Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Super Teacher, EEEERRRR Maybe Not

It was the first day of school, and like every teacher, this Super Teacher wanted to get things started off right.  You know, start the year with a BANG!  I needed to get kids involved and motivated.  Reading Workshop was going to be THE CLASS!

With a little time on Youtube, I found a great video that featured Nick Vujicic.  I knew this would grab students' attention.  And then there was the read aloud of Swear to Howdy.  Even the most reluctant student would be engaged after the first chapter of this book.  I would rap it up with a motivational speech about putting forth a lot of effort, don't worry about mistakes, just keep trying.

 The power went out for about an hour, right as we started class.  So much for my great plan. Even when it came back on, there was no Internet service for the rest of the day.  So much for the awesome video.

The read aloud went as planned until the discussion.  Seth raised his hand and said, "Mr. McGuire, is your shirt on inside out?"  So unbelievable, but so true.  And so much for my day as Super Teacher.  This poor guy can't even get dressed right.

The best part was the response.  All of the students, teachers, and Mrs. Scott, the Principal got a good laugh.  And to top it off, the next morning 3/4 of my class showed up with their shirts on inside out.  Obviously, another great start to a great year for Super Teacher.  :)

Image Inside Out Shirt courtesy of donnyb.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Motivation to Succeed

No excuses.  No whining.  No complaining.  Success and nothing less.





Do you have the will to succeed?

You can find out more about Nick Vujicic at his website, Life Without Limbs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome to Sixth Grade

Do you like to be "in the know?"  Do you want to know what is going on, and when it will happen?  If so, this is the place to check for sixth grade at Laurelville Elementary and for Reading Workshop.

You can find contact information if you need to email me about a comment, question, or concern.  Just click on the link at the top, or on the top right sidebar, on the email link.

You can follow assignments and homework, by looking at the sidebar.  Daily classroom assignments will be posted here.  Long term projects will be mentioned here.  Also, homework with due dates is posted in the homework section.

If you want an idea of class topics and general discussions, checking The Reading Workshop Blog will keep you informed.  Also, using the links at the right will allow you to go to your child's blog, and see his/her daily work.

To see what book your child is reading, just go to the SSR Book Page.  This will also let you compare your child's reading habits with those of his peers.  If you want to find a good book, this is a good place to start.

If you want to be involved in your child's education, this blog makes it possible.  If you check it regularly, you will find endless details about our class, and what we are doing.  It makes a great starting point to having a discussion with your child about school.  So, stop by and if you have a comment, don't hesitate.  All visitors are welcome.

Image from corrections.ky.gov

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Downing's Visit Shows the Importance of Web 2.0 in the Classroom

Author, Erin Downing visited The Reading Workshop blog last week.  She commented on a book talk about Prom Crashers by Hadley.  This was an extremely important event for all of the students, and especially for Hadley.  

Students have worked throughout the year, with technology being integrated into everything they do in language arts.  I have continually stressed the importance of high quality work, and we have had many discussions about how work published on the Internet can be viewed by anyone.  This was never more evident than when Downing took the time to watch the book talk, and then comment.

It's ironic how so many little events led up to this memorable one.  Several years ago, computers became a tool used daily in Reading Workshop.  We started with word processing, built a class wiki, used Study Island online learning, and eventually started student blogs.  This year, after I watched a session on Book Talks by David Hayward from ITSCO, I started having students use a Flip Video Camera to film their book talks. 

Although there are many benefits to using Web 2.0 tools for learning, none can top having the author of a book take the time to comment on a student's work.  It shows the power of blogging and how an online presence can contribute to students' education and motivate them to the highest level of success. With the use of technology in the classroom, an author can visit online and have a positive impact on students that read her book.

Thank you Mrs. Downing for making the effort to interact with The Reading Workshop, and for recognizing the work of Hadley.   A few minutes of your time helped make a memory that will last a lifetime. 

The Schwa Was Here Book Talk

The Schwa was Here, written by Neal Shusterman is a story of friendship with a twist of invisible.  This book talk is presented by Hadley.   To see all of The Reading Workshop book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.



Thursday, May 13, 2010

Does Integrity Matter to a Sixth Grader?

Integrity--Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

The Mad River Theater performed at Laurelville on Wednesday.   They did a play written by Bob Lucas about Lewis Latimer, an African American Inventor who lived in the late 1800's.  The play recapped Latimer's life, his struggles and his successes.

The performance ended with the song, Honesty, Integrity, and Pride.  These character traits were representative of Latimer's life.  This prods the question, does integrity matter to a sixth grader?  Should it?  

Thinking back to the read aloud of Freak the Mighty, and having watched the film, The Mighty, I was thinking about Kevin's view of integrity.  How does it compare to yours?  In a few words, does your integrity guide how you live?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What's Your Story?

In Reading Workshop we are continuing the read aloud of The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm.  In this story about life in  middle school, three students, Russell, Catalina, and Elliot are drawn together due to being targets for bullies at Parkland Middle School.

As the aggression heightens, Catalina decides to share her story.  She reveals that she was forced to move to the USA from the Philippines when her parents divorce.  She comes to America with her father based on the chance for a better education.

