Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Break

Late into the night, I was finishing the last touches of my packing when I looked out the window.  Imagine my surprise...2 inches of snow blanketing the ground.   I'm looking forward to seeing the sun continuously and reading.  Nothing big.  Nothing fancy.  Just me, my family, and my books.  To all on spring break, Rest, Renew, and READ!!!  Carpe Diem!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ken Robinson on standardized testing

Ken Robinson on standardized testing

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Learning is not a Race!

For those of us who blog and many who do not, teaching is a Passion.  Learning is not a race, but a journey.  It's not a line segment, but a line that continues on infinitely.  We are always moving further on the continuum to help our treasures become stronger readers and writers, powerful mathematicians, and problem-solvers.  And yet, those who do not teach and have never been in a classroom, write education policy and tests.  They use words like value-added, achievement, standardized,  Race to The Top, and common assessments, all the while throwing in 21st Century Learning ideas and thoughts.  How can you measure problem-solving?  How can you show all the growth of a child in one 2 1/2 hour test?

Imagine G: she is very creative and is not afraid to share what she is thinking.  While it does not always come out positively, I know she is constantly thinking.  In January she told me, "Mrs. Archer, for some reason I don't like the words Mentor Text.  I don't like the way it sounds or feels when I say it."  Last week, she shared with me that she was using another student's quilt square as a mentor text for her own.  She has internalized what a mentor text is.

L:  There is a reading pattern from previous years:  cannot choose books or stay engaged.  As of last week, he had read 22 books and can read for longer periods of time.

N:  He is now taking ownership of his work and is striving to complete quality projects.

C:  One of my promising mathematicians:  she has recently shown a lot of growth and feels math is not a 4-letter word.

Each student spent 12 weeks creating an electronic portfolio of their writing, reading, and reflections of math and content areas.

How do you measure these celebrations with a multiple choice, short answer, and extended response test?  One answer:  you cannot.  Ann Marie Corgill quoted Albert Einstein yesterday on her blog:  Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
She also has a great powerpoint by Marion Brady on this message.  Check it out!

So at 9:00am today, I will welcome my treasures in my room. I will close the doors and celebrate the learning that counts.  The learning that cannot be measured and the unique treasures in my room.   I will conference with my friends on their "How-To" projects.  I will talk about their reading choices.  More importantly, we will learn and celebrate our growth.  When I begin to feel boxed in because of common assessment tests, standardized tests, and achievement tests, I will step back and celebrate Learning That Counts. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break Reading List

I LOVE planning for vacations.  Mostly, I LOVE planning what I'll be reading while I'm lounging in the Sun.  I always have some ideas, but need to check out Amazon reviews and bookstores.  The past two days I had Book Dates with each of my children.  We head out to the bookstores and library to get our vacation reading material.  For me, it's always a challenge packing.  I tend to go lighter on clothes and heavier on the books.  I can always do laundry!!  My only goal is to keep all luggage carryon!

My Son's  Reading List:
Curious George and the Pizza Party, Curious George Goes to the Chocolate Factory, a Cars book, a Nemo book, and Ranger Rick magazines.  We also have a travel journal to write in because I'm taking them out of school. (Our spring breaks did not match this year!)

My Daughter's  Reading List:
Fancy Nancy Poison Ivy Expert, Thumbelina, 2 Cam Jansen's mysteries, Highlights magazines, and a travel journal.

My Reading List:
The Lucky One:  Nicholas Sparks (a light read)
The Friday Night Knitting Club:  Kate Jacobs (strong women characters)
Magnolia Wednesdays:  Wendy Wax (a quick pick-up at the store)
Born to Run:  Christopher McDougall (inspiration to get back running)
Crazy for the Storm:  Norman Ollestad (saw the book at Starbucks)
Drive (heard about it through morning news shows and friends)

My husband chose to stay home this year.  He's tearing up carpet and putting down wood floors.  He most likely won't be reading much but the internet and instruction manuals.

What are you going to be reading next week?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sprouts of Spring

My winter hibernation is over!  (I read over 14 mystery/thrillers during my hibernation period!!!)  I must be a daylight savings girl because as soon as the time changed, so did my willingness to exercise.  I was at the gym 4 days this week.  For me, I need the SUN!  Not so much for heat, but for light.  When the gray, cold winter air hits, I come home from school, change into my comfy clothes, and take a nap.  But, Spring has Sprung. 

Saturday,  I woke up, had my daily fix of coffee, and went for my first pedicure since summer.  (I know it's truly spring, now.)  There's something about having pretty toes and shoes to showcase them in.  When I came home, my kids and I went outside.  Last summer, my daughter tried to ride a 2-wheeler, but continued to struggle.  She used different strategies, but her confidence was shot.  Finally, she gave up and used her scooter for everything.

So, we began practicing again.  A year older, and a year stronger.  Amazingly, she did it.  She was riding past with a sense of accomplishment.  We were able to go on a mile bike ride.  My goal is to be able to ride to the pool (1 1/2 miles) this summer.  I'll even be able to run alongside them now.  Yeah, Addy!

This afternoon, I went for my first 3 mile run.  There  is something about running outside, seeing the flowers come to life, and listening to the birds chirp.  I love Spring!  Carpe Diem!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cultural Self-Portraits

As I blogged earlier, we used our People in Societies standard as a branching off point to paint our self-portraits and discuss our heritage.   We glued them on 9x18 black construction paper, and then ran them through the laminator.   My thinking is to keep these up all year-long (provided the fire marshall okays it) and add their writing pieces to them.  The plastic bags are for their Author's Statement to reflect and share their inspiration.    Currently, the watering cans are reflections of how they have grown as a writer this year.  Growing Writers... imagine if these are used all throughout the year to showcase student work, what a powerful and authentic message for our Growing Writers.  Thanks, Ann Marie Corgill.

