Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hey Mean Boy, Get a Clue

As part of our reading class, we are singing Mean by Taylor Swift which asks the question, "why you gotta be so mean?"  The current read aloud is The Revealers and students commented about bullying on a recent Reading Workshop post about bullies.  Every day for the last week the class has discussed bullying and not being mean to other students.

 So tell me, what is up with this one boy?  Why does he still think he can say mean things to other students? This class has so many kind and caring students.  No one else acts like him. 

He struts around like he is so cool, but then sneaks around and says mean comments that he knows will tear kids up.  He is good at pretending to help when the teacher is watching, but watch out when he thinks no one can see him.

I hope as we continue to discuss meanness a light will click on and he will stop.  I don't know if he realizes how many people see his sneaky ways of hurting others.  Maybe once he catches on to that, he will try out kindness and compassion.  I guess right now he is the only one in the whole class that doesn't get that everyone else gets that he is mean. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading Strategies, Making Connections

Can you connect with the book you are reading?  Can you imagine yourself in it?  Does it remind you of things from your life?  If not, maybe it's just not the book for you.

The process of reading is when a person reads text and their inner voice makes connections between the words, and their life and prior knowledge. The more closely the reader connects to the text, the higher the level of comprehension.

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. To be a better reader, think about how the story relates to your life.

Readers should concentrate on their inner voice and connections.

1. Visualize. Picture yourself in the story and think about how the setting and characters look.

2. Focus on the characters. Compare them to yourself and people you know.

3. Put yourself in the story and think about how would react, and how you reacted when you were in a similar situation.

4. Look at problems. How do they compare to problems you have faced?

5. Ask yourself questions as you read. Think about how the story relates to your life, and things that you know.

6. When reading nonfiction, think about ways the information relates to what you already know.

7. If you are reading a book, and don't connect with it, ditch it and find one where you can make connections.

Here are the start to connections.

This is similar to my life . . .
This is different from my life . . .
Something like this happened to me when . . .
This reminds me of . . .
This relates to me . . .
When I read this I felt . . .

This reminds me of another book I’ve read . . .
This is similar to another thing I read . . .
This different from another book I read . . .
This character is similar/different to  another character  . . .
This setting is similar/different to an other setting . . .
This problem is similar/different to the problem in  . . .

This reminds me of the real world . . .
This book is similar to things that happen in the real world  . . .
This book is different from things that happen in the real world . . .

Students, as you read today, what connections did you have?

Image from

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If Russell was a Student Here . . .

Well, the easiest thing to say is Russell would be the same everywhere.  But do you act the same at school as you do at home?  Would you act the same at a new school?

But, you are who you are, right?  No one really changes too much, do they?

As we continue the read aloud of The Revealers, share your opinion about Russell at Laurelville on the wall.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Get Your Grammar Right!

Do you know which word to use?  Let's see, is it to or too?  There, their, or they're?  Your or you're?  Does is really matter?  IT BETTER!

When you write online, your thoughts, ideas, and opinions can be viewed by everyone.  That makes it paramount that you write correctly.  The reader will only respect your writing if it is clean and error free.  Part of your editing responsibility is to use the correct homophone.

A special thanks to Gineriella for allowing the editing of this video to use with sixth grade students in The Reading Workshop.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bullying Revealed

Every school has a Richie.  He is bigger than most of the kids, and way meaner.  Normal kids like Russell just stay away from him.  Unfortunately, an attempt to be funny puts Russell straight in Richie's sites.

The latest read aloud in Reading Workshop is The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm.  The book opens with Russell, the main character being harassed by Richie Tucker.  Russell is already having a tough time with the start of middle school.  Somehow, he found himself without a group.  He was alone even though people were all around him.

This brings us to the question, if you were in the same position as Russell, what would you do?  What can you do about a bully? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What, I Can Really Listen to Music in Class?

You can see the shock on this student's face.
Students were amazed when I told them they could start listening to music as they read or worked. They had never heard of anything like this. First it was singing in the class. Now, I was telling them they could bring their IPod to class.  This just had to be too good to be true.

Each students has his/her own computer, so each has a CD ROM at their desk.  Or, if they choose, they can bring in an MP3 player.  When I surveyed each class, the majority of students listen to music each night as they read and/or do their homework.  Why not allow it in school?  When I have done this before, it seemed to help a lot of students avoid distraction.

