Monday, April 21, 2008

Listen While You Work

Student learning while listening to music
"You can put on your headphones, play a CD, and listen to music as you work." Students almost fell out of their seats when I told them they could start doing this on Monday. They had never heard of anything like this. First it was singing in the class. Now, we are experimenting with this in language arts. Due to the fact that each students has his/her own computer, each has a CD ROM at their desk.

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.
Student learning while listening to music

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.

You can read the entire report HERE.

Students have the opportunity to listen to music as they work. How will they respond?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Haiku

Haiku poetry originated in Japan. It has a strict format that includes:

1. Three lines with 17 syllables in the pattern of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables
2. Only one topic
3. Traditionally about nature and/or seasons
4. Does not rhyme
5. Written in present tense
6. Stirs the imagination


Sunshine by J. McGuire

Breaking through treetops
filtering golden beauty
bringing in the day

Spring By Alina S.
Spring is here today
Daffodils and crocuses
Blooming everywhere


When it Rains by Josh P.

Clouds roaring with fierce
Lightening attacks with anger
Peaceful when rain stops

Spring Flowers by Connor H.


They are violet blue
they are purple and yellow
they are spring flowers

Mushrooms by Sean C.


walking through the woods
see those mushrooms, see them.
go and pick them please


Wildfire by Shelby C.

Bright like a wild fire
suddenly stepping forward,
out of plane nothing.


Jumping Flowers by Justin H.

Flowers jumping up
out of the rich dark brown soil
their bright pedals glow

Hot, Nice Day by Dimitri H.

Walking outside, oooh
look at the big sunflower
what a hot nice day

Morels by Mrs. Bower
Hunting for mushrooms
Delicacies hiding low
cool, damp, sunny day.


Carpenter Bees by Mrs. Bower

Angry, droning pests
Aggressively drilling holes
wood chewing insect.


An Arch of Color by Jennie B.

Rainbows have colors
Pot O' Gold at the bottom
An arch of color

Walking in the Woods by Brittany M.

Walking in the woods
alone looking for a waterfall
it's close when it's cool.

Dancing Rain by Haley E.
Rain dancing outside
Around and around it goes
Going on forever

Wolves by Kari W.
Mistaken creatures
Wandering through the forest
Gentle animals.


Grass by Amanda K.

long, soft cut, pokey
green, soft, rough, up in the air
falling all over

Clouds by Dillon Y.
Clouds, drifting like ghost
in the sky so high above
Fly by day and night.


Birds by Brianna G.

birds fly in the air
cardinals and red tailed hawks
what beautiful birds.


Trees of the Forest by Jacob T.

The trees of the damp
forest move swiftly by my
eyes with great beauty.




Hard Working Students

Funky Winkerbean
Where is this student? Well, he is not in Reading Workshop. On our sixth day of school this week, I couldn't be prouder of the effort put forth by the sixth graders at Laurelville. Great job to all of the hard working students, giving it all to be successful!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Brain Teaser

Mrs. Griffey
Alien Brain Teaser
Mrs. Griffey pulled up to a gas station. An alien landed a spaceship beside her. She noticed the spaceship said U.F.O. on the side. Mrs. Griffey asked the Alien, "does that stand for unidentified flying object?"

The alien said, "no, it stands for . . .?????????????????"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Are You Smarter Than a 7th Grader?

Jeff-FoxworthyEveryone has heard of Fox's show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. In Reading Workshop, I didn't settle for that. I wanted to see if students are smarter than a seventh grader.

Yesterday, students were given an assignment straight out of the Ohio Seventh Grade Reading Achievement Test. As I told them from the start, "this is seventh grade work." The grandmother of Connor, a Reading Workshop student looked at the work and said, "this looks like 12th grade work to me." Obviously, this assignment was challenging.

You can view the test at the ODE website. Just follow the link to the 7th reading March 2006 Full Test. The answer key is there also. Students read a haiku poem and a passage, Do You Want to Write Haiku.

The passage had seven multiple choice questions and two extended response. As students worked on the passage yesterday, they put forth tremendous effort and concentrated on their work. Tension was high today as students scored their answers.

Student success was determined based on cut scores from the Ohio Department of Education, that determined reading proficiency for Ohio students in the seventh grade. Remarkably, in the two classes, 38 out of 43 students passed! I am amazed by such a successful sixth grade class!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Relay for Life

Relay for LifeThe Sixth Grade class at Laurelville Elementary is moving forward with our plan for a Relay for Life. The purpose of a Relay is to raise money to help in the fight against cancer. The tentative date is set for June 3 @ 2:00. Hopefully the entire student body, parents, grandparents, and friends will join us as we walk through Laurelville and around the school grounds.

