Friday, November 20, 2009

A Brown's Fan's Thanksgiving Thoughts

I am thankful that the Browns only play 16 games. That way the most they can loose this season are 15 games.

I am glad that Eric Mangini is the coach of the Browns because that gives the fans someone to hate more than the players.

I am thankful that the Browns traded their two best receivers. That way other teams don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about playing defense.

I am thankful that the Browns are losing a lot of games that way the Bengals fans finally have something the brag about after 20 years as losers.

I am thankful for Jamal Lewis because that provides fans at least one voice of reason from the Brown's locker room.

I am glad the Browns had a bye week that way fans didn't have to worry about losing for at least one week of the season.

I am thankful the Browns got to play the Ravens on Monday Night Football because . . . Hmmm. I guess I'm really not so thankful for that.

I am thankful that the Browns have lost a lot of games because it makes it real easy for fans that go to a game to find a seat.

I am thankful that Brady Quinn has a pretty girl friend. Let's face it, he needs something to be happy about.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reading Workshop Student Survey

Please answer the following questions. The details you provide, and the honesty of your answers will make Reading Workshop better for everyone.  Please put your name so that I can contact you with any questions that I might have about your comments.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Harry Potter Fans, Check This Out

If you are a Harry Potter fan, or are considering reading J.K. Rowling's series, Bethanie has a lot of information on her site, Bethanie's World.  There are detailed descriptions of all of the characters, with enough facts to help understand the books.

As students in Reading Workshop, continue to build their blogs, post by post, Bethanie's site clearly demonstrates the value and benefit of student blogs.  She has maximized the opportunity, finding her voice as a writer while sharing interesting information for Harry Potter fans everywhere.

Image from

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are You Getting Ahead, or Left Behind?

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, "You stay here. I'll go on ahead.

We had an Award's Assembly today for the first nine weeks.  Many students received recognition for the hard work they put forth.  In fact, 73% of the sixth grade students got their name announced, walked to the front of the gym while the audience applauded, and got a certificate that told of their success.

What about the other 27%?  I guess they need to kick it up a notch and work a little harder.  They are probably not the ones that are getting ahead (working to be successful).  Hopefully by the next Award's Assembly they won't get left behind.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Does Sportsmanship Fit in the Classroom?

Sportsmanship, kindness, fairness--this video demonstrates all of the characteristics that we hope to teach, to model, and to see as teachers.

What would you do in a similar situation? What kind of opportunities are there in the classroom to show the same traits as the Central Washington players?

Thank you to Mrs. Stevenson for the heads up about this video.

Larger Than Life Poem

After I read Larger-Than-Life LARA written by Dandi Daley Mackall, aloud to the class, Katie had an excellent idea in her post Lara at Laurelville.  She wondered what kind of poems Lara might assign to our students.

As I thought about her post, and looked back over some of Lara's poems, I thought this was too great of an opportunity to ignore.

Here are a couple of examples of Lara's poems:

Sara Rivers with the silvery voice,
Reach for the stars! It's still your choice.
You can do it, though it's scary.
Fear is so unnecessary.

Joey Gilbert, I'm not mad.
I just think you're very sad.
Maybe you still miss your dad?
Miss the love you never had?
Joey it will be okay,
If you try out for the play.
I could help you learn your part.
The backstage crew could use your art.
Don't pretend that you don't care.
You can do what you can dare.

Mrs. Smith, it's all okay.
Please don't worry for this play.
Things can always work out best,
Sometimes life is just a test.
I can understand--you bet!
Besides, I'll like to work on set.

So students, the assignment is to write a "Larger Than Life" poem.  Please be sure a lesson, or bit of kindly advise is given, and include interesting details.

Need some help with rhyming, check out Rhyme Zone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's the Deal With Details?

Students in Reading Workshop are confused.  All year they have listened to me scream about more details.  They hear comments like, use information from the text/book, include support from the selection, tell me more, back up your point, and you need more details. In every writing assignment, whether it was a letter, a journal, or a blog post, I have constantly prodded them to help the reader visualize by including more details.

