Spill the Beans: Share Your Reading Life

As I collaborate with teachers who are implementing reading workshop, I share with them categories for mini-lessons. There are the procedural lessons in the beginning of the year. There are the lessons on reading skills. There are the lessons on reading strategies. There are the lessons on ways to develop our reading habits. I include in this last category the importance in sharing with students our own reading habits. Not as teacher to student but as reader to reader.

Sharing our reading lives with students becomes particularly important for students who do not have family members who read. I suggest teaching a mini-lesson series on how we find books to read. Actually, I think  books find me, and they find me in different ways. I love biographies, but not everyone’s life interests me. The ones I love to read are about the actors during the golden years of Hollywood in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I get book ideas when I read reviews in newspapers or magazines. I get book recommendations from friends who are readers, and I make recommendations myself. If a particular topic interests me, I’ll look through the bibliography and find another book to read on that topic. If there is a movie I want to see based on a book, I’ll read the book first. World War I has been a major interest of mine. I have read novels, poetry and nonfiction of that time period.

I wouldn’t overwhelm a mini-lesson with all the ways I use to find what I want to read. Each way would be a lesson. These lessons become great topics for our reading conferences where we can  invite students to share ways they use to find what they want to read.

Spill the beans. Share your reading life. It is a wonderful way to build reader-to-reader relationships with your students.

Underwire Bra Delays Brain Gym Training

I was sure I had it all wired for my first Brain Gym workshop in a prison. I was hired to introduce Brain Gym to 15 teachers who work with prisoners ranging in age from 18 to 30. My contact person, a supervisor, informed me about what I could or could not bring. My training cart full of resources was out. A glass water bottle was out. Bringing in my own lunch was out. I could eat in the cafeteria. I could bring in my handouts, books and two cd’s.

I was prepared, but when I went through the security frame just as I have in airports, I didn’t get clearance. I went through several times more. Nope. Something metal was setting it off. No, I was not wearing a belt. What I was wearing was underwire. Yes, underwire in my bra! The supervisor never mentioned that.

No clearance. No entrance. So now a new venue had to be found. Class was to start at 9:00 A.M. It took 45 minutes to find a new training site. The board room was large enough for all of us. After we all introduced ourselves, a new tangle developed. I clarified when breaks and lunch would occur and that we would be ending at 3:00 P.M. These times I had received from the director of their educational programs. Well, half the group was from another correctional prison and had been told by their supervisor that the workshop would be over by 1:00 P.M. I could feel an insurrection rising. I asked to have my supervisory contact sort out the confusion. She came out of the prison, into the boardroom and clarified. They listened, but that second group was not happy.

The supervisor left. It was now 10:15 A.M.  I had yet to start the class. I had to chill out these teachers and myself. I began teaching the group PACE. PACE consists of four physical movements which helps every individual find his/her optimal rhythm, timing and flow for learning. Those four movements are a part of 26 movements which are the foundation of Brain Gym. When we did the movements, I could feel the tension in the room begin to evaporate.

As the day progressed, I taught the teachers more of the movements and their applications. Teachers began to see possibilities with specific students. The range of teaching experience in my workshop spanned 35 years to first year teachers. The veteran teachers had never heard of Brain Gym. I was glad they had new strategies to add to their teaching experiences. Several teachers were in their first year of teaching. I was glad they had new strategies as well. They all benefited, particularly their students.

We ended at 3:00 P.M. I received applause. It was another good Brain Gym day.


Life After PowerPoint

I’m taking a course right now from ten to one every Saturday about animal assisted therapy at the local community college. As a literacy coach, I was interested in the topic after reading an article explaining how dogs assist struggling readers. The idea is to have a neutral environment while a child works out his or her  reading strategies and skills. Dogs can do that. So, I wanted to learn more about this animal assisted world. Now, to clarify, this course is not about learning how to train dogs to assist the blind, the handicapped or those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. This is about learning how animals are used in activities to help learning as in reading or visiting nursing homes, hospitals and the like.

As a matter of fact, the class visited a hospital last week and walked around with dogs and their handlers. It was a great experience to watch patients and the medical staff respond to these wonderful animals. The field trips are wonderful. It is those days when we are in class for three hours which I have learned to dread. Death by PowerPoint! Yes. PowerPoint for three hours with a little break in between. AND, the instructor reads the PowerPoint! It is sheer agony. I am reminded all over again how we as educators can destroy the enthusiasm to learn.


I cured myself of PowerPoint. How did I do it? I read a marvelous book entitled presentationzen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. I learned to use visual images in my  slides which I support in my oral presentation. As the author states, “Since when can an audience read and listen to someone talk at the same time?” The book teaches those of us who are teachers, trainers and keynote speakers how to understand and use visual communication.

I have a keynote coming up, and I am working out my visuals. Thank you Mr. Reynolds from saving me and my audience of 120 people from PowerPoint and the dark ages.