Tag Archives: reading comprehension

The Purge – Catalogue


The Purge – Catalogue

Tucked away in the SkoolHaze back alleys are about 15 drafted reviews for the books I read this summer. I was on a reading binge from July to September. Initially it started as a #Read40ADay challenge. I was doing pretty well, reading on average about 70 pages a day until maybe… early August. My mind and eyes got tired and…. the world started to slow down. I was still able to get through quite a few books, many of which expanded my thinking and gave my brain great distress. For example, Paul Robeson’s Here I Stand and W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folks were extremely tedious and difficult to get through. Not only did I have to translate their formal language into something I could comprehend, but I also had to try to put myself in their time. The Souls of Black Folks was written in the early 1900’s and I felt the need to put myself in Dubois’ world in order to truly understand his story. This is sort of how Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children felt when I tried to read it before having taught a day in school. I picked it back up right after finishing my first year and it felt like Ms. Delpit was speaking to my soul. Other books like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow forced me to analyze every word of every sentence that described the evolution of our criminal justice system. It became a sad soap opera that I couldn’t put down, and recommend everyone read.

Thankfully I’ve used a lot of what I consumed in my teaching practice and grad school papers. One day I may actually finalize the reviews and post them for your all. Until then check the list out below.

What are you readin?


Recommended Books – I highly recommend these books. These are all titles that I ended up creating my own table of contents as I knew I would be returning back to the book years later for sources and tips.


The Mis-Education of the Negro – Foundational Text for anyone educating black children or people. If you haven’t read this book and you teach African American students you should really take a second to see what Elder Woodson has to say. Its probably the most profound things I’ve heard about education theory for Black students, and it was written over a century ago.

The New Jim Crow – Great read for anyone who’s work or life is impacted by the criminal justice system. Compelling argument that highlights how the criminal justice system for over 200 years has worked to create poverty and a caste system in minority communities.

Trying to Get There – Great story about fighting for your own success in a market that isn’t used to your culture. I just loved being able to get a piece of Roderick’s story. And have actually taken to wearing bowties at work because of him.

Eleven Rings The master coach. I admit the sexy cover sold me! Phil replays his youth as a basketball player and how it helped turn him into one of the most successful coaches in history. It was great seeing him make teams from players of individuals. I’m still hopeful I can use some of his tribe influenced techniques in my classes.

Other People’s Children – Amazing read that puts cultural communication differences into perspective. I would say read this if you have at least taught 1 year in a school setting. It made so much more sense once I was able to recall my own work-related situations where communication just simply wasn’t the same between my students and coworkers.

A Handbook for Teachers – Fan of Baruti Kafele’s work. He actually came and spoke at one of the conferences my old job put together. Motivational book that gives the reader so implementable tips for working with Black students.


Good Reads – Outside of The Narrative, these books are all a bit more specialized. I recommend them if you’re looking for specific tips and strategies in the areas listed.

Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males Great book that highlights some strategies on working with Black male readers. As a Sped teacher its been a bit more difficult to implement these in an ICT setting. But I do feel like this book gave me a better perspective to assess my student’s literacy skills.

The Black Man’s Guide to Graduates School I read this after I had already finished my 1st year of Grad School. Shout out to co-author Corey Guyton who got his Ph. D. from my alma mater Indiana State University. Great read if you’re thinking about going to grad school but not sure where to start. Book offers multiple perspectives from 6 different guys who all had different journeys to meet their success.

Narrative of Frederick Douglas I read this in high school, but didn’t quite remember it. Great perspective builder for anyone who needs a refresher of Black/American history – how far we’ve come – and how far we still need to go.

Motivating Black Males to Achieve Another book from Baruti Kafele. I’m in the middle of reading this now. I love that he approaches this work form a surplus perspective. It shows in his writing and its refreshing reading about Black youth from that perspective.

Unlabel Motivation Maker. I’ve been reading this book for a while. It talks about Mark Ecko’s rise to fame with Ecko clothing, Complex Magazine and all his other business ventures. I love this book because every time I read it I end up putting it down to go work on SkoolHaze. Definitely worth the money.

Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys Perhaps one of Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu’s founding works. Dr. Kunjufu is a voice for the Black Male scholar to speak about his own condition in society. The book was written in the 80’s and reflects some of popular black opinion from that time. But overall a great read for anyone wanting a deeper look at issues that may be affecting Black male success.



General Collection – These books didn’t give me groundbreaking new information, but they were interesting reads.

