Friday, April 8, 2011

What are You Thinking About the Achievement Test

Students have been working hard, preparing for the Ohio Achievement Assessment.  They have done a kazillion (this is a very high number that students learn about in advanced math at the sixth grade level) problems until they are suffering from carpel tunnel.  They are getting attacked by numbers in their sleep and there is no hope of survival.

In Reading Workshop, students have read passages, wrote and rewrote answers, and been rubriced into submission.  They now know the disasters that await those that don't give specific details, quoted from the selection.  They dream at night of back in the day when Reading Workshop was about reading and writing, thinking and discussing.  There is no chance of them being a child left behind because they are getting whipped into shape. 

Although we only focus specifically on the test for a month in Reading Workshop, in student years that equals seven lifetimes.  But students are surviving.  Not only are they surviving, but they are getting smarter.  They are reading critically, and attacking questions to find the point.  They are shredding selections to find those details that earn all 4 points on  an extended response question.  Best of all is they are learning words, and they are much better than the words they learned on the back of the bus in third grade.

Good job students!  It will all be over soon and your success on the test will make me smile.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartpilbrow/3270138986/sizes/l/ 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Wanna Be Perfect

I am tired of making mistakes.  I am tired of not knowing the right thing to say.  I am tired of all kinds of problems.  I want to be perfect.  AND, I just found out a way to make it happen.

The latest read aloud in Reading Workshop is Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days written by Stephen Manes.  After the first chapter, I got some really good news.  Dr. K. Pinkerton Silverfish is going to tell me how to become perfect.

No more bad jokes!  No more saying the wrong thing and upsetting people!  Every student will learn all that they are supposed to every day.  Life will be great and it all starts next week.  In just a few days, you will see a new me and I WILL BE PERFECT!

What about you my brilliant young students?  Are you going to join me and become perfect?  Will you soon become flawless?  How will that change things?

Oh, by the way, wanna is not a word and if I was already perfect, I would have said want to in the title.

Image from http://www.rebeccacaudill.org/teacher/covergallery/1989/be.jpg

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Fun Way to Learn Test Vocabulary

Learning vocabulary is never fun for students.  However, a large part of success when taking the Ohio Achievement Assessment is determined by students' working vocabulary.  Looking for an interesting way to build the vocab of students in Reading Workshop led me to Quia.  This is an online site that features games and quizzes.  

There is a library of items created by teachers that are available to anyone to use.  Creating new games and quizzes is easy to do when you want to use specific terms.  My personal favorite is the Rags to Riches game which is similar to Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

To see the activities that students are participating in so far, you can visit my Profile Page.



Give it a try. Maybe you can learn a few new words and win a million dollars!

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Hate Grades!

The end of the nine weeks is here.  Work has been turned in and graded.  But what if a student's average doesn't fit what they have accomplished?  Should a teacher adjust it to reflect what the student has earned?  Or should it be the result of vocabulary quizzes on Quia, Study Island, and objective scores on writing assignments?

Student #1
He has given everything he can possibly give to be successful.  He started the year hating to read.  Now, he reads almost every night at home.  He pays attention in class and does his best on every assignment.  He asks for help if he doesn't understand.  He has turned in every assignment.  Low Study Island scores have been a big detriment to his grade.  Although his grades reflect his ability, his growth should earn him an A+.

Student #2
She is the model for all students.  Her attitude and work ethic is unbelievable.  She has always struggled finishing books.  This nine weeks she has finished three of the last four she started.  The book she quit was a bad selection, she recognized that, and found a better book.  Her writing has consistently improved all year.  Her blog posts have become more detailed and cleaner.  Poor vocabulary quiz grades have lowered her score.

Student #3
The work he turns in is not close to his best.  He completes assignments quickly, with the main idea being just to get them done.  He is a pretty good student so his grades are good.  He has not shown much growth, but does OK because school comes fairly easy to him.

Student #4
His attitude stinks.  He has turned in most assignments, but not all.  His grade is poor and does not reflect his ability at all.  He should be on the honor roll but isn't due to lack of effort.  As a reader, he is able to do high quality work.  Even though he has a low grade, his ability is in the B range.

What grades did these students earn?  What grades do they deserve?  Are they the same?

