Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Step Away From the Technology

When we think of the teaching tools of 2012, our minds are flooded with images and experiences of new and upcoming technology. We have SMART Boards, Elmo Document Cameras, Laptops, iPads, Assistive Technology, and countless web based programs to engage students in learning. Don’t get me wrong, I am forever in debt to the creators of these technologies and thankful to have most of them in my classroom. But sometimes, you gotta glance away from the bright screens, back away slowly from the devices, and throwback to old school simplicity.

My favorite throwback instructional tool:

Picture Books 

As a teacher of 6th grade, I can tell you this year is incredibly dynamic. In my district, it’s the first year of middle school and a transition into a “grownup” building. Middle school means passing time and block scheduling alongside an increase of note taking, test taking, and homework. Yikes.

But what is unique about 6th grade is these students do not yet embody the middle school mentality, but are also transitioning out of the elementary mindset.  6th grade teachers must therefore find a balance between increasing student responsibility and independence, while embracing reliance and innocence. And what better way to do this then to incorporate a familiar teaching tool, adapted at a middle school level?

Here are the top 6 reasons why I believe picture books are particularly perfect for my 6th graders….  

1.     Picture Books Remind Students of Early Childhood
Everyone has a memory of being read to when they were younger, whether it’s a memory from home or school. Picture books give us that nostalgic feeling of comfort, being carefree, and cared for. Who wouldn’t want to ignite this feeling in their students?

2.     Picture Books are Engaging
Read Alouds never go out of style, and never get boring. Children enjoy listening to story telling; the intricate characters, plots, and suspenseful events. Read Alouds also provide a platform for open classroom discussion and responses.

3.     Picture Books Model Appropriate Reading Behaviors
Read Alouds serve as a reinforcement and reminder of correct fluency and expression. They can also be used to model active reading strategies and behaviors such as visualizing, predicting, and making inferences.  

4.     Picture Books Teach Higher Level Concepts  
Picture books are a great way to introduce more complex topics in a simplistic format. The storylines in picture books often allow students to make connections, build background, activate prior knowledge, or practice higher level strategies.

5.     Picture Books Are Visual Aids
When accompanying words or concepts, visuals aid in understanding. The images in picture books serve as photographic snapshots of information students will not only make meaning from, but use to retain and apply information later.

6.     Picture Books are Motivating
In middle school, using picture books as teaching tools becomes less and less prevalent as we transition to novels and textbooks. This means students are excited when they see picture books become a part of a lesson or activity.  No matter how old children are, they associate picture books with fun. Fun = Motivation.

So the next time you stumble across an old picture book or are reminded of a story you used to love, do your students a favor, and incorporate it into your instruction. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Check back for my upcoming post about my favorite picture book to use in my classroom:

A picture book is a dialogue between two worlds: the world of images and the world of words." ~Leonard S. Marcus, children's literature critic

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