Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Do I Have to TEACH Reading?

I watched my kids today after we came in from Recess and loved what I saw.They were sprawled all over the room. Some were in the Sponge Bob duct taped "used to be my sons'"video chairs. Some sat on the fluffy pink and aqua bean bags I purchased in Five Below. (They were on sale.:)) Others grabbed the carpet strips I begged asked my local Home Depot for last year.
They were reading.

During the summer, I came across the app, Level It Books, and decided it was time to get my classroom library in order. I went to the Dollar store and purchased baskets. (I spend way too much money on this classroom). I scanned in every book I had and I was ready! Today my kids checked out books via my Smartphone, and I began reading.

I let them choose the books they wanted to read, regardless of Grade level, Lexile Score, or genre, their choice. And except for one young lady who was trying to distract her peers, they were all reading!
The point I'm trying to make is they were reading, and I wasn't talking.

I wasn't talking about cause and effect, main idea, figurative language,making inferences,etc... all the things we are forced to teach as a skill, instead of  "teaching" it as we enjoy a great story. I wasn't going to make them take a quiz. (Although AR will be enforced very soon.) I am sure if my students and I began discussing the stories they were reading, I could cover most or all of those skills over a period of time, without sucking the joy out of the story.

When we participate in Global Read Aloud, I give my students a chance to enjoy the story through discussion with students all over the world. And unbeknownst to them, it's through discussion that we touch on the skills that enhance, and lead, to a greater understanding of a story.

I love novel studies, or book clubs, or whatever it's called where you are, because it gives our students the chance to delve into a good book. A six page story in an anthology just doesn't cut it.A "making inferences" worksheet with an attached  paragraph is no match for the skills that can be taught with a novel!

Why do I have to TEACH reading? I guess the question is more, "Why do I have to teach reading skills as if it is a separate entity from actual reading?" Does that make sense?

Boldt, Katie. chooseadearbook.jpg. . Pics4Learning. 28 Aug 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

PARENTS: Tips for a Successful School Year!

The other day as I was listening to the Tom Joyner Show, Jeff Johnson came on and shared, "Be a Role Model: 4 Back to School Steps for Parents".

Somewhere along the way, we have given parents a free pass. Somewhere along the way, many, not all, of our parents have fallen off the triangle. Some have dropped out of being involved in their child's education. Many teachers go out of their way to engage our parents. Unfortunately, very few take advantage of what is offered.

Jeff made a note that it's not that some parents don't want to help, they just don't know HOW. I found this thought interesting. So, I took the word PARENTS , combined my thoughts and Jeff's, and came up with these tips.

Participate: You do not have to volunteer in the school every day in order to be a participant in your child's education. Attend an assembly, a class presentation, volunteer to read, or chaperone a field trip. Participate virtually. Read the notes your child brings home, help with homework and/or projects, write on their blog, call or email the teacher. Do something that lets your child know that you are an active participant in their education.

Advocate:  You know your child better than anyone else. Advocate for them. Get to know their teacher from Day One. Attend Open House and find out what, and how, they will be learning, Make sure you are aware of important dates. If something is wrong, talk to the teacher first. If it's not fixed, take the next step. Be there to make sure your child gets the education they deserve.

Read: Read to your child. Read with your child. Have your child read to you.Find books they enjoy. If you can't afford to purchase books, go to the public library, or make sure your child takes advantage of the school library.Allow them to read what is interesting to them, picture books,comic books, newspapers, graphic novels. If you have Internet access, read books online.Ask them questions about what they are reading.

Encourage them. Make them understand that you believe in them. I know that I had to stop myself from continuously focusing on where my children were struggling. It's easy to get lost in that. Let them understand that you are behind them 100%. Encourage them to do what's right, resist peer pressure, work hard, and not give up.

Notify the teacher if circumstances change. Many times we don't want people to "know our business." But your child is our business, and when there are major changes in their life, it's best if we know. Maybe we can't help with your problem, but we can make necessary changes in the classroom. The parents in my class always notified me when there was a death in the family, divorce, etc... because their children were affected by these events.

Turn off the television and video games. Talk to your child. Ask them about school, and don't let them get away with saying, "nothing." Talk about your time in school. Talk about your job. Have a meal together, if it's possible. I found out a lot of what was going on in my children's life just by sitting together at the table, and talking.

Sacrifice. Sometimes you have to give up something to get what you want. In this case, we want our children to get the best education they can.  It could be something as simple as a sacrifice of time, but that sacrifice could make a huge difference in a child's life.