Now, as we begin to focus more on reading, and breaking down nonfiction essays, I am telling them to forget the details.  All we talked about yesterday was looking for the main points, looking for the gist, and the W's.  The message has changed and the students are giving me that dazed and confused look.

So what's the deal with details?  Do they matter or not?  Well, the answer is yes and no.  As a writer, details are your best friend.  They are how you help the reader understand.  They help you draw a picture so the reader sees and comprehends your points.  Specific details make writing great.

As a reader, fighting for understanding of difficult text, skip the details.  Don't worry about spectacular facts, or engaging opinions.  Ignore grabber introductions written to get you interested in a piece of writing.  As a reader, focus on the W's.  Find out who is the main person (or topic) of the essays.  Look for where and when the event happened.  Determine why this event took place and how it worked.

Then look for the gist.  Find the central idea.  Determine the most vital part of the piece of writing.  Once you understand this, you have successfully read the essay.

Do details matter?  Only if you need them to help you understand the W's and the gist.

Stars Shine at Board of Education Meeting

Thank you to the Logan Elm Board of Education for allowing us to share information about the Reading Workshop during their November Board meeting.  As their rotating schedule brought them to Laurelville Elementary, they granted us the opportunity to share how technology is enhancing the education of our students.

Three Reading Workshop students shared how the use of technology affects their education.  Ian discussed how he uses his blog to share thoughts and opinions about books that he reads like in his post on Soldier's HeartHadley talked about having a place  as a writer to share events in her life.  Hannah shared the opportunity she has to be a published writer and to work as an editor on Logan Elm Sports Spot.

These students did an amazing job, presenting like they had long been professional speakers.  All related the benefits of blogging from their own perspective, and used their blog to support their points.  Laurelville Elementary, Logan Elm, and The Reading Workshop can be proud of having students of this caliber to represent us.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Learning to Read, Adult Style

For the next several weeks, we will be focusing on learning how to read. I am not talking about your overused, "sound out the words, and go back and reread when you don't get it," but real skills that readers of higher level essays use to comprehend.

Learning to read is the main focus throughout elementary school. However, the style of reading must change as students enter Jr. High School and above. By sixth grade, figuring out all of the words is a small part of the reading process. Students must learn to decipher meaning, especially in difficult text. Reading for the gist, understanding the W's (who, what, when, where, why, and how), and comprehending important details becomes the focus.

Although comprehension strategies are taught in the primary grades, the techniques should change as students enter the intermediate grades. That is our objective currently in language arts class.

Over the next few weeks, students will be taught to follow these steps when reading nonfiction.

2.Read and Highlight
3.List W’s
4.List facts
5.Write a topic sentence/Gist Statement

Today we focused on skimming for key words.  As we move forward we will break down nonfiction articles trying to glean the most important facts and information.  In the weeks to come, we will focus on how the parts of speech help determine meaning, what to highlight, and what to ignore, pace of reading, word substitution, and several other skills that will prepare students as critical readers in the years ahead.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Your Homophone is Out of Order

Is your writing ringing in the ear of the reader?  Have you checked for mistakes with homophones?  Since texting and IMing have become so popular, this has become the most frequent mistake in writing.  It’s also become extremely common among bloggers.

Homophone--One of two or more words, such as night and knight, that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, origin, and sometimes spelling.

Here are three of the mistakes with homophones that show up over and over:
1. Your vs. You’re
All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say. “Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

2. It’s vs. Its
This is another common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say.  “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “this blog has lost its mojo.” Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds goofy or wrong, “its” is likely the correct choice.

3. There, They're, and Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread. “There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place, “let’s go there” or as a pronoun, “there is no hope”. “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.  "They're" is a contraction for “they are,” as in “they're going to answer the homophone."  :)

Help the reader by carefully editing.  Be sure the sounds out of your phone/blog are pleasant to the ear/eye.

Image from