Faculty Summer Reading & A Mosaic of Learning

Most teachers at our school assign summer reading to their incoming students. It is a way to remind students of learning, avoid students experiencing the summer slide, prepare them and give background knowledge for a unit of study or let them use the “not so hectic” summer time to read.

Our Middle School Language Arts teacher, Deb Kuhr,  reflected on our Faculty Ning about the benefits of summer reading.  She lists the following as the objectives:

What Are the Objectives of Summer Reading?

  1. To aid your child in becoming a lifelong reader.
  2. To provide the opportunity to expand and enrich your child’s reading repertoire.
  3. To develop the habit of reading.
  4. To challenge students to explore ideas outside their usual experiences.
  5. To foster a love for reading.

We are walking the walk at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School. We will not ask our students to do something as learners, that we are not willing to do ourselves. Summer reading is one of those thing. We gave our teachers the choice to select one of the following books.

21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn by James Bellanca

The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Who Owns the Learning by Alan November

Daily5 by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser

The assignment was to create a “product” in any shape or form that will demonstrate “evidence of learning”. What were the take-aways from the book? How would you implement what you learned from the reading in the classroom this upcoming year? During post-planning we brainstormed a few “products” teacher usually assigned students to create after having read the summer book(s) and added a few more ideas.

  1. Reflection/ Book Review
  2. VoiceThread
  3. PowerPoint
  4. Trailers
  5. Poster
  6. Trading Cards
  7. Book Covers
  8. Compare Contrast/ Graphic Organizers
  9. Chronicle
  10. Chapter Challenges (Check out Susan B.’s Blog) Techtastic/etc.
  11. Prezi
  12. MindMap
  13. Shelfari Review
  14. Newspaper article
  15. Timeline
  16. Comic Strip

Teachers were absolutely free to pick ANY form to demonstrate their learning from summer reading. The only requirement was that they needed to be able to share it.

Summer is over…we are all settling into our school routines, and I wanted to share, in one place, all the different creative ways our teachers chose to give evidence of their learning. What makes it so remarkable is very few chose to create the same type of product.

It makes me think, why do we then ask  a one-size-fits-all assignment of our students to demonstrate that they read the book(?) or what they learned from the book? Don’t believe me? Just google the term “Summer Reading Assignment”.

  • Students will complete a poster of their book read…
  • Students wlll make a video trailer as a book recommendation…
  • Students will write a book review…
  • “In September, all English teachers will assign an essential question essay which will ask you to
    write about your chosen summer reading texts.”
  • ” Students are expected to complete assigned summer reading for their English class and level. These books will be discussed and tested in the opening days of the new school year.”
  • “Students will choose one of the following books, and write 3 blog entries over the summer.”

Our teachers created QR codes, SmartBoard files, Wordles, PowerPoint presentations, they wrote blog posts, created a Flickr slideshow, created infographics and info-flyers, they prepared student activities, launched their own professional learning blog, reflected via blog posts, shared a movie and created a prezi, etc…

Take a look how our faculty shared their learning over the summer… and remember them as you are making a commitment to upgrade one of your own assignments by giving students the freedom of creating their own evidence of learning…you will be surprised by the creativity and the array of products, styles and colors 🙂

Who owns the Learning? by Alan November

Shelly created a book cover with QR Codes pointing to an audio file of her thoughts…

Deb wrote a reflective blog post…

Who Owns the Learning?


When teaching characterization as an element of literature, a good deal of class discussion focuses on motivation. It is, after all, what drives a character’s actions. Rarely explicit, motivation is inferred by studying a character’s actions and reactions. Based on conflicts, needs, or possible fears, motivation reveals a character’s personality.

So it is with our students.  In today’s session with Dr. Mae Barker, we learned that when addressing the barriers to successful inclusion we must consider motivation. I consciously recalled the many times I have referred to a student’s lack of motivation as an explanation for problem behaviors. Upon reflection, I realize that there is no such thing as a lack of motivation.   Motivation exists; it is the nature of the motivation that causes less than desirable results. And the correlation between my epiphany and Alan November’s book is …?

Just as pedagogy evolves and paradigms shift, the climate of learning changes. Today, our students approach learning as task specific and assessment driven; knowledge for knowledge’s sake is no more.  Once an assignment is completed and a grade earned, it is dismissed.  How can there be enlightenment without reflection? Substance without cultivation?  Quality without caring?  It is time to transform the climate, and Alan November proffers a plan in Who Owns the Learning?. […]

Silvia shared an info-flyer summarizing the six roles to empower student learners.

21st Century Learning by James Bellanca

Karin wrote a a reflection and created an infographic:

For my summer reading assignment, I decided to focus on “The Role of Professional Learning Communities in Advancing 21st Century Skills” by Dufour and Dufour. It nicely continues where I left off during my post-planning presentation on my vision for our library (library-classroom collaboration on lessons/units). However, in their chapter, the authors take the collaboration idea even further by calling for the implementation of permanent/ongoing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

The authors argue that the “most appropriate environment for teaching 21st century skills” are PLCs as they allow us to model those skills (inquiry, critical thinking, problem solving) for our students. PLC implementation requires a change in school culture. Yes, school culture can only change if educator behavior changes. Key phrases mentioned throughout the chapter are common goals, working interdependently, and mutual accountability — all indicators of behavior change.

Please see my infographic to find out about the concept, necessary environment, and benefits of PLCs as stated by Dufour and Dufour.

Arlene created a slideshow on Flickr , titled “Then and Now” with images she took.

