Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Uncategorized category.

The One and Only Ivan–Creates a one and only reaction

I began reading The One and Only Ivan after I put it in the hands of two young ladies who are smitten with animals. The first child, we’ll call, Katie, had the story read in about three days. She had her head in the story from the time she came to school until the time she left. She was excited to see what happened from day to day and would visit me to share her findings with me.

The second child, who I’ll refer to as Leigh, took Ivan and had him read in only two days! She began to read Ivan at school and took the book home that evening. She came to school the next day ecstatic chattering away about her favorite parts and discussing characters and ideas. She even said she went to bed and snuck to turn her lamp on and continued to read even after her normal bedtime!

Now, because both of these students were excited about Ivan this got other students talking. I told them all that during Read Across America Week I had a special surprise to share each day. They were happy to see I had saved Ivan for all of us to listen to and to read along. Before we began, I had students to watch a trailer for Ivan. They made whole class predictions on what they thought each slide of the trailer meant, and what it might have to do with the story. Students overall came up with eight predictions, all based on background knowledge of gorillas, circuses and elephants. We have this posted so that we may revisit predictions in order to check ourselves. So, each day last week, I read aloud Ivan. I spent 20-30 minutes with the story projected up on the SMARTBoard so that students could follow the text with me as I read. Now, usually, I have a chatty class with lots of opinions in the things that we read. They want to stop and discuss, asking me to use wikipedia to find out answers to certain questions in the story. This time, it was a bit different =)

By the end of the second day, we’d reached page 50. This really hit home with the kids, because they thought the book hadn’t went “so fast already!” We pushed on, because when I’d have to stop I heard the groans “Awwwwww”. This for me was exciting, so we might have been late to lunch a couple of times! =)

Now this leads me to Friday, 3/2. I had finally reached the point in the novel where Stella passes away, and is removed from her domain. I knew that I had gotten emotional when I read Ivan for the first time, but had tried to refrain from getting emotional again. Throughout the story, I had changed my voice for Ruby, Stella, Bob and Ivan. At the point where I read about Stella’s passing, I began to cry. My students were so into the story, they looked at me with worried looks and wide eyes, as if to figure out what was wrong. As I finished the end of chapter where Stella’s body was removed and put in a garbage truck, my students were appalled. I could see the sadness in their own faces, feeling pity for Stella and Ruby. At that point, I closed the book, and it was so quiet, a pin could be heard dropping to the floor. After what seemed like an eternity, my kids looked and me and said ‘Where you really crying, Miss Hennings?” I shared with them that I had been, and as I looked across my classroom, I had one child in tears himself. I have honestly never had this experience as a teacher. I have had kids laughing at a book, and upset with a book, but never to the point of tears. This child later shared with me that he was upset and “felt bad for Stella, because she was Ruby’s pretend mom”.

The point of this post was to celebrate a little. I celebrate a great piece of literature that I’ve shared with my students. I celebrate the fun that we’ve had so far. I celebrate the sadness that I have shared wholeheartedly with at least one student. To celebrate the rest of the novel, and to celebrate connections to my kids. There’s not a better feeling in the world than to know that you’ve made a difference in a kids’ life. I feel that through this story, I have.

Renee Hennings 3/4/12

The One and Only Ivan Internet Workshop 3/1/11

In The One and Only Ivan we get a taste of Ivan, a silverback gorilla in captivity.  You are invited to learn a bit more about Silver Back Gorillas as well as other gorillas in their natural habitats.  Use the link to our class Diigo here:

Types of Gorillas:

  • Give 2 characteristics of a young gorilla.  What might be the young gorilla’s niche in its habitat?
  • Give 2 characteristics of an adult gorilla.  What might be the adult gorilla’s niche it its habitat?
  • What are at least 2 differences between female and male gorillas?

Gorilla Habitats:

  • Describe one gorilla habitat that you read about or saw a video about listed on our link site.
  • How is this gorilla habitat different from your own?

Gorilla Diets:

  •  What types of food do gorillas eat in their natural habitat?
  • What type of consumers are gorillas?  How do you know?

Gorilla Behaviors

  • Using the links, describe two common gorilla behaviors (any age gorilla is acceptable)
  • How are gorilla behaviors like human behaviors?  Use specific examples from the sites.

What Would YOU Like to Know More About?

  • Think about what you have learned today.  What about gorillas interests you?  What about gorillas would you like to know more about? Post your links and questions to our Diigo site so that we all may share what we find!

Renee Hennings 2/25/12

Response to Dr. Frye’s Deep Reading Post -3/1/12

In order to “deep read” I know that I, personally, must have a few ideas in order.  I must be open to what I am reading.  If it is a research article with a ton of statistics and numbers in tables, I have to have a notepad beside me, constantly relating the words that I am reading to the data that I am analyzing.  If I am reading a novel, “deep reading” occurs somewhere between the first page and the tenth page.  I find myself typically having to go back and re-read the beginnings of books at least one or two times.  When in a picture book, I find myself “deep reading” only after at least two-to-three readings of the story.  While online, I cannot say that I ever feel that I am engaged in “deep reading”.  Just like we have all stated overall, I like to have a printed copy in front of me, so that I may highlight, underline and categorize my thoughts together outside of my LCD laptop screen.  Deep reading happens for me when I set aside time for myself to really enjoy a piece of literature or an article.  At times, I feel that I skim because in the back of my mind, I have one million other things to do.  The reality is, those things can wait, and the practice of “deep reading” should come first.  I make sure that I schedule enough time in my week to enjoy “deep reading” away from chores and other daily tasks.  I think about the quote “if you don’t use it…you lose it” and can’t help but think, “deep reading” can be a practice lost for young brains if not practiced regularly.  I think about students who come to me every fall.  I notice that they seem lost in selecting books, have a hard time sticking to novels and tend to “float” in the media center when we check out books.  Around October of each year, once I have had the chance to get them aquatinted with my style of instruction, I see a spike in the reading that happens in the classroom.  From that point on, students tend to continue in “deep reading” as long as they have me to remind them every now and again.  The idea of “deep reading” for an experienced reader can be categorized differently.  I believe that once a reader becomes “experienced” he has the capacity to continue to read deeply.  The only aspect of this practice of “deep reading” that might change is the fact that without common practice, one might lose his stamina to read for a long period of time deeply.

