This site has housed my ramblings for quite some time, but I am swimming on over to a new location after this post. There are a couple reasons for this move.
For one, when Edublogs chose to move their auto blog post tool from the various social bookmarking sites to their Pro version, I was very disappointed. I had used this great tool to keep links in the running record of my class activities, and also to share with my readers. In addition, lately the spamming issue has become a major distraction in my blogging activities.
Sometimes (as a matter of fact, many times!), change is a good thing. I hope you will continue to read about our adventures in a 1:1 netbook initiative as my students and I enter our second year together. I’m still calling it “Swimming in the River” because the ripples and splashes will continue as I journey through this lifelong learning extravaganza called teaching! Join me over at http://kcollazo.wordpress.com
The second book I devoured this summer was Alfie Kohn’s The Schools Our Children Deserve. It really challenged my thinking. Although I had always thought of myself as a moderate constructivist, this book gave me pause to think about a lot of the things I still do with my students!
Here are my “sticky-note” sections:
I love the way Alfie Kohn gives permission for readers to copy and hand out chapter 4 “Getting Evaluation Wrong: The Case Against Standardized Testing”.
Wonder if I’d still have my job in August?
The first summer read I picked up was Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen.
Here are some of my favorite “sticky note” ideas from the book (pages I just had to put a sticky note on – a strategy my students use to share their favorite parts of books during the school year):
Great read, energizing and vindicating!
My husband calls it a teaching addiction. I refer to it as a learning addiction! Why is it, after looking forward to summer break for two (sometimes more!) straight months, we can’t stop thinking about our classrooms and our students!
My friends and family think I’m nuts, but I (as well as many other educators) get recharged over the summer by attending workshops, conferences, and reading those most-talked-about books that we just didn’t get to read during the school year. I’m not talking about the newest Jodi Picoult or Nicholas Sparks. I ran straight to the public library and checked out Christensen’s Disrupting Class, Kohn’s The Schools Our Children Deserve, and Covey’s The Leader in Me. Yes, I am feeling the recharge coming on!
Another great day with Laura Candler. Today we learned about how the Mastery Learning Model and Cooperative Problem Solving can really make a difference in how children understand and master math concepts. Here are my notes using Cover It Live:
Math Part 2
Click here to view my Cover It Live notes from today’s Literacy Workshop with Laura Candler:
The evening of June 7th 2010 was wonderful! The Cove Kids and I had decided to put on our 1st Annual Technology Showcase in the school’s media center. Weeks earlier we sent out invitations to parents, school board members, central office staff, community business leaders, the newspaper, and other people with a stake in our 1:1 pilot project.
The kids were so excited! They had each chosen a web 2.0 tool they had used throughout the year to enhance their learning. We decided to set up the showcase so visitors could sit down a few minutes with each of the Cove Kids and watch a quick demo of their favorite app. The kids practiced what they would say while we were in the classroom that week, including making sure the visitors knew how “other teachers” could use this in their classrooms. My kids are all about spreading the project to other classrooms and have really become great advocates!
We had a practice run through the morning of the 7th. Another 4th grade class took time out of their day to visit our “dress rehearsal” in the media center. Everything went great and we had many requests for a listing of the sites we were sharing. That group, coincidentally, had computer lab time that afternoon and spent it trying out some of our shared sites!
The evening came, and the kids looked great! They all wore their nicest clothes and sat down at their laptops to proudly present their work. Wow, it was energizing! We had many guests including parents, grandparents, friends, teachers from various grade levels around the district, our Superintendent and Director of Technology, and the local paper sent a reporter and photographer (the next day we made the front page!).
The kids were fantastic! They shared, demonstrated, answered questions, provided opportunities for the guests to “give it a try”, and impressed the heck out of all of us! I was so proud. I think the thing that caught my attention the most was the fact that my kids were so confident in themselves. Many guests mentioned this as well. They knew that they knew what they knew!
Definitely have to take them on the road next year and turn them loose at a conference or two! Check out this video which documents the joy of sharing that occurred that night!
Something happened today that has never happened to me in the 19 years I’ve been teaching. And, after organizing our classroom into what we’ve called, “The Six Week Scramble”, I think that is the very reason! On three different occasions today, without hearing each other, three of my students made a statement about how ready he/she feels for the End of Grade tests. For those of you not from North Carolina, these are the holy grail assessments of our state. Kids, teachers, and administrators live and die by these assessments every May.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and thrilled! Much of the research I’ve read supports the idea that half the battle in getting kids to be successful is in helping them feel positive about their academic abilities. Well, if nothing else, our “Six Week Scramble” has helped with this. Today I heard, “Mrs. C. I can’t wait to take the EOG’s!”, “Mrs. C., I’m so smart I think the EOG’s will be easy!”, and “Mrs. C. I wish the EOG was tomorrow!” I’m serious!