Susan created a “TechTastic” activity for her students to complete.

I used the chapter “Teach Less, Learn More”, added some of  another text I read, “Reforming Secondary Science Instruction”, and a bit of Bloom’s Taxonomy to inspire me to create new Chapter Challenges for the year.  My newest creation, “Appsolutely Techifying” involves the student creating 3 new apps to solve problems related to the particular chapter we’re studying.  The text simply reinforced the idea that students who create (and extend) from the original information benefit in long term and more in-depth ways.  The technological requirements involved in completing the project occur on an individual level and remain open to be tailored to each student’s needs and choices.  To me, this reflects the perfect marriage of technology use AND a number of diverse other skills!

Judy chose to test Alan November’s web literacy strategies

     As a social studies teacher I was especially impacted by a section in Alan November’s book Who Owns the Learning? and how it could directly be applied to our study of current events/history.  Even in past years when our students searched news stories using international new sources like BBC and Al-Jazeera, we still always found the information to be fairly Americanized–in one November chapter I learned why!  First, google uses our own laptops and their previous searches–even buying habits!– to inform our searches.  My search and your search will elicit a different order of responses based on our previous search history!  Second, if you want to gain a real non-American perspective on a news story…one can enter the prefix of the root zone data base and it will tell you how a country or area reacts to an issue.  To test that hypothesis I researched the subject of the events in Syria–bringing up the top news story on that topic in Syria itself, the U. S., and in Israel.  To create a common context on actually different stories, I then created a wordle for each of the top Syria stories of Israel, the U. S., and Syria on that day.  By examining the emphasized words of each story, it was extremely interesting to note the differing perspective of each country on the topic of Syria for that day.  I plan to make regular use of this type of search in all types of current and historical research in all my classes to enhance our global perspective in all we do.

Russian Newspaper


Israeli Newspaper

USA Newspaper

Edith created a PowerPoint summarizing and reflecting on what she learned from the book:

While many ideas in the book 21st Century Learning were relevant and interesting to me two  concepts that really resonated with me were actually in the introduction.
“A  21st century education must be tied to outcomes, in terms of proficiency in core subject knowledge and 21st century skills that are expected and highly valued in school, work, and community settings.’
21st century skills can not  and should no replace core subject knowledge, rather they expand and enhance students knowledge of these core concepts. Without basic writing skills,  a student can not express themselves on a blog. Without basic math skills, a student can not create a graph.
21st Century learning skills involve critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. These skills may be 21st century but they are also rooted in the most basic Jewish learning. Torah study is based on the ability to question and problem solve. […]

Pamela and Jeanine created a Prezi with their main take-aways from the book

Daily 5 by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser

Andrea blogged on her professional blog, created a visual below, summarizing the Foundations of the Daily 5 and created a Pinterest Board to curate Daily 5 resources visually.


I think that what I most appreciate about the Daily 5 is summarized in this image. I look at those children, so engaged and content to be sharing a book. This is what I most hope to create and encourage for and in each of our students- a deep, personal love of all that is literacy- reading, writing, learning, sharing ideas, enjoying words and languages.

To my way of thinking, this also embodies the best of what we have been calling “21st century learning.” We repeat the phrase “it’s not about the tool, it’s about the learning” in some form or another, again and again. But I think the Daily 5 provides a great breaking-off point. You could easily do the Daily 5 without using any tech tools or you could use lots of tech tools to provide great enhancements. The foundations of the Daily 5, are the same as the best examples of tech-infused learning: simply “purpose + choice = motivation.” […]

Liat created a SmartBoard Notebook for her Hebrew class , so they can keep track of each student.

After reading the Daily 5, I decided to create (with the help of Silvia) a chart to keep up with each student’s progress.  This chart will help me assess at any time which activity of the Daily 5 were completed by the student.  I plan to duplicate this chart for each week so there is a record of their activities.  This is a Notebook file in which each student clicks on each cell (going across) as they complete each activity.

Stephanie took the plunge and started her on professional learning blog, Teach, Blog and Tweet,  where she intends to document the process, trials and errors of implementing what she has learned from the Daily5.

Amy reflected on her blog and added visuals to illustrate the point.

The authors of The Daily Five, Gail and Joan, feel that it’s essential to spend focused classroom time teaching kids how to choose books that are a “good fit” for them. They realized that a good-fit book meant more than the student simply being able to read most of the words correctly. So they created the “I PICK” strategy. To teach this strategy, Gail and Joan developed the following demonstration:

Choosing the right book is like choosing the right pair of shoes. “Each pair of shoes has its purpose.” This is where they show and discuss different types of shoes (high heels, winter boots, flip flops, etc). The purpose for choosing a book could be to learn about a certain topic or just to read for fun. […]

Stephanie wrote a series of blog posts,

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Jo-Ann blogged  extensively on the Ning:

In chapter one, Gladwell states that Outliers are defined by the values of the world they inhabit and the people that surround them. This will profoundly determine their future sense of self and identity. He ends the book by simplifying this idea into the fact that Outliers are products of history and community, combined with opportunity and legacy. Some of his ideas are easy and clear-cut to understand (chapters 1 through 3). I found chapter 4 intriguing, chapters 5 and 6 not very relevant to “cultural legacy” and chapters 7 through 9 were great. The epilogue explores his ancestry and ties all his ideas together by examining five generations of his family and how external situations provided positive opportunities for personal growth through higher education. […]

Seth created a video reflection

Outliers- 21st Century Book Club Presentation from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.