Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Break Reading Challenge Activity 7

Best and Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations
This Activity is completely and totally based on your opinion.

1 - You need to choose the BEST Book-to-Movie Adaptation you've seen and the WORST Book-to-Movie Adaptation you've seen.

2 - Post the pictures of the book cover next to the movie poster for each pair.

Best book to movie adaptation:

Worst book to movie adaptation:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

If you are looking for some boredom busters over the holiday break, check out Karin's Book Nook.

I love her Create a Cover activity, so I am re-posting her instructions, along with my contribution. I'd love to know if you try it!

Here are the directions for the Create a Cover activity.

1 – Go to “Fake Name Generator” or click

The name that appears is your author name.

2 – Go to “Random Word Generator” or click

The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.

3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click

Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.

4 – Use Picnik, or something similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.

And here is my attempt:

When his world began to crumble around him, his anger took on a life of its own. Can anyone save Seth from self-destruction?

What I especially love about this activity is how it can generate an actual writing idea. I still need to get back into my NaNoWriMo novel and do some revision. But maybe I'll start a new novel first!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Soar to Success

Part of my job as literacy coach in my middle school is to recognize and help struggling readers. We use an intervention called Literacy Groups. These are essentially small group reading strategy instruction sessions. I have four paraprofessionals who lead these small groups of three to five students. They work with the fifth and sixth grades.

The instructional strategy we use in Literacy Groups is Reciprocal Teaching. It focuses on the reading strategies of clarifying, predicting, questioning and summarizing. The hardest part of working with these struggling readers is getting them to understand that these strategies must be used by them consistently, and not just during the reading they do in group time.

I had an idea that the best way to get them to understand this might be to have them reflect more on which strategies they are using well and how it helps them to be a better reader. To increase their motivation for reflection, I videotaped them explaining how one strategy helped them in the last story we read: Truman's Aunt Farm.

You can see more videos of three different Literacy Groups on my YouTube Channel.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Six Word Memoirs from Mr. Sutherland's Class

Here is another batch of six word memoirs. Enjoy!

Love my family. Unincludes my sister. -Anon.
Eat, play, sleep, and! -Patrick
Braces stink. Who invented that junk? -Phelicia
Two brothers, one me. Not fair. -Anon.
My life is crazy but cool. -Elizabeth
No one knows my diabolical plan. -Anon
I wish school wasn't every day! -Destiny
Got bucked off but still walking. -Tyler
Goth is me. Parents don't accept. -Monica
My dog bites, so back off. -Anon.
I love my dog. He's cool. -Anon.
Please don't make me do science. -Robert
Piercing rods and rings change faces. -Anon.
Sisters...annoying but still love them. -Breanna
Math is very very cool...NOT! -Jon
My sister is a good target. -Megan
6th grade destroys all the fun. -Kenneth
Ride, ride, ride all the time. -Elizabeth
Mohawks, go blue. We are awesome. -Mekenna
Just take what life throws out. -Demi
I went hunting. Hunting is fun. -Anon.
I'm a genius, why still school? -Noel

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Six Word Memoirs from Mrs. Hadder's Class

As promised, we did some writing for National Day of Writing! Mrs. Hadder's 6th graders had a blast AND they wrote some amazing six word memoirs!

