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Students are often called upon to read "chorally".
That is, they read together simultaneously
as a group.
Repeating this practice assists young readers with reading fluency -
the speed, accuracy, and inflection
of oral reading.
Why not, since it's called "choral" reading anyway, actually read the chorus of a song?
Parents are able to designate how they prefer to receive the information - through a text message, an email, through the free phone app, or in multiple platforms - and may respond to the teacher in kind.
The advantage to students is manifold: I will be able to do more than just inform parents about upcoming assignment deadlines. I will also be able to manage volunteers at needed times, arrange and easily rearrange conference schedules around parent needs, and solicit information and opinions from parents - all within the Class Messenger program.
If you are parenting a child who is in my fourth grade class for the 2015/6 school year,
please head on over to sign up and set your preferences now.
...and we like it, don't we? After all, that's what life is: a series of juggling acts on the road to survival. Somehow, it seems possible that even in the wacky imagination of Dr. Seuss, the roads are navigable. That no matter how gnarly, how twisty, the track, somehow we will still make it to our destination.
As a special note to teachers: don't lose yourself in the process (competency-based, success criteria, learning intention, NWEA, Canvas...). Allow yourself the freedom to be creative, take risks, and make mistakes. That's where the passion of teaching comes from.
My own children begin their new year, today, at their school, and Joplin teachers are back in the seats for some professional development today, tomorrow, and next week (Feel very sorry for us!). You, dear students, have exactly one week from today. While that might be a nice, restful week, some of you are probably looking forward to getting back to work.
In the words of Dr. Seuss, "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." Where shall we go?
Open House: 5:30-6:30pm, Tuesday, August 18
First Day of School: 7:45am-2:55pm, Thursday, August 20
We are set to begin another new school year with Class Dojo. Students have been enrolled and will soon begin earning points in this simple-to-use program that tracks behavior data for our classroom. Additionally, I will soon send information home about how parents can receive regular reports from the program. This, in addition to Class Messenger and our website, will allow me to keep in better communication with parents about the goings-on in our classroom.
The time has come to take my yearbooks out of storage for another year. Displayed are 25 yearbooks, denoting my first 25 years as a public school teacher. Imagine this: I have officially taught school for over half of my life: quite a milestone.
This stack of books includes the first five years from my experiences in Oklahoma City, and the last 20 years in Joplin, Missouri.
I always display these for our school's Open House, just in case former students come by for a visit. It's always interesting to see how much kids grow and their looks change through the years.
As I continue to seek better and more practical tools for my students to use, I have identified my Top Ten List. I put Reading Rewards in that list, but described it as "a little bit clunky". Since then, thanks to an international network of technology-minded educators, I have been alerted to BiblioNasium.
BiblioNasium was launched a couple of years ago, but appears to be more manageable and professionally-designed than Reading Rewards. In both platforms, students safely log their reading time and identify the titles of books they are reading.
This year, we will start using BiblioNasium. Because of our busy daily schedules and the amount of teaching and learning we do, however, we may not have the daily opportunity to log in to the platform during our school day. If parents agree, they may allow their children to log in at home or at the public library and log their reading times and titles. This, along with other internet- and app-based programs will make our class feel like, look like, and become a more modern educational venue.
I always try to make our bulletin boards unique. I also want them to look nice and send a meaningful message. I felt like this was a worthwhile message presented in visual form. We will talk about all the things it takes to achieve success. I guess it's another way to illustrate the idea of making something difficult look easy. Success is the reward for great effort in a variety of personal and social skills. We recognize that in Room 404, and we work hard to make it happen.
The newest board inside the classroom is a simple one. Since our first big academic unit is themed to the topics of investigation and evidence, I kept this one easy.
At the same time, if students can adopt the difficult skills necessary to discern important information and details and cite specific evidence, the rest of the year should be cake. Let's hear it for cake!
I've never been one to be proud of something just because someone tells me to be proud of it. I have never jumped on any bandwagon just because my peers are hurling themselves onto it. I don't cheer for any particular sports teams just because I like their logo or the uniforms. And all of this is also true of other things in my life.
