Saturday, January 31, 2009

A School Climate that Thaws Snow Storms

Over half of the teachers in the building were at school on Friday. It seemed like they had a variety of tasks. Some were getting caught up, while others were planning ahead. Two were already considering plans for IEP students taking the Achievement Tests in April. It seemed like one might have shown up just to argue politics (See the State of the State post to see the right/optimistic side of the discussion).

So, what's the big deal, you ask? It was a snow day. School was canceled. The roads were nasty, and it was cold and windy. The teachers did not have to be there. The fact that so many 4 - 6 grade teachers battled the snow and ice to come to school is reflective of the attitude at Laurelville. Teachers want to be there, and want to do well. There is an interest in seeing the students succeed.

There's more to it than that though. There is a certain hominess to the building. In a day when schools are facing so many challenges, this building is different. There is a distinct feel to the building. Teachers feel a part of the school and want to be there.

School climate was a hot topic a few years ago. School climate is the learning environment of the school and how it makes students feel. Lately that has been forgotten with NCLB and all the emphasis on testing. The focus in education is on scores and achievement, and intervention, and the School Report Card.

When you are in a building where there is a warm climate, where people feel a part of the school, you know you are part of something special. There is an attitude that you can feel. It is hard to describe, but when you are lucky enough to be a part of it, you know it's there.

The road conditions were way too bad to have school. I can't help but wonder though, if we had told students, come on in if you can, how many would have showed up. Maybe a few would want to do some research for their persuasive essay. One or two might want to work on their online journal. Some might have wanted to come in and trade books, and just read for a while.

How about it students? Would you have stopped in for a while? Would you have spent a little time just hanging around and catching up? It seems to me like some days it's sunny enough on the inside to thaw out even the worst of the snow storms.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gov. Says Time to Change Education in Ohio

Gov. Ted Strickland proposed numerous changes in education in the state of Ohio. During his State of the State address on Tuesday, January 27, he discussed lengthening the school year, all-day kindergarten for all schools, more rigorous training for teachers, switching from the high school graduation test to the ACT, and a new method of school funding.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, this transformational plan would be phased in over eight years. The educational system would be "evidence-based" using established research to determine what constitutes an adequate education. School funding would be based on what it takes to instruct students based on the cost to provide an effective education.

This redesign of Ohio schools would be based on a goal of creating a 21st century educational system. The school year would eventually be 20 days longer. Tutoring for at-risk students would be increased. Fundamental changes in school funding were proposed including allowing districts to pass a special kind of levy that would allow revenues to reflect changes in property valuation.

Stiffer accountability for schools was a main point of Strickland's proposals. Mentoring, peer reviews, and coaching for teachers was suggested. In addition, teachers would have to spend a four year residency before receiving their teaching license. School administrators would have the ability to fire teachers for good cause.

When Strickland was elected over two years ago, many questioned his campaign promise to address the needs of Ohio's educational system. This State of the State Address clearly shows that he is ready to make good on his promises. Now the question arises, with the financial crisis facing Ohio, can he make help the schools in Ohio prepare for the 21st century.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Don't Want No . . .

"You don't want no cheese on that?" I just stared at the Wendy's Menu. I wasn't quite sure what the voice on the intercom said. My daughter, Emily and I were sitting in the drive through, grabbing some lunch to go.
Finally I said, "I'm sorry, what was that?"
"You don't want no cheese on that?"
I replied, "No thank you. No cheese."

Then I looked over at Emily. She was sitting in the passenger seat slightly shaking her head. A few hours later, I couldn't really remember anything about the lunch. I think maybe the fries were a little wimpy, and limp-like, but I honestly don't remember too much about the lunch. I do remember that the people were friendly at the two windows, first to pay and then to get our food. Emily didn't complain, and I soon forgot about it, so the food must have been OK.

Three days later though, that voice on the intercom has stuck with me. I tried to put a picture to that voice Somewhere along the line, she could have been in my class. She obviously spent a lot of years, sitting in language arts classes. It was a nasty, snowy day, and she was at work, so she probably was a hard worker. She was friendly, and polite, with good customer service in mind.

I have so many questions I would like to ask her.

