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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Song of the Week: Kate Nash_Foundations

Links for 10.2.07

Doug Johnson is a librarian/tech type who has long been a leader of technology in schools. His blog (Blue Skunk) recently featured his own spin on “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”….his version is “If you Give a Teacher a Computer…..” Fun reading.

Looking to learn about new technologies that you can use in your classroom and don’t want the hassle of driving to or paying for a conference? Have I got a conference for you. The K-12 Online conference is coming next Monday and runs for much of October. Each day and night there are interesting online presentations and discussions. The schedule can be found here:

The conference has four strands:

Classroom 2.0 (leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and transparent atmosphere characterizes teaching and learning in the 21st century).

New Tools (focusing on the “nuts and bolts” of using specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning)

Professional Learning Networks (research says that professional development is most effective when it aims to create professional learning communities — places where teachers learn and work together

Obstacles to Opportunities (boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age” shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their classroom practice)

I “attended” last summer and it was a great learning opportunity.

Voki is bling for your blog, wiki, or webpage. It will even run in Blackboard. It is embedded code…so you just need to add the text that Voki gives you as HTML. You can even use your own voice to record your message. If you look at the picture on the upper right of this blog you will see what my avatar looks like. Oh, you noticed the hat. No, I wasn't trying to hide anything :)