Little sister's are so so annoying. -Cody O'Neal
Work keeps me from riding horses. -Mikayla Thumser
adventure, sea-doos, tubing, wild water fun. -Chad DeHaven
Sisters, it's life, deal with it. -Katie Eaton
Trapped under ice but still alive. -Anon.
Love of my life, a mystery. -Garrett Weeks
It's tough getting really good grades. -Anon.
Don't be afraid, let feelings out. -Megan H.
Live life on the edge. Peace. -Danielle Jankowski
Sleepy time, morning shine, hate it. -Sadie Stevens
Pizza is good. Onions are not. -Shayla Franks
Live, laugh, love. Horse lover-me. -Anon.
Peculiar past, weird present, unknown future. -Zach Cousineau
I am a slowly falling star. -Rachel McNeil
Star Wars geek. Yep, that's me. -Anon.
Boring life, crazy mind, interesting world. -Abbie Andrews
A fashion girl, you like sleep. -Melinda
I wish I had a retry. -Gage
My animals are my best friends. -Taylor
Really small guy. Pretty big attitude. -Roy Corwin
Brother is very extremely super annoying. -Anon.
Fuzzy blankets, sleeping cats, open books! -Mrs. Moore
Wordle: Untitled
Today is the National Day of Writing. How will you share the day with your students? Because we in Michigan are in the middle of our state testing, I was looking for a way to incorporate the spirit of the day without bogging students down with what they might feel like was more work. Enter the Six Word Memoirs! This is an idea created by SMITH Magazine and also published in a book (which I would love to own someday...adding it to my looong list!) called Not Quite What I Was Planning.

To begin this lesson, I found some guidelines created by the author of the book, Rachel Fershleiser. I created the Wordle above from these guidelines and will introduce the concept of the 6 word memoir by having students make predictions based on the wordle. Then I will discuss the actual guidlines with them and share these examples from a group of 4th graders.

There are also many videos on YouTube and the SMITH website. I may show these videos after the students have written their own memoirs and then discuss with them how they would like to publish their memoirs. We could create a video to post to YouTube or an Animoto show. We could also create a book or make posters to hang throughout the school. I think whatever idea they decide upon will increase their motivation to complete the task as well as to put their best ideas and effort into it.

That is how I plan to recognize the National Day of Writing in the classroom. Now I am off to write my own 6 Word Memoir!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

They always bring us back to humble!

After recent success with the 6th grade boys reading class, I am reminded today that without the lows, there would be no highs in teaching. Today was definitely a low in terms of any real learning happening. I am having some pretty major frustrations trying to work out blogging with the boys. I am hoping some members of my PLN can give me some advice! So, here are a list of frustrations today:
1. Helplessness: I walked the boys through how to log on to the blog site and had a step by step guide on the whiteboard. Yet anytime the boys run into trouble their first instinct is not to work through it, but to ask for help. And even though there were step by step directions, half of them ask, "What do I do next?" after finishing each step.

2. Lack of basic internet knowledge: The internet in the computer lab opens to A full half of the class then enters the web address they want to get to into the search on that page instead of into the address bar. And when I direct them to use the address bar, they 1) don't know what that is or 2) think I mean their street address!

3. Writing: Once I get them to the blog site and they read the prompt I have set up for them, which should generate at least a good paragraph of writing, they type in one sentence, call out that they are done and ask (again), "What do I do next?"

I have to honestly ask myself what good trying to get them to blog is doing for them. I don't know if I am accomplishing anything through it, other than gaining an insane desire to beat my head against a wall! Am I using the wrong format or tool for what I want to accomplish? Do my boys not have enough background knowledge of technology to be able to use blogging effectively? Would anyone care to look at our class blog page and give me some feedback? I would be eternally grateful!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Get them moving to get them thinking!

What a great day the 6th grade Mohawk Boys Read and I had together today! Working with boys is challenging, but it is also fun and energizing if a teacher can keep in mind what a boy needs, cognitively and developmentally. We've been reading and talking about the survival in class. I've been using an excerpt from the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place as an instructional read-aloud. For their guided and independent practice, half the boys are reading Stone Fox and half are reading Call It Courage (though we are considering substituting Tracker as CIC seems to be too difficult for the boys to read silently.)

After reading the first chapter of their guided books, we engaged the boys in a discussion of character traits. The boys were able to come up with adjectives to describe their main characters as well as find evidence in the story to support their decisions. The next day after putting those adjectives on slips of paper, my co-teacher led the boys in a game of charades. They boys had to decide what adjective was being acted out and which character it was attributed to.

The next day, I finished the instructional read-aloud story and they had had an opportunity to watch the author talk about his ordeal. They were very invested in this reading! I had them do a rally table, recording the character traits of Aron Ralston.