In response to Dr. Frye’s Creature Feature links, I find that National Geographic’s website is a phenomenal resource for reliable, kid-friendly information.  I did a search on “Blue Footed-Boobies” and found that I could read short, concise descriptions on the basic information about this animal.  Another tab offered a short video capturing the blue footed boobie’s most unique features and I could listen to call of this bird.  Another tab provided me with a map of where this bird could be found and an option to e-mail my findings to a friend.  This resource will be a great place for students to do research on topics that are reliable and entertaining,
as well as easy to read and record.

The second link, also from National Geographic, provided a recorded reading of stories from Young Explorers, a periodical provided for kids ages K-8!  Students are invited to listen or read silently each article from this series of magazines, and resources are provided for teachers to use with their classrooms.

As I took time to explore Mountain Gorillas I read through the slides one-15.  The facts provided me with not only facts and information about the mountain gorilla, but it also invited me to read a bit below the surface.  I like that the “meat” of the information on mountain gorillas was placed first through the slides while the “fast facts” were at the end, making it necessary to go through the interesting background first, and encouraging a deeper thinking about the gorillas, not just going for the facts first.  The videos really put the size of gorillas into perspective for the reader.  It also uses excellent scientific vocabulary during the video which reinforces what students have learned in the previous slides.  The map is a great resource so that students may locate the gorilla in relation to where they live. Finally, students can print a snippet of all of these ideas out, allowing them to “deep read” after the fact if the online experience was overly stimulating for their young brains.

After visitng and reading through  I was excited to see the amount of non-fiction available for students to read regarding civil rights!  I found and read Who Was Rosa Parks? This is a book that is available in our library at school!  It was so exciting to see that it was available online for students to view.  I also read Goodnight, iPad, a parody on Goodnight, Moon but with a play on techie gadgets!  How appropriate for this class!  I plan to share Goodnight iPad next week with my students on our SMARTboard.  I feel that We Give Books is a great resource to share with students because not only do they have the opportunity to read, but they understand that they have provided another student with the opportunity to read as well!  Along with this benefit, I also noticed that books are available in Spanish as well as English. This of course would be helpful to ELL students or for families that speak Spanish in the home to read with their children online.

The new Common Core Standards at the 5th grade level capture a good amount of technology.  Under “Technology as a Tool” students will be able to use a variety of tools to gather information such as web-based resources, e-Books, online communication tools, etc.  Students are also required to practice using a variety of tools using technology to organize data.  Examples include word processors, audio and visual recordings and online collaboration tools.  Lastly, students are to be able to present data using technology.  Again, students should be fluent in the use of recording data by audio and video to present their findings.  So what does this all really mean?  Students need to fluent in the use of technology in different ways.  Usage of e-Books is a specific requirement.  Students should be comfortable using word processing programs such as Microsoft Word to complete assignments that they have researched online.  To encourage research, students can use search engines, videos, blogs, or forums to find information.  Just like we are required to do for Dr. Frye’s class, WebQuests and Internet Workshops match in with this technology curriculum perfectly.  Students are provided with opportunities to search, record and explore new information online.

Renee Hennings 2/25/12

e-Books, e-Reading, Kindles, Oh My! =)

Larson, L. (2010). Digital readers: The next chapter in e-book reading and response. The Reading Teacher, 64(1), 15-22.

Larson, L. (2009). Digital literacies: e-reading and e-respoonding. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 255-258.

Liu, A., Aamodt, S., Wolf, M., Gelernter, D., & Mark, G. (2009, October 14). Does the brain like e-books?. Retrieved from

Weigel, M., & Gardner, H. (2009). The best of both literacies. Educational leadership, 38-41.

e-Books, e-Reading, Kindles, Oh My! =)

Up until this week’s assignment, I had been totally blind sighted by the possibilities of digital reading. I have a few friends who own Kindles or Nooks, and I know that I have an app on my iPhone called “Newsstand” and when I tap it, I see “You can download magazines and newspapers in the App Store”, but that’s about the extent! Now that I’ve taken the time to read and digest some of the research and theories behind digital reading, I can now think about what it means to me as a reader and more importantly, as an educator of readers. I wanted to see the difference between e-Reading and a Kindle or a handheld reading device, because I had always assumed that those two practices were somewhat of the same. I now know that reading online text and reading from Kindle or other handheld book device have quite substantial differences. It seems that e-Books and online readings are read primarily on a computer screen. Readers can use headphones to aid in listening to these readings if the selection is equipped with audio. Along with audio, some e-Books online also offer a variety of animations. I’ve now come to understand a new term, “multimodal”. This term simply means to combine mode and media to define a new personal meaning to a selection of text (Larson, 2010). Multimodal texts also could include interactive tools and hyperlinks. Some of these tools include the ability to highlight text, underline text, record audio comments, and adjust text size (Larson, 2009). Online reading offers a unique possibility for readers who do not understand the meaning of their text. If one must find the meaning of a word, or of a topic within online readings, Gloria Mark from the New York Times suggests that the reader can use hyperlinks to instantly find the missing link to information and continue reading (Liu, Aamodt, Wolf, Gelernter & Mark, 2009). Throughout the readings and research that I have come across so far, it seems that there is one set back that can cause confusion with e-Reading online. Majority of the sites that students use have advertisements and other can serve as distractors while reading or completing research. Websites offer compelling visuals, buttons, and other enticements that could cause misunderstandings (Wiegel, Gardner 2009). Along with Wiegel and Gardner, Sandra Aamodt from the New York Times shares that she finds online readings as beneficial, but, one who uses this device must have strong character. Online readers lose reading speeds due to lack of focus on just the text. Aamodt reports that in one study, it was found that patrons clicked away from the text due to new e-mail arrival or blog checking (Liu, Aamodt, Wolf, Gelernter & Mark, 2009). It seems to me that online readings are beneficial for some students. Personally, I have fifth graders who are fluent with the use of the Internet, searching for topics and other ideas. The one drawback that I reflect on now is the fact that the occurrence of advertisements and other distractions might be getting in the way of my students’ learning either they realize it or not. After last week’s readings with Maryanne Wolf and her stance on brain development, it seems that she isn’t convinced that our young reading brains are well equipped for such complex text structure and that “deep thinking” idea. This week, I re-read some of her work in the New York Times stories and again, I feel that providing my students with online e-Reading is justified, because our society is moving in that direction, but limiting what resources my students use to gain information that they need to complete assignments or to “deep reading”. I will continue to implement e-Reading in my classroom, but I am hoping to find better and more appropriate resources that will provide students with the ability to read deeply.

