Thursday, December 13, 2007

Songs of the Week

It is the I guess it would be appropriate to add a few Christmas songs.

Ike Turner was musical genius....he wasn't very nice to Tina....but they did make some great music together. Sadly, Ike passed away this week. I have two songs listed...the first is a Christmas song that doesn't seem to load to honor Ike I added another just in case.

One of my favorite holiday flicks is Will Ferrell's Elf. His girlfriend played by Zooey Deschanel sings Baby Its Cold Outside while in the shower. In this version she sings the same song with Leon Redbone.

Another Christmas song you may not have heard is Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty Maccoll. Don't give up on the song too soon. Wait until Kirsty starts singing.

In September 1977, Bing Crosby was in London filming what would be his last Christmas special. He thought it would be a good idea to sing a duet with a young singer. Someone suggested David Bowie and although Bing had never heard of him the invite was sent. Bing passed away a month later.

Do You Still Read for Enjoyment? Do Your Children?

The National Endowment for the Arts recently released study stating that teenagers, children, and adults are reading for pleasure much less these days.

Not only are Americans reading less... they are also scoring lower on standardized reading measures. The study finds

"less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004." "On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading."

So why are we reading so much less? There are lots of blogs posts about the study trying to explain this trend. Theories range from the pervasiveness of visual media (TV, computers, video games) to the rise sports participation, to the general lack of societal value of highly literate people. Smart people are ridiculed on your average TV show.

Some people even theorize that school, most notably the tests in school, has taken the fun out of reading. Some theorists say we have outgrown reading....we are evolving passed it. For thousands of years we told our stories by word of mouth. By comparison, the written word is still relatively new. With the enhancements of visual media, the theorists explain, we are simply taking communication to a new level. At first I kind of laughed that one off....then I started thinking more about it and wondered if there might actually be a partial truth there.

I read each night before going to bed…as much to wind down as educate myself (I’m more of a nonfiction reader). My own kids read at home most days…but sadly they will almost always pick the computer over a book. Fortunately a read aloud with mom or dad is still a favored activity.
I would like think the reading is simply losing market share in an ever competitive market for people’s time. 20 years ago there were 3 channels on TV. Now people have hundreds of channels as well as a hard drive worth of movies DVR’d to their machine to choose. They receive top rated feature movies in the mailbox on an almost daily basis and can order movies to be streamed to their TV.

20 years ago a child could play baseball in the spring and that was it. Now they can play 2 seasons of outdoor soccer, winter indoor soccer, lacrosse, football, wrestling, and just about every imaginable sport. 20 years ago the Internet was available for research scientists to share their data. There was no YouTube or WebKinz to eat your time. Reading (as entertaining as it can be) is simply losing the battle.

I do have to wonder whether there is time in a classroom to just read a book and talk about it with other people. With the emphasis on standards and NCLB we need to figure out how to teach each and every possible indicator as part of our children's reading activities. Do we sometimes take the fun out of book by wringing out every possible standards tie-in? Do we read anymore just to discuss and share the experience with a peer?

To Read or Not to Read

Powerpoint Overhaul

Of all the technology that has been added to the classroom since I’ve been teaching (desktops, laptops, tablets, Smartboards, digital cameras, teacher webpages, many titles of the software) the tool that has made the technology tool that has made the most impact with our teachers is

....drum roll please....

the projector.

I understand why teachers love using a projector….it allows us to augment our message to enhance our presentation of content to the kids and if there is one thing that teachers love and are quite good at it is presenting to their classes.

Powerpoint seems to be the tool of choice to craft presentations and it is easy to see why. It is easy to use and it allows you to incorporate websites, video, audio, text, animation. If you can do it or see on the computer more than likely you can include it in a Powerpoint presentation.

A couple of years ago someone published an article online called "Death by Powerpoint" in which they lamented painful presentations in which business presenters lull their audience to sleep with standard template based presentations crammed with everything but the kitchen sink.

Are teachers guilty of doing the same thing to their students? Maybe…maybe not. It really all depends on how you put together your information. Scott Elias, a high school administrator in Colorado and blogger at Dare I Disturb the Universe ( has put together a helpful presentation for you if you create Powerpoint presentations. There are some great tips and examples of what to do/not do in there and he ends it all with the one question we need to ask ourselves more often: "Would I want to be in my class?"

Taking Your Slide Deck to the Next Level

Alternative to Oral Reading Assessment Needed?

A new study published in Reading Psychology suggests that oral reading assessments lead to a misunderstanding or misdiagnosing of some student’s reading abilities. The study suggests that schools should shift more of their ongoing reading tests to silent reading tests with followup comprehension tests and to reduce their reliance on oral based tests.

Not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater...but it does sound reasonable that we might need to take a look at the way we assess fluency.

Win Win Situation

This game (yes, game) is a win win situation of the best kind. Our students need to practice their vocabulary and hungry people need to eat.

Free Rice is a game where children (and adults) can take quizzes to build up their vocabulary and for each question they get right they earn 20 grains of rice for the United Nations World Food Program. There are fifty different levels and the questions taylor themselves to your level of skill.

Give it a shot and see how high you can get. Show this to your students help them help themselves and earn rice for needy nations.

When You Want Something So Bad....

This animation short was created by a graduate student as part of their master's project. A kiwi is a small flightless bird native to New Zealand. Watch and enjoy.

Blondes Aren’t Dumb, They Just Make Us Act Dumb

How do social scientists come up with the ideas for their tests?
French scientists have challenged the stereotype of the dumb blonde and let science decide if the stereotype holds any truth. Turns out that blondes are no less intelligent than any other hair color. What scientists found was that people shown pictures of blondes did not perform as well on tests compared to how they performed when shown pictures of brunettes.

Why is that?

Scientists believe that because of the long standing stereotype people "dumb down" themselves because they are around someone not as intelligent. The blonde impact effects both men and women. The researchers say it really isn't any different than talking slower and louder to the elderly. We just assume they are hard of hearing.

Stereotyping takes years to learn....and years to unlearn.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Song of the Week: Amy Winehouse

Yes, this woman always seems to be getting into some kind of scuffle with either the media, the law, or someone in her personal life. She has been thru some tough personal times but wow she has a cool voice. Enjoy Amy Winehouse title track Back in Black.

Narrowing Our Focus on Achievement Test Prep

I was looking for achievement practice test items and came across another valuable document created by another Cleveland school. Cleveland University Heights schools has done an item analysis by standard and benchmark of the OAT since it has been administered. Of course, the state isn’t releasing the entire test anymore but the document is still extremely valuable.

Basically it boils down to this….there are lots of indicators but not all are tested. To best prepare our students for the tests we might try to teach all of the indicators but we would be wise to really make sure that students are proficient with the ones that the state consistently tests each year. For example, on the Grade 3 test the state has always asked a fair amount of comprehension questions (literal, inferential, evaluative), central ideas on Informational Text, and Main Idea, Characters, Setting for Literary Text. On the other hand they have never asked a question on High Frequency Site words.

In 4th grade Reading the emphasis is on Summarizing for both Reading Process and Reading Applications while the state hasn’t asked a single question on the Characteristics of Genre. Good information to have if you ask me.