As I wrote in an earlier post, in an effort to continue using our netbooks as a tool to accomplish what we need to in our learning, I restructured our schedule and routine into 20 minute reefs (centers). Not only has this made our review activities less monotonous and boring, it supports current brain research. Our language arts reefs have included many things! One constant is our literature circle reef. We have had such fun reading books in small groups! We start the reef every day with the kids taking a 5 question quick quiz using Quia on their netbooks, which they LOVE! I also love it because it only takes me a few minutes to throw a quiz together and then Quia grades it for me! Hooray! If you haven’t tried Quia, you need to!! The other reefs include activities out of various EOG review booklets (but hey, 20 minutes at a time is manageable). We also use Classscape, Pearsonsuccessnet, Spellingcity, and other great sites to learn and review many reading, grammar, and spelling concepts. The kids have also used Wordle, our Blog, and PowerPoint to create projects associated with our review. It’s been very fun to plan, and the kids LOVE the change every 20 minutes. Math has been very similar! You can check out what our days have looked like by visiting the “Today’s Jobs” section of our website!
I was worried at first that the kids would rush to finish things in the 20 minutes just to get done. So I made a laminated poster for each of them with their name on it. Every time they score a 100 on any of our activities (and there are 8 opportunities each day in reading and math combined), they get to put a sticker on their poster. We dole out stickers every 3 days or so. Those kids with 30 or more stickers at the end of the scramble will be invited to a pizza party. Yes, I know, there are mixed feelings about this type of “extrinsic reward”, but practicing for a high stakes, multiple choice test is not fun, and if it motivates them to work hard, I’ll do it. Think of the things we do for the scanty bonuses (or in our world “stipends”) offered! Since adding this component to our scramble, the kids have worked harder, are understanding more, and scores are continually rising! Hence, the unbelievable amount of self-confidence I’ve seen this week, our 4th week of the scramble!
Each day our daily schedule also includes 1/2 hour of whole group time in reading and math. During these times we go over “most missed” problems on yesterday’s “jobs” and have great discussions about the vocabulary of the tests. This has been a vital part of our review, and the amount of questions from missed problems is decreasing. Now, whether this will translate into higher test scores I don’t know, but it has been worth all of the evening grading just to have my kids feel smart and on top of the material!
Never thought I’d say this but, I can’t wait ’till the EOG’s!
Our literacy coach sent out an email recently asking for volunteers to try out a new web based silent reading program designed to help students develop better fluency and comprehension skills. Several of my kids immediately came to mind, and since we have the netbooks, I saw this as a great opportunity for the Cove! I submitted 5 names for the trial study, and Mrs. Evans quickly got them set up and registered.
The program is called Reading Plus, and is the only subscription based program we have used this year. We are part of the pilot, as our county is considering a purchase for next year. At first my kids were a bit hesitant. However by day 3 of using it, they are hooked! The program is very engaging. After logging in with a unique password, the kids “warm up” by participating in some tracking activities in which they must count digits and letters which flash on the screen in a left to right sequence. Another activity involves having them read a story which appears line by line in a rectangular box across the middle of the screen. A blue bar slides automatically from left to right covering the words as they go. The kids are then given comprehension questions pertaining to the story. The better they do, the faster the blue bar slides on the next story. The program lets them know how quickly (wpm) they are reading and how accurately they are comprehending the material. They LOVE it! It is fast paced with short stories and motivational feedback. They are often given the message, “You’re doing great! Keep up the good work!” There are also audio components to the program which is always motivating to my kids. Since we are able to take our netbooks home now, the kids can have fun learning to be better readers at home as well! These five dedicated kids will be working with this program for 20-30 minutes a day, and we are hoping to see great improvement in their reading abilities. I’ll let you know the results!
A couple months ago I met with my Principal to talk about how the 1:1 program was going. I shared many of the really cool Web 2.0 things my kids had been doing, their wiki, their animated comic books, their blog posts, and lots of others that are linked on our site. He was very pleased and complimentary. But, as always happens in the offices of educators in North Carolina, the topic of the End of Grade tests came up. Now, my Principal is extremely supportive of all we are doing, but is wise enough to know that funding for expanding and continuing this wonderful world of 1:1 relies on the revered test scores. There are many blog posts which accurately describe the hatred teachers have for standardized testing and the negative impact it is having on education today, but as my Principal so accurately shared with me, it continues to be “where the rubber meets the road”; like it or not.
So, in an effort to “prepare” my kids as well as possible without boring them to death, I’ve decided to go full force with our Reefs. Basically this is Cove talk for centers. At each reef the kids will spend 20 minutes engaged in an activity which will help them review the content we have studied this year, practice the testing vocabulary, and get them ready for the big days in May. Each of our tables will function as a reef. As every good teacher knows, half the battle of using centers in the classroom lies in the transitions! So today we practiced moving from reef to reef. This can be a little trickier when you are taking your netbook with you safely! But as Ron Clark shares in his books, practicing the routines for anything you want to go smoothly with kids is essential. So we spent 15 minutes at the end of our day today hearing the timer ding, picking up our materials, and moving to the next reef without noise. Practice went well, we’ll see if reality follows.
We also had a wonderful PBS (Positive Behavior Support) speaker come in and talk to our staff this week. He stressed the importance of including visual cues in your classroom to assist students in knowing what to do throughout the day. I have created lots of posters which describe the reefs, and also included lots of opportunities for good behavior support which will hopefully encourage on task behavior. We’ll see how it all works out starting Monday!