Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two Letters

Hi all,
It seems like more than a week since I posted an entry on Link 2 Literacy. I have been busy working and preparing for the holidays as all of you have, but I wanted to share my latest addition to the multigenre project. I feel like I am co-teaching with Cherri and co-learning with her students in a technical way. Whether or not I have much of an audience, I still find writing daily an invigorating experience.

I decided to complete the letter to my husband's grandmother first because I didn't think it would take much time. HA! Her letter is a long one - 13 feet, to be exact. (I'm sure you wonder why I referred to this epistle's length in terms of feet. She wrote her letter on toilet paper! It remains in tact and has lasted so long because the "tissue" is more like our paper towels.) Because I only own a photocopy, it was difficult to read parts of it. I spent an entire evening pouring over every word and then scanning the entire effort onto my computer. (I hope to post at least one page of her letter on my Wikispace).

I should have written little notes on stickies and placed them at corresponding points on the letter as I read it, but I was tired and thought I'd reread it and write the notes then. Well, I was so anxious to start my letter that I jumped right to it the next evening, trying to remember what I'd read. When all was completed, I ended up going back into the text at least a 1000 times to find the details that I failed to remember or to write on stickies!

The experience was a wonderful one for me. There were several terms or brand names in her letter that I did not recognize. I researched some but realized I'd never finish the letter if I kept that up. One day I'll continue the quest. Some parts of the letter sounded like they could have been written yesterday because Katie concerned herself with many of the same things that trouble women now: family, finances, neighbors, weather, etc. But her musings were also filled with words and "ways" we hear little of now.

I don't know how much education Katie had, but I doubt she finished school. In spite of that, her spelling was excellent. Grammatical construction was not as well done as her spelling, but I loved the quaintness of it, and I think it also reflected Midwestern colloquialism.

Just as Katie wrote a little each day, I wrote a little each night. It became a labor of love that helped me feel a kinship to this woman I never knew. Nevertheless, her influence upon her children, especially my father-in-law, impacts me. I think when I meet her "on the other side," I'll see that many of my husband's characteristics came from her - especially a sense of humor.

My letter isn't as long as Grandmother Katie's, but it stretches to 3 pages and includes over 2,000 words. Don't let that scare you! I hope readers catch a little glimpse into this cute lady and her era. Remember, letters like hers are primary sources that document times, people and places! You can find my letter by clicking onto this link: https://literacylinkup.wikispaces.com/Open+Letter+to+Katie.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays, I'll sign off until next year!


Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting Started on My Multigenre Project

Good Evening,
I have thought a lot about the multigenre project I am creating along with Cherri White's class of juniors at Copper Hills High School. At this point, I have settled on two genre ideas. I have a copy of a letter written by my husband's grandmother in 1919. There is little known about her, but that lengthy letter shares some details about her times and about her personality. I have decided to write a response to that letter. I will comment upon what she wrote, but I will also include questions that I would like to ask her because she is one of the five people I want to meet in heaven.

I decided to finally write a research-based article about Irene Colvin Corbett, the Titanic passenger from Utah. Besides fulfilling the requirements for this project, this article will also be submitted to Encyclopedia Titanica, an outstanding website that publishes quality research about the ill-fated ship and its passengers. I have wanted to do this for a long time and decided now is the time. I hope they will publish it.

As for my grandmother, I think I am going to write a narrative that can be added to our family history. I also believe this can be submitted to a geneology website. I still have to think about this choice because my grandma had a very sad childhood and a challenging adulthood. I really want to write something special to honor her.

I am editing this posting because, as often happens with students and teachers, I changed my mind about whom I want to focus upon. I decided to make this an "all-woman" project. Rather than write about Einstein and the Apostle Paul, I am turning my attention to a historical figure I met some years ago: Empress Elizabeth of Austria. She is a very interesting subject, AND she was among those topics that helped launch me into the World Wide Web.

As for the fifth woman, I am toying with the idea of creating something about Minerva Teichert, famed Western artist. I have long been familiar with her works but knew very little about this interesting woman. The students at Copper Hills High have long submitted their projects, but mine will eventually stagger in. If I were in Ms. White's class, I would receive a failing grade; but I had to place this assignment on the back burner. (Think she would accept that excuse?)

In the meantime, if any readers want to examine the details of this multigenre project, click on https://literacylinkup.wikispaces.com/Multi-genre+Project.

Until later,

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Multi-genre Project!

