A Strategy for Encouraging Children to Read Again…Youtube?

Growing up, especially in my elementary school years, I loved to read. I consumed a ton of Gary Paulsen and Roald Dahl books, which were practically in the curriculum in my school so I can at least say my school was successful in that area. But there came a time, early in my adolescence, where it seemed like I spent more time sitting on the couch and watching Talespin than I did reading classic books. One summer, I assume this was the result of him noticing, my father forced my sister and I to read an hour a day. I don’t even know if it worked. I seem to remember just staring at the page, waiting for the hour to end. My father worked only 10-12 minutes away from the house, and tended to come home every day for lunch. One beautiful day, my sister and I were swimming in our pool, enjoying our time away from school. When our father came home for lunch, he insisted we complete our reading hour, so we sat on the pool deck with books in front of our faces. When he left to return to work and began to drive up the hill on the road along our house, he slowed the van, stopped and presumably stared at his children for 20-30 seconds (he was far enough away that we couldn’t see his face), who were sitting quietly on the pool deck, doing as they were expected, or in my case, just staring at the words. I still wonder if he heard the splash from the pool when the van was clear up the road.

Mom and Dad Set the Tone

I never fell in love with the hour-long reading chore, for lack of a better word, because that’s what it felt like, a chore. I was being forced to read. However, I do credit my dad, and my mom, for my love for reading (Mom was the one who would read to me at bedtime when I was younger). He set an example. My dad is a voracious reader to this day, and now that he’s retired, he reads even more.

Not my old man, but you get the picture, literally.

A Discovery

Now that I’m a father, I’ve been trying to think of ways to get my daughter to engage with books more without forcing her all the time (sometimes I just have to as a parent). I don’t want her to resent reading, and I don’t want her to think we have to make a deal every time I expect her to read (“if I…will you play Roblox?”). My wife and I did read to her nightly up to the age of around 4. Being so young and innocent, she loved the time with Daddy or Mommy, listening to the words, examining the pictures, pointing at objects, being shocked or surprised by a ridiculous turn of events. Now, we still read, but it’s not a nightly affair, even though it should be. Because she reads for school, and last year read for personal pan pizzas earned through the Pizza Hut Bookit! program (she has 3-4 certificates that haven’t been redeemed since the start of the pandemic), reading for pleasure seems so foreign to her now. After thinking I should start a Youtube page that presents exciting and engaging summaries of children’s books and books for early readers, I crawled out from under my rock and discovered that there are a bunch of Youtube channels devoted to reading (though I still might move ahead with the Youtube page for young readers).

The Strategy: Subscribe to Channels About Books and Reading

I’m going to subscribe to a few of these Youtube channels through the profile that my wife and daughter share. The way I see it, an algorithm is manipulating my baby, so I’m going to manipulate the algorithm. In school, my daughter, who turned 7 in August, is just now beginning to learn about the main idea of a story and has to put it in writing, followed by supporting details. The next step, after introducing her to some of these Youtube reading channels, is to buy some of the books she comes across on the channel. From there, “What’s the main idea of the story?” might become a weekly writing assignment tied to the allowance she gets for doing dishes on Wednesdays. If that doesn’t work, I might ask her grandfather to force her to read for an hour every day next summer. Just kidding, maybe.

If you have any strategies to share that encourage children to read, please let us know in the comments.

Adding a Quiz in Moodle

The following is an excerpt from my new book Moodle in Minutes: A Practical Introduction for New Online Instructors. You can purchase it on Amazon here.

Adding a Quiz 

Quizzes are among the most important activities in Moodle and in an online course, period. Just like in a regular classroom, a quiz serves as an assessment for teachers to gauge how well their students are moving along in the learning process. I include a quiz with every week or topic.

To add a quiz, first click Add an activity or resource as you did for all previous activities. Scroll down until you find the Quiz option, select the circle to its left and finally click Add.

The “Editing Quiz” page will open, allowing you to first add a name. If you’d like, you can add a description to ease some of the worries of anxious students, and select the box next to “Display description on course page,” but in my opinion, the course looks cleaner and trimmer without it. Alternatively, you could provide a description that simply shows up when the quiz is taken, and not click the “Display description” option.

Editing a Quiz

When you’ve selected the options you think are appropriate for your quiz, click Save and display to begin editing and adding questions. The page that loads will include a button to edit the quiz. Click it to begin.

The “Editing quiz” page will load, and if questions were added previously, you would see them listed. However, as this is our first quiz, you’ll need to click Add and then + a new question to create a quiz question.A window will open in the middle of the page, much like when you add an activity or resource. Called “Choose a question type to add,” this window lists all of the types of assessment items you have at your disposal. As you can see, some are geared toward math, while others are for any subject matter.