DreamKeepers – So, at one point we were asked to read a book that I didn’t agree with in our grad classes. The title of the book related to scare tactics that I just couldn’t stand behind in class. I went to the professor and she offered to incorporate an additional text for me and others. This is that text. I like DreamKeepers it kind of touches on the teaching and communication differences between White teachers and teachers of color.

Coming of Age: Rites of Passage I would recommend this for people who have been through a Rites of Passage program themselves. The book gave me a language to use in describing and thinking about the pro’s and con’s of the process. I don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone without an intimate knowledge already though.

To Be Popular or Smart – Easy read. To be honest I can’t remember much from the book.

Motivating and Preparing Black Youth Easy read. To be honest I can’t remember much from the book.

Teaching Matters Great book written by two education scholars from my alma mater Indiana State University. They talked about how educators owe it to their profession to be and bring passion to their work.

The Warrior Method This is a book I just started. It gives basic information about raising strong Black boys. The title is what caught me the most. But I haven’t read enough of the book to really speak about it.

The Alchemist A book I’ve always wanted to read about reaching your personal legend, and creating doors where there were no doors before.

Angry Little Men Oddly enough I didn’t have a problem with this title even though its similarly framed from a deficit standpoint. I don’t remember much about this book, but in the margins I wrote “This book answers how African American children (boys) can have a high academic self-concept even if they don’t perform well academically.”

Empire State of Mind Anecdotal review of Jay’Z’s rise to fame and stardom. The authors interviews people close to Jay-Z and uses old newspaper articles to piece the story together. I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re looking for more first hand information on Jay-z.

Juggling Elephants One of the first books I read two or 3 years ago that began my library. It was the beginning of me figuring out how to effectively use my time to get what I want.

Fraternity I’ve been eyeing this book forever. It’s the story of the group of Black men that were recruited to attend Holy Cross University on scholarship. The class was part of an integration push by the school officials. Some members of the cohort include Clarence Thomas, Theodore Wells a successful defense attorney, and Edward P. Jones a Pulitzer Prize winner. I started reading this book, but haven’t been pulled in by the story yet so I put it down. I plan to return one day.

Prince Among Slaves Last but not least a book about a former African Prince sold into slavery here in the states. I loved learning about Ibrahima’s story. I haven’t finished the book yet but its historical facts mixed with anecdote.



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Thursday February 21, another sleepless night in NYC

Its 3am and I already know I shouldn’t try to go back to sleep right now. Lets document what goes on today –

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I woke up at 10pm last night. I had a pretty rough Wednesday. I felt anxious/anxiety all day. Today was our first day back after a 4-day weekend. What was supposed to be our Winter Break, cut short because of the days re-instated after Hurricane Sandy shut schools down for a week this fall. I sat in bed until about 3am. Thinking and not thinking. I finally formulated the idea that I wasn’t satisfied. I can’t pinpoint exactly what. But I think its varying combinations of not being happy with where my students are academically, not being sure what impact I’m having with my students, not feeling in control of life right now, and just being a little overwhelmed and under enthused about life right now.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a clip of Tyler Perry on Facebook. I had seen the clip many times before, but scrolled passed the clip thinking it wasn’t worth my time. I was in need of a little pick me up so I watched the video and luckily got the inspiration I needed.

Belief id important, because belief is what has to carry me (us) through to end and plus… At the end of the day everyone who has every been successful at something has been one thing – human. With this back into the forefront of my mind I actually got out of bed and decided to go to the gym. There I was from 4:30 – 600am. Getting one of the best chest workouts I’ve had in a very long time. Being in the gym is the only time I feel l can give my mind a rest and invigorate my soul for the many different challenges I’m bound to face each day.

After my workout I headed down to school earlier than I had ever gone before. I got to school around 7am, and after downing my Bacon/egg/cheese and Starbucks frappucino I knocked out a ton of things on my to-do list with enough time to get off track and jam out to music for a second.

Recently, and really historically with me, I have been gotten frustrated when I haven’t been able to do something well. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m a perfectionist. But, if there is room for improvement, then I want to always be improving. I don’t necessarily need 100%, but I wont be happy until I feel I’ve controllably arrived at 99.9%.

1st period: Each morning I start my day with my English Language Arts class. Today, there were 6 young black boys in my classroom. When I think about this picture in my head I always think what could I be doing more to reach them. In this class I have good chemistry with my co-teacher that has actually been noted by my grad school coach. Another observation that I have as a teacher is that people can observe and describe two different things while engaging in the same scenario. Everyday listening to teacher describe situations we’ve both experiences has me hyper aware of differences of description right now. It makes me wonder how I can be better at getting a more 360 degree view of my classrooms.

