Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cheering the Success of Others

I am a lifetime Cincinnati Reds fan. I grew up rooting for Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and the rest of the Big Red Machine. The New York Yankees have always been at the top of the list of teams I despise.

Having said this though, I was struck by the accomplishment last night of Derek Jeter, when he tied Lou Gehrig's Yankee hit record. What makes it most remarkable is the class he showed and has demonstrated every game of his career.

The most amazing part of breaking the record was the response from fans and his opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays. A standing ovation went on and on, paying tribute to his success.

I started thinking about school and students.

Soooo, riddle me this students, do you root for your peers? Do you pay tribute to the success of others? Do you consider how you can help your classmates achieve success? Even if someone isn't on your "team" can you celebrate when they do well?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Responses to the President

Students were given excerpts from the President's speech and asked to respond. Many of the comments were insightful, and showed a real understanding of what it takes to be successful.
Excepts taken from Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event
Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. (1)Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, (2) paying attention in class, or (3) spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or (4) volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll (5) decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it. But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
So today, I want to ask you, (7) what’s your contribution going to be? (8) What problems are you going to solve? (9) What discoveries will you make? (10) What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too.
So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Cierra:
Barack Obama talks about how he wants children to do their best in everything that we do, and I am inspired to do my best finishing assignments and turning everything in.

Hannah H.:
Kids should stand up for other people that are being teased or bullied.

Jacob P.:
I believe that if you work your hardest you can be successful, and to work your hardest you must set goals for yourself. My goal is to give 110% this school year.

Jacob A.:
I think that paying attention in class is important because if you don't pay attention, you will not learn anything, and you will not become successful.

Kasi:
If you work hard, do your best, set goals, and always have a positive attitude you will be successful in life. . . If you get a good education in school, you will be successful when you are an adult.

Shaylee:
When I read this I thought, "we can make a difference, and we can make the World a better place."

Kaylee:
I agree when he said, "spend time each day reading a book." I think this can help you learn more words and help you like to read.

Zach:
I think that if you start something, you should work as hard as you can until you finish.

Justin G:
I think that people should listen to the good things that Barack Obama has to say, even if they don't like him. I agree with him when he says that when the going tets tough, you will have to keep on going. I think you should try your hardest, no matter what.

Garrett:
You have to commit to what it is you are doing. If you don't, you will not succeed. That one word, "commit" means a lot and makes a big difference.

Hannah C.:
The part that really sticks out to me the most is where he said, "Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is."

Hadley:
I have a goal: Make every day better than the last!

Madison:
If you set a goal, and try to reach that goal, you are pushing yourself to do better. If you set and reach goals, people around you will recognize your progress and be proud of you.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A New Day

The sun is breaking over the horizon, anticipation builds, at the dawning of a new day. School is starting. New faces walk into the building in new shoes that have been waiting in boxes for the first day of school. Bookbags hang from shoulders as students climb the stairs.

Feeling a little nervous? Don't worry. Don't fret. We will have a good year. Your tennis shoes will leave worn out and dirty, but your mind and your heart will be stronger for having spent the year growing and learning.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reading Workshop Student Blog Rubric


Student Blog Rubric

Score
Basis for Scoring
------------------------= =

4 or A

  • Concise (3 -4 paragraphs) with a specific focus
  • Shares thoughts, ideas, or opinions
  • Opening grabs the reader's attention while introducing the point of the post
  • Specific details support the main idea
  • Has a "So What?", theme, lesson, or specific point that attracts the readers' attention
  • Demonstrates detailed understanding of the blog topic
  • Positive tone engages the reader
  • Picture that supports post with attribution
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization is correct
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

3 or B

  • Concise (2 - 3 paragraphs) with a focus
  • Shares thoughts, ideas, or opinions
  • Opening grabs the reader's attention while introducing the point of the post
  • Specific details support information
  • Has a "So What?", theme, or lesson
  • Demonstrates understanding of the blog topic
  • Positive tone engages the reader
  • Picture that supports post with attribution
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization is correct
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

2 or C

  • Entries are short (2 paragraphs) with a focus
  • Shares thoughts, ideas, or opinions
  • Opening introduces the point of the post
  • Details support information
  • Has a point
  • Shows some understanding of the blog topic
  • Positive tone
  • Picture that supports post with attribution
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization is correct
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

1 or D

  • Entries are short (2 paragraphs) with a focus
  • Shares a thought, idea, or opinion
  • Opening introduces the point of the post
  • Limited details
  • Point is unclear
  • Shows limited understanding of the topic
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization has mistakes
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

Grading Students' Blogs


Student Blog Rubric

Score
Basis for Scoring

------------------------= =

4 or A

  • Concise (3 -4 paragraphs) with a specific focus
  • Shares thoughts, ideas, or opinions
  • Opening grabs the reader's attention while introducing the point of the post
  • Specific details support the main idea
  • Has a "So What?", theme, lesson, or specific point that attracts the readers' attention
  • Demonstrates detailed understanding of the blog topic
  • Positive tone engages the reader
  • Picture that supports post with attribution
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization is correct
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

