Smories: Stories for Children

Smories is a website with short videos of children reading original stories for kids. There are 50 new Smories added every month. Writers are encouraged to submit their original children’s stories to be featured on the website.

The stories are advertised as being suitable for children aged three to eight although there are many stories that would also appeal to children older than eight.

There is a special version of Smories available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and there will soon be an iPad version.

I have been using this site with my Grade Two class as a means of modelling reading with expression and also as a comprehension activity. I have been encouraging the students to picture the story in their mind as they listen. Listening to Smories is also a good way to revise the features of a narrative.

My students have really enjoyed the stories and find it quite appealing to listen to children their own age.

Next time we do a story writing activity I am going to get my students to publish their work “Smory style” which we can then put on our class blog.

Smories

Do you have any other ideas of how you could integrate this site into your classroom?

Teach Like a Champion: A Guide for the 21st Century?

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov is a book that came out in April 2010. It has the byline “49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College” and comes with a DVD of real teachers demonstrating 25 of the techniques in the classroom.

The author, Doug Lemov, is the managing director of Uncommon Schools in the USA which aims to prepare low-income students for college through an education that differs from that offered by the mainstream “common school.”

Lemov conducted research into what exactly are the magical elements that make a good teacher and found that it is not simply a natural ability but a combination of applied techniques.

There seemed to be a lot of hyped discussion around the release of this book on blogs, Twitter and even through a (very lengthy)  New York Times article.

Having read some very positive reviews of Teach Like a Champion and after seeing some short video clips that appeared powerful, I decided to buy the book.

I find that a lot of documents from government bodies that outline effective teaching techniques are unnecessarily wordy and unspecific. For a systematic and logical person like myself, this jargon can be frustrating. I was therefore looking forward to reading some clear, concrete and specific teaching techniques.

It turned out that my initial excitement soon waned as I turned each page and watched each chapter of the DVD.

Granted, there are some useful techniques in the book and I did agree with some of the 49 techniques, such as

  • Cold Call – discourage hands up and expect that all students will have a contribution to make. I have been using this technique since reading the book and am finding it very useful. It encourages more class participation.
  • Strict and Warm – the book noted that these don’t have to be contradictory terms and I agree. Strict yet warm is the approach I like to take with my students.
  • The Joy Factorsometimes I feel like I over plan and have so much I want to fit into a week that we don’t have time for a game or a singalong. I was reminded of the importance of allowing time for some “fun and joy.”
  • Wait Time – giving students time to think after asking a question. I’ve found this important so that the students can think more deeply and compose a quality answer.

My main criticisms of this book and DVD include

  • the “chalk and talk” method was the primary means of instruction; teacher out the front, students sitting in rows. The approach taken appeared to be more teacher-centred rather than student-centred
  • there weren’t any examples of using technology and collaborating, communicating and creating
  • the focus in a lot of the classrooms was on facts and drills
  • there was an emphasis on probing students to utter an answer that is correct in the teacher’s mind rather than encouraging creative and independent thinking
  • the focus of the book is about preparing students for a college education rather than preparing them to be active, useful and creative citizens in the 21st century.

Teach Like a Champion

What are your thoughts on Teach Like a Champion?