It’s another way of saying “I told you so”. In my very first blog post I wrote the following: “I could do something nerdy and schedule a time in my calendar to write a blog entry each week, but I doubt I’ll do that”.
I didn’t schedule time and I didn’t write a blog post each week.
But I’m going to try to write one now. Here goes …
In two weeks’ time my Children’s Literature unit will be live for students to access. I have spent hours on the assessment tasks, agonising over the wording, trying to work out the practicalities, thinking about the tasks from the students’ perspective. Are the tasks too prescriptive? Do they allow enough space for students to be creative in their response/s? Do they provide enough scope for students to demonstrate their understanding? Is there room for independent thought and action and learning?
It’s hard to determine how students perceive assessment tasks: are they just hoops to jump through in gaining a qualification to teach? What more might they be?
Oh, sad question. Cynical even, and short-sighted. What do students understand about the purpose/s of assessment tasks though? Perhaps I should ask them.
I’m getting off-track.
I’m teaching Children’s Literature and one of the assessment tasks requires students to create a blog and post to it each week. I thought I’d see how it feels. Students have to write 500 words for each entry and each entry has a specific focus. The focus for the first entry is ‘what is children’s literature?’. I won’t answer that question, but I will address what I think is important about a unit such as this.
Reading to children and encouraging a love of books is vitally important for children’s development, curiosity, understanding of the world, pleasure in language, and oral language development (Lukens, 2007, p. xxiii). It is interesting as a mother to watch my own children’s development: some of my children have engaged readily in reading and being read to, while others have had very little interest. My eldest son, who is in his early 30s now, has only recently taken to reading. He had found biographies to be much more engaging than any other form of literature and has read more books in the last twelve months than in the previous 31 years. My mother is the same: she would much rather a biography (or autobiography) than a novel.
My second son will read just about anything. He’s always had an interest in language and as a child loved playing with words and sounds. I have a video of him at three trying to read a CJ Dennis poem about the Triantiwontigongolope.
There’s a very funny insect that you do not often spy,
And it isn’t quite a spider, and it isn’t quite a fly;
It is something like a beetle, and a little like a bee,
But nothing like a wooly grub that climbs upon a tree.
Its name is quite a hard one, but you’ll learn it soon, I hope.
My grandmother on my father’s side loved language too and could remember verses of poetry well into her 90s. It’s a real joy to give to children – the love of language – and children’s literature, good quality children’s literature, read in an engaging way will bring hours of pleasure.
My favourite at the moment is Nick Bland’s The very cranky bear. It starts: “In the jingle jangle jungle on a cold and rainy day … ” and already, just with those few words, you get the delightful rhythm established and you know you’re in for a real treat! The illustrations are gorgeous and the look on the bear’s face when he’s all dressed up is priceless. It’s a book designed to be read aloud and I know that children will ask for it again and again.
So that’s one advantage of studying a unit such as this: you get exposed to a range of children’s books that you can take into the classroom and read to children. Another advantage is that you get to do a lot of reading. When that reading is primarily children’s books it’s neither difficult nor arduous. The problem is knowing when to stop. And knowing that you can’t buy every children’s book you come across. I have to tell myself that constantly. My book pile is growing and growing and I’m fast running out of space on my bookshelves.
So, exposure to lots of quality books, time for lots of reading … and the third advantage of this unit is the opportunity it provides to talk about books and features of books. One of the great things about reading is the experience of sharing what you’re reading with others. Through talking about your reading you can come to a better understanding of the text features or the characters or the themes or the key messages (depending on the book you’re reading of course).
That’s enough for now. Maybe I will do this each week.