3 or B

  • Concise (2 - 3 paragraphs) with a focus
  • Shares thoughts, ideas, or opinions
  • Opening grabs the reader's attention while introducing the point of the post
  • Specific details support information
  • Has a "So What?", theme, or lesson
  • Demonstrates understanding of the blog topic
  • Positive tone engages the reader
  • Picture that supports post with attribution
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization is correct
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

2 or C

  • Entries are short (2 paragraphs) with a focus
  • Shares thoughts, ideas, or opinions
  • Opening introduces the point of the post
  • Details support information
  • Has a point
  • Shows some understanding of the blog topic
  • Positive tone
  • Picture that supports post with attribution
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization is correct
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

1 or D

  • Entries are short (2 paragraphs) with a focus
  • Shares a thought, idea, or opinion
  • Opening introduces the point of the post
  • Limited details
  • Point is unclear
  • Shows limited understanding of the topic
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization has mistakes
  • ---------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Good Stuff

Recently students in Reading Workshop wrote about the "good stuff" that they see at our school. Sometimes people forget just how much positive goes on every day at school. The student responses serve as a reminder.

* People find money and put it in the lost and found
* People help each other
* Mr. McGuire bugs other teachers
* When our teachers tell us to get into groups no one is left out
* When we work in groups everyone works together
* Teachers are almost always happy
* Kids help other kids get on track
*Kids having good attitudes
*People are always smiling
* Everyone is respectful to each other
* There is a future for my friends and me
* We get to sing
* It's so much better than city schools where everyone always wants to fight
*You can act like yourself without being judged
* People work together to get things done
* Kids give 100% effort on almost everything
* The teachers are really funny
* Kids don't make fun of you, if you can't do what they can
* Teachers make it fun to learn
* No one really cares about looks
* People share stuff with other people
* When a person drops their stuff people help them pick it up
* Kids are happy to come to school
* Everyone can make the right choices and be smart
*People keep their promises
*People get along at recess
*Teachers are so kind-hearted
*Kids don't just eat with their friends
*People compliment each other
*A nice principal
*People encourage other people
*People get along
*Students help students
* Lots of technology
*Great staff, that has a big impact on the school
*People respect each others' differences
*Friends like me for who I am

*

Friday, May 22, 2009

Conkle's Hollow Field Trip

The sixth grade visited Conkle's Hollow Nature Preserve in the Hocking Hills as part of a Geology field trip. Students enjoyed the day and the beautiful rock formations.

Noted Naturalist, Paul Knoop explained many facts about the area, how it came to be, and facts about many plants and animals.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What Mountains Have You Climbed?

What challenges have you overcome? What challenges have you faced? As you look back on this school year, 170 days full of goods and bads, what went well? Where did you succeed?

Or, as sung by Miley Cyrus


The struggles I’m facing,
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes they might knock me down but
No I’m not breaking

And as you look ahead, what challenges still have to be faced?

There’s always going to be another mountain
I’m always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,


And how will you handle those challenges?

Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes I'm going to have to lose,
Ain’t about how fast I get there,
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb



*

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

100 Incredibly Inspiring Blogs

The Reading Workshop has been included in a list of 100 Incredibly Inspiring Blogs.  The post on What Makes a Good Teacher leads the list of posts that take a look at what makes a good teacher and will inspire you to appreciate what you do or maybe even improve your style as an educator.

Thank you for inclusion! As I stated in the post, I am not claiming to do these things, but it does give me something to work towards.

 *

Monday, May 11, 2009

Grading Students' Blogs

Want an A on your blog? Climb the stairs to writing success. Climb the stairs to earning a good grade.

Did you spell everything correctly? I would hope so. After all, who would want to write something that is available to the whole world, and misspell words? Can the reader understand the topic because you stick to it? Following these minimal standards will earn you at least a D.

Did you use correct grammar? Can the reader follow your post in an organized manner? This is still a most basic expectations for writers that want to publish their work. The skills learned in the primary grades are not too much to expect for work posted on the WWW. A C means satisfactory and not meeting this criteria would surely not be sufficient for earning any higher grade.

To build loyal readers, first you must have interesting content presented in a well-written way. Supporting details draw in the readers and give them understanding. If posts are written cleanly, the words illustrate the meaning, and the reader can visualize your ideas, you will earn a B.

Occasionally someone will write something that makes the reader pause, and think, or causes the reader to agree or disagree. Sometimes hours after reading an essay, the reader is still thinking about it. When a blog post has that something special, then the writer deserves an A.

What step are you on? Have you climbed the stairs to writing success?
*

Friday, May 1, 2009

Blogging in Language Arts

After eight months of commenting on The Reading Workshop blog and writing an online journal on the Reading Workshop Wiki, students are stepping into the driver's seat. A few students have already had the opportunity to create their own blog as part of this class. Now, all students who have their parents' permission can have a blog of their own.