Good morning,
Students at a district high school are creating a multi-genre project as outlined by Tom Romano of Utah State University. Part of that assignment requires a research log. I am also working with those students and their teacher in a very small way; so I decided to post my research journal on my blog to model this process! I invite any interested parties to come along for the ride. To see details about his project, click here: https://literacylinkup.wikispaces.com/Multi-genre+Project

Deciding upon a topic:
As soon as I learned of this project, I instantly knew what I wanted to do. I don't know why the idea popped into my head so quickly, but I love it and further reflection convinced me that it's a topic I find interesting, fascinating and fun. I can't wait to get started!

I have never read the book or seen the movie adaptation of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but I decided I want to center my paper upon that concept. My project will introduce the five people I would like to meet in heaven. Unlike the book, it will not explore the theories of the afterlife, just some great people who I believe are hanging out in that celestial realm.

Narrowing down the list of people I'd like to meet was a little more difficult than choosing the overall theme of my paper. But right now, this moment in my life, I'd like to meet these individuals:
  • Irene Colvin Corbett - Utah passenger who sailed upon the Titanic in 1912
  • Albert Einstein - world-renowned physicist who was also a great humanitarian
  • The apostle Paul - ancient missionary who brought Christianity to the western world
  • Katie Duncan Salisbury - my husband's grandmother
  • Rebecca Wheelwright Howe - my maternal grandmother

I chose these individuals for a variety of reasons. I first learned about Irene in 1995 when my seventh grade students studied about the ill-fated Titanic. The bits and pieces I knew of her experience prompted me to research her story further.

I have never been a great student of science, but after reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein I became intrigued with the genius - his work and his politics. As I studied the New Testament this year in Sunday School, I enjoyed learning about the apostle Paul, his conversion to Christianity and his missionary work throughout the Roman Empire.

I never met Katie Duncan Salisbury because she died when my father-in-law was 17, but I have a copy of a delightful letter she wrote to her sister in 1919 that unveils a spunky spirit that survived many hardships. My own grandmother, Rebecca Wheelwright Howe, died in a car accident when I was 13; nevertheless, she influenced my life in several ways.

I have so many questions I would love to ask these people, and so I thought it might be fun to start preparing for those heavenly interviews now - not that I expect to conduct them anytime soon. I just want to know more about them before I meet them!

Signing off and wishing you the best in your work,


Monday, December 3, 2007

Integrating Technology

Welcome class members of "Critical Perspectives of Technology in Education" - and any others who have dropped in,

Please respond to the poll attached to the Link 2 Literacy blog, and then share your thoughts about the following questions by posting a comment.

  1. How do you think technology enriches learning?
  2. Do you think students can better learn content when technology is a central part of the curriculum?
  3. What concerns do you have that inhibit your use of technology in teaching content?
  4. If you are happy with way you have integrated technology into your teaching and your students' learning, share the reasons why.

Thank you for taking the time to respond!


SWBS Instructional Tool

Good Morning –

Well, at least it started out nicely! I created a lengthy posting to share details about the SWBS instructional tool, and it disappeared when I pushed "publish." So this is a Reader's Digest version of that effort, okay? Today's entry is in response to a reader who asked me about the SWBS instructional tool.

SWBS is an acronym for "Somebody… wanted… but… so…." It functions as a summarizing tool, but if the word "THEN" is added, students will work their way deeper into the text through re-reading, drawing inferences and predicting.

Because SWBS(T) is an open-ended tool, it is especially helpful to use when differentiation of instruction is needed. Additionally, teachers can provide different texts at a variety of levels to accommodate the various achievement levels. At the UCRI Conference Debi May shared the following poem to use with the SWBS instructional tool. I think your students will enjoy "getting into it." (An added note: I also think this poem would be a fun SLAM poetry presentation!)

Madam and the Rent Man
By Langston Hughes

The rent man knocked.
He said, Howdy-do?
I said, What
Can I do for you?
He said, You know
Your rent is due.

I said, Listen
Before I'd pay
I'd go to Hades
And rot away!
The sink is broke,

The water don't run,
And you ain't done a thing
You promised to've done.
Back window's cracked,

Kitchen floor squeaks,
There's rats in the cellar,
And the attic leaks.

He said, Madam,
It's not up to me,
I'm just the agent,
Don't you see?

I said, Naturally,
You pass the buck.
If it's money you want
You're out of luck.

He said, Madam,
I ain't pleased!
I said, Neither am I!,
So we agrees!

SWBS example: Somebody – the rent man wanted the rent that was due, but Madam said she'd go to Hades before she paid, so she told him all the reasons why. THEN s… w… b… s…. (You fill in the blanks and repeat the process until you and your students have gone into and beyond the text!)

Hope this tool works for you and your students! Until next Monday, have a great week.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Advanced Readers at Risk

Good Afternoon,

As promised, here is a summary of an excellent break-out session I attended at the UCIRA conference. Debra May of Nebo School District introduced participants to concerns about the progress of advanced readers.

