Friday, November 18, 2011

The Best Thing About Computers



Hey Reading Workshop students, share your opinion!




You can see the results HERE.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Poetry--I Ain't No Poet

Staring at blank faces,
students whispering,
bored and uninterested
as we start a new project.

Trying to spark a fire
that energizes and makes believers,
hoping Love That Dog
will bring out a Jack.

The unbelieving boy, Jack
who couldn't write
and didn't believe
he had a message inside.

With several Jacks
looking so miserable
as thoughts swirl around
filled with dread.

But there's a writer inside
waiting to overcome
a mind screaming
I ain't no poet.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Veteran's Day

Thank you to Austin for this Veteran's Day post.  I couldn't have said it better, so I just used the post from his Reading Workshop student blog.

Many people may already know this but Veteran's Day is on Friday, 11/11/11. At my school we are going to have an assembly to honor them for their service to our country. I know a lot of people who were in the armed forces.  More than I can name and count have been in the air force on my grandma’s side in the Lallier family. 

My grandpa is going to be at the assembly.  He was in the army in Vietnam. I think it was 5 or more people on my grandma’s side who were in the armed forces. Veteran's Day is a day to honor people who have died or served or still serve in the armed forces. So don’t forget to honor them and their service to our country.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yes, Commas do Matter

Take a breath, and then another, and another.  How do you know when to pause when you are reading? 

           PUNCTUATION!

Or, as the picture says, save a life by using a comma.  Besides, Grandma is probably old and tough anyway.  No one would want to eat her.


Another example of the need for a comma is a song we are singing as part of building fluency in Reading Workshop.  The song Crazy Girl by the Eli Young Band uses a comma that changes the meaning of the phrase crazy girl or crazy, girl throughout the song.

Crazy girl, don’t you know that I love you?
And I wouldn’t dream of goin’ nowhere
Silly woman, come here, let me hold you
Have I told you lately?
I love you like crazy, girl

So, Reading Workshop students, when there is a pause in a sentence, but not a complete new thought, be sure to put in a comma.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hey Mean Boy, Get a Clue

As part of our reading class, we are singing Mean by Taylor Swift which asks the question, "why you gotta be so mean?"  The current read aloud is The Revealers and students commented about bullying on a recent Reading Workshop post about bullies.  Every day for the last week the class has discussed bullying and not being mean to other students.

 So tell me, what is up with this one boy?  Why does he still think he can say mean things to other students? This class has so many kind and caring students.  No one else acts like him. 

He struts around like he is so cool, but then sneaks around and says mean comments that he knows will tear kids up.  He is good at pretending to help when the teacher is watching, but watch out when he thinks no one can see him.

I hope as we continue to discuss meanness a light will click on and he will stop.  I don't know if he realizes how many people see his sneaky ways of hurting others.  Maybe once he catches on to that, he will try out kindness and compassion.  I guess right now he is the only one in the whole class that doesn't get that everyone else gets that he is mean. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading Strategies, Making Connections

Can you connect with the book you are reading?  Can you imagine yourself in it?  Does it remind you of things from your life?  If not, maybe it's just not the book for you.


The process of reading is when a person reads text and their inner voice makes connections between the words, and their life and prior knowledge. The more closely the reader connects to the text, the higher the level of comprehension.

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. To be a better reader, think about how the story relates to your life.

Readers should concentrate on their inner voice and connections.

1. Visualize. Picture yourself in the story and think about how the setting and characters look.

2. Focus on the characters. Compare them to yourself and people you know.

3. Put yourself in the story and think about how would react, and how you reacted when you were in a similar situation.

4. Look at problems. How do they compare to problems you have faced?

5. Ask yourself questions as you read. Think about how the story relates to your life, and things that you know.

6. When reading nonfiction, think about ways the information relates to what you already know.

7. If you are reading a book, and don't connect with it, ditch it and find one where you can make connections.

Here are the start to connections.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If Russell was a Student Here . . .

Well, the easiest thing to say is Russell would be the same everywhere.  But do you act the same at school as you do at home?  Would you act the same at a new school?

But, you are who you are, right?  No one really changes too much, do they?

As we continue the read aloud of The Revealers, share your opinion about Russell at Laurelville on the wall.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Get Your Grammar Right!

Do you know which word to use?  Let's see, is it to or too?  There, their, or they're?  Your or you're?  Does is really matter?  IT BETTER!

When you write online, your thoughts, ideas, and opinions can be viewed by everyone.  That makes it paramount that you write correctly.  The reader will only respect your writing if it is clean and error free.  Part of your editing responsibility is to use the correct homophone.




A special thanks to Gineriella for allowing the editing of this video to use with sixth grade students in The Reading Workshop.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bullying Revealed

Every school has a Richie.  He is bigger than most of the kids, and way meaner.  Normal kids like Russell just stay away from him.  Unfortunately, an attempt to be funny puts Russell straight in Richie's sites.

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 middle school.  Somehow, he found himself without a group.  He was alone even though people were all around him.

