Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not Good Enough?

As part of the Daisy Troop Cookie Drive, my daughter, her friend A, and the mothers sold cookies at Old Navy today.  As all mothers do, we began chatting away on a variety of topics. (Both of our husbands travel extensively for work, so I've found another mom who identifies with me!!) Our conversation turned to school, and I soon became saddened by what she shared.

She volunteers as part of the school Kids Reads program, and mentors a young kindergarten child.  As her meetings progressed, she felt the child was reading okay and had a conversation with the teacher.  What transpired,  bothered and saddened this mom.  Because the school district has a high achieving clientele, the gap between those working on grade level and those above grade level is so great.  This kindergarten child was one at grade level and the teacher was using the mentor to help bridge that gap.  My heart cried for this young child.

This mom also shared that her daughter, A, is one of those students.  Her teacher is asking her to frontload A with material at home so that she can be ready when those concepts are introduced.  A is doing homework all the time.  I gave the mom my favorite educational website that A can do at home, which is more fun than paper/pencil worksheets.

All afternoon I've been marinating this notion that "on grade level" is not good enough.  What are we teaching our students at the young age of 6 or 7?  Where is the differentiation?  If a true workshop model was in place, wouldn't kids like A succeed along their own continuum?  Children need to be cherished and honored for the work they do.  When I think of all the great leaders of our time, were they told they were not good enough?

Global Community?

NCTE's 21st Century Framework is my GPS for moving my students into the 21st Century, but the component of sharing with a global community is one that my colleagues and I in our district are trying to achieve, while working within the confinds of our out-dated technology policy.  Most of our student work needs to be password-protected and not shared with the outside world.  I have even had a parent concern about placing work on our school's intranet, so for me this issue is one dear to my heart.

Listening to Tim Tyson at the Dublin Lit Conference, I was convicted that I need to find global avenues for my students to share.  His students work, if  the qualifications were met, was posted for a global audience.  The students internalized his message, and he found global avenues for them to share.  After a few days of marinating on the issue while sitting through hours of  painful national testing for fourth graders, I thought of some ideas:

1.  Jeni's Ice Cream came and spoke about it's business practices as a tip-off for economics.  We wrote thank you letters to the speakers when one of my treasures said, "Mrs. Archer, are they really going to read them?"  Ouch...everything we do must have an audience and purpose.  Yes, I copied their letter on colored paper and sent them the next day.  Future ideas:  taste-testing 4 flavors and writing reviews to send to Jeni's. (thanks, Ann Marie Corgill)  It may not be global, but the audience is in our small part of Columbus. 

2.  My brief  Freedom on the Menu  read aloud blossomed into a month-long study of those who made change.  A seed was planted and through other picture books, mostly fiction, we'll tackle how my treasures can make a difference, big or small in a little piece of  their world.  Through painting, videos, photography,and more, my treasures will be creating a class video on making change.  My thought is to burn dvd's and send them out, but I've got to tackle the parent/district paremeters first.  Any other ideas?
Change the World in 5 Minutes a Day At School gave me the inspiration! (Next on my learning continuum, learning how to embed youtube videos!)

Sharing with a global community is the one facet that is limiting my treasures.  Like Tony at Learn Me Sumthin' has posted, we need to move forward, even if our hand is slapped!  It's easier to ask forgiveness, than permisson!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kevin's Meadering Mind Podcast

Kevin's Powerful Meadering Mind:  I didn't get a chance to see Kevin Hodgson because I was in other sessions, but Tony from Learn Me Sumthin and Mary from Teaching in the Tech Frontier raved about his Meadering Mind.  Mine has been working in overdrive since the conference and I flipped over to his blog tonight and listened to his podcast reflection on Tim Tyson's technology movement in his school.  I'm posting the link    (scroll to Feb. 22) because I cannot do it justice...all I can say is WOW and AMEN!!  For those of you wanting to move faster and farther than districts will "allow", Kevin shares what it took for Tim Tyson to go up against district and technology administrators and get most of his teachers blogging weekly.
It's a must "hear" podcast for teachers, administrators, and district officials.
Enjoy!  I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ann Marie Corgill-Dublin Lit

Earlier Lisa blogged about Tim Tyson and how he rocked the house with his message.  My post is about  Ann Marie Corgill's sessions and her book Of Primary Importance.  Whenever I find a professional book that I identify and center my workshops around, the author becomes by Book BFF.  When I began teaching fourth grade, Aimee Buckner was my BFF with her book, Notebook Know-How.

