Thursday, March 25, 2010

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/alwayscurious/85210566/sizes/s/

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/joellecleveland/2581227771/sizes/s/

    Spy X, The Code Book Talk

    This book talk by Micah features book one in an adventure series.  Find out about Spy X, The Code by Peter Lerangis.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.



    Thanks for sharing an exciting series of books, Micah!

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    What Words Students Don't Know--Achievement Vocabulary

    Students frequently miss questions during an assessment simply because they don't understand the question.  Use of unusual or uncommon words is a common practice on the Ohio Achievement Assessment.  In addition, simple requests are often worded in a way that create confusion for the test takers.

    To overcome this barrier, students went through the OAA 2006 test booklet that they just used as a practice test and highlighted all of the words in the questions that they didn't understand.  Once we compile this list, I will compare it to the vocabulary list from The Reading Workshop Achievement Vocabulary Page.  Also, I will use to to look for specific vocabulary and word attack needs.
    • 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.
    In one class, students averaged not knowing 6.75 words.  This would obviously lead to many missed questions.  We will spend the next few days working on word attack skills, looking for root words, prefixes and suffixes, and context clues, and we will spend the next few weeks improving vocabulary specific to achievement test questions.  This will allow students to show their ability on the 2010 OAA.
    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/missnita/471669682/sizes/s/

    Students' View on Achievement Test Practice

    Students took the 2006 edition of the Ohio Achievement Assessment.  This serves several purposed including a practice run-through, data regarding students' ability, projection data, areas of strengths and weaknesses, and specific needs prior to the actual test in April.

    Here are a few of the students' thoughts, ideas, and opinions shared from a discussion after the test.

    Cody--It is confusing.  Some of the questions are confusing because I wasn't sure what they were asking.
    Joanna--I didn't like how a lot of the stories were nonfiction because they were harder to understand.
    Karly--I would rather have poetry than nonfiction.  Poetry is easier to understand.
    Kater--I wasn't sure how to put my thoughts into words on the extended response questions.
    Hannah Hop--The test was frustrating.  I had to keep going back to the passage to find the answers.
    Justin G.--The passages and the test were too long.
    Joanna--Some of the words were hard and made it hard to understand.
    Karly--Yeah, I didn't know some of the words and couldn't figure them out.
    Brandon C.--The extended responses were hard and I need more practice so I can do them.
    Hannah Hop.--The extended response questions made me mad, because they were so much harder to understand.
    Branden M.--The extended response would mention something in the essay, and then say something else, then I would have to read the question again, because I forgot what it was asking.
    Andrew--Some of the multiple choice answers didn't go with the passage.
    Joanna--It took forever for the question to compare stuff from two passages because I couldn't find it.
    Kater--On the multiple choice, if I didn't know the answer right off, I had to go back to the passage and check each answer to find the right one.
    Hannah Hop--What are we supposed to do on the extended response if we have no clue what to answer?
    Hannah Hop--It is very hard going back and forth.  The passages should be on one page and the questions and where you answer should be together.
    Kater--The passages, questions, and answer sheet should all be separate.
    Kennedy--It was pretty easy really.
    Cierra--I got a headache when I was sitting there trying to take the test.
    Alysha--I tried really hard and it took a long time.
    Kennedy--Is the real test going to be twice as long? (Basically, except one test passage was omitted)
    Tyler S.--It was hard sitting there for two hours.
    Justin P.--I kept getting distracted.
    Hannah Har--We need more breaks.
    Kennedy--There were words I didn't know.
    Katie H--They had definitions to a lot of the words at the bottom of the page.
    Heather--It seemed like I was being rushed.  I was afraid I wouldn't get done.
    Katie H--If there is one more passage, I don't know if I can get it done in time.
    Hadley--It made me really tired.
    Makayla--Some of the questions were very confusing.  Most of the words were ones I didn't know.
    Savannah--There were a lot of extended responses.
    Madison--Some of the things were like what I had done before on Study Island.
    Hadley--I didn't like having it in the morning.
    R.J.--The word bank confused me because they gave more than one meaning for the word.  I would think I knew the answer, but then I looked at the definition and I wasn't sure.
    Ian--The two frog jumping passages were confusing because they jumped back and forth and you didn't know which one they meant.
    Caleb--Some of the passages were long, and that made them harder.
    Hannah C--The cause and effect question was hard because I hadn't done any in a while.
    Hadley--Students would do better if the passages were more interesting.  If they are not interesting, kids won't do as well because they just won't care as much.
    Madison--Taking the test in the morning made us brain dead the rest of the day.