Did your teachers ever mention double negatives?
Did you like school?
How did you do in school?
What kind of grades did you get in language arts?
Do you like to read?
How did you do on the "test?"
Did you graduate from high school?
Where did you go to school?
Does the Wendy's manager ever say anything about how you talk?
How long have you worked there?
Did your parents ever talk to you about your grammar?
Do you have kids?
Do you help them with their school work?
Did you ever think about college?
Do you think you might be a manager some day?
Did you ever consider that your dialect might limit you?
Have you traveled?
Who do you look up to?
Do you think how you speak matters?

I don't remember anything about that sandwich except I "didn't want no cheese on it." I sure have thought a lot about that voice on the intercom, though. I think there is a good chance that we will be having a few conversations about this in Reading Workshop.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Carnival of Education, A Day at School

Welcome to the 208th Carnival of Education, A Day at School with The Reading Workshop. For those unfamiliar with the Education Carnival, this is a weekly event consisting of a collection of blog posts by those with a passion for education. The Carnival is hosted by a variety of hosts, but Edwonk maintains it. And now, on to the day.

Each and every day is a fun-filled Carnival-like day at the home of the Reading Workshop. Lucky for us on this day, many interesting thoughts, ideas and opinions were shared. I hope you enjoy reading about this day (all the great posts) as much as I did.

For breakfast, Travis and Tom served up a cereal analogy while explaining WASL: New and IMPROVED! 25% more for 45% less. On the drive to school, Tom DeRosa remembered 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons: Week 3 and thought, today I must be firm, fair, and consistent. Meanwhile Mark Stock was wondering if Scripted Programs are Good or Bad for Your School?

Before school, Julie spent a few minutes trading books because she has Book Mania. Then the principal stopped by to tell Mathew Ladner and Jay Greene that they have all the right qualities based on Son of a Super Chart. Margaret got a phone call and then talked about the Top 20 IPhones Apps For Overwhelmed Students.

To get the day started, Carol rang the bell then explained to the teachers Deadlines, Surviving, and Things That Will Get You Fired. Then we had a Brain Teaser to Exercise your Memory and Reasoning Skills.

Class started with social studies and in a timely lesson with all the interest following the Presidential Inauguration, Larry Ferlazzo showed The Best Way to Learn About Presidents. Core Knowledge decreed that there is More Than Symbolism to Obama's Inauguration. And then, Susan Graham reminded us of the Simple Gifts in our country based on freedom.

As we moved on to writing Lorri Encouraged Children to Write About Their Hopes for our New President. Pat said to be successful, maybe we should think and write about cheering for the others because some things are Better Than Winning. Rani thought a Personal Letter of Apology was needed.

Hillary Kay took students to the library and told them Read, Read, Read. While at the library, meeting about conducting the Exit Exam, Darren once again found that Prior Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance.

At lunch, conversation centered around educating college students. It started with 7 Ideas for Rejuvenating Education. Moolanomy discussed Expected Family Contribution for College. Patricia Turner wondered if anyone had thought about Open Courseware Projects from Around the World? Sara Goldrick-Rab, while on the topic of college, asked for opinions about college students Not Coming Back for More?

Liam Goldrick questioned Who Says Democratic Governors Have A Monopoly on Education Policy? While discussing politics, Tamir Birk let us know that Back to Work Legislation for CUPE is Ending the York University Strike. Dave Johnston thought Bill Gates is Right. J.M. Holland mentioned Obama's Top 10 Pre-K promises.

Time for recess according to the Hall Monitor because Recess Makes for Better Students.

When students got back to class in the afternoon, it was time for science, but Steve Spangler had to alter his experiment today, due to the Severe Effects of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act.

Then, Denise declared it math time and started a Math Notations Contest. Someone from a Right Wing Nation said math this way is EduInsanity.

Jena stayed home because she wondered if Schools Kill Creativity. Dana wondered if NCLB testing was bad for schools, but good for homeschools? Miss Amanda read from a Book List for home-schooled college student.

At the end of the day, Joanne Jacobs told students there was No Escape from Homework.

