It’s November–Time to Read with Your Family!

Rachel Gurley is chapter operations coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

Rachel_Gurley_6_10_14I firmly believe in lifelong education. I am only twenty-three and I already know I have so much to learn. Why not use every chance I have? The people around you are a wealth of knowledge. The content you allow yourself to consume could benefit you positively or negatively. This is why I am constantly reading.

At work, I listen to audio books on Audible or listen to the endless Ted talks that interest me. Now I want to share with you one of my favorite Ted talks. In honor of National Family Literacy Month (November), this woman came to mind. Susan Cain gave an excellent Ted talk on “The power of introverts.” In the bulk of her video she mentioned how much she and her family loved to read.

Instead of telling you her about her story, I’ll let her. Hope you enjoy this short Ted talk and maybe you’ll even be encouraged or learn something!

Logophiles Celebrate: It’s Dictionary Day!

Laurie Quay is Editorial Assistant at Kappa Delta Pi.

Dictionary Day 2014Today, October 16, is Dictionary Day. It celebrates the birthday of Noah Webster, the founding father of dictionaries, who was born on this day in 1758. While this day probably—okay, definitely—isn’t circled on your calendar, it reminds us to give homage to a most valuable, yet unappreciated treasure. This trusted volume of spellings, pronunciations, and definitions never disappoints.

My own dictionary—Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition—sits on my desk next to a few other reference books. Its pages may be worn and its binding in disrepair, but it answers my questions on a near-daily basis. Admittedly, I need to spring for the 11th edition, the current version with several thousand more entries, but I’ve become rather attached to this one.

To do this day any justice, though, it is worthwhile to note some interesting facts about Noah Webster and his dictionary:

  • His first job after graduating from Yale University, post-Revolutionary War, was teaching! He decried that his students’ books still came from England and wrote his own textbook, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. This “speller” became the most used textbook in America and helped to standardize pronunciation across the country.
  • Webster’s first dictionary was called A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language and became known as “Webster’s Dictionary.” It was his later effort, American Dictionary of the English Language, that became his most famous work.
  • He wanted Americans to have their own vocabulary, apart from the English language of the British. We can thank Webster for changing colour to color, centre to center, plough to plow, and so on.
  • The American Dictionary took Webster 28 years to complete! It was published in 1828 and contained 70,000 words.

The world has obviously changed since Webster’s days. Instant communication, social media speak, and 140-character thought processes dominate our culture. I doubt Webster would have foreseen words like selfie, tweet, and hashtag taking up residence in his great book, let alone that we’d look up words electronically.

But is Webster turning over in his grave because of our evolving lexicon and technological advances? I would like to think not. After all, he was a forward thinker who appreciated new words and advocated for expanding our vocabulary. And hopefully, for as long as people need to know what words mean and how they are spelled, dictionaries—both print and electronic—will remain indispensable. I, for one, would be lost without mine.

So, grab a dictionary and learn some new words; use them in conversation. Noah Webster would’ve liked that. Happy birthday, Mr. Webster, from word-lovers everywhere!

Could Twitter Be Your Next PLN?

Ryan Hanna is an initiate of Zeta Chapter at the University of Cincinnati and a current fifth-grade teacher in Cincinnati. He has been teaching for ten years. He served as a Scholastic Book Clubs Teacher Advisor for two years and was named his school’s Teacher of the Year in 2012. Ryan is a fortunate member of the Nerdy Book Club and is a fanatic about reading (and recycling). You can find him on Twitter @rantryan and on his blog. Check out the Nerdy Book Club blog!

Happy Teen Read Week 2014! I come to you to share a piece of advice – if you are a pre-service or professional classroom teacher WITHOUT a Twitter account, pick a creative handle and sign up as soon as you can! What are you waiting for?

The professional development provided by our school districts can sometimes be lacking. While these trainings may be planned with good intentions, teacher professional development is often “one-size fits all” and instructs us in a way that we would never instruct our own students. One of the most prevalent “buzz” words in education today is differentiation, but I often wonder why teacher professional development isn’t also differentiated.

Twitter Chats for Teachers

So, as teachers, we must seek out our own opportunities to learn from others and gather knowledge about our craft. This is where Twitter, the best professional learning network I have ever been a part of, comes in. Connecting with educators across the country is a benefit of the online Twitter community. Professional development through the use of Twitter is real-time – resources and great ideas are simply a click away, day or night. Not only are there individuals to connect with and learn from, Twitter chats occur weekly that cover different grade levels, subject areas, different regions of the country, and educational topics (such as diversity or technology use). These chats are organized and held frequently, and you can either contribute to the conversation or just observe and take notes as wonderful ideas fly across your screen. Check out this map of all of the education-related chats that occur (generously developed by Sean Junkins). You can also check out this even larger list of Twitter chats, created by Jerry Blumengarten.