The opportunity to publish online is a powerful motivator for students because it gives them a voice, an audience, and the chance to get immediate feedback. Students are excited about the opportunity to share their work. Blogs engage every student in the writing process and allow the students to both reflect on their own writing and react to the writing of others. I intend to use our blogs as a platform for a variety of writing exercises. Each student will respond to prompts, share ideas and resources, and reflecting on learning inside and outside of the classroom.

The blogs are accessible to anyone searching the Internet, but I will oversee all student blog contributions, and I will exercise administrative access privileges whenever necessary. By their nature, blogs are designed to allow comments by readers, but for safety reasons, this feature will only be available to our students and approved visitors.

If parents and teachers would like access to be able to comment on the blogs, they can send me an email and I will set up privileges.

The students are excited and I look forward to seeing the results of their hard work and creativity. Links to all of the students blogs are in the sidebar.

*

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Smile, Enjoy Life, and the Music

Being a student in Reading Workshop is hard work. Keeping up with assignments is hard work. The whole educational process is serious business. But, sometimes, in the rush of life, with unrelenting pressure, we need to stop and find a reason to smile.

This video comes by way of Britain's Times Online School Gate which originally found it at Teacher in a Strange Land.


Enjoy!





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Friday, April 24, 2009

You Too Can Pass the Test

How is winning a basketball game like passing an Achievement Test? It's all about using what you worked on in practice at game time. Students each year start to freak out as the test date approaches. They love to throw out those, "OMG, I am sooooo nervous!"

Give it a rest, already. Good test scores are a result of following procedures and using what you know. Students in Reading Workshop have learned all they need to know to prove their proficiency. When the big day comes, they will be ready to use the skills they have been practicing.

Going spastic and twitching nervously might give people something to laugh about, but it really doesn't have one thing to do with the test. It really just comes down to reading a few passages, and answering some questions. Being a fruit loop and stressing out yourself and your classmates is a total waste of time.

If you don't know the answer to a question, or don't know a word, deal with it. Use skills you have learned. Substitute an easier word, or use context clues to figure it out. If you can't, just miss a question. You will still pass. Basketball players miss shots all the time--no big deal. Miss one, but then get the next one right.

Work hard, work smart, and you will score well. You have spent all year proving your ability, so now just throw it out there one more time. This is your chance to spend 2 1/2 hours and prove that you are a success.
*

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Achievement Testing Online

The Ohio Department of Education has a portal into all of their Achievement Test Resources. Teachers, parents, and students can access this to meet a variety of needs. Teachers can actually build tests, using previous versions, or based on chosen content standards. Parents can look at past tests to see tests their child has taken. Students can practice for the Achievement Test.

In Reading Workshop, I am using this site to prepare students for the OAT that they will take on Monday. The ability to create lessons, using past tests provides online practice that is directly tied to skills and vocabulary necessary for good results. It allows students to familiarize themselves with all aspects of the OAT.

The practice test also provide immediate feedback on multiple choice questions. This is an example of an answered question.

Question 1

What mood is expressed when Bud closes his eyes in the beginning of the selection?

A. He is unhappy because he just walked to the library and up a tall set of stairs.
If a student chooses A, he or she may not understand that the author is implying that Bud is happy to be in the library. Bud does not close his eyes because he is unhappy, though someone may close his or her eyes if he or she is feeling sad.

B. He is excited to feel the page powder on his face so he can fall asleep.
If a student chooses B, he or she may not realize that Bud’s closing his eyes does not mean that he wants to feel the page powder on his face, though he does describe the page powder in great detail later in the selection.

C. He is comfortable with the mixture of smells in the library.
At the beginning of the selection, Bud says he closes his eyes. It is at this point in the story that he begins to describe the unique library smells, showing his mood of happiness and his feeling of comfort.

D. He is nervous about a plan to find Miss Hill.
If a student chooses D, he or she may know that a person may close his or her eyes when nervous. However, the author is not attempting to show that Bud is nervous or trying to think of a plan until the end of the selection.

The green check designates a correct answer. If the question is answered incorrectly, a red X would be placed by their answer. If students will take the time to read the explanations, each answer is a mini-lesson in itself.

Short answer and extended response questions are available also. The rubric to score them is there, for teachers to evaluate students' work. After using this tool in our classroom, I can't help but wonder, when will we be able to take the OAT online?
*

Monday, April 20, 2009

Martha, the Test Grader, Part 3


If you haven't met Martha before, you can read about Martha, the Test Grader, and then More on Martha the Test Grader.

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


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 the next test and here is the 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.

*
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx/100366351/

Friday, April 17, 2009

If I Could Be Like That

Recently we were singing a 3 Doors Down song as part of the ongoing efforts to build fluency.  We were singing the song, "Be Like That."


This is the chorus:


If I could be like that,
I would give anything.
Just to live one day
in those shoes.
If I could be like that
what would I do?
What would I do?






If you could be like that, if you could do anything, what would you do?
*

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Testing and Read Aloud Survey

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More on Martha, 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 even 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?