Should grades be solely based on achievement?  Or should a student's effort and attitude be part of the grade?  Should improvement matter?   Should missing assignments count even if a students has mastered the objective?  Or should all grades be based on results of classwork and quizzes? Should students receive a class participation grade that reflects their in class involvement and work ethic?

What if the teacher knows with absolute certainty that a grade does not reflect a student's output for the grading period?  Should the teacher adjust the grade accordingly?

Image from http://feeds.feedburner.com/legalgeekery

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Laugh

A student downstairs in Ms. Wooten's third grade ask if she thought the world was going to end in 2012.  

Her answer to that was that she didn't know when the world was going to end.  She said, it could be tomorrow, it could end in 2012, or it could end a million years from now.  I believe that there is only One being that knows the answer to that, and that is the big man upstairs.

The student, without missing a beat, promptly replied, OK, so I'll go ask Mr. McGuire.

If he only knew . . .

Friday, March 4, 2011

Predictions Make Reading Exciting

You start reading and after a little bit, your mind wanders.  After a few minutes, you are bored with the book, ready to quit it and find a better book.  So you look through the books, find one that looks good, and begin to read it.  

Later that night, you get out your new book for the Read at Home assignment.  The first few pages are interesting and you really get into the book.  After about 20 minutes, you start to get bored, and quit reading for the night.

What is happening?  Why are you losing interest in books?  Why is reading boring?

YOU QUIT PREDICTING!

Predictions are what makes reading exciting.  As you read, wondering what will happen next is what makes you part of the book.  And when you predict one thing, and something different happens--WHAM, that is what makes a book exciting. 

Image from http://www.webweaver.nu/clipart/img/education/bored-student.gif
Special thanks to Mrs. Tonya Blubaugh, Intervention Teacher for sparking the conversation that led to this post.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Should Students Be Ability Grouped?

The current read aloud in Reading Workshop is Freak the Mighty written by Rodman Philbrick.  Max, a struggling reader is placed with the "smart" kids so that he can be with Kevin, his disabled friend.  Although the placement is based on the needs of Kevin, it brings to question the decision about placing students in classes.

Ability grouping is the practice of sorting students, mostly in elementary and middle school, into classes based on their ability level.  Those for ability grouping claim it increases student achievement because teachers can provide instruction at the appropriate level that is neither too easy nor too hard for most students.

One of the main arguments against ability grouping is that it creates classes of low achievers who miss out on stimulating discussions with higher achievers.  Labeling students may also communicate self-fulfilling low expectations.

Will Max benefit from being placed in the class with higher achievers?  Would you prefer to be in a class that is ability grouped?  Why or why not?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Was the Author Feeling?

Have you ever thought about what the writer was feeling?  In most instances, great writing is the result of situations or problems that spark strong feelings.  The writer is faced with an emotional situation and uses writing as an outlet.  

Sometimes feelings of joy need to be shared.  Other times relief in dealing with sadness or grief comes from sharing through writing.  In this poem, Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes, he describes facing the challenges in life. 

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

What was he feeling as he wrote this poem?  How does that relate to your feelings as a reader?  Do think there is usually a connection between the author's feelings and the reader's feelings?

Image from http://www.thewanderers.in/travel/recent/

Monday, February 21, 2011

How Does the Book Make You Feel?

The writer sits at his desk with a purpose in mind.  He just finished a chapter and then he reads back over it.  He puts himself into your shoes.  Imagining the feelings you get as you pour through his words.  He is wondering, does that sentence work?  Is that problem believable?  Can you picture yourself as a character?

Good books separate themselves from poorly written ones because they bring in the reader.  The reader lives the story in her mind.  She pictures scenes and imagines being in them.  The readers' feelings are strongly affected.

Good readers know that their feelings should be affected as they read.  They expect it, and when it doesn't happen, they stop and think about the book.  Why isn't it striking a chord?  Why aren't their feelings jumping out of their heart.

What about the book you are reading?  What kind of feelings do you have as you read it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reading Strategies, Connections

Effective readers constantly connect to the text as they read.  Their inner voice  relates the text to their life, other books they have read, and prior knowledge.  Readers with higher levels of comprehension consistently and constantly make connections between the meaning of the words, and background knowledge.