    I Am the Wallpaper Book Talk

    This book talk by Cierra features the realistic fiction, I am the Wallpaper written by Mark Peter Hughes.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.



    Great job to Cierra for her enthusiastic presentation!

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Why Test Prep is Like Running into a Brick Wall

    Boy are students in Reading Workshop about to be surprised.  They may not be crash dummies, but they are headed for a wreck.  After six months of reading and writing, of discussion and learning, of  thinking and blogging, things are about to change.  Woohoo, it is time to get ready for the Ohio Achievement Assessment (this used to be the OAT until they decided we needed a new acronym).

    Let's see, we start with pull out for intervention.  Then we add pull out for test taking skills.  Next is pull out students with IEP's so they know what they have to do for the test.  Then, it is my turn to go to the office and run off about 73,000 copies of old test passages about engaging stuff like what makes a dummy crash, with thought-provoking questions for students to answer.

    Don't get me wrong.  I think I believe that the test is important.  When I go to grade level meetings next year, they will determine if I am a hero, or a zero.  Students will be placed in seventh grade based on the ability  they show on the test.  So they must do well.  Our school will be evaluated based on students showing they are better test takers than last year. So obviously the test is important.

    Why will students feel like they hit a wall next week?  Stay tuned as we discover the answers to these questions and find out why dummies keep running into brick walls, or something like that.

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jodigreen/1674032402/sizes/s/

    Gotta Keep Reading

    Ocoee Middle School celebrates reading with this video based on the Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling in Chicago where thousands do the Flash Mob dance on the Oprah show.  Enjoy the celebration of Gotta Keep Reading.



    Reading Workshop students, what does reading mean to you? Have your feelings about reading changed this year? Have you found books that make you want to read more? Tell me about you as a reader.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Why Their Matters

    Recently, a local newspaper published an announcement about help with homework for students.  However, in their listing, someone obviously needed to proofread.  I really don't know about ACTS, but I can't help but be slightly concerned about the quality of help that students will receive.

    Obviously, someone is making a lot of effort to help the youth in their community.  And maybe I am just being a picky language arts teacher.  Maybe I have screamed so much about PUGS this year, that I just cannot let it go.  However, if you are going to publish anything, and especially if it has to do with students, it must be right.

    No one is perfect.  In fact, I missed an editing mistake on the first draft of this post (I know that shocks my students.).  However, published works should be correct.  And homework helpers probably should know which their/there to use when they color do a craft (see the end of ad if this does not make sense).

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Notes from the Dog Book Talk

    The Reading Workshop presents another book talk.  Justin shares Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen. To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.




    Good job Justin!

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Student Blog Project Rubric

    The students in Reading Workshop just completed an interdisciplinary project for social studies and language arts.  They had to research and write a blog post about an ancient Egyptian or Mesopotamian leader. 

    We discussed grading and this is the rubric students created.

    A  Follows guidelines
        Interesting/draws in the reader
        Writing has a sense of style
        Provides background information that is on topic and correct
        Provides several supporting details
        Correct PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
        Cites sources and does not plagiarize

    B  Follows guidelines
        Provides background information that is on topic and correct
        Provides several supporting details
        Correct PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
        Cites sources and does not plagiarize

    C  Follows guidelines
        Provides a few pieces of background information that are on topic & correct
        Few supporting details
        Two - Four mistakes with PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
        Cite sources and does not plagiarize

    D  Does not follow guidelines
        Provide little background information that is on topic and correct
        Few supporting details
        Errors with PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
        Does not Cite all sources

    F  Plagiarizes
        Little sign of effort
        Not posting on blog


    These are the project guidelines:

    1. Introduction explaining project
    Help the readers understand what the post is about/the focus

    2. Identify person and civilization (river)
    Give background information about civilization
    (Several important facts that explain the civilization)

    3. Explain the impact on development of civilization
    Include details supporting what you see as the impact
    (Should have 2 – 3 details that explain what the impact was and how it effected civilization)

    Schooled Book Talk

    The Reading Workshop presents another book talk, this one by Katie that is from a great Gordon Kormon book, Schooled from the realistic fiction genre. To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.