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? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What, I Can Really Listen to Music in Class?

You can see the shock on this student's face.
Students were amazed when I told them they could start listening to music as they read or worked. They had never heard of anything like this. First it was singing in the class. Now, I was telling them they could bring their IPod to class.  This just had to be too good to be true.

Each students has his/her own computer, so each has a CD ROM at their desk.  Or, if they choose, they can bring in an MP3 player.  When I surveyed each class, the majority of students listen to music each night as they read and/or do their homework.  Why not allow it in school?  When I have done this before, it seemed to help a lot of students avoid distraction.


There are a few rules:

1. You put a CD in the computer at the start of class, and leave it for the entire class.
2. You cannot play it loud, or bother peers.
3. Once you hit play, you must work.
4. You cannot use class time to switch from track to track.

There are several benefits when students play background music while they study, read, or write:

1. increase attention levels
2. improve retention and memory
3. extend focused learning time
4. expand thinking skills
In the brain there is a band of white fibers connecting the right and left halves of the cerebrum called the corpus callosum. Very recently researchers have discovered that the corpus callosum increases in size when humans are exposed to music. This increases communication between the two halves of the brain which increases learning efficiency.

Yiftach Levy of the Department of Educational Technology at San Diego State University studied the use of background music in the classroom. This is part of his finding.

Davidson and Powell (1986) took up this exact subject in their study of American fifth-grade science students. They reported the observations of on-task-performance (OTP) of children in the classroom over 42 class sessions, with data recorded every three minutes (10 times) per session. Treatment, in the form of easy-listening music, was delivered in between two control observations (i.e., 15 sessions without background music, 15 with, and 12 without, in that order). They determined a significant increase in OTP for the males in the classroom, and for the class as a whole. 

Image from http://dresslikenick.com/.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Letter About a Book

Students in Reading Workshop recently had to write a letter about a book they were reading.  Specifically, the letter had to address "If I was the Main Character . . ." and talk about how the book would be different if they were in the book.

Letters were graded using the Friendly Letter Rubric on the Wikipage.

Here is Lexi's letter, which is an excellent example of what I expected.

Dear Mr. McGuire,

I know you love to read and so do I. I’m reading this amazing book by Leslie Connor. It’s called Waiting For Normal. But this book pulls you into the actions that’s going on. Sort of like the books you like to read. It’s kind of a girl book but then again it’s not. I would recommend it to anyone. I think that you might like it. You should definitely read it!

The main character in my book is Addie. She is 12 years old. Her and her mom live on the side of a highway in a trailer. Addie doesn’t really care that’s where she lives but if I was her I would not live there for anything! They even live right next to a rail road and the train goes by often!

Addie also lives across from a mini mart. There is these 2 people that work there. Their names are Elliot and Soula. Addie becomes great friends with them! I would be friends with them too because they are really nice and they would seem like family to me if I was Addie. Soula can’t walk because she has cancer. Addie doesn’t mind that though. Actually I wouldn’t either. But in the end Soula dies! Addie cries and cries and cries! I would have too because Addie got really close to her!

Addie's mom isn’t the type of mom I’d want. I doubt anyone would want that type of mom. Addies mom will leave Addie alone for 2 to 6 days in the trailer! I would be petrified! But the only reason why she does that is because she found a new man and she didn’t tell him she has a twelve year old daughter! Addie's mom says she’s away for work but you can tell she’s not. Towards the end of the book mommers (Addies name for her mom) tells Addie she’s pregnant. Addie didn’t like that because she don’t take care of her, How would she take care of a baby too. I would absolutely feel the same way as Addie did. If my mom treated me like that and then said she was pregnant I don’t even know what I’d do!

In the book there’s also another guy named Dwight. That was mommers ex-husband and the father of her other 2 children. Dwight loves Addie dearly even though she isn’t his, and Addie loves him. Dwight knew mommers wasn’t very good at taking care of Addie so he tried to get custody of her but mommers wouldn’t let him. I would want to go and live with Dwight if I was Addie because Dwight is just way better than mommers and knows how to take care of kids. But in the end Dwight got custody over her because Soula called children services and ratted out mommers. I would have thanked Soula but Addie didn’t!

That’s the end of my letter. I hope you liked it. Thanks for reading it! I hope someday you recommend this to one of your other students! Or you maybe even read it!

Sincerely,

Lexi

A New Way to Read

Patrick Carman is changing the way students read.  It started with the Skeleton Creek series which takes the main characters on one frightening adventure after another.  But what sets this series apart are the online videos that accompany each chapter.

You can hear Carman tell how a multi-media books works in this video.

The latest book, 3:15 has eight scary short stories.  Each one begins with a sound bite that introduces the story, characters, and setting.  After reading the story, there is a video conclusion.  These are chilling tales that grab the reader.  The best part, with the multi-media support, good readers will enjoy them and struggling readers will be able to comprehend them.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Better Listen and Listen Fast

Better pay attention! Why you ask?  Because this isn't a teacher standing in front of the class and talking all day blah, blah, blah, blah, blah kind of class.  