2/3 period: Today during 2nd period I spend time prepping for a reading assessment we’re planning to use to for our Rewards reading intervention classes. ITs still a bit difficult for me to notice, evaluate, and describe students strengths and weaknesses with reading. Normally I think people think of fluency (to what degree a student can orally read the words in a passage) to rate students reading abilities. However, reading is more of a comprehension (to what degree a student can create meaning from the words in a passage) skill. During Rewards I put on Ferris Bueller’s Day off, then set up a reading station outside the door of the class to give myself and the readers some privacy. After class I jotted down a little note about the reading assessments:

11:27 – Just finished doing reading assessments with Rewards class. Have a slightly better understanding of the students reading strengths and weaknesses. Although it’s still a bit out of my grasp. Half of the class defied me and played the Warriors TWICE today. I came in and didn’t make a huge deal about it. But I was kind of shocked that after I put Ferris Bueller back on the second time that I came back in to the Warriors AGAIN. During various points of the class I checked in with individual students about their poor attendance, their attitudes in class, and of course I spoke with the young man responsible for changing the movie both times. I also had a students in the hallway aimlessly walking around. I tried my best to corral her back into the class, but I didn’t have any luck. I didn’t/couldn’t try harder at this specific point. It seemed as though with a bit of pushing (following her around for a bit she would have returned). But one lesson I have to learn is that I have to make the students who are in class the priority, not the ones who haven’t held up their end of the partnership.

4th period: Met with my mentor. I spoke with her for the full 40 minute period about my Wednesday. I had a difficult conversation with a parent during Parent/Teacher conferences. I was agitated from working everyday over the previous 4 day weekend. The exhaustion of rarely having a break was starting to catch up with me. I literally got home  at 6 pm and passed out on my bed until about 10pm. I’m not a perfectionist. But I see room for improvement. I feel I need to push to make some improvements more for my students sake than mine. Being a better teacher will have greater impacts for them than I. We also started talking about a student data tracking project. I will identify two to three students to periodically compile work from all of their classes in effort to see their progress over time.

5th period: English Department Meeting topic of discussion – What do we do with students who have passed zero english credits to date? Do we remediate, do we push through, do we give 3rd chances at old curriculum?

6th period: I RAN and grabbed some quick food, I shot the shit with my co-teaher. And did some final preparations for my 7th period class.

7th period: 6 students out of 15 were in class today. Attendance for this class has been chronically bad. With 3 weeks left before the end of the trimester students are either hurt by their regular truancy, or various health ailments that their parents take them out of school for, so they say. I gave the students there a rundown of the final 2 projects that we will be working on this trimester, and also let them know that I would be here after school on Mondays, Tuesday, and Thursdays if they wanted additional classtime to work on their projects.

After school: Special Education Team meets to discuss some of the upcoming work for the team, changes to scheduling procedures, IEP progress report torture (for us), and reminders to complete our IEP’s on time.

I had a phone conversation with some YouthBuild colleagues to see if we can connect their student leadership groups with our students when they come into town this April.

I also had a meeting with some friends a fundraiser we’re planning for May 2. (More details to come)

Reading Comprehension Workshop Notes

On Wednesday I attended a reading comprehension workshop at my grad school. Luckily I had my iPad with me. I went along and ferociously typed notes as the presenter enlightened the crowd of tutors about the ins and outs of why so many students have difficulties with their reading. I figured it was an important time for me to start learning more about what my students challenges were. It was a really amazing 90 minutes. i walked away feeling as though I learned so much. I actually ran into the guy who runs a few educational programs for the university which was cool. We exchanged info and I also found out he was greek too. A Sigma to be exact. He was a former History teacher turned College Career Counselor. I gave him my card. Told him about my efforts to help other young men of color understand some of the ins and outs of teaching in this type of environment, and grabbed his card in return. I’ve sent him an email thanking him again for welcoming me to the workshop, restated my goals I talked about the night before, and let him know that I have a college tour scheduled next week. And that it would be cool to introduce him to my students when they were on campus if he had time.

I’ve attached the notes in pdf form. Enjoy: Reading Comprehension Workshop notes.examples

I also want to add that something I plan to do with my students is simplify the Casual factors for weakness in reading comprehension, and ask my students which area(s) they feel strong in, and which areas they feel are growth areas. It would help immensely if I knew what they thought their strengths and weaknesses were. It would help me go in with a more catered game plan as well a higher rate of buy in form my students. If I rememberI’ll share whatever I come up with.

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