    Thank you Katie!

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Harry Potter Book Talk

    The Reading Workshop presents another book talk, this one by Kasi for all of the fantasy fans, and especially those that love Harry Potter.  To see all of the book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.



    Great job, Kasi!

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Ella Enchanted Book Talk

    Beth shares a book talk for all of you fantasy lovers. Watch as she describes Ella Enchanted written by Gail Carson Levine. To see all of the Reading Workshop book talk videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.



    If you enjoy fantasy, fly into Beth's recommended book, Ella Enchanted.

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Hey Kathy Schrock, How About Share and Share Alike?

    Recently a site linked to my Student Blog Rubric.  I am always pleased when someone finds something of value on this blog.  In fact, one of the greatest benefits of blogging is the sharing of ideas and opinions among bloggers. All items on this blog, The Reading Workshop are licensed through Creative Commons.  This allows anyone to use anything of value with attribution.

    I was  shocked by Discovery Education and the fact of how they limit use. I can't help but wonder how they can post a link to my site and so many others, for all to use, but at the bottom of their site they state:

    ©1995-2010 Kathleen Schrock. All rights reserved.

    And the terms of use state:
    V. USE OF MATERIALS
    Except your own User Submissions, the materials available to you through Discovery Education Media Share are the property of Discovery or its licensors, or of other users of Discovery Education Media Share, and are protected by copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws. You are free to display and print for your personal, non-commercial use information you receive through Discovery Education Media Share. But you may not otherwise reproduce any of the materials without the prior written consent of the owner. You may not distribute copies of materials found on Discovery Education Media Share in any form...

    Probably the easiest thing for them to do is just blow me away, never link again, and pretend I don't exist.  However, the just thing to do would be to share and share alike.

    So there is no misunderstanding, please feel free to use anything you find of value on this site.  I would appreciate attribution.  Please see the link below to answer any questions.

    This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons License.

    Travel Team Book Talk

    If you are a sports fan, this book talk shares a book you might really enjoy.  Jake is discussing Travel Team written by Mike Lupica.  This is the latest in the series of book talks by students in The Reading Workshop.  To see all of the videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.




    Thanks Jake for sharing a book with a great story!

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Chasing Yesterday, Awakening Book Talk

    Students in The Reading Workshop are continuing to share their book talks.  To see all of the videos, you can visit The Reading Workshop Book Talk Wiki page.

    In this video, Madison shares one of the most exciting books ever written, Chasing Yesterday, Awakening written by Robin Wasserman.




    This three book series is filled with adventure. Thanks for sharing Madison!

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    We Need Jesse Stuart, Right Here, Right Now

    I was reading The Thread That Runs So True again recently.  As I read this novel, a couple of Jesse Stuart's thoughts hit home.  He discussed the inequalities of education in eastern Kentucky in the early 20th century.  As a teacher in a district dealing with a building levy failure, and facing the challenge of getting an income tax levy passed again, I couldn't help but wonder how we could have come so far, but have so far to go.

    In this autobiography, Jesse Stuart tells of his life as a school teacher in rural Kentucky in the 1930-40's. The book focuses on his efforts to make positive changes in education and the  influence good teachers can have on their students. Many of the stories are funny, others a little sad as he tells of the challenges his students face to become educated.

    He states:
    I couldn't understand why a child born in the city or town should have a better education than a child born among the valleys or on the hills.  Why shouldn't a boy at Sassafras, Kentucky be as well educated as a boy in Boston or Manhattan?  It seems to me, the democratic public school system needed some democratic reforms. 

