Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Drive By Book Talk

Drive By written by Lynne Ewing is an action packed thriller.  Kennedy, a Reading Workshop student shares this book.  To see all of The Reading Workshop book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Zach's Lie Book Talk

Micah shares a book filled with action and adventure, Zach's Lie, written by Roland Smith.  To see all of The Reading Workshop book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Superintendent Visits, Again

Three weeks ago, Mr. John Edgar, the Superintendent of Logan Elm Schools showed up in my classroom.  Needless to say, this unannounced visit was a surprise and a little unnerving.  However, it was all good news. 

Due to all of the snow days in February, Logan Elm had to make up five days of school.  After a staff vote, the decision was made to attend of four Saturdays.  Hadley, a Reading Workshop student questioned this decision, wondering why students weren't part of the decision making.

As we discussed this issue, I suggested Hadley contact Mr. Edgar about her concern.  She sent him an email, and he responded almost immediately.  He explained his position, and the factors regarding the decision.  You can read all of the details on Hadley's Planet.  Amazingly though, Mr. Edgar didn't stop there.  He visited the classroom just to let Hadley know he appreciated her concerns, and thanked her for writing.

This morning, on a make-up Saturday, the Superintendent visited again.  Two weeks ago we got 20 new Dell Computers (You can read some of the students' thoughts about that at Hannah's Hideout.)  Four Reading Workshop students, Ian, Josh, Micah, and Eric helped install these computers and others throughout the school.  Mr. Edgar stopped by just to thank these students for their help.

This is a remarkable example of leadership at its finest.  I appreciate having a superintendent of this district  that cares enough to help students feel successful and takes the time to let them know.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Abduction Book Talk

If you like creepy books, Savannah has the book for you.  She shares Abduction written by Peg Kehret.  To see all of The Reading Workshop book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kingdom Keepers, Disney After Dark Book Talk

For Disney lovers everywhere, Hannah shares Kingdom Keepers, Disney after Dark written by Ridley Pearson.  To see all of The Reading Workshop book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Responsibility, What's Your Policy?

I was watching the Cavs play, on their way to their eighth win in a row, when a Liberty Mutual commercial came on.  Normally, I would start flipping channels, but this ad caught my eye.  In fact, I rewound and watched it twice more. 

Then I started thinking about students in Reading Workshop.  If a day was filmed, what would it look like?  How often does someone do something that might be worth including in this ad built on people helping people?

Previously this year we talked about Sportsmanship in the Classroom. Students had many great ideas about how this looked and how it made the class, and the school a better place.  Do you see it in action?  Could this video include clips from us?

What about it students? Have you seen someone that you think should be included? What did they do that modeled responsibility towards others?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why My Mom Made Me Read Doesn't Work

Student:  Hey Mr. McGuire, I read 594 minutes.

Me:  Wow, that's a lot of reading for two weeks.  That's great!

Student:  Yeah, I know:

Me:  So did you read that much because you like to read, or because your mom made you?

Student:  Hee, hee, the second one.

Me:   Hhhhmmm!

OK, let's think about this.   Students in The Reading Workshop have a weekly Read at Home assignment which is weighted so that the more they read, the higher the grade.  At home, this student has fake read over 3 hours a week, every week of the school year.  In addition, students read at least 2 hours a week during SSR. He sits, with a book, pretending to understand what he is reading.  

His reading log is fairly impressive.  He has 15 books listed, and many are excellent choices.  He has mastered the art of writing responses, even when you don't get the book. But there are 15 great stories, with exciting events, difficult problems and interesting characters that he missed out on.

It sure sounds boring to me.  It would be kind of like watching TV, with  the set turned off.  Freak the Mighty gets it, maybe Kevin can help him.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stargirl Book Talk

Stargirl is a favorite of many realistic fiction fans.  Hannah shares Spinelli's book in the book talk.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why Book Talks are the Perfect Assignment

I think I found the perfect assignment.  Students volunteer to do it, and they mostly complete it on their own time.  In fact, there is a waiting list to do it next. They do their best because everyone will see their output.  When they do well, their work is showcased and saved for future students to attempt to emulate.