The first thing, can she read it? 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 write neatly?

Next, 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 organize your answers to make finding key points easy?

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 go back into the essay and find specific details?

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 passage to help you with your spelling?

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

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx/82881549/in/set-1618327/
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx/2487248468/in/set-1618327/
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For the beginning of this story, read Martha, the Test Grader.
For the end of this story, read Martha, the Test Grader, Part 3.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Martha, the Test Grader

Martha is a single mom, with a four year old daughter named Emily. Martha is just trying to get by day to day. This morning, at 6:00 AM, as Martha was getting ready for her job as an Achievement Test Grader in a state far, far, away, her babysitter called and said she couldn't watch Emily today. After three phone calls, she finally reached her sister, who agreed to watch Emily for the day. The only problem was her sister lived 20 miles away, so Martha barely had time to get there, and then make it to work on time.

As she rushed around the kitchen, eating a piece of toast while she picked up, Emily spilled her cereal all over the floor. Five minutes later, after cleaning up the spill, Martha glanced at the clock and realized she was going to be late. She grabbed a cup of coffee to go, snatched up Emily and bolted out the door. She put Emily in the car, and jumped in her seat. As she reached across to buckle the seat belt, she spilled her coffee down the front of her shirt. "Oh @#$#@@#$," she thought.

She unbuckled Emily and ran back in the house to change. She searched high and low, but there was nothing clean to wear. She grabbed her cleanest dirty shirt out of the laundry, shook it out, and slid it on. Once again, she and Emily headed for her sister's house. Naturally, she hit a construction zone two minutes from her sister's. After sitting for 10 minutes, she finally got through. She sprinted in, gave Emily a kiss good bye, and headed off to work. She had 11 minutes to make the 20 minute drive.

She was lucky, the construction only held her up for 5 minutes this time through. Unfortunately, her head pounded with a migraine from the stress of the morning. And work hadn't even started yet.

She reached work, late again. She stopped by the pop machine, but didn't have any change for her daily dose of Diet Coke. As she rounded the corner, there stood her boss, with a mean look on his face, and her daily stack of tests to score. "Late again, I see," he said with a scowl. "Don't even think about taking a break until you get this school's tests scored."

With her head pounding, no Diet Coke, and no time for Advil, Martha reached for the first test. Martha, the test grader opened your test.

How will you score?
*
Thanks to my teaching neighbor, J. Stevenson who first told me about Martha.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx/173120800/

Read More on Martha, the Test Grader.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ohio Achievement Test Survey

Recently Reading Workshop students took the 2006 Sixth Grade Ohio Achievement Test as practice for the actual test. I surveyed students to see their thoughts after taking the test. Here are some of their responses.

What did you learn taking the practice Reading OAT?
Jessika--I learned to highlight important questions. Actually read the passage. Don't skip questions.
Paitaan--What I learned was to underline keywords. Plus reread the questions.
Kyndrah--I learned that if you take your time and slow down you get more questions right, even if you are the last one.
Rachael--I learned that there are going to be some unexpected questions on the OAT, and that I have to be prepared for it!!!! I also learned that if you don't read the question carefully you have a better chance of missing it!

What was easy for you taking the practice Reading OAT?
Kara--The thing that was easy for me was all that I had to do was think back to what we did in class and I remembered what we did and the things you told us to do and so I did that.
Kayla--The easiest part of the whole test is the multiple choice questions. The reason why is because you have things to chose from. If you don't get the questions and you eliminate answers, it is easy to find the right answer.
Desire'--The easiest part was the multiple choice. The multiple choice was the easiest because all of the answers were in the passage.

What part of the test was difficult for you on the practice Reading OAT?
Makayla--The most difficult questions on the test were the extended response.
Trindi--The part that I thought that was difficult was were you had to find out what the word meant.
Sarah--The most difficult for me was the extended response questions because I didn't know if I was getting everything that the question asked. Mainly because I didn't read the passage enough times for it to sink in.
Christian S.-- The fact that some of the questions were hard to understand.

What would help you score better on the OAT?
Samantha--If I reread more and highlight more, that would help me.
Destiny--If I go over and check my answers when I am done.
Bailey--To go back in the passage and to read stuff all the way through.
Ty A.--Candy while I'm taking the test.

What other information should I know about the Reading OAT?
Taylor--I think we should work more on the responses. Because I heard at least 3 or 4 people say that the responses were hard, and they were I can't lie.
Austin--Something that you should know about is that practicing restating the question really helped.
Jessika--I THINK EVERYONE IS GOING TO PASS THE TEST!!!!!!!!!!!

On a scale of 1 - 10, how hard did you think the Reading OAT was?
The average was 5.56.

*

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Character Could You Be?

As we continue the read aloud of Larger-Than-Life LARA, written by Dandi Daley Mackall in Reading Workshop, the characters are coming alive. This book has a wide variety of characters, each explained in enough detail so that the reader can identify with them. In fact, Dandi makes it easy for the reader to picture him/herself in the book.

