Tag Archives: School Libraries

#BookReview of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


unbroken

I know I’m very behind on reading and reviewing this historical gem, but since Louis Zamperini passed away a little over a year ago, I figured it was finally time to make this one a priority.

First, I was impressed by how well-researched this biography was.  Laura Hillenbrand has real talent for finding nitty-gritty details and seamlessly weaving them into a beautiful narrative.  Unbroken reads like a novel, making it accessible to those who struggle through most non-fiction.

Louis Zamperini was born in Torrance, CA in 1917.  He spent his childhood causing mischief, stealing, and being the most unruly child ever encountered.  His older brother, Pete, told Louie something that would carry him through the roughest times of his life: “If you can take it, you can make it.”  Pete began training Louie for the track team.  With Pete’s coaching, Louie became the fastest high school kid in America.  He succeeded in qualifying for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he raced the 5000m event and earned 8th place before enlisting in the army, where he became a bombardier. Louie’s plane crashed on a rescue mission, killing all but two others in his crew.  The men spent 47 days adrift at sea before being captured by the Japanese.

I finished Unbroken at 11pm on Saturday night because I HAD to finish it.  I couldn’t leave Louie in those camps any longer.  We were wasting away on the raft together, suffering on Execution Island, fearing for our lives at Ofuna…but all the while, Louie never gave up.  He was defiant and held to his incredible strength and, even when we thought we wouldn’t survive another minute, Louie persevered.  A few weeks ago I came across a Buzzfeed article titled “31 Books That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” with Unbroken making the list.  All the heartbreaking news lately about random and school shootings and ISIS attacks inspired us in the library to create our own list and display titled “74 Books That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity”.  The list includes our favorite titles that remind us of the goodness in humanity.  Our collection includes books by Nicholas Sparks, some Laurie Halse Anderson, non-fiction by Fr. Jim Martin, and many more.

On Sunday, I had to see the film directed by Angelina Jolie.  Yes, reading the book before seeing the movie practically guarantees disappointment, but I had to know what many people’s only impression of Louis Zamperini would be.  Honestly, the film didn’t do Louie’s story justice.  I found myself commentating throughout the entire movie about Louie’s childhood mischief and the horrors that were left off the screen.  Poor Chris had to sit through my rants (He says that they made the movie better, but I think he’s humoring me).

Louis Zamperini was an inspiration to all.  Most of us will never know the smallest fraction of the pain that he experienced as a prisoner of war in World War II, and we can’t empathize with him, but we can recognize his unbelievable spirit and draw strength and comfort from his story.

RJHS “Year of the Top 30” Project


This is a school-wide, interdisciplinary program to unite the community in answering these questions: “What does it mean to be American? What does every American need to know? What is the common knowledge of this country?”  I will be supporting teachers as a co-teacher and with research materials as they find the best way to integrate the project into their curricula.  Background reading and inspiration: E.D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know.

 

Project outline:

How to Be American: RJHS “Year of the Top 30”

 

Situation: Who is “us”?  Common knowledge and common references are what unite us as a people.  E.D. Hirsch began the first list in 1987 with his book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know.  Hirsch’s book of 5,000 items of common knowledge caused much controversy over the American identity and where multiculturalism fits into our nation’s history.

 

Task: In order to achieve cultural literacy, what does every American need to know?  As a class, choose an essential question and compile a list of 10 things every American should know about that subject.  Student majority votes will condense the lists into the Top 30 for each subject in the spring semester.

Ideas for essential questions:

  • What are the top 10 most important events in the history of America?
  • What are the most influential works of American literature?
  • What are the 10 most essential Mathematical concepts that every American should know?
  • What should every American know about French culture?
  • What are the top 10 scientific theories that every American should know?
  • 10 Things Every Catholic Should Know

 

Once the class has chosen an essential question, begin researching the knowledge, images, symbols, stories, and references that hold our nation together and compile a class list of the Top 10 and why each item is essential common knowledge for an American citizen.  As a class, create an authentic document / diorama / timeline / poster / media presentation / slideshow that showcases your Top 10.

