Friday, February 17, 2012

Teacher as the Student

Being a student is a lot easier than it used to be.  If class gets a little boring, you can just check your email, text someone, or surf the Internet.  It's also easier to not get bored because you can check out sites and information the teacher discusses.  At least, that's how it was for me this week when I was a student at the Etech (Ohio Educational Technology) Conference. 

In every session I attended, participants were on their laptop, IPad, or smart phone.  I did see one or two note takers with their legal pad, but they stuck out.  A lot of sessions were interactive and presenters made it a point to share links and involve attendees.  Sessions were obviously planned by the presenters to encourage the use of technology.

Admittedly, as a student, I haven't always been attentive and have been challenged with being a little too hyper to sit in class for very long.  One of my goals when I started teaching was to shut up, keep students busy, and let them learn through their own hard work.  I have always hated classes where the teacher stands in front of the class and talks and talks and talks and talks. 

I couldn't help but think about how different adults are treated than kids.  Maybe it's about having a captive audience with our students.  Imagine how involved they would be if everything they did was interactive.  Imagine how different teachers would be if their students could start texting or surfing the net when they got bored.  It might not be totally a good thing, but it would sure liven up some classes.

The best part of an opportunity like the Etech Conference is the chance to hear about what other teachers are doing and what is working in their classes.  This year's conference had a lot of excellent sessions and ideas for the classroom.  I am anxious to try them in the Reading Workshop classes.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jim Basketball Jones Says . . .

Students were treated to an excellent message during an assembly today.  Jim Basketball Jones focused on applying kindness and care to everyone around you. He encouraged students to look for the good in classmates and to have each others' backs.

In addition, he performed an array of basketball tricks that excited the school, and kept everyone engaged.  His ability to spin and juggle basketballs amazed everyone present. 

Jones pulled a lot of students up to the front to help with his demonstration and utilized them to help with his message of  becoming successful through hard work, responsibility, and making good choices.

According to Jim Basketball Jones Website:

In first grade, Jim Jones was diagnosed with dyslexia. Jim’s struggles were so great that he immediately found himself placed in a special education program. It would take Jim five years working with his tutors and speech therapists before he would make it into a regular classroom.

This adversity fundamentally shaped Jim’s view of the world, and provided him with many early life lessons about the good of accepting help from others, overcoming adversity, and learning to appreciate difference. These would later become the cornerstones of his career as a public speaker.

One of the main motivations in Jones's life was wanting to be like his brother, Mike.  This makes me wonder, what is your motivation?  What makes you like you are?  Who do you follow?  What did the assembly mean to you?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reading is . . .

How do your thoughts about reading compare to your classmates?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

If I was the Best

Image being the best.  Imagine having such an advantage that no one could compare.  Think about being so superior that three million people watched you perform on Youtube.  That is how it is for Mamadou Ndiaye'.

Imagine for a moment, Reading Workshop students, if you had an amazing ability.  And then take it even one step farther.  What if you had an amazing ability and it wasn't in sports.  What would your talent be?  And how would you impact the world?  Describe your success.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

If You're Happy and You Know It . . .

Some cause happiness wherever they go, others cause happiness whenever they go. Which one are you?

What are your thoughts about happiness?  When someone looks at you, do they think of you as a happy person?  How does being happy make your life better?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Step for Reading Nonfiction

Want an easy guide to reading difficult text.  Here are steps to follow.

1.  Skim the entire article FIRST
2.  Look at the title, headings, subheadings, and bold print
3.  Does the introduction give facts or just get the reader engaged?
4.  Visualize and make connections
5.  Stop and think. Ask yourself, “does this make sense?”
6.  Reread sentences, paragraphs, or the whole article to help you understand
7.  Focus, know when you don’t know
8.  Wonder, ask questions, predict and confirm
9.  Look for capitalization of names and other proper nouns
10. Find the W’s (who, what, when, where, why, and how)
11. Mark out and substitute hard words
12. Cross out words that don't matter
13. Highlight only the important parts (BIKINIS ONLY)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vocabulary Games

Want to play a little Pinball?  Check out these Pinball Vocabulary games from Ms. Amanda's 6th Grade Language Arts Class.

  • Red A1

  • Red A1 cont.

  • Red A1 cont.

  • Red A1 cont.