Today was exciting as a teacher! I created a triple venn diagram with the three main characters. I recorded all the adjectives the boys had listed for all three characters on sticky notes. In class, each boy got a sticky note. In table groups, they discussed the words and where to place them on the venn. After they were all placed, the boys checked to see if they would change where their classmates had placed words. If they thought a word should be moved, they had to explain why and the original poster could argue why their posting was correct. Watching boys race to pick up a book, find evidence and defend their answers was so cool.

I took their finished venn and created a master on the computer using Class Tools. We will refer back to this venn as we continue in our guided reading groups, moving and adding words as necessary.

There is another site that I am going to use to assess the boys' ability to think about character traits in the next week. At this site the boys can manipulate a double venn diagram by dragging and dropping words where they believe they go. I will also require them to orally explain their evidence for their decisions. That site is called Word Magnets.

This lesson was so motivating for the boys. They were able to be social and to get up and move around. They loved challenging each other's thinking and defending their own answers. The discussions were very high level thinking. They are definitely moving towards proficiency in the learning target of analyzing characters!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Technologically Thinking!

I am considering offering some after school PD sessions on different technologies. I still consider myself a newbie, but maybe I can learn faster if I have some people learning along with me! I want to begin with blogging or social bookmarking. Not sure what else--maybe I'd let the wants/needs of other participants help drive it. Just brainstorming right now. I think I'll put together a handout for the next staff meeting and see who's interested. In the meantime, here's my latest tech learning:
First Day of School

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blogging with students

My co-teacher and I are excited to start our class of 6th grade boy readers on the path of blogging. I never realized how much work this would be! I don't know how classroom teachers have the time to get the technology set up amid all the other priorities that they have vying for their time!

I gave the boys a tech survey and so far 11 of 19 boys have returned them. Of the 11, only 7 of them have an email address. As I wait for the rest of the surveys to be returned, I am wondering what my next step will be. On the survey, I am asking for permission to post student work online, but now am wondering if I can extend that permission to setting up email addresses for those students who don't have them.

On the bright side, the boys got a chance to see some blogs today and what they might be able to accomplish with them. They created a name for our class blog: Mohawk Boys Read! and have started brainstorming what picture they want me to take of them to use for the header. I've sent out log-ins for the 7 boys who already have email, so I am interested to see if they do anything with it tonight.

In the meantime, I'll continue to read all the tutorials on edublogs. Sue Waters's The Edublogger has been extremely helpful, and I'd recommend it to any blogger with questions!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to prepare when there is no substitute for your job?

Today was our first day with kids. It was a great day. I am so happy to be working with one of my 6th grade teachers in her all boys reading class. Sometimes literacy coaching can be a lonely job at the beginning of the school year.

Today I was able to cross many items off my to-do list. And that might be a very good thing because I was informed about an hour ago that one of my colleagues most likely has the H1N1 virus and since I was in a meeting with her last Thursday, I may have been exposed. Now I am looking ahead to how I can help keep things running smoothly in the event that I get sick. This planning can't hurt; if I stay healthy, I've just made my life that much easier.

This first two weeks of my job are normally spent testing 5th graders and students in grades 6-8 who are new to the building. After analyzing test scores, I set up interventions for struggling readers in 5th and 6th grade and then I work with the teachers and paraprofessionals who deliver those interventions. In the next two days that testing will begin.

I know from experience how hard it is to keep up with the needs of job when I can't be in the building. A couple of years ago, I was on a jury for a murder trial and I missed several weeks of school. I guess if I could catch up from that, a little flu virus can't slow me down too much!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Co-teaching in the Role of Coach

Recently I attended a two day workshop on coaching. The workshop was valuable and informative. It has also left me with serious doubts about my plans for this fall. In discussing the coaching model that includes cycles of modeling, collaborative planning, observing, and providing feedback, the presenter said that the modeling phase should not be confused with co-teaching. He said that the research indicates that co-teaching as a form of coaching, where the coach will eventually leave the co-teaching situation is not effective. The classroom teacher would revert back to their old way of teaching because they lack the partner in the room.