    As I read this, I thought about the 100 year old building that my students come in to every day.  The one where they walk down three flights of stairs to the basement to go to the bathroom.  Where the floor in the gym has broken tiles and waves like the ocean on a breezy day.  While in every surrounding district, in every direction, student go to school in brand new buildings, with large rooms, and every convenience.

    Stuart also says:
    I love the state of Ohio because the people move.  They do things.  They don't wait.  They believe in progress.  And at this time it was debatable whether Ohio or California rated tops in the nation's schools.

    I love teaching at Laurelville. The teachers I work with are unbelievably dedicated.  The staff wants to be here. And the students are absolutely the best.  They work hard and achieve with amazing success.  

    But, after reading Jesse Stuart's stories from 70, 80, and even 90 years ago, I can't help but wonder, where is the equality in education?  Why do students all over the state and the country have new buildings?  Why do students in so many other schools have the latest technologies?  Do the students of Laurelville deserve any less?

    Dairy Queen Book Talk

    In dramatic fashion, Hadley shares her thoughts about one of The Reading Workshop's favorite books this year.

    Enjoy her book talk about Dairy Queen written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.



    Thank you for the exciting book talk of a great read Hadley!

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Takeoffs and Landings Book Talk

    Students in The Reading Workshop are continuing to learn and progress with their efforts of sharing their video taped book talks.  Our hope is to build a video library that students can browse as they search for a book to read.   

    In this video, Hannah Hop shares one of her favorites Takeoffs and Landings by Haddix.





    Thanks for sharing a great book Hannah!

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Student Book Talks Become Part of The Reading Workshop

    Students at The Reading Workshop are going to begin recording book talks whenever they read something that they want to recommend to their peers.  Hannah was courageous enough to volunteer to be the first to have her video posted online.  The videos will be hosted at Schooltube.

    In this book talk, Hannah shares Found written by Margaret Peterson Haddix.




    Great job Hannah!

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Reading Strategies, Using Prior Knowledge Part 2

    Yesterday's class focused on Using Prior Knowledge to help students read and understand their SSR book.  Today in Reading Workshop, we will look at how this skill appears when reading nonfiction.

    Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. As you are reading, think of connections to the text from your experiences and background knowledge.

    This article is from MSNBC/Washington Post.

    This winter's extreme weather — with heavy snowfall in some places and unusually low temperatures — is in fact a sign of how climate change disrupts long-standing patterns, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation.


    Read the entire article here.

    As you are reading, list facts/information that you know that enables you to comprehend this article.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    Reading Strategies, Using Prior Knowledge

    Imagine picking up a book written in French.  How much would you understand?  How about the same book in English?  Even if there are parts you don't understand, you could get the gist.  This is because you know enough of the words to help you comprehend.

    What you know is a key to understanding as you read.  Using background knowledge, or your experiences, help make connections to the text, and then comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know.

    As you are reading, think of connections from your experience to the text. This is the foundation, that will help you understand new facts, ideas, settings, and characters. As good readers read, they think about what they are reading and consider how it fits with what they already know.

    New facts or information only makes sense when we connect it to what we already know. Using prior knowledge helps make sense of the text.

    As you read today in Reading Workshop, consider what you already know that helps you understand your book.  What facts and information (prior knowledge) are you using to understand the text?
    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdnsue/230444671/sizes/s/

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Reading Strategies, Connect with Your Book

    Good readers constantly make connections. As they read each paragraph, each page, each chapter, they relate it to their life.

    Making connections to things the reader already knows helps understand what they are reading and relate to the characters and events more deeply. The purpose of connecting with text is to help use what the reader already knows to understand new information.

    Here are the start to connections.

    Text-to-self:
    This is similar to my life . . .
    This is different from my life . . .
    Something like this happened to me when . . .
    This reminds me of . . .
    This relates to me . . .
    When I read this I felt . . .

    Text-to-text:
    This reminds me of another book I’ve read . . .
    This is similar to another thing I read . . .
    This different from another book I read . . .
    This character is similar/different to  another character  . . .
    This setting is similar/different to an other setting . . .
    This problem is similar/different to the problem in  . . .