There are a few rules:

1. You put a CD in the computer at the start of class, and leave it for the entire class.
2. You cannot play it loud, or bother peers.
3. Once you hit play, you must work.
4. You cannot use class time to switch from track to track.

There are several benefits when students play background music while they study, read, or write:

1. increase attention levels
2. improve retention and memory
3. extend focused learning time
4. expand thinking skills
In the brain there is a band of white fibers connecting the right and left halves of the cerebrum called the corpus callosum. Very recently researchers have discovered that the corpus callosum increases in size when humans are exposed to music. This increases communication between the two halves of the brain which increases learning efficiency.

Yiftach Levy of the Department of Educational Technology at San Diego State University studied the use of background music in the classroom. This is part of his finding.

Davidson and Powell (1986) took up this exact subject in their study of American fifth-grade science students. They reported the observations of on-task-performance (OTP) of children in the classroom over 42 class sessions, with data recorded every three minutes (10 times) per session. Treatment, in the form of easy-listening music, was delivered in between two control observations (i.e., 15 sessions without background music, 15 with, and 12 without, in that order). They determined a significant increase in OTP for the males in the classroom, and for the class as a whole. 

Image from

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Letter About a Book

Students in Reading Workshop recently had to write a letter about a book they were reading.  Specifically, the letter had to address "If I was the Main Character . . ." and talk about how the book would be different if they were in the book.

Letters were graded using the Friendly Letter Rubric on the Wikipage.

Here is Lexi's letter, which is an excellent example of what I expected.

Dear Mr. McGuire,

I know you love to read and so do I. I’m reading this amazing book by Leslie Connor. It’s called Waiting For Normal. But this book pulls you into the actions that’s going on. Sort of like the books you like to read. It’s kind of a girl book but then again it’s not. I would recommend it to anyone. I think that you might like it. You should definitely read it!

The main character in my book is Addie. She is 12 years old. Her and her mom live on the side of a highway in a trailer. Addie doesn’t really care that’s where she lives but if I was her I would not live there for anything! They even live right next to a rail road and the train goes by often!

Addie also lives across from a mini mart. There is these 2 people that work there. Their names are Elliot and Soula. Addie becomes great friends with them! I would be friends with them too because they are really nice and they would seem like family to me if I was Addie. Soula can’t walk because she has cancer. Addie doesn’t mind that though. Actually I wouldn’t either. But in the end Soula dies! Addie cries and cries and cries! I would have too because Addie got really close to her!

Addie's mom isn’t the type of mom I’d want. I doubt anyone would want that type of mom. Addies mom will leave Addie alone for 2 to 6 days in the trailer! I would be petrified! But the only reason why she does that is because she found a new man and she didn’t tell him she has a twelve year old daughter! Addie's mom says she’s away for work but you can tell she’s not. Towards the end of the book mommers (Addies name for her mom) tells Addie she’s pregnant. Addie didn’t like that because she don’t take care of her, How would she take care of a baby too. I would absolutely feel the same way as Addie did. If my mom treated me like that and then said she was pregnant I don’t even know what I’d do!

In the book there’s also another guy named Dwight. That was mommers ex-husband and the father of her other 2 children. Dwight loves Addie dearly even though she isn’t his, and Addie loves him. Dwight knew mommers wasn’t very good at taking care of Addie so he tried to get custody of her but mommers wouldn’t let him. I would want to go and live with Dwight if I was Addie because Dwight is just way better than mommers and knows how to take care of kids. But in the end Dwight got custody over her because Soula called children services and ratted out mommers. I would have thanked Soula but Addie didn’t!

That’s the end of my letter. I hope you liked it. Thanks for reading it! I hope someday you recommend this to one of your other students! Or you maybe even read it!



A New Way to Read

Patrick Carman is changing the way students read.  It started with the Skeleton Creek series which takes the main characters on one frightening adventure after another.  But what sets this series apart are the online videos that accompany each chapter.

You can hear Carman tell how a multi-media books works in this video.

The latest book, 3:15 has eight scary short stories.  Each one begins with a sound bite that introduces the story, characters, and setting.  After reading the story, there is a video conclusion.  These are chilling tales that grab the reader.  The best part, with the multi-media support, good readers will enjoy them and struggling readers will be able to comprehend them.