While applauding the focus on supporting struggling and striving readers, May reiterated that the report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates the percentage of 4th and 8th grade students at the advanced reading level has not significantly changed since 1992 (Refer to The Nation's Report Card). She also cites a couple of reasons for this stagnation and suggests the "World Class Reader Model" as a possible answer.

The four components of this model, sponsored by the Federal Javits Grant, are as follows: "Academic Reading components: learning to read and reading to learn; Active Reading components: reading for leisure and reading to serve."

While "learning to read" does not apply to advanced readers beyond 3rd grade, "reading to learn" continues to be a focus as texts become more difficult. May encourages teachers to introduce and reinforce the seven reading comprehension strategies identified by the "proficient-reader research" (Keene & Zimmerman, 2007). They include "monitoring for meaning; using and creating schema; asking questions; determining importance; inferring; using sensory and emotional images; and synthesizing" (p. 14).

While these cognitive strategies are important to basic, proficient and advanced readers, instructional strategies are NOT helpful to advanced readers. Instructional strategies are those tools teachers use to help students understand the content. Examples are the KWL graphic organizer, a text preview or story map.

So, what should a teacher do to help these advanced readers? The answer lies in differentiated instruction. While this suggestion causes some educators to throw their hands in the air as they think of the 38+ students in each of their language arts classes, May encourages the use of "open-ended" instructional strategies. They are easy to organize and implement. Two examples she shared are SWBS and Tea Party. (Sound interesting? Comment upon this posting, and I'll send you both of these lesson plans!)

Additionally, May suggests grouping for instruction in order to address the achievement needs of all students. Academic grouping means students will work in that "zone of proximal development" where Vygotsky tells us optimum learning takes place. This can be a lot of work, but collectively, teachers can brainstorm ways to make it happen. (Comments about this issue are also welcome.)

If I piqued your curiosity, let me know. I will be happy to share the World Class Reader Core Curriculum with all who are interested. I think you will find it fascinating.

In the meantime, have a good week!


Reference: Keen, E.O. & Zimmerman, S. (2007). Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Monday, November 19, 2007

UCIRA Topics

Good Morning, Readers,

I will keep posting in the hopes that someone actually reads what I write! I know it takes time to build an audience, but my goal is to provide ideas and information for the language arts and reading teachers in our district. I want to establish a forum wherein we can share more ideas and information; report on what we have tried and whether or not the learning experience worked as planned; and what we will change before attempting it again.

With that said, I am following through with my promise to report upon the UCIRA convention held this past Friday and Saturday. The keynote speakers and break-out sessions were excellent, and over several days, I will pass onto you what I learned. Some of those topics include the following:
  • Advanced Readers: Strategies to Meet Their Needs
  • Strategic Reading, Writing and Learning in Content Areas
  • Vocabulary Instruction in Less than 10 Minutes a Day
  • Strategies for Teaching with Informational Texts
  • News You Can Use: Tried, True and New Ideas for Using the Newspaper in the Classroom

I saw a few educators from Jordan School District, and I invited them to summarize what they garnered from sessions they attended. I extend that invitation to all!

Furthermore, I plan to write about the Utah Council of Teachers of English conference I attended October 26. Some of those topics include Slam Poetry and Integrating Technology into Classroom Curriculum.

Risking a too lengthy posting, I cannot close this epistle without telling you that I list my fellow educators among all that I am thankful for. You enrich my life as well as the lives of children. Thank you for that.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Friday, November 16, 2007


Good Morning,

I am on my way to UCIRA, but wanted to interrupt my departure for a minute to see if anyone commented upon my initial posting. (Of course, I only sent the link to two people! I believe in baby-steps!)

I received a comment and was thrilled! Margo challenged me to send the link to the reading academy, and even though there is precious little information in either posting, I am going to send it anyway. I will create another posting upon my return from UCRIA to share my thoughts about the day's events. My plan is to share details of the sessions over the ensuing weeks.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of my efforts! It's really easy, and I love the background template I found, too. It depicts the warmth I wish to convey through this unique literacy experience.

Have a fabulous Friday!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

One Giant Step

Good Morning!

This short posting is to immortalize my first giant step into the blogging world. I have no expectations, just excitement as I launch my thoughts and ideas about literacy into cyberspace, hoping to attract the notice of those interested in discussing this critical subject. Over the next few weeks, I will introduce some topics important to supporting literacy in all classrooms. I imagine that educators will be my audience, but I also hope an interested and informed citizenry will find "Link 2 Literacy" and will contribute to the quality of this experience as well.

With a promise to continue this discussion soon, I must end this mini-introduction to assure myself that it works!

Until later,