VanCuren's Graphics will be offering T-shirts for sale. Each shirt will be $10.00. For each shirt sold, they will donate $5.00 to the cause. These will be gray shirts with a Laurelville Elementary/Relay logo. The T-shirt sale will be May 5 - 9. Shirts will be delivered on June 2 so we can wear them at the Relay.

The Laurelville PTO is going to work with the sixth grade as we organize this event. They will be contacting area businesses and individuals to help with the Relay.

Lisa Deluse is helping to organize the parents and volunteers. If you are willing to help in any way, please email her at Ldeluse@aol.com.

You can find out more about the Relay for life in a previous post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blog Etiquette

A student asked me on Monday, "Mr. McGuire, are there rules for commenting?"

I replied, "there are no rules but there are expectations of etiquette." Needless to say, that took some explaining. So, here goes.

Commenting Etiquette

1. You can argue, but don't be argumentative.

2. You can disagree, but don't be disagreeable.

3. You can contradict, but do so cautiously.

4. You can compliment, but please do so sincerely.

5. If you want to complain, type it up, save it, but don't post it. If you still feel the same way a week later, type it up, save it, but don't post it . . .

6. Commenting about a comment is expected, but use consideration and kindness in your words.

7. Correct a comment once you become perfect. Until then, DON'T!

8. Use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Do this for yourself and for the reader.

9. Remember, the blogger (in this case, me) appreciates the effort it takes to comment.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why Do You Come to School?

Megan dipped into the conversation at the table beside us. This guy said, "kids should want to go to school because they want to learn." Megan gave me a funny look and said, "How many kids go to school because they want to learn?"

On Sunday afternoon, we were at the Millstone BBQ in Logan eating BBQ left over from last night's rush. Laura and I took Megan, our 16 year old daughter and our niece, Lauren. We had just ordered, and our conversation wasn't keeping Megan too engaged, so she dropped into the next table to see what they had to say. And that is when she overheard this guy talking about students and their reasons to go to school.

Naturally, Megan's question caused me to think about my students and their motivation. How many show up because it is a law? Because they have to? Or because their parents make them? Do they really want to be there? How many are there because they have a ticket on the love boat, and they just want to see their crush? I know a few guys just want to play B-ball at recess in the intramural tournament. Who is showing up just to see their friends? How many are coming just to hear their teacher's funny jokes?

So, why is a twelve year old, sixth grade student coming to school every day? And what are they getting out of our school, this reading workshop, and our time together?

Riddle me this, what makes school worthwhile?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Journal Responses that Count

Margaret Peterson HaddixDouble Identity
Each day I read aloud from a fictional book. Currently, I am reading Double Identity written by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This story features the main character, Bethany, that unexpectedly gets dropped off at an aunt's house that she didn't even know existed.




Students journaled about the topic, "If I was Bethany." Here are samples from students' work.


Journal Writing StudentKari W.
Why did they keep Elizabeth a secret? They should have told me a long time ago. It's not like I would have been too disappointed. I wouldn't be crying all the time like Mom. I would like to know this kind of stuff. Are they keeping more secrets from me? If so why don't they tell me? I thought parents were supposed to tell their kids everything.


Journal Writing StudentKyah H. Bethany is a girl who has been spoiled since she was a little girl. Her life was great until one day she was dropped off at a relative's house. She never met this relative and her parents are leaving her with Aunt Myrlie. All of these things are happening in the book Double Identity.




Journal Writing StudentKatie W.
I'm kind of mad at my parents for keeping a secret from me for thirteen years. I also feel bad for them because their daughter died. I don't know what to feel right now. I mean I never thought that they'd keep something like that from me. I'm just confused. First Mom calls and keeps saying I'm Elizabeth, then Myrlie tells me Elizabeth is my sister who died. Since they kept that from me I can't help but think what else could they have kept from me?



Journal Writing StudentBaylie M.
I feel like my stomach and insides are coming up through my throat. I also feel like I have known Elizabeth for a long time. I just wish that my parents would have told me sooner so I would not have to come here to Myrlie's. I'm wandering why my parents didn't tell me about my sister. I am afraid to sleep, now that I'm wondering about Elizabeth. The more I wonder the more I feel like it's my fault for Elizabeth's death. Now I know why my mom was saying, “Elizabeth don't go to that amusement park. I fear that something bad is going to happen.”



