Thursday, October 31, 2013

Letters About Literature

Writing to an author (even an author who is no longer alive!) is a good way to explore how a book has affected you. Kids can also enter a contest with their letters.

The Washington State Library hosts Letters About Literature for students in grades 4-12.
Letter writers compete at three levels: Level 1 is grades 4-6; Level 2 is grades 7-8 and Level 3 is grades 9-12. State judges select the top letter writer in each level and the three winning letters advance to the national competition.
This year, entries for Grades 9-12 must be postmarked by Dec. 10, 2013. Entries from children in grades 4-8 must be postmarked by Jan. 10, 2014.

Whether or not students enter the contest, looking through previous year's winning entries might give tutors and students something to talk about. Have you read this book? Do you feel the same way about it as the letter writer? Is there a book that means a lot to you? How would you describe your feelings?

Here, cut and pasted from the website, are links to past winners:
From 2013:
  • Cora Tessaro, a fifth grade student at Daniel Bagley Elementary School in Seattle, is the Level 1 state champion.  She won $125 from the State Library.  Cora wrote her letter to Eric Schlosser about his book Chew on This.
  • Julia Batson, a seventh grade student at Woodward Middle School on Bainbridge Island, is the Level 2 state champion.  She won $125 from the State Library.  Julia wrote her letter to Randa Abdel-Fattah about her book Ten Things I Hate About Me.
  • Jordyn Tonkinson, a ninth grade student at Hockinson High School in Brush Prairie, is the Level 3 state champion.  She won $125 from the State Library.  Jordyn wrote her letter to Garth Stein about his book The Art of Racing in the Rain.
From 2012:
  • Clare Doran, a sixth grade student at The Bush School in Seattle, is the Level 1 state champion and one of four national honor award winners. She won $125 from the State Library, a $150 gift card from Target, and a $1000 Reading Promotion grant which Clare has given to the Montlake Elementary Scho0l Library in Seattle.  Clare wrote her letter to Jamie Ford about his book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
  • Samantha Smith, an eighth grade student at Blue Heron Middle School in Port Townsend, is the Level 2 state champion and one of four national honor award winners.  She won $125 from the State Library, a $150 gift card from Target, and a $1000 Reading Promotion grant which Samantha has given to the Blue Heron Middle School Library.  Samantha wrote her letter to Julie Anne Peters about her book Keeping You a Secret.
  • Oliver Reed III, a tenth grader at North Central High School in Spokane, is the Level 3 state champion and one of four national honor award winners.  He won $125 from the State Library, a $150 gift card from Target, and a $1000 Reading Promotion grant which Oliver has given the North Central High School Library.  Oliver wrote his letter to William Ernest Henley about his poem “Invictus”.
From 2011:
  • McKenna Conlin, a sixth grader at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Kirkland, is the Level 1 champion. She won $125 from the State Library and a $50 gift card from Target. McKenna wrote her letter to Sherman Alexie about his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • Abby Bateman, a seventh grader at Snoqualmie Middle School in Snoqualmie, is the Level 2 state champion and one of four national honor award winners. She won $125 from the State Library, a $150 gift card from Target, and a $1,000 Reading Promotion grant which Abby has given to the Mount Si High School Library. Abby wrote her letter to Katherine Paterson about her book Bridge to Terabithia
  • John Kang, an eleventh grader at Lakeside School in Seattle, is the Level 3 champion. John won $125 from the State Library and a $50 gift card from Target. John wrote his letter to Mary Paik Lee about her book Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America.
From 2010:
  • Reagan Nelson, a 6th grader at Hutton Elementary School in Spokane, has been selected as the state champion and one of two national award winners at Level I. . . . She wins $150 from the Washington State Library, a $550 dollar gift card from Target, and a $10,000 grant for Hutton Elementary School library. Reagan wrote her letter to Laura Ingalls Wilder about her book Little House on the Prairie.
  • Stephen Hitchcock, an 8th grader at Overlake School in Redmond, has been selected as the state champion and one of four national honor award winners at Level II. . . . He wins $150 from the Washington State Library, a $150 dollar gift card from Target, and a $1,000 grant for The Overlake School library. Stephen wrote his letter to Jules Verne about his book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  • Tyler Christensen, a 12th grader at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, is the Level III state champion. Tyler will receive his award of $150 from the Washington State Library, and a $50 gift card from Target at the awards ceremony in Olympia in May. Tyler wrote his letter to Brian Greene about his book The Elegant Universe.
And the website has more, going back to 2006.

The national program website is here. And you can read lots of great letters there too. A couple of weeks ago, I visited the site with a student and saw this great letter by Alessandra Selassie, a sixth-grade girl who explained how Laura Ingalls Wilder's books helped her understand her father's childhood in Eritrea. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Earth Science Week: PBS Online Videos

All of the following is copied and pasted from an email message I received because I once registered for PBS LearningMedia. It's a cool resource.