There are many skills involved with this assignment as well.  Students must read  a book, which is part of their Read at Home assignment.  They must comprehend the book, summarize it, and analyze for the most exciting part, which will hook future readers.  Students must consider the details and understand the characters.  

After all of this, students must present a book review in a practiced and polished way that will encourage others to read the book.  In their presentation and the preparation, they must use correct grammar.  They must have an exciting introduction, body, and closing.  Students must use many Web 2.0 skills  including researching and video editing, to create a final piece of work worthy of sharing worldwide.

Supplies needed are minimal.  Start with a good book.  Add a Flip video camera.  Download Openshot Video Editor.  Set up a YouTube account and you are ready to go.

This is the perfect assignment.  Students want to do it, work hard, do their best, use a lot of different skills, discuss great authors and books, and produce a final draft to share.  Then, when they finish I can brag about them and show off their work.  Whose next?

Image from

Among the Hidden Book Talk

The Shadow Children series, written by Margaret Peterson Haddix has been one of the most popular for adolescent readers the last few years.   Kate, a student in The Reading Workshop shares the first book Among the Hidden.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On the Run, Chasing the Falconers Book Talk

Ian, a student in The Reading Workshop shares the first book in one of the most exciting series ever written. Watch On the Run, Chasing the Falconers, written by Gordon Kormon.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Money Hungry Book Talk

Makayla shares Money Hungry written by Sharon G. Flake. To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stormbreaker Book Talk

Stormbreaker, the exiting book that starts the Alex Rider series is reviewed by Josh, a Reading Workshop student.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Can't Always Sound it Out

They just kept trying over and over, to sound out the word.  They broke it into two parts-- con and science.  Basically, the word was made of two words that they knew.  But together it didn't sound right.  

What's a group to do?  How about trying to sound it out another way?  Hhhmmm, let's see.   kɒns  kĭn  or as they were saying it cons kins.  Still, it didn't sound right.

Students, in groups of 3 or 4 were doing the assignment from How to Figure Out Those Hard Words.  This was a follow-up to the practice run through using the 2006 OAT.  Students had identified words from the questions that they didn't understand.  As this group started today's assignment, they coasted through the first three, and then they came to this word that they didn't know.

Unfortunately, they used one strategy over and over and over, and never did find the meaning of the word.  This led to a discussion of why we have more than one word attack strategy.  Hopefully the next time they get to a word they don't understand, their conscience will tell them to try other strategies like using context clues, word substitution, or using prior knowledge.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to Figure Out Those Hard Words

Last week we listed difficult words from the 2006 OAT.  Today we looked at how we can figure out the meaning of the words. 

Which word attack skills works best?
S = Skip
C = Context Clues
ST =Substitute
PK= Prior Knowledge
SN = Sound it out
RT = Root word, Prefix, Suffix
CN = Connection
P = Picture
O = Other Strategy

