“*Dr. Kenneth Zike has said that at least 50% of the children with learning problems referred to the neurological clinic at his hospital had had no traumas, no birth injuries, and no other physical deviations. Their trouble seemed to come from pressure - pressure to do a task that they did not have the maturity to do.”

~Borrowed from Robert Jackson on the world wide web.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reading with Meaning

The blog has been very quiet...but I have been here! I am working night and day having changed our classroom into a more conducive environment for reading and comprehension.
The children have begun to take Accelerated Reader comprehension tests and some very good readers were scoring some low scores. I had to re look at how reading was being taught in my class. I didn't want them to just learn to read, I wanted them to comprehend what they were reading!
With this being said, I have brought all of my books off of the shelves and put them out for the children to read!
The following is a basic schedule of how the morning goes in the classroom.
8:40-9:00 Music, Read Alouds, Mini Lesson (focusing on schema, visualizing, inference, questions, determining importance, and synthesizing)
9:00-9:45 Independent Reading {all reading...all the time! :o)} and Teacher conferencing with students
9:45-10:00 Sharing
10:00-10:45 Small Groups
Teacher: Guided Reading Only
Seat work: Phonics Focus
Center: Independent Reading/AR testing/Parent listens to student read for fluency

Here are a few photos of the children actively reading:

After reading Debbie Miller's book, "Reading with Meaning", I feel I have found a technique that speaks to me as a teacher and a learner.

I googled Reader's Workshop and found this young lady making this technique work in her class. Head over to her website and click on some of the videos she has created. This is what a typical morning sounds like in my class! I highly recommend visiting the sight here and seeing what she has to say about this in her classroom. You will get a great idea of why I am doing the same in my class. Having not had the opportunity to start first thing in the year has not been a hinderance, the children have adapted to my routine with ease by this time of the year. They are enjoying the opportunity to read more and become better readers!

With this new setup, I have some odd requests:
I appreciate all of the parents who send in donations to the classroom! I am looking for your help before I go out and spend my money on these things. Perhaps you have some of the items available that are cluttering up your home.
***By all means, I am not asking you to go out and purchase any of the following!!!
*post it notes
*small lamps you do not use any longer...not looking for style, just lighting! :o)
*A tall floor lamp... ditto! :o)
*plywood to make shelves
*cushy pillows to sit and read on...again style is not an issue
*any books your children have grown weary of and may have outgrown
*Do you see the tubs in the background of this photo of Melissa? I sure could use some if you have any lying around not being used. The soaking tubs are the perfect size, but any will be greatly appreciated! I have many more books I would like to still get out and into the hands of the children.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Connect your right and left brain!

Crossing the Midline
by Dr. Jean (Educator Extraordinaire if you ask me!)
Click on the name of the article to be taken to her website!

"Draw a line vertically down the middle of your body. That’s called the midline. Every time you cross over that line, you are helping connect the hemispheres in your brain.

Put on some music and have children follow along as you do some of these exercises where you cross over the midline:

Simple Tap - Touch right hand to left knee and left hand to right knee.
Bend and Stretch - Lift left knee and touch with right elbow. Lift right knee and touch with left elbow.
Backwards Touch - Lift left foot behind you and stretch back with right hand and touch. Reverse for the right foot and left hand.
Catch a star –Reach with right hand up in the air to your left and pretend to catch a star. Then reach with your left hand up in the air to your right and catch a star. (You can also pick apples, oranges, or any other fruit you like to eat.)
Windmills – Stretch out feet. Touch right hand to left foot. Stand. Touch left hand to right foot.
Pat on the Back – Alternate patting the back of your left shoulder with your right hand and your right shoulder with your left hand.
Picking Peppers – Stand with feet stretched. Bend to the left and pretend to pull something beyond your left foot with your right hand. Stand. Bend to the right and pretend to pull something with your left hand.
Push and Pull – Stand with hands on hips. Twist left and push with palms up and then pretend to pull something towards you. Twist and push and pull to the right.
Piddle Paddle – Put fists on top of each other as if holding an oar. Pretend to paddle on the right side of the body and then sweep hands and pretend to paddle on the left.
Shopping – Pretend to steer a grocery cart and then reach to the left with your right hand and take something off the shelf and put it in your cart. Reach with the left hand to the right and put something in the cart.
Climbing – Act like you are climbing a ladder as you reach up with your right hand and lift your left knee. Reach with your left hand and lift your right knee.
Nose and Ears – Touch right ear with left hand and place right hand on your nose. Touch left ear with right hand and place left hand on your nose.
Disco Dance – Put right index finger in the air and point to the left. Bring right index finger down by your side. Place left index finger in the air and point to the right. Then bring down by your side.
Put the Fire Out – Pretend to get a pail and scoop up water on the floor by your right foot. Throw that pail of water over your left shoulder. After ten times in this direction scoop water from the left and throw it over your right shoulder.
Crazy Eights – Make the figure eight in front of you with your right hand and then your left hand. Make “lazy” eights by making eight laying down with your right hand. Make lazy eights with your left hand. Clasp your right and left hand and make large lazy eights. Lean over and pretend to draw an imaginary “lazy” eight on the floor with your right hand and then your left hand. "

These ideas are all from Dr. Jean at www.drjean.org . I take no credit whatsoever!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Writing in First Grade"

Writing in First Grade: It Takes Practice
by Hank Schlinger, Ph.D.