As students build their ability to connect with text, their ability to understand what they read increases.  At times connecting is simple. At others, especially with difficult nonfiction text, connecting and comprehension is difficult.  However, to be a good reader, students must relate what they are reading to what they know and what they have read. 

Students should concentrate on their inner voice and connections.  As they read they should picture themselves in the story and compare themselves to  the characters. 
 
This brings us to today's question.  Reading Workshop students, as you read your SSR book, what connections did you have?

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/dulcepericulum/8378493/sizes/s/

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Igniting the Light of Success

Does Katy Perry's song Firework apply to you?  If there were no limits and you could accomplish anything, what would you do?  

The latest song we are singing as part of Reading Workshop to help build fluency and vocabulary has a terrific message. 


You don't have to feel like a waste of space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe you're reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will GLOW
And when it's time, you'll know

You just gotta ignite, the light, and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July


What about it Reading Workshop students?  If you could accomplish anything, what would it be?  Ditch the limits.  Don't let anything stop you, because you can do anything if you set a goal and work hard.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why This is a Great School

The recent spotlight on school quality should help ensure a better education for all students.  Everywhere you turn there is constant conversation about the need to improve schools.  Newspapers, TV, and all over the Internet, people are screaming about how public education is a mess.  But you almost never hear about what a good school looks like. 

However, using one tool, and one as limited as a one or two day test doesn't accurately portray schools.  Although test scores are important, rarely do you hear about examining all the factors that make a  school successful.One paragraph doesn't tell the story of a book.  Similarly, one test doesn't tell the tale of a school.


The characteristics that make Laurelville Elementary exceptional include:

1. Students Want to Be Here
Effective schools have a warm climate.  Students know they are welcome and know that the staff cares about them.  Although there is pressure to perform, it comes in a way that promotes learning, with an expectation that students will excel and the support is provided to make it happen.

2. Highest Expectations For the School, Teachers and Students
Only the best is good enough. Quality is expected, and nothing less is acceptable. Passion for excellence is a driving force each and every day. The staff works together, pushing themselves and their students to be the best. Failure is not an option for the teacher or the students.

3. Dedicated Teachers
Teachers work to improve their ability to teach. They read and explore the techniques used by others in a never-ending effort to better themselves and their skill. Effective teaching demands that the teacher be knowledgeable in the subject area. The teachers have a detailed understanding of what is being taught.

4.  Effective Discipline
Discipline is not be an issue. Students respect others and failure to do so is not tolerated.  Students understand school and class rules and expectations, and adhere to them. When discipline is necessary, it is not vindictive, but just a consequence when a student does not do what is required.

5.  There is a Variety of Instructional Techniques
No two classes, or two students are identical. Laurelville is effective because teachers understand this and differ instruction to best help students be successful. Key concepts are presented in ways to enable visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners grasp it.  Students are actively involved in learning with a variety of opportunities to grasp key concepts.

6. Students Individualized Needs are Met
The staff understands differences in students' abilities and needs and considers this as part of instruction and intervention.  The teaching and interactions with students reflect the needs of each, with the understanding of each as an individual.

7. Leadership
The building principal, Vicki Scott has the respect of students, parents, and staff with a vision, high expectations, and the ability to help others succeed.  The school leader must be a person that can understand people, and motivate them, creating a positive attitude throughout the building.  Successful schools have a sense of trust built on the back of an honest and caring leader.

Being a teacher is an amazing career with many rewards.  Working in a school like this makes it even better.  Each morning when I walk in the building, I am grateful to be part of something so meaningful, working with a dedicated staff, and superb students.

Image from http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/imager/b/magnum/1262364/f774/greatest_feat_0110.jpg

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Survey Says. . .

Want to know the results of the Midway Survey.  Just look on the wikipage at Midway Survey Results.

Thank you for all of the parents that took the time to sit down with their child and complete the survey.  Many of the goals are well-thought out, appropriate and attainable.

Congratulations to all of the Reading Workshop students for the successes you have achieved so far this school year.  When you look at the list of the best thing that has happened in Reading Workshop, you see an amazing list of accomplishments.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whose Goals Are They, Anyway?

 I was sitting in the chair, getting my hair cut, having the typical casual conversation with the woman cutting my hair, when I noticed the post-it note with Nicole's weekly goals.   As I looked it over, I started wondering about these goals. 

