June 29, 2011

Fun Activities

I found a great site that shares tons of great ideas that you can do with your kids over the summer or integrate into your classroom next year. I love creative activities. My favorite? Tie Dye with Kool-Aid. All you need is fabric, kool-aid, rubberbands, some vinegar, and an iron. Sounds like my kind of project.

Book Whisperer Part 3

More insights from Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer

Chapter 5  Walk the Walk - Read every day to be the model your children need.

Two Types of Readers
Efferent - looking for information. Usually an outside to inside way of reading.
Aesthetic - looking for an experience. Usually an inside to outside approach.

Self-reflecting questions to ponder
What were your reading experiences as a child?
Were these positive or negative experiences for you?
Do you see yourself as a reader now?
How do you share your reading experiences - both current experiences and those from the past - with your students?
With which group of readers do identify with best? Underground readers, developing readers, or dormant readers?
Who have been your role models for reading?
List the last five books you have read.
How long did it take for you to read these books?
Which books were read for a job or for a school related purpose?
Which were read for pleasure?

My Reading Plan
1. Commit to a certain amount of time per day. 20 minutes
2. Choose books that are interesting to you.
3. Read more books for children.
4. Take recommendations from your students.
5. Investigate recommendations from industry sources - book lists
6.Create your own readers notebook.
7. Reflect on what you are reading.
8. Share your struggles.

Websites Miller recommended

SEEL - Phonics

As I began to research some of the cool things going on at my new school I stumbled upon SEEL. I was surprised because I recently graduated from the university that started this research and I have heard nothing about it. It looked pretty cool so I decided to share it with you. Keep in mind this is probably best for Kindergarten teachers with some wiggle room for first grade or at home moms.

SEEL stands for Systematic Engaging Early Literacy. It guiding principals are:
1. Explore learning through conversation
2. Teach explicitly what, why, and how
3. Provide frequent and varied practice opportunities
4. Motivate children with playful practice
5. Make meaningful connections
If you want to learn more about this click HERE.

The reason I bring SEEL up? It has a great website to help teachers and parents plan lessons that engage their children. It has an entire database you can search for lesson plans and resources. If you want to search by letter or letter combination click HERE. If you want to look by topic try HERE. Just looking for game ideas? Try HERE.
So I tried searching by letter first. Once I clicked on the letter A, it provided three different lesson plans. I clicked on the first one and a new window came up. It looks like this:

I downloaded the plan. Underneath the download button it has additions to the plan. All the resources you will need are there and ready to download.  

Talk about cool! Too bad I am in a higher grade and can not use this. Right now the site seems geared to Kindergarten and Pre-K but it is in the process of developing curriculum and plans for first grade. Worth exploring if you have children that age. Good luck and enjoy!

June 27, 2011

Book Whisperer Part 2

Here are my thoughts on chapters 3 and 4 from Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer.  I know that not all my thoughts are well explained. But I think this is more for me than for you. Sorry :) I need to remember the great things I read, how I felt, and what I desired to change.

Increase the amount of time spent reading slowly. Children need to develop endurance and capacity.
Every interruption is a time to read. Capitalize on every minute.
Take them to the Library as often as you can. Be excited about it! Help them find new books to read. Children return, renew, read, or plan to get a book.
It does not matter where they read, or how they sit, or if their shoes are on. Just let them read.

Book selection techniques - all readers cheat!
They pick small books, they re-read, they read the ending, they read the first paragraph, and they abandon boring books. Discuss with your class how they pick books. Then share Pennac's The Rights of the Reader.

Plan ahead!
Encourage them to keep a list of books they would like to read. Introduce them to great authors through your read aloud books.

40 Books Minimum 
Set number of books for each genre with some wiggle room for the children to choose their favorites. (Any book over 350 pages counts as two books) But be aware it is about reading and not about accomplishments. It does not matter if they only read 25 books. That is still 25 books. Meet your readers where they are.

Explore them as a class. Let them use any story they know. Even if it is a movie. Discuss and add.  A great assessment tool of learning is mystery tubs. Give them tubs full of one genre. Have them use what they know to properly identify the tub.

Reader's Notebook
I really want to make one of these. I guess I will have to put my computer skills to the test!

  1. Tally List for genres
  2. Reading List  - Title, Author, Date Finished, How difficult it was
  3. Books-to-read-list
  4. Response Entries

Some good books to look into. Guts by Gary Paulsen, Knots In My Yo-Yo String by Jerry Spinelli, and The Tarantula in My Purse by Jean Craighead George.