The professional learning network, or PLN, on Twitter has changed my teaching for the better, and I wholeheartedly believe it can change yours, too! Not only have I been able to improve my classroom instruction, I have found an online world where authors, books, and readers are celebrated – through the Nerdy Book Club blog and its members. Anyone can join this amazing club! I feel that I am more successful at encouraging and teaching reading because of my connection to this wonderful group. Every day, an inspiring post is shared on the Nerdy Book Club blog. Nerdy Book Club Chats are held frequently – my favorite being “Title Talk,” hosted by teacher and writer Donalyn Miller and teacher Colby Sharp.

If it weren’t for the Nerdy Book Club and my Twitter PLN, I would never have discovered the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, which profoundly changed how I taught reading in the classroom. I also would never have been able to connect with authors such as R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder, and directly share with her my students’ feelings about her book. There’s no other place where students and teachers can connect so easily with their author heroes! Without Twitter, I would never have read The Only and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, heard about The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, experienced the beauty of Rainbow Rowell’s writing, or discovered my new favorite writer Andrew Smith (author of Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, and 100 Sideways Miles).

Please don’t wait any longer – get on Twitter and join in on the learning fun!

Stipends Available: Literacy Alive! Professional Members

Jessica Rondeau, Assistant Principal at Junction City Middle School in Junction City, Kansas, is a two-time recipient of the Literacy Alive! Professional Member Stipend.

KDP Literacy Alive!

Teachers and Family Literacy Night participants creating their own bookmarks in our “Literacy Lounge” for younger students.

During the 2013–2014 school year, the literacy team at Junction City Middle School sponsored two Family Literacy Nights, one per semester, to support our students, families, and community with everything literacy related. Every student in attendance received a new novel and, thanks to a generous grant from KDP, we were able to raffle off a tablet at each event!

After our first event, we asked for feedback to make sure we were meeting the needs of the community and we got it! Families wanted more…more information, more access, and more free resources regarding technology and literacy.

Family Literacy Night participants using technology to explore literacy resources.

Family Literacy Night participants using technology to explore literacy resources.

Our second Family Literacy Night focused on digital literacy, as we hosted a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) event. Our breakout sessions focused on literacy apps, free regional and state library resources, digital citizenship, and our district literacy initiatives so that parents and guardians could best support their students and build on their own literacy knowledge base.

This year we are expanding our Family Literacy Night to include math literacy. Families will have the opportunity to attend a wide variety of sessions devoted to literacy. For our upcoming events this school year, we will have eight “mini-sessions” from which participants are able to select to incorporate literacy into their everyday lives, including the following: Common Sense Media, Online Book Resources, Literacy Apps and Web Resources, Helping Students with Homework, Skills for Mathematics, and USD475 Screener Simulations. In addition, our “Literacy Lounge” will be available for children in the Media Center. This is a chance for parents and/or guardians to engage their younger children in immersive literacy activities directed by certified educators.

The grant funds received from KDP were instrumental in making each Family Literacy Night a success! We look forward to even bigger and better events during the 2014–2015 school year for our students and community. Thank you, KDP, for supporting our digital literacy initiative!

Thank you, Jessica, for the work that you and your literacy team are doing to enhance the lives of the students in your school! We are proud to be able to support you in this endeavor.

Are you hosting a literacy event in your school or community? The Professional Member division of Literacy Alive! has funding available to you, too!* Check out the Professional Member Literacy Alive! section of our website for more information, sample projects, and the criteria used to award stipend funding. Submit your Literacy Alive! Stipend Request today!

*Please note that this opportunity is available to active KDP members hosting an event outside of a collegiate KDP chapter. For more information on the Collegiate Division of Literacy Alive! click here.

Teaching How To Live Forever

Laura Perkins works with the KDP chapters in the Southeast U.S. She went to school to be a teacher, but said “heck no” after one month of student teaching.

The Illustrated ManToday, several KDP staffers are celebrating the birthday of one of our favorite authors: Ray Bradbury. He lived from 1920 to 2012, and wrote hundreds of short stories, novels, screenplays, and so much more. His stories brought fantasy and science fiction to a broader audience.

I, like so many others, was introduced to his writing by one of my middle school teachers. Bradbury quickly became one of my first literary obsessions. I remember scrounging for the change to make a photocopy of “The Veldt,” because I just couldn’t bear to be parted from the first really powerful piece of fiction I’d ever read. My teacher knew how inspiring Bradbury’s storytelling could be and followed the readings with creative writing sessions. She used a tool that Bradbury had used himself early in his career: make lists of nouns to generate ideas for stories; string together ones that spoke to us; and let our imaginations go.

I’ve read several interviews where Bradbury talks about his own introduction to writing. In his memoir, Zen in the Art of Writing, he recounts meeting a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico in 1932 who commanded him to “Live forever!” which seemed to have opened up a new world for this twelve-year-old boy. Remembering the moment, Bradbury said, “I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped”.

It turned out my dad was a big fan as well, and we had a great time connecting over our shared love. At some point in my adolescence, when I was trustworthy enough, my dad gave me his signed copy of The Illustrated Man. It has always been one of my most cherished possessions and means even more to me now that my father has passed. Inside this book, I have my very worn copy of “The Veldt” that I still can’t seem to part with, even though the story is included in the novel. I’m so grateful to have been introduced to his writings and to have had the chance to make memories with my dad over these words.

