Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Get it Right, or Do Not Post

Students, as you begin blogging on a regular basis, the need to write cleanly is paramount if you want your audience to take you seriously. Readers will not follow someone they don't respect, or someone they see as unintelligent. Even a writer in sixth grade must produce good writing that makes sense, and is not filled with errors. Plus, the content must be interesting and engage the reader. But, that will not happen if the writing has basic errors that distract the reader.

Chris Pirillo discusses the need for PUGS--Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling in this video.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Student Blogs on WordPress

Student blogs this year were created and hosted at WordPress.  In the past, we used Blogger, but due to the recent changes, (like requiring an access code sent to a cell phone) The Reading Workshop student blogs went to a more user-friendly site.  Even though Google owns Blogger, and provides a great service at Google Apps, hosting a blog is not part of the service.

One of the tools provided by WordPress is a spelling and grammar checker.  Use of this tool will "clean up" student writing, while helping to teach basic writing skills.  Just go to My Account -->Edit Profile-->Proofreading and check the boxes.

Check out the sidebar for a link to all of the student blogs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blogging in the Classroom

Students are creating blogs to post their writing about their thoughts, ideas, opinions, and responses.  Using this Web 2.0 tool in the classroom allows students to share their work, comment on each others work, have a real audience, and lets parents view their child's work in Reading Workshop.

For more information about what a blog is, and how it works, check out this video by Lee LeFever of Common Craft

Monday, September 21, 2009

Just the Right Book

How does the book you are reading fit in with this list?

1) You enjoy reading the book. You are glad you picked it up. You don't want to quit reading when SSR is over. You want to take the book home and read some more.
2) You have pictures in your head while you are reading.
3) You can hear the characters' voices while you are reading.
4) You can read most of the words on each page.
5) You know what the book is about.
6) It might be a book a friend recommended.
7) It might be a subject you want to learn more about.
8) The book is by your favorite author.
9) The book is part of a series and you can't wait to read the next one.
10) You want to talk to friends about the book and/or do a book share.

Thank you to Carol's Corner, where the idea for this list originated.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Giving A Book Talk

How to give a good Book Talk:

1.  Choose a book you like, and that you feel is special enough to share.
2.  Read the book!
3.  Once you finish, ask yourself what made the book meaningful to you
4.  Don't give away the ending or any other secrets.
5.  Do Not do a retelling.
6.  Make it interesting from the start by beginning with a question, sharing a problem, discussing the setting, or a character, or telling a little bit of the plot.
7.  Don't ruin the book by telling too much. Grab the readers interest, but leave them wanting more.
8.  If you read aloud, it should be short.
9.  Prepare and practice, know what you are going to say.
10.  Concentrate on the book and your message.  Don't worry about the audience.

As we begin Book Talks in Reading Workshop, this example shares the book Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Read at Home for Good Grades

Each week students have an assignment to read at home. Students choose a book that they want to read from home, the library, or the book room. The only requirement is that they log the date, title, time read, and pages. Students are responsible for filling out this chart each week as they read, logging both at school and at home. Only minutes read outside of class count towards their grade. Occasionally, students will have longer than a week when the school schedule is affected by holidays.

Students can choose to earn the grade they want. The more they read, the higher the score. This is the grade scale:

A = 180 + Minutes
B = 120 - 179 Minutes
C = 60 - 119 Minutes
F = 0-59 Minutes

Although students have no direct assignments associated with Read at Home and the Reading Log, many of the activities and projects in class are based on the book they are reading. The recent project of a Dear Mr. McGuire letter is an example. When students write about their book, it is easy to monitor comprehension and see if students are "getting it." The fact that students can pick their book to read helps because they can find a book that interests them.

The emphasis on reading is largely based on the research from Richard Allington. Allington cites four "background factors" associated with why students have difficulty with reading. According to the author:

1. the amount of reading that students do in and out of school was related to reading achievement;
2. children who spend more time on workbook activities versus reading text are more likely to have difficulty reading;
3. children who come from homes where reading is not modeled have difficulty reading; and,
4. students who have difficulty providing details and arguments to support interpretations of what they read have difficulty with reading.

According to the author, time on task is the best predictor for reading success in students. Put simply, more reading is equal to greater academic achievement.

The best part of this system for monitoring reading, and increasing reading time is how students can control their grades. If they are willing to work hard, their grades will show it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cheering the Success of Others

I am a lifetime Cincinnati Reds fan. I grew up rooting for Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and the rest of the Big Red Machine. The New York Yankees have always been at the top of the list of teams I despise.

Having said this though, I was struck by the accomplishment last night of Derek Jeter, when he tied Lou Gehrig's Yankee hit record. What makes it most remarkable is the class he showed and has demonstrated every game of his career.

The most amazing part of breaking the record was the response from fans and his opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays. A standing ovation went on and on, paying tribute to his success.

I started thinking about school and students.

Soooo, riddle me this students, do you root for your peers? Do you pay tribute to the success of others? Do you consider how you can help your classmates achieve success? Even if someone isn't on your "team" can you celebrate when they do well?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Responses to the President

Students were given excerpts from the President's speech and asked to respond. Many of the comments were insightful, and showed a real understanding of what it takes to be successful.
Excepts taken from Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event
Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. (1)Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, (2) paying attention in class, or (3) spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or (4) volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll (5) decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it. But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
So today, I want to ask you, (7) what’s your contribution going to be? (8) What problems are you going to solve? (9) What discoveries will you make? (10) What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too.
So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Barack Obama talks about how he wants children to do their best in everything that we do, and I am inspired to do my best finishing assignments and turning everything in.

Hannah H.:
Kids should stand up for other people that are being teased or bullied.

Jacob P.:
I believe that if you work your hardest you can be successful, and to work your hardest you must set goals for yourself. My goal is to give 110% this school year.

Jacob A.:
I think that paying attention in class is important because if you don't pay attention, you will not learn anything, and you will not become successful.

If you work hard, do your best, set goals, and always have a positive attitude you will be successful in life. . . If you get a good education in school, you will be successful when you are an adult.

When I read this I thought, "we can make a difference, and we can make the World a better place."

I agree when he said, "spend time each day reading a book." I think this can help you learn more words and help you like to read.

I think that if you start something, you should work as hard as you can until you finish.

Justin G:
I think that people should listen to the good things that Barack Obama has to say, even if they don't like him. I agree with him when he says that when the going tets tough, you will have to keep on going. I think you should try your hardest, no matter what.

You have to commit to what it is you are doing. If you don't, you will not succeed. That one word, "commit" means a lot and makes a big difference.

Hannah C.:
The part that really sticks out to me the most is where he said, "Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is."

I have a goal: Make every day better than the last!

If you set a goal, and try to reach that goal, you are pushing yourself to do better. If you set and reach goals, people around you will recognize your progress and be proud of you.