Friday, December 17, 2010

Traits Needed by a Teacher of Reading Workshop

Teaching Reading Workshop requires a different style than the more traditional teacher-centered lecture-based classroom. As I was reading a recent post about qualities of a teacher that enjoys project-based learning on Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog, I thought of how well this fits with Reading Workshop.

Teacher traits it takes to make Reading Workshop successful.

1.  Be comfortable with a loss of control over time, the final product, and “correct” answers. If some parts of the curriculum don’t get “covered,” if conflicting evidence causes confusion, or a controversial solution to a problem is suggested, these teachers roll with the punches. They have the intellectual confidence to handle ambiguity.
2.  Accept active students rather than passive students. They have developed new rules of behavior that stress student responsibility, and have trained their principals to differentiate between active learning and a classroom out of control.
3.  Believe that given enough time, resources, and motivation, all students are capable of high performance. It’s not just the talented and gifted student who can make choices, solve problems creatively, and complete complex tasks. These teachers know that most students rise to the level of performance expected of them, and that great ideas can come from anyone in the class.  
4.  Recognize that your expertise must be in the learning and research process not just in a subject area. No longer are these teachers just information dispensers, but guides for information building students. The happiest teachers are co-learners in the classroom, especially when learning new technology tools. Students get the satisfaction that comes from teaching as well. 
5.  Understand your personal enthusiasm is more important than ever. The best projects I have seen have always designed by teachers who are enthusiastic about what they are doing and how they are doing it. The downside to this is that it is very difficult to create recipes for or give examples of specific projects that can be easily adopted by other teachers. A project, no matter how well designed, is going to work for every teacher and every group of students.
 6.  Know that any project may not  always work the first time. But these teachers keep trying.

Thanks for the reminder Doug, and for giving me something to ponder.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas Gift of Poetry

Students are writing Christmas poems as a gift of writing. No gift means more than a heartfelt poem.  Students are writing a free verse poem for a family member to give over the holiday.

This list has ideas for topics that students brainstormed.

Family Time
Christmas dinner Family together Christmas Eve Special gift
Christmas breakfast Shopping Getting up early Cutting down tree
Nuts and bolts Traveling Christmas morning Special time together
Cooking together Things they do for me Hanging stockings Visitor
Making cookies :) Decorating the house Decorating the tree Trip
Baking together Wrapping presents Opening presents New Pet
Homemade noodles Christmas party Playing euchre Accidental Openings of gifts
Oyster dressing Putting up lights Visiting Family
Making smokeys Playing with gifts Waking up parents
Spicy pretzels Playing games PJ's on Christmas Eve
Chips & dip
Family Picture
Stockings First

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are You the Annoying One?

It was almost time for Thanksgiving dinner.  We sat watching football, anxiously awaiting the turkey, mashed potatoes, and dressing.  Unfortunately we were having trouble concentrating because my 17 year old niece and 14 year old nephew were wrestling around on the couch.  Finally, their mom couldn't stand it anymore.
She yelled  Cut it out, both of you!
Luke whined: But mom
Leah whined: But mom
Luke whined:  But mom, she's so annoying.
Leah responded:  Get off of me!

Do you get the picture?  Leah had been sitting on the couch minding her own business when Luke came over and sat on top of her.  He started pestering her until it ended in the screaming match that got their mom involved.  But in his mind, she was soooo annoying.

Naturally this situation made me start to think about the students in Reading Workshop.  I know that their teacher is never annoying :) , but what about them.  Do they ever blame someone else, before looking in the mirror?

What do you think?  Are you the annoying one?

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey Students, Here's Some Thanks for You :)

Thanksgiving is here and there are a lot of turkeys in this neighborhood and I am thankful for all of them.  Well, I am thankful for most of them.  Well, I am thankful for some of them.  Well, I am thankful for a few of them.