Journal Writing StudentMicah L.
I feel lost, like no one is watching over me. I feel alone stuffed in a box that someone sits on. I don't know what to do. Nothing is helping. I away feel so depressed. I can't keep my head straight. My dad will not talk to me and I'm weirded out about my parents.





Journal Writing Student Molly V.
Today, I found out that I had a sister, whose name is Elizabeth. I still don't understand. What I don't understand is why have my parents kept this from me? I don't understand why they haven't told me all these years.





Journal Writing StudentShayna T.
Shayna had an excellent example that must be in some folder far, far, away, never to be seen again. The closest anyone can figure, the journal thieves got it. If they are brought to justice, then maybe her writing can join that of her peers.




These are excellent examples getting into the character. Way to go girls! Oh, by the way, the boys did this assignment too. Hopefully we can showcase their work soon (which will happen as soon as they step it up).



Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rule Breaking is OK, or Not

Will Richardson, in his blog, weblogg-ed tells a story of a student in in-school suspension. This student, while under suspension, texted a teacher for help on homework. School policy says no cell phones in school. The story as told:

She was checking her email and received this message from one of her students. It read: “Hi Mrs. Smith. This is John. I had a question about the Hamlet homework you assigned. I am texting you from my cell phone in [in-school suspension].”

The school has a simple cell phone policy: “No cell phones or text messaging during class.” The policy holds true when you are in [in-school suspension] because it is on school grounds. You are in [in-school suspension] to do school work, that is it; no socializing, no talking, no sleeping, no listening to I-pods, and no texting.

The student received 2 extra days of in-school for violating school policy, and for refusing to give up his phone.

Here are my questions:


1. Is it OK to violate school policy if you have a good reason?

2. Did the student really want help, or was he just pretending, just to break school rules?

3. If the student really wanted help, couldn't he have just asked to in-school monitor?

4. Should the teacher have just helped the student (and then violated policy herself)?

5. Should teachers not follow the rules, if it will help a student?

6. Should a parent encourage rule breaking if their son is in the right?

Lots of questions, no sure answers. Your thoughts?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Getting the Achievement Question, Part 2

As we continue to work on getting the questions, students are beginning to show remarkable progress. You can read about previous work from the Do You Get the Question post.

This is an example from Luke that demonstrates the before and after.

Achievement ResponsesAchievement Responses

















GREAT JOB, LUKE!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Just Suggest It

Thanks to those that have commented in response to the survey. If you haven't commented yet, please jump in there on the survey post. In response to some well-thought out advise, I am going to try to update more frequently and include more student work. I also added a section at the top left of the blog for each day's events, and the homework due.

We are slowly building a wiki page. Feel free to check out the start of the Laurelville Elementary Language Arts Wiki. Eventually this will include all of the student's writing and reading notes, and many of the handouts. We may also use it to list many of the books that become student favorites.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Do You Get the Question?

This week, we are focusing on questions. Students are not even getting to see the passage that a question goes with, but they are expected to begin their answer. Sound impossible? Well, it is difficult but our students are proving they can do it.

Last week, Mrs. Stevenson, Mrs. Caudill and I scored the practice run of the Ohio Achievement Test that students took on March 18. Students did well, especially on the multiple choice questions. As we scored the tests, the amount of effort students put forth, clearly showed.

One area that I noticed as an overall weakness, was in setting up short answer and extended response answers in a way that would make 2 or 4 points easy to attain. With this in mind, our instruction for the next two weeks, will focus on using the question to set up the best answer possible. This will help students as they take the Achievement Test, and even more important, as they move up through jr. and sr. high school.

Each day, students receive a paper with one or two questions. They must set up their answer, without being able to use the selection as a resource. Below is a typical question, and the beginning of an answer by Trevor S.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Reader Survey

Dear Readers,

Please give me a hand. I have been publishing this blog for about eight months now. Yesterday was a great day - the blog passed 5,000 hits. It is pretty remarkable to me that this blog has been viewed 5,000 times this school year. I appreciate the interest. Now, please help me make it better.

I see it as having three roles including:

1. Informing parents about events, activities, and news from our Reading Workshop,

2. Providing a forum for discussion about our Reading Workshop, reading instruction, our class, and our school,

3. Making us think, me as a writer, and hopefully, you as a reader and writer.

With this in mind, I would like your help - how can I make this blog more useful for you?

Here are some areas you might like to comment on:

  • Topics - are there topics (specific or general) you’d like covered? What topics would you like to see more of? less of?
  • Types of Posts - recaps of daily events, class instructional goals and reports, student response posts, guest posts, upcoming events…. have your say about what you’d like most/least
  • Posting Frequency - too many posts, not enough, just right?
  • Blog Features - what would make your reader experience better?
  • And - what else do I need to know about the blog?

