Posted in Miscellaneous

My Favorite Children’s Chapter Books

Previously, I wrote a blog about my favorite books, and though it would be fun to share some of my favorite children’s chapter books. I find these books to be more influential on children than picture books because as children get older, they seem to dislike reading more and more. I believe that with the right books, teachers can combat this unfortunate downward spiral. The main factor to consider when suggesting a book to a child is to find a book that fits with their interests. In the following list, I tried to pick through my favorite chapter books and find books in different genres that would fit with different interests.

The first chapter book series I would like to highlight is the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series written by Rick Riordan. These books are considered to be fantasy, and they are fantastic. I was introduced to this series of books by my 11-year-old brother who absolutely loved and connected with these books. This series is based on Greek mythology and follow a demigod, Percy Jackson, through his adventures in fighting various creatures. These books are great for boys (and men–my dad read the whole series) but I think girls would also love these adventurous books.

The next chapter books I enjoy are also a series. The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder will always be one of my favorites because I was a typical little girl who loved reading about a little girl’s life back in the olden days. These books were written about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s own childhood and life as she lived in a midwest pioneer family. I would classify these books as historical fiction because they address what life was like in the early 1900s, and they follow a real person but they are classified as fiction. These books helped me to enjoy learning about history because I was able to think about the real people who lived in that time period.

I was introduced to the fictional novel Walk Two Moonsby my older sister

when I was younger. This book is written by Sharon Creech and received the Newbery Medal in 1995. I feel that this novel effectively addresses the themes of love, loss of a loved one, and grief. Themes like this are often difficult to talk about with young children but this book does a tremendous job in dealing with these topics in a sensitive way. Sharon Creech also authored the book Ruby Holler which is another one of my favorites.

Currently the Harry Potter books are very popular and I think they will remain as some of the greatest books. However, I have a feeling that as time goes by, less children will know about or read these books because more books will come out and children will pay attention to those. However, I feel that the Harry Potter books are some of the best books for children to read to keep them interested in reading. These books start out shorter in length and easier to understand and then as the reader continues in the series, the books become longer and have more thought-provoking concepts and problems to be solved. J.K. Rowling does a terrific job in writing these great novels.

I realize that I am only one person and these are just a few books/series of books. I think that a teacher needs to know about about books in a variety of genres because children are more likely to continue to enjoy reading when they read books that are of interest to them. It is my goal to continue to find new children’s books that I can one day suggest to my students in order to spark their interest in reading as they grow older.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Tremendous Sacrifices for an Education

Last month, the McKay School held one of its “Power of Teaching” lectures which are normally held several times each semester. The purpose of these lectures is to validate one’s decision to be an educator. Brad Wilcox was the featured speaker, and he brought a friend named Mariama Kollon with him. She is from Sierra Leon, a country in West Africa that is plagued by civil war. She lost her family, everything she owned, and barely escaped death. Mariama used to wonder why she even survived, but she has come to know that God saved her for a reason and she shared a beautiful message.

Picture courtesy of

In Sierra Leon, Mariama had to plant or gather everything she would eat in a day. She wore shoes for the first time when she was thirteen and slept in a bed for the first time when she was sixteen. She said, “Don’t take for granted the things you have been given.” In Mariama’s home country, she made huge sacrifices to obtain an education. She was the first one of her family to go to school. At the age of thirteen, girls in Sierra Leon normally become a wife to an older man. She made
the choice to go to school, which meant she would have to leave her village and go to the city where she knew no one. She lived with a family in the city. The living conditions were harsh. She would be punished if her chores were not finished and she was starved. Mariama had to walk six miles to and from school, and so did her underpaid teachers.

In school, she learned to read and write. The ability to read was an incredible blessing because it allowed her to read the scriptures and learn more about our Savior, Jesus Christ. A high school education in Africa was very hard to obtain. She felt the blessings of courage, patience, and faith from her Heavenly Father. Mariama knew it was a privilege to be able to learn. Her friends gave up, but Mariama knew that God was preparing her for the future and she persevered. She will never forget her teachers. She shared with us the blessings that come and the incredible impact that occurs as we teach.