Like online e-Reading, Kindles, Nooks and other portable reading devices have options for the reader to utilize to promote deep reading and thinking. Kindles are smaller devices, shaped like a traditional printed book. They offer a range of text features, from black and white to color, depending on the price. Kindles include features that allow the reader to mark their reading for various reasons such as annotations, and highlighting. Kindles provide readers with the ability to change font size, listen to words through its text-to-speech feature and allow easy access to word searches through the keyword search (Larson, 2010). Some versions of the Kindle no keyboard, while others have an exterior keyboard and even a touch screen option. The newest version of the Kindle, the “Fire” also has options for Wi-Fi, Facebook and other downloadable apps from Unlike online e-Readings, Kindles do not have advertisements or other means of distractions. However, if you purchase a newer Kindle, there are options available to surf the web. In Larson’s study of second grade girls, we can get an insight into the minds of readers who use Kindles for classroom purposes. Students in Larson’s study used the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature to read long passages of text, aid in the decoding of words and for re-reading purposes. The use of the Kindle also offered a vision into how each of the two students actively questioned their reading through the use of notes during reading. Larson coded students’ responses to categorize how each girl used her Kindle while reading (Larson 2010). I can honestly say I am very interested in portable e-Readers after learning a bit about Kindle readers. I can picture my students with their own Kindle or reading device making comments and thoughts about their findings in their readings. I think Larson’s study did a great job describing how response notes could be divided up into five categories. If I could have access to these devices in my room, I believe that I would be able to flip through my students’ responses and find out what they were understanding about what they were reading, much like I currently do when students use sticky notes to share their responses to readings. I am interested to know what could be predicted in the future for Kindle. I feel that the basic Kindle model with a keyboard would be the best fit for my students now. At this point, a Kindle “Fire” would be great to do outside research, but a part of me wonders when advertisements will take up Wi-Fi bandwidth just like computers currently do. Also, for those students who are “distracted” by animations and other media, I am not sure I could closely monitor students’ use of Kindle “Fire” with access to apps that are game based such as Angry Birds or Facebook. One more doubt that I have is the block on Kindle’s access to our school’s Wi-Fi block. Would these devices be able to connect without problems? Could there be a chance these devices could slip through the protection and students would visit sites that aren’t appropriate? I am very interested to read further research regarding handheld readers in a classroom setting to differentiate instruction.

Response to Toon Books/Inanimate Alice:

After having the opportunity to view both Toon Books and Inanimate Alice I can see how kids would enjoy both of these online stories.  I think that each of these sites have unique characteristics but share some of the same ideas.

Both of them are interactive in their own ways.  Toon Books allow the reader the ability to choose from a selection of stories that use their own clicking and highlighting to maneuver the books.  There is a feature that allows the reader to listen to the stories in an array of languages.  Alice has only one choice of a story line, but within the story, students are encouraged to participate in interactive features of games, music and a unique player.  Toon Books is targeted to younger reader, and has a comic book feel.  This would be a great way to meet the needs of readers who are interested in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but are a little too young to pick up a copy independently.  Alice is a story aimed at upper elementary.  It is a mysterious collection of music, spy work and gaming ideas. Alice’s parents run into tough times, including relationship problems. The vocabulary is much more advanced and there is a bit of “deep reading” that has to be done to maneuver through the story.  Both of these selections require online reading to complete with an element of “deep reading”.  I think that both of these selections allow readers to re-read with ease.

I personally would suggest Toon Books as a reading resource in the classroom for a whole group, small group or independent reading.  It is very kid-friendly and the narrators model excellent fluency when students listen to the stories read aloud.  When it comes to Inanimate Alice, I think I would have a hard time relating this story to curriculum.  It would appeal to my boys who like to solve mysteries, and who enjoy geography (from the maps).   I would recommend this selection to students who are not easily distracted by games, sounds or reading moving text.  I think this would be fun to implement in the classroom for the pure enjoyment of reading and experiencing a new style of online reading.

Renee Hennings 2/18/12

The One and Only Ivan Response 2/12/12

What-a-tear-jerker.  I have read books in the past that have affected the way I’ve felt about situations in life, but nothing has hit the I-love-animals nerve as The One and Only Ivan.   I opened this novel at 9 am this morning and was finished by 11 am, tears in my eyes throughout the journey.   I am truly appreciative for my dog even more than I was before after reading this novel (not to mention animals in captivity used for entertainment, sheesh!)

