all putting into creating reading magic in your own classrooms. I am looking forward to hearing more about your journeys and adventures!

Reflective Teaching – Day 21

Te@chThought‘s Day 21 Challenge is: “Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

I have many hobbies and interests that I share with my learners! I hope that they feel comfortable bringing their interests to share as well. This can stem from the fun of #geniushour, or can come out of conversations as we build relationships.

The interests that I’ve shared include:

  • reading
  • Making sock monkeys
  • being outside
  • playing
  • hiking
  • raising and caring for animals
  • running
  • pretty shoes
  • developing my skills as a tea connoisseur
  • eating
  • baking
  • technology
  • science
  • games
  • writing

Every year begins with meeting all of the student in my pod, even the students that I will not directly be teaching. I share the stories of my life, hoping to provide some insight into Mrs. James as a human. The goal in our Middle School is to provide as many adult advocates for each learner as possible. Having visible, shared interests is one way to connect with our learners.

Reflective Teaching – Day 15

Te@chThought‘s Day 15 Challenge is: “Name three strengths you have as an educator.

This is an awkward question. My strengths and weaknesses vary each year. I am a work in progress! Sometimes I make gains in one area, and another area begins to suffer. I am a learner.

Three things that I hold as important and feel proud of are:

  • relationships: I am not always successful, but I work very hard to establish relationships in our classroom. I identify our learning community as a FAMILY on the first day and I refer to that relationship often. It is a powerful feeling when our learning family begins to come together. The level of trust and willingness to take risks sky-rockets!
  • my own learning: I share my mistakes and my learning journeys with my students. We take time to share the process of learning together, and begin to develop understandings that we all learn differently and can benefit from learning together. I celebrate the many things that I learn from my students. I invite my student experts to teach me and their peers. #geniushour has been great for this!
  • reading: My parents gave me a love of reading. I have been very lucky to teach in schools that have diverse libraries and have enjoyed watching a few reluctant readers discover a joy in reading. I read aloud to my Middle School family. We exchange our personal favourites by title and by sharing actual books over weekends. Students will lend me their ownArchie comics after they learn about my own phase of reading Archie as “brain candy”!

Reflective Teaching – Day 9

Te@chThought‘s Day 9 challenge is “Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

It is difficult to think about personal accomplishments as a teacher. I think that it is a deeply ingrained habit in most teachers to contemplate the things that we still need to do. We think of the learners that we wish that we had more time with. We think of the daily accomplishments of our learners and make plans for tomorrow.

My favourite shared accomplishment this year was unexpected. I had a student make a big impact on the very first day of school when I was taking our new Middle School students on a tour of the opportunities available in their new school. We had reached the library and he HATED the library. He was adamant that I could not make him go there, and that he would be very unhappy if he was forced to go. He told me that he had never read a full book. He did not intend to start participating in school-wide silent reading this year. I asked him to give me a chance to help him find a better book.

He was not interested in reading for a while. But, eventually we found a book that got his attention. Then, we found another one. Books became part of our daily conversation. He was eager to write reflections about his reading, and demonstrated insightful thinking and complex connections in his writing.

In the Spring he stood at his desk and loudly confessed about how much he LOVED reading! He laughed and said that the library was his favourite place. He was unhappy when I ended Silent Reading each day. He walked and talked more confidently and became eager to match other readers to “better” books. He was excited about this new discovery and uncovering a previously unknown academic strength.

I cherish this memory. I don’t know what led him to his negative feelings about reading, but his new love of reading is an #eduwin! Earning this learner’s trust is something that I carry with me. This is why we teach.