Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vocabulary Games

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

  • Red A1

  • Red A1 cont.

  • Red A1 cont.

  • Red A1 cont.

  • Red A13
  • Red B7
  • Red A4

  • Red A4

  • Red A13

  • Red A15

  • Red A5

  • Red B9

  • Red A15 Antonyms

  • Red B10 Antonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A15

  • Red B9

  • Red A15 Antonyms

  • Red B4 Antonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A15

  • Red A3

  • Red A15 Synonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A2

  • Red B9

  • Red A15 Synonyms

  • Red A4 Antonyms

  • Red B7

  • Red A6
  • Red B1
  • Red A2

  • Red B9 Synonyms

  • Red A4 Synonyms

  • Red A5

  • Red A13

  • Red A3 Synonyms

  • Red B4 Synonyms

  • Red B9 Antonyms

  • Red B4 Synonyms

  • Red A13

  • Red B1

  • Red B8

  • Red B10

  • Red A3 Synonyms

  • Red B10 Synonyms

  • Red B9 Antonyms

  • Red B10 Synonyms

  • Red A13

  • Red B10

  • Red B8

  • Red A4

  • Red A3 Antonyms

  • Red B1 Synonyms

  • Red B9 Synonyms

  • Red B1 Synonyms

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Want to See What is Going on Here?

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

    Enjoy the pictures of our stars and more.  :)

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

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Are You Brave Enough to Dream?

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

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

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    When I was a Star

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

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

    He says:

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

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

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

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

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    The Bloggers are Back

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

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

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Reading During Christmas Break

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

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

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

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    The Feeling of Christmas at My House

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

    The Christmas Breakfast

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Some Student Poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Divorce, Divorce
    My sister and I
    Had to cry

    My Sister by Keifer
    Inspired by Sara Holbrook

    My sister is
    a splinter
    deep down in my skin

    My sister is
    a baseball game
    one I can not win

    My sister  is
    a rat
    with her little mice

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

    My sister is
    a bug
    one I want to crush

    My sister is
    an apple
    that has turned to mush

    My sister is
    a bumble bee
    always stinging me

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

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Are You Bored with School?

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

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

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

    Who is in control of you anyway?

    Image from

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    So Many Ways to Say it in Poetry

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Want to Put a Little Ryhme in Your Life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Hey Students, Don't Hide

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

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

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

     Image from Lorenzo Menendez/Nature/National Geographic Photo Contest

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Happy Thanksgiving

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

    Come back Monday ready to work.  :)

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Vocabulary Practice and Help the World

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

    According to FreeRice

    FreeRice has two goals: 

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

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

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

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

    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? 


    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.

    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 . . .

    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  . . .

    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

    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

    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!



    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:
    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 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
    Image from

    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

    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