Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reading Workshop Outstanding Student Blogger Award

Do you want to be a STAR?  Do you want recognition as an Outstanding Student Blogger?  Would you like to have an award like this on your blog?

Outstanding Student Blogger 2012#2

Outstanding Student Blogger Award

To earn this award, students must post often with interesting content that engages the reader.  Posts should be on a variety of topics that draw readers to your blog and keep them coming back.  There should be links to relative web sites and pictures that help illustrate the writer's point. And as always, PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling) must be correct.

If you want to see some examples, these Reading Workshop students have already earned Outstanding Student Blogger Awards.

Megan's Thoughts     Holden's Home     Kylie's Rocking Blog     Hailey's Paradise   

Will you be next?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hey Students, Don't Hide

Even though you think you are hidden, I see you.  Don't be like this gecko, feeling like he can't be seen.  When we have class discussions, you may not raise your hand.  You may not look up.  You may stare at the floor, hoping not to be noticed.  But everyone knows you are here.

Maybe you are afraid your answer will be wrong.  Maybe you are afraid someone will laugh at your opinion or think you are dumb.  Maybe you are just quiet by nature. 

Please do me a favor.  Take a chance.  Speak out.  Raise your hand.  Share your thoughts and opinions.  Everyone will benefit by your participation.    Classmates will learn from hearing your ideas. And you will learn more, too.

 Image from Lorenzo Menendez/Nature/National Geographic Photo Contest

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vocabulary Practice and Help the World

FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme. They offer an easy way to learn vocabulary, math skills, geography and more.

According to FreeRice

FreeRice has two goals: 

1.  Provide education to everyone for free.
2.  Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site. Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your education can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide.

Want to learn in a fun and exciting way?  Check out FreeRice.

The Best Thing About Computers

Hey Reading Workshop students, share your opinion!

You can see the results HERE.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Better Listen and Listen Fast

Better pay attention! Why you ask?  Because this isn't a teacher standing in front of the class and talking all day blah, blah, blah, blah, blah kind of class.  

Have a look at this.

Now I am not going to teach quite like that (I hope) and I am not going to talk all day.  This is a class with a five minute mini-lesson, and then students work hard and then work some more.  As famous California educator, Dr. Harry K. Wong said, "the one doing the work is the one doing the learning."  And of course, I want students to learn as much as is possible.

Please give me your attention.  I'll keep it short.

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.

Image from

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.

Image from

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.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Your Test Score Can Make Everyone Smile

So Martha, the Test Grader is sitting in her cubical and opens a  test. She turns to the first short answer and this is what she sees.

She is ready to get her work for the day started.  Even with a headache, she knows she has to concentrate because a lot of people are counting on her.  Students success and opportunities ride on her fair evaluation of their work.

Needless to say, her headache screams out and she wants to be anywhere, rather than try to read this mess. But, she really wants to be fair so she starts to fight through the misspelled words, lack of organization, and off-topic response. She quickly realizes though, this just isn't worth it, scribbles down a 0 and moves to the next answer.

Within 3 - 4 seconds, she has decided this student does not deserve to pass any type of test. As she sorts through each extended response, she becomes more and more agitated at the obvious lack of effort. Sorry, but you failed.

Now it's time for your test and here is your first response.

Martha is smiling now. She is thinking, "this is from a good kid. This is so easy. Why can't all of the kids write like this?"

And little does she know, but somewhere in a state far, far away, a student is smiling as she thinks back to that day of the reading test. She knows she passed, because she did her best, and used all of the test taking strategies that her teacher taught her.

There is someone else smiling. As this student was taking the test, a teacher sat at his desk and watched her work. He knew she would pass. He watched her work hard all year. Today as he thinks back, he knows she did a great job, and anxiously awaits the test results that will show a real success story.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How You Can Control the Test Grader

OK, so Martha has your test and answer booklet. She doesn't know you, and doesn't care to. In fact, she doesn't know about Reading Workshop, the name of the school, the town, or the state where you live. You are just a number in a stack. A tall stack of answer booklets that have to be graded before she can take a break.

Whether or not you pass this test means less than nothing to Martha. The things on her mind include sneaking out to get a diet coke, getting rid of this head ache, figuring out how to avoid listening to her sister complain about having to babysit, and about having to do laundry after work, or she will have absolutely nothing to wear tomorrow. She is also thinking about surfing and last summer's vacation.

Now it all comes down to you, the student, and your answer booklet. Will your hard work be in vain? Will eight months of learning be wasted? Or will you be a success story making yourself, your parents, your teachers, and your school feel proud using the Strategies you have been taught?

Did you write neatly?  Can she read your responses? Did you write legibly? Trying to strain her eyes and her brain to read cat scratches is going to irritate Martha. She probably won't even take the time to sort through it. She will just give it a big, fat, zero.