I would especially like to hear from parents and teachers. I appreciate the enthusiastic commenting from students, but my goal is for this blog to serve as a tool for communication with parents and teachers as well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday School and Loving It

Well, after a million and a half snow days, today we paid the price. Yes, we're in school on Saturday. And it feels different. For some reason, today is just a little more relaxed. It seems like the pace is a little slower, and people are talking more. Students this morning seemed a little extra friendly. The discussion had a bit more of an edge or alertness, with everyone involved. And really, there hasn't been much complaining. As Mrs. Stevenson said, "you know, it really hasn't been that bad."

There are some students that missed due to prior commitments. Scotty is at the state wrestling meet (good luck and bring home the gold). A few students skipped out. One parent told a teacher, "Saturday is kid's day, and kid's shouldn't have to work." What kind of a load of crap is that? What about the ten school days that his kid missed during the bad weather?

Overall today has been quite a success. Students are working hard and learning in Language Arts Workshop. People seem to be smiling. Most everyone here wants to be here. The sun is shining in Laurelville. Who would believe it, Saturday school and loving it. Maybe we should do this more often. . . .NNNNAAAHHH!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Active Reading


Are you an active reader? Or do you snooze along? Do you "dog it?"

Have a listen as a fourth grade student explains his view on how to be an active listener. Cooper, from The International School of Bangkok, in Thailand discusses the reading process.




Would these strategies help you as a reader? Which of the four steps--mark-up, visualize, predict, and question do you need to focus on personally? What are the implications for you when you take the Achievement Test?

Once we watched the video, and discussed it, students took the essay below, written by Roald Dahl and did the following:

1. Skim and then mark the article,
2. Describe two visualizations (things you could see as you read),
3. List 2 predictions you had as you read,
4. List 2 questions you have after reading.

Boy: Tales of Childhood
Roald Dahl
1 On the first day of my first term I set out by taxi in the afternoon with my mother to catch the paddle-steamer from Cardiff Docks to Weston-super-Mare. Every piece of clothing I wore was brand new and had my name on it. I wore black shoes, grey woollen stockings with blue turnovers, grey flannel shorts, a grey shirt, a red tie, a grey flannel blazer with the blue school crest on the breast pocket and a grey school cap with the same crest just above the peak. Into the taxi that was taking us to the docks went my brand new trunk and my brand new tuck-box, and both had R. DAHL painted on them in black.

2 A tuck-box is a small pinewood trunk which is very strongly made, and no boy has ever gone as a boarder to an English Prep School without one. It is his own secret storehouse, as secret as a lady’s handbag, and there is an unwritten law that no other boy, no teacher, not even the Headmaster himself has the right to pry into the contents of your tuck-box. The owner has the key in his pocket and that is where it stays. At St. Peter’s, the tuck-boxes were ranged shoulder to shoulder all around the four walls of the changing-room and your own tuck-box stood directly below the peg on which you hung your games clothes. A tuck-box, as the name implies, is a box in which you store your tuck. At Prep School in those days, a parcel of tuck was sent once a week by anxious mothers to their ravenous little sons, and an average tuck-box would probably contain, at almost any time, half a home-made currant cake, a packet of squashed-fly biscuits, a couple of oranges, an apple, a banana, a pot of strawberry jam or Marmite, a bar of chocolate, a bag of Liquorice Allsorts and a tin of Bassett’s lemonade powder. An English school in those days was purely a money-making business owned and operated by the Headmaster. It suited him, therefore, to give the boys as little food as possible himself and to encourage the parents in various cunning ways to feed their offspring by parcel-post from home.

3 “By all means, my dear Mrs. Dahl, do send your boy some little treats now and again,” he would say. “Perhaps a few oranges and apples once a week”—fruit was very expensive—“and a nice currant cake, a large currant cake perhaps because small boys have large appetites do they not, ha-ha-ha . . . Yes, yes, as often as you like. More than once a week if you wish . . . Of course he’ll be getting plenty of good food here, the best there is, but it never tastes quite the 1 On the first day of my first term I set out by taxi in the afternoon with my mother to catch the paddle-steamer from Cardiff Docks to Weston-super-Mare. Every piece of clothing I wore was brand new and had my name on it. I wore black shoes, grey woollen stockings with blue turnovers, grey flannel shorts, a grey shirt, a red tie, a grey flannel blazer with the blue school crest on the breast pocket and a grey school cap with the same crest just above the peak. Into the taxi that was taking us to the docks went my brand new trunk and my brand new tuck-box, and both had R. DAHL painted on them in black.