Well anyway, the things I am thankful for include:
  1. Sara's big smile walks in my door every day.
  2. I have this really weird class that wants to be here.
  3. I can do a little of the Cupid Shuffle with the class and I don't even need Advil.
  4. Lucas #3 is just as nice as Lucas #1 & #2.
  5.  I can blog and eat oreos at the same time.
  6. Mrs. Scott stops by every day for a little aggravation.
  7. I have some oreos.
  8. Thelma is still cooking in the cafeteria.
  9. Hines #4 (or is it #5) works just as hard as all of the others.
  10. Ridge sings better than his siblings.
  11. Megan, Tyler H., and Andrew really are that nice.
  12. Brook and Dawn are actually starting to talk.
  13. Kyra smiles and dances and shakes and makes all kind of weird motions when she sings.
  14. Heath likes to read.
  15. Caitlin has such a super attitude.
  16. Jessica and Cassie are becoming a great writers.
  17. Austin, Tyler, Alex, and Jakob are working so hard.
  18. Dylan laughs at my jokes (at least he did one time).
  19. Belle can still think even though she spends half her time upside down.
  20. Danny's name keeps popping up in the lyrics of songs we are singing.
  21. Shala is an assistant teacher and helps everyone with their blog.
  22. The little Queen hasn't been too bossy.
  23. Sabrina is in a good mood today, and yesterday, and the day before, and...
  24. Students are selling candy bars for camp so I can put back on the pounds just in time for the hollidays.
  25. Ms. Bowlby is still teaching here so I am not the oldest teacher in the building.
  26. Ms. Fraley is teaching here so I am not the weirdest teacher in the building.
  27. Mrs. Stevenson is still teaching here so I am not the grayest teacher in the building.
  28. Mrs. Griffey is still teaching here so I definitely am not the biggest drama queen in the building.
  29. Nick and Cade aren't as hot as they think they are (otherwise their chairs would catch on fire).
  30. Students love blogging (that makes them work hard and they don't even know it).
  31. We got some $$$ to buy new books.
  32. Diet Mt. Dew is a health food.
  33. The arm Mark broke chasing his girlfriend has healed.
  34. Lindsey's brain transplant surgery was successful.
  35. Heidi smiled at me last week.
  36. The Bengals have the worst team in the NFL and T.O., Chad O., and Pacman play for them.
  37. I can look out the window, from my desk and see two flags waving in the breeze.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Describe Yourself Based on Your Partner

What does the person I paired you with say about you?

Students in Reading Workshop are constantly working in pairs, and small groups.  Almost every project has at least one part that requires teamwork.   Sometimes this might be a brainstorming session.  Other times partnership might be for revising and editing a piece of writing.  Frequently it is just a couple of minutes to share ideas.

Although occasionally students are paired randomly, most of the time partnerships and teams are put together in a way to ensure success.  

Reasons students are partnered might include:
  • A strong-minded uncompromising student is put with a similar student just to force both to work together to be successful.  
  • Quiet, easy going students are put together to build leadership skills.
  • Students strong in a certain area are paired with a student that is struggling.
  • Students struggling might be partnered to work through troubles together.
  • Students that don't care are partnered to force them to deal with common attitudes.
  • Natural leaders are grouped in situations that allow them to utilize their strength.
  • Creative students are placed together to stretch their limits.
  • Creative students are separated to allow leadership and growth.
  • Boys and girls are partnered so that differences in thought processes can increase chances of success.
  • Reluctant learners are joined with enthusiastic students to motivate them.
  • Enthusiastic students are partnered to allow them the chance to immerse themselves in a project.
  • Friends are put together just so they can be with each other.
  • Students that are not friends are put together to help expand their circles.

These are just some of the reasons students work together.  Regardless of the reason, working together and the cooperation this demands is an extremely important skill.  How students deal with a partner, or contribute to a group is always reflective of their attitude and work ethic.

What kind of a partner are you?  Describe yourself based on your partner.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Please Be Nice

"Did you have fun with your partner?" she whispered with a sneer to the girl in the seat next to her.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, because the comment wasn't meant for me to hear.

Shala just looked at her and shrugged her shoulders.  She really didn't know what to say.  It never occurred to her to be upset about her partner, or make fun of him.  And that is exactly why I put her with that student.  I knew that she would treat him with kindness and respect.  She would help him stay on track and both of them would successfully complete the assignment.

The students in Reading Workshop had been working on a letter writing project.  I wanted them to take a couple of minutes with a peer to discuss their letter--how they organized it, what was going well, and what parts of the project needed help.  I chose a partner for each student, forming teams that would succeed.  This is something we do frequently, and students are used to working with many different peers throughout the year.

This comment has banged around in my head ever since I heard it.  I keep thinking about the connotation behind, did you have fun with your partner.  This sneaky form of bullying, trying to get a classmate to join in ridiculing a student is what makes school so difficult for so many students.

