Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day Ramblin'

Warning ~ a "talking head" video ahead ~ proceed with caution.

What better to do than talk to yourself during a long drive home.

In this case I happened to grab my handy dandy iPod Touch and document this momentary lapse of reason. Please keep in mind that this is what I look like after a long weekend of hard labor in the landscaping business. I am clearly in need of clean shave.

List of resources I mentioned in the video:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Above and Beyond

Barbara Bray, who recently wrote an article called 4C's Gives Students Wings gave me an idea on an activity to use during the first week of school.

First, we'll watch this short animated video.

Then, in a Socratic Seminar format we will discuss the 4C's

  1. Communication

  2. Collaboration

  3. Critical Thinking

  4. Creativity

There are a few points that I really like about this video. One is the fact that the personalities of the two characters are very different from each other, yet they find a way to work together. There is no doubt that learning can be messy and that we each have our individualized learning style or preferences. However, these two students discovered a "win-win" scenario and ultimately created something better than they would have alone.

Here is a list of a few guiding questions to help facilitate dialogue within the group.

  • What were the some of the learning differences between the Charlie and Maya?

  • Which way of thinking is better?

  • Do you have to follow directions to create something spectacular?

  • When is it o.k. to not follow directions?

  • Which type of character are you more like?

  • What do you think Maya meant when she said, "we've only just begun?"

  • The final scene shows Charlie and Maya going Above and Beyond and then joined by others with similar inventions. If someone creates a spectacular invention is it o.k. to use their example to create your own similar design?

What other questions could I ask?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lets Look at Those Process Systems of Reading

I do believe that teaching literacy well requires a fine mixture of art and science.  I have just finished reading The Book Whisperer and the Passion Driven Classroom which certainly gives out heavy doses of the "Art."  I have received a bit of the "Science" on the teaching of reading after attending this years Reading Workshop at our District.

Here's a bit of the Science.

Take a moment and consider the strategies proficient readers use in the graphic below.  It can be overwhelming at first.  As adult reader we use these reading strategies effortlessly and probably without much consideration.  For many students however, that is not the case.


I will use this wheel as a way to begin to observe students reading behaviors to determine which strategies they have:
  • control
  • partial control
  • or no control at all
As the year unfolds and I design small reading groups this wheel can help facilitate and guide many of our mini-lessons and guided reading lessons.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Collecting Data: The First 20 Days of School

As we are gearing up to start our new K-5 Standards Based Report Cards I have been trying to piece together how I can begin to collect effective data.

Where do I begin?

The First 20 Days of School (*pdf) are traditionally spent with many team building activities and discovering my new students strengths and passions.  Within the context of our Reading class much of my data collecting is done through anecdotal notes and observations during those first weeks of school.

How can I use my observations to effectively report out on student learning?

First: I listed the Reading Competencies
  • Monitors own comprehension
  • Answers literal questions
  • Answers inferential and critical/application questions
  • Identifies and summarizes main ideas and details from the text.
  • Draws conclusions/makes inferences using text information
  • Compares and contrasts to gain understanding
Google_Form_for_Reading_ObservationsSecond: I Designed a Google Form to Begin to Collect my Observations

During the Independent Reading portion of my Reading Workshop I usually conference with students and have a discussion about the books they are reading.  The questions I ask may or may not be directly related to the days Mini-lesson, but ultimately that conference is spent trying to help that student become a more effective independent reader.

During these 3-5 minute conferences I keep a clipboard where I jot down my anecdotal notes.  This data has traditionally helped me create reading groups and determine what skills and strategies will be taught.

At this point, I can see myself using a hybrid of this type of data collection.  I will still use my almighty handy clipboard, but one of the computers will also have the Google Form open where I can quickly insert the data.

The beauty of using this Google Form is that all the data will be dumped into a Spreadsheet where I can quickly analyze and identify common strengths and needs among my class. 

For years, we teachers have used our keen sense of observation to make instructional decisions.  However, in the light of R.T.I. and Standard Based Reporting we are now being asked to provide more data to support those decisions.  I for one think this will ultimately improve our craft which will translate into more effective student learning. This idea was inspired by Bill Ferriter after reading What I Would Do with an iPad in My Classroom.

Thanks Bill.