Choosing a different type of book to read to the class – Fighting Fantasy

tumblr_m6wkl0ENgu1rqszvno1_400Every day we spend at least 10 minutes where I read to the class and they listen and respond with questions.  We build up a understanding of the characters, discuss what makes a book good to read aloud and how the authors describe through showing what is happening in detail rather than telling. Normally it is a novel, occasionally a book of poetry and if we find a great picture book author we might spend a day or 2 reading through a stack of their books investigating how the art moves the story along and tells what words do not need to.

I have a list of books that I know I would captivate any class – The Tale of Despereaux, A Series of Unfortunate Events, anything by Roald Dahl, The Iron Giant, Kensuke’s Kingdom and the list goes on.  Additionally I have a list of some of my most beloved books that just do not sound good being read aloud to a class and have not gotten past chapter three before I say “…and if you are loving this book it is at the library.”

Ok, I’m usually blogging about IT integration in the classroom and I still do.  When we read are reading a book we will have the Interactive Whiteboard open and use…Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 8.30.06 AM

  • – Discovering the meaning of the word suppurating was fantastic.
  • Google Earth – Tracking the trip around the world in Kensuke’s Kingdom.
  • YouTube to compare books to their movie trailers

To the real point of this posting. I found in the back of a cupboard the other day my copy of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – A Fighting Fantasy Gamebook. Now at age 9 this book captivated me as it is a cross between a board game, puzzle and just a great story.  So I brought my dusty, crusty old copy that was given to my brother fresh from publication in 1982 then secretly stolen from his shelf . The game record page had been worn thin from pencil scratchings and eraser marks.

I simplified the fighting rules and presented it to the class on Monday morning – eyes were rolled, groans echoed around the room and one even said 4677291212_24c0acc623‘Really Mr Dyer, rolling a dice when you read a book sounds a bit dumb’. So I read, the noises stopped and the ears pricked as the language unfolded. The first argument began as we were asked to turn East or West at a junction in the passage  and decided by voting visually by standing either in the East or West side of the class.

Next they chose to enter into a room were faced with 2 goblins and the first battle began. We dispatched one instantly, then we took a hit and then the second goblin was slain – the class actually cheered and the teacher from the room next door had to pop in her head to check we were ok. We pillaged the room and found a key marked 99 that was recorded on the Adventure sheet that was up on the IWB.

After a week we have taken hits, freed a crazed madmen gave us a clue that saved us from certain death. Choosing to try and steal a gem resulted in the statue to come alive attack us and we only just left the room with one health point left after the battle with the Iron Cyclops. We have an inventory list of items that we are yet to use and every time we come to a door the class hope it asks for key 99.

It may sound silly to some, but to me, the geek who was raised on D&D, Warhammer and similar games, it is normal and just too much fun. I was not expecting it to work, but hoping that it would provide a type of book that might appeal to some of my reluctant boy readers. The reality is that I have found a text that the whole class is engrossed in. Looking on TradeMe (NZ version of EBay) you can pick Fighting Fantasy or Pick a Path books up for $1 each and even if they just sit on the shelf of your classroom library for the kids to read individually you are providing a new genre for your students.  I know they will be a hit with the class, so give it a go.


Twitter is my Village and I am one of the many being Raised in it.

photo-1pfnyx7-229x300They say it takes a Village to raise a child – twitter is my village and I am one of the many being raised within it.

I discovered a free book in the iBookStore,Twitter: A Cultural Guide, created by Keri-Lee Beasley  (@klbeasley) and Jabiz Raisdana (@intrepidteacher) a few months back.  I was inspired by the book and followed them both. Turns out that after saying thank you I had a connection to Keri-Lee as she works with one of my teaching heroes, and personal best friends and had just come back from a session of Pilates with her – the world is a small place, but Twitter makes it smaller.