I'm not really sure which student I feel most sorry for--the boy being laughed at, or the girl that feels the need to be so mean.  The boy is a bit of a social outcast.  Unfortunately, he irritates peers and causes them to loose patience with him.  He also tries to gain attention too often by acting out and saying things to set himself apart.  He isn't mean, but he does act that way sometimes when he gets picked on.

The big question to me is why the girl feels the need to be so mean.   She is no stranger to trouble, and I am sure teachers have talked to her about this behavior before.  Yet she continues to be hurtful, even enlisting a student like Shala who would not act this way under any circumstance.  Will she ever figure out that actions like this, and the negative attitude behind it will create problems until she finds the strength to be a stronger and kinder person?

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Letter Writing

I like getting letters, so the current project in Reading Workshop, write a Dear Mr. McGuire Letter on the topic of Reasons Why I Like the Book I am Reading for SSR is one of my favorites.   Plus I get to hear about the books students are reading and their thoughts and opinions on them.

Knowing the proper format of a friendly letter is important.  Also, students must set the tone in the opening, put facts and details in the body, and wrap it up in the closing. A good letter, like any writing must have must support with specific details.

This is a good example of a W's introduction.
This is Justin's beginning:
The book I am reading is called The White Fox Chronicles. The author's name is Gary Paulsen. Gary Paulsen writes a lot of action/ survival books. The main character's name is Cody Pierce. Cody is a 14 year old boy.

This is an opinion/persuasive introduction. 
This is Kari's beginning:
I am reading the book called The Revenge Of The Shadow King. I found this book to be extremely good. Especially if you are into fairy tales, mysteries, and thrillers because that's what it's all about. If you like those kinds of books you may be really attached to this book. I really liked it mainly because I like to read fairy tales and thrillers.

Shelby does a great job comparing the main character from Heartbeat by Creech in this paragraph:
Another thing that Annie and I have in common is we both have baby brothers. We both love our baby brothers. I think that Annie loves her brother a lot because she was so scared that the baby would get hurt. Annie and I also were scared at first to hold our baby brothers. She was scared that she would drop him, I thought that I would not hold him right and hurt him.
Katie helps us understand the character Bookworm from Max the Mighty.
My favorite character is Bookworm. Bookworm is also called Worm sometimes. She is my favorite character because she loves books. Worm is about eleven or twelve years old. Worm doesn't like her step dad. She doesn't like him because he hates T.V and he hates books. I think that Worm plays a really good part in the story and I like her because she and her mom have to deal with a lot of problems, and somehow she always makes it through.

Molly does a fabulous job wrapping up her letter.
I would definitely recommend this book to others, because I think a lot of girls could really relate to the main character, especially most of my friends. Also I would still recommend this book to boys, because even though it's a girl's book, it's not about being girly, and all about girls. Some boys may be able to relate to the three boys in the story! The book Spells & Sleeping Bags is one out of my two favorite books. Also, I think the author is very talented with writing her books. She's my absolute favorite author. I think Sara Mlynowski is very talented because I can really get inside the characters mind, and really get into the book as if I were the main character.

Parts of Sarah's letter were shared in a previous class with excellent examples of an opening and closing on this post.

Letter writing is a skill that is used throughout life.  Although this project focuses on writing about a book, these basic skills will apply to any letter written for any purpose.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What a Relief, the Levy Passed

As said on the Logan Elm Local School District website.

Thank you voters! We appreciate your support. We promise to be good stewards of your tax money. Thanks for supporting the students of Logan Elm. What a great community to live in.

Levy Results     FOR: 2908( 58%)     AGAINST: 2093 (42%).

With so much hanging on the balance, this is such a relief.  Class size will stay at 20 instead of going to 30+.  Extracurriculars will continue and families won't be moving out of the district.  Academic programs that have led to Excellent Ratings will be continued.  Peers will not be losing their jobs and students will continue to have special classes like music, PE, and library.

Thank you to all who supported our school!

Monday, November 1, 2010

How Technology is Making Students Better Writers

Have you used Twitter lately?  Currently there are over 160 million registered users.  More  than 90M tweets are written per day.  Yet this communication tool that so many people have found so useful is similar to one that many teachers claim is ruining students.

It used to be adults worried about kids spending too much time watching TV, but those days are gone. Today, teachers worry about another type of screen time. Kids are either texting, IMing (instant messaging), or else on social networking sites like Facebook. Many educators are concerned about the impact technology is having on students' writing.