I have plans to co-teach this year with a 6th grade teacher in her boys only reading class. The reason we had decided to give this a go was due to a workshop led by Laura Robb that I attended at the Michigan Reading Conference last spring. Led by the ideas in Robb's book Differentiating Reading Instruction, we want to implement a differentiated way of teaching strategic reading in our school. We are planning to implement Robb's methods and then report to staff and have the methods and strategies spread through the school.

The presenter's statement leaves me wondering if I have chosen the best method for creating change. Unfortunately, it is too late for me to "back out" of co-teaching. We've already begun planning and my co-teacher does not feel confident about pulling this together alone. And really, I'm not convinced that the presenter or his research were correct. I do think that it provides new questions for my co-teacher and I to discuss. I need to remember that this is really HER classroom, not OURS. We need to develop strategies for her to be able to run this new style of classroom on her own at some point, and I think we need to determine what that point should be.

If I consider our work together in terms of the gradual release model of instruction, I still believe co-teaching is the best option. The changes we are seeking are not ones I can simply model, as I've never taught this way. These changes are a whole new process for designing and implementng a reading curriculum. They will require both my co-teacher and me to shift our paradigm. But I think if the rest of our thinking follows the gradual release method, always reminding ourselves that at some point it will be she alone in the classroom, we can make co-teaching work.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A New Role This Year

The Michigan Department of Education is taking on an initiative entitled Developing and Implementing the Formative Assessment Process in Michigan. I was selected to be an assessment coach in my district and today was the first day of training. Thankfully, my colleague, Marla, was also chosen.

The training today was focused on the role of coaching and how to be an effective coach. Our first task was to jigsaw an article about the 5 dynamics of group facilitation. We had to design a way to teach our assigned dynamic to the rest of the group. We had two great ideas that involved some active participation and role play, but when the facilitator heard one member of our group explaining an Affinity Diagram, he railroaded us into completing an affinity diagram for our presentation. It felt too directed to me. The 5 dynamics are an effective way to think about the role of coaching. They include planning, making learning a priority, modeling, working through the tensions, and building capacity over time.

In the afternoon, we did a looking at student work protocol called Atlas. I was left with a few questions about the protocol, but I did like the process. I facilitated the 5th grade team in my middle school last year in some looking at student work sessions using the tuning protocol. That protocol worked very well for the team, so I am interested in how they will find this new tool. I like that it has a focus on one student. It fits nicely into RTI theory.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer School--Working out of my comfort zone!

Summer school begins next Monday. I am excited to be with kids again (other than my own!) I'll be taking a break from the middle school level as I will be the lead teacher for the group of students entering 4th grade in the fall. My own younger daughter will be a 4th grader this fall and she is quite a character. I seem to remember her sister being rather strange at this age as well, so I am interested to see if it is a phenomenon with 9 and 10 year olds, or if it is just my girls! (As an example of her silliness: last night my 9yo used a key to unlock my head, opened it up and said, "My it's very dusty in here. You must not use your brain very much! Let me just clean it up for you." At which point she, blew on my head and then closed me back up and locked it tight!)

I am a bit nervous about working with these kids as I've been in the middle school now for 16 years. I think I will have to make a conscious effort to slow down in my teaching. Right now my plan is to work in a genre study on folk tales and then work with them on strategies for reading expository text.

On the first day, I want them to be involved in setting the norms and guidelines for our work together. After that, I want to have them set goals for themselves. I am hopeful that they will be able to do this, and I know that they are going to need more scaffolding than I have to use with my middle schoolers. But I am not quite sure what that scaffolding should look like. I plan to try using a mind mapping activity to get them to think about how they want to be different at the end of our work together. Then perhaps to put their goals into words, I will use a close paragraph that they can fill in.

Please share any words of advice or wisdom!

Monday, July 27, 2009

So Confused!