Have a look at this.



Now I am not going to teach quite like that (I hope) and I am not going to talk all day.  This is a class with a five minute mini-lesson, and then students work hard and then work some more.  As famous California educator, Dr. Harry K. Wong said, "the one doing the work is the one doing the learning."  And of course, I want students to learn as much as is possible.

Please give me your attention.  I'll keep it short.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do You Know a Lot of Words?

One of the most limiting factors in students' achievement and their ability to read is a poor vocabulary.  If students want to learn more, comprehend better, and be a dynamic writer they must have an extensive vocabulary.  Also, test scores almost always reflect a student's vocabulary.

With this in mind, we will focus even earlier in the school year than normal on vocabulary.  We will be using Rags to Riches on Quia, classroom discussions, and other activities to help build stronger vocabularies.  For easier access to the words assigned each week, take a look in the sidebar.

To see Reading Workshop Vocab lists, assignments, practice links and word meanings, go to the Reading Workshop Vocabulary Page.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Want Some New Books?

Online Ordering Information
Web address: scholastic.com/bookclubs
Class Activation Code: J3VGG


Now it's easier than ever to find the perfect books -- shop Scholastic's new online Book Clubs Web site. Choose from a much-wider selection of books than in the printed flyer. Plus, you can send your orders directly to me online and use your credit card to pay.

Best of all, we earn a FREE book for the classroom library every time a parent places an order online.*

It's so simple! Here's how it works:
  • SIGN UP at www.scholastic.com/bookclubs. On the parent page, click the "Register" button in the "First Time Here?" section. Register for your own user name and password. When prompted, enter the one-time Class Activation Code shown above. This unique code ensures that your order is sent to me.
  • SELECT the books you'd like to order -- choose from thousands of titles -- many more than in our monthly flyers.

  • SEND your order to me online by the due date and your child's books will be delivered directly to my classroom.
Ordering online is fast, easy, and secure.

Of course, you can still order using the form from the printed flyer. But why not see for yourself how convenient it is to order online?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Working Like Brady

Tom Brady, MVP quarterback and three time Super Bowl winner for the New England Patriots has worked hard to make the most out of his career. Last night on Monday Night Football he passed for a team record 517 yards in a win against the Miami Dolphins

In this video he discusses his road to success.



In your opinion, how does his success relate to success in the classroom?  How can his ideas help you, as a student learn more, earn better grades, and be successful?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Collecting Information the Easy Way

I need to collect blog titles and URL's from students to post links in the sidebar.  Looking for an easy way to do this without having to type and link each blog, I decided to use a form from Google Docs.  This will put all of the information in a spreadsheet and make it easy to copy and paste.

Check out the right sidebar for links to all of this year's Reading Workshop students' blogs.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Excellence with Distinction

Laurelville Elementary earned the rating of Excellence with Distinction on the Ohio Report Card. This is the result of high standards and much hard work by students and staff.  This is the first year for this rating that follows several years of steadily improving scores on the Ohio Achievement Test. 

Students at Laurelville are remarkable in the amount of effort they put into their assignments.  Each year students amaze me with their effort and positive attitude.  The great test scores from students in Reading Workshop  year after year show a history of students' success.

Great job to all of the students and staff!

A New School Year

It's a new school year and four days in, students are doing great.  Most have started to adjust to their new school schedule and get back into the habit of getting up in the morning.  There are some adjustments this year with fewer teachers and more students in each class, but we are already starting to get used to this. 

This year's sixth grade classes are starting out working hard and have come in with a positive attitude.  If they keep this up, they can be the best sixth grade class ever!  

Welcome to sixth grade new students.  Keep working your hardest and you will be successful!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wallwisher, A Great Web 2.0 Tool

My teaching neighbour, Mrs. Jayne Stevenson shared this great idea and Web 2.0 tool to allow students to post comments and/or answer questions.  

Post Edited on April 28, 2011.  

Although Wallwisher seems like a great program, there are problems.  Students tried repeatedly over the last two days to access the program.  After several million error messages, I changed my mind about Wallwisher.  The first requirement for any web 2.0 program is reliability.  The inability to post makes this program frustrating, and not at all worth using until the glitches are worked out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Life of a Test Grader & Your Test

So Martha, the Test Grader is sitting in her cubical and opens your test. She turns to the first short answer and this is what she sees.


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 the next test and here is the 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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life of a Test Grader, Continued

OK, so Martha has your test and answer booklet. She doesn't know you, and doesn't care to. In fact, she doesn't even 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?

The first thing, can she read it? 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 write neatly?

Next, 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 organize your answers to make finding key points easy?

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 go back into the essay and find specific details?

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 passage to help you with your spelling?

Did you use the basic test taking skills that you have learned in class?
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx/82881549/in/set-1618327/
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kandyjaxx/2487248468/in/set-1618327/

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Life of a 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 daily 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/173120800/

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