After school, Chris Wondra needed to speak to the parent of a child. He received an email from the gassy one's parents in Parent Communication. Corey Bunje Bower shared Some Realities of Low Achievement. Dave Saba doesn't think mentoring is the whole answer and is Still Searching.

As she laid her head down to sleep, Woodlass decided that tomorrow she was going to be an old-style teacher, Doing it Our Way.

I hope you enjoyed your day with The Reading Workshop. Thanks to all who participated.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Education using the carnival submission form.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Absolute Best Job

We were having coffee and Oreo pie at Bob Evans. That in itself is almost perfect, but then things got even better. I looked up and a former student, A.J. (Ashley Jones) walked in the door. It had been a couple of years since I had seen her. She had her ever-present smile as the hostess escorted her and her date to their seat.

After we finished and were preparing to leave A.J. rushed up. With that big grin she asked, "Mr. McGuire, how are you?" As we talked, she told me that she would be graduating from Ohio University in the spring. She was doing an internship with an accounting firm this quarter. In fact, she was doing so well they had guaranteed her a job upon graduation.

As we talked, I realized, I have the best job in the world. Listening to A.J. talk about her life, and the success that she was having, and the credit she gave to her time at Laurelville was so gratifying. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was so lucky. There is no other job where you get a gift like A.J. gave me. Seeing her appreciative attitude, and her extension of friendship was better than Christmas morning.

Of all of the aspects of teaching, none compare with seeing former students. There is something so special about hearing about their successes, and seeing how students grow and mature. Luckily, I live in a community that is small enough that I have this chance frequently. But, I can't ever get enough. The more I see former students, the more I enjoy it. More and more, I appreciate having a job where I can see young people work hard and earn their success.

When A.J. was a sixth grader, there was no doubt she would be successful. She worked hard, was responsible, and treated everyone with kindness and respect. However, seeing her as an adult, earning her way in the world, makes me feel great to be a small stop along the route of her success. Nothing beats seeing former students build a successful life.

To all of my former students, you make my day, every day, and as I always say, stop by when you get a chance and tell me about all of your successes. You make teaching the absolute best job!


Study Island Student Assistance

The problem was he was a clicker. He could answer more questions on Study Island than any other student in the school. He figured out, the easiest way to do a session was to just keep clicking on that Enter button And because the questions were multiple choice, he could always get about 25%. Unfortunately for him, his teacher soon caught on to the fact that he was blowing away lessons like a windstorm blowing leaves in an oak woods. He could complete ten questions in about a minute.

Study Island is based on state standards. It is an excellent online learning program that features lessons, and remidiation by bumping students down to lower grade levels if they are unable to pass the tests. Each session features four answer multiple choice questions on a chosen topic. The test is an excellent predicter in the likelihood of students passing the Ohio Achievement Test.

A third grade teacher, Mrs. Kable approached me with this problem. She had a student who was rushing through lessons on Study Island. I picked three Reading Workshop students, Trindi, Dylan, and Jacob to take turns helping this student with his sessions. One goes each day for 20 minutes, rotating so none miss too much class.

After the first day, this was my conversation with Trindi:
Me: How did it go?
Trindi: OK
Me: Did you help him?
Trindi: Yes
Me: How?
Trindi: He wasn't even reading the questions. He just clicked on an answer.
Me: What did you do?
Trindi: I told him to stop clicking, and read the questions.
Me: Then what happened?
Trindi: He got the rest right.

Here you go. A fool-proof method for improving Study Island scores. Thanks to these students, working as teachers, to help a third grade student be successful.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Free Writing Choice Friday

Students need time to write. Students need to be able to pursue writing projects. Students need to make choices about their education. Students need to prioritize and work on projects they deem important.

This means, choose a genre and write. If students haven't had as many opportunities to write poetry as they would like, forge ahead. Read some Sara Holbrook, I Never Said I Wasn't Difficult or follow the steps of Sharon Creech in Love That Dog and Hate That Cat. Write poetry and publish it to share.

Every Friday, students will have one hour to write whatever they choose. It can be any project, as long as they are writing. I will be available for conferencing, and can meet with students to address their individual needs. Peers can assist with revision, and as listeners to essays being read aloud to find errors or inconsistencies.