4 As well as tuck, a tuck-box would also contain all manner of treasures such as a magnet, a pocket-knife, a compass, a ball of string, a clockwork racing-car, half-a-dozen lead soldiers, a box of conjuring-tricks, some tiddly-winks, a Mexican jumping bean, a catapult, some foreign stamps, a couple of stink-bombs, and I remember one boy called Arkle who drilled an airhole in the lid of his tuck-box and kept a pet frog in there which he fed on slugs.same as home cooking, does it? I’m sure you wouldn’t want him to be the only one who doesn’t get a lovely parcel from home every week.”

This essay was copied from the Ohio Sixth Grade 2007 Reading Achievement Test.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

D.A.R.E

DARE class began today. Students are instructed by Deputy Dale Thomas, the Pickaway County Sheriff Department's 2007 Deputy of the Year. Deputy Thomas has taught students about resisting drugs and peer pressure for the last 11 years.

According to the DARE website:

This year millions of school children around the world will benefit from D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), the highly acclaimed program that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence. D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of our nation's school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world. D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.

DARE is a great opportunity for all students. This class is also everyone's favorite. Deputy Thomas does a super job helping students learn valuable life skills, in a fun and interactive way.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Where am I?

Call your friends! Call your classmates! Text your boo! Get the word out!

C'mon, smarty pants, amaze me. I know I have some of the most brilliant students of all time in my class. SSSSSSOOOOOO, WOW me. When you come back on Tuesday, come back with something that makes your teacher think. What? I don't know--a joke, a riddle, a mystery, a quote, or a fantastic fact. Make me laugh, or make me cry. But, do not bore me. When we come to the circle on Tuesday, make me ponder your prose but don't make me puke at your patheticness.

By now you are saying, "what does he mean?" I don't know. I don't care. A cereal box back might work, or a quote from Abe Lincoln. Whatever you do though, don't be boring!


P.S. For about 5 million bonus points, where am I in this picture?

Where am I #3?

OK, the last one was just too easy. Maybe this will be a little more of a challenge.


Washington D.C. is not the only place for a vacation. We left for somewhere else.

Where am I #2?

Back by popular demand, the ever popular, Where am I?


I thought about offering a prize of a dollar to the first person to correctly guess, but I decided to offer a piece of candy instead.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Has Sprung


As Freak said in Freak the Mighty, "spring has sprung, and so are we." We are out of school for four days, from March 21-24. And, you won't believe the good news. We missed so many days due to snow, we get to come next Saturday.

Enjoy the long weekend and come back ready to learn!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect-Achievement Test Preparation

Today we took a practice run at the Ohio Sixth Grade Achievement Test. We tried to make today as similar to the actual test as was possible. The test format was the same. Passages and questions were from a previous test. The time allotted and class structure was the same as when students will take the reading test on May 5.

On March 28, Mrs. Stevenson, Mrs. Caudill, and I will score the tests using the same score sheets/rubrics as the state used. I will share the results with students on the week of March 31, and we will review areas of difficulty.

The practice today serves several purposes. When students take the actual test in six weeks, hopefully they will be familiar and comfortable with the process. This should allow them to perform at their highest level. The data from the test results will help me intervene on an individual and classwide level. I will be able to see specific academic areas that need addressed, and other areas that students have mastered. I can tailor instruction to best help the students learn what they need to learn.

The Ohio Department of Education has set up a website with a lot of usual information. There is a section just for the Ohio Achievement Test. Students can practice using test passages and questions from previous years. They have a choice of setting up an account to save their results, or they can Take a Test without Logging In. Parents and students can see what is expected, scores, and what they mean.

Students worked extremely hard, and with their accomplishments, the results will help us do the best job possible in preparing for the test, and learning what students need to be successful in upcoming grades.

Great job to all of the sixth graders for their effort!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tell Me About A Great Book

I know you have read a book this year that is the best book you have ever read. So, tell us about it. What made it great? Why is it your favorite? Who would enjoy reading it? Give us some details, but don't give away any surprises or the ending! See the Book Letter post for ideas.

Your reward? Why how funny you should ask--a lot of extra credit. Just post in the comments. BUT, be sure you have correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. :lol:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Snow and More Snow

Well, we are out of here at 1:15 today (Friday). Once again, Ohio's weather has attacked us. At least we got in enough time to count for a school day. Laurelville students (and staff :) ) are moaning about the make-up days already. The state allows 5 calamity days, but we have used 9. Three days will be added to the end of the year, and one day will be made up on Saturday, March 29. I think it will be interesting to see our attendance when everyone has Saturday school.