    Text-to-world:
    This reminds me of the real world . . .
    This book is similar to things that happen in the real world  . . .
    This book is different from things that happen in the real world . . .

    Students, as you read today, what connections did you have?

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/pfala/3368846439/sizes/s/

    A Wimpy Movie Coming Out

    On April 2, 2010 the movie based on Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid will open.  For all of the students in Reading Workshop that have read the series, this should be a funny and exciting show as Greg faces all of the challenges of middle school and growing up.


    Monday, January 25, 2010

    Reading Strategies, Ask Questions for Comprehension

    Good readers must get inside the book.  For comprehension to occur, several reading strategies must take place simultaneously.  Students must connect with the book--the characters and the setting.

    The reader must visualize, picturing events as they happen.  Predictions must be made, evaluated, revised, and then renewed.  Prior knowledge must be related and compared.  Students must constantly question the story, the characters, and the events.  When all of this happens at once, usually without the reader consciously thinking about it, comprehension happens.

    One skill that is particularly important is asking questions.  Students must wonder, examine, doubt, and inquire as they read.

    Examples of starts of questions might include:

    How will the problem . . .
    Why did she . . .
    I wonder what will happen when . . .
    Does this look like  . . .
    Why did that character  . . .
    How will she solve  . . .
    Where are they going to  . . .
    Who will be the one to  . . .
    Why did the author . . .
    Why didn't he  . . .
    If I was there I wonder  . . .

    Students, as you read today, what questions did you have?

    Dreams for Your Future


    This school year is half over/still half to go.  As the new semester begins, take a minute to think about your goals.  This poem, Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes describes facing the challenges to a greater life. 

    Well, son, I'll tell you:
    Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
    It's had tacks in it,
    And splinters,
    And boards torn up,
    And places with no carpet on the floor --
    Bare.
    But all the time
    I'se been a-climbin' on,
    And reachin' landin's,
    And turnin' corners,
    And sometimes goin' in the dark
    Where there ain't been no light.
    So boy, don't you turn back.
    Don't you set down on the steps
    'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
    Don't you fall now --
    For I'se still goin', honey,
    I'se still climbin',
    And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

    What hopes and dreams does your family have for you? What challenges are ahead of you (stairs to climb)?  What do your parents want to see you accomplish?  How do they picture a better life for you?  Do they see your life ahead half full or half empty?  What successes do they hope for in your future?

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/renatela/265244280/sizes/s/

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Student Blog Rubric

    As the grading period ends, Student blogs must be assessed.  For those striving for excellence, here is the expectation.


    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 readers' 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

    The rest of the rubric can be found at The Reading Workshop Blog Rubric.

    For examples of students' blogs that earned a 4, check out these sites:
    Hannah's Hideout
    Hadley's Planet
    Ian's Corner
    Bethanie's Word
    Hannah's Hangout
    Katey's Corner
    Kaitlyn's Cave

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Tell the Story of Your Street

    Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.”  Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of a path sometimes traveled.

    The best poems draw us in and make us part of them.  Images bring us into the author's world.  Write a poem that tells the story of your street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.

    Thanks to Eye of Amoeba for a link to the University of Chicago's Essay Questions.
    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/therefore/27861465/sizes/s/

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Blogging for Teachers Made Easy

    Roberta Caudill and I had the opportunity to share our blogs and some blogging basics at the Logan Elm Schools waiver day.   Here are some ideas and a few links to help the beginning blogger.

    This video by Lee LeFever of Common Craft explains what a blog is, and how it works.






    Getting a blog is easy.  All you need is an email address. You can sign up at  Blogger, Wordpress, or Edublogs.  Blogger and Wordpress are free.  Edublogs is free but has ads on it. All are fairly easy to use and have similar features.  One disadvantage of Blogger  is on the top of each page there is a Next Blog link which will sometimes take you to inappropriate sites for a school blog.  You can disable this using HTML code in the layout.

    Pictures make a blog much more attractive, draw in the readers, and frequently help make a point.  Three excellent sources for pictures that have Creative Commons License (which makes them legal to use on your blog) are Pics 4 Learning, Wikipedia Commons, Compfight Images.