Intermediate Learning Mats

My friend, Cathy Mere and her teaching partner, Deb presented at the Dublin Literacy Conference on goal-setting with young learners.  I am always excited to hear primary teachers talk about ideas, and then I up the ante for my fourth graders.  After all, my friend Ann Marie Corgill says intermediate learners are just big primary learners.

Anyways, they shared these learning mats that each student utilizes for conferring and referencing during workshops.  One side has their reading and writing goal, along with an alphabet chart for placing words they're unsure of spelling.  Math "tools" were glued on the other side:  a hundreds chart, math goal, and more.  I simplified it for my intermediate friends and placed an area for math vocabulary and definitions.  Once laminated, they have become a daily reference for all my learners.  Just an idea...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Power of One: Part 2

Our discussions have led us to writing about what we could do to make a difference. After viewing the video, my treasures began focusing on what we have termed "power words."  Teamwork, Effort, Perseverance, Believe, Unstoppable, Unique, Can:  they each chose their power word and began webbing ideas.  As Lisa and I conferenced while they were writing, a pattern emerged.  While they understood the meaning of the word, they needed to work on specifics.  What can they do more than encourage with quotes?

Lisa, who is the ying to my yang, spoke on passion.  She shared that my treasure, G, has a passion for reading.  He reads at latchkey.  He's the last one to leave for related arts because he is so caught up in his book.  How could G use his passion to make a difference in his part of the world?  Another treasure, L, has a passion for sports.  He is one of my promising readers, but has read every book on sports and loved them.  What could L do to use his passion of sports to make a difference?  That gave my treasures some thoughts to think about over the weekend as we prepare for the video-making process.

In the midst of a project that I love, my mind whirls with possiblities.  During our discussion on power words, I thought of my new love for painting in the classroom.  How could I use this?  In thinking about a clip in the movie, Chrissa Stands Strong, my treasures are going to paint their power words to create a class quilt of making a difference.  I'm excited about the impact it could have on those around us.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Power of Using Mentor Texts

A couple of months ago, "Tigger" (my 9 yr. old promising reader) and I went to our favorite local book store, Cover to Cover. We treasure our visits. We have a routine we follow...We browse. We flip. We build a big pile of books that must be read right there and then. After we have had our fill, we purchase just one or two must have titles.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas was a must have. My son and I giggled our way through the brightly colored, adorable tale about dust bunnies! We fell in love with all of the playful characters and their rhyming ways, but the blue dust bunny, Bob was our clear favorite. Bob doesn't always rhyme because he needs to alert the other dust bunnies of pending danger!

As a mom, I purchased this book because we both loved it! However, as a teacher, I bought it because I could see that the structure, visual layout, the story and the endearing characters would make for a wonderful mentor text for writers of all ages!

Recently I shared the book with two classes: fourth and first grades. Of course, both classes laughed out loud and begged for me to read it again and again, but the writing that came from it was powerful! The fourth graders extended the story in creative ways and the first graders...Well, take a look at the photos and see for yourself.

Mentor texts are one of our most powerful tools in our "teaching toolbox." What are some of your favorite mentor texts, blog readers???

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Right To Read Week: Favorite Book Characters

Alvin Ho and 
Fancy Nancy

The Power of One!!

Make a Difference in Your Corner of the World:  the centralized theme my class has been focusing on through our read alouds.  It all began with the Freedom on the Menu book in early February, and has spread like a ripple in the ocean.  Youtube has some great videos on this message, and I've been converting them to share at school. This morning, I found the perfect song for my class.  The Power of One blends the message of historical figures who made change and the unsung heroes of today in a music video.
Enjoy the message and become THE POWER OF ONE in your little corner of the world!! 
You can make a difference!
(for those of you who've embedded the entire videos before, would you send me instructions!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To Paint or Not To Paint

I DID IT!!  I managed to have a full classroom painting at the same time and I never "wigged" out until the cleanup process.  Painting has always been the one medium I have feared in my teaching career.  While not rational, my thoughts would run rapid of all the "what ifs" when I would introduce paint.  I know learning is messy.  I understand kids need to do.  I recognize the need for artistic expression.  BUT, what if paint got on their clothes, the carpet, all over:  what would I do?!!!!

Referring to my favorite characters...Alvin Ho and Scarredy Squirrel...I devised a fool proof plan.

Mrs. Archer's Painting Preparation Process:

1.  Buy paint and brushes....check
2.  Secure painting area (a.k.a the cafeteria)...check
3.  Spend prep time sketching portraits and tracing with crayon...check
4.  Line tables with drop clothes...check
5.  Make a visual aid (chart) of clean-up jobs and the student responsible...check
6.  Pack multiple cleaning aids to the painting area...check
7. Bring a Diet Coke or Cup of Coffee for Mrs. Archer...I FORGOT!

As you can see, I was very detailed in my preparation.  My treasures painted with precision, waiting in line for their next colors.  Through their own schema, they began mixing paint to create the specific color they were seeking.  It was smooth! The portraits are amazing! (Will be sharing at a later post!)  Then, as with all projects, some began finishing at different times.  "What do I do now, Mrs. Archer?  Is it time for recess?  Are we going to recess?  Can I help do something?"  Aghhhhhh!  I forgot to plan some "what do I do when I'm done" stuff because we weren't in our classroom.  Then, it went crazy
( in my head) and my treasures were everywhere.  After much meandering, loitering, and dancing (yes,some of my treasures love to dance!)all the materials were cleaned up, spotless, and inspected.  It went well, and I'll do it again.
But, I will always remember: to take deep calming breaths (especially during cleanup),  bring a diet coke for me, and that could make all the difference!