Judging a Book by Its Cover

I pick up a book and take a look.

For me that’s the first step in choosing a novel. I look at the front cover, read the title, consider the author. Do I know him or her? I read the back cover blurb. Does it grab my attention and make me think? I look for awards or recognitions on the front cover such as the Newbery Medal or the Canadian Library Association Award. If there are reviews on the back cover or inside, I consider them too. I begin to anticipate, predict, infer…

And then I start to read. 

We are going to be taking part in a world-wide event called the Global Read Aloud. That means I will read a book to you, just as thousands of other teachers will do around the world. Through various digital tools we will connect with other classes to share our observations.

Here is our book. Take a look:

(Click images to enlarge)
In your comment below:

  • Describe what you see on the cover–what details (evidence) do you notice and what do you infer?
  • When you read the blurb on the back cover, what do you predict and why (what evidence do you use)?
  • What kinds of feelings does this book stir up?

I look forward to reading your thoughts.


I’m new here.

3670465986_3ac609277d_oWhen you are brand new to something and you want to grow, you can look up to others for examples and guidance. The 2015-16 nest of newbie bloggers doesn’t have to go far to find good models of how to blog well–we have seven years of Huzzahnian Grads to show us how to hatch and grow a blog. From them we can learn much about writing interesting, thoughtful posts, designing inviting blog pages, and commenting in a way that creates a conversation.

Your task:

First, read the Commenting Guidelines written by past Huzzahnians. They capture the big ideas about commenting. They set the standard that we will go by here.

Next, start reading and noticing quality in the blog posts below–you don’t have to read them all–pick one or two. Read the comments below them:

(Are you noticing that blogging is about reading, first?)

Finally, in your comment below: Share one commenting guideline that you think is particularly important and why it is so. (*Hint:* You may have to use the word because.) Then tell us about a post that you read: give the blogger’s name and post title AND a one sentence summary of the content. Then say what you found interesting or inspiring, and showed quality in blogging to you. Also share what you discovered about the comments you read–do they follow commenting guidelines?  (Hmm, your comment is going to be five or more sentences long…one might almost call it a paragraph!)

Huzzahnians, remember to copy your comment into your  Google doc.  Soon you’ll be ready to hatch a blog of your own!

Visitors, if you think you have an exemplary post we should read, include the url (address) in your comment and we will visit and comment.

Photo Credit: CaptPiper via Compfight cc

Don’t Lose Your Place!

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
                         -Garrison Keillor

Well, as long as it’s taken care of, that is. There is nothing more disappointing than discovering a missing page or feeling the book spine fall off in your hands because a book was abused. One way to be kind to books is to mark your place with a bookmark rather than turning down corners or leaving your book splayed open. A bookmark also lets you get quickly back to where you were reading before–and who doesn’t like that? Losing your place can slow you down when all you want to do is read!

We made these pop-up bookmarks during our first week of school. They are easy and fun to make by folding manilla tag (teachers use it for word strips). I have very creative students as you can tell. Soon they will have their own blogs and you’ll be able read their interesting posts and see what they create.

Here’s a sample of our bookmarks. Take a look, and as Neil Buchanan used to say on his program Art Attack, try it yourself!

Here is an Art Attack from the 1990s–Neil brought so much enthusiasm and creativity to the show. It’s a little corny, silly, and over the top–but I love it. I wish I could find the episode that had the bookmarks in it –but I bet you can figure it out yourself. If you are really stuck, leave a comment and I will give you some details.
(Video starts after 10 seconds–it’s a bit loud!)

So, students of Smarthlandia and guests too: in your comment below, please tell us about your reading habits: what do you like to read? What have you read lately that you recommend? Any favourite authors? And do you use a bookmark?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Looking for Some Good Reading?

Things are beginning to hop on our student blogs. It takes a while to learn (and in some cases, relearn) digital citizenship, commenting process and etiquette, how to work with widgets, theme customization, how to plan, write, and revise posts, how to add Creative Commons images, how to tag, categorize, and make links…It’s a tall digital order!