June 24, 2011

The Book Whisperer Part 1

I recently began reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I know I am supposed to wait to read it with everyone else. But I just could not help myself. So I succumbed and read the first two chapters. Here are some of my favorite ideas and some of the things I want to remember.

In 2000, the National Reading Panel left independent reading off of their recommendations for improving reading instruction, stating, "The Panel was unable to find a positive relationship between programs and instruction that encourage large amounts of independent reading and improvements in reading achievement." - Found in the foreword of The Book Whisperer   Ick!

Lessons should lead to more child autonomy.
Don't teach books, teach strategies and elements.
You must teach children that reading changes your life.

Types of Readers
Developing Readers - those who struggle reading on level just need more time independently reading and instruction on reading strategies.
Dormant Readers - those who read to jump through the hoops we set just need to learn that reading is enjoyable.
Underground Readers - those who prefer to read without teacher interference.

Brian Cambourne's Reading Environment
   Immersion - surrounded by books and discussion of books
   Demonstrations - structure and features of texts, skills necessary to find information
   Expectations - set them high
   Responsibility - choice (Pick a genre, but let them pick the book.)
   Employment - let them practice in real situations
   Approximation - let them make mistakes. Let them read at their current level and then celebrate their          successes.
   Response - conferences, letters on book, encourage, guide, and validate.
   Engagement - personal value, capable, anxiety free, modeled

What is an Interest-a-lyzer? I am intrigued. When I find an example I will let you know. (p. 202) Until then, here is a typed of version of the survey Miller has in the book. I modified it a little to suit my needs, but I think it should be good for anyone. It is FREE. If you download it, I would love that you rate it. Thank you!
Add caption
After reading Thinking of Teaching's Prompts I thought I would add to this post a little. Her questions:
Have you used surveys in the past? What information did you hope to get from them?
What is your plan for student surveys after reading this "whisper?"
I have used surveys in the past, but I have never used them to generate book suggestions before. I love the idea and can't wait to use them with my new class.

June 23, 2011

Educational Casualties - Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson on Education
Worth listening and pondering about today's education

My Impressions 

  • Intelligence is diverse, dynamic, and distinct.
  • We need to teach children it is ok to make a mistake. I know this first hand. I myself am often to scared to take a chance when it comes to something new in teaching. Something I am sure my children would love. I need to take a chance and expand my teaching to meet all the learning styles of my children.
  • Children need to be well rounded not just well defined on one side of the brain. Children need more than math and language. It is my job to integrate that into the classroom as much as possible. You have to create opportunities to help student's develop their talents. We are either helping them reach their dreams or we are teaching them not to try.
  • Are we filling the world full of people who believe that they don't have any talents? Are we mainstreaming and teaching the talents that "don't matter" right out of them? Children are much more gifted than they believe. We just need to help them find and develop those talents.
  • Are we teaching people to enjoy what they do or endure what they do?
  • Humans are unique. Do not standardize them. Do not make them jump through hoops that were not made for them. Customize your classroom to fit the environment and your children.
An educational system isn't worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn't teach them how to make a life.  ~Author Unknown

Thank you Lessons Learned for starting my journey today.
For more videos on creativity visit Mrs. Lazenby.
Thank you to Lifelong Learning for pointing me to another video by Mr. Robinson.
For more videos by Mr. Robinson, feel free to explore his site.

June 21, 2011

Giveaways Galore

Wiggins World is hosting a giveaway of a lot of great things. Check it out before Saturday.  Once you are there head to her freebies page. She has some amazing posters and worksheets.

Yearn to Learn is hosting a $25 Lakeshore Learning giveaway. What is not to love? Hurry over before June 28th. She is also giving away $5 of products to two other lucky winners. Check her out.

Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher  reached 200 followers and she is giving away a $25 to Target to celebrate. 
Lutton 519
Click HERE to enter before Saturday.

Primary Inspired is hosting a giveaway for a fabulous Learning Resources Math Mat Challenge Game
Look at how fun it is! Click HERE to enter before Saturday.

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Thinking of Teaching is hosting a giveaway as well.

Hop over to see how you get ready to read The Book Whisperer with several lovely ladies online.
Click Me!
And click HERE to enter her giveaway!

The Moffat Girls and Ana from Ingles 360 are teaming up for a giveaway. A cute set of gingerbread activities introduce your class or child to new sight words, sounds, and games. Click HERE to enter by Friday.
The Moffatt Girls  
Whew! So many great things to look into. Get to it my friends. Time is wasting.