Tuesday, October 29, 2013

consciousness inhabiting a body

Russell Brand keeps popping up in my consciousness… 

I love the notion that the repetition implies a message for me… and I love his idea that "the time is now".

And don't miss Russell Brand on Gaiman TV. I loved it. "Be nice" is something we all can do. During the interview (2:30 into it) Daniel Pinchbeck references Russell Brand's experience on MSNBC. That clip can be seen HERE. It's a stunning glimpse into the rudeness of the anchors.

What do you think of his message? Is it to be trivialized, as many have done, or does it speak to you?

As for me… Kindness and Compassion always speak the truth.

Monday, October 28, 2013

a love affair with reading

When a book alludes to having a love affair with reading… I know I have found a new friend.

I just read Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts - and Life by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts. (… bonus, there's a forward by Donalyn Miller)

This book will have a huge, positive impact on reading instruction and the interpretation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

I love how the book is organized, and its near 'fail-safe' explanations of how to use Close Reading in the classroom.

Our ritual for teaching students to read closely developed into three steps, steps that are connected and that help students navigate this complex skill set in more approachable ways:
1. First, read through lenses: Decide what you will be paying attention to while reading and collect those details.
2. Next, use lenses to find patterns: Look across all of the details you have collected and find patterns.
3. Finally, use the patterns to develop a new understanding of the text: Consider these patterns in light of what you have already learned from the text. Put these together to develop a new understanding of the text or a deeper, evidence-based interpretation.

That excerpt may sound a bit  textbookish, but Falling in Love with Close Reading is filled with passion, excitement, and independence. 

It is an exciting time to be young. Our students are growing up surrounded by more text and media than at any other time in human history. By some estimates, in the span of one year, roughly one million books are published and over one trillion web pages of information are accessible ("Did You Know 4.0"). Never before has so much information been so readily available. Global events unfold in real time across social networks, and questions can be researched and answered in mere moments. Our students are growing up in a world where knowledge and experience is just waiting to be harnessed."

Word Choice, Organization, Structure, Perspective, Point of View… there is so much fun to be had in close reading. We can read to understand the ideas of the text, while at the same time revealing the techniques the author uses. Close reading can bring an amazing new awareness of how ideas are shared and how we choose to interact with those ideas.

I want every young adult to read and understand chapter five, Through Your Eyes: A Study of Point of View and Argument. I am in love with a future where students are aware of what the author assumes is true, where students wonder if the author's idea of truth is universal or simply the way he/she sees the world. I adore the idea of students asking themselves, "What does the author value or believe?" Or "What does the author think about certain groups of people?" By reading in a way that tries to understand what someone believes, we can begin to see the sound and not-so-sound ideas that different people operate under.

We want our students to be more aware of the points of view and arguments embedded in most texts. We want them to read these texts closely so that they don't only walk away with a broad sense of the author's argument, but instead are able to examine texts for the subtle points they are trying to make.  And we very much want students to be able to do this in their lives as well. We want them to look around their lives as they become young adults and see other's perspectives, analyze the arguments they and others are making, and critique those arguments and perspectives when they find them wanting. Above all, we want our students to gain insight and wisdom as they engage with and create their own arguments about their world.

Chapter six is my personal favorite, The Family Tree: Closely Reading Across Texts

No one book, article, poem, or play is an island.

I am a fan of collecting and curating characters and settings and themes…. making connections and comparisons across media, for me, is a true pleasure. Nothing exists in isolation - not books, not ideas, not art - no one is ever alone. The interconnections of close reading may, when it belongs to students, help them find their place in a complex world.

The ritual of reading a text closely with a lens, looking for patterns, and then having new understandings is designed so that these structures become ingrained habits, and that these habits then become independent practices for your students.

I loved this book! I think all teachers of reading and writing should get this book, grab a pencil, and begin… 

Follow Chris Lehman on twitter: @ichrislehman

Follow Kate Roberts on twitter: @teachkate

Chat along with others who have read Falling in Love with Close Reading on twitter with  #FILWCloseReading

Still want more? Check out the Close Reading blog-a-thon.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I have decided

I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully in
the cold and the silence.  

It's said that in such a place 
certain revelations may be discovered.  
That what the spirit reaches for 
may be eventually felt, 
if not exactly understood.  Slowly, 
no doubt. I'm not talking about a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to
stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

- Mary Oliver

Saturday, October 19, 2013

be a storyteller

The future of storytelling...

Storytelling is about creating connections with each other... with words and images and emotions and energy. We pay attention to stories... around a campfire, while drinking tea, sitting in a coffee house, with a book in your hand and a child in your lap... stories get passed on when they matter, when they intentionally create deeper connections.

What ever your platform, be a storyteller.

The future belongs to the stories we tell. What role will you play?

Friday, October 18, 2013

on looking

I was at a dinner/fundraiser the other night for The Cabin, and my table mate was photographer, Jay Saenz. It was one of those nights where you felt that the world is filled with talented, passionate people doing what they love.

Jay, amazing in his own right, told me about an awesome project/book :   Humans of New York (or Hony, to those in the tribe).

Check Out:

The Human Behind 'Humans of New York' article on Mashable

The Book Humans of New York

Humans of New York Facebook page

Jay Saenz's portrait project 150 Faces of Boise

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

a hero's journey

Last night I watched the 2011 documentary Finding Joe. It explores the impact of Joseph Campbell's teachings on contemporary culture... and a belief in the hero's journey.