Did you organize your answers to make finding key points easy?  If you restated the question and numbered your responses, Martha can easily find key words and information. Using a rubric to score short answer and extended response answers, Martha is looking for specific words and answers.

Did you go back into the essay and find specific details?  Going back and finding specific details in the passage is paramount. Any time a questions asks for specific details, they are looking for examples word-for-word from the text.

Did you use the passage to help you with your spelling?  Another factor that makes grading easier is correct spelling. Most of the words that you need to spell are either in the question, or in the passage. It just takes a second to look back and find the correct spelling.

Did you use the basic test taking skills that you have learned in class?
Images from

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why You Should Control Your Destiny

As I read aloud Freak the Mighty written by Rodman Philbrick, in Chapter 21, Max questions his future.  He wonders if he too might become an accident of nature like his father.  He wonders if he might become violent like Killer Kane.  This brought out the discussion of destiny in Reading Workshop.

Students pondered questions like, do you control your fate?  Is your destiny in your hands?  Do parents and teachers have control?  What effect does making decisions have on your destiny?

The benefit of making good decisions, and working hard is control.  When students don't work, parents must get involved, and teachers are forced to discipline offenders.  The more good decisions students make, the more control they have over their destiny.  Good choices lead to success in school, which means a better and higher education.  This leads to more career opportunities, and a higher standard of living.

This leads to the question, do you control your destiny?  What are you doing to steer your life towards success?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tell the Story of Your Street

Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.”  Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of a path sometimes traveled.

The best poems draw us in and make us part of them.  Images bring us into the author's world.  Write a poem that tells the story of your street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.

Thanks to Eye of Amoeba for a link to the University of Chicago's Essay Questions.
Image from

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blogging for Teachers Made Easy

Roberta Caudill and I had the opportunity to share our blogs and some blogging basics at the Logan Elm Schools waiver day.   Here are some ideas and a few links to help the beginning blogger.

This video by Lee LeFever of Common Craft explains what a blog is, and how it works.

Getting a blog is easy.  All you need is an email address. You can sign up at  Blogger, Wordpress, or Edublogs.  Blogger and Wordpress are free.  Edublogs is free but has ads on it. All are fairly easy to use and have similar features.  One disadvantage of Blogger  is on the top of each page there is a Next Blog link which will sometimes take you to inappropriate sites for a school blog.  You can disable this using HTML code in the layout.

Pictures make a blog much more attractive, draw in the readers, and frequently help make a point.  Three excellent sources for pictures that have Creative Commons License (which makes them legal to use on your blog) are Pics 4 Learning, Wikipedia Commons, Compfight Images.

I prefer Compfight Images because it uses the library from Flikr, but has a filter that keeps the pictures student safe.  You can also choose the picture size.  I prefer the small size--usually around 200 x 200 pixels.   Just save them to your computer (right click and then save as).  Then, click on the image button on the new post tool bar, and upload to your blog.  Be sure to give credit to the photographer.

Whether a blog is used as a means to communicate with parents, as part of instruction, or to improve students' writing skills they are a valuable tool for all teachers.

Image from

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poetry for Self-exploration and a Special Kind of Fame

Who are you?  Do you know yourself?  One of the greatest aspects of poetry is the way it helps the writer explore his/her thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  Feelings need to be understood and analyzed in order to express them.  This poem is an example of one author's ideas about being famous.

Naomi Shihab Nye

The River is famous to the Fish

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
if famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole,
not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

What do you want to be known for?  In what way do you want to be famous?  Rewrite the last two stanzas to reflect your view on being famous.

Start by thinking about 2 things:

1.  I want to be known for . . .

2.  I am going to show this by . . .
     The reader will see this by . . .

Image from

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Poetry, Just Dig In

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?

Image from

Monday, January 11, 2010

Poetry-worthy Topics

As we begin to spend time in Reading Workshop on poetry, one of the first tasks is to list events  that merit consideration of the time and effort to put them into a poem.  Don't sell an idea short.  Use it if it is something that interests you, something you are passionate about, something that makes you smile, think, wonder, cry . . .

Here are a few ideas from my break:

Nuts and Bolts (Checks Mix)
Teenage Daughters Driving
Presents from My Students

This poem was built from my struggles with helplessness as the parent of teenage daughters driving in bad weather.

I sit in my chair,
book unopened
new snow outside my window
sipping a cup of coffee
and waiting
The ache in my stomach
wishing for time to hurry
while I anticipate the ring.
"I made it.
The roads aren't too bad."
Another episode in the life
of the parent of a teenage driver.

What topics fit you and your life?  What parts of your life do you want to put into poetry?

