Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm a Believer

I'm not a big fan of change. Some might even call me a lot little set in my ways. Our District has rolled out a new data system in the past year and a few months. It is from Illuminate. Now, being on the District Tech Committee, it is my responsibility to learn these new systems, embrace their use and get others as "excited" as I am about them. It was a rocky start last year and this year wasn't much easier. With roster errors, students changing and all of the rest of the difficulties that come with the new year, it was tough to be the cheerleader that I needed to be.

Then came the gradebook function. It was an optional rollout. But, for those on the Tech Committee, optional meant required. I wasn't a fan. It wasn't what I was used to, but I soldiered on. I have to admit though that I was keeping my grades in two places... on the new "optional" online gradebook and my trusty old computer-based gradebook. Hedging my bets as some might say.

Now we are being introduced to phase three... our online report cards. They look just like our old report cards only we can do them through Illuminate and our gradebook is supposed to automatically link up and populate the report card fields. I was a skeptic, but after today... I am a believer.

I have completely changed my tune. I am an Illuminate gradebook and report card convert. All it took was my trusty trainer Ben to show me the light. He helped me link my standards and assignments to the right fields on my report card and with the touch of a button, voila, my report card was almost done. What a time saver!

So, when your District asks you to have faith and try something new... remember me and that sometimes, it does work out the way they say it will.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Red Ribbon Week

Today we had to create a slogan and poster for Red Ribbon Week. My little owlets did a great job. Here is their submission.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You Say It's Your Birthday...

My friend over at Ms. Fultz's Corner is turning 30 on Friday! She is giving all of us the presents. Go to her blog and enter to win some great prizes. Christi is the wonderful blogger who designed the OwlSeeYouInThirdGrade blog. She is super talented and a great help in the world of blogging. Help me wish her a happy birthday by visiting her site and entering!


Teaching Subject and Predicate

Every year, teaching subject and predicate is challenging. Students choose every noun in the sentence as the subject and have difficulty with those predicates which contain helper verbs rather than action. This year, I got a crazy notion to go deeper into the standard and teach complete versus simple subjects and predicates. It is my hope that by teaching this, I will inspire my students to write more complex and complete sentences. I have found that the best way to learn this is through repetitive practice using student generated sentences. So, I set out to have my students make a subject/predicate pumpkin.

Prior to this activity, I had taught simple subject and predicate and created an anchor chart with the students. The students had practiced this skill in classwork and homework. Then we learned complete subject and predicate and practiced that, too. We added to our anchor chart to learn the difference.

Finally, as a culminating activity to this section of study, I gave the instructions for our sentence strip pumpkin Here are the instructions I gave the students:

We started writing on our sentence strips. After the student wrote a sentence on their strip that followed all of our requirements, they brought it to myself and my parent/student teaching helper to have it checked. If it was correct, they got a new sentence strip. We made a paper chain with the strips and put them on our board to make our pumpkin. Below the pumpkin you can see our anchor charts. The students were excited to write a lot of sentences to make the pumpkin bigger. They would have kept going, but I needed to call the lesson to a close for lunch. Students like to go to the pumpkin and point out one of their sentences in the chain.
It was a fun project that added some holiday flavor to our walls. So, for now anyway, we are moving on from subject and predicate... although I know we will be back!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Donors Choose Rocks!

Such an exciting week! Last week I submitted a grant to Donors Choose. My project, "Lights, Camera, Stop-Motion: Student-Created Lego Movies" asked for iPod Touches for my class to make movies in class. To my surprise, Disney fully funded it in less than a week. My iPods arrived earlier this week. Donors Choose encouraged me to submit another project because Chevron was looking to fund projects for Orange County teachers. I asked if I could submit the same grant again (since I wanted more iPods for my project). They said I could. So, I did... and guess what... Chevron came through for me and fully funded three more iPods for my class tonight. I am now up to 5 iPods! I am overwhelmed with the generosity of these companies. My students are going to have such a great time making movies! I definitely encourage all of my teacher friends to submit projects to Donors Choose. It's easy and you might just get something great!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Questioning My Methods...

This summer I made a trip to the bookstore to get the Daily 5 and CAFE books. I'd heard so much about them. While there, I picked up another book that peaked my interest... What Really Matters in Fluency by Richard L. Allington.

My District has used DIBELS for many years and I have relied heavily on those results. I have used the scores, in conjunction with others, to choose which students get intervention, how students are doing with reading progress, and to drive reading instruction.

Recently, I had begun to question how much information the DIBELS assessment is really providing. This book confirmed my thoughts and shed light on how little the DIBELS assessment really measures reading fluency, as it is widely defined, and how much it actually measures speed and accuracy of reading.

Reading this book has caused me to question many things about my literacy instruction and believe even more in the teaching methods outlined in the Daily 5 and CAFE books. I am transitioning from the traditional basal reader program to the Daily 5 and CAFE effective immediately.

I started out the year trying to do a hybrid of the basal reading program and Daily 5/CAFE. I wasn't sure that I could justify my use of the Daily 5/CAFE program to parents and administrators if I was asked. After reading this book, I have more than enough researched-based information to justify my choices to anyone who asks.

So, tomorrow I go in armed with information and determined to give my students what they need to become more confident, successful readers. I know this won't be an easy road, but I think for the sake of my students, it is a road worth taking.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Currently - October

I am linking up with Farley for Currently for the first time. I love reading these, but I haven't been able to get mine posted earlier. I hope this gives some of my blogging friends a chance to know me better.

I actually just finished reading My Father's Dragon to my class. They loved it! Kids always seem to pass it up because of the dated cover, but it is awesome and so much fun!