At the beginning of this novel, I found it challenging to read the short chapters with little-to-no words at times. I typically enjoy stories with longer chapters that reel me in, unfolding one scene after the other. Unlike most other children’s books, Ivan had shorter chapters which captured my attention first.  Students would find this not as menacing when considering the amount of text that is required to read and to understand what was happening in the story.  Applegate has a talent for capturing the events that unfolded throughout the story in just a few words at times.  Once I got in the groove of the book I was able to pick up how it to read it with the right rigor and pace.  I began to focus on my deep reading once I read through the first two or three sections of Ivan.  Applegate used tons of similes and inference throughout the novel therefore, I found myself looking for connections from similes to the underlying meaning of the story.  She kept the reader engrossed in the connection between Ivan being a human and a gorilla.  Readers could get inside of his head, and could understand what it was like to be in his situation, living within a “domain” for twenty seven years.  Bob, Ivan’s companion also contributed to Ivan’s understanding of humans and human behaviors.  This aided the reader to understand the difference between being a gorilla and a human as well.   We see connections from Ivan’s past to his present that unfolds throughout the course of the story.  This increases the need for “deep reading” so that you may make the connection to how Ivan ended up where he is today with Mack. As the novel continued I continued my “deep reading” experience to understand how Ivan connected his new life to his old life in the wild with his original family.

As I read through this novel, I instantly thought of two kids that I will introduce this story to in my classroom.  I have a set of girls who are animal lovers and who want to make a difference in the world.  This story would be perfect for both of these girls, and I would love to have them response to the story and share their thoughts with the class.  I am hoping to suggest this as both get started reading, and together, myself included, we will all three provide our class with a book talk to get the rest my students excited about reading Ivan.  I find that The One and Only Ivan captures hilarity with some sarcastic blurbs from Bob, which will appeal to the age that I teach.  At the same time, Ivan has a story line that pulls on the heart strings of the animal lover.  Applegate also invites visual learners to relate illustrations from Patricia Castelo, which are beneficial.  Ivan includes some details that are graphic, such as when Stella passes away, and when Ruby is punished with the sharp stick.  Although the details are a little graphic, it captures the feelings that are intended for the reader to truly experience during the plot.  With that said, I think it would be important to introduce students to this novel, sharing that there are scenes that are strong in feeling.  I would suggest using Google to read about gorillas at the zoo, and compare them to gorillas in the wild: Another way to share information with students would be to have them do a little research of their own to learn about the patterns of behavior in gorillas, learn about their habitats and their diets.  This way, students could connect their background knowledge of gorillas as they read Ivan.

To end Ivan or to even begin Ivan, I found an animoto video that discusses the novel, almost as a trailer in a movie.

Renee Hennings     2/12/12

**Edit for Assignment due on 2/23**

In order to increase interest in The One and Only Ivan I think the Internet provides some great background knowledge on Silverback Gorillas.  Below are a couple of links that I think would help students understand how Silverbacks behave, their diet, and their natural habitat.

Silverback Gorilla Background:

A WebQuest that already exists for Silverback Gorillas:

Koko Painting Site: (Where students can see acutal samples of gorilla artwork, learn about Koko and even background on silverbacks)

After students find enough background, they can then produce writing samples that could be written from a gorilla’s first point of view like that of Ivan.  Below are links for these activities:

Comic Creator-Put together a comic of what might happen in the day of the life of a Silverback Gorilla:

I Am Poem-Create a poem from the point of view of a Silverback Gorilla.  Use background andIvanto compose writing.

Renee Hennings 2/18/2012

Response to Growing Up Digital- 2/11/12

Ritchel, M. (2010, November 21). Growing up digital, wired for distraction. The New York Times. Retrieved from

In this article by Ritchell, published by the New York Times, the focus is on youngsters and their interest in technology as supposed to traditional literature.  Taking place in Redwood City, California, Vishal Singh’s life consists of school technology including Facebook and YouTube.  Singh is working to prepare for his senior year of high school and seems to focus more on his technology than his studies.  Singh is reading a novel for his summer study, and finds that it is online on YouTube.  He is able to quickly locate the synopsis online, and is quick to find the answer to his questions without reading past page forty-three in his novel.  He says that he likes the quick gratification of knowing what will happen, and he can then move on to something else.  Rich, a researcher at Harvard University mentions that studies show that young people who are constantly immersed in technology are suffering because they cannot stay focused as long.  The idea is that the brain is forming differently, and the learning is happening in a different way.  In efforts to combat against the grain of technology schools and parents are arming themselves with tons of technology around the nation.  Laptops, the Internet, mobile and wireless devices are all options and sometimes requirements that are found in schools today.  In order to keep up with students’ interests and now, quite possibly their brain development, technology has become a necessity to contend with gaming, Facebook and YouTube.

As we learn more about Singh, we see that he has the potential in the subjects that he enjoys.  Singh’s grades in English and Algebra II are very low, but he has earned an outstanding mark in film. Ritchell says that Singh lacks the self-control over his interests to his schoolwork.  He spends late nights updating Facebook status online, but cannot stay awake in math class to take notes.  Singh has taken an enjoyment to helping his family with their technology problems at home, but still lacks the ability to focus on his own issues.  His family is worried that during his senior year, he will lose the focus needed to get into college.

Renee Hennings 2/11/12

Response to Wolfe, Barzillai The Importance of the Deep Reading Brain 2/11/12

Wolfe, M., & Barzillai , M. (2009). The importance of deep reading. Educational leadership

Wolf and Barzillai provoke a thought within readers as they composed the article The Importance of Deep Reading.  It is said that when Aristotle categorized cultures, he chose to divide those characteristics up in three ways.  First, a culture can be defined by its life of activity and productivity.  Next, Aristotle focused on a culture’s life of enjoyment, and last a culture’s life of contemplation.  Wolf and Barzillai argue that a digital learner of today is suited to activity and enjoyment.  Mass amounts of technology and media contribute to multitasking, multiple modes of communication, and digitally based entertainment (Wolfe, Barzillai 2009).  For an experienced adult reader, these methods of communication and data collection are appropriate, because experience adult readers have internalized the ability to deep read.  For younger readers with younger brains, this fast paced type of reading can hinder their ability to comprehend deeply, inference correctly and analyze completely.  The problem then becomes, how can we instill deep reading practices into the young reading brains with the immense amount of digital reading that is thrown at us in today’s society?