Of Primary Importance author, Ann Marie Corgill is my new BFF. (I even told her that at the conference.  I'm a teacher paparazzi!!) I saw her at NCTE, and read her book afterwards.  I'm rereading it and marking it up with my own personal thoughts.  Her message is simple:  
Children and their work needs to be celebrated and honored daily.
Thoughts from the book:
She believes that students succeed when teachers possess the six A's:  
Analyze, Ask, Applaud, Assist, Assess, and Advocate.

The most important thing I learned is that being you, being unique, being the teacher you are while teaching what's expected and what's appropriate for children is what matters most.

If you know the why, you can invent the how to teach it.

Believe that less is more.  If you cover less, you'll uncover more with your students.
Her book isn't a how-to, but more like a GPS guide to keep you moving in the "write" (no pun intended) direction.

I love her message, and I hope there is an opportunity for me to see her again.  But, for now, she's my new BFF.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

21st Century Learning at Dublin Literacy Conference

As a committee member this year, I had the pleasure of being Dr. Tim Tyson's hostess at the Dublin Literacy Conference. Prior to meeting him, I did my homework...I read his blog, watched his keynote speech from the NECC conference, and read through the his bios. I started to think of him as my little "techno-nerd." I was nervous about meeting him. Although I am fascinated with technology and the possibilities it presents for me as an educator, I have been a slow, cautious "promising" learner when it comes to technology. I started to wonder, what would we talk about? How could I intelligently contribute to our conversations? What would he think when he soon discovered that I am a "techno-neonate?"

On Friday night, when I picked him up at the airport, my fears were quickly put to rest. He was a kind, thoughtful, reflective man who easily chatted a variety of subject ranging from our "lovely" Columbus weather to what scientific research has shown what motivates human beings...and that was just on the way to the restaurant. Over a delicious meal with other authors and committee members, I quickly realized that we, the "techno-nerd" and "techno-neonate" had a lot in common.

On Saturday morning, Dr. Tyson delivered an amazing keynote speech to start the conference off with a "techno-BANG!" As he stood up on stage, he transformed himself from a quiet, humble "techno-nerd," to an entertaining, magical "techno-WIZARD!" He waved his magic wand (ok, it was really his Ipod touch, but work with me...) and showed us numerous number of amazing applications and enticed us by showing with the possible implications for using them in the schools. The "techno-WIZARD" was on a roll! Carefully woven throughout his presentation, he urged us to to think BIG by asking us questions like...How are we, as educators, going to help our students leverage the power they have to create meaning? How are we going empower our students' so they can reach their human potential? How are we going to continue to edit and revise our thinking?

Toward the end of his magic show, I was worried. My "techno-neonate" brain was full and overwhelmed. However, I should have known, that the "techno-WIZARD" is wise to the ways of mere humans... My brain may have been full, but my heart still had room...He waved his magic wand once more, and showed a beautiful short movie created by students who also had been empowered to think BIG by Dr. Tyson. As the session ended, I wiped the tears off my cheeks, and realized that we are living during an amazing time of change. As educators, parents and citizens, it is our responsibility to use the gifts of technology to help us make our world better!

Thank you for visiting Dublin, Dr. Tim Tyson!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Small Moment in The Checkout Line

I was looking at my treasures today, thinking about the next testing days and the OAT's to come.  Have I done enough teaching the testing genre?  Will they do well?  Will they have test anxiety and not perform?  I know..tests don't make the student.  I hear you.  You're speaking to the choir.  But, it is a reality. 

Rushing  to Sam's afterschool  for a 7lb bag of mints, I smiled and waved hello to a parent I had last year.  Her son was unique and had some quirks, but he shined in technology and reading.  She didn't recognize me, so she came over for a chat.  Once she realized her son was in my class, our conversation took on more than a friendly fly-by.  She shared with me that he is a reader now and loves it.  "You brought it out in him.  He wasn't into books before, but whatever you did, Thank You.  You expected him to read and set the bar high enough for him to achieve." I thanked her, but it really was finding that book, that spark in him so he can thrive, succeed in the classroom.  It was showing myself as a reader, working through strategies in my own practice.  It was having book talks, book choice, and a devoted time to reading in the classroom.

It's these little moments that pop up when you need them most.  My treasures will take with them a love for reading.  Thank you, Mrs. S for sharing your son with me last year.  I learned from him, also.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Power of Rereading!