Accomodations and Interventions

Dr. Mel Levine is a renowned pediatrician and author at the University of North Carolina. His speciality is learner differences. He writes about helping students, teachers, and parents learn how to identify learner differences and tailor their practices to better support these learners. The Indian Hill Foundation has already booked him for a speaking engagement next August. With our ongoing work in differentiated instruction I think his message will be most welcome. I’ve been looking for resources to support our teachers in their reading instruction. While reading about effective instruction and reaching all learners I came upon a resource based on Dr. Levine’s work. Teachers at the University School in Cleveland, OH have published their own help document on how to work with a different learners and their unique needs. I love a resource that I can print out and put on a clipboard and in a notebook for quick reference and this one meets that criteria. Sure, we could read one of many of Levine’s published works and create a similar document…but these teachers have already taken a first shot at it. The document is organized by bypass strategies (accomodations), interventions and type of student struggle. For example, if a student has attentional challenges there are both accommodation and intervention ideas. I’m sure as you read thru the list you will see some of your own students as well as some ideas that you haven’t tried yet.

Has Wikipedia Gotten a Bad Rap?

I recently read about a librarian who worked to get Wikipedia banned at their school. She even has a sign in her library that says, just so no to Wikipedia. Is blocking Wikipedia censorship?

Some schools have made the argument that Wikipedia is not as reliable as traditional print encyclopedias. Nature Magazine took up the challenge and compared a number of Britannica articles to Wikipedia articles and the results surprised this Wikipedia fan.

Nature Magazine found the Britannica articles were not without fault and had only slightly fewer errors than did Wikipedia.

I think teachers should allow the use of Wikipedia...but with the same caveat that teachers should use for all online resources. What is the credibility of the site/article? Is there bias in the writing....does this information match information I am finding on other websites or print sources? Students need to be critical consumers of information rather they use print sources or online sources for their research.

Senator Ted Stephens of Alaska is even trying to pass a law against Wikipedia use.

Articles of interest related to this issue:

Free Screen Capture Software

When you are teaching your students software one of the most effective tools at your disposal is screen capture software. Screen capture software allows you to capture the screen activity and make it a video. At a microphone and you have the beginning of a great tutorial. Teaching students (or teachers) how to use software can be frustrating at times. And I’m sure the learners share the experience too. The instructor gets tired of repeating themselves and the learner hates to wait for their questions to be answered. A screen captured video will allow the teacher to keep repeating the instruction and the learner can watch it, pause it, rewind it, etc. until it makes sense to them. By 5th grade students are pretty good with Word and Powerpoint, but graphics software is something that they don’t have much experience with and the tools and techniques associated with graphics software are new and different. I’ve also used screen capture software for some of the online courses I’ve taught on how to use Blackboard.
Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio is perhaps the top rated screen capture software on the market. It retails for close to $300. Fortunately they have educational discounts. Earlier this month TechSmith decided to make v. 3 of Camtasia available for free from their website. Although the current version is v.5, version 3 has all the features a teacher could want. If you would like to teach your kids something on the computer this is a great tool to have.

You could even use this software to help with Math instruction. The Everyday Math program does teach some non-traditional algorithms. Why not use your tablet to record a video of how the different algorithms work. I'm sure the parents would find that helpful.

Time for a Break

I try to keep this blog about education....but everyone needs a game every once in awhile. I wish I knew how to program the logic that is built into this flash game. Your goal is to not let the cat leave the board.

Viral Videos

Viral videos are the ones that the kids at school talk about. Many of them are silly and some of them are actually quite funny or clever. I came upon this one that I thought would be good to share since we offer Spanish classes to all of our students. This is the "One Semester of Spanish Love Song". If you took Spanish in either HS or College and haven't used it much since will be able to understand at least some of the lines.

Next time a student or parent asks for extra credit...

It happens near the end of each quarter....right after you are finishing up report cards and feel good about them. You get a note or phone call asking if there are any extra credit opportunities for their child. You are put in a tough are done with grades and don't want to mess around with an 11th hour grade change...after all the quarter was 9 weeks long. Why ask for extra credit at this point? It is don't want to be mean...but you need to be realistic.

Perhaps next time you can offer any of these as extra credit assignments:

New York Times Notable Books of 2007

Looking for some good books to read over the upcoming holiday break like me? The New York Times has compiled their “Best of 07” list to help you out. Might also generate some Christmas present ideas for you.

Why Can’t Something Like this Happen to Me?

It seems great pieces of art are always getting lost. A few years ago it was the elderly couple in Wisconsin that had a Van Gogh on their wall and didn't even know it. Then there was the guy who found one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence in a frame purchased at a garage sale. A few weeks ago someone in New York City did a dumpster dive for an interesting looking painting. Turns out that painting was done by a famous Mexican artist and it fetched over $1,000,000 at a recent auction.

Now this... Imagine you are walking thru LaRosa’s and you find an interesting looking piece of furniture. It is old and very intricate. Could it be some long lost piece of art?
Same thing happened in London but it wasn’t me and it wasn’t LaRosa’s.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Song of the Week: Nicole Atkins

A reviewer on Amazon described Nicole Atkins as sounding like the daughter of Roy Orbison and Lesley Gore, if they have a daughter together. According to a bio I read she was just about ready to give up trying to make it in the music business and get day job when someone at Columbia Records heard her demo and signed her. If you can't see the videos below...that must mean they are blocked at school :(

Nicole Atkins - Maybe Tonight ( Live)

Add to My Profile More Videos

On Letterman

PBWiki Ideas...

This one is too good not to share!

PBWiki is a site that will give teachers a free wiki. A wiki is a shared website in which multiple people can contribute to the content being worked on. Wikipedia is the best known of the wikis.

Karen M. was saying that she wanted to use more technology this year. I'm all for that. Karen is always full of meaningful ideas that make the content more meaningful for the students.

About a week ago Karen and I signed up for a wiki (it takes a whopping 30 seconds or so to do it). She had a great idea for her literature groups. Sequencing and main ideas are important concepts in the grade 3 well as grade 4 and 5. Karen's idea was for the students to create and maintain a wiki page as they read their story. They would be required to find and list important events in their story. They were required to keep a list of events in the story.

Here is where is gets good....they could only keep a limited number. They just couldn't record each and every event. They had to list only the most important. So after a number of chapters were read the students listed 20 events that happened in the story. Then the students had to read a few more chapters, record the events, and then update the wiki. The students couldn't go over 20 events so now they have to start evaluating the importance of the events in terms of the story. If you recall, Bloom held "evaluation" in very high regard :) So with each revisiting of the list the students have to review the current list and decide what to keep, delete, and add.

I know Karen is still working thru the project, because as a student updates that wikis it automatically emails their changes. I'm not sure how the project is going since I haven't talk to Karen about it since she started, but the idea is so great I just had to share.

The district is in the process of putting up the own wiki, but I don't feel like you have to wait for us....grab a PBwiki for the time being and start posting....give your kids a real audience to write for.