This book is the ultimate guide to Twitter and names and notices all the parts that may take you months or years to discover on your own. It discusses the 7 stages of Twitter – Lurker, Novice, Insider, Colleague, Collaborator, Friend & Confidant – and what each stage looks like.  How you may be at one stage with some of your PLN and a different stage with others.  It is full of snippets out of the lives of people who connect through Twitter.  Through these short movies I found many a person to follow, a person to lurk around and listen to.  Someone that you can gleam pearls from or just someone who reads a lot of blogs/forums/news groups and likes to tweet out good articles.
“You just put it out there, maybe it sticks, maybe it doesn’t. Don’t think about it too much and you’ll be surprised at the payback you will get from sharing random tidbits of your personality”
                    Jabiz Raisdana in Twitter: A Cultural Guide
Now through lurking, then listening, then throwing in a comment or idea I have slowly made contact with many fantastic educators and creators, some I have met and most I have not. Some are colleagues, but many I now feel are friends. All are inspirational and challenge me.  A friend stated in a hashtag #IdonthaveaPLNIhaveEduAwesomefriends.
NOT PLN but Friends
Now this is the wow moment of my day, the thing that really just made me sit back and shake my head at the collaboration, openness and sharing of Twitter. I have followed many educators from Twitter: A Cultural Guide, but one stood out as he, like Keri-Lee and I, is a Kiwi.  I followed him and looked through his previous posts and commented on one of the posters that he had shared and been part of creating.
 Many days later was today and I received a message from him saying he agreed with my comment and here is a whole lot more resources he had put together.
My comment in reply was wow, thanks, I can scale them down to my primary level and they will be fantastic.
Straight away the message came through – Here are the primary resources and the Staff PD Google site to go with it.
Me: I do not know how to thank you, as I can see the time you have spent creating these resources, just to give them away to a virtual stranger.
Him: We are both from NZ… sharing is part of the culture 🙂
That in a nutshell is why Twitter, for Educators, works – sharing is part of the culture 🙂  We are not doing this for money, we are not doing this for fame or selfish means, we are here to connect, to share and to make ourselves better teachers and our student’s education better than what it is now.
Even if you are an old hand a Twitter, read the book, it’s free and it is worth it, then get a colleague who has not tried twitter and give it to them to read.  Bring them into the Village of Twitter.

Unintentional Metacognition

I must admit that when I first looked upon Stories for Thinking by Robert Fisher I was guilty of judging the book by its cover. I flicked through the book and came across a series of short stories and each was followed by a set of questions that would build thinking skills. I put it aside ready to return it to the resource shelf where I found it.Stories for Thinking by Robert Fisher

Before I had the opportunity to return the book I was given a 15 minute slot that I had not planned for as we had returned early from swimming. This time would usually be an opportunity for fitness type game outside or a ‘Circle Time’ favourite, but it was raining and the kids were exhausted after a week of swimming and asked for a story.
Flicking through Stories for Thinking I came across one titled Fair, which was fitting as fairness has been a bit of a playground focus, so I began to read.

Short synopsis is… A Farmer needs workers for his orchard so he goes to hire a man at 9am and says “If you work for me today I will give you a gold coin”. Then he hires subsequent workers at 10am, midday, 2pm and 4pm and each time he repeats “If you work for me today I will give you a gold coin”. Then when at the end of work for the day he gives each of the workers a gold coin no matter how long they have worked and the workers are upset.

Well a the end of this story the class was fuming with the workers, which is where the follow up questions come in, as the first concept was that why should the be upset with the farmer, when he did not lie to them and told them exactly how much he would pay them. The debate and questioning of the students lasted the ten minutes after the story and well into the next day as the students were so thrown by the story that they were engaged. Most students had varying points of view either in favour of the farmer or the workers and all were able to relate it back to their own experiences to make connections to their life.

This was not an intentional lesson, but the learning that occurred within that discussion into an Aesop like story was incredibly engaging and makes me think that I need to allow more time for exploring of issues and developing of thinking skills and debate style learning.

What next
Firstly I have flicked through Stories for Thinking companion Poems for Thinking and come across Somebody, a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and have penciled talking points and questions over it. I might not use it until the bus arrives is early again or a wet lunch hour or I might use it in our library session tomorrow. When ever I use it I know that the discussion around who is a somebody and who is a nobody will be fascinating and hopefully lead somewhere.

Additionally, it has jogged my memory back to a teacher that I met at ICOT from Rangiruru College in Christchurch. We sat next t each other at the SOLO Taxonomy session and had a chat and I discovered that he taught Philosophy to year 7 through 13, which I thought had to be one of the coolest educational jobs in the world. When realising my enthusiasm he told me of  Kids Philosophy organisation in New Zealand called Philosophy for Children or P4C.  So maybe if we want 21st Century learners to learn in an environment encompassing Guy Claxtons 3 Cs and 3Rs we need to expose them to a bit of Philosophy?

Now as I go to try and work out how I could use P4C in my class and reconnect with a teacher named Andrew from Christchurch I will leave you with Somebody by Lord Tennyson to unravel.


Somebody being a nobody.
thinking to look like a somebody.
said he thought me a nobody.
Good little somebody-nobody.
Had you not known me a somebody.
Would you have called me a nobody?

Alfred, Lord Tennyson