Should they be concerned? Is all of this time texting ruining the writing of students?  Some teachers feel that the slang, or casual language used extensively in texting and IM'ing will have detrimental long term effects. Most seem to ignore the fact that kids today are writing constantly. In fact, putting thoughts into written words is part of the natural lives of kids today. Anyone who cannot share their thoughts through texting is at risk of becoming a social outcast.

Students don't see the constant use of slang as a problem.  They know the difference between casual language between friends and formal language used in school and business.  According to Pew Internet's Teen Writing Survey, 83% of students feel there is a greater need to be able to write well in order to be successful now when compared to twenty years ago.   They also found that 85% of students write in school at least several times each week.

Another worry, especially at the secondary and collegiate level is how students spend class time texting instead of focusing on the lesson being taught. However, forward thinking instructors have begun to use this to their advantage by engaging students in real-time dialogue and assessment.

In many classes today, students are participating in online learning and communication using blogs and wikis, web-based collaborative projects using Google Docs, and various other computer uses throughout their school day. Often students are much more motivated in class where video and interactive Smart Boards are integrated into the curriculum.

Obviously, the students of today have lifestyles, both in and out of the class that are much different than in the past. Although some educators are concerned about the affects of these changes, some are embracing the changes and celebrating the advancement of education. Their goal is to open doors and encourage students to push forward using every tool available for a more interesting and challenging learning environment.

Everyone changes their spoken language based on the audience.  At a very young age children learn to speak differently to their parents than they do to their friends.  Doesn't this make it only natural to expect the same in their writing?  When students walk into a classroom spending hours each day putting their thoughts into words, it can only make them better writers.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Student Blogging Stars

Student bloggers have made an excellent start, displaying their writing, sharing their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. As the first nine weeks comes to and end, the students in Reading Workshop were given the task of evaluating their blogs

Next, I looked at their responses, and took them into consideration as I graded their blogs. For the most part, students and I agreed on how their blogs should be scored. A few students met all expectations, publishing work that any sixth grade teacher would be proud to display. 

Jessica wrote interesting posts, had great detail, and pictures to support her points. And, she even took time to have a little fun at her teacher's expense. 
Megan always links to relevant sites, shows pictures that fit with the topic, and writes extra detailed posts. 
Sara writes in detail and spends her own time writing extra posts to make her blog interesting and informative.
Alex's blog looks great.  Her content is good too!
Shala posts every assignment and a lot of extras too.  She is also the first to help peers when they need it on their blog.
Tyler is a sports nut and his blog shows it.  Go Browns!
Ridge works to make his blog right.  He posts in detail, finds pictures that fit, and links to relevant sites.  Plus, he writes extra posts.

Great job to these students for their excellent work!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Students, Grade Your Blogs

As the first 9 weeks comes to an end, it is time to grade The Reading Workshop students' blogs.  This is a chance for students to have input into their blog grade.  With this embedded Google Docs Form, students can evaluate their work.  

We will be using the Blogging Stair Steps to Success from the post on Grading Student Blogs as a basis for this evaluation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Hard Do You Work?

How hard do you work?  Would others around you agree?  What do peers think of you as a worker?  What do your parents think about your work ethic?   Do teachers see you as a student that works your hardest?  On a scale of 1 - 10, how would you score yourself as a worker?

As we study poetry in Reading Workshop, and look at To Be of Use , these questions came to mind.  This poem is a favorite of teachers because there is absolutely nothing teachers admire more than a hard worker.  This is also a character trait discussed frequently in Reading Workshop.

To Be of Use
Written by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Comments are allowed to be in the form of poetry.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Huffington Post has provided the opportunity for bloggers from the education field to share their views.  This  is an excellent source for all the latest news, views, and opinions.

I have been invited to write and look forward to  contributing ideas and opinions, especially as they relate to The Reading Workshop. The post, Superman 2, The Other Side of the Story discusses the generalization of education in a crisis as outlined in Waiting for Superman.

You can find an archive of my posts here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reading Poetry

Poems are built on ideas, experiences or emotions in a condensed form that makes the reader search for understanding.  The reader should slow down, think about each line and the words in it, and then reread and reconsider.

However, to understand poetry the reader must not go gently, but should attack.  As we begin to spend time in Reading Workshop with poetry/word study, students must overcome their fears and dive into the language of poetry.  Whether it be as a reader, analyzing the work of others, or when revising their own work, students must go full speed ahead.  They need to take the advise given by Eve Merriam.