This is the view looking out of our classroom at 12:00.



Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Election Day at Laurelville

We had a primary election today at Laurelville Elementary in our language arts classes. We only voted on the two democratic candidates, due to the closeness of the race. Both classes had a total of 22 voters. Amazingly, both classes had the same results. In each class 14 students voted for Barack Obama, and 8 voted for Hillary Clinton for a total of 28 votes for Obama and 16 for Clinton. This was 64% to 36% win for Obama. Ironically, this is very close to the results of the last 11 primaries.

As part of the process, students listed their two main reasons for choosing the candidate of their choice. The we came to the circle and discussed reasons students used to pick the next President.

Their reasons included:

Barack Obama

Tommy S. He wants to stop taking businesses overseas.

Brianne H. He promises to stop the war and make peace between countries.
He will lower the cost of medical insurance.

Shelby C. Obama talks about change.

Scotty D. He would run the USA better.

Cail J. He is going to make insurance affordable.

Dillon Y. He said he will improve schools.

Kari W. He will help people who have been layed off.

Hillary Clinton

Brittany M. She is going to try to stop the war.

Seth R. She is going to stop achievement tests.

Justin H. I think Hillary will be a better leader.

Emily S. She will get a lot of help from her husband.

Molly V. Her husband was President so she knows what it is like to be President. She already has experience.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hot Spot


Today we are focusing on the HOT SPOT of an article. This idea was adapted from Ralph Fletcher's Writing Workshop, the Essential Guide. Fletcher talks about identifying the HOT SPOT of a story as a writer. We looked at using this same skill as a reader.

We used our Scholastic News, and tried to find one or two sentences in each article that contained the gist of the article. Usually these included at least two W's. This
HOT SPOT is the key to comprehending the article. We also discussed the importance of slowing down and thinking about this part of an article, because this is the most important section.

Students skimmed each of five articles, and then highlighted what they felt was the section that contained the key. Then, we used the doc camera to project articles and discussed the differing opinions, until we decided on the
HOT SPOT for each article.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Relay for Life

Last summer, my wife, Laura participated on a Relay for Life team with her coworkers at Pickaway Family Job and Family Services. I went in on Saturday night and joined the walk for a couple of hours. I was struck by the sincerity of the cause, the heartfelt determination of the participants to help in the fight against cancer, and the celebration of the survivors. As I thought about this event and the meaning behind it, I decided this would be a great opportunity for our sixth graders to do their part towards the cause.

Today we kicked off the Relay for Life project. Students watched the "Why we Relay" video.



Then they applied to be on a student leadership team that will help organize our school's participation and will join in on the Relay for Life celebration at the Pickaway County Fairgrounds on July 26-27.

All Laurelville students K-6 will be involved in the fundraising, and participate in a school-wide walk.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Writing in Social Studies

In Mrs. Griffey's social studies class, students studied, researched, and then wrote essays about Mesopotamia. Students had to follow the writing process. They wrote a rough draft, peer edited, and then published a final draft to be graded. This project counted as a social studies grade which was weighted based on content, and as a writing grade which was weighted towards the writing. Overall, the essays were filled with information, interesting, and well written.


Justin did a good job with his introduction and conclusion. He used a W's beginning to introduce the topic to the reader.

I discovered a lot of interesting things about Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia was located in the fertile crescent in what is now present day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syrian, Jordan, Israel and Syria. Mesopotamia started in 4000 B.C. Mesopotamia was also located by two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates.


His closing sums up the topic, and restates a few key points.

Mesopotamia was a very successful culture. In Mesopotamia they had laws, a form of writing and technology. The people of Mesopotamia still affect us today.


By using a simple, but effective opening and closing, and having a body with many details, Justin and many of his classmates did well with this interdisciplinary project.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

SS Essay, Interdisciplinary Project

Mrs. Griffey has been studying Mesopotamia in her sixth grade social studies classes at Laurelville. At the end of the unit, students had to write an essay telling all that they learned. They had to research for additional information. Students wrote a rough draft, revised with a peer, and then wrote a final draft to be turned in for a grade.

This essay also counted for a grade in language arts. Justin did a great job with his introduction and conclusion.

This introduction outlines basic W's.

I discovered a lot about of interesting things about Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia was located in the fertile crescent that is now present day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syrian, Jordan, Israel and Syria. Mesopotamia started in 4000 B.C. Mesopotamia was also located by two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates.

The closing does a good job of wrapping up the essay and summarizing important information.