Between snow and illness, I've been absent from school for 7 days.  While I could do little but lay in bed, I was able to read.  I had finished all the books I got from the library, so I went to my shelves and grabbed some "fun" reads again.  I never tire of rereading some genres.  They aren't heavy reads, but quick.  I anticipate the pivotal moments.  I get lost in the setting and even imagine myself there.  I lose myself in the books, even if my head is ready to explode!

Throughout this past week, I started thinking about the power of rereading and my own practice.  I read the same series of books every June, to acclimate myself into summer mode.    My treasures need to reread, like I do.  It helps their fluency.  It helps their comprehension.  But mostly, it's helps them enjoy and relish the book.  Newsweek had an article in June, "The Pleasures of ReReading." David Gates shares some of his favorite rereads and why.  We all have our reasons for our book choices and rereads. 
Question:  What books do you reread?

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.  ~Oscar Wilde

Friday, February 5, 2010


These past few weeks, my treasures have been working diligently creating their Iweb portfolios.  They've been adding pages, graphics, and text to make this project completely personalized.  Some have created movies where they've read their own writing.  Others learned how to import documents they've created from other applications.  There are some drawbacks, but it's something that is working for my students.  All in all, it's been a learning experience for everyone, including myself.

I am grateful for our tech specialist.  She is truly a gem and I am thankful for all her help and guidance.  I can throw out an idea and she knows how to get it from my head to their computers.  I wanted their portfolios published to the intranet and linked to mine so that I could share them at parent- teacher conferences last evening.  By 3pm, we were good to go.  Thank you, Laura.

I projected their iwebs onto the smart board for each conference.  My favorite moments were watching the parents' eyes light up as they read about their child and what they had created.  They were able to see a "Books They've Read" page, science experiment reflections, writings, and more.  I shared the process, purpose, and evaluation tools of the project.  I shared how we'll burn this to a dvd at the end of the year.  I shared how I'm going to use this from here on out.  All the parents were excited about this project.

However, some concerns were brought to my attention about the security and safety of children during one meeting and together we found some alternative ways for the child to continue.  Since then, I've been doing some heavy thinking in the last 24 hours.

First, this new 21st Century world is scary and unknown for those who grew up in the 20th Century.  The "what could possibly happen" in the online world, whether INTRANET or INTERNET, is a valid concern for parents that cannot be discounted by educators.  If we want to be 21st Century thinkers, we also need to be prepared to find some alternatives that would serve the same purpose if parents are uncomfortable with some of our projects.

Second, I need to learn and move at the speed that works for my needs and comfort level. Lately, I've felt so inadequate with my Smartboard knowledge and other online learning tools.  BUT,  I am doing something that will move my students to 21st Century thinking.  I may not be doing everything out there, but I am doing something.

Lastly, TRY.  Some ideas may work for you, and some may not.  But, be willing, open, and flexible to try.  It's what we'd want our students to do.

Monday, February 1, 2010

50th Anniversary of Woolworth Sit-In

This morning, I was mentally preparing myself for what my mini-lesson would be during Reader's Cafe when I was stopped by a teacher down the hall sharing with me that today marks the 50th anniversary of the sit-in at Woolworth's.  She showed me this book was in our book collection.  My mind began working in overdrive because earlier this month we listened to the book March On by the sister of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's what we'd do:  I'd hook up the elmo so they could see the pictures enlarged and we'd jot our thinking and questions throughout the book.  I wanted to see what information they could pull from the previous read aloud and draw conclusions on their own.

I'd never read this book before but the illustrations brought the experience to life.  My treasures could see the difference between the white and black drinking fountains.  They began to recognize how hard it was back then for folks of different color.  Later that day, we were reading Time For Kids when the back had a timeline of the Path To Freedom.  The Greensboro Sit-in was on it.

But, for them it's a topic of study as for me.  During a professional development time with Lester Laminack, he was sharing how everything can be taught using picture books.  He began sharing some wonderful literature about the Civil Rights Movement.  He made a statement that I've been marinating on ever since...for those 40 and under, the Civil Rights Movement is a topic of study. It's not real to them.  For those over 40, we lived it. 
For students to understand history, they need to read about it through powerful literature and read alouds.  They need to read fiction, non-fiction, and literary non-fiction.  Getting a collection of books for your unit of study will make it real for your treasures.  Tomorrow, a follow-up discussion.  Some things cannot be planned!  Live in the moment and enjoy your treasures!