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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Getting students excited about reading can be a challenge for both teachers and parents, but Mrs. Malkie Singfer of Yavneh Academy may have found a solution. This past summer Mrs. Singfer, along with 11 other Yavneh educators, attended the ISTE conference. ISTE, The International Society for Technology in Education, holds an annual gathering of world-wide educators whose goal is learning, teaching and leading in the digital age. Collaboration among educators is one of the keystones of ISTE’s mission. In that spirit, Yavneh’s team had many sessions during which they shared what they learned.

One of the sessions Mrs. Claire Hirschhorn, technology integrator at Yavneh Academy, attended was about reading, writing, and literacy. She immediately knew that the information presented would be perfect for Mrs. Singfer, who teaches 4th grade. The two educators collaborated to create a plan to incorporate these ideas into the 4th grade curriculum. Many more meetings followed throughout the summer to hone these ideas into an exciting event that would entice students to read.

Mrs. Singfer hit the ground running. On the first day of school she explained to her students what they would be doing. She also sent a letter home to parents outlining what the children would be doing, and asking them to partner with her and take their children to the library so the children could select a book themselves.

As the school year took off, the students were taught what a slogan was. They were encouraged to create a slogan for their books that they thought would convince others to read them. Some examples: “Greek Mythology Bonanza”; “When You’re New, School Can Be Rough and School Can Be Tough”; and “Come to a Place Where Spells are Cast.”

One student approached Mrs. Singfer with a dilemma. He really disliked the book he read. Mrs. Singfer’s solution, explain why students should NOT read that book. His slogan: “This Book Stinks.”

Mrs. Singfer’s 4th grade students ran an EdCamp along with Mrs. Linda Gans’ class in which they presented books they’d read at home. At a traditional EdCamp, educators meet and collaborate. Several sessions are given simultaneously, and one educator volunteers to moderate each session, where they discuss and share ideas on a specific topic.

Mrs. Singfer and Mrs. Gans used that model for their students to share the books they’d read with their classmates. Each student created a poster about his or her book to be displayed during his/her session. (Even our friend with the “bad” book presented a poster warning kids away.) There were eight EdCamp sessions. Each student presented his or her book at one session, and attended the other seven. The challenge was to encourage classmates to read the book without giving too much away. Through this innovative way of learning, the students owned the teaching. The students were so excited about the EdCamp that they began to bring in their posters days before they were due. They internalized the collaborative spirit of EdCamp as they shared ideas about their books, helping each other choose their next book to read. They anxiously anticipate their next Reading EdCamp where they can share another great book.

Stay tuned for more.