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Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting Boys to Read... Anything!

I recently posted Ten CC's of Books for Boys over at my Teach with Picture Books blog. In that cleverly titled post I feature ten topics which will get boys reading: Caped Crusaders, Curious Critters, Corporeal Crud, etc. (See my cleverness?).

One of my Twitter friends, Kim Sivick (@ksivick), checked out that post and shared a link to a New York Times Op Ed piece by Nicholas Kristof. In the Boys Have Fallen Behind, Kristof points out that
...the Center on Education Policy, an independent research organization, confirms that boys have fallen behind in reading in every single state. It found, for example, that in elementary schools, about 79 percent of girls could read at a level deemed “proficient,” compared with 72 percent of boys. Similar gaps were found in middle school and high school. In every state, in each of the three school levels, girls did better on average than boys.
The Center's report is no shock to me; what shocks me is that the gap isn't larger!

Kristof also cites Richard Whitmire, whose book Why Boys Fail offers additional sad stats, who says, “The world has gotten more verbal. Boys haven’t.”

Kristof then confirms what I asserted in my Ten CC's post by saying
Some educators say that one remedy may be to encourage lowbrow, adventure or even gross-out books that disproportionately appeal to boys. (I confess that I was a huge fan of the Hardy Boys, and then used them to entice my own kids into becoming avid readers as well.)
Indeed, the more books make parents flinch, the more they seem to suck boys in. A Web site,, offers useful lists of books to coax boys into reading, and they are helpfully sorted into categories like “ghosts,” “boxers, wrestlers, ultimate fighters,” and “at least one explosion.”

All in all, it seems that Kristof, like me, supports any and every avenue possible to get boys reading. Over time, of course, boys' tastes will mature and they'll move on to more refined topics.

That's all for now. I have to see what's new over at People of Walmart and Awkward Family Photos.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Secret Life of Scientists

Scientists are old, boring guys who discovered stuff. Some were women. Most of them are dead now, men and women both.

If you had asked me in high school what I knew about scientists, that would pretty much have summed it up. Science simply wasn't made real to me, and scientists were just those black and white images that appeared occasionally in textbook margins.

If only my teacher had a resource like the PBS/Nova web-exclusive series The Secret Life of Scientists. If you want a good idea of what the site has to offer, check out mechanical engineer Nate Ball. This guy is truly a rock star of science, and just one of the many real-life, three-dimensional scientists featured there. (Be sure to click on the video of how Nate helped develop the Ascender, an amazing self-powered device which is now in use by armed forces and rescue personnel).

In my Teach with Picture Books blog I often praise biographies for their ability to provide real-life role models for children. This site does the same thing for the older, more tech-savvy generation. Definitely worth integrating into your existing science or career curriculum.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

PBS Activity Packs

PBS, that trusted acronym that brought us Sesame Street, continues to provide cutting edge learning tools with their embeddable activity packs. If you're a teacher with your own web site, web page, blog, or other media platform, read on!

What's an activity pack?

According to the site, "An activity pack is a set of educational resources focused on a theme and packaged in a widget-format that you can embed in your own class or social media web page. Each pack includes links to PBS websites and a set of activities by grade level."

In other words, it's a stand-alone app that you can easily install to your site which provides both links and activities for reading and language arts, social studies, science and technology, health and fitness, and the arts. You can either paste the embed code directly into your site, or simply choose a push-button adding feature if your site social media site button is pictured on the array.

While at PBS also check out their new Media Infusion Blog. Cool stuff!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Save the Words!

In a recent post (There's a Word for That) I discussed how English language is a dynamic language, with new additions daily.

It's only natural, then, as new words enter the language, old words will fade away, right? Not if Save the Words can help it!

Save the Words is a neat site dedicated to saving rare and lesser-known words from extinction.

The site offers Word-a-Day for those who love language, the option to Adopt-a-Word, and suggestions to Spread the Word (such as the tattoo idea pictured here).

Students will enjoy using words that sound made-up, even though they're 100% authentic. Most words here can also be parsed according to Greek and Latin roots, as well as common prefixes and suffixes (see the related post It's All Greek to Me).

Give the site a try! It's a terrific tool to encourage explorations into language!