Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Good News

We finished TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo in read aloud last week.

In the hush that follows the last words and the closing of the book, one student blurted out, "I need a literature circle!" In other words, "I need to TALK about this book!"

(Just try measuring THAT authentic response on a standardized test!)

So we had a sort of conversation where everybody gets to talk all at the same time and nobody interrupts anyone: they wrote responses to the open-ended starters, "I liked...", "I didn't like...", and "Besides the tiger, what else in the story was "caged"?"

Here's the good news. Not everyone understood the third prompt, but many students did. They knew that Rob was caged by his sadness, that Sistine was caged by her anger, that Willie Mae was caged by her yukky job.

Did I mention that they wrote these responses on their handhelds and "turned them in" when they were done by beaming them to my handheld?

More good news:

1. I have seven copies of THE WRIGHT 3 (by Blue Balliett) on reserve from the public library for a literature circle that will start right after spring break.

2. There are 6 fourth graders in my room who want to (desperately) and are able to (amply) read this book.

3. These students have had a standing literature circle appointment with each other all year long. They have read and discussed CHASING VERMEER, THE CASTLE IN THE ATTIC, and THE BATTLE FOR THE CASTLE. Even though I am not doing my monthly parent-child book club in the evening this year for the first time in a VERY long time, I get just about the same emotional paycheck by reading with these six. And the kids get to talk more without their parents there. (no offense, parents, I have to make sure I don't take over the conversation, too)


  1. Hi Mary Lee,
    I just found your blog site with Franki -- I thought I was the only one who found a thrill in having read the Newbery before it was announced! I have spent hours catching up on all of the posts from the months I missed and I have discovered so many new books that I can wait to read (though I'm not looking forward to the cost). I will be visiting your site daily to see what you are reading next.

    I was reading the post in which you discuss reading "Tiger Rising" (loved it), and was curious about the comment "Did I mention that they wrote these responses on their handhelds and "turned them in" when they were done by beaming them to my handheld?" Could you tell me what devise/technology you and your students use for this?

    Thanks so much and happy reading!

  2. Denise,
    My students use Zire 72s by Palm (aka Palm Pilots, but we call them handheld computers because they are). It radically changes the way you can do business when every child has a computer (with a compact, fold-up wireless keyboard) on his/her desk! Having that computer there also means that every child has a calculator, digital camera, dictionary, voice recorder, "game boy" for practicing spelling and math, and a paperless notebook. Our handhelds can "talk" to each other via infared, so they can "beam" work to each other for peer editing/sharing, or they can beam and assignment to me for response/grading. It's pretty cool, to say the least!

    Now, we're not some kind of paperless, classroom of the future sort of place. The handhelds are ONE tool we use, and part of the challenge of having such a cool tool is knowing when it is NOT the best tool to use!

  3. Mary Lee,
    Thanks for your response. All I can say is WOW!! I've never been in a classroom where Palm's were being used in so many ways. Do you mind if I ask where you teach? I assume other schools in your district are using Palm's as well. How do you keep them all charged? What grades have them? Sorry to ask so many questions...I'm so interested!!!


  4. Mary Lee,
    I'm so sorry -- it just clicked -- you're THE Mary Lee Hahn form "Reconsidering Read-Aloud!!!" I'm writing a children's lit. textbook and a book on teaching literacy in the fourth grade and I've quoted you in both. I love your book and I love this blog! (I've read Franki's books, too). I feel like I've connected with kindred spirits:-) Now I know the school/district in which you both teach. I was going to ask if I might visit your classrooms one day this coming academic year to see the PDA's in action, but moreover, to see you in action!!! Do you think that might be a possiblity or are you inundated with requests already?

  5. Denise,
    I'm glad you came back to check for a reply. The use of handhelds is pretty scattered around our district. There is a district set available to check out for short-term projects (that's how I got started), but if you want your own set, you have to go for grants, hit up the PTO, do whatever it takes to get them.

    We have a cart rigged with power strips where they all "live" and charge. It's a pretty ingenious solution (thanks to my tech support person). On the top shelf of the cart is a shallow plastic box with a chunk of foam cut to fit in it, and slots for the handhelds cut in the foam. The cords from the chargers on the second shelf enter the box en masse through a hole at the bottom of the box and then are each routed to one handheld slot. No cord spaghetti for us!

    What grades have used the handhelds? 3-5 in the regular classroom and in middle school and high school I think the special ed. teachers use them with selected kids as a part of the modifications in their IEPs.

    Maybe we should continue this conversation in a "quieter room." (As if all of The Internet is routinely delving into our archives!) Drop us a line at mlhahn at mac dot com. Please introduce yourself! You know who WE are, but we don't know you!


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