A Reading Report Card for IHES

Reading First is a federally funded program geared towards raising achievement of high risk learners in economically challenged schools. In researching effective reading programs I came upon a report published by Florida’s Reading First group. (full report) (overview)
In their research of schools that were raising achievement they found some common traits of those schools. Among those traits are:

· Strong Leadership
· Positive Belief and Teacher Dedication
· Data Utilization and Analysis
· Effective Scheduling
· Professional Development
· Scientifically Based Intervention Programs
· Parent Involvement

I wondered how many we have and to what degree we have them and since it has to do with school why not attempt a report card. The report goes into detail on each of the traits and defines exactly what is meant by each.

Strong leadership means that the building leader is knowledgeable about reading instruction, knows children and is up to date on best practices. A strong leader is someone who sets the course and has pointed the staff in the right direction and supports them thru the ups and downs. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if I were to make a report card for our school on these traits I would give an A at this time..

Positive Belief and Teacher Dedication means there is a pervasive belief that all students can achieve…despite whatever barrier or obstacle is in the way….teachers believe that all students will achieve. Teachers take the extra time needed to make sure all learners meet the goal. I agree that while our teachers are extremely dedicated we as a district aren’t doing everything that might help raise achievement…. especially of those students who struggle to meet the achievement goals set by the state. I have read about schools elsewhere who have extended the learning opportunities for learners who need extra help/support outside of the school day. I’m talking supplemental work beyond the school day for students. There is no teaching intervention that works better than an experienced teacher working one on one with a student in need. We provide many wonderful specials classes at Indian Hill. While they are important to growing the whole learner, I wonder if reading support at that time might be more beneficial to a student in the long run. Report card: B

Data Utilization and Analysis means gathering and looking at all available data to improve learning. Two years ago I would have given our school a C in this area. With the addition of Pinnacle Analytics and our homegrown reading assessment I will move that grade to a B. Remember, B is not bad, it is still above average. PA is good....but we are still just using it to look at "milestone" data. We need it to house the in between state testing measures.

To truly reach the A level we need to be gathering more regular data that measures a student over time…not just on acquisition of an indicator but also on reading fluency and comprehension. If we aren’t measuring every few weeks, how do we know learning or growth is taking place…how do we identify the students that need the extra support that we have available? The Florida report recommends data being gathered several times a month. Each measurement doesn’t have to be a big blowout stop teaching assessment. It can be something as simple as a fluency test followed by comprehension questions. We are doing some of this with our reading inventories (BRI) but I don’t get the sense that they are impacting instructional decisions on a regular basis yet and they aren’t recorded for administration to review progress and right now they happen only twice per year unless a teacher chooses to go above and beyond.

Effective Scheduling means that teachers can teach reading for uninterrupted blocks of time no less than 90 minutes. Students that need intensive intervention should receive 105+ minutes of uninterrupted instruction. Also under the heading of Effective Scheduling is the teacher’s planning schedule. Teachers need to have common time to discuss intervention and their impact on student learning. This allows teachers to continue to learn from each other about different instructional practices. I have to give our school a B- on this. Although grade 5 has common planning time, we haven’t figured out a way to give all 3rd and 4th grade teachers common planning time. Some schools have accomplished this by changing the teacher’s workday (with extra pay) so that teachers can get together after school is over and continue to work on their intervention plans for the next day. The article also talks about the flexibility in grouping that needs to occur so students can move from group to group as needed. That’s right…homogenous reading groups from time to time. I hope our district takes a look at the Professional Learning Community (PLCs) practices that are showing positive results around the country. We share information and strategies...but if we can formalize the process a bit more we can gain more by making a conscious effort to do it, record it, and share it.

Professional Development for teachers needs to be ongoing and continual. New brain research is impacting the way we teach children, especially those who struggle to learn how to read. Teachers need to continually learn to hone their craft in order to be more effective with their students. There is no teacher who knows it all or can’t learn a new trick or two from effective professional development. Other professionals are responsible for staying at the top of their profession and so should teachers. Although our professional development has changed drastically (for the good) I think we are still missing out on new learning opportunities. There is much to learn and not enough time to learn, digest, and put it all together in order for it to truly more the impact in the classroom that it might. Two half days and a number of faculty meetings simply aren’t enough. The new learning needs have outgrown the model of delivery that we available to us. We need to reinvent that model of delivery. B-

Scientifically Based Intervention Programs are those that have been demonstrated by research to work…meaning they teach young people how to read. There are commercially produced intervention materials that have shown excellent results with different learners. The drawback is that these programs are expensive and take time to have impact. Last year our school purchased Academy of Reading which is one of the most researched commercial products for reading instruction. The intent of the program is to reach those students who are still struggling with phonemic awareness and decoding. Higher levels of reading such as comprehension won’t happen until students are able to READ the text in front of them. I will have to abstain from a vote in this area, since I really am not sure if what we use or are doing with our struggling readers is scientifically validated one way or another.

The last of the traits is Parental Involvement which relates to the relationship that a school/teacher have developed with a parent/family. The bottom line is: are the lines of communication open? Can parents ask questions about how to help their child? Does the teacher communicate progress on a regular basis? If someone asked me if I communicated progress on a regular basis to my parents, my default answer would be….of course I do, I post all the grades on PIV, I send home graded papers, and I fill out a report for each student. But does that really transfer to a parent knowing how well their child is doing? As a parent who is now just starting to receive this kind of communication from my own children’s school I am less sure that it provides a big enough picture. Perhaps that is because I am an educator. Last year our first grader was really struggling with the letter/sound association. Because of this he was pulled out of class and worked with a reading specialist. We would receive monthly reports, complete with graphs of his progress. This type of information was very helpful for us in terms of understanding the needs and growth of our child. The teacher was also very helpful in sending home specific assignments/activities what would help our first grader learn what he most needed. Wouldn’t it be great if all parents were able to receive that type of reports for their child…regardless of their ability? Schools might not be able to provide that level of detail…but the state via their upcoming Valued Added plans will make an attempt. The Value Added reports will be sent home to parents starting next year and parents will see if their child grew by a year in a year’s worth of schooling (at least by state standards). B+ as I think that we could still do more….especially if we begin to gather more data….we can share this data with our parents to keep them informed. I think we might also want to consider working on some professional development for our parents…..having special evening sessions in which we “teach” parents how to support the learning efforts of their child. We could grow this program by later inviting parent volunteers to come in and work in small groups with students. Once again, the value of this is creating smaller groups for the students to participate in. With appropriate training I think a parent could be very effective in providing some reading support and reinforcement in the classroom.

Social Networking for students...uh oh...

Social Networking comes to education…at least for the kids.

Social Networking is basically sites where users build a community and share information. MySpace and Facebook are among the largest social networking communities and sites on the net. However, there are many other types of social networks. Several years ago someone started a site called Rate My Professors. It was a place where students could go and read about a professor they might want to take for a particular class.

When I was in college we did the same thing…only my circle of people to ask was relatively small. With a social networking site like this you can get the opinions of people you don’t even know but that might still have valuable information to share. I use Amazon the same way…I read people’s reviews of products I’m thinking of buying so why not review a professor. The site was so successful that it has spawned an offshoot call Rate My Teachers. Sites like this are causing concern in the educational community. The teacher's union in the UK is even asking lawmakers to review the law to see if it is even legal for these sites are legal and if teachers deserve any special protection.