This brings up the question for Reading Workshop students, what is your story?  If you were new to the school, and wrote a story for peers, what would it say?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing a Fictional Narrative

The next project in Reading Workshop will be to write a fictional narrative.  Students will begin with some pre-writing and planning activities.  Then, their stories will be told chapter by chapter on their blog.

The first step to writing a story involves making some decisions.

How many characters will there be?
What are the names of the characters?
Who is the main character?
Where does the story take place?
When does the story take place?
What will happen in the story?
What problems occur?
How will the problems be solved?
What moral or lesson will be learned?

Start Here

1.  Create your characters and develop their characteristics and physical traits.  Is there a villain and what is he/she like?  How does the bad guy impact the story?

2.  Create the setting.  Where and when does the story take place.  How does the setting impact the story?

3.  Create the problem or conflict?  What minor problems will build tension leading to the climax?  How will the main character react when faced with the main problem/conflict?

4. What crisis will occur at the last minute which will grab the reader and give the main character a last chance to solve the problem?  Plan for a fingernail biting moment.

5. How will the main character solve the problem?  What positive attribute like courage, creativity, or intelligence does he/she possess which will help him succeed?

6.  Finish with style.  What lesson does the main character learn?  How will the reader connect and learn from the moral?


And now, WRITE!

Monday, April 26, 2010

You Can Do It!

You have been reading and writing all year.  You have practiced every imaginable type of test passage.  Your vocabulary has improved tremendously.  You have proven your ability on Study Island.  Every sign points to success.  And, as I told you two months ago, YOU WILL PASS!

Now it is on you.  Do you believe?  Will you work your absolute hardest for 2 1/2 hours to show yourself, your parents, and your school that you have grown and learned this year in Reading Workshop?



Thank you for the effort.  You make me proud!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Your Test Score Can Make Everyone Smile


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












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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Easy Way to Practice for the Ohio Achievement Assessment

Want an easy way to practice for the Ohio Achievement Assessment?   All it takes is a computer and Internet access.  Today, students in Reading Workshop accessed the ODE test portal. The Ohio Department of Education has set up a website with a lot of 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.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What to Do About a Bully

The latest read aloud in Reading Workshop is The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm.  The book opens with Russell, the main character being harassed by Richie Tucker.  Russell is already having a tough time with the start of the new school year.  Somehow, he found himself without a group.  He was on a friendship island, even while surrounded by people.

Every school has a Richie.  He is bigger than most of the kids, and way meaner.  Kids like Russell just stay away from him.  Unfortunately, an ill advised attempt at humor puts Russell straight in Richie's sites.

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

How You Can Control the Test Grader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you use the basic test taking skills that you have learned in class?
Images from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx

Monday, April 19, 2010

How the Life of a Test Grader Affects Test Scores

As the time for testing quickly approaches, students in Reading Workshop have the chance once again, to meet 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 morning 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?
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx

Define Normal Book Talk

Define Normal written by Julie Anne Peters is a realistic fictional story that leaves many questions in the mind of the reader.  Heather raises a few of these in her book talk.  To see all of The Reading Workshop book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Achievement Strategies

 As the day of achievement testing fast approaches, students brainstormed a list of strategies that would lead to success on the test.


Strategies for Reading
  • Read the questions before the passage
  • Read the title
  • Look at word banks and subtitles
  • Skim to get an idea of what the passage is about
  • Reread 
  • Look for the W's (who, what, when, where, why, and how)
  • Use prior knowledge
  • Visualize--Picture what you are reading
  • Underline/highlight important information

Strategies for Word Attack
  • Circle words you don't understand
  • Substitute words you don't know
  • Sound out words
  • Cross out unneeded adjectives and adverbs
  • Make connections
  • Look at root words
  • Look at prefixes/suffixes
  • Use Context Clues

Strategies for Answering Questions
  • Find Your Answers in the Passage
  • Mark in the passage where you found the answer
  • Restate the Question
  • Look at how many points the answer is worth
  • Number your response
  • Use words from the text
  • Use specific details from the text
  • Always give at least one extra example/detail
  • Answer what the question is asking
  • Answer in complete sentences
  • Look at other questions for clues
  • Eliminate multiple choice answers that don't make sense
  • Reread the question and double check answers
  • Recheck answers in the passage
  • Write neatly so the grader can understand your answer
  • When finished, check PUGS to make it easier to grade

Why You Should Control Your Destiny

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What is Your Potential?

If I could measure students' output on a potential scale from 1 - 100, I wonder how most would score?  If I could just reach in the top right desk drawer, pull out the Potentialmeter, and turn it on, what would it show?

I would be willing to bet that most students don't realize their potential.  They underestimate their ability to think, read, write, and produce high quality work.  Although they are working, they are not even close to maximum output.

Don't get me wrong.  Students in Reading Workshop have really been putting forth a lot of effort.  As we scream down the test prep road preparing for the Ohio Achievement Assessment on April 27, students have been working hard and showing excellent growth in their ability.  However, I just don't believe they know the limits of their capabilities.  And, I know they are not even close to putting forth maximum effort.

This became especially evident as I watched this video, Death Crawl from Facing the Giants in Mrs. Stevenson's class yesterday.

Students in Reading Workshop, how close are you to reaching your potential?  What would your score be on the potentialmeter?  What is your best and what can you do to reach it?


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jezpage/4444094638/sizes/s/

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.