Listening to Mariama speak made me grateful for the country we live in and the all of the many opportunities we have to receive an education. Let us not forget the tremendous sacrifices that others make to obtain an education and the incredible opportunity we have to be educators.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Obama and Romney on Education

In one of my classes, we discussed the educational views of President Obama and Governor Romney and I found it helpful. Here are some of the highlights of their views on education:

President Obama

  • Would continue to support Race to the Top, his new measure meant to stimulate innovation in education by rewarding schools that are coming up with new ways to face challenges.
  • Supports the Common Core, a common curriculum for the states.
  • Has granted waivers to many states to go around some aspects of No Child Left Behind and seems to only somewhat support it.
  • Wants to continue funding low interest student loans for post-secondary education.
  • Does not support vouchers.
  • Supports charter schools.
  • Has tried to boost the number of math, science, engineering and technology teachers by using incentives.
  • Will keep the Department of Education.

Governor Romney

  • Supports school choice, vouchers and charter schools.
  • Supports states creating a simple system of “report cards” to rate each school and hold schools accountable.
  • Supports parts of No Child Left Behind.
  • Wants to give grant money to states that implement policies to increase teacher effectiveness, such as ending/reforming teacher tenure, compensation for teachers who perform well and not using seniority in dismissal and transfer decisions. He says he will “stand up” to teacher unions.
  • Supports the Common Core but not the federal pressure for states to adopt them.
  • Plans to temporarily lower student loan interest, but not long term. He instead welcomes private sector and encourages college students to “shop around” for the best college prices.
  • Wants to keep Pell Grants but might decrease the amount granted.
  • Will keep the Department of Education but wants to give more power to the states.

For a more detailed report of their views, follow these links:

Posted in Miscellaneous

How to keep your students sane

One of my pet peeves is when teachers don’t give me good feedback to help me do better on my assignments. I had a language arts teacher in high school who used to always write “good job” or “great!” on sections of my paper, but then take 5-10 points off of my final grade for no visible explanation for it at all. It drove me crazy! I wanted to make my next essay better, but how could I without knowing what I had done wrong? Today I want to help you understand how you can use your feedback to help your students, not drive them up the wall.

In my Instructional Design and Assessment class, Professor Wilkinson taught, and I agree with, these “seven keys to effective feedback” written by Grant Wiggins:

1. Goal-Referenced – This means you clarify the goal of this task for the students and let them know whether their performance accomplishes this or needs to be changed in order to meet it. (ex. “This does not persuade me to your side of the argument.”)

2. Transparent – We often think we are giving feedback by saying, “Good job!” or “That’s not quite right,” but these are too vague to be useful. Good feedback should be specific and easily understood.

3. Actionable – When we give students feedback, we want them to be able to take that and use it to make their next effort better. When the teacher above took points off of my paper, she was not giving me ways to make my next paper better and thus dooming me to make the same mistake again.

4. User-Friendly – Too much or too technical feedback does not help students at all. Instead of giving the student every single instance where they could fix something, try giving them just one thing they could improve that would change their whole performance. Make sure your choice of words can be easily understood by the student. (P.S. this includes using neat handwriting that your students can read easily.)

5. Timely – We all have had teachers that don’t get around to grading quickly enough or don’t return our assignments until after the next one is due. How can we do better on our next assignment if we don’t know if we did it right the first time yet? Wiggins points out that the technology of today helps with quick assessment.

6. Ongoing – Rather than waiting until the final assessment to give feedback on how to improve performance, use little assignments and assessments throughout a unit or topic to give feedback that students can use before it’s too late. Keep giving your students the chance to improve and grow.

7. Consistent – This is the key I had to think the most about. Wiggins points out that different teachers have different ideas of quality. In order to be consistent in your feedback, teachers need to collaborate to come up with similar ideas of quality. This will lead to less confusion and frustration for your students over the years.

I think these principles are useful no matter what grade or subject you want to teach. In fact, They can be applied to grading projects, addressing comments in class, or working one-on-one with students who need extra help. We want to help our students improve themselves in their work, not make them feel like their work will never be good enough for us. Try them out!