March, 2009

Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop by Katie Wood Ray

February, 2009

Review by Brandy Pihlgren, RRVWP Teacher Consultant and Book Club Facilitator
The Forest AND the Trees: Helping Readers Identify Important Details in Text & Tests contains useful information, including numerous reproducibles, for any content area teacher. Although the book targets 4th-8th graders, RRVWP teacher consultants found that most activities can be adapted to any grade level. Kissner thoroughly explains how we can use big and little details to increase student understanding. We especially liked the sections dealing with visualization, making inferences, flag words, using and/or increasing prior knowledge, genres, and attention to important details. One teacher successfully used the “Specific or Not Specific?” activity (p. 157) with her high school students, which prompted them to differentiate between specific and general ideas of a text. We give the book two thumbs up!

November, 2008

Nonfiction Matters by Stephanie Harvey

September 2008

A Teacher's Guide to the Multigenre Research Paper
by Melinda Putz
Review written by Carm, RRVWP Teacher Consultant

I really enjoyed A Teacher's Guide to the Multigenre Research Project. Melinda Putz presents a "twist" on the research paper in her book. This isn't the first time I've heard of this kind of project. Melinda Putz doesn't claim to have "invented" the assignment. She has, however, explained it in a way that is very explicit and user friendly. She includes at the end of each chapter her actual handouts she provides for students. I found myself frequently flipping to these in order to make sense of her explanations. Putz includes student work to illustrate the explanations and goes a step further by including a companion CD with PDF and MS word files of each of her handouts for teacher use as well as one complete student multigenre project and many snippets from other students' work as well. Because much of the multigenre project is visual, the CD option really added my my understanding of the projects students produced.

It's impressive to consider all the ways a unit like this can impact students reading, researching, and writing. They must do a decent amount of higher level thinking, inferring, and synthesizing and I am always looking for ways to encourage that in students.

Finally, it's a project that --I-- want to do. Instantly I was running through possible topics in my mind and was trying to think of different genres I could use to depict the essential elements of those topics. It's easy to get excited about something so creative and I have a feeling that would be the same for students too. I am definitely going to try this with my students I just need to figure out how to adapt it to our school setting (block schedule) and at what grade level I want to begin.

For those curious about ways to engage students in research in creative ways this is a book I would highly recommend.

June 2008

Books and Beyond: New Ways to Reach Readers by Michael F. Optiz, Michael P. Ford with Matthew D. Zbaracki
Review written by Carm, RRVWP Teacher Consultant

Books and Beyond: New Ways to Reach Readers opens with a rationale for using a variety of texts with readers. For the remainder of the book, Optiz, Ford, and Zbaracki explore ten kinds of texts: magazines, poetry, multilevel texts, newspapers, series texts, humorous texts, dramatic texts, real-life texts, anthologies, and cyber texts. I already knew a lot of the content found in this book, but it works for me to use as a rationale for some of the choices I make in my regular English class and in my Title 1 Reading class. I thought it was pretty interesting and well written--fairly easy to whip through. Each chapter was dedicated to a different kind of text and each chapter was formated the same way including such features as "a brief description," "why use them," "how might they be used," "some sample titles" among other topics. At times it felt a bit repetitive but it was also useful in comparing the various genres. However, in the end it was not really all that cutting edge. No section on graphic novels and not too much about online texts. That fact led us to do a study of online texts using, what else, online texts for the following month.