    I prefer Compfight Images because it uses the library from Flikr, but has a filter that keeps the pictures student safe.  You can also choose the picture size.  I prefer the small size--usually around 200 x 200 pixels.   Just save them to your computer (right click and then save as).  Then, click on the image button on the new post tool bar, and upload to your blog.  Be sure to give credit to the photographer.


    Whether a blog is used as a means to communicate with parents, as part of instruction, or to improve students' writing skills they are a valuable tool for all teachers.

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelinlibrarian/223839049/sizes/s/

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Poetry for Self-exploration and a Special Kind of Fame

    Who are you?  Do you know yourself?  One of the greatest aspects of poetry is the way it helps the writer explore his/her thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  Feelings need to be understood and analyzed in order to express them.  This poem is an example of one author's ideas about being famous.

    Famous
    Naomi Shihab Nye

    The River is famous to the Fish

    The loud voice is famous to silence,
    which knew it would inherit the earth
    before anybody said so.

    The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
    watching him from the birdhouse.

    The tear is famous, briefly to the cheek.

    The idea you carry close to your bosom
    if famous to your bosom.

    The boot is famous to the earth,
    more famous than the dress shoe,
    which is famous only to floors.

    The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
    and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

    I want to be famous to shuffling men
    who smile while crossing streets,
    sticky children in grocery lines,
    famous as the one who smiled back.

    I want to be famous the way a pulley is famous,
    or a buttonhole,
    not because it did anything spectacular,
    but because it never forgot what it could do.

    What do you want to be known for?  In what way do you want to be famous?  Rewrite the last two stanzas to reflect your view on being famous.


    Start by thinking about 2 things:

    1.  I want to be known for . . .


    2.  I am going to show this by . . .
                         or
         The reader will see this by . . .

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tlk/2379992801/sizes/s/

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Poetry, Just Dig In

    Poems are built on ideas, experiences or emotions in a condensed form that makes the reader search for understanding.  The reader should slow down, think about each line and the words in it, and then reread and reconsider.

    However, to understand poetry the reader must not go gently, but should attack.  As we begin to spend time in Reading Workshop with poetry/word study, students must overcome their fears and dive into the language of poetry.  Whether it be as a reader, analyzing the work of others, or when revising their own work, students must go full speed ahead.  They need to take the advise given by Eve Merriam.


    How to Eat a Poem

    Don't be polite.
    Bite in.
    Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice
    that may run down your chin.
    It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

    You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
    or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

    For there is no core
    or stem
    or rind
    or pit
    or seed
    or skin
    to throw away.

    What is Merriam's point?  What about the poem makes you think that?  What thoughts do you have when tearing into her poem?

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/emdot/10362168/sizes/s/

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Poetry-worthy Topics

    As we begin to spend time in Reading Workshop on poetry, one of the first tasks is to list events  that merit consideration of the time and effort to put them into a poem.  Don't sell an idea short.  Use it if it is something that interests you, something you are passionate about, something that makes you smile, think, wonder, cry . . .

    Here are a few ideas from my break:

    Nuts and Bolts (Checks Mix)
    Teenage Daughters Driving
    Presents from My Students
    Bubba


    This poem was built from my struggles with helplessness as the parent of teenage daughters driving in bad weather.

    I sit in my chair,
    book unopened
    new snow outside my window
    sipping a cup of coffee
    waiting
    and waiting
    The ache in my stomach
    wishing for time to hurry
    while I anticipate the ring.
    "I made it.
    The roads aren't too bad."
    AAAhhhh
    Another episode in the life
    of the parent of a teenage driver.

    What topics fit you and your life?  What parts of your life do you want to put into poetry?

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/visualthinker/363932691/sizes/s/

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    What a Teacher Hopes for from a Student Blogger

    Hadley has written 45 posts since September 17.  Most students in Reading Workshop write one or two posts a week.  Hadley has averaged four posts a week.  She writes cleanly and in an engaging style that tells a great story, and sparks many questions.

    That's not the only thing that sets her apart.  She gets what matters.  Her posts share her thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  Posts often make the reader laugh and lots of times makes them smile. Her writing style draws in the reader. She posts regularly, writing in the evening after school, on weekends, and snow days.  She reads many of her peer's blogs, and comments on them.