Image from

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Challenge of Writing Poetry

Poetry is so hard to write.  It is so personal, and no matter whether you are 8 or 80, the difficulty is right there, staring you in the face.  My daughter, Megan is taking a poetry writing class as part of her post secondary class at Ohio University Lancaster.    She shares the challenge.

Poems are Personal

"Poems are personal," he said.
As if I want to share,
with fifteen people I don't know.

I scribble things out
because after two hours
I've got nothing to share.
No love stories, at least not with you.

"Poems are personal."
What's my story to you?
Feelings are hard.
To tell you would leave me bare.
I can imagine me pouring out my heart,
only to see your blank stare.

So nice to meet you.
You'll learn a lot,
because "poems are personal."
I'll have to give this some thought.

Elementary rhymes,
and childish themes.
Poems aren't my style,
or that's how it seems.

As I sit here and write,
with so little heart,
this poem isn't personal,
but it's definitely a start.

As we start our focus on poetry in Reading Workshop, what are your thoughts?  Opinions?  Ideas?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Quit That Book

I thought it was funny when she quit her first book of the year, especially when I saw the book.  The Magician's Elephant by DiCamillo is an exciting story and a fairly easy read.  Plus, she seems to like to read so . . .

. . . But then when a teacher from another class brought in the book that she found in her classroom, it all came together.  When you loose a book, you pretty much have to quit reading it.  You don't have to pretend to return it and try to fake out your teacher though.

There are good reasons to quit reading a book.  These include:

1.  The book is boring;
2.  You cannot understand the story, even when you reread parts of it;
3.  There are several words on each page that you don't know and can't figure out;
4.  Once you get into the book, you realize the topic or genre does not interest you;
5.  The topic or some of the details make you uncomfortable;
6.  The book just is not that good of a book;
7.  You can't finish the book in a couple of weeks ( It is too long).

In Reading Workshop, I am hoping for a lot of used books on the shelves by the end of the year.  This can only happen when books are read.  Quit reading if you have a good reason, but not because you lost the book.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Students Speak

Students recently completed a Reading Workshop Student Survey.  This is an easy way for me to see their thoughts and opinions about our class.  Frequently new ideas or changes in focus come from information the students supply.  The survey was embedded in the blog using a form from Google Docs.

Thank you to the students for the effort and honesty in their responses.  To see the complete answers, visit the Reading Workshop Blog Student Survey.  However, here are a few interesting excerpts.

My Favorite part of Reading Workshop . . .

My favorite part of the Reading Workshop is our awesome blogs. I really like to put our opinion on our blogs and have other people comment and even if they disagree with you it is fun to see what they say.

My favorite part of the Reading Workshop is SSR because I really like to read.

My favorite part of reading workshop is getting to write about what I have read and just getting to be able to make post that people can read from all over the world.

If I Were the Teacher . . .

If I were a teacher I would tell my students to try and not sit at a desk do nothing because if you don't do anything then what's the point in going to school? Students have to understand school is not just a place to chat with friends and spread gossip. School is where you go to learn so you have to try.

If I was a teacher what would I help students learn is how to be successful with their life so when they need a job they can just go out and get one.

To help students learn I would have them take notes of everything and if they get stuck then they can look back in there notes and if they still don't get it then I would explain it to them. And if that don't work then I have no clue.

What has helped you most . . .

Bethany K
One thing that has mostly helped me to be more successful in the Reading Workshop would mostly be SSR, because it helps us learn words and help you out with life.

I think blogging has helped me become successful by helping me be my own original person, and not like everyone else. It also helped me learn how to get into the hard core details and become a better writer.

Hannah Hop.
I think that our blogs have helped me be most successful in Reading Workshop because it pushes me to understand my book, to comment, and to post.

How Much Does Study Island Help You?

1 -
Very Little Help     



5 -
Extremely Helpful

How Much Does Brain Pop Help You?

1 -
Very Little Help     



5 -
Extremely Helpful

What is Your Favorite Thing to Do in Reading Workshop?


Read Aloud

Study Island



Brain Pop

Group Work (like on Reading Articles)

People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

To see the complete answers, visit the Reading Workshop Blog Student Survey.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Tug of War of Learning

What issues are pulling you?  What keeps you from learning?  No one goes through life consciously wishing to fail.  Everyone has thoughts of success.  Some people just find it easier to overcome obstacles.

 On Tuesday, as we returned from a week out of school for Thanksgiving break, the word for the day was "disjointed."  The break was long enough that getting back into doing school seemed weird.  Brains just did not seem to be working quite right.  The tug of a week without in-depth thinking left many students and teachers walking through the day with a dazed look.

One of the biggest problems in attaining a high level of achievement is knowing your road blocks.  In all of us, there is a constant tug of war between success and failure.  In order to maximize the chances of winning, you must first know what is getting in your way.

What is tugging on your rope?  How can you win the tug of war to succeed?

Image courtesy of