As the reading brain was researched, it was found that reading is considered a “new, cognitive, function”.  In time, reading has been researched based on a particular written language.  It was found that the brain of a reader of Chinese requires extensive acquisition of visual regions in occipital areas, focusing on “space” in order to understand thousands of Chinese characters (Tan, Spinks, Eden, Perfetti, & Siok, 2005).  In contrast, alphabetic processing brains use the temporal and parietal regions of the brain, which focus on early sounds and the rules of correspondence to visual symbols.  Both of these established ideas clarifies that individual writing systems shape the way brains are circuited for written language.  No matter which language a brain acquires, there is evidence of either a young  or adult (experienced) reading brain.  The characteristics of both young and experienced brains are based on time exposed to text, and how often that exposure happens.  As Wolfe and Barzillai continue, they explain that younger readers can be “distracted”.  Distraction can be defined through the use of digital text.  The idea of digital text is so chocked full of detail and information that it can be a large distraction to a young brain.  Because the young brain has not yet acquired the necessary ability to pilfer through a selection of text to correctly and deeply comprehend, synthesize and infer underlying meanings, a flash of information in a digital setting can be an overload.  Socrates called this idea of a text overload a chance to create a “passive” outlet to readers and to “delude” a learner.  Readers of digital text must have the ability and capacity to organize and discern features of text online.  Critical and self-monitoring skills are also needed to be able to clump, decode and understand text digitally.  The digital age of text delivery offer to multiple entry points into a subject, and can open the door for deeper distractions.

The reality of the situation is that digital print is everywhere.  In order to utilize this type of readily available print, young reading brains need the opportunity to learn how to correctly synthesize and process this new age of reading.  Using online resources can offer the potential to mold, analyze and critically evaluate information.   The use of the web also builds the ability to communicate and collaborate.  Students can learn to be more efficient problem solvers and lifelong learners (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004).  In order to prepare our young reading brains for such a different way of reading, we must provide them with the correct instruction.  Simply suggesting the correct words to search in Google, or how to monitor one’s attention to detail are ways to aid in the understanding.  Encouraging the difference from “fact to fiction” is another way students can successfully navigate online reading.  These suggestions are useful for skimming the surface of reading online text, but then we have a problem regarding “deep reading “online.  Technological advances in programs such as CAST, Center for Applied Special Technology, create and set up the need for reading strategies that are taught with hard copy print in a classroom.  This type of technology can guide young brains and scaffold them into understanding of what they read online.  Another element that can aid in the understanding of online reading are well developed WebQuests.  These virtual tasks guide students through a reading process and set them up for understanding based on what they’ve read online.  The explicit instruction takes the guesswork out of understanding for students, and teachers can guarantee students are using strategies that have been taught to guide them to their understanding of online reading.

Wolfe and Barzillai end their article by clarifying that there is no real evidence of the formation of a reading circuit in the young technology-influenced brain.  Researchers can use what they know about the young brain with its exposures to printed text to influence research on young brains on digital text.  It is argued that we as teachers of literacy must not ignore the deep-reading processes as the human’s first literacy.  Transition to digital age is ineveitable, and we should use what we know to begin to acquire a deeper understanding of new, never-before-articulated thoughts (Wolfe and Barzillai, 2009).

My Response:

After reading through “The Importance of Deep Reading” by Wolfe and Barzillai I began to reflect on my own classroom and my classroom practices.  I have fifth grade students, and we use online reading when doing research.  This year, students have had immense exposure to online encyclopedias for the period of about five to six hours collectively.  I have provided students with the tools that at the time, I thought were necessary for successful collection of data for writing a research paper.  As I reflect on my practices, I think that I have been able to guide them by providing them with tips and tricks for searching terms and ideas, but, when I think about the amount of information that was taken away from their sessions with digital text, I cannot help but think I have not provided them with the ability to “deeply think” online.  The acquisition of text that my students have taken away from their sessions has been surface details.  I would love to find ways to provide my students with the tools for reading more deeply online and to take away ideas beyond the surface.  At the age that I teach, I struggle with my readers who already read below grade level, and when put in front of resource online, it can be menacing to correctly match that child up with a selection of text that he can successfully read and comprehend.  The mention of WebQuests in Wolfe and Barzillai’s article was enlightening to me. In my undergraduate experience, I learned how to create WebQuests and where to search for these types of reading activities.  I had always thought of WebQuests as an additional activity to follow up behind a novel that was read in class, or as a project choice for a child who has an interest in a particular subject.  I had not thought of a WebQuest as separate reading resource within itself.  If online reading is where our society will lead us, resources will be necessary to aid teachers in the selection of text and the with the strategies that would be beneficial and useful for that “genre” if you will.

Response to Wolfe Harvard Summer 2010- 2/11/12

Wolfe, M. (2010, Summer). Our ‘deep reading’ brain: Its digital evolution poses. Retrieved from–Poses-Questions.aspx

Wolfe shares her question of our ‘deep reading’ brain and how it will be impacted by the digital culture.  Wolfe is concerned that the amount of online reading for both young and expert reading brains can cause a loss of the ‘deep reading’ ability that we have acquired over the years.  It could affect the capacity of how we think deeply about a topic or how we reflect as readers.  Wolfe references Socrates and his thinking of how transitioning from an oral form of communication to a written language could have possibly wrecked the ability for young thinkers to truly understand knowledge, and that the effort would be put into decoding it.  This would cause an interruption in the ultimate process and goals in life, to gain wisdom and virtue.