So now it’s time to take a look at the fruits of our labours. Students have done a few assigned posts and now they are blogging about their own interests. Follow the links, read the posts, and why not leave a supportive comment? Please leave your blog url so students can return the favour.Grape divinity

Amy and Will tell you about their sailing experiences.
Faith has two cute, unique pets.
Boone knows about the biggest stuff on Earth!Tools
Gillian likes to dance. Here’s why.
Brayden has learned about Pugs.
Find out what Lauren collects.
Luke can wants to know if you prefer cats or dogs.
Maya has adventures at the lunchtime zoo.
Renée shares a delicious recipe.
Sara has changed her mind about being in Band.
Cameron plays Canada’s favourite game.
Curious about longboarding? Read Ethan V.‘s post.
Josh I likes a sport you can play inside while Mike likes one you play outside.
Kenzie shares her creativity.
Liam writes about pets, not once but twice and video games, not once but twice! Bonus, one more!
Logan is putting dinner on the table.
Scott is looking forward to winter weather.
Alana has re-read this great book many times.
Tengis tells you about robots.
Andrew, Eric, and Ethan P. share their favourite video games. Cade too. Ok, and Josh J. too.
Teyia has won six medals!
Trevor is flying high and enjoying life in the water.

Do you have some great posts for us to read? Why not leave a link. Thanks for stopping by!

Photo Credit: See1,Do1,Teach1 via Compfight

Beth’s Blog is Brilliant!

I so admire Beth Donofrio. Her blog Hey Kids! is as good as it gets and deserves to be read and emulated. I would love to see her blog be recognized with an Eddie for Best Class Blog.2014-11-23 10_51_34-ATKOSD2

Beth blogs with her grade 6, 7 and 8 Language Arts students in Venice, Florida. She has been at it for about two and a half years, but she really blogs like someone who has been doing it much longer. Beth admits to being a tech newby, but you’d never know it because in a short time she has become a master. Beth gets the essentials and her blog banner shows it: Reading+writing+learning+sharing=Blogging. Doesn’t she sum it all up perfectly?

My students love to comment on Beth’s blog because she always responds. Often she visits their blogs and leaves encouraging, insightful comments. She models good blogging practice on her blog and her students emulate her on theirs. They are total pros–I really love getting comments from Hey Kids! kids because they are thoughtful and carefully crafted. The students are obviously reading deeply and thinking about what they write.

Being a blogging teacher is hard work. There are lots of fiddly bits that can go wrong. Beth is not afraid to ask for help, and I know the good folks at Edublogs have helped her a few times. I also had the privilege of Skyping with Beth to get her over the learning curve on a few things. She is a real treat. The voice your hear on her blog is as genuine as she is in person.

Beth uses her blog to get her kids thinking and caring. I see her blog is her faith in action. She is involved in charity work with her students and she uses her blog to reflect and highlight that work. I would love to be a student in her class–what she does is meaningful and fun.

I am grateful that Beth is a blogging neighbour and friend–right across the continent, but really just next door. I invite you to go visit her.

We Need a (Pumpkin) Hero!

Just before Halloween, I presented my students with our first Destination Imagination instant challenge of the year:

Challenge:    Carve a pumpkin and use it as a character in a performance.

Scenario: Your team will come up with a pumpkin design that represents a new super hero—a hero that helps people in our school community with a pressing issue.

During a DI challenge we use and develop the following core skills:

   Critical Thinking
  • Identify and clarify problems.
  • Ask questions.
  • Plan and manage time and responsibilities.
  • Explore a variety of solutions.
  • Analyze, synthesize, interpret, and evaluate information.
  • Use various media and technologies in different ways.
  • Share ideas and information to solve problems.
  • Listen carefully and respectfully to the ideas of others.
  • Follow directions.
  • Encourage others to expand their ideas.
  • Use strategies, such as brainstorming, to generate ideas with the group.
  • Apply prior knowledge to develop new ideas.
  • Experiment with different solutions.
  • Take an active part in the challenge.
  • Be flexible and willing to compromise.
  • Share responsibility for completing the task.
  • Learn from other group members.

Students attacked the challenge with enthusiasm as you can see in the video below. We laughed a lot during the skits!

Huzzahnians, think back on this challenge and your group’s efforts. Describe the hero you created. Using the language of the four C’s, above, what were your strengths? Use specific examples from the challenge. What is a next step to work on to develop your skills. What suggestions do you have for me as a teacher to help you learn and grow at critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication?

Blog visitors, have you ever done a DI challenge? If so tell us about it. If not, what ways do you use creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication in your life and learning?

I look forward to hearing from you!