Does that mean that I can't be proud? Well, certainly not the haughty pride that makes a person self-proclaim superiority or greatness. I don't go in for that in-your-face, yelling and cheering kind of pride, but does that mean that I can't take pride in my work, pride in my school, or pride in my job?
You see, I've been thinking of this since seeing the new slogan for Joplin Schools:
EAGLE PRIDE: PAST, PRESENT, ALWAYS
I don't pledge my allegiance lightly, so this kind of statement - if taken as, "you must be proud to work here or else" - seems kind of forced upon us (I realize that's not the intention of the slogan, but it could be taken that way.). It seems to me that, as an individual, I should feel such pride when there is something of which to be proud. There should be no question that I love Joplin; there are eagles and Eagles all over our website here, and each has its own positive message emblazoned along with it. But at the same time, I understand that such pride is earned and not forced.
I have little doubt that we are going to be proud of the work we do in our classroom this year - but rest assured, it will be earned pride and not empty pride that's thrust upon us just because of a kitschy slogan.
In the first days of our class, we will talk about a little barbecue joint in Ada, Oklahoma. I remember visiting the place when I was a kid and we visited my grandparents. The thing is, besides its name - simply, Bob's Barbecue - the sign out front also announced that it was "world-famous". Even as a young tike I thought this odd. I mean, Mom and Dad told me it was world-famous, and the sign clearly said as much, but really? World-famous? The food wasn't even very good.
What indicates that a place is world famous? Because, honestly, I never heard another soul - outside of my family and the restaurant itself - mention this particular barbecue joint. No one! They didn't talk about it on the news. It wasn't mentioned in the sitcoms or on late night talk shows. Simply stated, it wasn't world-famous just because someone once came it there from another country and signed the guest book. Switzerland? Madagascar? No, that's just not how it works.
McDonald's? World-famous. Starbucks? World-famous. But Bob's Barbecue? You aren't something just because you say you are; you are something because you are something. The queen of England doesn't need to introduce herself as the queen; people know she is the queen long before she arrives. Anyone can say s/he is the queen. A boy may be strong and a girl may be cute, not because their t-shirts proclaim it, but because they are.
And that brings us back to the topic of pride. I refuse to be proud just because it's printed on a shirt or because someone yells it in a rally. I don't even want a person to "put on a good face" or "show a unified front" just for the sake of promoting a business or organization. You want me to be proud? Make me proud. Give me reasons to be genuinely proud. And then let me feel it for real. For myself.
Oh, I know that's risky. In doing so, you also run the chance of someone not having pride. But that's OK, too. In fact, with honest dialogue, you might learn something from that person. It's not often that you find someone who doesn't want to be proud; in fact, that person might just need some of the obstacles removed. And some of those obstacles might need to be moved anyway! It might just make the difference between the fake pride of being an Eagle just because one lives in the district and the genuine pride that one feels when one experiences the value of living in the district.
I am an Eagle, a Missourian, and an American, but not because I happen to reside within arbitrary borders; I am an those things because I choose to be those things. And I am proud when I see the results of hard work, common sense, creativity, passion, and success. You don't have to ask for pride; pride happens naturally...and in this day and age, we just shouldn't be messing with nature.
[I am revising this post from July 20 to make some changes in my list.
I have since discovered more secure and more useful sites that will better serve our needs.]
Since we have 30 iPads at our disposal at varying times of the day (We share with other classrooms.), our class has included more technology than in the past. After careful research in which I asked myself to identify useful, free sites in alphabetical order, the following are the website tools I recommended (outside of our own website and links):
BiblioNasium is a simple system that allows students to log reading times and keep track of the numbers of books (and their titles) they have read (similar, but safer than goodreads, which I use personally). Our class was very open to logging time online, rather than a paper log, and I have been more involved in their reading selections and in encouraging their continued reading, and challenging their reading since beginning this type of online program, last year. Now I can monitor, ask questions for comprehension, and reward their progress. This visually-appealing program even automatically rewards students badges along the way, as well.