Upon finding the Ratemyteacher site I had to see if Indian Hill was listed… certainly was at

Fortunately the elementary students haven’t started their reviews yet, but the HS students certainly have. I'm sure it makes some people uncomfortable, but I don’t think a site like this needs to be banned as students have a right to their opinion….but it certainly does open up a whole can of worms in terms of privacy. Does someone have the right to publish information about you? RateMyTeacher does give a place for teachers to respond to postings, but how is a teacher even to know that something has even been said about them....good or bad.

If you do have a few minutes you might enjoy looking up some of your own college professors. The RateMyProfessors site even offers video segments called “Professors Strike Back” where professors can offer their own video rebuttal.

The Death of Email

If you were lucky enough to attend our tech conference this August then you to hear Ian Jukes wax about the difference between students (digital natives) and us (digital immigrants). The argument follows that we (immigrants) use the phone and they (natives) use email. Well, research shows that the gap might just be widening. Just about the time email becomes second nature to us something else comes along that broadens the gap. The Slate reports that today’s younger generation no longer bothers with email….instead they prefer to text message, instant message, twitter, or post to Facebook. I’m sure you have heard about Facebook, but perhaps you haven’t heard of Twitter. Twitter is a site where you can post almost minute by minute what you are doing. Not only can you access the service with the web you can also tweet with a cell phone. So, if you want to keep up with the younger folk, you need to start using some new services such as Facebook and Twitter. Several Middle School teachers as a way to reach their students have created Facebook accounts. I would certainly recommend that any adult (parent, teacher) get a Facebook account just to tap into how our learners are using technology as well as their free time.

Ohio Treasure Chest of Resources

The Ohio Treasure Chest bills itself as “an online collection of thousands of websites which are high-quality, teacher-reviewed, interactive, and free. Each website is aligned directly to the Ohio Academic Content Standards in math, science, language arts, and social studies, and ready for use in your classroom.”

This site is maintained by Eric Curts of North Canton City Schools, home of the Vikings. I cannot imagine the number of hours Mr. Curts has put into this website over the years, but what a valuable resource for teachers.

What really works about this resources (besides its depth) is the way that it is organized. Mr. Curts has listed the indicators for each content area by grade level and then matched his websites to indicators. So if I am looking for a web activity to help me teach writing to 4th graders (specifically organizational strategies) I have 3 different sites that can help my students learn this indicator. What a great resource to have when you are looking for some resources to help teach a specific indicator. There is always Google….but why not start at the treasure chest first…Mr. Curts may have already done the work for you.

There is a T-shirt for everyone....

Looking for a way to stand out from the crowd....why not go to Google and search for "funny t-shirts". There is something for every type of humor. I would recommend you do this at school, though.

Moniker Maladies: Research Shows our Names Cause Problems

Next time Frank or Frannie tells you that it wasn’t their fault they failed the test you might want to listen up. This one is straight out of the files of “I can’t believe someone really studied this”. When skimming a recent issue of Newsweek I saw a brief story about a study about to be published in which it was found that people are more prone to do, prefer, or accept certain things that start with the same letter as their first initial. Huh? Research shows that people names Abby or Ben actually have a higher GPA (more As and Bs) then students whose name begins with C, D, or even F. Baseball players who name begins with a K (hello Ken Griffey, Jr.) strikeout more often than players who names begin with other letters. If that is the case, perhaps Homer Bailey shouldn’t be pitching, maybe he needs to bat cleanup….with a name like Homer.
Believe it or not this phenomenon is backed up by data from multiple research studies and even has its own name “name letter effect” or NLE. Research has shown that Mark is more likely to attend Miami, marry Molly, and move to Milford than is Connie who is more likely to attend Cincinnati, marry Chuck, and move to Cleveland. You can read the study right on the web and see all the data they have to back it up. Fascinating stuff! When you see the differences between the control group and the group inflicted with “unconscious self-liking” you think to yourself, well, they differences are so small. Surely it is just chance. However, in science, there is a saying that if something levitates (raising the number) you don’t focus on how high it levitated but why it moved at all….so the fact remains that there is a measureable distance between the two groups. So be careful what you name your children.
We really need to test this theory at school:
Does Jeff, John, Jen, Joni, Jason and Jon like jello more than other non-J teachers?
Do Betsy and Barb like brownies more than the other non-B teachers?
Do Pat, Pam, and Patty all prefer pralines more than the non-P teachers?

Snipping Tool for Tablets

In the previous post I mentioned using the print scr button as a way to capture what is showing on your screen. It is a great way to pull stuff off of different website or documents to use in other applications such as Powerpoint. However, when you do print screen you are capturing everything on the screen….which means you might capture something you don’t want to show such as the menubar. You can always edit out what you don’t want using a graphics program such as PaintShopPro or Fireworks (both available on our machines) but that is more work and time than you might want to invest. Wouldn’t be cool is you could capture just what you wanted. Well, you can if you have a tablet. Microsoft has put some special freebies on their website for tablet users. The products are called packs and they are free. The Snipping tool is part of the Experience pack .

Includes about six different tools ranging in usefulness. The snipping tool allows you to simply select what you can to capture just by using your stylus and drawing a line around what you want. You can then copy and paste the image, email it to someone, or do a few other things with it. It is great to use for taking notes online….just keep in mind that these are images and any text you “snip” won’t be editable since it is an image.

When visiting Country Day their tech team said this was a tool they used ALL the time and best part is that it is free.

Games in the Classroom

Gaming in the classroom or as a way to teach content experience has been growing in the past few years. I would like to talk about some of those games in the future since I think they have such potential…but I’m still looking for something that is more appropriate for students of our age groups.

While researching different games that can be played in the classroom I came upon several “easy” games that I think I teacher could use here and there and of course place on a website or as a Blackboard link to help students. These games are drill and practice which usually gets a bad rap…but in this case they are skills that can be practiced and enhanced with drill…i.e. mostly math.

If you search online for “educational games” you will find over 46,000,000 pages. Yikes! I’ve found a few that I think have a bit of potential if used in the right way. Many teachers are familiar with Math Mayhem. On this site you log on and practice your math by competing against other online players who are answering the same problems at the same time. Nothing like a bit of competition as incentive.

The other site that you might want to take a look at is Academic Skillbuilders.

Skillbuilders offers both Math and LA games. It looks they are adding games that have more interaction with other players….so instead of always playing against the computer, you are playing against an opponent online.

Obviously we can’t build our curriculum around games like this…but they are a nice supplement. What about making playing one of these a homework assignment? To ensure that the students actually did their work you could ask them to do a screen capture and print of several of their winning screens. All the student would need to do is hit the “print scr” button on their keyboard. The print screen button basically takes a picture of whatever is showing on the screen and places it on the clipboard. All the student would have to do is open a word processor and paste the screen capture in and print it out or better yet older students might be able to go paperless and email the Word document to you using Blackboard.

Can you imagine how excited one of your students would be to tell their parents that for homework they need to get on the computer and play games!

