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.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Superintendent Visits, Again

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Abduction Book Talk

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


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kingdom Keepers, Disney After Dark Book Talk

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

Responsibility, What's Your Policy?

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

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

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



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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why My Mom Made Me Read Doesn't Work

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

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

Student:  Yeah, I know:

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

Student:  Hee, hee, the second one.

Me:   Hhhhmmm!

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

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

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




Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stargirl Book Talk

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why Book Talks are the Perfect Assignment

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

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

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

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

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

Image from 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!