    Here is an excerpt from the post A Gray/Brown/Non-white Christmas
     Q :I hate it! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! What do I hate?
    A: THERE IS NO SNOW ON THE GROUND!!!! :(
    I don’t get it. Do the snow Gods hate me? Was Elvis trying  to tell me something? I don’t know! I do know one thing, though; I WANT SNOW!

    Another example from Team Laurelville
    In the classroom, there are lots of places for good sportsmanship. Like when your worst enemy gets mentioned because he/she does a good deed, makes a great blog post, or when they get their named mentioned on The Reading Workshop, you should say “Great” or “I like the post” or something like that since they did a good job. Maybe since you did that to them, when you do something you’re proud of, they might treat you the same. The Golden Rule can work with more than just adult life!!


    For a great read, and an excellent example of what a student blog should look like, just visit Hadley's Planet.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    The Challenge of Writing Poetry

    Poetry is so hard to write.  It is so personal, and no matter whether you are 8 or 80, the difficulty is right there, staring you in the face.  My daughter, Megan is taking a poetry writing class as part of her post secondary class at Ohio University Lancaster.    She shares the challenge.

    Poems are Personal

    "Poems are personal," he said.
    As if I want to share,
    with fifteen people I don't know.

    I scribble things out
    because after two hours
    I've got nothing to share.
    No love stories, at least not with you.

    "Poems are personal."
    What's my story to you?
    Feelings are hard.
    To tell you would leave me bare.
    I can imagine me pouring out my heart,
    only to see your blank stare.

    So nice to meet you.
    You'll learn a lot,
    because "poems are personal."
    I'll have to give this some thought.

    Elementary rhymes,
    and childish themes.
    Poems aren't my style,
    or that's how it seems.

    As I sit here and write,
    with so little heart,
    this poem isn't personal,
    but it's definitely a start.

    As we start our focus on poetry in Reading Workshop, what are your thoughts?  Opinions?  Ideas?

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Partner Project with First Grade


    On December 18 the first grade students came to sixth grade for the afternoon. Each student partnered up with a sixth grader and worked together to write a poem to take home to the first graders' parents. The students co-wrote first drafts, read it aloud several times, and then published a final copy to take home.

    This is a great way for students in Reading Workshop to grow and learn.  They have the opportunity to be the teacher.  They used their skills to help younger students learn and be successful.  Not only did they help write a message to the younger students' parents, but they also taught the art of writing meaningful free verse poetry.

    There were smiles all around, and a lot of hard work put into the afternoon project.  Students from both grades benefited and learned from the experience.



     
    To see more pictures, you can visit the Reading Workshop Wikipage or go directly to the pictures at Christmas Poems with the First Grade.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Let it Snow


    Today is the first day back from winter break.  Well, today was supposed to be the first day back.  Instead, we get one more day.  Fourteen degrees out and snowing hard, so school was canceled.

    Oh well, tomorrow is the first day back from winter break.

    As a trucker stops for a red light, a blonde catches up.  She jumps out of her car, runs up to his truck and knocks on the door.

    The trucker lowers the window and she says, "Hi, my name is Heather and you are losing some of your load."  The trucker ignores her and proceeds down the street.

    When the truck stops for another red light, the blonde catches up again.  She jumps out of her car, runs up and knocks on the door.  Again the trucker lowers the window.  As if they've never spoken, the blonde says brightly, "Hi, my name is Heather, and you are losing some of your load."

    Shaking his head, the trucker ignores her again and continues down the street.  At the third red light, the same thing happens again.  All out of breath, the blonde gets out of her car, runs up, and knocks on the truck door.  Again she says, "Hi, my name is Heather, and you are losing some of your load."

    When the light turns green, the trucker races to the next light.  When he stops this time he hurriedly gets out of his truck and runs back to the blonde.  He knocks on her window, and after she lowers it, he says.....

    "Hi, my name is Mark, it's winter and I'm driving  a salt truck!"

    Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/fhashemi/72545435/sizes/s/