Finally, I couldn't stand it any more.  I just had to ask, and the following conversation took place:

Me:  Did you write that?
Nicole:  Uhhh, no.
Me:  Your boss write it?
Nicole:  Yes.
Me:  So they tell you what your goals should be?
Nicole:  Yep
Me:  Hmmmm, I'll bet that motivates you.
Nicole:  Oh, I don't really pay any attention to it.

And then I started thinking about students in Reading Workshop.  I wonder how often my goals for them really don't have anything to do with their goals for themselves.  When I am pushing my agenda of positive attitude and hard work equals success, I wonder how many students have other priorities?

As the teacher, I have a responsibility to have goals and expectations for my students.  But if they are going to be meaningful, there must be some ownership on the part of the students and their parents. With this in mind, and reaching the halfway point of the school year, it seems appropriate to ask students to evaluate their year so far, and set some goals for the rest of the year.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Tools are in Your Reading Toolbox?

If you were building a house, would you use a hammer for every task?    It would be more than a little difficult to measure a board with a hammer.  Cutting it in two would be even more challenging.  Imagine finishing the cement in the garage with only a hammer.  House construction requires a variety of tools, each appropriate for a given task.  

Similarly, reading requires many tools, each which helps in a certain way, with different situations.  Recently in Reading Workshop, we have been focusing on reading difficult, nonfiction text.  We have focused on what matters and what doesn't.  We have also looked at specific skills that contribute to comprehension.

What is Important
1. W's (who, what, when, where, why, how)
2. Main Points
3. Ideas that relate to the gist

What is Not
1. Supporting Details
2. Examples
3. Interesting Stories or Opinions
4. Most Adverbs and Adjectives

But remember anything that helps you understand what you are reading is ALWAYS IMPORTANT!

Strategies for Reading Nonfiction

1.Skim
2.Adjust your reading speed/slow down when needed
3.Read and highlight only the essential information
4.Substitute easy words for more difficult ones.
5.Think about the writer and the writer's purpose
6.Connect to prior knowledge
7.List W’s
8.List facts

What should be added to the list?  What strategies do you use when reading difficult text?

For more information on reading check out these posts:

Image from http://www.stockvault.net/photo/107135/hammer

Friday, December 17, 2010

Traits Needed by a Teacher of Reading Workshop

Teaching Reading Workshop requires a different style than the more traditional teacher-centered lecture-based classroom. As I was reading a recent post about qualities of a teacher that enjoys project-based learning on Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog, I thought of how well this fits with Reading Workshop.

Teacher traits it takes to make Reading Workshop successful.

1.  Be comfortable with a loss of control over time, the final product, and “correct” answers. If some parts of the curriculum don’t get “covered,” if conflicting evidence causes confusion, or a controversial solution to a problem is suggested, these teachers roll with the punches. They have the intellectual confidence to handle ambiguity.
2.  Accept active students rather than passive students. They have developed new rules of behavior that stress student responsibility, and have trained their principals to differentiate between active learning and a classroom out of control.
3.  Believe that given enough time, resources, and motivation, all students are capable of high performance. It’s not just the talented and gifted student who can make choices, solve problems creatively, and complete complex tasks. These teachers know that most students rise to the level of performance expected of them, and that great ideas can come from anyone in the class.  
4.  Recognize that your expertise must be in the learning and research process not just in a subject area. No longer are these teachers just information dispensers, but guides for information building students. The happiest teachers are co-learners in the classroom, especially when learning new technology tools. Students get the satisfaction that comes from teaching as well. 
5.  Understand your personal enthusiasm is more important than ever. The best projects I have seen have always designed by teachers who are enthusiastic about what they are doing and how they are doing it. The downside to this is that it is very difficult to create recipes for or give examples of specific projects that can be easily adopted by other teachers. A project, no matter how well designed, is going to work for every teacher and every group of students.
 6.  Know that any project may not  always work the first time. But these teachers keep trying.

Thanks for the reminder Doug, and for giving me something to ponder.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas Gift of Poetry

Students are writing Christmas poems as a gift of writing. No gift means more than a heartfelt poem.  Students are writing a free verse poem for a family member to give over the holiday.

