Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Write Right!

As published writers, students in Reading Workshop must recognize the importance of writing well.   Grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills still tend to trip up many writers. We have stressed PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling) on a daily basis. Part of the challenge for learning writers is recognizing just how much of an impact mistakes have on the reader. 

This video makes it quite clear the problems with poor writing, whether from errors, negative tone, or using slang and abbreviations.  Often times, we teach the how, and not the why. Occasionally, something comes along that really points out the reason most of us take writing correctly so seriously.

With permission from Sister Salad, this edited version of their video, "Yo Comments Are Wack!" points out the disastrous commenting seen on the web and in a humorous way explains why writing well matters.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reading Strategies, Making Predictions

Effective readers use pictures, titles, headings, and text—as well as personal experiences—to make predictions before they begin to read and as they are reading. They think ahead while reading and anticipate what will happen in the text. 

After making predictions, they read the text, decide if they were right or not, and make new predictions.  The process of reading should be a continual and repeated process of predict and confirm.

Making predictions often is based on asking questions. Students must wonder, examine, doubt, and inquire as they read.



Examples of starts of predictions might include:

This problem . . .
In the end, she will. . .
I wonder what will happen when . . .
He has to . . .
That character will . . .
She will solve the problem by . . .
They are going to . . .
I think __________ will be the one to . . . 
Surely they are going to . . .
Next, the author will . . .
If I was there I wonder what . . .


Students, as you listened to the start of Watchers Rewind today during read aloud, what predictions did you have?  What will happen to Lianna, Ripley, and Adam?  What part in the story will the Watchers play?

Image from http://img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n6/n30544.jpg

Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Call for Superman from Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

These Kids Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why This Inner Voice Thing is So Important

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Queen of Fake Reading

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Students Share "Why I Read"

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hey Readers, Catch Your Brain in the Act

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Do You Read?

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

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

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

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




What about it?  Why do you read?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do Students Feel the Glee?

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

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

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

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



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reading Rambunctiously

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

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

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

Rambunctious--energetic, boisterous, lively


The Frog Prince
Edith H. Tarcov version

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why You Need to Live the Book

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 2, 2010

C'mon Bored Boy, Reading Should be Fun

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

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

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

Here's the message to all students in Reading Workshop

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nothing Like a Blog to Get Them Working

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Super Teacher, EEEERRRR Maybe Not

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

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

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

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

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

Image Inside Out Shirt courtesy of donnyb.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Motivation to Succeed

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





Do you have the will to succeed?

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome to Sixth Grade

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from corrections.ky.gov

Thursday, May 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Schwa Was Here Book Talk

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



Thursday, May 13, 2010

Does Integrity Matter to a Sixth Grader?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What's Your Story?

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing a Fictional Narrative

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

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

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

Start Here

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

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

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

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

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

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


And now, WRITE!

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.