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The Power of El Deafo!

The Power of El Deafo!

A couple of months ago I was partaking in a discussion on Facebook about the factuality of the novel Wonder. Now, I love the book Wonder and feel it has a solid needed place in the classroom, but on the subject of hearing loss which is touched on in the book, I do have definite questions and concerns. I addressed this in my novel study by adding a non-fiction article to help portray the real side of hearing loss so that students reading the novel understand the mistakes made by the author. I understand that Ms. Palacio isn’t someone who has walked in the shoes of hearing loss and she did her best since the rest of the novel is so wonderful I am easily able to overlook it by adding in the non-fiction article while teaching.

While discussing my feelings on Facebook another person asked me if I had read the novel, El Deafo by Cece Bell. She was curious about how real and factual it is to a person who walks in the shoes of hearing loss such as me. She says her students overwhelmingly love the Newbery Honor-winning graphic novel. I had never heard of the book before so I ordered it to read and I am so happy that I did!

 

I have been living with hearing loss for almost 25 years. It is a daily struggle to communicate with my family and the world. I have lost many things due to my hearing loss including my teaching career. El Deafo is the autobiographical story of Cece Bell’s struggles with hearing loss told in a graphic novel format that is perfect to get the true feelings across. The book highlights how Cece embraces these struggles and turns them into a superpower! Even though Cece is in elementary school in the book and I am a 46-year-old, I found myself shaking my head in agreement and relating to Cece like I never have before in any other story I have read. It’s like so many of the things she was saying I have said or felt so many times!

 

The message that volume does not equal better hearing was strong in this book and it is a message that the hearing world really fails to understand and yet, really needs to! Talking louder, talking slower, talking more pronounced DOES NOT HELP! It makes it so much more difficult for those like Cece and myself who rely on lip-reading to understand. If the only message that people take away from this story is to not turn up the volume for those with hearing loss the world will be a better place! That’s not the only message though. There are so many I could relate to, isolation, the feelings of shame, embarrassment, avoidance of situations, putting up with things and people only due to fear, and on and on. Cece doesn’t just focus on the negative though, she embraces some of her differences and turns them into a superpower that draws people to her. I just loved everything about this book. I also truly believe that you don’t have to have a hearing loss to relate to and love this book. It is such a wonderful read for ALL students.

Because I loved this book so much and feel it is important to get this into classrooms I created a novel study. I have never created a study for a graphic novel before so it was a different process for me, especially with the lack of vocabulary activities. I also wanted to include as much real-world information so that the student walks away with a greater understanding of the factual side of hearing loss and so they can learn to better communicate with those that live with a hearing loss. There is so much great information out there on this subject so I thought Web Quest activities would be a good way to address this portion of the novel study, especially in the ever more frequent digital classroom! As with all of my other novel studies, these activities are also available in a Google Drive format for those in a paperless classroom.

See what people are saying about the El Deafo Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!

If you haven’t read this book please do so, even if you don’t plan to do a novel study. I just cannot recommend this book enough to everyone! I hope you will choose to use this in your classrooms to help get the knowledge out there for everyone who lives with a hearing loss or knows someone that does. Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding leads to inclusion and empathy. We can never have enough of that in this world!

You can purchase this novel study at the following locations:


 


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


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Why Should You Use Novel Studies in Your Classroom?

Why Should You Use Novel Studies in Your Classroom?

The funny thing about educational research is if you look hard enough you can usually find studies to support both sides of an issue. Very rarely do you find a straight yes or no answer to what is a good or bad theory or practice. Generally, it boils down to the common sense of the teacher in regards to his/her individual students and the level of freedom the teacher is given by the administration.

Sadly in today’s standardized test-heavy climate teachers are given less and less freedom to choose what is best for their students. So many curriculum guidelines have become so rigid that teachers are not able to modify or enrich with their own lessons and materials.

I struggled with this myself while teaching 4th grade. I taught in a high-poverty, low-scoring school. Most of my 4th graders could read at a 1st-2nd-grade level. Very few came to me over the years reading on grade level. The biggest challenge I had as a reading teacher was to get kids excited about reading. They saw it as such a challenge and our district used a basal series for reading instruction that was unrelatable and very boring! The students saw no reward for their challenge of getting through a story because the stories were so uninspiring and they had no emotional connection. I knew if I could “turn them on” to a book they would see more value in reading and see a “payback” so to speak.

Fortunately, I was blessed with a principal that valued my knowledge as a teacher and let me teach as I saw best for my students. I started with a read aloud time where the kids would get comfortable and I would read to them. Kids in the upper elementary grades don’t get read to enough in my opinion. It is reserved for the emergent readers of the primary grades. I chose high-interest, generally humorous books that the kids could just enjoy. I didn’t strive for any deep thinking for this activity. I just wanted the kids to experience reading as enjoyable. This turned into a favorite part of the school day for the students and for me.

Once I got my feet wet a bit in the classroom I started to develop novel studies for books where a short excerpt had been made in the basal. It is only common sense that reading the whole book is more enjoyable and leads to a much greater understanding by the student. Of course, I was careful to incorporate the skills taught in the basal in my units. I started teaching these novel units alongside the basal stories and the change between reading the basal versus the novel was amazing. I had kids who were reading at a 2nd-grade level actually focused and challenging themselves reading the chapter books that were at a 4th-grade reading level. They actually wanted to read them versus just getting through some worksheet assignment from the basal. More and more these lower-level readers were chiming in on class discussions about the books and picking up age-appropriate books by choice in their free time. As a teacher, I found it easier to use Bloom’s higher-order questions using a novel instead of a short excerpt because you could really dive so much farther into the story and the characters.

