Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Audio Book Reviews

There’s writing a book review, and then there’s saying one in front of a room of twenty-eight sixteen-year-olds. Over the course of eight years of teaching, I don’t know how many book talks I’ve given. I’ve tried to learn a balance of giving just enough plot and characters to hook readers. And since it’s 2013…

I’ve created my first audio book review using a cool, free app called Audioboo. By creating an account, users can create multiple sound files of up to 3 minutes. Right now, I’ve only made two boos. (Yes, that’s what they’re called. Fun, right?)

My dream is to get my students to create Audioboos as well. Then I’ll convert the websites of the Boos to QR codes and post them inside the books. I know that students almost always listen to one another for good books before they’ll listen to me. Imagine a student opening a book and finding three different opinions about it from three current and former students! Since most of my students have smart phones, they can just plug in some ear buds, scan the code, and listen to a quick review. I think this idea holds a lot of promise!

For now I’m posting my first audio review on my classroom door.

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Do you use Audioboo or something similar in your classroom? What about QR codes?

Shout out to Wes Fryer and EdCampOKC for sharing Audioboo with me.

If the embedded Audioboo player is not showing up below, you’re likely using an iOS device. Just click on the following link instead to hear me talk about The Walking Dead, Volumes 1-4.

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Tweaking the Reading Routine

In room 149 we are one month into the second semester. I’ve been tweaking how we begin class since I read Penny Kittle’s Book Love. The ten minutes of sustained silent reading was non-negotiable, but I wanted to give more book talks, so I started each class with a book talk or two. It was a little jarring at first because students were used to reading as soon as the bell rang. Now I was talking about books before they got to read. Some of my more voracious readers ignored me and got even more reading time in. These are the same students who try to read during a lesson or activity. I feel bad telling them to put their books away, but that’s the way it has to be.

I quickly realized that I couldn’t keep up giving daily book talks, so I decided students would give book talks on Wednesdays. Some hours are more willing to talk than others, so I sometimes have to call on specific students. My seventh hour has the most willing students. They actually come to the front of the room to talk rather than talk from their desks like my other hours.

All year long we have used the first few minutes on Fridays to update our reading checkup charts. Students record the book they’re currently reading, their page progress (e.g., 134/358), and their total number of books read. Here’s one of my blog posts that goes more in depth on how we do that, which includes some student samples.

Most recently I started showing book trailers from YouTube to start Monday classes. Yesterday I showed book trailers for Stupid Fast and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. By my second English class, both books had been checked out. Here’s my current playlist of book trailers I’m collecting on YouTube. My plan is for this list to grow throughout the school year.

To recap, here’s our weekly schedule at a glance:
Mondays: book trailers
Tuesdays: I give book talks
Wednesdays: 3-4 students give book talks
Thursdays: I give book talks
Fridays: Students update their reading charts

Recently students have volunteered to help me add up the weekly total of books from the checkup charts. I sometimes let them help me, especially if quite a few students need to have a book chat with me on that day. But seeing each student’s progress helps me motivate the ones who have not read much in the past week.

With our new media center opening, some old book shelves became available, and I nabbed one. I gave a smaller bookshelf away to one of my colleagues to make room for it. Here’s how my classroom library looks now:

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In January I explained to students the quote bulletin board I had left empty the entire fall semester. To kick things off, I put up the famous quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Only one student brought quotes for the board, but she brought a lot. Here’s the board:

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This semester I’m having students read a book that’s been nominated for our state’s Sequoyah award. Instead of limiting their choices to only the winners of the Sequoyah award, I’m letting them choose any titled that’s been nominated over the past four years. I posted all the titles they could choose from, and I arranged for our librarian to come give book talks on some Sequoyah titles to all my classes. She has the Sequoyah titles labeled with different colored stickers, so that’s why the list is color-coded.

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Along with the number of books read per hour, I’m also calculating the average books per student, or bps. I had some students move away between semesters, and I also gained some students, so that’s why my student numbers changed. I should probably reprint them, but it’s not a priority.

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I also chart the overall book progress on this semester chart.

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I’m also keeping a running list of all the texts we have shared together as a class, an idea I think I got from Donalyn Miller.

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These routines work for my students and me. Feel free to borrow and tweak them for use in your own classroom.

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