Students, if you have been wanting to write a fictional narrative or a memoir, plan on it. Do some prewriting, and/or spend some time thinking. Consider your characters and the problems they face. Decide how to get the reader into your story with a great opening, and how to build the excitement to the climax. Write an ending that will make the reader think about your story a few hours or maybe even days later.

Maybe your online journal needs some work. You can take this time to add details to entries, or to write a separate entry about your SSR book. If a book has especially touched you, or forced you to think about something, tell the reader about it.

Did you notice a blog post, where you wanted to comment? This is a time that you can share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Spend a Free Writing Choice Friday and give the readers of The Reading Workshop something to consider. Or, challenge an idea or opinion with facts that make the reader reconsider.

Free Writing Friday is a chance for you, students to write about what matters to you, writing in whatever genre you choose. The only requirement--write.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Scoring Online Journals

Students have been writing in their online journals on Wikispaces since November. They also log their reading at home and in the classroom during SSR on a table in their journal. This is a convenient method for me because I can easily sit down and see how much they are reading, and decide if they are understanding the book they are reading.

This method of Web 2.0 journals is also easy for students because they can access their journal any place that has an Internet connection. If they are absent, or don't complete a journal entry, they can write in it at home, or from the library. Many students take advantage of this and spend the time to add details to their entries outside of class. This is a great way for their extra work to result in higher grades.

Journals are scored using the Online Journal Rubric. We discussed scoring using the rubrics during minilessons. Also, in order to help students better understand the process, they scored their journals with a parent. This proved to be one of students' favorite activities of the year. Most really enjoyed going over their writing with their parents.

As the end of the nine weeks comes up on Friday, I scored journals this week. I used the rubric, and changed text to red in areas that students need to improve. Entries have greatly improved since the first few days. This is partially a benefit of understanding and streamlining the process.

The ever-pressing need for time is evident in many journals. Students sometimes feel frustrated by only having 5 - 10 minutes each day to write their entries. Having journals scored, with areas for improvement so visual, students should continue to make improvements.

For an example of what earns a 4 or A, you can take a look at Heather's Online Journal. Here is an example of one of Heather's posts:

12/16/08 The Problem in My Book
In my book, the kids that are staying at Jenny House, for the summer are having a problem. Well unless you think that Jenny House burning down is not a problem. The fire all started in an elevator shaft. Katie, Lacey and Chellsea thought that Dullas started the fire and they blamed it all on her. Then they found out the truth. The girls all said that they were sorry and she asked why that they thought she did it. So they told her how she was being so mean to everyone. "You said that you hated Jenny House."

Remember that about all of these kids are about 7-18 and they just lost the place they were staying at. The kids that were staying there live all over the U.S.A and they are trying to fined out how to get home. Right now they are staying in town in a hotel.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where Am I #7?

Ready for a challenge? Has your brain been frozen by the frigid weather? Here's a chance to get it thawed out with a brain teaser. The winner, if it's a student will get 7 gazillion points of extra credit. If the winner is not a student, the prize is in the mail.

Each day I will add another stanza of clues. Post your answers in the comments.

It's winter time,
And cold as ice.
Stick with it,
Guess at least twice.

Clues added 1/22/09

This is a Classic,
The Challenge for today.
Have no fear,
and give the game a play.

Clues added 1/23/09

Des took a Schott
And the net was in sight,
But to win this tournament,
You must be exactly right.

Clues added 1/24/09

The setting is where and when
That's as plain as the nose on your face.
Sometimes it might include an event,
Where OSU got first place.

Where Am I?

The Inauguration, Almost Unbelievable

Students sat in class today and watched the inauguration of the 44th President. Throughout the day, I thought about what we watched, and then discussed. I tried to understand two million people who came to the National Mall to witness this historic day. I thought about Aretha Franklin singing. My Country Tis of Thee. I kept remembering faces shown throughout the Inaugural Address.

When I got home, and was watching Katie Couric on CBS it really all hit home. When Bob Scheiffer, who has watched the last 12 inaugurations said he had never seen anything like this, I realized a lot of people felt like I did. He said "It's impossible to overstate the atmosphere," Schieffer said. "There's this feeling of good will that seems to have settled over the capitol. I've never really seen anything like it. Nothing can really describe what we witnessed today."