"I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive." - Joseph Campbell

The Hero's Journey: the challenges, the fears, the dragons, the battles, and the return home as a changed person.

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."- Joseph Campbell

Sunday, October 13, 2013

it's a magical world

The other day on BookRiot there was a post entitled, "Sixteen Things Calvin and Hobbes Said Better Than Anyone Else". I loved it... but it made me realize, I haven't thought about Bill Watterson in a while.

So I pulled out a copy of The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, and fell back in love with a boy and his tiger.

And, you know how it is when you start thinking about someone... they start showing up everywhere? I had a friend send me the 1990 Kenyon College Commencement address given by Bill Watterson.


Then I remembered this:


Then I saw this:


And, today, I learned that a new documentary entitled Dear Mr. Watterson comes out this November 15th.

What haven't you thought about in a while? Maybe it's something you used to love, like Calvin and Hobbes. Start remembering... and see what happens.

Or as Calvin would say, "It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!"

love was the answer

"Looking back over a lifetime, 
you see that love was the answer to everything."

- Ray Bradbury

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell, the inverted-U, and a pond of your own choosing

I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David and Goliath. I heard him interviewed by Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace and knew I had to read it.

The overarching thesis of "David and Goliath" is that for the strong, "the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness," whereas for the weak, "the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty."

It’s about the advantages of disadvantages — and the disadvantages of seeming advantages. Or, as Gladwell puts it: “We have a definition in our heads of what an advantage is — and the definition isn’t right. And what happens as a result? It means that we make mistakes. It means that we misread battles between underdogs and giants. It means that we underestimate how much freedom there can be in what looks like a disadvantage.” 

It's an awesome book. Teachers and administrators should read it... especially for what it says about education. We have an idea in our heads of what an advantage looks like in education - and the definition may not be right. 

My favorite bit on education is the Inverted-U curve and how it relates to class size:

"Inverted-U curves have three parts, and each part follows a different logic. There's the left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. There's the flat middle, where doing more doesn't make much of a difference. And there's the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse."

My favorite quote, and I have many, about education is:
"It is a strange thing, isn't it, to have an educational philosophy that thinks of the other students in the classroom with your child as competitors for the attention of the teacher and not allies in the adventure of learning."

And, finally... the part on the Impressionists of 1860's Paris will stick with me for quite some time: did Renoir, Manet, C├ęzanne, Monet, Pissarro, and Degas want to be little fish in a big pond, or big fish in a little pond of their own choosing?

"The inverted-U curve reminds us that there is a point at which money and resources stop making our lives better and start making them worse. The story of the Impressionists suggests a second, parallel problem. We strive for the best and attach great importance to getting into the finest institutions we can. But rarely do we stop and consider - as the Impressionists did - whether the most prestigious of institutions is always in our best interest."

You should read this book because Malcolm Gladwell is a magnificent story teller. Within the pages of David and Goliath, you will find ample food for thought on advantages vs disadvantages, on strength vs weakness, on our assumed perceptions, and on the innate beauty of an inverted-U curve.

Monday, October 7, 2013

do what you can do

I loved reading Delia Ephron's new book, Sister Mother Husband Dog. It is a bittersweet collection of essays. 

The first essay, Losing Nora, is brilliant.

Delia describes the disorientation felt when someone you love is seriously sick...
All the various specialists come in, doing their dance. There are many ramifications of this treatment, potential disasters galore. Glitches happen every day, and we have no idea what the glitch is, what it even could be. It's not as if there is a sniper in the woods and everyone keeps their eyes on the trees, searching for a man with a gun. No one knows where the hell they should be looking or what the hell they should be looking for until something starts beeping. Or maybe there will be no beep and we don't know to expect one.
I felt a pervasive sense of helplessness. Of danger. Of responsibility. And a pervasive sense of guilt and unreality. How could she be sick and not me? 

In the essay Bakeries, the bit about 'having it all' really stuck with me...
To me, having it all - if one wants to define it at all - is the magical time when what you want and what you have match up.

Having it all are moments in life when you suspend judgement. It's when I attain that elusive thing called peace of mind. 

You should read this book. It's humorous and poignant. Delia Ephron illuminates the human condition in a way that helps us feel less alone.

And as she says,
"Our job as writers is to figure out what we can do. Only do what you can do. It's a rule I live by." 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

create the conditions for invention

"Remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down."
- Adam Savage, host of Mythbusters 

I  just read Invent To Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary S Stager. It will inspire you to join the Maker movement. Children are natural tinkerers... and you know when you have a Super Tinkerer in your midst. 

All educators who believe that children should be given the opportunity to explore, learn, and discover should read this! This book is not an instruction manual on how to manage kids or a classroom, but how to bring out the greatness that kids already have to offer if they are allowed to explore their own interests and creativity. 

"Making is a way of bringing engineering to young learners. Such concrete experiences provide a meaningful context for understanding abstract science and math concepts. For older students, making combines disciplines in ways that enhance the learning process for diverse student populations and opens the doors to unforeseen career paths."

After reading Invent To Learn, you might even be inspired to create something yourself. Perhaps you can start by creating a maker culture in your own home and see where it leads.

Check out this inspiring blog post:
Start Something: The power of side projects.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

tooth and nail

“ Taking the…  vow to help others implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in.  It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility. In fact, it means taking a big chance.” Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

full quote here