ClassDojo is a simple system to keep track of behaviors for each student in the classroom - or even every student in a school. Teachers may customize the behaviors they track, and reports are available to identify problem trends and successful improvement. Reports may be used by teachers, parents, and/or administrators for the purpose of initiating conversations with students regarding their improvement. ClassDojo has recently unveiled a Groups feature that will allow students to receive points as a team (See my recent post about this.), and very soon we will see their newest addition - Class Story - which will operate like social media, but will only be visible by connected parents in our classroom. For more of my commentary about ClassDojo, please use the search box at the top of this page.
While ClassDojo has a messaging system that I will use, I also want to utilize the power of Class Messenger. Parents are able to designate how they prefer to receive the information - through a text message, an email, through the free phone app, or in multiple platforms - and may respond to the teacher in kind. The advantage to students is manifold: I will be able to do more than just inform parents about upcoming assignment deadlines. I will also be able to manage volunteers at needed times, arrange and easily rearrange conference schedules around parent needs, and solicit information and opinions from parents - all within the Class Messenger platform.
Kahoot! is a wonderful system that allows the teacher to ask questions and gain feedback in real-time. Students access a Kahoot! as determined by the teacher. Questions are displayed on the screen as students individually (or in teams) choose the answers on their devices. The game aspect is very appealing to kids, and they enjoy seeing their status in the class as the "quiz" is being taken. At the end, leaders are identified, and the teacher may download a spreadsheet showing each student's performance on a question-question basis. We are in love with this exciting tool. A similar, but slightly different, tool is called Quizizz
Google Search Engine
You know Google. I place it here not because it is the superior search engine of choice, but just as a representative of all search engines. It is my go-to when I am looking for images or information about a topic, statistics, or ideas for class. As a teacher, I also know the importance of muting the picture of my search from the projector, so students won't get a glimpse of something inappropriate. I also don't allow students to conduct open searches on Google for themselves, and I am honest to them about the reasons. Internet safety is a very important topic as we raise these 21st Century citizens.
I no longer teach in the primary grades, and when I did, we didn't have computers or devices in the classroom. My own children, however, loved using Starfall when I allowed them on the computer at home, and I would certainly use it around my classroom if I taught in an early childhood program. I found Starfall, several years ago, when a primary-grade teacher wrote its address on the chalkboard in the computer lab, and I knew it would be a great activity for individual students to access. I recommend it highly for preschool-aged kids from the very beginning of their ability to use a mouse and keyboard. They can go along at their own paces. Finally, I love that Starfall is not fancy. It makes use of simple graphics and sounds that are not overly produced or detailed. In this day, I'm glad to see something that doesn't have to rely on the latest production standards, but still captures the attention of a four-year-old.
In recent years, it has become more and more apparent that the teacher will be required to collect and save evidence of skill mastery for every teacher. Parents and I struggled with this as I really wanted to send student work home to better keep them abreast of progress. This year, we will be implementing Seesaw! Seesaw is a way for students to use the iPads to collect their own evidence in electronic form. Students may use the iPad camera to record photos and videos to upload to their private Seesaw portfolio. The program also allows me to make assignments that do not require paper. Before, I had no way to easily collect and store evidence for certain projects, and now I do. Playing with Seesaw, this summer, I can see that it will be very manageable for students.
Even CNN makes it into our fourth grade classroom. It's not that it's my favorite news source, but that they do provide a nice platform for students to get an idea for what's happening in the world around them. CNN suggests their 10-minute daily Student News video is geared for middle and high school students, but with a little effort from the teacher, stories can be made understandable to 9- and 10-year-olds, as well. It is advised that an educator be aware of the content of the day's presentation before hitting play and walking away, as a story may have more mature leanings and may not be appropriate or comfortable in a classroom for elementary students. I have found this to be rare, however, and am generally pleased with the presentation.