This link will take you directly to this article.

"For many children, first grade is the time when they begin to learn academic skills such as reading and writing. It’s also the time when differences between their own work and that of their peers start to become apparent. Some children learn certain skills faster and some seem to learn them better. These aren’t differences in inborn ability; they arise mostly from differences in direct experience. Poor performance in a particular area is not necessarily a life sentence. But it can feel that way to a first grader.

Take writing.
In first grade, children pick up the pencil in earnest. They learn to print uppercase and lowercase letters. Parents expect teachers to teach this skill, but unfortunately it does not always happen. Thus parents must step in and help.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” is true. Consequently, parents must arrange opportunities for their children to practice the correct behaviors. Here are some tips for helping your child:
Get specific.
Find out from your child’s teacher how your child is doing with each skill. Be sure to get the teacher to tell you in terms of specific actions, (“She needs to learn to make her capital Ws larger than her lowercase ws”) instead of vague descriptions, such as “Your child needs more work on understanding the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters.”
Stock up.
Ask the teacher to provide materials that you can use at home or to advise you about where to buy them. This ensures that you and the teacher are working on the same skills.
Set aside a specific time with your child when there are no interruptions. Turn off the telephones and televisions and arrange, if possible, for other siblings to be occupied.
Set the stage.
Sit by your child and ask her to write a couple of letters you know she can do well and immediately tell her how good she did by specifying exactly what she did that was right, for example, “I like how tall these letters are” or “This line is nice and straight”. Giving a child a few concrete examples of what’s working, is better than heaping on general non-specific praise. Approach the problem.
Move to letters she is having difficulty with. Start with what she can do and then instruct her how she can make it slightly better, for example, “Try making this letter a little taller”. When she follows your instructions and completes the task effectively, praise that behavior. If she’s not quite able to do it yet, model the behavior for her and then ask her to tell you the difference between yours and hers. You can also physically prompt her by guiding her hand with yours to make the correct letter.
Leverage success.
Once your child can write the correct letter and can tell you what makes it correct, then move on to the next letter. But always include previous letters when learning and practicing new ones. Also, once she has learned to write a letter, you needn’t praise her skill as much or immediately.The best piece of advice? Keep it short. It’s hard work and you shouldn’t expect sessions to last more than 10 minutes at a time. So get that pencil dancing.
And remember, make it fun!"
(Hank Schlinger, Ph.D., BCBA, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, directs the Masters Program in Applied Behavior Analysis in the Psychology Department at California State University, Los Angeles. He is the author of the book, "A Behavior-Analytic View of Child Development", as well as numerous scientific articles and popular columns.)

1st Grade Writing: What Happens
by Amy James

Follow this link to the direct article!

"It's easy to think, “Okay, I taught/helped teach my child to read, whew – I'm glad that is over.” But writing might be the hardest thing your child does all day. By combining reading skills with small motor skills and adding in spelling, your child is just learning to communicate via the written word – a skill that will be used and refined for the rest of your child's life. When a first grader writes, he or she must simultaneously recall ideas, vocabulary, and rules of spelling, punctuation, and grammar while putting thoughts on paper.
Curriculum varies from state to state, of course, but children working at the standard level at the beginning of first grade:
*Name and label objects
*Gather, collect, and share information
*Stay on topic (maintain focus)
*Can write in chronological order
*Incorporate storybook language (for example, “They lived happily ever after”) into their writing
*Think in a more extended fashion than they can write, so some thoughts must be extended orally
By the end of first grade, students working at the standard level:
*Communicate in writing
*Reread their writing to monitor meaning
*Begin to use feedback to change their writing either by adding more text or by making minor revisions
*Revise their writing by inserting text in the middle rather than just at the end
*Make deliberate choices about the language they use
*Use punctuation and capitalization more often than not

(Amy James is a former teacher and a national expert on school curriculum and testing. Her company, Six Things, Inc., provides consulting services for publishers and school districts on compliance with state and national education standards, as well as professional development for K-12 teachers. Reprinted with permission from "First Grade Success: Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Child Learn" by Amy James (Jossey-Bass 2005) )


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

The groundhog did not have a shadow here in Florida...does that mean Spring is just around the corner? I hope so! Up north, he did see his shadow in Punxsy...so they have 6 more weeks of winter.

Gobbler's Knob is very much alive and well. We visited in August of 2007 when I was pregnant with Jay visiting with my folks in Reynoldsville, PA.
Here is where they pull him out of a makeshift burrow. There was still hay in it when we opened the little doors and peered in!

This was taken right out in front of the library. These groundhogs are painted like the Ocala horses and are placed all around the town of Punxsatawney.

Here is where the Groundhogs live year round. There is one up on its hind legs trying to get the attention of a child in the library. Two more are laying in the little burrows. I believe there were like 5 or 6 all total in there. This photo was taken through a window outside of the library.

We had a very busy and exciting morning. Super Science, three parent helpers and some good old fashioned learning fun!
How cute is that hat exclaiming, "6 more weeks of winter!".
The children LOVE www.starfall.com!