I will try to add more learning games in the future.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Song of the Week: Justice

Justice is a couple of guys living in Paris, France that got their start remixing various songs in the Paris dance clubs. This summer they released their debut album, Cross. One of the hits was D.A.N.C.E. Give it a listen.

Leaving Comments....please...

If you read about what blogging is all about or listen to one of the edu-blogging pioneers such as Will Richardson a blog is supposed to be about the conversation. If you read the blog and find something of value or see something you disagree with, then by all means leave a comment. At the bottom of each post is a link that says "Comments". If you click on that link it will take you to another page with a text box that you can use to leave your comments. Other people can follow that link and respond to your comments and a conversation is thus born. So if you read it, by all means, please comment.

Made to Stick

I recently finished reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Fail by Chip and Dan Heath. It is an interesting study on how to best present information so people will remember it for the long term. As a teacher I thought the book might offer some interesting ideas about how to turn my turning into actual student understanding. Remember, just because you’ve said it or shown it, there is no guarantee that the student owns that information. The whole idea of the book is that there are some “best practice” ways to present information in order to make it stick (persevere).

The brothers have crafted an effective acronym SUCCESs to illustrate their ideas.

Find the core of the message. Get rid of the fluff….what is the core/most important concept. From a teaching perspective I see that as your objective. I have a long unit to teach and what is the one thing I want kids to take away from the unit. What do I want them to know 2, 5, 10 years from now.

To make the idea stick or stick out you need to catch them off guard. A story is related about an airline stewardess who dances thru the safety routine because she knows the passengers have seen it many times…but she wants them to see it this time. For a teacher it might mean creating an uncomfortable feeling for the student…roleplaying something and the students don’t know it is being roleplayed. Years ago Betsy G. and Pam D. had a lesson about “taxation with representation” that started with the new rules being enforced in the class. Needless to say they had the student’s attention and caught them off guard setting up the whole representational government lesson.

Don’t teach in abstraction! The content we teach in the schools is well know by us and we forget what it is like to not have this knowledge…so we often speak and teach as if everyone has this same knowledge base. We need to push this “Curse of Knowledge” aside and recall what it was like no to know what we are trying to teach the students. As teachers we need to relearn it with the students. The more concrete we can make the content the better chance students will be able to grasp it and extend it.

As a teacher I would like to think I am credible to my kids….but are we really or are do they hear enough of us that we lose our credibility? To help boost the credibility of the information we are trying to teach the students need to hear other voices share the same ideas. That is why primary source materials are so important. That is why student work (even from previous years) can be a powerful learning aid. Teach with multiple examples to make it more “credible”. Nonexamples are sometimes just as powerful. The book shares the story of one of the most successful anti-smoking commercials in which a women dying of lung cancer shares why we shouldn’t smoke. Data/numbers are add to the credibility but we need to make the data accessible. The book How Much is Million is an excellent example of making data accessible. The book helps students understand just how big one million is by using examples such as, “if you were count from 1 to one million it would take 23 days.” An example like that makes the data ACCESSIBLE. 23 days of counting….that must be a big number.

Ideas that pull on the heart strings can be sticky. Making a math concept sticky might be tough….but the social studies curriculum is full of examples that are full of emotion. In order to appeal to the emotion we need to learn from Mother Theresa’s example in which she used individuals to help spread her message of the third world’s plight rather than speaking in terms of the huge numbers of people involved. We see this technique used rather effectively all the time on the news. We read and hear stories of large numbers of civilian Iraqis being killed in the war. However, when the story focuses on one person who was killed in the same bombing and how this person was going to market to buy food for their family the story sticks with us because we can relate…we shop and have a family…yet our lives aren’t threatened during these every day activities.

Our brains are wired for stories. For many generations history was oral….it was how we learned about our past. We are naturally drawn to a good story. History presented as facts and events are dry….but history told as a story, when done the right way can really pull students in. I can learn the facts about Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic Ocean and how people didn’t believe it could be done and how many miles it was and how many hours it would take. But when I read Flight by Robert Burgleigh I can really begin to feel what it might have been like to fly almost blind because my extra gas tank was so large that it blocked out my front window of the plane. I can get a sense of how lonely it was to fly in the dark all alone, just hoping I was going the right way. The same thing happens in our own professional conversations (rather in the meeting room or the lunchroom) we learn from each other’s stories. We hear and commiserate with a teacher that had a rough day. We listen and gleam ideas of what works with different students. We learn thru each other’s stories.

They don’t have another S :)

I have really just scratched the surface of this book. You know what makes ideas sticky now…but to really understand you need to read the book and reflect on the ideas/case studies shared by the authors.

A Visit to CCDS (Cincinnati Country Day School)

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a day observing and learning from the teachers at Cincinnati Country Day School. Several times a year they host a conference for teachers and administrators that want to learn more about 1-1 computer initiatives. Country Day has perhaps the most mature 1-1 (1 computer to 1 student) program in the country. Students in grades 5-12 have had their own laptops for going on 10 years. Last year they made the move from laptops to tablets. I was invited to attend the program somewhat by default….meaning no one else in the district wanted or could go. I hadn’t been to CCDS for about 12 years and I drive by it twice a day so I thought it might be fun to see what they were doing and even more fun to be off campus for a nice fall day.

Honestly my expectations weren’t all that great…because I have read some accounts of how other 1-1 environments aren’t they much different than a traditional classroom….except the kids have computers which has the potential to be a big distracter. There was even a district in upstate NY that cancelled their laptop program because it was seen as counterproductive to learning.

CCDS only has room for 30 people to attend the day and we are all pretty much crammed in a guest house they have on one side campus. We are crammed…but very comfortable. The great thing was that instead of talking about tablets, we were using the tablets. The day was masterfully planned and it was obvious they have done this many times before as it ran like a well-oiled machine. My favorite part of the day was the “dash and dart” sessions. Teachers literally busted into the room, hooked their tablet up to the projector, took a deep breath, and they let loose how they were using the tablets in their classroom. The teachers were so genuinely excited (even the 30+ year veteran) about the power of what they were doing in their classroom….and it was some powerful stuff. What really hit me about the day was that the teachers actually talked very little about the actual technology…rather they focused on the teaching and learning that was happening in their rooms….which is really what the whole idea about using technology is about. Yes, kids need to know how to use these tools for their future employment and schooling…but isn’t the teaching and learning a more immediate need? Of course it is.

Country Day has purchased a very powerful piece of software called DyKnow ( ). I can’t do this product justice, but basically it allows teachers and students to share inked slides back and forth. So a student enters a classroom, logs in, and joins a teacher’s session. The student automatically receives the slides a teacher has prepared for the class. The teacher can continue to ink on the slides even when the students already have them. The students can also ink on the slide and submit to the teacher who can then look at the students work and even playback the slide from start to finish…so not only can they see the finished slide, they can see the ink going on the slide so a teacher can see where a student headed the wrong direction in a math problem. The software blew me away. At the conclusion of the day I asked their tech team how much the software cost. All he would say was that I needed to call the company. It was almost as if he had signed a non-disclosure agreement (not kidding). The most information I could get from him was….it is expensive.

I immediately went home determined to find a price (I didn’t) and see if there were comparable products. There are few other products (both open source..yeah!) that although they don’t have the same rich features still look worth considering….especially in our HS were there are some student tablets.