Laney, the main character was described in detail in the post Laney is Larger-Than-Life.

LARA is new student at Paris Elementary School. No matter how mean someone is to her, she is nice. She responds to meanness by being kind with a friendly poem. She thinks independently, and always has a smile. She is huge, so fat that she blocks the light around her coming into the door, and needed a special chair and desk.

Joey Gilbert is a leader. Laney does not like him, but he is a hero to the other boys in the class. He is the class bully. He is mean to LARA and picks on other people. He is a good baseball player, but he won't let the girls play.

Wayne is the class clown. He laughs the loudest, and thinks everything is funny, even when he doesn't know what is going on. He is Joey's sidekick.

Maddie is the class princess. She has pretty blonde hair, and thinks she is all that. She wears all the latest styles, dressing like the high school girls. She wants to be the center of attention. She wants everyone to know who she likes and who she doesn't.

Sarah is a follower. She is insecure and usually doesn't think for herself. She wants to fit in with the popular crowd. Every decision she makes is based on what Maddie says and does.

The brothers (Laney's) are mean, skip school, don't like Laney or appreciate what she does. They argue and fight constantly.

Laney's dad has a bad temper, hates his job (and his life). He drinks way too much.

Good readers can relate to characters based on one trait, or many. To enjoy a book though, the reader must understand the characters. Frequently, one characteristic shared between the reader and someone in the story creates involvement and connects the reader to the story.

What character are you connected to? How are you connected?
*

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You Can Learn a Lot in 2nd Grade

I had to see Mrs. Sturgell, a 2nd grade teacher about the Relay for Life. When I walked into her room, she was pausing her read aloud for the day to take attendance. I picked up the book, joined her students on the carpet, and finished the read aloud. There sure was a lot of learning taking place today in 2nd grade.

In this case though, the one doing the learning was me. I was reading a book about the water cycle. Although it was a picture book, the vocabulary seemed appropriate for much older students. This was a reading/science lesson that ended with a plea for water conservation.

The first thing I learned was just how smart eight year olds are. They knew a lot of things about a lot of things. Talking about evaporation, one boy said, "you can't see water evaporate because it turns into a gas, and gasses are clear." In fact, in the twenty minutes that I was there, they could jump into every topic, usually with something relevant, and often informative.

I learned that second grade teachers are all about interdisciplinary lessons. This class, although science based, focused on several reading skills including vocabulary, and using context clues. It also had social studies ties about recycling and contributing to society through recycling.

I also learned that second grade is fun. Students wanted to contribute to the discussion. Even when they were wrong, they would jump back in with a comment, or to try to answer a question. Their enthusiasm brightened the room and my day. Today, in just a few minutes, I discovered, you sure can learn a lot in 2nd grade (and the kids can too).
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Laney is a Larger-Than-Life Character

After reading a few chapters from Larger-Than-Life LARA, written by Dandi Daley Mackall, I am so interested in Laney.  The book is written in first person from Laney's perspective.   Dandi does an amazing job of bringing this character to life, which  we discovered as we discussed it in class, and students wrote about it in their Online Journals.
The things we know about Laney include:

1.  Tomboy
2.  Poor
3.  Not always nice
4.  Sarcastic
5.  Actress/liar to stay out of trouble
6.  Blurter
7.  Has a mom's responsibility at home (because her mom left)
8.  Runs fast (athletic)
9.  Likes plays, especially Shakespeare
10.  Loves baseball, but the boys will not let her play
11.  Lives in old rundown house with peeling paint on the outside, that is dirty and all lime green on the inside
12.  Three mean brothers that beat her up, and skip school
13.  Tough, can stand up for herself
14.  Mom left and never came back and Laney wonders about her
15.  Has a shoe glued to her bedroom wall from when she won a race and everyone cheered for her
16.  Has to deal with her dad that is a drunk, has a bad temper, steals cable TV, fights all the time
17.  Likes to write
18.  Good imagination
19.  Her bedroom is in the attic which she shares with her dad, cut in half with a blanket as a curtain, with a mattress on the floor
20.  Low self-esteem
21.  Digresses (can't stay on topic)
22.  In the back of the crowd, on the edge, wants to fit in with only one "sort of" friend
23.  No real role model
24.  Collects books, some that the library was throwing away
25.  Doesn't ride the bus because Joey and other kids are mean to her
26.  Family has a bad reputation
27.  Mature for her age, takes care of herself
28.  Fourth grade
29.  Lives in Paris, Missouri
 
So far in the book (after only five chapters), I think Laney has become Larger-Than-Life.  We know so much about her that it seems like we know her well--even that she lives with us.
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Monday, March 30, 2009

A Trusty Presentation

What does the teacher do when school is out? Go to school, of course. That is what I did on Friday.

SCOCA--South Central Ohio Computer Association presented a Web 2.0 workshop for teachers on Friday, March 27, 2009. This three session day focused on Blogs and Wikis, Google Sites, and RSS Feeds and Bookmarking.