Today wasn't about parties, or whom you cast a vote. Today was a celebration, and a hope for our country. Today was about the hope of a great future for our children, and our childrens' children. Today was about a country and the road ahead.

In the words of Barack Obama,
Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.
These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

And then Beyonce sang the Etta James classic, "At Last" at the Neighborhood Ball. It was quite a remarkable day.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Why Writing Correctly Matters

Texting, IM'ing, and the casual language of students today is a concern to many people in education. When talking to students, by far the majority realize how different types of writing require different styles. Most students know the difference between formal and informal language.

However, grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills still tend to trip up many writers. Part of the challenge is recognizing just how much of an impact mistakes have on the reader. Often times, we teach the how, and not the why. Occasionally, something comes along that really points out the reason most of us take writing correctly so seriously.

With permission from Sister Salad, this edited version of their video, "Yo Comments Are Wack!" points out the disasterous commenting seen on the web and explains why writing matters. I first saw this video on Joanne Jacobs, but it needed a little editing to make it appropriate for use in school.

Thanks to Lizz, Alexandra, and Invisisis for allowing the editing of this video so students everywhere can benefit from their knowledge of wacked out comments!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Are You OK?

Sitting at my desk yesterday, I watched the class working. As we approach the halfway point of the school year, and we get to know each other fairly well (Yes, students figure out the teacher every bit, if not more, than the teacher figures out students.), I started thinking about what lies ahead for this class. We all know, whether you are a teacher or a student, certain behaviors determine success. How do you stack up?

Do you accept new challenges and/or change? Especially in today's world, the need to adapt to new circumstances and situations is necessary. Although education moves more slowly than much of the world, a lot of today's classrooms look much different than 20 years ago. Emerging technologies is just one factor that is changing schools and lives in general.

Do you accept criticism? Nobody likes to be told what they are doing wrong. When someone points out a problem, our first response is to become defensive. The ability to overcome this is what determines the level of success. After all, if it wasn't a problem that you need to overcome, why would anyone take the time to point it out?

Do you work hard, even when the task is boring or one you don't necessarily care about? It's a fact of life. School is boring sometimes. Jobs are boring sometimes. In school you have to do things you don't want to do. At work, you have to do things you don't want to do. Pushing ahead with consistent effort is necessary regardless of the task. After all, anyone can work hard if they are doing something they like. Working hard all of the time is the difference maker.

Do you respect everyone? Treating friends with kindness and respect is easy. Treating someone we don't like the same as a friend is the challenge. If a teacher you don't like talks to you, listening and doing what she says may be more of a challenge. But, not respecting her is more of a reflection on you, and affects you, much more than it does her. An unpopular person may be much harder to treat fairly, but the rewards are greater.

Do you complete what you start? Taking responsibility to see projects through is not always fun. The beginning of anything is usually easier than finishing in style. After all, nobody wins the race at the starting line, and the last lap is always the hardest. Success demands having the determination to finish what you start.

Does success matter? Having a plan and setting goals are just part of being successful. You must have the drive to do well. You must think about being successful, and consider what is needed to achieve success. This can't be something brought on by others. You must have the inner drive to succeed.

As I look at this list, I am not sure how I stack up. Whether you are the teacher or a student, living by this list is a challenge. What do you think? Do you have what it takes? Are you OK?
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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Power of Blogs

Woohoo, we're 27th! Now, I know this is not close to number 1. And everyone wants to be in first place. That honor goes to Joann Jacobs. Usually when someone celebrates, it is for being first, not 27th. In fact, the Cleveland Browns were close to 27th place this year in the NFL, and nobody celebrated their season. But when you consider the thousands of educational blogs, this is significant.

Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer listed the top 50 educational blogs worldwide based on user engagement. He researched using input from several sources including Google searches, Alltop, and Technorati and then used Postrank to rank them. He did this project for a client, and approached it objectively, without any preconceived notions about who or which blogs would be on his list.