The University of Washington has a program under development called Classroom Presenter and the University of California at San Diego has a web-based app called Ubiquitous Presenter that is based on the Classroom Presenter app. I have downloaded both and have successfully played with both. Classroom Presenter won me over. If you would like to tinker with your own class, I would love to help you get started.

Download: Classroom Presenter

Seven Deadly Sins of PC Users

Like you I get lots of junk in my inbox. However, every once in awhile I will something that I wasn’t expecting. HP recently sent me an email called the Seven Deadly Sins of PC Users. The article gives you the most important things to do or NOT do on your computer (school and home) that can help keep you safe and prolong the life of your computer and your data. Some of the tips, such as keeping virus software up to date, is what you would expect. You’ve heard that long enough so shame on you if you aren’t running something at home. The district offers Sophos (what we use at school) for free home use. There are also several good open source (free) versions of anti-virus software such as: ClamWin, and AVG. You don’t have to plunk down $50 to buy Norton if you don’t want…although if you keep your eye out during tax season you can usually get a great deal when you buy tax software and antivirus at the same time.

Two tips that we don’t talk enough about are backing up your data. At school, you don’t really need to worry about it since our servers are backed up nightly. You should be safe unless of course you safe work on your hard drive….don’t do that, please. You really need to be backing up at home too. I’ve found the best way to do this is to purchase one of the large external hard drives such as the Western Digital MyBook ( ). These are basically hard drives that sit on the outside of your computer and connect via USB. You can move them just by unplugging them in to a different machine. Many of the different brands of external drives come with free backup software. Usually a click or single button sends a copy of all of your data to the external drive. If your machine dies or hard drive dies you have a copy to pull from of all your work. An external drive will cost you anywhere from $75 and up. My 320gig drive was about $120 a year ago from Sam’s Club. I’m sure they are cheaper now.

The other tip I thought was especially good was being careful about who uses your computer. If you have a child at home you might be especially careful as they are prone to download just about anything and everything. The number #1 piece of bad software people download to get viruses are screensavers. Who can’t resist a cute screen saver of puppies or kittens? I can, because I don’t want a virus. I would strongly consider getting your child their own computer. Refurbished units can be purchased on eBay for less than $100.

The last tip shouldn’t be overlooked either. Don’t ignore the Windows updates that Microsoft is trying to force down to your machine. Usually these are for your own protection…meaning someone found a way to exploit a Windows machine and Microsoft figured out how to fix it. The updates to download are the fixes. If you aren’t sure if you are getting updates you should (in Internet Explorer) click on Tools, Windows Update and it will take you the MS site and directions will follow about what to do.

Reading Strategy: Reciprocal Teaching

Our journey towards building a community of better readers is a long one. Like all journeys, it happens in small measured steps. Learning to read is perhaps one of the hardest things a student will ever learn to do. Intervention Central is an excellent resource to help you find different teaching and intervention lessons/activities. One of my favorite strategies is reciprocal teaching. This technique involves lots of think aloud between the teacher and the students. The basic idea of the strategy is that we learn by watching, then roleplaying, seeing effective modeling, and then actually doing it. Reciprocal teaching is based on the what good readers do when they read text.

It can be done in whole group and perhaps even more effectively in small group once the students have had experience with the technique. Basically the process involves the teacher modeling the self-talk they have while reading a section of text related to summarizing, question generating, clarifying and predicting. As students become familiar with the structure of the activity there is a release of responsibility and the reciprocal part happens when the student plays the role of the teacher and has their own talk aloud with the teacher. In time the students can work together in small groups and take turns being the teacher and talking to their peers about the text as they read together. The talk would always include a running dialogue about what is happening in the text, asking questions about what isn’t understood or why certain events happen in the story, make their understanding more clear as they read (confirming predictions), and make future predictions. The technique works equally well with nonfiction and fiction text although the conversation for each type of text will be quite different.

Give it a try….

Reciprocal Teaching: A Reading Comprehension Package

Be A Careful Reader: 4 Strategies to Better Understand What You are Reading

Reciprocal Teaching Strategies Worksheet

Reciprocal Teaching Prompt Cards to Print

Reciprocal Teaching: Building Reading Comprehension

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Song of the Week (November 1)

Spoon is a Austin based band that has been around for almost 15 years. I first discovered them from a best of list that is so often published on various sites and publications at the end of the year. Your chances of finding new music on the radio are slim to none so you need to try other outlets to find it. Surprisingly some of the recent TV shows (Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, and others) have become known for their "good" music. I also find new music in soundtracks. I had a Spoon song or two and then saw "Stranger than Fiction". Loved the movie and the music. Get the soundtrack and Spoon is the mainstay of the album. Their latest album is called GaGaGa and this is one of the songs they performed recently on Saturday Night Live.

Funny Signs

I like to show a few funny things this week and it is getting I'll quick and easy in the form of real signs that gave me a chuckle.

Student Email

As I work with the students in computer class I find that many are lacking email accounts. With all this talk about digital natives and access to learning I think we really need to investigate asking our students to get an email account (of course with Mom or Dad’s permission). We are talking writing and fluency….with email we can actually give the students real people/audiences to write to and for. How can you get started. I would first ask which students have accounts. In every class (even 3rd graders) I have asked there are at least a few email accounts. Once you know who doesn’t have an email draft a letter to the parents telling them of the cool projects you have coming up and how email can be beneficial to the students. You could even throw in a few links about teaching children how to be safe email users. Recommend that the parent sign the child up for Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail. You could also offer Gaggle email. This service, although loaded with advertising screens, would allow teachers to monitor all student email. Betsy and I can help get you started if that is the direction you are headed. Of course, if students get their email at home you have no way to monitor and personally I don’t want to be in that business because then I hear about it if something slips thru that shouldn’t. If parents sign up their children, then they can help with the monitoring. Another freebie that teachers now have access to free is epals schoolmail service.

Ongoing Measures as a way to Reach AYP

One more reading article worth looking at (at least for this week) concerns how to use curriculum based measures (addressed above) to meet AYP goals (Determining Adequate Yearly Progress From Kindergarten through Grade 6 with Curriculum-Based Measurement .
Meeting AYP...that is pretty much what we are trying to do….and I think the measures are worth investigating. DIBELS is one of the more widely known CBM systems. The price (in this budget tight times) is certainly right. The measures were developed by the University of Oregon and they have made all materials free upon registration at their site. People don’t realize (I certainly didn’t) that DIBELS measures go up all the way to grade 6. The only thing that costs is the use of the DIBEL website which is what you can use to upload and analyze student scores. The cost is just $1 per year per student and all funds go towards funding growth of the program.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

RTI (Response to Intervention)

This whole RTI process was new to me and I couldn’t help but think it is a process worth investigating. Responsiveness-To-Intervention: A Blueprint for Practitioners, Policymakers, and Parents seems to lay the process out in a nuts and bolts fashion for us. Maybe I’m just uninformed and we already do this.