How to Eat a Poem

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice
that may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

What is Merriam's point?  What about the poem makes you think that?  What thoughts do you have when tearing into her poem?

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Honestly, Why Didn't She Just Lie

Students have to read at home 180 minutes each week to earn an "A."  When she turned in her paper, she had read for 170 minutes.  She's a bright girl and could easily have fudged a few minutes here and there to get up to 180.  So why didn't she?

The Read at Home assignment is based on the honor system.  The only real check is whether or not students comprehend the book and can write about it.  Parents don't have to sign off.  Students fill out their reading times.  And students clearly understand that the more they read, the better their grade.

So why didn't this girl, who is extremely driven by grades, add on enough time to get an A?   Last year we discussed integrity and I was a little surprised and a lot pleased with students' responses.  I thought of this again, and felt good about today's students.

Although Cassie didn't get an "A" she earned a whole lot more.  She got my respect and my appreciation.  For herself, she got a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that she did the right thing, and she is an honorable person.

Why didn't she just lie?  She's way too smart and has way too much integrity for that.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Write Right!

As published writers, students in Reading Workshop must recognize the importance of writing well.   Grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills still tend to trip up many writers. We have stressed PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling) on a daily basis. Part of the challenge for learning writers is recognizing just how much of an impact mistakes have on the reader. 

This video makes it quite clear the problems with poor writing, whether from errors, negative tone, or using slang and abbreviations.  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 disastrous commenting seen on the web and in a humorous way explains why writing well matters.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reading Strategies, Making Predictions

Effective readers use pictures, titles, headings, and text—as well as personal experiences—to make predictions before they begin to read and as they are reading. They think ahead while reading and anticipate what will happen in the text. 

After making predictions, they read the text, decide if they were right or not, and make new predictions.  The process of reading should be a continual and repeated process of predict and confirm.

Making predictions often is based on asking questions. Students must wonder, examine, doubt, and inquire as they read.

Examples of starts of predictions might include:

This problem . . .
In the end, she will. . .
I wonder what will happen when . . .
He has to . . .
That character will . . .
She will solve the problem by . . .
They are going to . . .
I think __________ will be the one to . . . 
Surely they are going to . . .
Next, the author will . . .
If I was there I wonder what . . .

Students, as you listened to the start of Watchers Rewind today during read aloud, what predictions did you have?  What will happen to Lianna, Ripley, and Adam?  What part in the story will the Watchers play?

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Call for Superman from Here

Education is in a crisis.  Set off the alarms.  Students and parents everywhere are  desperately Waiting for Superman to come and save the day.  Oprah is shouting a wake up call to America.  The only good schools are charter schools.  Public schools are failing to educate our students.

But wait, students here seem to be doing well.  Parent surveys show high levels of satisfaction with this school, and the district.  The school just earned an excellent rating from the Ohio Department of Education.  So what is the truth about the status of education today?

I know, let's do like they did in the movie and talk to some students.

Logan was a student here in Reading Workshop four years ago.  He didn't like school, and he had to work hard, but managed to get through with a lot of effort.  This year he enrolled in the carpentry program at the local vocational school.  He is excited about learning a trade, and the fact that he can learn something that really interests him.

Colby is a senior this year.  His grades are good and he plans to attend Hocking College in Police Science.  He wants to be a patrolman.

Julie was here last week as a substitute teacher.  She was a student here eleven years ago.  She has graduated from college and is certified to teach primary.  She enjoyed her day here and hopes to have the opportunity to be hired as a teacher.

Rebekha graduated last year.  She is attending Ohio Dominican University and plays softball there.  Her younger sister, Rhianna is a currently a student here.  You can read more on their story on Rhianna's blog.

Sara is currently a student at Laurelville.  She has videotaped her first movie.  She is writing daily, and sharing her thoughts on her blog, Sara's Secrets.  She is the third of four sisters to excel at Logan Elm.

Now I am really confused.  Everywhere that Davis Guggenheim looks, he sees failure.  The five students he chose for his movie have tragic stories.  I'll bet he is coming here to film Superman II just to be fair and show both sides of the story.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

These Kids Today

Ashlee walked to school today.  For a lot of students that is not such a big deal, but Ashlee lives 2 1/2 miles away.  This eleven year old walked along a busy state highway, with no sidewalk.  She was a little late, red faced, and slightly out of breath, but she made it.  