In the 21st century, Wolfe argues that we are facing the same oppositional views that Socrates argued during Greek’s transition from oral to written language.  With the “short-circuited’ conceptualization of the brain’s ability to transfer and process information, the digital age provides a new challenge to what has already been studied and discovered.  When something new is learned, the brain forms a new circuit that connects some of the brain’s original structures.  In the case of reading, the brain begins to build connections between visual, language and conceptual areas (Wolfe, 2010).  As research suggests, the brain connects everything that we know by activating prior knowledge in the first millisecond after reading and decoding a word.  The ability to go beyond the decoding stage of reading and inference and comprehension of text takes both milliseconds and years to complete successfully.  Because of these two pieces that influence reading, the medium that we use to read can be a large influence on what we comprehend.  Unfortunately there is not much known about the digital reading brain.  Wolfe is concerned that with less and less intellectual effort, both young and experience brains could possess the neither time nor motivation to think through possible layers of meaning in what they read (Wolfe, 2010).

In efforts to protect the brain that we already have, it is imperative to continue deep reading practices and processes.  Wolfe says that there is a need for tough questioning and rigorous research in order for us to ponder and understand what kinds of readers we are.

My Response:

Deep reading is a type of reading that can be tough for students who read printed materials.  If you throw in sound bites, video clips and other “distractors” as we read, it can be a deterrent to those who read online. I must admit, as I read this particular article, I printed it out, used my pen and highlighter and sat the “old fashioned” way to respond to what I read.  I believe that the preferred technique to read such a piece of literature should have been online, but even as an experienced reader, I felt that I needed that tangible paper in my hand to truly understand what I read.  Now, I put myself in the shoes of my fifth grade readers.  Although independent, they are far from experienced.  They have been raised in a digital age, but their reading instruction has been with hard copies of print.  I imagine these students would have the same problems or maybe even more than I did to read an article or other requirement online.  As a classroom teacher, I would offer to print the article or reading off, and encourage interaction with the text in order for students to comprehend.  I think that I am in agreement with Wolfe that some forms of technology online can be “empty” without deep meaning for students to read, comprehend and think about.  However, I also think that with the proper guidance and teaching, both young and experienced brains can successfully maneuver through digital text.  This medium is coming on hard and strong, and I imagine students will be asked to respond to this type of reading in near, technological future.

2/9/12 Response to McKool, Gespass

McKool, S., & Gespass, S. (2009). Does johnny’s reading teacher love to read? how teachers’ personal reading habits affect instructional practices. Literacy Research and Instruction, 48, 264-276

Past research suggests that teachers must “practice what they preach” (Mour 1977) in order to provide motivation and the springboard for the love of reading for their students.  Children begin to notice reading habits at home first, but once they reach school age the next location to display an interest of reading is in the classroom.  Teachers are to serve as role models to encourage the love of reading, but McKool and Gespass want to know, would a demonstration of the love of reading suffice in motivating students to read, or must one truly have a love of reading to get students excited to read?  Morrison, Jacos and Swinyard (1999) surveyed elementary teachers and reported that teachers who read personally provided their students with the larger number of classroom instructional practices associated with “best practices”.  These three researches concluded that those teachers who were enthusiastic readers were more likely to use practices in the classroom to promote engagement with reading.

The study conducted by McKool and Gespass explored the relationship between teachers’ own reading habits outside of the classroom and their choice of instructional practices.  There were four explanatory questions that were addressed to guide the study:

  1. Do reading teachers engage in reading as a leisure activity
  2. Do those who read for pleasure use instructional activities associated with best practice more than those who do not read for pleasure?
  3. Is there a difference   between instructional practices between teachers who read in their own lives that those who do not?
  4. Is there a difference between teachers who read for pleasure and those who do not in terms of how they choose to motivate their students to read?

The study included sixty five participants from teachers of fourth, fifth and sixth grades.  All of the participants taught reading during the day, and of the 65, 23% held master’s degrees.  Participants were asked to take a lengthy questionnaire that included questions from all four of the basic question sets about.  The first set of questions asked for basic data to reveal background information about teachers.  The second set of questions asked teachers to identify the activities that they engaged in after school by indicating how much time each day they spent on each activity.  A third set of questions included information on instructional practices.  Teachers reflected on their classroom practices and were asked to identify from a list provided of how or if they used those practices in their classrooms and how often.  The fourth set of questions asked teachers to share their own personal reading habits and their attitudes toward reading. Six statements were provided in which they agreed or disagreed with the statement.  In addition to the questionnaire, teachers kept a three day activity log from Sunday-Tuesday to aid in the collection of data from the second set of questions.  Finally, teachers responded to the question, “How do you motivate your students to read?”  Participants were provided with a short answer option to determine extrinsic or intrinsic motivation.

The results from the study were divided up into categories based on the question sets.  For the first set of questions, participants revealed that they spent majority of their free time planning and grading papers after school,  (83 minutes per day) followed by watching television (58 minutes per day) and completing household chores (58 minutes per day).  Those who participated in family events spent 55 minutes per day while reading for pleasure captured 24 minutes per day.  It was the only higher by two minutes than exercising (22 minutes per day).  The second question set revealed that teachers saw themselves as readers based on a scale of 1 to 5.  Ten percent reported that they were extremely committed, while 69% saw themselves as strongly committed.  Twenty percent saw themselves as only somewhat committed while no one reported that they were not at all committed.  The third question set identified teachers who motivated their students to read using intrinsic practices versus extrinsic practices.  Forty-seven percent reported that they used practices in the classroom with an extrinsic approach, while 53% percent reported that they used intrinsic motivation.  The discovery made in this section of questions said that all teachers who read 45 minutes per day used instructional practices associated with intrinsic motivation such as book discussion and book recommendations.  The fourth set of questions yielded that on average, teachers in this particular study engaged students in periods of silent sustained reading and asked oral comprehension questions almost every day.  Read alouds from picture books were used at least twice per week.  Guided reading was evident, specific reading strategies were provided and students completed written comprehension questions.  Group oral reading occurred once to twice per week.  Instructional practices that were held less than one time per week were literature circles, oral discussion on SSR books and reader response journals.  Teachers overall recommended “good books” for students to read only once to twice a month. 