This ranking is not so much about the success of this blog, but rather, it points out the value of blogs for teachers. Blogs allow writers from everywhere to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. A teacher from Laurelville can converse with Dan Froelich, a technology coordinator/professor from the North Carolina Teacher Academy and learn from Doug Johnson, a Director of Media and Technology from Minnesota. Teachers from classes from around the world like Chrissy Hellyer from the International School of Bangkok Thailand, or Tracey Bowes from Canada can share their ideas and work together to better help students.

This ranking is also a significant success for the Reading Workshop students. It shows that this blog provides them with a worldwide audience. Their thoughts expressed as comments proved valuable to readers. Their experiences in Reading Workshop served as models for teachers and students.

Being number 1 is great, but sometimes being number 27 is okay too.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who Needs Recess

Instead of hanging around for the 20 minute recess after lunch, the sixth graders at Laurelville have decided to get fit. Students have volunteered to give up their recess in an effort to get in shape. They are walking and/or jogging every day for twenty minutes after lunch.

What started as an idea to just give the opportunity to walk to students that were bored during recess has evolved into one of the high points of the day. Some students jog, seeing how many laps they can make around the gym. Others get with a partner or group and talk as they walk.

The biggest benefit seems to be in the classroom afterwards. Students are more attentive and mentally alert, while being more relaxed and restive in their seats. Their output in the first hour after walking has noticeably improved.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fewer than one-quarter of children engage in daily vigorous activity. In this class lately, 100% of the students are getting busy each day. Taking turns carrying the pedometer, students are charting the miles. So far, they are averaging about 1.3 miles/day.

According to WebMD:
1. Exercise Boosts Brainpower
2. Movement Melts Away Stress
3. Exercise Gives You Energy
4. Fitness Can Help Build Relationships
5. Exercise Helps Ward Off Disease
6. Fitness Pumps Up Your Heart
7. Exercise Lets You Eat More
8. Exercise Boosts Performance

This sixth grade class is going to see the benefits of exercise, if they keep up the pace each day during recess.

Great job to the McGuire's Milers!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Skimming Matters Most

Is skimming the most important skill needed by readers today? In the technology driven, Web 2.0 world, readers are faced with information overload. Just the number of words thrown out at readers on the Internet causes an overload for struggling readers. Web pages are jammed with facts, opinions and statistics. Links to everywhere just wait to lead the reader astray.

Just looking at the main page of the Reading Workshop blog must be daunting for someone struggling to get through the words. On top of that, you have the words in different colors and in different places. The day of just reading from top to bottom and left to right is over. Now readers must know, at a glance, what is relevant.

This week as we began reading and writing persuasive essays, the challenges of just a simple Google search overwhelmed some struggling readers. Limited vocabulary made for unsuccessful or irrelevant searches for many students. Even when provided with key words, the need to quickly skim the results and evaluate for relevancy, was quite a challenge.

Determining whether or not an article was just on topic, or if it provided information to support a persuasive essay was another challenge. Students searched for facts to support their opinions. Just this part of the writing/reading process was hard work.

In order to search successfully, students needed to follow these steps:
1. Choose appropriate search terms,
2. Skim the search results,
3. Find links that most likely fit the topic,
4. Determine if the web pages provided appropriate information,
5. Decide if sites might include facts to support their opinion,
6. Go to the websites and skim for facts and information,
7. Save appropriate information and sources,

On top of these tasks, the ever-present web filter blocked many search results, and students only had 30 minutes of class time. Even faced with all of these obstacles, many students found research results with statistics and facts to begin to build a convincing persuasive essay.

As students continue their search today, maybe the best topic to write about would be "Skimming is the Most Important Reading Skill."


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Twilight, For Only the Right Audience

With all of the buzz surrounding Twilight, I decided to see what the vampires did for me. Students were going crazy for the books about the cold ones, and now that the movie is out, they are obsessed.

This series of books, written by Stephanie Meyer tells the story of Bella Swan, the main character, who moved to Forks, Washington. She did not want to be here. She's not fond of her father and missed her mother. She was miserable.

Magically, her life was saved by Edward. She found out he is a vampire and immediately they're in love. And it all happens in the first few chapters. Meyer then spends the next 400 pages telling how handsome Edward is and how much Bella is in love. Finally in the last 100 pages, there is some excitement and action.