Be prepared to defend your list at a lunchtime debate series in March and early April.  Your goal is to convince the student panel to add one or more of your items to the Top 30 list for your subject area!

 

*All projects and Top 30 lists will be on display at the Poetry Slam (April 13th) and all lists will be assembled into the 2015 RJHS Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.

 

 

The goals of the project are:

◦To define and recognize common knowledge for all Americans.

◦Use creativity to present the class (or individual) “Top 10” list (consider technology tools!)

◦Connect the dots for your students.  Why do we have to learn…?

◦Promote higher level thinking skills!

 

Suggested strategies to integrate”Year of the Top 30″ into the curriculum:

◦Have individual assignments (short or long) in which students defend their answer to the essential question.

◦Answer the essential question for each unit or as part of the review at the end of the semester or year.

◦Identify the knowledge, images, symbols, stories & other references that are “essential.”

◦Students create an independent freewrite list with the essential question as a prompt near the end of the course (March / April) with a follow-up discussion, whittling these into a class top 10 list.

◦A teacher-assigned (or student-generated) essential question to guide student research.

◦Student groups are asked to research and decide on 2-3 most important things to know about a topic or the essential question before compiling a class list.

◦Have students decide what the most important topic was from each class unit to make a top 10 list for that subject.

 

By end of year:

The library will collect the “Top 10” lists from your classes and the projects that represent that knowledge.

A panel of students will decide which items will make it into a top 30 list for each subject area.

The libraries will display the top 30 lists and projects in the spring at the Poetry SLAM!

Genre-fication of Fiction


genrefied

Mrs. Readerpants’ genre-fied library

This year’s plan is to genre-fy the fiction section!  The goal is to make it easier for students to find books they will love by genre: Each shelf will be labelled with a genre and color-coded spine labels for easy browsing.  Oftentimes students do not easily recognize authors, even of books they love, so the way the fiction section is organized by author’s last name is outdated and clunky for kids to use.

Mrs. Readerpants, one of my favorite school library blogs, nicely outlines the process of genre-fying and answers every question imaginable about the process.

Looking forward to starting this project at Loyola School this spring!

Coding in Our Schools


coding

Thank you Education Week for bringing the computer science controversy to light in your current issue.  The article titled “Computer Science: Not Just an Elective Anymore” is a follow-up to Code.org’s recent “Hour of Code” in which more than twenty million students participated in learning to code using Code.org’s list of online tutorials.  The field of computer science is one of the fastest growing career fields with a projected 1.4 million job openings by 2020 that will only have approximately 400,000 potential qualified employees to fill those positions.

This is the second year I have been teaching intro to computer programming as part of the freshman-required Computing Technology course at Loyola School.  I love Code.org–I use the video featuring big names like Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Bosh to introduce this unit, which sparks interest in those students who had never dreamed of learning to code.  It’s been a success so far; I am hoping to expand it to an after-school club for those who are hooked on coding.

And guess what?  I’m not a computer programmer.  I’m learning while I teach.

Do I believe that computer science courses should be a substitute for language requirements in high school, like Texas?  Absolutely not.  Learning a foreign language helps students become more global, just like computer science.  My question is: why do we have to choose?  Let’s have our cake and eat it, too!

Digital Tools for Learning Across the Curriculum


web2

 

 

 

 

Here are two links to livebinders that present a variety of Web 2.0 tools for digital instruction and information literacy.

The first is a presentation I gave to Fordham Preparatory School in Bronx, NY this afternoon.  If you’re new to incorporating instructional technology into the classroom, this is the one to start with.  I’ve included a few assignments from my class to illustrate how easy it is to plug in a variety of content.

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=792925

This second livebinder is a well-curated compilation by an educator in North Carolina.

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=607824