Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Call for Superman from Here

Education is in a crisis.  Set off the alarms.  Students and parents everywhere are  desperately Waiting for Superman to come and save the day.  Oprah is shouting a wake up call to America.  The only good schools are charter schools.  Public schools are failing to educate our students.

But wait, students here seem to be doing well.  Parent surveys show high levels of satisfaction with this school, and the district.  The school just earned an excellent rating from the Ohio Department of Education.  So what is the truth about the status of education today?

I know, let's do like they did in the movie and talk to some students.

Logan was a student here in Reading Workshop four years ago.  He didn't like school, and he had to work hard, but managed to get through with a lot of effort.  This year he enrolled in the carpentry program at the local vocational school.  He is excited about learning a trade, and the fact that he can learn something that really interests him.

Colby is a senior this year.  His grades are good and he plans to attend Hocking College in Police Science.  He wants to be a patrolman.

Julie was here last week as a substitute teacher.  She was a student here eleven years ago.  She has graduated from college and is certified to teach primary.  She enjoyed her day here and hopes to have the opportunity to be hired as a teacher.

Rebekha graduated last year.  She is attending Ohio Dominican University and plays softball there.  Her younger sister, Rhianna is a currently a student here.  You can read more on their story on Rhianna's blog.

Sara is currently a student at Laurelville.  She has videotaped her first movie.  She is writing daily, and sharing her thoughts on her blog, Sara's Secrets.  She is the third of four sisters to excel at Logan Elm.

Now I am really confused.  Everywhere that Davis Guggenheim looks, he sees failure.  The five students he chose for his movie have tragic stories.  I'll bet he is coming here to film Superman II just to be fair and show both sides of the story.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

These Kids Today

Ashlee walked to school today.  For a lot of students that is not such a big deal, but Ashlee lives 2 1/2 miles away.  This eleven year old walked along a busy state highway, with no sidewalk.  She was a little late, red faced, and slightly out of breath, but she made it.  

For some reason, the bus stopped a couple minutes early today.  She wasn't there, so it left without her.  Two minutes later, Ashlee starting watching for the bus.  After 20 minutes of waiting, with both parents at work, and no one to call, that is when Ashlee decided to walk to school.   This may not have been the best decision, but it showed a determination to get to school.

I started thinking about all the comments we hear about kids.  Things like, kids today don't have the work ethic . . .these kids today just don't . . .  and all kids want to do is play video games or kids just don't care about . . .

The people who make negative comments about today's students are comparing a slower paced less challenging time with today's high speed world.  They are missing the fact that success today looks different than in the past.   In school, the expectations for students in this test-driven time is stressful and often stymies creativity, but students persevere.

These people are so wrong about these kids today.  They are not in a classroom to watch kids day after day give their all until they succeed.  Students today are smart.  They are creative.   They think critically.  They have the courage to question.  And as Ashlee showed, they have the ability and determination to solve problems.

I think the next time I hear someone talk about these kids today, I will ask what he accomplished by the time he was eleven.  The students in Reading Workshop write and publish blogs that are read worldwide. I think that says a lot about these kids today.

Image from http://www.lightrailnow.org/images/pedcrossing-sign-cameo.jpg

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why This Inner Voice Thing is So Important

We just discussed the Queen of Fake Reading, and no one wants to be her.  In fact, everyone knows that I am talking about someone else.  Surely no one can be like that, can they?  Does anyone really do that?  YES, a lot of students (and teachers) fake read.

Fake reading usually takes place when the inner voice volume button is on mute.  In other words, the reader is not listening to his inner voice.  Usually the reader just skims the page, not focusing on the ideas, or trying to relate to them.  There are no connections to prior knowledge, people, problems, or places.

The inner voice is what gives words their meaning.  Knowing the definition of words doesn't mean the reader understands the text.   Meaning comes from the relationship between the words on the page and the reader.  The inner voice controls and drives that relationship.

To better use your inner voice, and understand what you read you can:
1.  Stop reading and think
2.  Pause at the end of the page
3.  Question what might happen next
4.  Compare what the character does, to what you would do
5.  Slow down
6.  Compare the setting to some place you know
7.  Reread if you suddenly realize you don't know what you just read
8.  Make a prediction
9.  Read slower 
10.If some of this list sounds like it is repeated, thank your inner voice for paying attention.