Overall the study revealed that teachers who valued reading in their own lives were most likely to use instructional practices associated with best practice  Ninety percent of teachers who valued reading were more apt to give students the opportunity to read silently every day and the discuss those selections.  Only 50% of teachers who valued reading the least engaged their students in periods of SSR plus discussion.   Those who valued reading more provided students with literature circles 78%,  versus 67% of those who did not value reading as much.  Importantly so, participants who valued reading the most provided insights from their own personal reading (89%) while teachers who valued reading the least (50%). 

My Response to McKool and Gespass:

After reading through this study, I began to think about what my classroom teaching looks like in comparison the participants in the study conducted by McKool and Gespass.  As I start my school year, I try to get a feel for my readers. I use past EOG scores, STAR assessment scores and observations of fluency practice and data from fluency practice to see how to level my students.  I believe that I use instructional practices that follow the teachings of “best practices” because of my recent undergraduate and graduate career.  I look at how I set up my classroom reading program and see elements of what I’ve learned in undergraduate and in graduate school and what is required in my county.  I am one of those teachers who uses comprehension strategies because of the EOQ requirements, but I also truly enjoy using best practices with my students.  I have implemented SSR three days per week, but not necessarily with the opportunities for students to always discuss their readings. I do provide time for discussion when they read stories in partners or in guided reading groups.  I feel that this gives students time to talk about what they read and that they feel that what they have read is important.  Along with these “best practices” I do read aloud to my students for about 15 minutes per day.  We have whole group discussions about what I read and I try and relate our read aloud discussions to the real world by complementing findings of video clips or blurbs of information on the Internet. When students ask me for suggestions for book choices I do try to guide them in the right direction in the media center, but I don’t tend to provide students with suggestions without them asking.  I try and work closely with our media coordinator to let him know about our studies in the classroom so that he knows what my students are doing and he can provide insight to guide students to the perfect book for them.  I would love to plan a total workshop type week with my students, but due to county guidelines, I am limited into what I can do for the entire week.  There could be a time where my county moves into a scripted reading curriculum, in which I will have no choice in how I would deliver my language arts instruction.  I hate to think of that day, but I know that it is a possibility in the future. As far as motivation is concerned, follow my grade level’s choice of requiring students read at least 1 fiction novel per month as well as 1 non-fiction book per month.  I encourage more reading within my class, providing students with extra books on topics in science or social studies, but do reward those who meet monthly goals with a slice of pizza per child.  I see this work for some students, but not necessarily for others.  I know that this extrinsic type of motivation might not be the best way to get my students turned on to reading, but it seems to help some.  I do not provide a consequence for those who do not meet their reading goals, besides the fact that they are not provided with a slice of pizza.

Overall I think that I could make some changes to my reading program for my students’ sake.  I know that it is hard working in school system that has certain rules to be followed as mandated from a central office.  I only wish that one day I’ll be in a place where I know that I can implement 100% of what I’ve learned in both undergraduate and graduate school at ASU.

Renee Hennings                                                                                                          2/5/12

2/9/12 Response to Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt

Nathanson, S., Pruslow, J., & Levitt, R. (2008). The reading habits and literacy attitudes of inservice and prospective teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 313-321.

Applegate and Applegate (2004) completed a survey of undergraduate students’ attitudes toward literacy.  The outcome of this study suggests that undergraduate students who are not fully immersed in reading for pleasure will more than likely not provide their future students with a true love and appreciation for reading.  The Peter Effect, as Applegate and Applegate call it, provides insight to researchers that undergraduates need to encompass the true love reading in order to get their students involved and appreciative of reading as well.

Researchers, Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt look for further answers to the connection between reading habits and literacy attitudes of now preservice and inservice teachers.  They refer to the idea of affective domain in the sense that teachers’ actions do speak louder than their words.  Past studies done by Brophy (1986) and Deci (1971) both indicate that teachers are the focal point for student motivation.  Furthermore, Scott (1996) and Mikulecky (1978) helped to define the difference between being “alliterate” and “illiterate”.  Those who are alliterate are knowledgeable of how to read and are capable of reading, but make the choice not to read.  Those who are illiterate simply cannot read.  Decker (1986) worked to define three main reasons behind alliteracy among students.  The first reason was that students were not exposed to enough vocabulary in school, thus narrowing development.  The second reason was because of increased television watching while the third reason said that high-stakes state standardized testing diluted curriculum and took away the enjoyment of reading, replacing it with test taking strategies.  One more reason behind the lack of reading according to the National Endowment for the Arts (2004) was that there was no time and evidence of pleasure reading in the home environment.

In order to gain a clearer picture as to what was going on in the minds of practicing teachers at the graduate level, Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt borrowed Applegate and Applegate’s Literacy Habits Questionnaire (2004) (LHQ) to survey 788 relatively new teachers to practice mastering the questions.  At the end of data collection, only 747 completed questionnaires were of use, 283 (38%) were current full time teachers while 464 (62%) were graduate students not teaching full time, but looking for work.  The LHQ consisted of seven questions, some of which had particular parts.  Their study analyzed questions separately.  In Questions 1 and 2 participants were asked to report summer reading as well as categorize their enjoyment of reading based on a 5 point rubric taken from Applegate and Applegate (2004).  Question 3 gave participants statements about instructional practices and also provided a continuum with options to choose from to rate responses.  Questions 4-7 were open ended, addressing early reading, reading in the home, reading as a younger student in school and reading as a college level student.

