Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
One of my tasks this summer is to take my grade level's " Reading Pacing Guide" (the sequence of strategies that I teach), and align the Core Reading series in such a way that I can use it as a resource. I am sure there are wonderful lessons in the Core that were written by leading experts in our field. I certainly don't want to miss any of their expertise. In order to align those two pieces I will have to think deeply about the strategies that I have learned from Ellin Keene, Susan Zimmermann and Debbie Miller and think about how the comprehension skills and strategies of the Core Reading series lessons fit with those broader comprehension strategies.
The phonics and phonological awareness skills are a little easier since we have used both the scope and sequence of skills in the Core Reading to guide our grade level pacing guides. In the case of those skills, my work this summer will be to identify and plug the Core assessment pieces into our grade level pacing guide, which will keep us teaching and testing the same skills as other teachers in our county, making any transfer of students to other county schools seamless.
So what did I actually learn in my small group lesson this week?
- I learned that the county will not level the last group of books that we got for our libraries. Because at my school we need leveled books more than we need genre books, we will have to do that work ourselves. To do that work I will go to Scholastic Teacher Book Wizard on-line. If anyone has already done that work for kindergarten and first grade, please share! If not, I will be tackling that also this summer.
- I learned that the Soar to Success kit is a daily intervention program that is 18 months below grade level, so really is only appropriate for some of my lowest special education students. Teachers who had experience with the kits in Summer School suggested going through the books one day at a time instead of the suggested one week at a time, until you reach a level appropriate for your group, which may be one way to use this program more efficiently.
- I learned that we are no longer expected to keep the individual Assessment Books for each child intact so we may rip out assessment pages that we need, such as the skills assessments. This is a change from what we were told earlier in the year. And... these books will be replenished each year.
- I learned that we may take all of our small 6-pack sets (vocabulary and guided reading sets) and arrange them by Fountas-Pinnell levels, which is good since that is how most of our teachers are already using them! Most of our teachers have packaged them in zip lock bags with the the teacher guide folder inside the bag. One of the consultants suggested making a notebook for each FP level of the Teacher Guides, which are already hole punched, which I thought was an excellent idea! It would be wonderful to have all of the Teacher Guides for a single level of books together. By looking through them a teacher could easily see the skills and strategies to be taught for that level in their small guided reading lessons.
- I learned that the Small Group Independent Activities box has a nice purple pocket chart with cards that can be used for a Center rotation schedule instead of making one yourself. Since most teachers have not even opened that box, it's worth digging into it to get to the pocket chart!
- I learned that the Home-Community Connections Book has many interesting hints for families that can be used in our weekly Newsletters and blogs.
- Finally, I learned that eduplace.com has many, many resources that are not password protected and can be used by teachers.
The one thing that I didn't get, which was my main reason for going, was a picture list of exactly what each grade level should have. While it was wonderful hear so much about how to use what we have, we were divided into primary and intermediate and often the consultant would say, "but kindergarten doesn't have this" or "your county didn't order this piece." Of course, we have received all sorts of "lists" but I yearn for a list of exactly which pieces were ordered by my county for my grade level with a picture of each item, much like we have on our own pacing guide. So alas, I am still trying to figure out what I have and what I should have, so I know what to do with each piece. There is no questions that we have a mountain of "stuff" - now if we can just figure out how to make the best use of all of that stuff to make a difference in student achievement!
All of the teachers attending these summer sessions are doing it on their own time. As you listen to their questions and discussions, it is obvious that they are trying to "do it right." They so want to learn and figure it out and I think the consultants honestly want to be supportive and answer questions. I wonder... With all of the technology available these days, would the time be better spent making videos, editing lessons that could be watched using the materials, or making podcasts, or writing blogs and wikis with the most asked questions and answers - technology that would reach the entire teacher populace on their own time... This is just such a large county and it seems that our professional development needs to move into a more proactive, rather than reactive stance. I'm sure this is not a novel thought and some of what I yearn for may be in the development stage or even pieces may be now available on-line somewhere. Obviously, it's easier said than done... or we'd be using it... wouldn't we?
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
It is our tradition at Chets Creek to publicly honor individuals and teams who have met or exceeded our standards of excellence. Susan honors individuals and groups such as those teachers who are completing their first year of teaching, the PTA and SAC Chairs, the Teacher and Employee of the Year, and our newest National Board Certified Teachers. She also recognizes "unsung heroes" that this year included a couple of part time teachers who have gone over and above, a teacher who has started a school recycling program with energy and determination, and our Dining Room workers who take the toughest job at school and do it with a smile. She recognized those high fliers who have led teachers meetings, who ran our Relay for Life event, and who ran our Math Superstars program. Since this year was a concentration in technology she recognized some of the teachers who had taken technology risks such as a teacher who networked with a school in Bangkok and the five teachers who have responded to every single Book-of-the-Month challenge! Then three teachers were selected by the faculty to receive awards for taking risks with technology this year. Eleven teachers were recognized for 100% of their students meeting the standard on FCAT!!
Finally the Team of the Year was announced - always a highlight. This year the Team of the Year was the Foundations Team - a team that surveyed our population and discovered a problem with bullying. Then they addressed the problem by bully proofing. Finally, with reluctant hearts, we said good-by to teachers that are leaving us and with happy hearts, welcomed those new folks who will be joining us.
Anticipation built as we watched a slide show of memories - this year with funny speech bubbles - that ended with Susan's announcement of the new theme - Orchestrating a Symphony of Student Success! Teachers can't wait to see the new theme unveiled each year and there's never a hint until the luncheon. Suspense builds! Teachers have been trying to guess the theme all week! Watch the video below that announced the new theme! This same video will start each day next year. The new theme was a smash hit!
I have taught at lots of schools on the last day, but Chets Creek does something that no other school has ever been able to capture. At a time when you are just do tired and ready to be finished, Chets Creek gets you all excited about the next year. Most years after a summer of relaxation and fun, I'm ready to return, rejuvenated for the new year, but Chets builds that feeling into the end of the year! What a great ending to an equally great year! I can't wait to see what next year brings as we enter with a song in our hearts!
Friday, June 5, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
Most of the classes have a pizza party for lunch in their room while they calm down with a movie. Then it's outside for a Play Day provided by the P.E. Department. As music blares over the loud speaker kids wiggle and dance while they drink water at the cooling off station. The PE teachers go around with larger than life water hoses, spraying everyone with water (They enjoy this part way too much!) Not only is it fun, but it is cooling on such a hot day. The children had relay races with tricycles, threw over sized flexible discs, had a tug of war and relay races with large refrigerator sized cardboard boxes, threw balls at a moving (live!) target, and played with the largest soccer ball ever. What a fun day - another way of celebrating the thrill of the end of another year!
All in all, the end of the year is an "over the top" celebration of a year that has involved growth and hard work. we like to say that we work hard and we play hard and today was all about the play and building new, happy memories for children. How fitting!