Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reading Aloud To Your Students?

I find that reading aloud to students is a great way to model so many qualities of a good reader.

Fluency - students can hear your voice, and your expression as you read the text
Adjusting reading rate - slowing or speeding my voice so it fits with the story
Rereading - emphasizing an important part or clarifying a part that was confusing
Monitoring Comprehension - stopping to think about how well you understand the story
Predicting & Adjusting Predictions - confirming predictions and adjusting as you read
Making connections - with previous text & with background knowledge
Drawing conclusions - have the kids see your "AHA" moments
Summarizing & Paraphrasing - what was this about/put it in your own words
Voicing confusion - letting students know that you don't understand
Questioning -

These are just some of the many strategies we use when we read aloud. Try to point out to your students what strategy you are using as you use it during a read aloud, so they remember to try it when they are reading on their own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Building a Wiki

I am trying to build my wiki page so the teachers in my school can easily access reading strategy materials anywhere...I still have a ton of info to add to it, but check it out so far!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How Cool!

I read a ton of blogs every night, but I rarely comment on them. Now that I am trying hook more readers onto my blog I decided I would start leaving comments on blogs. So, last week I was fascinated by Tim Shanahan's post http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/2009/08/why-purposes-of-testing-matter.html

I left a comment
WOW quite an interesting post...I have not read up on this, but I do believe this will better our education system nationally. My main concern with this, (and all state tests) is when we test students who are not on grade level with a grade level test. I really do believe if an IEP states the child is not on grade level he/she should take the state test that is on their academic level, not on their age level.
Thank you for this information. I am interested in learning more about this movement.

And, low and behold, his next blog post answered my comments with great detail. Thank you Tim Shanahan! You are an inspiration to me.

Great Sites to Encourage Teaching With Picture Books

No doubt I believe picture books unlock meaning of abstract topics for all learners, especially reluctant readers. Tonight I found a few websites that will help me encourage other teachers to use picture books in their instruction




Saturday, August 1, 2009

Barnes and Noble

I accepted a new job last week as a Reading Specialist/Instructional Coach at the high school level. I am very excited about my job, and, of course, turned to Barnes and Noble for some new resources about content area reading, and the role of a literacy coach. I sat on the rug in BN for over 2 hours yesterday, and read/took notes on several different resources. Finally, I decided it was time to leave. I chose 2 books and made my way to the register. I happily pulled out my educator card only to hear the cashier say, "Sorry, neither of these books are approved for the educator discount."
"WHAT?!? Clearly, they are educator books, what is the problem?"
"The publishers deny the discount."
Too embarrassed to put the books back, I bought them at full price. I was not happy. So, when I came home I searched for a cheaper price online (amazon.com, half.com, ebay even) and found that the prices on them weren't even worth it. What is the point of offering an educator discount if the professional books we crave and love aren't on the approved list for the discount? Yes, I understand I can buy books for my classroom, but I don't have a classroom anymore. My job is to be a resource for other teachers in my school, and I believe I need to be current with all the newest professional books out there. Is there anything we can do to persuade the publishers to give back the discount? And, does this happen at Borders as well? And, do the authors of the books we buy know we do not receive a discount?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Windows Movie Maker

On Saturday my brother in law is getting married. Weddings in my family are usually accompanied by a slideshow of pictures showcasing the bride and groom's childhood, teenage years, and their relationship. When I got married, my mother-in-law continued the tradition and made a DVD slideshow of my husband and me. I love this idea because it really celebrates the couple and shows how two families will be joined on the wedding day.
Well, my MIL asked me to put together the slideshow for the bride and groom. I successfully scanned images and used Windows Movie Maker to create a movie. It was so easy! I think putting pictures to music is one of the most effective ways to relive moments in time, and I am so excited to share my work of art at the rehersal dinner.
In fact, in creating this movie, I decided I will make a movie for each year of my marriage highlighting the events we attend, our friends, and us! Can you imagine having each year of your life showcased as a movie? In 30 years we will certainly have a ton of footage!

A Challenge

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a week learning about the Responsive Classroom Approach.
One part of RC is allowing students to share community news with eachother. In order to make this successful in the classroom the teacher must scaffold the sharing. First, the teacher may provide a sentence starter (My favorite sport...) and all students are given an opportunity to share during sharing. But, the goal of the sharing session is to have students share an appropriate piece of news from their own lives. After they have shared it is up to the other students in the room to ask 3 questions or make 3 comments about the news they heard...and this is the hard part. The questions or comments must be focused on the sharer, not on the person who asked the question or made the comment. We watched a video showing how students were successful with this concept, and it was amazing to see students can do it! Over the past few days I have watched conversations between adults. The first speaker will share something, and the second speaker usually replies by taking about him/herself, not about the person. What do you do? Do you take an active interest in your conversations or are you turning the conversation to be about you? I am going to try to keep the focus on the other person for the next couple days, and see how the conversations unfold. I challenge you to do the same - I bet we learn more about our friends and family by keeping the focus on them instead of turning it to be about ourselves.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Responsive Classroom