For some reason, the bus stopped a couple minutes early today.  She wasn't there, so it left without her.  Two minutes later, Ashlee starting watching for the bus.  After 20 minutes of waiting, with both parents at work, and no one to call, that is when Ashlee decided to walk to school.   This may not have been the best decision, but it showed a determination to get to school.

I started thinking about all the comments we hear about kids.  Things like, kids today don't have the work ethic . . .these kids today just don't . . .  and all kids want to do is play video games or kids just don't care about . . .

The people who make negative comments about today's students are comparing a slower paced less challenging time with today's high speed world.  They are missing the fact that success today looks different than in the past.   In school, the expectations for students in this test-driven time is stressful and often stymies creativity, but students persevere.

These people are so wrong about these kids today.  They are not in a classroom to watch kids day after day give their all until they succeed.  Students today are smart.  They are creative.   They think critically.  They have the courage to question.  And as Ashlee showed, they have the ability and determination to solve problems.

I think the next time I hear someone talk about these kids today, I will ask what he accomplished by the time he was eleven.  The students in Reading Workshop write and publish blogs that are read worldwide. I think that says a lot about these kids today.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Why This Inner Voice Thing is So Important

We just discussed the Queen of Fake Reading, and no one wants to be her.  In fact, everyone knows that I am talking about someone else.  Surely no one can be like that, can they?  Does anyone really do that?  YES, a lot of students (and teachers) fake read.

Fake reading usually takes place when the inner voice volume button is on mute.  In other words, the reader is not listening to his inner voice.  Usually the reader just skims the page, not focusing on the ideas, or trying to relate to them.  There are no connections to prior knowledge, people, problems, or places.

The inner voice is what gives words their meaning.  Knowing the definition of words doesn't mean the reader understands the text.   Meaning comes from the relationship between the words on the page and the reader.  The inner voice controls and drives that relationship.

To better use your inner voice, and understand what you read you can:
1.  Stop reading and think
2.  Pause at the end of the page
3.  Question what might happen next
4.  Compare what the character does, to what you would do
5.  Slow down
6.  Compare the setting to some place you know
7.  Reread if you suddenly realize you don't know what you just read
8.  Make a prediction
9.  Read slower 
10.If some of this list sounds like it is repeated, thank your inner voice for paying attention.

Students, what advise do you have to help readers hear their inner voice?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Queen of Fake Reading

Almost every day she goes to the book room during SSR.  She "just finished" reading her book.  If there are 30 minutes of reading time, she will spend 24 of them searching for just the right book.  After all, she wouldn't want to waste her fake reading time on a book that wasn't the best.

She can read a 200 page book in just a day or two.  In fact, she could make a speed reader look like he was in first grade.  And she understands the book.  She can tell you everything in the blurb.  Whenever a teacher corners her and wants to know more details, she has a ready list of excuses, and then wants to go back to the book room to get a new book.

Unfortunately, this year has been a bad start for the Queen of Fake Reading.  In Reading Workshop, she is expected to understand the book and the characters.  She must use specific details to support her thoughts.  She has to compare specific aspects of the book with her life.  She has to discuss the setting and problems intelligently with references to the story to support her points.

My oh my, what will the Queen do?  She has this fake reading thing down to a science.  She is the master.  BUT, she is in a foreign country where fake reading doesn't work.  Stay tuned for further updates as we see how the Queen of Fake Reading responds to the challenges of Reading Workshop.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Students Share "Why I Read"

In this video, students in Reading Workshop share their thoughts about "Why I Read."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hey Readers, Catch Your Brain in the Act

Your brain is a sneaky thing.  The whole time you are reading it is thinking things without you telling it to.  It sneaks around making connections to your past.  It compares the problems in the book to situations from your life.  It takes the characters and  examines them and matches them with people you know.  And it does it without your permission.  In fact, you can't even stop your brain if you try.  This inner voice has a mind of its own. 

The process of reading is when a person reads text and their inner voice makes connections between the meaning of the words, and relates it to their life and prior knowledge. The more closely the reader connects to the text, the higher the level of comprehension.  So, the key to being a good reader is learning to hear and control that inner voice.  What is it telling you?  How does it relate to the book?

At times connecting is simple. At others, especially when the text is not in an area that the reader has background knowledge, comprehension is difficult. As students build their ability to connect with text, monitor their understanding of a passage, and compare it to things they already know, their ability to understand what they read increases.