  • Red A13
  • Red B7
  • Red A4

  • Red A4

  • Red A13

  • Red A15

  • Red A5

  • Red B9

  • Red A15 Antonyms

  • Red B10 Antonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A15

  • Red B9

  • Red A15 Antonyms

  • Red B4 Antonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A15

  • Red A3

  • Red A15 Synonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A2

  • Red B9

  • Red A15 Synonyms

  • Red A4 Antonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A6
  • Red B1
  • Red A2

  • Red B9 Synonyms

  • Red A4 Synonyms

  • Red A5

  • Red A13

  • Red A3 Synonyms

  • Red B4 Synonyms

  • Red B9 Antonyms

  • Red B4 Synonyms

  • Red A13

  • Red B1

  • Red B8

  • Red B10

  • Red A3 Synonyms

  • Red B10 Synonyms

  • Red B9 Antonyms

  • Red B10 Synonyms

  • Red A13

  • Red B10

  • Red B8

  • Red A4

  • Red A3 Antonyms

  • Red B1 Synonyms

  • Red B9 Synonyms

  • Red B1 Synonyms

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Want to See What is Going on Here?

    There is nothing like a picture to show something soooooooooo  if you want to see a daily picture from The Reading Workshop, just check out  You can also check out the photos on Flickr.  If you have an Iphone, you can get on Instagram @jmcguire14 (you can download the free app) and see our daily photostream.  Unfortunately Instagram is like everything else Apple and you can't access it from a PC or Droid.

    Enjoy the pictures of our stars and more.  :)

    This is a Flickr badge showing items in a set called School 2012. Make your own badge here.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Are You Brave Enough to Dream?

    What do you want to do?  What do you want to be?  Do you have the guts to dream?  Do you have the courage to make it happen?

    Reading Workshop students, your assignment is to do a picture scrapbook on your blog of what your life will be in the future.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    When I was a Star

    I have been reading Guys Write for Guys Read, a collections of stories edited by Jon Scieszka.  These stories are from successful writers sharing their story of growing up trying to be a guy.  Some stories are funny, some not so.  Some stories are adventurous, others just make you think.  But almost all of the stories are interesting.

    One of my favorites is by Dan Gutman called Let's Go to the Videotape.  In this story, Gutman tells the tale of himself, the skinniest, most unathletic kid in his school playing kickball.  Through shear anger and luck he manages to kick a homerun and be a hero for the day.  This moment of glory has stuck with him throughout his lifetime.

    He says:

    But sometimes, when I'm lying in bed at night before I fall asleep, I roll this mental videotape I have of the time I kicked a basket in gym class. In my mind, I watch myself kick that basket over and over again.  

    I'll bet every kid has at least one of those moments in his life when he did something really, really great, something really unexpected.

    Close your eyes and think of that moment from time to time. Remember it just the way it happened.  Never let that video fade away. Someday, forty years from now, when you're lying in bed at night, you might want to replay it.

    What about it Reading Workshop students? Your assignment for today is to tell me of a time when you had a great moment. Tell me of a time when things went just right.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    The Bloggers are Back

    Christmas break is over and students are getting back in the groove.  Students spent some time today working on their blogs publishing drafts and working on new posts.  Although we were all a little fuzzy-brained yesterday, the brain cells have awoken and quality work is coming out.

    Molly posted over the break recommending a few of her peers' blogs.  You can find links to blogs she thinks are great on her blog, Molly's Mystery Journal, or links to all of the students' blogs on the sidebar on the right.

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Reading During Christmas Break

    Are you going to have a little spare time over the holidays?  Want to do something enjoyable and earn some extra credit?  All you have to do is READ!

    If you complete two or more books over break, and comment on them, you will earn extra credit!  

    The best part is the more you read, the more extra credit you earn.  And it will count as minutes on the next Read at Home assignment, too.  A couple of years ago, one student read over 1,400 minutes during Christmas break.  How many books will you read?

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    The Feeling of Christmas at My House

    As the holiday season approaches, family is what matters.  At my house, the Christmas breakfast is where all of the greatness of Christmas comes together.

    The Christmas Breakfast

    As the season approaches
    sentiments turning to family
    and the Christmas breakfast
    eating together.

    Steaming mugs of coffee
    amid piles of torn wrapping paper.
    Thankfulness for all we have
    and the joy of the day.

    We come to the table
    with warmth in the house
    and in our hearts
    and celebrate our lives.