Alvin Trusty, University of Findlay Director of Technology professor kicked off the day with a live Video Conference sharing his insight into Web 2.0 and its use in today's classrooms. He is a leader, and advocate for integrating technology as part of the curriculum. His presentation focused on social networking, and the need to build networks as part of the educational process.

The use of iGoogle and Google Docs was presented in one session. Google just continues to create new tools and improve the tools available. And, everything is free! Embedding a form in a blog is one tool that has been used in Reading Workshop. Two posts that are examples of that are here and here. Unfortunately, Google crashed right at the beginning of the session. Luckily, in a few minutes service was restored.

This was an informative day, with a lot of good ideas for teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. I grabbed onto a couple of ideas that I hope to incorporate into The Reading Workshop including some new uses for INFOhio.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

OAT Survey

Students in Reading Workshop took the 2006 Reading Ohio Achievement Test as a practice run on Monday. We then scored the test, using the test rubric. This survey is a chance for me to collect students' opinions about the test, and the process.




You can see the results on the Reading Workshop Wikipage Practice Test Survey Results
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Gas Station Conversation

I just stopped at the market to get a newspaper and a snack. As I laid down the items to pay, the cashier looked at me and said, "what do you think about Logan Elm?"

A million thoughts ran through my head in just about two seconds. The whole time, she looked at me and waited for an answer. I had been working outside, and looked pretty scruffy. I didn't know her, and I guarantee she didn't know I was a teacher. Naturally, I expected the worse, so I fell back on the old teacher trick of answering a question with a question. I said, "what do you think about Logan Elm?"

Imagine my surprise when she started to get a little teary eyed. "I am just so proud of those boys," she said (they are going to the Ohio state semifinals in basketball). "And their football team won all of those games. And the girls, too. The volleyball and basketball teams."

So I asked, "do you think closing school on Friday (the day of the 10:45 AM game) was a good decision?"

"Of course," she replied. "Those kids need to go up to the game and support the school."

"Do you have kids in school, or grandkids?" I asked.

"No, not for a long time. But I sure am proud of those kids."

"Me too," I replied. I walked out of the market, a little stunned, and a little amazed, and a whole lot thankful for student athletes that helped one cashier and I agree, we are proud of you.
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A Bad Little Boy

He was right in front of me, so I couldn't help but watch him. I would guess he was about four years old. If I would have acted that way when I was his age, I am sure my mom would have taken me out of the gym and given me an education on proper behavior.

The Laurelville Spring Program was last night. The band played and students sang, danced, and bounced balls to the rhythm of the music. It was a good night and the students did a good job showcasing their talent. Throughout the program though, my eyes were continually drawn to this little boy.

He stood on his chair. He talked continuously. He hit his older brother. He ran up and down the aisle. At one point, he went almost the whole length of the gym and carried a chair that was bigger than him, back beside his mom. He placed it in the aisle, and sat in it, although only for about 30 seconds before he was on the move again.

His older brother, who was about 8 or 9 tried to keep him under control. This resulted in a few punches. His mom made several comments to him, which he ignored in a way that showed he was quite practiced at not listening. The best way to describe him--a bad little boy that is 47 pounds of terror.

Questions pounded through my head throughout the program. Does he always act this way? Does his mom ever discipline him? Was she embarrassed by his bad behavior? Why was his eight year old brother trying to correct him, while his mom mostly just sat there? How did his brother know right from wrong, but he didn't? Will he act like this in sixth grade?
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Monday, March 23, 2009

What Can Be Fixed

I heard the comment the other day, "if it can't be fixed in five minutes, with what's on hand, then don't mention it." I started thinking about students in Reading Workshop and how this might apply to them, and their education.

Seventy-three missed homework assignments this year really doesn't matter as much as having the right attitude and learning today. There is no way to fix all of the hours that a student didn't read at home. There is no way to change an F from the first semester. Although sometimes people expect it, teachers are not magicians.

But, just maybe with a little work, and a discussion of today's assignment, a student can figure out that character development is how a character changes from the beginning to the end of a story. There is no way to "fix" a parent that won't follow through with checking the assignment book each night, but a student can spend some free time making up missed work. It's impossible to immediately make a student read at grade level. However, with a little effort, we could fix mistakes written in response to a passage.

Things I can fix:
1. The climate of today's class
2. A student not understanding the task at hand
3. Mistakes on an assignment
4. Today's lesson and how it's being taught

Things I can't fix include:
1. Last week, last semester, and last year
2. Parents' problems
3. Intercom interruptions
4. The war in Iraq
5. The economy
6. Peas for lunch
7. Floods, blizzards, thunderstorms, and hail
8. Dog bites, cat scratches, and bee stings
9. Broken hearts and she doesn't like me anymore
10. Missed shots, interceptions, and strike outs
11. Broken arms
12. Cavaties
13. Bad hair and bad breath
14. And on, and on, and on . . .