Students, what advise do you have to help readers hear their inner voice?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Queen of Fake Reading

Almost every day she goes to the book room during SSR.  She "just finished" reading her book.  If there are 30 minutes of reading time, she will spend 24 of them searching for just the right book.  After all, she wouldn't want to waste her fake reading time on a book that wasn't the best.

She can read a 200 page book in just a day or two.  In fact, she could make a speed reader look like he was in first grade.  And she understands the book.  She can tell you everything in the blurb.  Whenever a teacher corners her and wants to know more details, she has a ready list of excuses, and then wants to go back to the book room to get a new book.

Unfortunately, this year has been a bad start for the Queen of Fake Reading.  In Reading Workshop, she is expected to understand the book and the characters.  She must use specific details to support her thoughts.  She has to compare specific aspects of the book with her life.  She has to discuss the setting and problems intelligently with references to the story to support her points.

My oh my, what will the Queen do?  She has this fake reading thing down to a science.  She is the master.  BUT, she is in a foreign country where fake reading doesn't work.  Stay tuned for further updates as we see how the Queen of Fake Reading responds to the challenges of Reading Workshop.


Image from http://www.fillmoregazette.com/files/imagecache/640wide/files/Childrens-Reading-Recess-Queen.jpg

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Students Share "Why I Read"

In this video, students in Reading Workshop share their thoughts about "Why I Read."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hey Readers, Catch Your Brain in the Act

Your brain is a sneaky thing.  The whole time you are reading it is thinking things without you telling it to.  It sneaks around making connections to your past.  It compares the problems in the book to situations from your life.  It takes the characters and  examines them and matches them with people you know.  And it does it without your permission.  In fact, you can't even stop your brain if you try.  This inner voice has a mind of its own. 

The process of reading is when a person reads text and their inner voice makes connections between the meaning of the words, and relates it to their life and prior knowledge. The more closely the reader connects to the text, the higher the level of comprehension.  So, the key to being a good reader is learning to hear and control that inner voice.  What is it telling you?  How does it relate to the book?

At times connecting is simple. At others, especially when the text is not in an area that the reader has background knowledge, comprehension is difficult. As students build their ability to connect with text, monitor their understanding of a passage, and compare it to things they already know, their ability to understand what they read increases.

Do you want to be a better reader?  Get control of your brain.  Listen to your inner voice.  You are the boss of your brain.  Take charge of it when you read.
 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Do You Read?

The biggest reason I read is because I can't not read.  It is totally impossible. Books, magazines, newspapers, and online more and more,  but I never stop reading.  Sometimes it is because I want to know.  Other times I am curious.  I read the paper every morning with breakfast just to see what is going on in the world.

Reading for enjoyment and entertainment started in fifth grade.  I have been hooked on books ever since.  Traveling away into a story in another place, as a different person, in a different time keeps me reading.  I love to live out the story in my mind.

As a teacher, I read to learn.  Every day there are ideas from other teachers, and reading about them makes me think about Reading Workshop and how I teach.  It is the main tool I use to improve and grow.

Take a look at these people and consider how they compare to you and why you read.




What about it?  Why do you read?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do Students Feel the Glee?

As I sat watching the rerun of the Glee season finale from last year, it reminded me of the reason that matters most when teachers walk through the classroom door. Teachers want to make a difference. 

When we get on a student about not giving his best, it comes from seeing the gap between potential and performance.  We know that success comes from working hard, and never giving up.

When a student disrupts class and we discipline him, it's because we know it distracts others, and keeps them from learning.  We know students must be able to concentrate for learning to take place.

Watching the Glee Club students relate their successes, even knowing it was just a TV show, made me think about Reading Workshop this year.  When students leave, I wonder how many will have a story to tell.  I hope they recognize their potential, and work to reach it.  Then I will be the one singing about a great year.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reading Rambunctiously

Put some life into your reading.  Make the words and the voices scream out.  Don't just read it, live it.  If the beautiful princess and the ugly frog have the same voice, you are not getting it.

When you sing a song, you listen to the music and your brain automatically tells you when and what to sing.  Reading should be similar.  As you read the words, your brain should be seeing a picture, hearing the sounds, making connections to what you already know, and comparing the story to them.