PBS Learning Media logo

PBS LearningMedia is a FREE digital media content library designed to support curriculum-based teaching and learning from PreK through 12th grade. Register today to explore over 30,000 resources from PBS and trusted media partners like NPR, BBC, and Latino Public Broadcasting.

In recognition of Earth Science Week (October 13-19), invite your students to investigate the relationship between the land, ocean, and the atmosphere. Use this special collection to illustrate key concepts with student-friendly visualizations and vivid imagery:

Rock Cycle Animation
Grades 3-12 | Interactive | Changes in the Earth
The rock cycle is a process by which rock is created and destroyed. Use this visualization to illustrate the cycle from the creation of magma to the melting of metamorphic rock.

The Forest & the Air Cycle
Grades 5-8 | Video | Trees, Plants, & CO2

Ask students to explore the role of trees and forests in the production of clean air. Use this engaging video resource from WHRO to kick off classroom conversation.

Tectonic Plates & Plate Boundaries
Grades 6-12 | Interactive | Internal Earth Processes
This interactive activity adapted from NASA shows the position of Earth's continents on 11 massive tectonic plates and illustrates the motion of these plates relative to one another.

Global Ocean Circulation
Grades 6-12 | Video | Currents

Use this resource to help students visualize patterns of global ocean circulation and explore the ocean's role in maintaining a hospitable environment for life on Earth.

Life on Fire
Grades 6-12 | Video | Volcanoes

This video segment introduces students to the moody volcanoes of Papua, New Guinea and the scientists that are risking their lives to understand and predict the next eruption.

Lightning Produces Nitrates
Grades 6-12 | Video | Impact of Lightning

Lightning plays a critical role in the production of nitrate – an essential nutrient for life. This resource offers a fascinating look at the formation and global impact of this natural marvel.
NEW: Take students on a virtual underwater adventure with Jonathan Bird's Blue World! This Emmy-award winning content explores how science works - above and below the water.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

¿Estudias Español?

How can a student study for Spanish without having someone who knows Spanish to help with the pronunciation?

I've looked around YouTube and iTunes U. There's a lot out there, but the best I've found is a teacher named Señor Jordan. He has lots of very good, clear videos, arranged from very basic (greetings and counting) to more advanced. He goes slowly enough that a student can try to repeat what he says to work on pronunciation. And the vocabulary is written in the video as well as listed below so students can see how words are spelled, too.

Señor Jordan is young and not at all stuffy—always a bonus with students!

screen shot from a video by Sr. Jordan

Youth Radio and Media Programs for Teens

Youth Radio, based in the Bay Area, trains diverse youth in journalism, music, and multimedia. Cool, right? But what does it have to do with your students if they aren't in the Bay Area?

Youth Radio logo

The website could be a great resource for them:
  • The reporting covers topics that teens are interested in: e.g., juvenile justice, science, education (e.g., bullying, dropping out, going to college). tech. The New Options desk covers "innovations and policies designed to connect youth to the new economy." And On Our Radar has "News and trends we’re watching and curated content from other youth media sources."
  • Students who don't like to read news stories might like the option of reading while listening to the radio story. The website also has some multimedia extras, like video or slideshows to go with radio stories.
  • Hearing or reading a story by a teenage reporter might help a student think about what goes into investigating and telling an important and interesting story. This could be especially helpful for students interested in journalism or public speaking.
This evening, All Things Considered ran an excellent Youth Radio story about head injuries in high school football: Kendrick Calkins, High Schools Struggle to Tackle Safety on the Football Field, Oct. 9, 2013. The same story is on the Youth Radio site as Does Your School Protect Your Head?, and there you'll find links to documents like the Texas high school football practice guidelines and coverage of the NFL's treatment of the head injury issue.

If a student does get psyched about working in media, there are Seattle-area programs.

RadioActive Youth flyer

KUOW has RadioActive Youth Media, which offers "intensive and fun introductory radio journalism workshops for 16-18 year olds throughout the year. All RadioActive workshops are free, and participants receive stipends for their completed work." The summer program is during the day; fall and spring workshops are after school. Listen to RadioActive Youth stories here.

Reel Grrls logo

Reelgrrls offers a variety of workshops and programs for girls and young women, ages 9-21. Check out their videos here.

The Youth Media Institute has programs for youth in the White Center area. YMI has a YouTube channel. Check out this animated video about planning for college:

Native Lens "teaches digital filmmaking and media skills to indigenous youth as a form of self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change." 

Globalist Youth "provides training for the next generation of journalists and multimedia storytellers. Programs are offered year round and open to youth ages 13-19." (Seattle Globalist is a nonprofit based at the UW Department of Communication.)