This list has ideas for topics that students brainstormed.


Food
Family Time
Traditions
Memories
Christmas dinner Family together Christmas Eve Special gift
Christmas breakfast Shopping Getting up early Cutting down tree
Nuts and bolts Traveling Christmas morning Special time together
Cooking together Things they do for me Hanging stockings Visitor
Making cookies :) Decorating the house Decorating the tree Trip
Baking together Wrapping presents Opening presents New Pet
Homemade noodles Christmas party Playing euchre Accidental Openings of gifts
Oyster dressing Putting up lights Visiting Family
Making smokeys Playing with gifts Waking up parents
Spicy pretzels Playing games PJ's on Christmas Eve
Chips & dip
Family Picture
Pies
Stockings First

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are You the Annoying One?

It was almost time for Thanksgiving dinner.  We sat watching football, anxiously awaiting the turkey, mashed potatoes, and dressing.  Unfortunately we were having trouble concentrating because my 17 year old niece and 14 year old nephew were wrestling around on the couch.  Finally, their mom couldn't stand it anymore.
She yelled  Cut it out, both of you!
Luke whined: But mom
Leah whined: But mom
Luke whined:  But mom, she's so annoying.
Leah responded:  Get off of me!

Do you get the picture?  Leah had been sitting on the couch minding her own business when Luke came over and sat on top of her.  He started pestering her until it ended in the screaming match that got their mom involved.  But in his mind, she was soooo annoying.

Naturally this situation made me start to think about the students in Reading Workshop.  I know that their teacher is never annoying :) , but what about them.  Do they ever blame someone else, before looking in the mirror?

What do you think?  Are you the annoying one?

Image from http://www.vrkmphoto.com/sister/brother-and-sister-love/

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey Students, Here's Some Thanks for You :)

Thanksgiving is here and there are a lot of turkeys in this neighborhood and I am thankful for all of them.  Well, I am thankful for most of them.  Well, I am thankful for some of them.  Well, I am thankful for a few of them.

Well anyway, the things I am thankful for include:
  1. Sara's big smile walks in my door every day.
  2. I have this really weird class that wants to be here.
  3. I can do a little of the Cupid Shuffle with the class and I don't even need Advil.
  4. Lucas #3 is just as nice as Lucas #1 & #2.
  5.  I can blog and eat oreos at the same time.
  6. Mrs. Scott stops by every day for a little aggravation.
  7. I have some oreos.
  8. Thelma is still cooking in the cafeteria.
  9. Hines #4 (or is it #5) works just as hard as all of the others.
  10. Ridge sings better than his siblings.
  11. Megan, Tyler H., and Andrew really are that nice.
  12. Brook and Dawn are actually starting to talk.
  13. Kyra smiles and dances and shakes and makes all kind of weird motions when she sings.
  14. Heath likes to read.
  15. Caitlin has such a super attitude.
  16. Jessica and Cassie are becoming a great writers.
  17. Austin, Tyler, Alex, and Jakob are working so hard.
  18. Dylan laughs at my jokes (at least he did one time).
  19. Belle can still think even though she spends half her time upside down.
  20. Danny's name keeps popping up in the lyrics of songs we are singing.
  21. Shala is an assistant teacher and helps everyone with their blog.
  22. The little Queen hasn't been too bossy.
  23. Sabrina is in a good mood today, and yesterday, and the day before, and...
  24. Students are selling candy bars for camp so I can put back on the pounds just in time for the hollidays.
  25. Ms. Bowlby is still teaching here so I am not the oldest teacher in the building.
  26. Ms. Fraley is teaching here so I am not the weirdest teacher in the building.
  27. Mrs. Stevenson is still teaching here so I am not the grayest teacher in the building.
  28. Mrs. Griffey is still teaching here so I definitely am not the biggest drama queen in the building.
  29. Nick and Cade aren't as hot as they think they are (otherwise their chairs would catch on fire).
  30. Students love blogging (that makes them work hard and they don't even know it).
  31. We got some $$$ to buy new books.
  32. Diet Mt. Dew is a health food.
  33. The arm Mark broke chasing his girlfriend has healed.
  34. Lindsey's brain transplant surgery was successful.
  35. Heidi smiled at me last week.
  36. The Bengals have the worst team in the NFL and T.O., Chad O., and Pacman play for them.
  37. I can look out the window, from my desk and see two flags waving in the breeze.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Image from http://www.uvm.edu

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Describe Yourself Based on Your Partner

What does the person I paired you with say about you?