I see similar experiences with my own children when they are allowed to read a “real” book vs. a text-based short story. They’ve never come home from school excited about something they read in a basal, but they have many times come home and we’ve had lengthy discussions about novels that they are reading!

As for the sought-after test scores, I didn’t do any formal research on the subject but my student’s scores certainly did not drop and their love of reading soared! Sadly this is not a statistic that is looked at often enough.

Another huge benefit to novel study-based reading instruction is the ability to really enhance the student’s critical thinking skills by diving deep into character and plot development. Sadly, we are seeing fewer and less critical thinking-focused activities in the current “test-prep” atmosphere in schools today.

Maybe the most beneficial reason of all to use novels in the classroom is to really tap into the empathy and awareness that books can bring to students. By reading books, like Wonder and El Deafo students can learn about different disabilities and how people learn to live with and excel despite their disabilities. Books such as Number the Stars and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes can be a great introduction to the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima for elementary students. Hatchet and Esperanza Rising are great books to dive in with a character that faces and survives insurmountable odds. The One and Only Ivan helps students empathize and think about the impact that we humans have on the planet as a whole. These are just a few examples of how a novel can get students thinking deeply about issues that can motivate them to enact positive change in our world.

I really encourage you to give novel studies a try in your classroom. I promise you will not be disappointed and your students will thank you for it!


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

 

Pros and Cons of Multiple Choice Questioning

Pros and Cons of Multiple Choice Questioning

To use multiple choice questioning or not, that is the question!

I have a strong feeling about multiple choice. It’s more of a hate/love relationship really. In certain instances (a few) I like the option, but in many ways, I try to avoid it. I find it encourages far too much guessing, and not enough valid data on what a student has truly learned. I saw this a lot in my classroom, usually with the students that are struggling the most.

The students who were secure in their knowledge of the subject area were going to do just fine no matter the questioning format. I see this so much with my own son, who has some struggles in school. If he is given a multiple choice test more often than not he’ll just guess, sometimes not even bothering to really read the questions! In creating work for him I always avoid using multiple choice, except in certain types of situations. He has an IEP, and unfortunately more often than not the teachers have turned to M/C for him as an accommodation and then express frustration at his effort and guessing. If he is dealt a short answer question he is much more apt to look for the answer in the work or work the problem out for himself. If the option to guess it there, he’ll always guess and he’ll keep guessing until he’s eliminated the 3 wrong answers. Yes, he’ll eventually get the correct answer, but does that show he knows it or retained it?

I know multiple choice can be a huge time saver for the teacher. It is much quicker and easier to correct papers with multiple choice rather than written answers. I get it, but is it the right choice? What is our ultimate goal? To know the student understood and learned what we were teaching right? How can we be sure with a M/C that it is retained knowledge and not a lucky guess we got?

There are some cases (when done correctly) where I think M/C is fine. In a math problem for instance:

The reason the problem on the left is the wrong way is that the most common mistake a student will make in this instance is the misuse of PEDMA. They will just work the problem from left to right and end up with 6 for the answer. If this is one of the options in the M/C they will choose that and move on, not having any idea that they made a mistake.  Instead, if they worked the problem in this manner and the 6 was not an option they would know they did something wrong and go back and check their work. Of course, the guesser, who doesn’t even work out the problem could happen in either case, but the majority of the time the student will stop and take a closer look. I am not an advocate for tricking the student, and in this case, that is exactly what you do when you give them a problem like the one on the left. It’s much less discouraging to a child to have to rework to find a correct answer than to get a test back that they failed due to being tricked!

One of the main resources I offer is novel studies. In my novel studies, there are only two places where you will find multiple choice options. First, there is an end of the book vocabulary quiz. A sentence with the word is offered and then there are 4 choices of a definition. Again, there are the guessers who just guess, but most students will be able to know the true definition when used in context after the successful completion of the novel study activities.

The other M/C option I added based on buyer requests is an end of the unit comprehension quiz. I have an identical quiz in a short answer format, this is what I prefer and use with my students. I have had many buyers ask for M/C options so I have provided that, but I personally don’t use it for the reasons that I have mentioned above.

Where I have not changed my product based on buyer requests is in the comprehension portion of the novel study itself, and I won’t be adding it. I feel very strongly that while reading the book the student should be thinking about what they’re reading in a deeper way. Using multiple choice for comprehension during the reading of the novel encourages the student to skim the text for the answer. It also means most of your questioning will be of the lower order of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I use novels to get away from the M/C type skimming that you encounter in a basal series. My goal in using novel studies is to get my student engaged in a novel and to think deeply about the character’s motives, make inferences, etc.  I just don’t think this can be done properly using multiple-choice questions. To maintain the integrity and rigor of my novel studies, I just won’t be changing this. I know there are some buyers who are disappointed in this stance and I know that some buy from my competitors due to this stance, and I apologize to them, but it’s something that I feel very strongly about.

Another reason I stay away from M/C is that it is far too much like the standardized testing that I am not a fan of. Mainly for all the reasons stated above. I want my students to be deep thinkers, not guessers. Of course, the whole topic of standardized testing is a post for another day! 😉