I created a poster of these tips to hand out to my parents at Open House, hopefully, it will help.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Where I'm From" Using Poetry as an Introduction!(Back to School)

A teacher on Edmodo suggested this activity as a way to begin the year. I agree. It's not only a wonderful way for you to get to know your students, but it gives you insight into how they write without the pressure of a prompt. (Hopefully,"What I Did On My Summer Vacation" writing assignment has gone the way of the dinosaur.)

My intention is to use Google Docs to collaboratively brainstorm all the things we would want to tell people about ourselves. Then I will use the example that was written, and identify what we learned about the author from her poem. . In the end though, I want them to define it themselves. 

I will save these on Google, create a flipbook , or Book Creator, definitely find a way to present it as a class project. 
I don't expect this to be done in one day. I hope my students will learn more about themselves as they write, so I, and the other students can understand who, and why, they are. I will also revisit their poems as we learn more about imagery and figurative language.

I created my own, "Where I'm From.."poem 
I'm from BROOKLYN.
I'm from Panamanians, who for a better life, immigrated to los Estados Unidos.
I'm from running, bike riding, handball until it hurts, darkness telling you it's time to go in.
I'm from reading on the porch, teased, face to face, not Facebooked.
I'm from wanting to be a teacher to being one, not playing when it comes to "my kids".
I'm from laying on the beach, warmth bathing my skin, laughter touching my heart.
I'm from singing God's praises loud enough for him to hear me.
I'm from mother of two handsome, strong-willed, hard-headed sons, wife to a strong man who loves me like a bee loves honey!
I'm from salsa, reggae, R & B, and Daddy's,(God bless his soul), Motown playing loudly every day.
I'm from Mommy raising 5 kids and not letting them know life for her wasn't a crystal stair.
I'm from lost deep in a good book. I.can't. hear. you.
I'm from National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc./RHO Chapter, strutting like a peacock in my red and gold.
I'm from confident, yet, not conceited.
I'm from loving who I am!

photo credit: Paul Lowry via photopin cc

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Top July 2013 Posts!

Here is a review of the top July 2013 posts. If you missed any, here's your chance to catch up!

The Teacher Code of Silence:Yeah, We Have One Too!You know you saw it. You saw her go up one side of him and down the other. You felt so bad for him. But what did you do? You walked past, eyes averted, hoping to save him from further embarrassment. She looked at you, eyes locking, and shared a smug, "Yeah, I got him", enveloping you in her meanness. And you didn't say a word, you continued to walk down the hall, carrying your guilt like a stone.

I Am Not a "Highly Effective" Teacher!: Student Test Scores Have Spoken!  I saw this tweet after I had already written this post, and I thought, "How perfect!"

I found out today that I am an only an "effective" teacher as opposed to "highly effective."

I received my summative evaluation in June and I received a Satisfactory. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think "I'm all that and a bag of chips", but I felt I deserved more than a Satisfactory. So, I challenged it.

Classroom Management Skills to Help You Survive the Year! Is it really that bad? You're doomed? Don't panic, it doesn't mean that you don't have a chance to turn things around. You always have another chance. Some can turn it around during the school year, and some have to wait for a fresh start. Either way, it's not hopeless.:)

It's Not a Competition:Teachers and Sharing! I think we all know them. We see a wonderful lesson or project our colleague has implemented with their students, and we excitedly ask for the details. We are eager to use it in our own classroom, alas, the details are never forthcoming.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

ClassDojo's New Feature: Teacher Collaboration!

One of the many reasons I am such a great fan of ClassDojo is the fact that they listen to feedback from teachers. This latest feature has been one of the most requested by teachers. It was definitely a feature I was interested in!

Teachers can now collaborate! This is exciting because this will eliminate the way collaboration via ClassDojo used to work for me. Let's say I picked up my students from Art. The Art teacher would say, "Could you please give Jane a point for working quietly?" Of course, I would forget by the time I made it back to my classroom.

ClassDojo has added this feature which provides a way to consistently reinforce behaviors.  There are two settings, "full access", and "read only." "Full access" allows for full collaboration, and "read only" allows a teacher or administrator a view of a student's behavioral progress.

Let ClassDojo know how this new feature is working for you!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The New Teacher:What Can We Do to Help?