All of this starts with hearing the characters' voices.  So practice reading rambunctiously.  Read as if giving a performance.  Be a beautiful princess (good luck boys) and then switch to an ugly, little frog.

Rambunctious--energetic, boisterous, lively


The Frog Prince
Edith H. Tarcov version

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. She had a golden ball, and it was her favorite plaything. She took it wherever she went. One day the princess was playing in the woods, near a well. She thew her ball high into the air. It fell-splash-into the well. The princess watched her golden ball sink deep into the water of the well, and she began to cry. She cried harder and harder.

Suddenly someone said, ''What is the matter, princess? Why are you making so much noise?" The princess looked around. She looked into the well.

An ugly little frog was looking up at her. The frog asked again, "what is the matter, princess?"

"Oh, it's you old water splasher," the princess said. "My golden ball had fallen into the well. That is why I am crying."
 
You can read more on The Reading Workshop wiki at The Frog Prince.

Image from http://i.ytimg.com/vi/DP1DptN-_7M/0.jpg

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why You Need to Live the Book

Good readers are one with the book.  They know the characters, strive to understand them and relate to them.  They picture the setting, comparing it to places they know.  They smell the aromas, living them like passing a bakery in the early morning.  They hear sounds, from the softest whispers to the loudest screeches.  

Thinking, wondering, questioning, disbelieving, and doubting occur continually as good readers go page to page.  Why did that happen?  What is coming next? Question after question drives an interaction that controls comprehension.  Connections with the story build with the plot.  Interest in the story grows with each question, both the answered and the unanswered.

The bottom line--get your brain involved.  Think about what you are reading.  Get your senses involved.  See, hear, and smell.  Live the book and get all you can get out it, and it will give you back a great story.

So Reading Workshop students, as you read today, were you involved?

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/vblibrary/4626893025/sizes/o/

Thursday, September 2, 2010

C'mon Bored Boy, Reading Should be Fun

He was looking at the ceiling.  He was looking at the girl beside him.  His head rolled around and then settled on his pencil.  He poked his paper.  The girl beside him asked him to stop, so then he bugged her.  He glanced at his book, turned the page, and then looked around the room.  He turned another page, and then looked around the room.  And this was just in the first five minutes of SSR (Sustained Silent Reading).

After watching this for the last 4 days, I couldn't take it any more.  I took him out in the book room so we could talk.

Me:  Are you getting your book?
Student:  Uhhhhh, not really.
Me:  Let me guess.  You never really get the book you are reading, so you hate to read because it is so boring.
Student:  Well, yeah.
Me:  And this has been going on ever since you learned to read?
Student:  Yes

Here's the message to all students in Reading Workshop

Reading should be fun.  Reading should be exciting.  Reading should be a story in your mind where you can't wait to see what happens next.  If it is not this way, here is what you should do:

1.  Get a different book
2.  Try an easier book
3.  Try a different author
4.  Try a different genre
5.  Ask a friend for a recommendation
6.  Ask me for a good book
7.  Pay attention to when you stop getting a picture
8.  Reread, a page, a chapter, or the whole book until you get a picture.

Reading should be fun.  Reading should be exciting.  If you hate it, then talk to me about what is going on with your reading.  You will be reading a lot this year.  Find a good book that makes you smile, excited, happy, sad, mad, scared . . .  There are a lot of great books.  Find one!

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/27117655@N07/4448376213/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nothing Like a Blog to Get Them Working

Walk into the Reading Workshop classroom and it is so quiet.  Students are intensely focused on their screens.  About the only sound is the pecking on keyboards.  Occasionally someone will ask a peer for help, which is quickly given because the helper wants to get back to their post.  At times, students will skim through their book, looking for correct spelling, or a detail that will support a point. 

Students created their blog the first week of school.  A lot of the second week was spent learning the basics of Wordpress and blogging.  As students begin posting, once again the value of integrating technology into the curriculum shows.  Discipline isn't an issue.  Everyone wants to get a post written so their peers can read it and comment on it.

Fake reading during SSR is limited.  Let's face it, if you know all of your peers are going to read what you write, you better make sense.  And how can you write about a book if you haven't read it and/or don't understand it?

Technology contributes in many ways to the success of students in Reading Workshop.  The greatest benefit though is motivation.  Students are working, doing their best to produce a great blog.  And with the way they are working, I have no doubt they will succeed.

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!