Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Exit Ticket of a Different Color

I spend my drive home most days reflecting on how the day went-what I need to reteach, what lesson I need to mentally bookmark to use again and which I need to mentally trash because they were a disaster.

Reflection is really hard for kids. I use exit tickets often to force them not only to think about what they are learning and how they are learning it but also to learn how to articulate that. Even at the end of a lesson it's challenging for them to put into words what they have learned-much less at the end of the day.

This week my kiddos are going to sum up their whole year. I asked them to make a list of their favorite lessons, poems, books, words-what they enjoyed learning this year and we're making t-shirts. It's a slow process but I was really pleased with the outcome so far. One student made his into a recipe format-another made a really impressive list of words.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Teacher Appreciation

I head up our Student Council, and every year we try to make something for the teachers. This year we made little portraits of them using cutouts to hang on their doors. The kids made them for all of the staff and it was so cute to hear them talk about how they saw their teachers and aides.

"We have to give her a smile, she's always smiling".
"She wouldn't wear that, she dresses pretty!".
"What word should be put on her necklace-dream-that's a good one for her".

Here are some examples of what they made:

Our Pre-K kids think their teacher is obviously very "sparkly"! :)

Chapter Read-Alouds

I am a firm believer in reading aloud to children above their grade level. I am very lucky to be the facilitator for a student book club competition that allows me to find "treasures" I may not necessarily discover otherwise.

This year we had a book in the 3rd-5th category called Home of the Brave. It's about an African refugee (or as my kids spell it refyou-G :) and the process of assimilating to American culture. I thought some of the themes may be a little scary for them, I did edit just a little bit over the descriptions of the war. But some of the things that were new to the main character Kek, made the story pretty funny. And it does have a happy ending which is something these sensitive kiddos look for.

Anyway here is a reading response activity they did with a triorama to show the different plot elements. In the story their favorite part was when he puts the dishes in the washing machine in an effort to "help" his aunt with the cleaning. :)

My favorite-I know she meant to say "lost your parents". :)

The Book "Readicide"

I remember reading about this book when it first came out a few years ago. I've started my summer reading list a little early this year and just finished reading it. I found some of the author's insights really fascinating and unfortunately true.

He talks about how kids are losing their passion for books as they go up the grades. In Kindergarten they love to read stories and each year following we tap out a little more of that excitement. Even this year in 1st Grade, they are required to read passages in their standardized testing, so it's something we have to practice. As they progress through the grades, many teachers forego read-alouds for test passages-which are soooooo boring! If that was what I had to read all day every day, I'd probably hate reading too.

A couple of things I am going to do to help change this trend at least for my kiddos:

1) Let the students check books out to take home. I always record stories for them and let them take the story and the book. We had a Donorschoose project filled last year that gave us some mp3 players to use now. It's so much easier not having to rewind tapes. But many of our students don't have books at home or anyone who has time to read with them. You can't become good at something without practice. Nothing like a child asking if they can take a book and you turn around and they have like 7 of them. :)

2) Be more effective in getting parents on board with this. I know how busy everyone's lives are, but I read a study recently that said the #1 factor in whether or not a student is an effective reader is how often they read at home. Parents need to help get kids excited about adventures and various characters. I took a completely unofficial poll of my class and was truly disheartened to see only a few students are read to regularly at home. I have very fond memories of that myself-my mom used to read Superfudge and other Judy Blume books. We also read the whole Chronicles of Narnia set.

3) Give incentives. This year I told my kids I'd dye my hair blue if they read 1,000 books (they really got pretty close). I'm even giving them something to do over the summer to track how many titles they've read. Whoever does the most wins our class "buddy". I remember participating in these kinds of programs over the summer, you just don't see them as much anymore. I'm going to try to get my school on board with this next year as well-have a school-wide initiative to track reading just for fun.

4) Continue novel read-alouds. I cannot even tell you how much I enjoy this part of our day. No moans and groans, kids lie down in the circle and just listen to a chapter of the story. They remember the characters and talk about them like they are truly friends. Oh, I'm going to miss Dorothy. I wish Edward's book was longer.

We need to encourage our kiddos not just to be good readers, but to actually enjoy reading! It's so good for their vocabulary and I believe even spelling. The more they read, the better readers they will become.