Friday, January 28, 2011

Why This is a Great School

The recent spotlight on school quality should help ensure a better education for all students.  Everywhere you turn there is constant conversation about the need to improve schools.  Newspapers, TV, and all over the Internet, people are screaming about how public education is a mess.  But you almost never hear about what a good school looks like. 

However, using one tool, and one as limited as a one or two day test doesn't accurately portray schools.  Although test scores are important, rarely do you hear about examining all the factors that make a  school successful.One paragraph doesn't tell the story of a book.  Similarly, one test doesn't tell the tale of a school.

The characteristics that make Laurelville Elementary exceptional include:

1. Students Want to Be Here
Effective schools have a warm climate.  Students know they are welcome and know that the staff cares about them.  Although there is pressure to perform, it comes in a way that promotes learning, with an expectation that students will excel and the support is provided to make it happen.

2. Highest Expectations For the School, Teachers and Students
Only the best is good enough. Quality is expected, and nothing less is acceptable. Passion for excellence is a driving force each and every day. The staff works together, pushing themselves and their students to be the best. Failure is not an option for the teacher or the students.

3. Dedicated Teachers
Teachers work to improve their ability to teach. They read and explore the techniques used by others in a never-ending effort to better themselves and their skill. Effective teaching demands that the teacher be knowledgeable in the subject area. The teachers have a detailed understanding of what is being taught.

4.  Effective Discipline
Discipline is not be an issue. Students respect others and failure to do so is not tolerated.  Students understand school and class rules and expectations, and adhere to them. When discipline is necessary, it is not vindictive, but just a consequence when a student does not do what is required.

5.  There is a Variety of Instructional Techniques
No two classes, or two students are identical. Laurelville is effective because teachers understand this and differ instruction to best help students be successful. Key concepts are presented in ways to enable visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners grasp it.  Students are actively involved in learning with a variety of opportunities to grasp key concepts.

6. Students Individualized Needs are Met
The staff understands differences in students' abilities and needs and considers this as part of instruction and intervention.  The teaching and interactions with students reflect the needs of each, with the understanding of each as an individual.

7. Leadership
The building principal, Vicki Scott has the respect of students, parents, and staff with a vision, high expectations, and the ability to help others succeed.  The school leader must be a person that can understand people, and motivate them, creating a positive attitude throughout the building.  Successful schools have a sense of trust built on the back of an honest and caring leader.

Being a teacher is an amazing career with many rewards.  Working in a school like this makes it even better.  Each morning when I walk in the building, I am grateful to be part of something so meaningful, working with a dedicated staff, and superb students.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Survey Says. . .

Want to know the results of the Midway Survey.  Just look on the wikipage at Midway Survey Results.

Thank you for all of the parents that took the time to sit down with their child and complete the survey.  Many of the goals are well-thought out, appropriate and attainable.

Congratulations to all of the Reading Workshop students for the successes you have achieved so far this school year.  When you look at the list of the best thing that has happened in Reading Workshop, you see an amazing list of accomplishments.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whose Goals Are They, Anyway?

 I was sitting in the chair, getting my hair cut, having the typical casual conversation with the woman cutting my hair, when I noticed the post-it note with Nicole's weekly goals.   As I looked it over, I started wondering about these goals. 

Finally, I couldn't stand it any more.  I just had to ask, and the following conversation took place:

Me:  Did you write that?
Nicole:  Uhhh, no.
Me:  Your boss write it?
Nicole:  Yes.
Me:  So they tell you what your goals should be?
Nicole:  Yep
Me:  Hmmmm, I'll bet that motivates you.
Nicole:  Oh, I don't really pay any attention to it.

And then I started thinking about students in Reading Workshop.  I wonder how often my goals for them really don't have anything to do with their goals for themselves.  When I am pushing my agenda of positive attitude and hard work equals success, I wonder how many students have other priorities?

As the teacher, I have a responsibility to have goals and expectations for my students.  But if they are going to be meaningful, there must be some ownership on the part of the students and their parents. With this in mind, and reaching the halfway point of the school year, it seems appropriate to ask students to evaluate their year so far, and set some goals for the rest of the year.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Tools are in Your Reading Toolbox?

If you were building a house, would you use a hammer for every task?    It would be more than a little difficult to measure a board with a hammer.  Cutting it in two would be even more challenging.  Imagine finishing the cement in the garage with only a hammer.  House construction requires a variety of tools, each appropriate for a given task.  

Similarly, reading requires many tools, each which helps in a certain way, with different situations.  Recently in Reading Workshop, we have been focusing on reading difficult, nonfiction text.  We have focused on what matters and what doesn't.  We have also looked at specific skills that contribute to comprehension.

What is Important
1. W's (who, what, when, where, why, how)
2. Main Points
3. Ideas that relate to the gist

What is Not
1. Supporting Details
2. Examples
3. Interesting Stories or Opinions
4. Most Adverbs and Adjectives

But remember anything that helps you understand what you are reading is ALWAYS IMPORTANT!

Strategies for Reading Nonfiction

2.Adjust your reading speed/slow down when needed
3.Read and highlight only the essential information
4.Substitute easy words for more difficult ones.
5.Think about the writer and the writer's purpose
6.Connect to prior knowledge
7.List W’s
8.List facts

What should be added to the list?  What strategies do you use when reading difficult text?

For more information on reading check out these posts:

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