Do you want to be a better reader?  Get control of your brain.  Listen to your inner voice.  You are the boss of your brain.  Take charge of it when you read.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Do You Read?

The biggest reason I read is because I can't not read.  It is totally impossible. Books, magazines, newspapers, and online more and more,  but I never stop reading.  Sometimes it is because I want to know.  Other times I am curious.  I read the paper every morning with breakfast just to see what is going on in the world.

Reading for enjoyment and entertainment started in fifth grade.  I have been hooked on books ever since.  Traveling away into a story in another place, as a different person, in a different time keeps me reading.  I love to live out the story in my mind.

As a teacher, I read to learn.  Every day there are ideas from other teachers, and reading about them makes me think about Reading Workshop and how I teach.  It is the main tool I use to improve and grow.

Take a look at these people and consider how they compare to you and why you read.

What about it?  Why do you read?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do Students Feel the Glee?

As I sat watching the rerun of the Glee season finale from last year, it reminded me of the reason that matters most when teachers walk through the classroom door. Teachers want to make a difference. 

When we get on a student about not giving his best, it comes from seeing the gap between potential and performance.  We know that success comes from working hard, and never giving up.

When a student disrupts class and we discipline him, it's because we know it distracts others, and keeps them from learning.  We know students must be able to concentrate for learning to take place.

Watching the Glee Club students relate their successes, even knowing it was just a TV show, made me think about Reading Workshop this year.  When students leave, I wonder how many will have a story to tell.  I hope they recognize their potential, and work to reach it.  Then I will be the one singing about a great year.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reading Rambunctiously

Put some life into your reading.  Make the words and the voices scream out.  Don't just read it, live it.  If the beautiful princess and the ugly frog have the same voice, you are not getting it.

When you sing a song, you listen to the music and your brain automatically tells you when and what to sing.  Reading should be similar.  As you read the words, your brain should be seeing a picture, hearing the sounds, making connections to what you already know, and comparing the story to them.

All of this starts with hearing the characters' voices.  So practice reading rambunctiously.  Read as if giving a performance.  Be a beautiful princess (good luck boys) and then switch to an ugly, little frog.

Rambunctious--energetic, boisterous, lively

The Frog Prince
Edith H. Tarcov version

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. She had a golden ball, and it was her favorite plaything. She took it wherever she went. One day the princess was playing in the woods, near a well. She thew her ball high into the air. It fell-splash-into the well. The princess watched her golden ball sink deep into the water of the well, and she began to cry. She cried harder and harder.

Suddenly someone said, ''What is the matter, princess? Why are you making so much noise?" The princess looked around. She looked into the well.

An ugly little frog was looking up at her. The frog asked again, "what is the matter, princess?"

"Oh, it's you old water splasher," the princess said. "My golden ball had fallen into the well. That is why I am crying."
You can read more on The Reading Workshop wiki at The Frog Prince.

Image from

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why You Need to Live the Book

Good readers are one with the book.  They know the characters, strive to understand them and relate to them.  They picture the setting, comparing it to places they know.  They smell the aromas, living them like passing a bakery in the early morning.  They hear sounds, from the softest whispers to the loudest screeches.  

Thinking, wondering, questioning, disbelieving, and doubting occur continually as good readers go page to page.  Why did that happen?  What is coming next? Question after question drives an interaction that controls comprehension.  Connections with the story build with the plot.  Interest in the story grows with each question, both the answered and the unanswered.

The bottom line--get your brain involved.  Think about what you are reading.  Get your senses involved.  See, hear, and smell.  Live the book and get all you can get out it, and it will give you back a great story.

So Reading Workshop students, as you read today, were you involved?

Image from

Thursday, September 2, 2010

C'mon Bored Boy, Reading Should be Fun

He was looking at the ceiling.  He was looking at the girl beside him.  His head rolled around and then settled on his pencil.  He poked his paper.  The girl beside him asked him to stop, so then he bugged her.  He glanced at his book, turned the page, and then looked around the room.  He turned another page, and then looked around the room.  And this was just in the first five minutes of SSR (Sustained Silent Reading).

After watching this for the last 4 days, I couldn't take it any more.  I took him out in the book room so we could talk.