Reading Rockets has a great little chart to help reading teaching and kids and parents as well called Target the Problem . The goal of the sheet is to help all parties zoom in on what the reading problem might be and it also gives suggestions on how to work on the specific problems. I love how it gives tips for students and parents too…we all need to work on this together. It has a section of the main difficulties: Problems involving phonological and phonemic awareness, Word decoding and phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency, Comprehension and of course Other.

Post Halloween Scare!

This might be a bit late…but better late than never. A few years ago Erin, Heather, Pam, and I showed this commercial to our students telling them the background story about how a ghost was captured on tape during the shooting of a commercial and that no one show the ghost until reviewing the footage of the commercial. I’ve given two links in case it is blocked….I’m not saying to show your kids but you might get a kick out of it yourself. My own 3rd grader is way into the scary stuff…but he is really just a big talker. When I showed him this the other day he screamed so loud he almost fell off the couch. My tough as nails daughter thought it was funny.

Reading Websites to Help Us...

The first site of special interest is Reading Rockets . The site is funded by WETA (Washington DC’s PBS TV) and the US Department of Education. The goal of the site is to help all children learn to read and support the caring adults who try to do just that.

The first article I came across was How to Adapt Your Teaching Strategies to Student Needs . The article tries to take the mystery out of adapting your instruction for different student needs. The suggestions are practical and doable. The article is broken down into different sections such as “If the child has difficulty learning by listening then try….”, “if the child has difficulty expressing themselves verbally then try….” and so on.

The next article worth delving into is one about the 4th grade slump.
The 4th grade slump is when a student must really start relying on what they’ve learned previously to succeed and to continue building on their learning. 4th grade is when reading goes from decoding and word recognition to fluency and comprehension. In Ohio, it also represents a new age level band in the curriculum meaning that there are lots of new skills for the students to master. The article discusses new research initiatives to better understand people learn to read and why some struggle and how to overcome those various struggles. We know students who start off behind often take years to “catch up” to their peers if at all. RTI (response to intervention) has shown promise to systematically identify learn who struggle and to help them get the proper support the need. A big part of RTI is ongoing data collection of a student’s progress. We have the QRA which are a good, but they only measure the progress towards the OAT goals and they only take place 3x per year. Progress monitoring needs to be more regular and ongoing so we know if our instruction is improving reading based on fluency and comprehension measures. I had a major lightbulb moment when Melissa Stewart stated that all our cramming of the indicators are wasted if the students lacking the most basic reading skills. These shorter term assessments aren’t indicator specific, rather they measure fluency and in some cases comprehension. Perhaps we should be gathering this data to help us identify where are learners are in terms of reading not just the indicators

Are we in Lake Wobegon?

Every now and then I’ll hear a bit of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon radio while running errands on a Saturday morning. While I don’t enjoy it as much as Car Talk I do appreciate its humor. I always chuckle at the opening line about Lake Wobegon.where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." That sentiment seems to be pervasive when we compare ourselves to other. I do, I’m guessing you do it and I think we do it with our school. Raise your hand if you were shocked when IH didn’t make AYP. We were oh so close, but close doesn’t cut it. Since then I’ve been doing some reading on reading instruction and have come across some interesting resources. I will continue to add them to this blog as I find them.

So why didn’t we make AYP? I don’t know all the answers but I think I have some clues. The students we teach today aren’t the ones we taught even five years ago. Almost fifteen years ago I was a 5th grade teacher and I took pride in my reading instruction. I did literature groups and facilitated some great higher level, thoughtful discussions. Knowing how to read wasn’t any issue for these kids…they were almost all avid readers. Those who weren’t were still very literate and never struggled with the above grade level texts I presented them with. I don’t think I could teach the same way today….I certainly couldn’t two years ago when I did a one year stint in 4th grade. It was first year teaching that I had students that struggled with more than just higher level questioning….rather than struggled with basic comprehension and making sense of text. I did my best, but still don’t know if I did all that I could to advance their reading skills. I did leveled books from our guided reading library but the work of keeping 4 or 5 different books moving forward and incorporating all the skills/indicators the state mandates was a bit of a strain and I honestly don’t know what help I was. I know that the students did enjoy the small group with each other and their teacher. If I were back in the classroom again I think I would take some special education classes to better prepare myself for the varied types of learners we face each day. I would need to learn new ways to teach to make myself as effective to all the learners as possible. The old ways aren’t bad…I would just need to be able to build upon the new ways as well. I came across a great quote this weekend (from the 4th grade slump article below) addressing the 4th grade slump seen across the nation. He talked about the transition that all students need to make from learning how to read to learning from our reading. He said we just can’t assume they get it. I just assumed they “got it”. I was so focused on the skills/indicators that I fear I was overlooking bigger issues. Don’t assume it, probe and find out about their reading. Reading is basically a foreign language…it is a made up system. We are wired to speak from birth, but we need to learn to read. We need to take the little squiggles on the page and make meaning from them. For many learners it will be the hardest learning they ever do in their life.
image from: carlala0817 on flickr

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fantastic Finishes!

Never give up....if you haven't seen the end of this Division 3 college football game then you owe it to yourself to check out this example of never giving up.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Song of the Week 10.25.07

Someone asked how I put these songs on....well, I don't really as someone else has already put them up for me. That is, some other blogger has loaded the song and I just link to these links may not always play.

Ryan (don't confuse with Bryan) Adams has quickly become one of my favorite artists. For several years my brother would mention him to me and I would wonder why my brother was listening to Bryan Adams. Ryan Adams is darling of the critics and quite the prolific songwriter. Last year he released 3 albums and one of them was double. This summer he released Easy Tiger. I hate to try to pigeonhole an artist but I would put him in the alt-country category although there is plenty of rock as well....but more than anything he is a songwriter. Some critics have called him the Bob Dylan of this time period (mind you Bob Dylan is still alive and also has a new album out). In honor of this season I chose Halloween Head recorded from a live show this past June in NYC.

Fun Tool

JibJab has been around several years. It was started by these two brothers who were really good at flash. Now they are making it so that you can upload your own pictures into their movies. I didn't want to make anyone mad it here at I used a couple of infamous figures from the headlines. This is the type of fun activity (should time allow it) that you could do with your kids in the computer lab. They just added some longer is Night of the Living Democrats and the other is Night of the Living Republicans. Might not want to put the kids in that one...but I'm sure you would have some friends that you could cast for that. Sometimes the embedded version of the movie doesn't in case it doesn't please go to:

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

Thought/Question of the Week

Please click on comments link below this picture and post your thoughts.....

For those with tired/strained eyes, the question is "With heightened accountability and standards based testing has creativity been pushed to the outskirts of the curriculum?"

How did you score the QRA tests?

I have this great piece of software that I think everyone might be able to make more use of. Remark Office OMR is the software that we purchased last year to help us get our QRA scored. The software is basically a software based version of a scantron sheet. It compares images scanned by the copier and makes detailed records of what it finds. So a teacher could give a test with a bubble sheet and essentially use the software and copier to grade the tests. Sounds good...because it can really save you some. But the real power of the software is what it can do with the results that you would probably never take the time to do yourself. It will generate different types of item analyses for you. If I were still a classroom teacher I would try to use this for every test I gave. I know what your saying....the types of questions are limited, right. Well, not really. Multiple choice questions are objectives items that the student bubbles in themselves. You can also create an answer sheet that includes subjective items. Basically the student would right their answer and you would bubble in the appropriate amount of point to award to the student. If you would like to make use of this software for your testing, please let me know. I would be happy to help get you started. 5th grade science and 4th grade reading is making great use of this software.