Sometimes learning new things can be very taxing! I'm finding this to be especially true with the new information I find myself bombarded with on Twitter. Here are the new terms I've been exposed to:
Second Life

And then there are the terms I already knew, but still have not much idea about how, when, where and why to use them:

I am taking baby steps with all this new information. As you can see, I've begun the blogging process. I am a part of a couple of nings, and I really like the networking and collaborating I get from that. But as for the rest, I feel like I just need someone to tell me which are the best tools to use.

I also need guidance on time management for all of this. On Twitter, many of the people I follow seem to be on the computer all the time! I am sure this is just my perception, but the conversations I see that took place while I slept leave me feeling jealous that 1) I missed out and 2) that I have to sleep! And aside from sleeping, I have to do all the other daily routines that being a wife, mother, pet owner, teacher, friend, daughter, etc. come with. I don't want to log hours on the computer!

So, someone (or lots of someones!) out there on the net, please share your computer-time management skills. And please help me sort out how to prioritize these new-to-me-tools.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why Middle Level...cont.

The fact that many structures of model middle schools are being tossed by the wayside in these tough economic times makes it even more crucial for teachers to pursue graduate studies in middle level programs. We all know that in education, we're riding a pendulum that swings back and forth. Ideas come and go, but even if they have different names, the philosophies behind them are usually the same.

In the middle level program at CMU (and hopefully in all!), a teacher will first learn about the distinct needs and characteristics of these "kids in the middle." These sweet darling are undergoing such dramatic changes physically, cognitively, and emotionally. It is imperative to understand them in order to best help them grow into democratic life-long learners.

The second important part of a middle level program is the structures that best suit the needs of these kids. Teaming, flexible scheduling, advisory, parent communication and contact are all crucial elements. Teaching in a school that does not already employ these structures makes it even more important that we have qualified and knowledgeable staff who can advocate for them, and who have the desire to implement them in the toughest circumstances.

In order to understand middle level kids, we need to understand the diversities that enter our classrooms. These kids are diverse in every way-from their rate of their development to ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversities. The middle level program will help teachers understand these differences and then go on to model the instructional strategies that will allow teachers to meet the needs of all students, in spite of their diverse natures and backgrounds.

Understanding curriculum that best meets the needs of middle level students is the next step in the journey to becoming a highly effective middle school teacher through the program at CMU. The National Middle School Association advocates for a curriculum that is integrated, rigorous, and incorporates student voice. This type of curriculum is best planned in collaborative teams, but even teachers who find themselves still working in isolation can implement the elements of effective curriculum within their own classroom.

Becoming a middle level specialist through an endorsement or masters program will enhance the practice of teachers at every level. It will change the way you teach. Maybe more importantly, as many middle schools do away with teaming and common planning time, flexible scheduling, and the other components that make a model middle school, it will make you an advocate to maintain instruction and programs that research shows are best for middle level students.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why Middle Level training is important.

Today I completed my 5th year of teaching as an adjunct instructor at a nearby university. Every summer for the past 5 years I have taught two classes in the Middle Level Master of Arts program. The two classes I teach are Meeting the Diverse Needs of Middle Level Learners and Middle Level Curriculum. The 6 credits are taught in three weeks, and they are fast-paced weeks!

This year, as in all others, I am left in awe of the tremendous learning that my students pack in. Between the two classes, there are 5 required texts, all of them packed with valuable information and teaching strategies. The reflections that my learners turn in at the end show the way their thinking around middle school curriculum and teaching strategies have changed. But I also feel sorry for my students this year. Situations in educate in my state have led to a dramatic decrease in the number of teachers seeking to further their education with a middle level masters degree. In my first 2 summers, I had classes of 12 and 14. But these numbers have decreased so that this summer I had 6 students for one class, and although it is best to take the two classes together, it is not necessary. My afternoon class, therefore, had 5 students.

The lower number of students means that they are missing out on substantive conversation that comes from having more voices in the classroom. All of our tasks this year were completed in record time, and I really missed those one one or two "devil's advocate" voices.