Mesopotamia was a very successful culture. In Mesopotamia they had laws, a form of writing and technology. The people of Mesopotamia still affect us today.


With a good opening and closing, the essay makes it easier for the reader to understand.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Book Letter

Everybody loves to get a letter, even teachers. Our latest projects is one of my favorites because I get a lot of letters, and I get to read about the books students are reading. Below are parts of different letters that are superb examples of a book letter.

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 a good example of a W's 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.

This is an opinion/persuasive introduction.
Body/Middle

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.

Conclusion/Closing

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.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Freak the Mighty


The latest read aloud is the favorite of every class, every year--Freak the Mighty, written by Rodman Philbrick. This is the story of Max and Kevin, two misfits who become friends. Max is the writer of this story as the beginning circles around to be the end.

Max and Kevin each help the other, Max with his long legs and big body, and Kevin with his brain. Kevin is fighting a crippling disease, but Max's friendship helps him overcome some limitations. Max is trying to deal with the loss of his mother, and a father nicknamed Killer Kane. You can read more about this, as the language arts class builds a wiki page about the book.

Etech Conference

On February 4-6 I attended the Etech Ohio 2008 Conference in Columbus, Ohio at the Convention Center. This annual event features 300 sessions, teacher and student displays, keynote speakers, and technology vendors.

Many of the ideas currently in use at Laurelville Elementary came from this School Net Conference. The use of the online learning program, Study Island came from a discussion with the vendor at a conference four years ago.

Posting grades online for students and parents was discussed in several sessions three years ago. After visiting with several vendors, I decided to use Engrade.

The use of LCD and DLP projectors with doc cameras in writing workshop, has made sharing student work easy. All of the fifth and sixth grade classes at Laurelville use this technology daily. This idea came from a session I attended several years ago presented by a language arts teacher.

Each year there are sessions on digital media in the classroom. This has helped with sharing pictures of students hard at work.

Last year I attended sessions on blogging. Needless to say, this attempt at keeping parents and students informed came from those sessions.

I attended a session Wednesday about using Audacity. This is sound recording/editing software. I use it to edit songs that we sing in the class. It is also a useful tool for recording podcasts. A podcast is an audio broadcast that has been converted to an MP3 file or other audio file format for playback in a digital music player or computer.

A couple of ideas that I hope to use in the future are clickers and digital books. Clickers are infrared remotes. Each students gets one and they answer questions projected on the white board. At einstruction, they have a clicker that works with Study Island. The clickers anonymously keep track of each student's answer. This way each student is thinking about the question, instead of just a few students.

As you can see, many of the uses of technology in language arts at Laurelville Elementary originated from the Etech Conference. Each year I am excited to see the new ideas and find great uses in the classroom.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What Doesn't Matter

Part of being a successful reader of nonfiction means understanding the important information. This week, we looked at reading from the other side. We looked at the article No Drivers Wanted about robot cars. This is an article about the DARPA Challenge for driverless cars. Students highlighted in pink, all of the information that wasn't important.

Student partners went through the article and looked for trivial details, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and minor facts, opinions, and quotes that didn't help understand the article.

Once the highlighting was completed, student partners were combined to make teams of four. The four students compared each team's work and discussed their decisions.

Scotty D. took over as the teacher next, and students looked at the article with the projector. With Brianne managing the computer, the class as a whole had to agree on what wasn't important. Today, students will use what text that is left as they search for the W's and write a gist statement.

This is how the article looked when they finished. If you look at what is not highlighted, you should be able to see the important details, and get the gist.

Tuesday, October 11—Stanley usually seems to know where he's going. He moves quickly over rocky ground and across puddles. He works hard and he's almost always on the move. Stanley is a robot car.

Last week, 23 teams—including the Stanford University team that built Stanley—gathered in the Mojave Desert in Nevada to compete in a special race known as the Grand Challenge. The race was special because none of the cars had drivers.

Stanley completed the dangerous 150-mile course through the desert in six hours and 53 minutes, earning the Stanford team a $2 million prize from the Department of Defense. Of the 23 teams that competed, only five
actually finished. The others were stumped by mechanical or technological problems.

Sebastian Thrun, the lead robotics engineer for the Stanford team, realizes that driver-free, robot cars like Stanley still seem like something from a science-fiction film. "People by and large don't believe in this stuff," he said. "They've seen too many failures." This year's Grand Challenge was much more successful than last year's, when no vehicle was able to travel more than eight miles.


Friday, January 18, 2008

What Makes Reading Important?

Reading is important for so many reasons. But, what do sixth graders think? And, what do their parents and grandparents think? Although I usually hate homework on the weekend, students have a special assignment for this weekend.