______  barked--All afternoon, Uncle Orrin barked orders.
______  description--Support your description of each attitude with a specific detail.
______  symbolize--Which place symbolizes love and safety to Nathan?
______  conscience--the value of listening to one's conscience and being honest
______  intimidated--Why was Ella too intimidated to dance?
______  scat performers--What do the selection and the footnote suggest about scat . ..(this is defined in the footnotes)
______  footnote--What do the selection and the footnote suggest about the scat performers?
______  evaluation--Identify two factual details from the selection that support the author's positive evaluation of Ella.
______  factual--Identify two factual details from the selection.
______  amateur--A number of other amateur venues
______  venues--After her early success at the Apollo and as a popular performer at a number of other amateur venues . . .
______  analysis--To write a scientific analysis of why some frogs jump farther than others.
______  organizational--Which organizational tool would most clearly contrast the lengths of winning jumps?
______  contrast--Which organizational tool would most clearly contrast the lengths of winning jumps?
______  wilted--But she wilted under the glare of the spotlight.
______  star-struck--She was star-struck and she just sat there looking at everyone.
______  rental frogs--Rental Frogs includes which piece of information?
______  coachable--Frogs don't understand about money and they're not very coachable.
______  capacity--Having the capacity to be taught.
______  figurative language--In the poem, how does the poet use figurative language?
______  repetition--Explain why the poet makes this repitition.
______  personification--Which characteristic can be found in the poem?
______  dialogue--Which characteristic can be found in the poem?
______  emperor--Each emperor built a magnificent palace.
______  prosper--It also helped the Inca prosper.
______  terraces--Why did the Inca farmers build terraces to plant their crops?
______  ravines--Suspension bridges made of plant fibers spanned deep ravines.
______  spanned--Suspension bridges made of plant fibers spanned deep ravines.
______  priorities--What was one of the Inca government's main priorities?
______  adequate--To make sure everyone had adequate food and clean housing.

    Word Attack Strategies

    What strategies help you when you don't know a word?  Do you always use the same one?  Here are ways you can figure out the meaning of words you don't get.

    1.  Do a Skip Test
    Read the sentence without the word.
    Ask yourself, do you need that word?
    If not, answer the question without the word.

    If you need to know the word, try another strategy.

    2.  Can you figure out using context clues?
    Read past the unfamiliar word and look for clues. If the word is repeated, compare the second sentence to the first. What word might make sense in both?

    3.  Is there a word you can substitute?
    Think about what word might make sense in the sentence. Try the word and see if the sentence makes sense.

    4. Use Prior Knowledge
    Think about what you know about the subject of the essay or passage. Do you know anything that might help you make sense of the sentence? Read the sentence with the word to see if it makes sense.

    5. Sound out the word
    Break the word into parts.  Look for the root word.  Divide the word into syllables.  Look for familiar beginnings (prefixes) and endings (suffixes).  Read each chunk by itself. Then blend the chunks together and sound out the word. Does that word make sense in the sentence?

    6. Connect to a Word You Know
    Think of a word that looks like the unfamiliar word. Compare the familiar word to the unfamiliar word. Decide if the familiar word is a chunk or form of the unfamiliar word. Use the known word in the sentence to see if it makes sense. If so, the meanings of the two words are probably close enough for understanding the new word.

    7.  Visualize
    Picture the passage.  Think about how the question relates to the passage.  Get a picture of what the question is asking.

    Under a War Torn Sky Book Talk

    Micah shares Under a War Torn Sky by L.M. Elliot in this book talk as part of his class in The Reading Workshop.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Word Attack Strategies Survey

    See the results here.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Prom Crashers Book Talk

    Hadley shares the "realistic" fiction book that focuses on relationships, Prom Crashers, written by Erin Downing.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    A Smile Spreader

    Each morning Madison walks into the room, passing out smiles and hellos to everyone in her path.  She greets each student like a long lost friend, and lets them know she is glad to see them.  There are no rainy days in her world, and she wants every person she sees to join her in the sunshine.

    This upbeat attitude has infected the whole class.  You cannot be around her without giving some of the smile back.  The next thing you know, even if  you are real careful, and try to prevent it, you give a smile to someone else, and on and on.  It's almost ridiculous how this epidemic spreads each morning.  

    I started thinking about this as I was reading the We Teach, We Learn blog and found this link to research at Harvard and the University of California at San Diego by Dr. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler.  They found that "happiness spreads through social networks like an emotional contagion."  

    I don't need research to prove it to me.  I have to watch or I get caught up in it every morning. If this kid doesn't get to seventh grade before long, I may end up smiling all the time.  Naahhhh, probably not.

    Image from