Students in Reading Workshop are constantly working in pairs, and small groups.  Almost every project has at least one part that requires teamwork.   Sometimes this might be a brainstorming session.  Other times partnership might be for revising and editing a piece of writing.  Frequently it is just a couple of minutes to share ideas.

Although occasionally students are paired randomly, most of the time partnerships and teams are put together in a way to ensure success.  

Reasons students are partnered might include:
  • A strong-minded uncompromising student is put with a similar student just to force both to work together to be successful.  
  • Quiet, easy going students are put together to build leadership skills.
  • Students strong in a certain area are paired with a student that is struggling.
  • Students struggling might be partnered to work through troubles together.
  • Students that don't care are partnered to force them to deal with common attitudes.
  • Natural leaders are grouped in situations that allow them to utilize their strength.
  • Creative students are placed together to stretch their limits.
  • Creative students are separated to allow leadership and growth.
  • Boys and girls are partnered so that differences in thought processes can increase chances of success.
  • Reluctant learners are joined with enthusiastic students to motivate them.
  • Enthusiastic students are partnered to allow them the chance to immerse themselves in a project.
  • Friends are put together just so they can be with each other.
  • Students that are not friends are put together to help expand their circles.

These are just some of the reasons students work together.  Regardless of the reason, working together and the cooperation this demands is an extremely important skill.  How students deal with a partner, or contribute to a group is always reflective of their attitude and work ethic.


What kind of a partner are you?  Describe yourself based on your partner.

Image from http://vik.podbean.com

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Please Be Nice

"Did you have fun with your partner?" she whispered with a sneer to the girl in the seat next to her.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, because the comment wasn't meant for me to hear.

Shala just looked at her and shrugged her shoulders.  She really didn't know what to say.  It never occurred to her to be upset about her partner, or make fun of him.  And that is exactly why I put her with that student.  I knew that she would treat him with kindness and respect.  She would help him stay on track and both of them would successfully complete the assignment.

The students in Reading Workshop had been working on a letter writing project.  I wanted them to take a couple of minutes with a peer to discuss their letter--how they organized it, what was going well, and what parts of the project needed help.  I chose a partner for each student, forming teams that would succeed.  This is something we do frequently, and students are used to working with many different peers throughout the year.

This comment has banged around in my head ever since I heard it.  I keep thinking about the connotation behind, did you have fun with your partner.  This sneaky form of bullying, trying to get a classmate to join in ridiculing a student is what makes school so difficult for so many students.

I'm not really sure which student I feel most sorry for--the boy being laughed at, or the girl that feels the need to be so mean.  The boy is a bit of a social outcast.  Unfortunately, he irritates peers and causes them to loose patience with him.  He also tries to gain attention too often by acting out and saying things to set himself apart.  He isn't mean, but he does act that way sometimes when he gets picked on.

The big question to me is why the girl feels the need to be so mean.   She is no stranger to trouble, and I am sure teachers have talked to her about this behavior before.  Yet she continues to be hurtful, even enlisting a student like Shala who would not act this way under any circumstance.  Will she ever figure out that actions like this, and the negative attitude behind it will create problems until she finds the strength to be a stronger and kinder person?

Image from http://www.comicvine.com/forums/off-topic/5/the-creepy-thread/574156/

Monday, November 8, 2010

Letter Writing

I like getting letters, so the current project in Reading Workshop, write a Dear Mr. McGuire Letter on the topic of Reasons Why I Like the Book I am Reading for SSR is one of my favorites.   Plus I get to hear about the books students are reading and their thoughts and opinions on them.

Knowing the proper format of a friendly letter is important.  Also, students must set the tone in the opening, put facts and details in the body, and wrap it up in the closing. A good letter, like any writing must have must support with specific details.

Introduction/Beginning
This is a good example of a W's introduction.
This is Justin's beginning:
The book I am reading is called The White Fox Chronicles. The author's name is Gary Paulsen. Gary Paulsen writes a lot of action/ survival books. The main character's name is Cody Pierce. Cody is a 14 year old boy.