Make Your Own Motivator (De-Motivator) Posters

Despair Inc. has taken the motivational posters we have all seen and put an interesting spin on them. Despair's posters are called De-Motivators. They are funny and clever...not the kind you would want to put up in your classroom. Browse the site and get a chuckle. They actually do have something you might be able to use with your students as part of a creative writing assignment. They have a Motivator (De-Motivator) Generator that allows you or your students to easily make those type of posters. Simply upload the picture, type your text and you are good to go. It will create it and you can download/save it by right-clicking on the image. I used the tool to make my thought/question of the week.

Quarterly Reading Assessments...take 1

So far so good with the quarterly reading assessments. All tests are in and scanned. Scoring should finish tomorrow morning and then reports will go out. The reports will detail how each student scored sorted by standard and indicator. I realize many of these assigned values are given to you based on just one or two items....but at this point it is the system we have. Now once you have the reports in your hands I hope you take some group/team time to review the scores and see what areas are weak and need to be improved. Perhaps you can do a focused activity on a small group of students on one item while a teammate takes some of your students who are struggling with a different concept. Take advantage of each other's expertise and share what is working. The sharing, give-and-take is essential in a professional learning community. We have a structure that affords us time to be together with our teammates daily so let's take advantage of it.

But what about the kids who are weak in almost all indicators? How do we best serve those students. Perhaps the indicators are essentially meaningless for these students...because their foundational reading skills are lacking or poorly developed. How do we best serve these students? First, we have to figure out how to identify the specific needs of these students. We are looking at tools that might give us this additional insight AND then suggest interventions to help us meet the students at their level of instructional readiness. If you have heard of any products/tools out there then please send them my way as we need your expertise.

The Mom Song to William Tell

I work with lots of moms and figured everyone could relate to this one since we are either a mom, a dad, had a mom, and works with lots of little people that have moms. Comedienne Anita Renfroe. This one is also from YouTube so you will need to see at home...even though there is absolutely wrong with this video.

How Not to Do a Powerpoint

As teachers are using powerpoint more and more to convey information to their students in class I thought it was important to include what not to do....presented by comedian Don McMillan. The video is from YouTube so sadly you will need to view this at home or see me and I will pass you in during school. It is funny....but does actually present some good tips.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Song of the Week

Who knew that Sweden has such catchy music....well, besides Abba, I mean. Jens Lekman is a 25 year old who writes some music that has been compared to diverse artists from Jonathan Richman to Barry Manilow (yikes). At least worth a listen.

Teacher Tech Integration Handbook

ATEC, the Appalachian Technology in Education Consortium has released a free resource in PDF format called the Teacher's Technology Handbook: A Resource to Support Effective Technology Integration. I printed it out and it is full of good information. At 190 pages it sure makes me appreciate having a networked copier. Sections include:
Section 1: Technology Integration Lessons
Section 2: Why Integrate Technology
Section 3: Effective Technology Integration
Section 4: Planning Technology Integration Lessons
Section 5: Technology Tools for Learning
Section 6: Implementing Integration Lessons

You can download individual sections or the entire book. long last....

Detectives from Interpol celebrated today after security cameras captured a picture of the elusive Carmen Sandiego. Although Interpol has not yet apprehended their subject they feel confident that they may at long last capture her. I have my own doubts.
Image found at BoingBoing (link not always safe for work)


I can't stop with the that I've started. Not trying to pick on JW, I just happened to have his photo on hand for other (not nearly as devious) purposes. What about making one of these to get your students' attention. Upload a picture and position the jaw for talking and that is pretty much it. This was made at a site called Blabberize.

Fuzzwich...another fun video tool...

Video will certainly get your students attention...especially when it is silly video. Why not make a little video using Fuzzwich and link to it in might just get someone's attention.

My embedded video might show up, but just in case here is the linked version.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New way to get their attention....

Plain text is so boring....well, at least it is to our students. Remember....they are the digital natives and prefer video/audio over plain old text. What about using a video message to get their attention every now and then.

BombayTV network has marketing campaign right now that allows you to add subtitles of your own to their short video snippets.
Take a look at my sample video....what happens when someone has problems with the indicators.
My Movie (no teachers were hurt in the production of this movie)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Song of the Week 10/9/07

Go Team! is an interesting mix of dance music. Chants, noises, cheerleaders, and some rapping on top of it. When you are running low at the end of a busy day give Go Team! a listen to.

Links for Week of October 9, 2007


David Pogue writes about technology for the New York Times. He recently wrote an article about the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative to bring technology to 3rd world schools. Be sure to check out his video too. The laptop was originally planned to be $100, but things happen and the price of the laptop is now a “whopping” $188. As a fundraiser, OLPC is offering people living in the United States the chance to buy one of the laptops. For $400 you are actually buying two laptops….one for yourself and then the second one is donated. The laptop is small (it is for children after all) but it is packed with innovative features. The machine is rugged and suffers no ill effects with brief drops. It is also self contained….so nothing can get into the laptop….even spilled liquid does nothing because even the keyboard is sealed. The organization has even engineered a new battery chemistry which is much cheaper than regular laptop batteries and lasts much longer.

Don't Let that Block stop you from playing YouTube

Have you ever had a video that you really wanted to use with your students? Me too. When you are working on your lesson plans you come across just the right video (yes, YouTube has all types of videos, not just people lip synching popular songs) to get the extra umph to that lesson. You come to school, start working thru the lesson and now to really get the students’ attention you try to pull up the YouTube video. Ugh…that’s right, YouTube is blocked here at school. Well, with a little upfront work you can overcome come that. All you need to do is download YouTube from home and then play it at school. Videos are big so using a flash drive or even emailing yourself the video will work. Heck, if you have your tablet, you can attach to YouTube from and download the video to your machine and then play it from the saved location the next day. Here are some tools that will help you with the process.

Basically you download the video as a flv type file. That is a flash video file. By default your machine probably doesn’t even know how to play that. Don’t give up yet….you just have to help your machine. You can download a piece of software (such as VLC media player) that will open those flc files. You can also use other tools that will try to convert the flc to a more common format like avi or mov. YouTube Catcher is a piece of software that I came upon last week. It is housed at sourceforge. Sourceforge provides server space for groups of people developing open source software. I tried out YouTube Catcher and it downloaded and converted my YouTube video to avi all in one action. Once in avi I can play it for the class, edit it in Movie Maker, or even include it in a Powerpoint presentation. Hah….no YouTube blocks for me (or you).

Looking for Intervention Ideas?

If that is the case then you might be well served to check Intervention central. This is a great place for teachers to share with teachers about what is working in their classroom. This site not only has teaching ideas…they also have assessment ideas. Check out the Curriculum Based Measures (CBM) link to find ideas of measuring student growth. They even include some Excel templates that you can plug in your own numbers and get different graphs with show growth over time.