Monday, January 23, 2012

PLN: The Power to Perfect Your Practice

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, one of my goals this year is to put some literature back into our classroom. Now to many educators that may not sound like a very difficult thing to do. However, when you have a scripted reading/language program, a strict schedule, and very little leeway within those confines, really teaching your students becomes difficult.  When things are so tight in your schedule that students literally beg to skip lunch, come to school early, and stay after school so that they can write, there's precious little time to squeeze in anything else.

As I looked at my schedule to find a place where I could squeeze in some reading time, I found a ten minute window before we go to P.E. Granted that is not a lot of time, but I was determined to make it work. We were already trying to read books as a class at the end of the day while we waited to be dismissed. My fifth graders love our time on the carpet reading a novel or trade book even though some days we're lucky to get in 5 minutes. They work all day to try make a little reading time at the end of the day.

I didn't want to change that routine, so I figured my best bet was to do a read aloud of a picture book each day. I have a huge library of pictures books that "pre-reading program" I used to give my students as mentor texts. Many of them are for teaching Social Studies and Science. However, as I started examining them, the ones that I could actually read aloud were in a vast minority. Many of them had so many text features that  by only reading them aloud much of the meaning was lost.

There are so many wonderful children's books, where should I start? On Twitter and in my Google Reader, I follow some excellent teachers who specialize in children's literature. The first one I reached out to was Cathy Mere. She responded with a link to August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event. This site had a collection of blogs from educators/literature lovers who blogged about their 10 favorite picture books. This kept me busy for hours discovering all kinds of picture books that would be appropriate for my learners (I would love to participate in this event this year).

Next Cathy tweeted out my request to some of her Personal Learning Network (PLN). I got so many responses and emails from them. I had discovered and re-discovered a treasure of  books to read aloud to my students. So although I have received a real crash course in titles and authors, the real winners here are my readers. These books have been popping up in their blogs, they are constantly reading them (many have a waiting list) and students have begun searching for other titles by the same authors.

So while you are spending time on Twitter and reading blogs, be sure to build relationships with those in your PLN. Be willing to give to them as much as you are learning from them. In the end, the real reward is reaped by those amazing kids in your classroom and we are all thankful for Cathy and all of those who shared their knowledge with us.

photo credit: your neighborhood librarian via photopin cc

1 comment:

  1. Julie,
    I'm glad it helped. I cannot imagine working within those constraints. Even in first grade it is rare we finish a read aloud in less than 10 minutes. I'm glad you were able to find some titles that might work.

    I never imagined how powerful a PLN would be for me. I'm continually amazed by the diverse group of specialists at my fingertips every day. I know any time I need help all I have to do is send a quick tweet out into the world. I learn so much every day.

    Thanks so much for your kind words,