Me:  Are you getting your book?
Student:  Uhhhhh, not really.
Me:  Let me guess.  You never really get the book you are reading, so you hate to read because it is so boring.
Student:  Well, yeah.
Me:  And this has been going on ever since you learned to read?
Student:  Yes

Here's the message to all students in Reading Workshop

Reading should be fun.  Reading should be exciting.  Reading should be a story in your mind where you can't wait to see what happens next.  If it is not this way, here is what you should do:

1.  Get a different book
2.  Try an easier book
3.  Try a different author
4.  Try a different genre
5.  Ask a friend for a recommendation
6.  Ask me for a good book
7.  Pay attention to when you stop getting a picture
8.  Reread, a page, a chapter, or the whole book until you get a picture.

Reading should be fun.  Reading should be exciting.  If you hate it, then talk to me about what is going on with your reading.  You will be reading a lot this year.  Find a good book that makes you smile, excited, happy, sad, mad, scared . . .  There are a lot of great books.  Find one!

Image from

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nothing Like a Blog to Get Them Working

Walk into the Reading Workshop classroom and it is so quiet.  Students are intensely focused on their screens.  About the only sound is the pecking on keyboards.  Occasionally someone will ask a peer for help, which is quickly given because the helper wants to get back to their post.  At times, students will skim through their book, looking for correct spelling, or a detail that will support a point. 

Students created their blog the first week of school.  A lot of the second week was spent learning the basics of Wordpress and blogging.  As students begin posting, once again the value of integrating technology into the curriculum shows.  Discipline isn't an issue.  Everyone wants to get a post written so their peers can read it and comment on it.

Fake reading during SSR is limited.  Let's face it, if you know all of your peers are going to read what you write, you better make sense.  And how can you write about a book if you haven't read it and/or don't understand it?

Technology contributes in many ways to the success of students in Reading Workshop.  The greatest benefit though is motivation.  Students are working, doing their best to produce a great blog.  And with the way they are working, I have no doubt they will succeed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Super Teacher, EEEERRRR Maybe Not

It was the first day of school, and like every teacher, this Super Teacher wanted to get things started off right.  You know, start the year with a BANG!  I needed to get kids involved and motivated.  Reading Workshop was going to be THE CLASS!

With a little time on Youtube, I found a great video that featured Nick Vujicic.  I knew this would grab students' attention.  And then there was the read aloud of Swear to Howdy.  Even the most reluctant student would be engaged after the first chapter of this book.  I would rap it up with a motivational speech about putting forth a lot of effort, don't worry about mistakes, just keep trying.

 The power went out for about an hour, right as we started class.  So much for my great plan. Even when it came back on, there was no Internet service for the rest of the day.  So much for the awesome video.

The read aloud went as planned until the discussion.  Seth raised his hand and said, "Mr. McGuire, is your shirt on inside out?"  So unbelievable, but so true.  And so much for my day as Super Teacher.  This poor guy can't even get dressed right.

The best part was the response.  All of the students, teachers, and Mrs. Scott, the Principal got a good laugh.  And to top it off, the next morning 3/4 of my class showed up with their shirts on inside out.  Obviously, another great start to a great year for Super Teacher.  :)

Image Inside Out Shirt courtesy of donnyb.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Motivation to Succeed

No excuses.  No whining.  No complaining.  Success and nothing less.

Do you have the will to succeed?

You can find out more about Nick Vujicic at his website, Life Without Limbs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome to Sixth Grade

Do you like to be "in the know?"  Do you want to know what is going on, and when it will happen?  If so, this is the place to check for sixth grade at Laurelville Elementary and for Reading Workshop.

You can find contact information if you need to email me about a comment, question, or concern.  Just click on the link at the top, or on the top right sidebar, on the email link.

You can follow assignments and homework, by looking at the sidebar.  Daily classroom assignments will be posted here.  Long term projects will be mentioned here.  Also, homework with due dates is posted in the homework section.

If you want an idea of class topics and general discussions, checking The Reading Workshop Blog will keep you informed.  Also, using the links at the right will allow you to go to your child's blog, and see his/her daily work.

To see what book your child is reading, just go to the SSR Book Page.  This will also let you compare your child's reading habits with those of his peers.  If you want to find a good book, this is a good place to start.

If you want to be involved in your child's education, this blog makes it possible.  If you check it regularly, you will find endless details about our class, and what we are doing.  It makes a great starting point to having a discussion with your child about school.  So, stop by and if you have a comment, don't hesitate.  All visitors are welcome.

Image from