This is an opinion/persuasive introduction. 
This is Kari's beginning:
I am reading the book called The Revenge Of The Shadow King. I found this book to be extremely good. Especially if you are into fairy tales, mysteries, and thrillers because that's what it's all about. If you like those kinds of books you may be really attached to this book. I really liked it mainly because I like to read fairy tales and thrillers.

Body/Middle
Shelby does a great job comparing the main character from Heartbeat by Creech in this paragraph:
Another thing that Annie and I have in common is we both have baby brothers. We both love our baby brothers. I think that Annie loves her brother a lot because she was so scared that the baby would get hurt. Annie and I also were scared at first to hold our baby brothers. She was scared that she would drop him, I thought that I would not hold him right and hurt him.
Katie helps us understand the character Bookworm from Max the Mighty.
My favorite character is Bookworm. Bookworm is also called Worm sometimes. She is my favorite character because she loves books. Worm is about eleven or twelve years old. Worm doesn't like her step dad. She doesn't like him because he hates T.V and he hates books. I think that Worm plays a really good part in the story and I like her because she and her mom have to deal with a lot of problems, and somehow she always makes it through.

Conclusion/Closing
Molly does a fabulous job wrapping up her letter.
I would definitely recommend this book to others, because I think a lot of girls could really relate to the main character, especially most of my friends. Also I would still recommend this book to boys, because even though it's a girl's book, it's not about being girly, and all about girls. Some boys may be able to relate to the three boys in the story! The book Spells & Sleeping Bags is one out of my two favorite books. Also, I think the author is very talented with writing her books. She's my absolute favorite author. I think Sara Mlynowski is very talented because I can really get inside the characters mind, and really get into the book as if I were the main character.

Parts of Sarah's letter were shared in a previous class with excellent examples of an opening and closing on this post.

Letter writing is a skill that is used throughout life.  Although this project focuses on writing about a book, these basic skills will apply to any letter written for any purpose.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarazamith/3552122301/sizes/s/in/photostream/

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What a Relief, the Levy Passed


As said on the Logan Elm Local School District website.

Thank you voters! We appreciate your support. We promise to be good stewards of your tax money. Thanks for supporting the students of Logan Elm. What a great community to live in.
and

Levy Results     FOR: 2908( 58%)     AGAINST: 2093 (42%).

With so much hanging on the balance, this is such a relief.  Class size will stay at 20 instead of going to 30+.  Extracurriculars will continue and families won't be moving out of the district.  Academic programs that have led to Excellent Ratings will be continued.  Peers will not be losing their jobs and students will continue to have special classes like music, PE, and library.

Thank you to all who supported our school!

Monday, November 1, 2010

How Technology is Making Students Better Writers

Have you used Twitter lately?  Currently there are over 160 million registered users.  More  than 90M tweets are written per day.  Yet this communication tool that so many people have found so useful is similar to one that many teachers claim is ruining students.

It used to be adults worried about kids spending too much time watching TV, but those days are gone. Today, teachers worry about another type of screen time. Kids are either texting, IMing (instant messaging), or else on social networking sites like Facebook. Many educators are concerned about the impact technology is having on students' writing.

Should they be concerned? Is all of this time texting ruining the writing of students?  Some teachers feel that the slang, or casual language used extensively in texting and IM'ing will have detrimental long term effects. Most seem to ignore the fact that kids today are writing constantly. In fact, putting thoughts into written words is part of the natural lives of kids today. Anyone who cannot share their thoughts through texting is at risk of becoming a social outcast.

Students don't see the constant use of slang as a problem.  They know the difference between casual language between friends and formal language used in school and business.  According to Pew Internet's Teen Writing Survey, 83% of students feel there is a greater need to be able to write well in order to be successful now when compared to twenty years ago.   They also found that 85% of students write in school at least several times each week.

Another worry, especially at the secondary and collegiate level is how students spend class time texting instead of focusing on the lesson being taught. However, forward thinking instructors have begun to use this to their advantage by engaging students in real-time dialogue and assessment.

In many classes today, students are participating in online learning and communication using blogs and wikis, web-based collaborative projects using Google Docs, and various other computer uses throughout their school day. Often students are much more motivated in class where video and interactive Smart Boards are integrated into the curriculum.