For practical purposes, we’ll go over three of the assessment items that I think are the most useful for most subjects: Multiple choice, Select missing words and True/False.

Multiple Choice

For all quiz items, you will see the category option, question name and question text (the rich text editor). “Category” allows you to file the question in either the quiz itself, another quiz or section, or in the course’s question bank in general. In this exercise, we’ll file our question in the quiz itself. I like to include a name like “Q1 [topic name]” to indicate that it’s the first question I created for the particular topic.

In the rich text editor, add your multiple choice question.  Below the editor is another text box (“General feedback”) for providing automatic feedback that the student will see once they complete the question. This is a great place to elaborate on the big idea related to the question and answer.

Below “General feedback” you can choose whether one answer or multiple answers are allowed in response to the question. If you choose to allow multiple answers, you will then need to adjust the percentages below the choices in the “Grade” section. For example, if two choices are correct, then set each correct choice to 50%. You should provide a negative percentage (e.g. -50%) to the incorrect choices to ensure that a student who simply ticks all the boxes does not receive 100% credit. On the other hand, if only one answer is correct, the “Grade” should be set to 100%, with all incorrect answers being left as the default “None”. Once you provide 4 choices and allocate a grade total of 100% to one choice or a combination of choices (in the case that multiple answers are allowed), click Save changes.You will then be returned to the “Editing quiz” page. Notice that our example question now appears.

There are even more assessment items and activities covered in my book Moodle in Minutes: A Practical Introduction for New Online Instructors.

Civics Lesson: First Amendment Freedoms

The First Amendment (as part of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution) reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But what does it all mean? Am I allowed to say whatever to whoever I please while being protected from any kind of consequence or penalty? What am I assembling? Here are a few explanations for each of the five freedoms within the First Amendment:

Freedom of Religion

This freedom protects U.S. citizens from (1) being subjected to a state-sponsored religion and (2) being prohibited from freely practicing the religion one chooses. However, this freedom does not allow someone to establish say, a religion that involves human sacrifice, or something extreme in nature (I know, it’s crazy that I have to point that one out). It’s important to remember that many of the British colonies in what is the present-day United States were founded for religious reasons (e.g. Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Bay Colony); that is they wanted to protect themselves from the religious persecution that they had endured in Europe. So it should be no surprise that the Founders made sure that this freedom would continue to be protected.

Freedom of Speech

The most widely misunderstood freedom within the First Amendment, freedom of speech simply protects you from being silenced by the government. You can criticize the president in public, and not be fined or thrown in jail for doing so. You can write a blog about how Supreme Court justices should have term limits, and an unmarked white van will not suddenly appear outside your house. I say freedom of speech is widely misunderstood because many people think it protects you from being silenced by your employer or fired for saying something that goes against your employers policies (it does not), or that it allows one to “roast” somebody else, as many students tend to believe. Again, it’s about the freedom to speak freely about government, without repercussions.

Freedom of the Press

Like freedom of speech, freedom of the press ensures that newspapers, magazines, radio shows, podcasts and other publications are free to criticize the government. This is not to be taken for granted, as there are several countries in contemporary times that do not exercise this freedom (China, North Korea, Syria, to name a few). Among other things, the lack of press freedom means that students in China cannot freely look up a YouTube video of the incident known as Tiananmen Square from 1989, when students in Bejing, China (and many other Chinese cities) protested for more democracy and freedom of speech, and one man stood in front of a tank and would not move for several minutes (he was later pulled away by onlookers)! Nor can they find a Chinese newspaper that will explain the history of the incident to them, including how hundreds of protesters were killed.

Freedom of Assembly

This is the right, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said on the night before he died, “to protest for rights!” The amendment is pretty clear on this one: you must do so peacefully. Throwing rocks or other forms of violence are not protected. But standing in front of the White House lawn with your fellow Americans in protest of the policies of the president is protected. So is protesting the lack of bipartisanship in Congress on the steps outside of the Capitol Building (where Congress works).

Freedom of Petition

This freedom is a soft form of political persuasion. Imagine that you have an idea for a law that you would like your member of Congress to introduce in the House. You write a summary of the law, then you go out into your community and pitch the idea to everyone you see. Anyone that thinks it’s a great idea signs their name on a piece of paper (your petition). You get a few thousand signatures and are very proud of what you’ve accomplished. You then mail or hand deliver your idea with the thousands of hard-earned signatures to your member of Congress. You’ve just exercised your freedom of petition!

Teachers – How do you teach?

To any social studies teachers who read this blog, what are your ideas for teaching this critical topic in American government or civics courses? Share them below.