Looking at these lists, I realized I better get busy for the next five minutes and focus on what I can control. What about you, students? What can you fix?
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Friday, March 20, 2009

A Dandi Presentation

Author Dandi Daley Mackall visited Laurelville Elementary on March 18-19. She has written over 400 published books in a variety of genres, including one of her latest, an adolescent realistic fiction, Larger-Than-Life Lara. Dandi spoke to the entire student body at an all-school assembly to kick off her visit. Over the rest of the two day period, she met with classes to discuss writing techniques and her experiences.

Dandi did a writing workshop session with the classes. She went through the process of creating a story. Her advise was to always begin with a character. According to Dandi, "If the reader identifies with and/or cares about the main character, they will care about the story and want to read it." She says you need to know the character so you know how he/she will act in story.

She also told students to be sure to begin their stories with action. Here is an example of a story starter done both the wrong way, and then the right way.

Wrong
Dasia is a sixth grade girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. She is 5' tall. She likes to read and chat with her friends on the computer. Her best friend's name is . . .

Right
The minute Dasia got out of bed this morning, she dreaded going to school.

About the writing process, Dandi said, "I write and I write, and I rewrite and I write, and I rewrite probably at least 12 times."

Amber C., a sixth grade student said, "she tells interesting stories." This makes it easy to see where she gets her ideas for books.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why Testing Kills Creativity

No time for blogging. No time for reading. No time for Online Journals. Podcasts would not help test scores. Singing might help fluency, but we need to do more worksheets. If we shot any video, it would just be of students doing worksheets. Drill and practice is the order of the day.

The Reading Workshop is no different than any other class in the United States. As outlined in the previous post, Getting Ready for the Test, daily activities have drastically changed. Other than daily online lessons on Study Island, the computers have been put to rest. Writing activities are limited to responses to passages. The entire focus is on the test. To do otherwise would not be fair to the students, the school, and the district.

Teachers don't have any choice. With the pressure on schools to meet state standards and be rated an "effective" school, the focus is driven to help students score well on the test. Professional development and district meetings all center around testing data, and improving student achievement on tests. This results in drill and practice for students using worksheet after worksheet.

Schools don't have any choice. Beginning with Proficiency Test, and heightened by NCLB, testing is the controlling force in education. A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll in Ohio reported that 57% of those polled believe tests are not accurate indicators of students' progress and 55% think there is too much emphasis on testing. However, with the School Report Card being used as the main evaluation of a school's success, schools have no choice but to make testing a priority.

An Ohio survey, by the KnowledgeWords Foundation, found that 89% of respondents believe it should be a high priority for Ohio schools to teach "critical thinking and problem solving skills." A one-time, one-shot test does little to foster critical thinking and problem solving, and it stymies creativity. All it does is give a snapshot of students' ability read a passage and correctly answer questions. It also can reflect hour after hour spent on worksheets. Unfortunately this is the only assessment model our government uses to decide if students are getting a good education.

What can you do?
Contact Governor Strickland at the Office of the Governor Contact Page.
Contact members of the Ohio House of Representatives.
Contact members of U.S. House of Representatives.
Contact U.S. Senators.

Students in Reading Workshop have been working hard. They will score well on the Sixth Grade Ohio Achievement Test. Whether or not, teachers agree with the method of assessing students and schools, there is a responsibility for all of us to do our best. Doing so enabled Laurelville to be rated an Excellent School last year. Hopefully students can continue the tradition of excellence and before they know it, they can return to their online journals and blogs, and other engaging reading and writing tasks.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting Ready for "The Test"

Test TakerCopiers are firing off worksheets and pencil sharpers are grinding away. This time of year, The Reading Workshop, like almost every other classroom in the United States is focusing on preparing for the Achievement Test. Last year, Laurelville students received an excellent rating. This sets a high standard for this year, and students are working hard to prepare for testing beginning the week of April 20.


Some of the activities include:

1. Before school intervention classes with small groups of students are held each morning to assist fifth and sixth grade students with specific skill needs.
2. Peer tutoring on Study Island in areas of specific weaknesses help students address each content area.
3. The sixth grade will have a practice run-through of the Achievement test on Monday, March 23 for reading, and Wednesday, March 25 for math.
4. Students will review scored practice tests and rewrite incomplete or wrong short answer and extended response questions.
5. Students are taking past OAT written response questions and learning the proper format to most-likely answer correctly.
6. The 2006 Seventh Grade Reading Achievement Test is being used to practice on typical, although somewhat harder passages.
7. Group work and cooperative learning activities help students share techniques for comprehension and finding information with peers.
8. Daily class discussions focus on addressing students' needs and sharing ideas that make success more likely.

Students are working hard and learning many skills that will make them better test takers. When the time comes, I am sure their results will reflect the effort they are putting forth each day in class.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/mimiw/302995395
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where Does Hard Work Come From?

Some students work sooooooo hard. No matter what the task is in Reading Workshop, they give it their best. Where does the motivation come from?