They must answer the following questions:

Why do you believe reading is important?
How do you think reading skills will help you throughout your life?

In addition, they must interview either a parent or grandparent and ask them these questions to find out their opinions about reading.

It will be interesting to hear opinions. I wonder if there will be much difference between students and their parents/grandparents?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Key Words to Reading

Not all words are created equal. Some words carry a heavier weight to the reader who is tuned in to using all possible means for comprehension.

Not to be outdone by 6A, the 6B class came up with the list above and beyond all lists. Partners worked through their Scholastic News for key words that helped the reader know when an important point is about to come. Listed below are words that the discerning reader will use as keys to getting it.

  1. Why- makes you think about a “W” detail; reason

  2. but- opposite; something else is happening

  3. and- tells that there is going to be another example

  4. I think- tells you somebody's opinion; gives an example [I wonder, I thought, I know, I pictured]

  5. because- gives you a reason for something

  6. or- tells something different

  7. said- tells somebody's opinion

  8. who- makes you think about a “W” detail; person

  9. however- something else is happening

  10. about- gives more information

  11. also- tells something is coming

  12. what- makes you think about a “W” detail

  13. show(s)- tells you more detail

  14. when- makes you think about a “W” details; time

  15. If..., then- shows a relationship

  16. Each/ for example- - elaborates or tells more information

  17. where- makes you think about a “W” detail; place

  18. results in- causes, effect, finished product

  19. point is- main idea, gist

  20. difference- something else


GREAT JOB to both classes for their hard work and outstanding effort!

A special shout out to Haley and Baylie for their outstanding finds (they even outdid the combination of Mrs. Bowers and me).




Discussion for tomorrow--check your grammar and spelling before commenting (See yesterday's Blog comments).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Get a Clue Without Words


Nothing replaces reading to get the meaning, but there are a lot of other clues if you know where to search. Using Scholastic News, we focused on some of the ways a reader can figure out the gist of an article.

Here are our NOTES for today.

Clues to Get the Gist

Use everything other than words to get the gist. Look at the title, sub-titles, headings, fonts, pictures, captions, etc.

The 6A Language Arts class worked first as partners, and then as a class and compiled this list of non-word ways to understand as article.

  1. Title—gives an idea of the article’s topic

  2. Font—different font like bold print means word or idea is important

  3. Pictures—visualize the information

  4. Captions—help understand the picture

  5. Colored sections—important information/ makes you want to read them

  6. Subtitles—provide details to go with the title

  7. Headings—tells what the section is about

  8. Timeline—gives dates events happened

  9. Inserts—extra information that is not necessarily part of the story

  10. Graphs—shows data/statistics

  11. Questions—makes you think about main points

List compiled by 6A


Friday, January 11, 2008

Learning to Read, con'd

What is important? What should we highlight? What are the W's? The students worked hard to drag the meaning out of an article, and here is what it looked like when we finished. We used the DLP projector with a student leading the discussion, and a student operator on the computer.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reading or You're Not a Little Kid Anymore

Learning to read is the main focus throughout elementary school. However, the style of reading must change as students enter Jr. High School and above. By sixth grade, figuring out all of the words is a small part of the reading process. Students must learn to decipher meaning, especially in difficult text. Reading for the Gist, understanding the W's (who, what, when, where, why, and how), and comprehending important details becomes the focus.

Although comprehension strategies are taught in the primary grades, the techniques should change as students enter the intermediate grades. That is our objective currently in language arts class.

Our notes from yesterday illustrate our focus:

01/07/08 NOTES Reading Nonfiction 1


1.Skim
2.Read & Highlight
3.List W’s
4.List facts
5.Write a topic sentence/Gist Statement


Basically we are breaking down nonfiction articles trying to glean the most important facts and information. One particularly difficult sentence from an article in Science News Online took almost one half hour just to figure out. The sentence is written with a complex style, and uses vocabulary that was unfamiliar to many sixth grade readers. These three copies of the sentence show the process we went through to break it down and make it easier to read.


"The team has withheld from its article critical code-breaking details that could abet would-be hackers."

The team has withheld from its article critical code-breaking details that could help would-be hackers.

The team withheld details that could help hackers.

Our goal is to break down the meaning to the simplest terms, to make reading and understanding easy. This takes an immense amount of hard work and brain power. Students have been giving a great amount of effort as they are learning new reading skills.

Topics of discussion include:

Learning to Read
You Don't Have to Get it All
What Did the Writer Feel/Think as he Wrote
Reading Rate
How the W's Guide Thoughts
Predict and Revise