With each book (I almost made it through the first three) in the four book series there seems to be an abundance of fluff with too much repetitiveness.

However, I must admit, even though this series wasn't a good choice for me, the affect it has had on occasional readers is amazing. Students that couldn't hardly fake read themselves through a 100 page book, are spending countless hours engrossed in this series of books. If nothing else, Meyer's ability to reach her audience is note-worthy.

If you are a graying, male teacher with an appreciation for complex stories, this may not be a good choice. BUT, if you are a teenage girl, looking for a great romance book, dive in to Twilight and enjoy!


Friday, January 9, 2009

Unbelievable Readers

In the last three weeks, Heather, a student in Reading Workshop has read 1,448 minutes at home! Plus, she read 30 minutes each day during SSR time in class. She read Falling From Fire, Six Months to Live, the Kidnapped series, and the six Spiderwick Chronicles books.

What started as a conversation about what students would read over break, turned in to an unbelievable accomplishment for one class. Students piled up on books the last day, as they prepared to leave for winter break. BUT, I never would have dreamt that they could read anything close to the amount that they read. In fact, 80% of the students earned an A for their read at home grade.

Even more surprising is the total minutes read by a number of students. As I looked over reading logs, student after student totaled up a significant amount of reading and a great collection of books.

Here is a tally of the top readers:
Taylor 465 minutes
Desire' 690 minutes
Kyndrah 1,000 minutes
Collin 664 minutes
Christian W. 1,115 minutes
Heather 1,448 minutes
Tyler S. 445 minutes
Rachael 361 minutes

Students from some of the other classes racked up the minutes:
Jessica 455 minutes
Emma 450 minutes
Kara 544 minutes
Makayla 520 minutes
Corbit 403 minutes
Ryan 511 minutes
Lily 685 minutes

One thing that I know for sure, these students will have a lot of academic successes ahead. Students that read this much will benefit from an ever increasing vocabulary, increased knowledge, and a broader view of the world. Great job to this bunch of unbelievable readers.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Freak the Mighty - the Mightiest Read Aloud

Freak the Mighty strikes again. Each year this book is students' favorite read aloud. This book, written by Rodman Philbrick grabs the reader into a story about two boys that are the most unlikely friends. The only thing they have in common is that they are both misfits.

Max begins the book with, "I never had a brain until Freak came along." He is the biggest kid in the school, but one that has always been labeled as the dumbest. Kevin aka Freak is a "crippled kid" with amazing intelligence. Together they become Freak the Mighty.

Students relate to Max and Freak, feeling united with the challenges they face. This is surprising considering how most students are so different from these two characters. But, everyone can feel the pain of not fitting in with the crowd, and being picked on by peers.

We will spend a lot of time discussing character development in this book, especially the way Max changes and grows. In the first chapter his low self-esteem jumps out at the reader. His loneliness is evident with his tears of joy after eating dinner with Freak and his mom, the Fair Gwen.

As we progress through the book, questions upcoming in the online journals include: How would you react if you met Max? If you met Freak? How would Kevin and Max be different, if they attended school at Laurelville?


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Getting in the Groove

There is nothing like a nice long break to help feel rested and rejuvinated. BUT, boy is everyone slow getting started. It seems like brains are moving in super slow motion (mine included).

Students were eager to come back from winter break on Monday morning. Everyone had stories to tell from Christmas. There was a lot of bragging about winning at Wii and tales of who slept in the latest. By 10:00 though, students started to sag. Those that had been getting up at noon every day, looked sooooo tired.

Students wrote goals for 2009 in their online journals, but I am thinking maybe we should have waited a few days. The ability to think ahead and plan for the rest of the year seemed to be a daunting task for many. Just getting through the day seemed to be an insurmountable challenge.

The sluggish response after just two weeks off made me think about coming back from summer break. This losing momentum and loss of learning is the strongest reason the idea of year-around school often gets mentioned. I can't see that happening in the near future in Ohio, but it is an interesting idea?

What do you think? Should we avoid the summer slow slowdown and go to school year around?