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.

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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!

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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.