I spoke to the new 5th grade teacher today. I was part of the interview process and I was really impressed with her. She seemed like a great fit to our team, and after speaking to her today, our conversation helped reinforce that thought. Upon hearing that she was hired, I made sure my principal gave her my cell number so that she had the option to get in touch with me. She did. Good sign.:)

She is so excited! This will be her first year- long class. She is so excited!:) And terrified! I know how she feels. I still get that feeling. Not nearly as excited and terrified as she is, but every year is a new year, with a new adventure awaiting us. It's a lot easier when you have a year or two under your belt. It's a lot easier when you've had your "very own class" one or more times.

She asked a lot of good questions. I am going to go in one day to unpack my room, she'll be there, so that we can talk and plan. She wants to make sure she has the basics to get started.

What can we do to help the new teacher?

  • remember that we had to start somewhere. Don't judge. 
  • don't bring negativity and/or gossip to their classroom,Teacher's Lounge, or Happy Hour.
  • help in any, and all ways, that you can
  • share websites, lessons, routines, etc...
  • make yourself available
  • introduce them to Twitter #ntchat 
  • plan collaboratively 
  • give helpful advice
  • help them de-stress (especially since this profession can be overwhelming at times)
  • allow them the chance to learn, don't force ideas on them
  • listen
I am aware that I have to get my room ready, my plans done, my thoughts together. But since I've done this so many times before, I figured giving up some of my time to help the new teacher is a good thing.

I would love for new teachers to tell me how we can help! I would love to hear ideas from others how we can help.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Teaching: My Passion is Not a Reflection on You!

My teenager said to me, "Mom, do you realize that you are lucky to have your dream job? Most people hate their job".

He's right. I am extremely blessed to be able to do this job for 29 years, and still love it. This is the job I have wanted to do since I was that little girl. That girl, in her friend's basement, attempting to teach the few kids we could scrounge up.

I am passionate about teaching. However, at times, I feel guilty about how much I enjoy it. Not only about how much I enjoy it, but how much time I dedicate to it. I don't mean the guilt I feel when it comes to my husband and/or son. That guilt I feel when I have switched from laptop, to Ipad, to Smartphone, talking to my PLN, searching for "that" lesson. I refer to those who feel that I shouldn't, because they don't. "Don't you have a life?", they ask.

Yes, I do and my passion for education, for teaching, is part of it. I go to the beach, family outings, the movies. I do all the things they feel I should do. But instead of watching reality TV, reading People magazine, or playing a mind-numbing game of Candy Crush, (not that there's anything wrong with that), I choose to blog, tweet, read, comment, on anything and everything about education! 

My passion drives me to not walk into my classroom, and dust off lesson plans from 1998. I will never "teach to the test." I will not give up #5thchat on a Tuesday evening, or the chance to join a webinar on a Saturday. I will not treat the integration of technology as if it is an unspeakable horror. That is not who I am. And in my quest to grow, to prevent stagnation after 29 years, I search, and in searching, I learn. And I take what I learn, and apply it in my classroom.

I don't do it so that I will look better than anyone. I don't do it to impress. I don't do it because someone asked me to. I do it because I choose to. It can't be helped if what I do is recognized, and yes, sometimes, rewarded. I am not going to diminish my light because someone else may feel dim beside me. It is not my intention to make someone seem less than I am.

I do not judge teachers who do not share my passion, to each his/her own. But, my passion motivates me, guides me, drives me, and is evident in my classroom every day. And I don't see anything wrong with that:)

I am an iEducate Delaware finalist! I am being honored for what I do in my classroom to enhance learning.  If you choose to vote for me, click this link!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Narrable: Images with a Voice!

I was really excited when Narrable was introduced. A presentation of images where you are able to add your voice. My mind raced thnking about the number of ways I could implement this tool in my classroom! But my excitement soon turned to disappointment when I realized I would only be allowed 5 Narrable presentations. That didn't sit well with me, and as much as I loved it, I left it alone. Apparently, I was not the only educator with this concern. Fortunately, Narrable founders listened to the feedback from educators, and changed. Yeah!:)

Introducing Narrable for Teachers. If you are an educator, and already have Narrable, you can upgrade. If you never signed up for Narrable, sign up, and then upgrade. Educators have access to unlimited Narrable presentations for FREE! Narrables can be shared using social media, embedded, and emailed.

They are in the process of creating Narrable + EDU, where your students can have accounts, log-ins with no email, collaborate,etc.... This will be a premium version, and will cost $49 a year.

I know there are tons of digital storytelling tools out there, but I think this one is worth a look! (The example above was embedded from the Narrable website.)