At eleven years old, a sixth grade student doesn't consciously decide to be motivated and work hard. There must be some inner drive that pushes them to succeed. Even when the task is daunting, some students persevere.

In some cases I am sure students see it modeled at home. Parents that work hard are bound to influence their children. Many parents push their child to succeed in school. However, not all hard working students have this type of support at home.

Some sixth graders may be beginning to think about their future. Ideas of a college education and a successful career may start at this age. Also, watching someone else who is successful, might cause students to emulate behaviors.

Really though, it seems like in most hard working students, the effort they put forth is just part of their being. Something in their make-up pushes them when others would quit. In fact, I wonder if the hard workers even recognize how they are different.

What do you think? Can you explain the motivation to succeed? Is it something a person is born with? Can someone learn to work hard?
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Google Docs Gift to Bloggers

Want an easy way to survey your readers? Thanks to Google Docs, that is an easy task. Embedding a question into a blog post is a simple process, and results will be compiled in a Google Docs spreadsheet that will allow sorting of the data.

The first step is to create a Google Docs account. Once that is completed, and you have signed in, just follow these steps:
1. Click on New
2. Click on Form
3. Choose the type of questions. The types include text, multiple choice, check boxes, choose from a list, and scale 1-n.
4. Edit the form with questions.
5. Embed the form into the html of a blog post.

For an example of how this will look on a blog post, you can check out Where Am ?. This is a sampling of students used in The Reading Workshop.

Thank you to Mr. Todd Tomlinson, Logan Elm technology teacher for the tip!
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Community Service, One Student's View

Recently in the Reading Workshop, students have been writing persuasive essays. This is a guest post by student author Rachael J.

Kids should be really encouraged to be a part of community service. The reason I believe this is because the University of Michigan says that “it is common knowledge that volunteers get much more out of their service experience than they expect.” Sometimes kids really need to get their hands dirty to see how rewarding community service can be! Community service can really be a better teaching tool than sitting in a classroom. Kids learn more if they actually do something.

Community service has made huge differences in student's motivation and in communities. Researcher Diane Hedin indicates, “the biggest problem students must overcome in school is a lack of motivation” (Hedin 1989) If a student is dreading school because “it's boring”, that can be changed! Get the students involved! Kids like to feel needed! They like to know that they did something that someone would appreciate. “One of the most effective ways is by strengthening students’ relationships with their community and helping them become more personally engaged in their education through national service ( http://sitemaker.umich.edu/356.black/homes).

Community service makes students feel good. I know this because I got involved. It was on Make a Difference day and Mrs. Woods asked for volunteers. I did not know what I was going to be doing that day, but I then found out that it was raking leaves for people that could not do it themselves. Now, I have plenty of leaves to rake at home, so I have raked leaves before. Our neighbors get mad if we don’t rake them up because they would blow into their yard. Anyway, it felt really good to do something for others and they really appreciate it. Plus, it cleaned up our community, right here in Laurelville, the town that is not even found on a map.

Little things can make a huge difference. Cleaning up your community might even improve your community's ways of life. If you have a clean and environmentally-friendly community, then the people inside the community can go outside without finding a hobo in their dumpster. What does this have to do with community service and students? Well, as the saying goes, you get back what you give, but you get back even more with volunteering for community service. With just a few hours of your time, you help your community, and in the long run, your community helps you.

A clean community can give back in many ways. Students can help their community in so many ways. They can supply fresh air for us to breath, clean water for us to drink, healthy crops for us to eat, and an awesome community to live in. Seriously, if you want to keep Hocking County beautiful then make a difference and get out there and help your community.

You can read more of Rachael's work on her blog, Notes From Rachael.
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Traits of a Successful Team of Teachers


Students in Reading Workshop recently took a survey, questioning their knowledge of the personality traits of their teachers on the post Who Am I? There were several surprises in the survey and some fairly predictable results.

According to the Laurelville students:

Mrs. Cartee is down to Earth, easy going and builds relationships. She is supportive, soft-hearted and caring, but can be tough when needed.

Mrs. Griffey is full of energy, enthusiasm and drama, while being honest and driven for success.
Mrs. Bower is full of ideas with a never-ending passion for seeing students succeed.

Mrs. Caudill helps students when they don't understand. She has high expectations.

Mrs. Blubaugh is there when students don't get it. They know they can count on her to help them out.

Mrs. Stevenson is a good listener that is honest and practical. Her easy going way helps build trust.

Mrs. Little is trustworthy and doesn't judge people. You can count on her when the going gets tough because she cares.

Mrs. Scott is soft-hearted and supportive, but can be tough when needed. She is a good listener.

Ms. Bowlby has a lot of ideas and a passion for success. She supports her students and believes in them.

Mr. McGuire pushes students to be successful. He has high expectation and says so in an honest, straightforward manner.

I found it interesting that different students had different perceptions of the teachers. Also, what I thought was the correct answer--or description of some of the teachers, was not the opinion of the majority. The descriptions above were based on what the majority of responders answered.
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