With the call for educators to include more non-fiction texts in their teaching, Wonderopolis fits the bill. A new "Wonder" is posted on the site every day, each answering a question from curiosity and from every subject in the curricula: science, history, reading, writing, music, and so on. Answers are given in a few well-written paragraphs, with vocabulary lists and definitions embedded in the page. There is a quick comprehension quiz available, as well as a vocabulary quiz. My students especially enjoy the introductory video that's presented before the reading. This is a very short video, chosen from the internet, to spark interest and get kids ready for the reading. I have created my own generic questions to address the standards in regards to reading Wonderopolis.
Like Google, I would hope that YouTube requires no introduction. Also like Google, I do not turn kids loose to explore on YouTube, and I guard my own use of it when students are present! It is, however, another wonderful tool for use in the classroom. I no longer have to lecture about a National Park, for example, when students may point their eyes at a beautiful video of the park instead. I can quickly call up a topic and find entertaining/educational short videos that reinforce my teaching. We use lyric music videos to help with reading fluency, old TV advertising to demonstrate comprehension, short inspirational videos to spark discussions of character and attitude.
Oh, the places we'll go!
In just two weeks!
What are doing to prepare for your fourth grade adventures?
Open House: 5:30-6:30pm, Tuesday, August 18.
First Day of School: 7:45am-2:55pm, Thursday, August 20.
If you've never visited our classroom, this diagram will provide you with an idea of how we conduct business. I may tweak things, but this is the basic layout that we keep.
Students carry their chairs from the green, direct instruction, area to their tables, and back, depending upon our needs. When the chairs are in the table positions, we have a large central area that may be used as a floor work space or reading area.
The green area includes a "stage", created by removing the lower sections of the legs from a table. The table has been carpeted with the same material and pattern that covers our floor.
For students who would like to work while standing, they may move (at appropriate times) to the taller demonstration table.
I have discovered that this floor plan gives us a great deal of flexibility in our instruction, cooperative teamwork, and student choice.
Here we go again!
Room 404 has been prepared with the 2015/6 school year in mind.
Buckle up, and let's hit the ground running!
My former students know that I like to see authentic artifacts from history, whether it be Martin Luther King Jr's funeral wagon, William Clark's sword, or Abraham Lincoln's shaving kit. On Tuesday, on our latest trip back from Branson, we stopped at Outdoor World - headquarters and flagship superstore of Bass Pro Shops - in Springfield, Missouri. We hadn't stopped since before Christmas, last year.
As usual, constant upgrades and changes are being applied to this massive store. Two great additions are that of the National Sporting Arms Museum and the Archery Hall of Fame Museum. These high quality attractions, even with free admission are well worth your consideration. Whether you are a gun enthusiast, a history buff, or an aficionado of old western movies, you'll find something interesting. The multi-million dollar collection is likely to be one of the best in the world.
I expected to see examples of weaponry throughout history, but I did not expect to see historic guns owned and fired by specific people:
In another area were the only replica guns in the collection, but actual guns from the movies, held and operated by James Garner, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Tom Selleck, and many others.
In a separate room is a diorama tribute to President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. Central to the TR exhibit were a few of the guns owned by the 26th president.
Next door, in the Archery Hall of Fame, displays are dedicated mainly to competitive archery through many years of history, but there is more to see here, too. Right away, guests are confronted with a bow and quiver crafted by the notorious Apache, Geronimo. Deeper in the museum, is a mounted Alaskan Brown Bear, killed in 1960 with one arrow from 20 yards away.
Displays at Outdoor World are always intricate, and no expense is ever too much. From the lighting to the flooring, from the railing to the dioramas, the designers put lots of thought into making this a museum of high caliber (pun definitely intended). If you're in the Springfield area, I'd recommend you spend some time looking at the taxidermy, the aquaria, and the displays, as well as do some shopping. There is something there for everyone: the naturalist, the fisherman, the outdoorsman, the stylist, sportsman, or even the interior designer.
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