Like a lot of people on Goodreads, I set a reading goal for myself in 2013. I wanted to read 110 books. I made it, but just barely. Thankfully, we were on school vacation and I had time to read, by myself and with my son (my read aloud companion). We cranked through some books. For 2014, I am lowering my count back to 100 books, which seems more manageable now that we read fewer picture books as my youngest is a bit older. I still like the challenge, and the way it forces me to keep track of the books I am reading.
You can view some of the books I have underway right now:
Peace (in the books),
The other day, I mentioned that my “one little word” for 2014 is MAKE, and so, here is a robot that I made with my son. The parts came in a kit and we worked on it together. He then set it up to threaten the Lego dudes. They took the attack in style, as only headless Lego peeps can do. We used Vine to capture it.
Peace (in the make),
As my sixth graders begin finishing up their science-based video game projects, I hope to share out a few. This one — Adventures in Geology — is a good example of how a student has come to understand the balance of designing and publishing a challenging game that has story and science baked in.
Give it a try. (If you are on a mobile device, the game probably won’t work. If the embedded game does not load, you can use the direct link to her game).
Peace (in the game),
I wanted to like this book (The Forbbiden Stone), which I did as a read-aloud with my son after getting a free copy at NCTE. I should say that he thoroughly enjoyed the book and was caught up in the adventure unfolding. He was hooked early. Me? Not so much. I appreciated the story part of the book, noting that this is the clear start to a series of books about four kids and a dad uncovering a time-related mystery that began with Copernicus and stretches to the modern day with secret societies, puzzling dilemmas, and globe-trotting action.
What I could not get past was the writing.
We’ve had the same problem with Tony Abbott before, when we read his Secrets of Droon series. My wife and I found the dialogue wooden and rather lifeless (sorry, Tony) and the action and plot was incredibly predicable. But my son (actually, sons) enjoyed the series and I guess that is the real audience for Abbott, not us picky adults. Here, with The Forbidden Stone, though, I felt that same feeling I had with Droon, even though I know Abbott is setting up the series, introducing characters and action for future books. But I never got a good sense of any of the characters. Instead, it felt like we were breezing through the heads and internal voice periodically. I had the sense of the writer struggling to make sure we cared about the protagonists. Abbott was working too hard. I didn’t find myself caring about the kids. That’s a problem for me.
I know adventure books have improbably scenarios that resourceful protagonists can solve. There were just one too many of those here in this book, in my opinion. (Can I venture a guess that a movie contract is in the mix here?) I know we will be reading more of this series as it comes out, and I am glad my son is intrigued and interested in any books. I will remain hopeful that the writing gets stronger as the focus gets narrower on the finding of the 12 “relics” that are at the heart of the story. And I hope I come to care for the characters.
Peace (in the pages),
I’ve seen a lot of friends on Twitter using the “one word” idea. It’s a simple but powerful way to focus in on a theme for the new year. Or maybe not so simple. I’ve struggled with a single word that is large enough to encompass how I want to approach the year and not so intangible as to be meaningless. I’ve settled in on the word “Make” for a few reasons.
First of all, I really got involved in learning more about the Maker’s Movement this year, through work with the National Writing Project. Our CLMOOC was focused on the “make.” I am intrigued by how helping students learn through doing, and creating things/ideas is coming back around again.
Second, I am not a physical maker. I bumble my way through any project you hand me. When I fixed the toilet in our house one day, you should have heard the cheers and seen the high fives we gave each other. I mean, I had fixed the toilet, for goodness sake. That was a breakthrough.
So, this idea of focusing on “make” is always a way to slowly get me out of my own comfort zone. I know I have students who struggle with writing a story but could take apart a car engine, and even put it back to together again. I know I have students who can make an engaging video, publish it on YouTube, and yet, they can’t quite write a paragraph with deep meaning.
I can’t say right now how this word “make” will make its way into my daily life. But I do have a wide definition in my head of what it means to “make” and I’ll keep mulling this one over. It’s digital, physical and internal, and I am going to “make” 2014 a year of diving in as deep as I can.
In that vein, one of the things I have been doing is pulling together a Flipboard magazine around the connections of making and learning, and Connected Learning. It’s a start, and I am making the magazine happen. (meta-make?)
Peace (in the word),
As we went into the break, my students were finishing up a video game review project (while underway with their own video game design project). As I read through the reviews over vacation, I began jotting down the variety of video games they chose to review, and on what platform they play them.
So, here is the wide range of games:
And here is a small infographic on the breakdown of the platforms:
Peace (in the sharing),
PS — I used a new ipad app called iVisual to make the second infographic that Richard Byrne put up on his site. It’s pretty nifty but limited (there is a paid version, which I didn’t want to pay for … yet).
My son and I used the Aurasma app to color in the new year. Happy New Year to you and thank you for stopping by.
Peace (every day, all year),