It is clear that writing brought Bradbury joy, and I’m so glad it did. Ray Bradbury has inspired generations to use their imagination to create and has taught us all about the transformative power of literature. I’m sure his work will continue to touch new readers for years to come and maybe even inspire a new writer to dream, write and live forever.

Celebrating E. B. White

Sally Rushmore edits the New Teacher Advocate. She formerly taught secondary science and computer applications at a community college.

We celebrated the birthday of Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White last week–he was born July 11, 1899. He was a contributor to (and for a while, on the staff of) The New Yorker magazine. However, you probably know him as a book author. You may have used The Elements of Style, also simply known as “Strunk and White,” in an English composition class in college or high school. White’s college professor William Strunk, Jr. originally wrote The Elements of Style in 1918 and White enlarged and revised it in 1959. He updated it again in 1972 and 1979. An illustrated version came out in 2005. It was listed as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923 in a 2011 list by Time. In it White said, “With some writers, style not only reveals the spirit of the man but reveals his identity, as surely as would his fingerprints.”

Most of us prefer to remember E. B. White for his children’s books. You most likely have read or seen the movie of Charlotte’s Web, which is often voted the top children’s novel for ages 9−12. You may also have read or seen movies of Stuart Little or The Trumpet of the Swan. These books are a few that were written by White. If you’ve never read them, get the boxed set so you can read them over and over—to yourself, your students, your own children, your grandchildren, and your neighbors’ children. Enjoy the movies as well. Either way you’ll learn the life lessons in a fun way.

He spent a great deal of time on a farm he and his wife owned in Maine, often going to the barn to write. After writing Charlotte’s Web about a spider he watched, he said, “I like animals, and my barn is a very pleasant place to be, at all hours!”

White’s influence as a writer was and still is far-reaching and will last for generations. Another example of his influence is a book called Here is New York. It is available on Amazon.com along with lesson plans and a study guide. It is appropriate for middle and high school students. It reflects his appreciation of the city he loved.

During his lifetime, many young readers asked Mr. White if his stories were true. In a letter written to be sent to his fans, he answered, “No, they are imaginary tales… But real life is only one kind of life — there is also the life of the imagination.” E. B. White died on October 1, 1985.

So whether you teach in the city or in a rural area, you will be happy to find a classroom management webinar to help you.

It Only Takes One

Katie Heath is Northeast Regional Chapter Coordinator at Kappa Delta Pi.

John said of his mother, “She loved Aaron Rodgers of The Green Bay Packers and french toast. This is the picture used at her memorial and I can say it was real to all who attended.”

John said of his mother, “She loved Aaron Rodgers of The Green Bay Packers and french toast. This is the picture used at her memorial, and I can say it was real to all who attended.”

Earlier this year, more than 1,200 books were donated to a low-income community in southern Wisconsin. More than 600 people between the ages of 3 and 78, all across the community, received the books.

You’re probably thinking that this was a huge initiative, led by a large group of people as one collective venture. But in reality, all 1,200 books donated were the result of the efforts of a single individual, John MacDonald.

John recently served as the president of the Alpha Epsilon Xi Chapter and has now transitioned into the Associate Counselor role to assist in leading the KDP chapter at Walden University.

His goal in completing this Literacy Alive! project was to honor his mother, who passed away in 2013. His mother was committed to giving back to others and wanted to help people improve their literacy skills. When donating the books, John focused on low-income families and those learning English as a new language.

John is just one example of why membership in Kappa Delta Pi means more than just a line on your résumé. Every day, members like John are living out the ideals of Kappa Delta Pi (fidelity to humanity, science, service, and toil) and are the reason this organization has an esteemed reputation within the education community.

Fidelity to Humanity – I can’t think of a better example of fidelity to humanity than John’s desire to serve his community and honor his mother. John showed compassion to those in his town; a commitment to improving the human condition through literacy; and dedication to continuous education with equal opportunities for people of all ages, races, and creeds.

Science – John’s desire to support literacy in his community shows that he is faithful to the cause of free inquiry and that he is committed to helping others have access to resources they need to continue lifelong learning.

Service – If you had to describe John’s “Book Exchange” project with one word, you might choose the word service. Every part of the initiative had serving others in mind—serving those in the community and simultaneously honoring his mother by continuing her dedication to serving others.

Toil – For me personally, toil is always the hardest of the ideals Kappa Delta Pi represents to live out daily. Toil is doing a task that must be done regardless of whether the task pleases oneself. Reading through John’s project submission almost brought tears to my eyes; I am thankful every day for the family members that surround me and that, as an adult, I am still able to live in the same city as my parents. I truly can’t imagine the pain and struggle of losing a parent, and I applaud John for choosing to honor his mother during a difficult time of grief and loss.

If you read our previous blog post about Literacy Alive! you know that I love supporting KDP’s signature service initiative because I get to hear about the wonderful events hosted by chapters and members all across the country. I hope more of you are inspired by John’s amazing example of how a single servant’s heart can touch the lives of so many.