Today, the class and I brainstormed with the department head what might be the causes of diminishing numbers in the middle level program. We all agree that university costs are exorbitant, but beginning teachers still have to complete 18 hours in 3 years. Other departments are not experiencing the same struggles. The one possible answer we came up with is that the dismal financial situations facing most school districts has caused most to put the middle level concept on the chopping block. It takes more staff to be able to have common planning time, advisory, and flexible scheduling. It seems that teachers think if their school doesn't follow the middle school concept, the masters program is not right for them. But this is faulty thinking! If anything, middle school kids need qualified middle level educators who understand their developmental characteristics and needs now more than ever!

I will discuss these ideas more in my next post. Stay tuned!

Legitimate beef or disgruntled softball mom?

My 12yo daughter, G, is a good softball player; one of the best on her team this year. She pitches and plays first base. Not only is she good, but she works hard. She gives 110% at every practice and every game. Being a very non-athletic mom, I often marvel at her skill and perseverance and tenacity. This year, she was chosen by her team mates to be on the All Star team--a team made up of 4 players from each of the three regular season teams. The All Star team was coached by a regular season coach, but not G's regular coach. G attended the one practice that was held before the game, a 2 1/2 hour practice. Her dad said she was the most accurate pitcher, though not the fastest, and she did well at first.

G's team ended up playing 5 games in the All Star tournament, an average of 25 innings. G sat out 10 of those innings, played first base in maybe 7 of them and was relegated to left field the rest of the time. I tried to soften the blow by explaining that left might not get much action at her age, but it is an important position in high school. The sitting out is what frustrated me. The coach had the same two girls pitching the whole tournament--which is ok, they are good pitchers. But in one game, G's team mercied their opponents. This seemed like a great time to me to mix it up some. All 4 girls from G's regular season sat out 2 innings per game. The girls from the coach's regular season almost never had to sit out an inning. I don't think this is right. These girls are young; going into 6th and 7th grades. They haven't finished growing and developing and their talents and skills could still grow. Yet, I felt this coached had made some major decisions about each one's abilities. That wouldn't bother me, except that this coach is also the Varsity softball coach for the school district. I don't want my daughter to be "softball tracked" right now based on his (I believe faulty) assessment of her ability.

So my question is, are my concerns legitimate and would it be appropriate for me to address these issues with the coach? Or am I seeing things through the eyes of a mom and not being fair about the situation? I would appreciate any insight!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Decisions, decisions!

Thanks to my twitter friends who have ventured over to offer suggestions and guidance! I think I am going to try to do an all-inclusive blog rather than separate personal and professional. I'm not sure how it's going to work and maybe I'll only be writing for myself, but that's ok!

But this is going to have to be a short entry. The husband is out at the boat for the night and I should not be neglecting my girls! They've been so great about working on to-do lists that I've left for them the last couple of weeks as I put in my time at the university.

Next week is all about them and the houseboat!

Welcome to My Blog

I am not sure how to start this off! Let's begin with why--why did I create a blog? Well, I recently created a Twitter account. In the few short months that I have been tweeting, I have learned tremendous amounts about all of the different ways to use the web, both personally and professionally. My job title is Literacy Coach and my goal is to advance the professional development of my staff. Technology is changing the way we do so many things and I would like to be able to help my staff navigate that change. But I would feel lost in helping them navigate uncharted waters, so here I am--charting a course.

I am starting with a Blog, but who knows where it will go from there. In fact, if you have recommendations about where it should go, I'd love to hear them!

I'd also love input on personal vs. professional blogs. Do I merge the two parts of my life into one blog? I work in a middle school but I also live with a soon-to-be 7th grader and a soon-to-be 4th grader. And the stories I could tell about my husband! Part of me feels like maybe there should be two blogs. But another part argues that I am only one person and I'm not even sure how I'll be able to keep up with one blog, let alone two! I would like to actually LIVE some experiences to write about! In yet another facet of my life, I am an adjunct instructor in a middle level master's program. One of the major tenets I preach about teaching at the middle level is that we need to have integrated curriculum; a blending of the boundaries between the subject areas. To then chop up my life into little separate parts seems hypocritical.

That's where I'll leave it for today. I have a lot to learn and guidance would be good!