I have spent this week learning about Responsive Classroom. I love the idea of starting the day out in a morning meeting where students greet one another, share, participate in an activity, and read a message together. This gets the class off to a positive start for the day. My district bought us 10 books to help us implement RC in our own classrooms this year, AND they even had them for us to take home to read BEFORE school starts!!! I am so excited to work my way through these books, take good notes, and start integrating RC in my own room.
I think my favorite part of the training is spending time with the faculty at my school. We are all learning together (principal included) I've learned more about my colleagues in the past four days than I learned all year long...while I certainly don't want more faculty meetings, I do think it is essential to take at least a day to put school stuff aside and build community with the staff.

Happy Reading to ME! Here's a list of the books we received:

How to Talk so Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
Yardsticks by Chip Wood
Morning Meeting Messages 180 Charts Fisher, Henry Porter
Rules in School Brady Forton Porter Wood
The Morning Meeting Book Kriete
The First Six Weeks of School Denton Kriete
Learning Through Academic Choice Denton
Parents and Teachers Working Together Davis Yang
Classroom Spaces that Work Clayton Forton
99 Activities and Greeting Correa-Connolly


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Donor's Choose

This site was recommended to me, and I decided to try it out, and it worked!
"DonorsChoose.org is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund.

Proposals range from "Magical Math Centers" ($200) to "Big Book Bonanza" ($320), to "Cooking Across the Curriculum" ($1,100). Any individual can search such proposals by areas of interest, learn about classroom needs, and choose to fund the project(s) they find most compelling. In completing a project, donors receive student thank-you notes, classroom photos, and a teacher Impact Letter."

I submitted my project, Under the Sea, on May 19 and the project was fully funded and will be sent to me at the start of next school year. I am so excited to receive the materials and think this is a great way to ask for materials for your classroom!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Dreaded Sub

Today was my IEP writing day at school. A sub was hired for the full day, and I was given the day to write my IEPS. I know, it's impossible to write 9 IEPS in 8 hours, but, hey at least I was granted 1 day! My sub arrived early, sat down at the front table, and didn't move until it was time to take the kids to special. I have to give credit to my aid, who did all the teaching in the morning. When my students went to special I'll admit I went down to the principal to complain about the substitute. My principal was proactive - she immediately went to chat with my sub. Of course, I was not in the room for the discussion, so when I returned the sub told me the principal paid her a visit. I acted surprised, then gently suggested to her that she move around and give 1:1 attention to the students. Sure enough she took me up on this advice and walked around to all the kids once they came back from special. Sometimes gentle reminders are all people need to get them moving in the right direction.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday Reunion Trip

My alarm went off at 4:15 yesterday morning. Yes, 4:15 A.M. on a Saturday morning. I jumped out of bed and quickly ran to the bathroom to take my shower and get ready for my exciting journey to NYC! I'll admit, I have never driven to NYC by myself before, and I was a little nervous. I was in the car by 4:50, and the only customer in the Wawa. I poured a gigantic, well needed 24 oz coffee, and picked up a 50 oz water bottle. I quickly exited the Wawa, turned on my GPS and was on the road to Teacher's College by 5:05 A.M. I didn't hit any traffic and was speeding through the toll of the George Wasington Bridge when I ran into a snag. Red brake lights, lots of them. I came to an abrupt stop and thought to myself...well it's 6:46, the GPS says I should be there at 6:57. This abrupt stop might mean I won't arrive until 7:30...no big deal I'll still be an hour and a half early for the keynote address. After holding my foot to the brake pedal for 15 minutes I realized I was in a serious jam up. 5 hundreths, yes, 5 hundreths of a mile in front of me was an accident that shut down all lanes of the George Washington Bridge. I shifted my car into park and sat back. By this time other agitated drivers were out of their car attempting to get some answers. There were no answers for 2 hours. Finally at 8:35 I shifted my car out of park and into drive. Once I passed the accident I saw the three open lanes in front of me, just waiting for cars to busy them once again. My GPS man spoke to me, and I followed his directions. I hit no more traffic, found a parking garage and found my seat in the Riverside Church around 8:50, still 10 minutes until the Keynote address! Lesson learned - If I left 5 minutes later I would have been late, If I would have left 5 minutes earlier I would have been 2 hours early! Oh, the joys of traffic!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Validation - Do We Do It?

Thanks to Successful Teaching for this post. A great message...Since watching it I have been trying to validate others...pass it on!