    The assignment for students is to pick one part of their lives that best reflects their family and the holiday season, and write a gift of poetry.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Some Student Poetry

    Here are a few samples of students' poems.  To see more, just click on the links on the sidebar.

    From A Daily Bailey
    I Think I'm Going to Puke
    I’m not really feeling well
    It’s something that I ate
    I think I’m about to puke
    It tasted like fish bait

    Uh oh!
    I’m gonna spew
    I’m really, really sorry
    If I get some on you

    It’s all over the carpet
    It kind of looks like plums
    Hey! What’s that thing there?
    It looks like lots of thumbs

    I shouldn’t have eaten that food
    It looked like an old baseball mitt
    I’ll never eat it again
    Not even a little bit

    It’s all over the room
    Even on the couch
    I’m sorry it got everywhere
    No need to be a grouch

    I went and cleaned up                                                                       
    Now it’s all gone
    Next time I’ll go puke
    Outside on the lawn
    Divorce, Divorce
    Where do I start
    It’s a course.

    Divorce, Divorce
    Why do our parents do that?
    It makes me sad.

    Divorce, Divorce
    My sister and I
    Had to cry

    My Sister by Keifer
    Inspired by Sara Holbrook

    My sister is
    a splinter
    deep down in my skin

    My sister is
    a baseball game
    one I can not win

    My sister  is
    a rat
    with her little mice

    Keifer's sister is the sweet looking one on the left.  Hhhhhmmm!
    My sister is
    a cucumber
    one I want to dice

    My sister is
    a bug
    one I want to crush

    My sister is
    an apple
    that has turned to mush

    My sister is
    a bumble bee
    always stinging me

    My sister is
    just mean
    come on can’t you see

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Are You Bored with School?

    Reading Workshop students, what do you think of school?  Are you excited each morning to come to school?  And, if not, if you think school is boring, whose fault is it? 

    Do you live every day to get the most out of it?  Do you walk around thinking positive and ready to have fun?

    Do you have a smile on your face?  Do people look forward to seeing you?  Do you look forward to seeing people at school?

    Who is in control of you anyway?

    Image from

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    So Many Ways to Say it in Poetry

    How else can you say it?  As we looked at one student's opening line of his poem, so many ideas for sharing were discovered.  We started with Poetry is not me

    And came up with this list:
    1. Poetry is unreasonable
    2. Poetry is not what I write
    3. Poetry is not my thing
    4. Poetry has something I don't
    5. Poetry is not bad
    6. Poetry is not understandable to me
    7. We can't connect
      1. We play phone tag
      2. The call is never answered
      3. The meal doesn't fill me up
      4. The hot sauce is mild
      5. Poetry doesn't add up
      6. We can't be together
      7. Poetry and I aren't alike
      8. Poetry doesn't have Internet
      9. Poetry is like a game with no Xbox
      10. Poetry is like eggs without bacon
      11. We are two peas from different pods
      12. Poetry is like pancakes without syrup
    8. Poetry never answers my phone calls
    9. I don't go with poetry
    10. Poetry doesn't pick me up
    11. Poetry and I don't mix
      1. Poetry won't get in the blender with me
      2. Poetry isn't the ice cream for my milkshake
      3. We just don't mesh
      4. Poetry is the book with no words
      5. Poetry is the gun with no powder
      6. Poetry is like the butt with no gas
      7. Poetry is like bird doodoo on your windshield
      8. Poetry is a clock with no hands
      9. Poetry is a clock out of time
      10. Poetry is an IPod with no music
      11. Poetry is a battery with no charge
      12. Poetry is a sentence with bad grammar
    12. When I ring the door bell, poetry never answers
    13. Poetry and me don't fit
    14. Poetry is like a shirt that is just too tight
    15. Poetry and I don't see eye to eye
      1. Reading poetry is a fistfight
      2. Poetry is like an annoying little brother
      3. Poetry is like Lane on a bad day at school
      4. Poetry is like black and white TV
      5. Poetry bullies me
      6. Poetry is a charging bull (and I am a red cape)
      7. Poetry punches me in the mouth
      8. Poetry is a hole in the shoe of a snowy day
    16. Poetry is like reading with foggy glasses
    17. Poetry is the seed that just rots in my garden
    18. Poetry pizza has no pepperoni when I get my order
    19. We were never meant for each other
    20. Poetry and I are breaking up
    21. Poetry loves me but I don't like poetry
    22. Poetry is like a crap sandwich for lunch
    23. Poetry and I don't get along
    24. Poetry is a pie with no crust
    25. Poetry is a puzzle with missing pieces
    26. Poetry tortures me with its bits and bangles
    27. Poetry is the math that just doesn't add up
    28. Poetry was never my type
      1. I'm smile and poetry cries
      2. Poetry isn't the girl for me
      3. Poetry is not my sweetheart
      4. Poetry is sweet to my sour
      5. Poetry is the wrong kind of tissue for my cold
      6. Poetry is night to my daytime
    29. Poetry was never my thing.
    30. Poetry just ain't my bag, baby
    31. Poetry is a baloney sandwich
    32. Poetry is like last year's fashion
    33. Poetry is to reading like the Bengals are to football
    34. Poetry is like my wife's shopping problem
    35. Reading poetry is like kissing your sister
    36. I don't exactly like poetry
    37. Poetry is like shopping for groceries with mom
    38. Poetry is like slipping on oil
    39. Reading poetry is like having your mom pick out your clothes
    40. Reading poetry is like shopping without money
    41. Poetry is like playing with your sister
    42. Poetry is like life without video games
    43. Poetry is colder that my ex-girlfriend
      1. Poetry freezes my heart
      2. Poetry freezes my sun
      3. Poetry freezes my turkey on Thanksgiving
      4. Poetry is the dark side of the moon
      5. Poetry and Pluto are twins
      6. Reading poetry chills my eyeballs
      7. Reading poetry is like being burried alive