Obviously, the students of today have lifestyles, both in and out of the class that are much different than in the past. Although some educators are concerned about the affects of these changes, some are embracing the changes and celebrating the advancement of education. Their goal is to open doors and encourage students to push forward using every tool available for a more interesting and challenging learning environment.

Everyone changes their spoken language based on the audience.  At a very young age children learn to speak differently to their parents than they do to their friends.  Doesn't this make it only natural to expect the same in their writing?  When students walk into a classroom spending hours each day putting their thoughts into words, it can only make them better writers.

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/outlandos/63607103/sizes/s/

Friday, October 29, 2010

Student Blogging Stars

Student bloggers have made an excellent start, displaying their writing, sharing their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. As the first nine weeks comes to and end, the students in Reading Workshop were given the task of evaluating their blogs

Next, I looked at their responses, and took them into consideration as I graded their blogs. For the most part, students and I agreed on how their blogs should be scored. A few students met all expectations, publishing work that any sixth grade teacher would be proud to display. 

Jessica wrote interesting posts, had great detail, and pictures to support her points. And, she even took time to have a little fun at her teacher's expense. 
Megan always links to relevant sites, shows pictures that fit with the topic, and writes extra detailed posts. 
Sara writes in detail and spends her own time writing extra posts to make her blog interesting and informative.
Alex's blog looks great.  Her content is good too!
Shala posts every assignment and a lot of extras too.  She is also the first to help peers when they need it on their blog.
Tyler is a sports nut and his blog shows it.  Go Browns!
Ridge works to make his blog right.  He posts in detail, finds pictures that fit, and links to relevant sites.  Plus, he writes extra posts.

Great job to these students for their excellent work!

Image from http://www.uwicsu.co.uk/content/440693/membership_services/representation/stars/

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Students, Grade Your Blogs

As the first 9 weeks comes to an end, it is time to grade The Reading Workshop students' blogs.  This is a chance for students to have input into their blog grade.  With this embedded Google Docs Form, students can evaluate their work.  

We will be using the Blogging Stair Steps to Success from the post on Grading Student Blogs as a basis for this evaluation.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Hard Do You Work?

How hard do you work?  Would others around you agree?  What do peers think of you as a worker?  What do your parents think about your work ethic?   Do teachers see you as a student that works your hardest?  On a scale of 1 - 10, how would you score yourself as a worker?

As we study poetry in Reading Workshop, and look at To Be of Use , these questions came to mind.  This poem is a favorite of teachers because there is absolutely nothing teachers admire more than a hard worker.  This is also a character trait discussed frequently in Reading Workshop.


To Be of Use
Written by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


Comments are allowed to be in the form of poetry.

Image from http://darrenhardy.success.com/2009/06/hardwork/

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Huffington Post has provided the opportunity for bloggers from the education field to share their views.  This  is an excellent source for all the latest news, views, and opinions.

I have been invited to write and look forward to  contributing ideas and opinions, especially as they relate to The Reading Workshop. The post, Superman 2, The Other Side of the Story discusses the generalization of education in a crisis as outlined in Waiting for Superman.


You can find an archive of my posts here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reading Poetry

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

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


How to Eat a Poem

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Honestly, Why Didn't She Just Lie

Students have to read at home 180 minutes each week to earn an "A."  When she turned in her paper, she had read for 170 minutes.  She's a bright girl and could easily have fudged a few minutes here and there to get up to 180.  So why didn't she?

The Read at Home assignment is based on the honor system.  The only real check is whether or not students comprehend the book and can write about it.  Parents don't have to sign off.  Students fill out their reading times.  And students clearly understand that the more they read, the better their grade.

So why didn't this girl, who is extremely driven by grades, add on enough time to get an A?   Last year we discussed integrity and I was a little surprised and a lot pleased with students' responses.  I thought of this again, and felt good about today's students.

Although Cassie didn't get an "A" she earned a whole lot more.  She got my respect and my appreciation.  For herself, she got a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that she did the right thing, and she is an honorable person.

Why didn't she just lie?  She's way too smart and has way too much integrity for that.

Image from http://simplecomplexity.net/data-integrity-what-does-it-really-mean-why-is-it-important/

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