A Gratifying Experience

For the past month my class has been practicing our play, Henry's Freedom Box. The kids worked so hard to make it a truly moving experience for the entire school. Last Friday was the assembly for Black History Month where we were going to perform our play. The kids were excited to put on their costumes, and were even more excited when they found out we were the last part of the assembly. It felt like we were sitting for hours at the assembly before it was finally our turn. Keep in mind, we had practiced every part of this...from getting up out of our seats to sitting back down.
The music began "Swing low, sweet chariot..." and the kids did a fantastic job. We decided to add a song to the end of the play where the kids would do a dance. Celebrate America, by Barry Mann It was the perfect addition and brought many of the students and teachers in the audience to tears. I was so proud of my students. For once the special ed students were the stars of the show. These are the moments I live for as a teacher.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sick Days

As a teacher I find it extremely difficult to write sub plans, and find it is easier to "just come in" than write the plans. Yesterday I was scheduled to go to a full day meeting of third grade teachers, but instead of attending the meeting I took a sick day. I was grateful my plans were already written, but sad to miss a collaborative meeting with other teachers in my district.
When I came in this morning I was greeted by a note from the sub and two pictures from my students.
It is really nice to know my students miss me when I'm gone...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Progress Monitoring

The end of the marking period is always hectic for teachers, and most especially for special education teachers. It's progress monitoring time! I stayed at school late yesterday to complete my progress monitoring on my students. Every marking period I think to myself...I really should create online tests for as many goals as I can, but never seem to get around to it. I constantly listen to my students read, but I feel some other goals could be measured through some customized quizzes. I wonder if anyone does this? I am going to look into it for the third quarter and see if it allows me more instructional time with my students.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 Random Things About Me...

I was tagged on facebook to write 25 random things about me. I figured I'd publish the list here as well...

1.I love to cook. Food Network is probably my favorite tv channel. I take the ideas and make up my own recipes.
2.It really bothers me when the ‘ou’ combination is pronounced ‘oo’ like in the words soup and group.
3.I love my family, and love how it grows every year. It was fun growing up with four brothers, even better to get some sister-in-laws, and absolutely the best to have all nieces now, but hopefully a nephew soon!
4.I don’t like to clean, and wish I could hire someone to do it for me.
5.I consider my parents to be two of my best friends, and hope I can raise a family like they have someday.
6.Day drinking is the best kind! Especially at Irish pubs.
7.I HATE driving. It makes me nervous because I don’t trust other drivers. My most proud driving accomplishment: I commuted from Conshohocken to Woodbury, NJ everyday from August – November.
8.I follow a gluten free diet, and try to convince people they need to follow it too!
9.Harry Potter is the greatest series of books I have ever read.
10.I don’t like olives, but am obsessed with pickles.
11.I DVR every show, and fast forward through commercials.
12.Whenever I order a sandwich or burger without a roll the waitress asks Kevin if he wants a roll with his…when the waitress walks away Kevin always makes a comment.
13.I am a teacher.
14.I believe that everything happens for a reason.
15.I am a huge Phillies fan…I love the whole team, but my fav is Jayson Werth.
16.My favorite part time job was working at Starbucks.
17.I own a pair of black sneakers that I wear to work with black pants…they are shiny Nikes. I think teachers should be allowed to wear sneakers everyday.
18.I love to laugh, and love to make people laugh.
19.My husband is a saint to put up with me…97% of the time I am happy, but I do yell for no reason, and can be extremely cranky when I am tired or hungry.
20.I drink water constantly.
21.When I start reading a book I find it impossible to put it down until I finish.
22.I am thankful to have so many great friends in my life.
23.The only time of year I go to McDonald’s is when they sell Shamrock Shakes.
24.I love to read about the art of teaching reading and writing, and believe it makes me a better teacher.
25.Life is so much better spending everyday with the man I love.

Moving into a New Community

In November my husband and I moved to a new town. Honestly, this is the first time in my entire life I have relocated to an area where I am brand new. I have spent the past three months looking for my new favorite pizza place, finding a nail and hair salon, trying new restaurants, and getting to know and understand the lay of the land.
Last night I attended my first Community Education class. It was an exercise class, and I went all by myself. I felt alone walking into an unfamiliar place jam packed with ladies in their twenties to their sixties, but was soon talking to some ladies (they were quite a bit older than me, but still took the time to welcome me!) The exercise class was fun, and I laughed with my new acquaintances. When I walked out of the class I felt really good about myself. It takes courage to try new things, especially on your own.
As a teacher I encourage my students to take risks. I am excited to share this story with my students, and hope it will help them take more academic risks in the classroom.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another Wordle

Can you tell which story we focused on during the month of December?