    44. Poetry is the cold water shock of breaking through ice
    45. Poetry is like looking in the mirror before makeup
    46. Poetry is a poor sport
    47. Poetry is like a car that won't start
    48. Poetry is a rainy day
    49. Poetry is like lunch in the loo
    50. Poetry is reading quicksand
    51. Poetry is a green vegetable
    52. Poetry is like a broken heart
    53. Poetry is like a sauerkraut sundae
    54. Poetry is more of a pain than my little sister
    55. Writing poetry is worse than cleaning your room.

    It's amazing how students that don't like poetry can come up with so many poetic ideas.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Want to Put a Little Ryhme in Your Life?

    We are working with poetry in Reading Workshop.  We have focused on free verse poems, and a few concrete poems, but sometimes it is fun to write a rhyming poem.  A great tool for this is at Rhymezone.

    Pick a topic and see what you can do.  Write something that makes the reader laugh, or cry, or both.

    I knew from the first day,
    these students were weird.
    But partway through the year,
    It's worse than I feared

    I tried to help them,
    they definitely needed steered
    But partway through the year,
    It was worse than it appeared.

    I wasn't sure what to do,
    Their brains had been cleared.
    And partway through the year,
    No senses had reappeared.

    I gave them good advise,
    because I knew they needed steered.
    But partway through the year,
    their brains were still smeared.

    It could be the teacher,
    at first I feared.
    But partway through the year,
    His efforts should be cheered!

    Have a nice day students!   You don't like my poem?  Well show me what you can do!

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Hey Students, Don't Hide

    Even though you think you are hidden, I see you.  Don't be like this gecko, feeling like he can't be seen.  When we have class discussions, you may not raise your hand.  You may not look up.  You may stare at the floor, hoping not to be noticed.  But everyone knows you are here.

    Maybe you are afraid your answer will be wrong.  Maybe you are afraid someone will laugh at your opinion or think you are dumb.  Maybe you are just quiet by nature. 

    Please do me a favor.  Take a chance.  Speak out.  Raise your hand.  Share your thoughts and opinions.  Everyone will benefit by your participation.    Classmates will learn from hearing your ideas. And you will learn more, too.

     Image from Lorenzo Menendez/Nature/National Geographic Photo Contest

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Have a great Thanksgiving break.  Some of the Reading Workshop students and maybe even a teacher may be a little bit ready for a long weekend, but at least we can enjoy a few days off.

    Come back Monday ready to work.  :)

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Vocabulary Practice and Help the World

    FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme. They offer an easy way to learn vocabulary, math skills, geography and more.

    According to FreeRice

    FreeRice has two goals: 

    1.  Provide education to everyone for free.
    2.  Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

    This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site. Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your education can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

    Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide.

    Want to learn in a fun and exciting way?  Check out FreeRice.