Results from the LHQ were broken down by questions and groups of questions.  In Question 1, of the 747 participants, 114 (15%) did not read during the summer.  Seventy-six (10%) read newspapers or magazines, 12 (2%) were in the midst of reading a book, 188 (25%) read one book and 356 (48%) read two or more books. This breakdown suggests that summer reading was not an important leisure pastime.  Question 2 yielded that of the 114 non-readers, 67 (21.2%) were unenthusiastic and 47 (7.7%) were enthusiastic.  Those who read magazines, 39 (28.1%) were unenthusiastic while 37 (6.1%) were enthusiastic.  Participants who were in the midst of reading a book showed that 0 (0%) were unenthusiastic while 13 (2.1%) were enthusiastic.  Students reading one book showed 27 (19.4%) as unenthusiastic and 161 (26.5%) as enthusiastic.  Finally, participants who read two or more books were defined as 139 (18.6%) which were unenthusiastic and 608 (81.4%) which were enthusiastic.  It seemed that as the participants who claimed that they had read in the summer, were more enthusiastic than those who did not.  Even more specifically those who read two or more books showed higher percentages of enthusiasm than those who read magazines.  Question 3 was divided into three parts when analyzed.  Question 3A showed that participants did not correlate their elementary and high school reading experiences with memorizing small details between the enthusiastic and unenthusiastic groups.  Question 3B yielded that participants at the elementary level did not show an indication of difference between the instructional emphasis placed on the reactions and interpretations of literature.  However, at the high school level, the study revealed that enthusiastic readers reported that high school teachers put a greater deal of emphasis on interpretations of literature.  Those who were identified as unenthusiastic were less likely to report that high school teachers placed a greater deal of emphasis on interpretations of literature. Question 3C asked participants to indicate the degree of instructional emphasis that was placed on completing reports.  Again, there was no detectable difference indicated between the enthusiastic and unenthusiastic readers.  Question 4 yielded that enthusiastic readers were more likely to rate their early reading experiences as positive.  Question 5 said that a large amount of participants preferred home reading; however there was no significant difference between enthusiastic and unenthusiastic readers.  Question 6 yielded a significant difference between enthusiastic and unenthusiastic readers who had a teacher who showed his/her love for reading.  Fifty-six percent of participants who were considered unenthusiastic had at least one teacher that did not share a love for reading while 64% of participants that were considered enthusiastic readers did.  These findings suggested that a teacher’s attitude impacts his or her students’ attitudes about reading.  Question 7 collected data about participants’ college reading experiences.  They were asked to rate them as positive, negative or neutral.  Again, there was not a significant difference between enthusiastic and unenthusiastic readers.

The overall result of Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt’s study show that even though a majority of graduate students claimed to read over the summer, majority of the collected data showed that those readers were considered unenthusiastic.  Seventeen percent of students found little to no pleasure in reading and a third of participants enjoyed reading when they had the time.  Forty-seven percent of participants claimed themselves as enthusiastic to highly enthusiastic.  It seemed that students who took the questionnaire were more likely to enjoy reading if their past teachers enjoyed reading.  College leveled reading was highly disliked in the study sample.  This creates the need for currently reading programs to provide their own students with opportunities to read and spark the love for literature.  College course outlines should include both the mechanics of reading and time for aesthetic reading.  This will allow for the embrace of pleasure reading in practicing teachers, which will then pass on to students.  Other ways to boost the love of reading might be to encourage self-selection of text in graduate leveled articles, include open dialogue of text discussion, assign reflective journaling about recreational reading and include technology-enhanced lessons.

My Response:

Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt brought up a point that is very important for teachers today.  I have always enjoyed reading, so I am not sure if I had ever had to consider this personally, but a teacher’s attitude of what he or she does makes a difference in the lives of his or her students.  I can think about a colleague of mine who do not like to “try” new things.  I enjoy using guided reading groups in my class as well as partner reading and ideas that incorporate new found ways to teach reading. I like providing my students with SSR periods where they may move around the room for comfort and enjoyment.  I have a teammate who is from the “old school” as he likes to say, and tends to use whole group instruction with blanket activities that aren’t differentiated for students across reading levels.  He enjoys worksheets and the ease of grading those activities.  I’ve made suggestions of the way I have used my reading program, but he tends to change the subject or mentions that my “new” ways are hard to grade.  I think that what he does in his classroom is somewhat effective for his on level readers, but for those who are struggling or for those who are above level, there are troubles that could amount from these practices.  I think about the reasoning behind his choices not to try new things are because he’s out of tune with research and he’s not excited about reading.  He tends to complain when our principal passes around an article to read regarding instruction.  I believe that the participants in this study could be mannered much like this teacher, stuck in their “old ways” without regard to learning a new strategy to teach children.

Another idea came to me as I read this study.  The amount of time practicing teachers spend reading is essential to the way they convey reading in the classroom.  I truly enjoy wrapping up in a blanket on a couch and flipping on the lamp to read a good book.  Some students enjoy this practice as well.  For those who don’t it could be that they are never exposed to this at home or at their after school centers.  In the classroom, majority of reading is done in a hard plastic chair in a group of students at desks.  In order to invite students to enjoy reading in the classroom, it is ideal to provide comfortable chairs and bean bags where students can sit back and truly enjoy a book for possibly the first time.  Because I have had this experience as a reader, I can share how I felt when reading my book, and in turn, share that feeling with my students.  In the study, teachers who enjoyed reading promoted positive behaviors to reading within their classrooms, allowing students to lose themselves in great literature and to find a true love for reading.

Renee Hennings                                                                            2/5/12