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alt="Wordle: december evergreen"
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I know this has been around for a long time, but I think it is really cool to see a cloud of words. I created a wordle about my bridal party...as you can see the most important words (Kevin and Rose) are by far the biggest. This would be a great way to see if you overused a word in your writing, or to pull out the main idea.
Click below to see my wordle.
title="Wordle: weddingstorybridalparty"> src="http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/472180/weddingstorybridalparty"
alt="Wordle: weddingstorybridalparty"
style="padding:4px;border:1px solid #ddd">

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Henry's Freedom Box

In November another teacher in my school approached with with an idea to perform a play in order to celebrate Black History Month at our school. She gave me a copy of Henry's Freedom Box, and I transformed it into a play suitable for our classes. I have a copy of it saved in school, I'll be sure to make it available to you as soon as possible.
Today was our first day of practice, and the kids were eager to begin transforming this story into a play. Thanks to Jill, our students went back in time through the music and clothing she had to help them envision themselves in their roles. We need more white aprons for the girls, but for the most part, the costumes we've created are perfect for our purposes.
When I was reading this story to my students I asked them to scrunch up like Henry did to fit in a box. Since the kids were sitting on the rug I told them they had to fit in one square on the rug. I thought this would help them feel more like Henry, I thought it would help them walk in Henry's shoes...then when we went down to Jill's room she had he box we are going to use for the play. One of her students got in the box, and as I looked at my kids faces I could tell they "got it!" By seeing a student scrunched in a box, and by actually scrunching themselves up they understood how uncomfortable and scary the situation was for Henry.
After we finished practicing, I asked my students to write in their journals - Would you mail yourself to freedom? Put yourself in Henry's shoes...Would you mail yourself to freedom?
Henry's Freedom Box

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Wait is Over!

I am the type of person that can't put a book down once I begin it, that enjoys watching a television series on DVD so I can find out what happens without waiting week to week, but every so often I can't help but have to wait for the next book or television show. And, tonight's the night for LOST.
I began watching LOST halway through season 1, jumped onboard, and have never looked back. I listen to podcasts, rewatch episodes to prepare for the next week, and discuss my predictions and theories with my friends. LOST is a great story that never ceases to amaze me.
Even though I don't like waiting to see the conclusion of LOST I am proud of myself for sticking with a television show and watching the traditional way. When I taught middle school I looked forward to my Thursday conversations with several students who were also fans of LOST.
I believe an effective reading workshop can provoke the same feeling of excitement in the classroom. When students are engaged in a good book they are eager to share it with a friend, or his/her reading response journal. Last year, one of my students read "Twilight" and journaled to me throughout the story. I recently finished Twilight and pulled her journal to read her comments about the story...her last entry about the book described how she felt when she finished, and how excited she was to purchase "New Moon" at the book fair. Even our most reluctant readers can't control the urge to wait sometimes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mosaic of Thought

"Children need to learn letters, sounds, and words, but simultaneously they must be learning about the meaning held in those symbols on the page"
I received the second edition of Mosaic for Christmas, and just finished reading the first chapter. This chapter reaffirmed the way I teach reading in my classroom. Last week I focused all of my read aloud time on stories about Barack Obama. I purchased Barack by Jonah Winter I usually spend 20-30 minutes a day reading aloud to my students (2/3 beginning readers)The first day I introduced the book we went on a picture walk. My students know they are allowed to comment freely during a picture walk...these were some comments
"Wow, what a cute baby", "Where did "A rock" (Barack) grow up?" "It looks warm" "Why is he by himself?" "Is he crying?" "Look he's giving a speech"

I was so impressed with the quality of comments from my students. We wrote down several of our comments and questions about Barack's life, and my students shared what they already knew about Mr. Obama. Then, I began reading his story...it took us 3 read aloud sessions (I would guess 30 minutes each) to get through the story because my students had so many comments and questions about Barack's life. I believe this is what Ellin Oliver Keene is trying to convey in her first chapter, and by the quote at the beginning of this post. The conversations we (my students and I) have about reading allow my students to grow as readers. None of my students could have read this book on their own, but choosing a rigorous text for our read aloud exposes my students to higher level thinking and vocabulary. I am anxious to read Barack Obama Son of Promise Child of Hope with my students and compare the two books. (The first book is factual, the second is a poetic account of Barack's life)

My First Post

My New Year's Resolution was to begin a professional blog about my experiences in the classroom, my interactions with other teachers, and my thoughts on education in general. I know New Year's Resolutions are to begin on the first of the year, but I have never been prepared enough to start anything new on the first of a new year...isn't everyday a new beginning? I have, however, kept up my other New Year's Resolution - read at least one current event article from the New York Times or other reliable news source. I believe my two New Year Resolutions will enable me to become a more informed citizen and more effective teacher this year.