Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Great start

Hello All,

As the new school year geared up, I used some of the get-to-know-you activities, such as People Hunt, SWBS. I also downloaded music to my Ipod and as the students are working on an assignment, I play the music (old school hits, of course). My 8th grade administrator has come in several times and she has shared with the rest of the 8th grade teachers the music I use and how focused the students are on their lesson.

When I do a lab with my students, I will let them know that they have to finish the lab in 2 -3 songs. What a great way to actually keep them focused.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Implementing The Literacy Lesson Plan

Well the 30th is approaching tomorrow and I have completed my lesson plan that I plan to do on the unit for matter...I think it's going to be great!

Eventhough, I hadn't tried an entire lesson as of yet, I have been using some of the strategies such as; Marginalia, SWBS, People Hunt for Grouping. Everything has worked marvelous thus far!

I am planning to do my entire lesson on Matter using a whole literacy lesson plan on Friday of this week!! Wish me luck!!

I am really enjoying this!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Math iTunes to Literacy


I have been teaching math for 30 years plus and sometimes I find myself in a glorious sea of numbers. Yet, I have also been guilty of thinking that my math rules the world. Silly, silly me! Now I am seeing things from a different perspective and I know that it is not about the content, but about the thinking. This became quite clear and obvious during the three days I attended the Content Literacy Academy in August. This academy had an awesome influential impact on me. I participated in many activities while there and learned new strategies that I wanted to implement into my classes. Actually, I was rather anxious to start the school year.


I walked away knowing that my thinking had been redirected and my instructional practices were definitely going to be enhanced and geared just as much toward literacy as math. This year Huntington Middle School has implemented a 20-minute school-wide literacy initiative. As a result of this initiative, there has been an enormous amount of new learning experiences in all classes.


In math we are tuning to literacy. We tune to FM MAG7 (the Magnificent Seven Comprehension Strategies) daily. This is our #1 station. As a matter of the fact, the only station we tune to in math. During week 1, we had a great time jumping to the first strategy we implemented which was Making Connections. We used the Comprehension Strategies Instruction (CSI) Kit.


The math classes read the narrative play, Making Allowances. We had five 20 minute lessons planned and effectively used. Our students made many connections while tuning to FM MAG7. They became an active part of the narrative text as they made text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections. These three connections were all real life connections.


The text-to-self connections were easy of course. The text-to-text required some explanations and I had to make it seem real to them by asking them to think about textbooks read. Students asked if movies could be included. So we went into having students to make connections to movies seen, songs heard, and sports played or interested in playing, etc. This seemed to capture students even more and they began to tune more into making connections. They actually, “pumped up the volume.” So when we got into text-to-world, they were so involved that the connections they were making were astonishing, even thought provoking to me. But they were “tuned” into the right station.


Of course, we had to talk math, so we did. As a culminating activity, to connect with text title, every student received an allowance (play money and checks) based on participation points. We gathered the data and found the mean, median, mode of the allowances. We also discussed how other data displays can represent the allowances given.


Twenty minutes a day for math to tune in to literacy isn’t enough time. Once the students start making connections there is no switching gears. When you walk into math classes it is obvious that Math iTunes to Literacy at Huntington Middle School.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One School's Journey

A little over a year ago, the leadership team at Blair focused on five power strategies that they envisioned would be implemented in every classroom. In fact, the mantra was – 90% of teachers implementing the strategies 90% of the time. The five power strategies mandated that students have daily opportunities to do the following:
1. Read and write in all classes
2. Connect learning to their real lives
3. Demonstrate higher level thinking skills when problem solving
4. Justify their answers
5. Analyze and track own data to measure learning and growth

Teachers were surveyed to gauge their comfort levels with each strategy. Staff development was provided to assist teachers. Rubrics were shared to show what a classroom implementing each strategy should look like.

At first, most teachers were skeptical and uncomfortable; change is difficult. They reluctantly participated in training at the school level. Slowly, they transformed themselves into a committed learning community.The implementation of the power strategies became a natural part of collegial conversations, lesson plans, and classroom observations.

Our school has come a very long way in a year! That’s why when we were selected to send a team to participate in the Adolescent Literacy for Vertical Teams Initiative Conference, it seemed a natural progression for us. The Magnificent Seven Comprehension Strategies are not new ones to reading instructors, but the focus on explicitly teaching them and making the “invisible visible” is powerful.

After the SURN conference, our leadership team was given an overview of the conference components. Our administrators used one of the synthesis strategies, Even Dozen, to engage us in thinking about what our school did well during the last year.

During pre-service week, our faculty also participated in an overview. Our principal purchased a copy of Power Tools for Adolescent Literacy for every core content teacher in the building! The original SURN participants decided collectively to focus the first month on the strategy of making inferences and predictions, which solidified the whole school’s mission.

As a resource teacher with the opportunity to plan with many different content teams, I have watched colleagues pulling ideas from the book, enlarging the Magnificent Seven posters and hanging them in their rooms. Several have already used the Even Dozen activity with their students.

I am a witness to how our school adopted five power strategies last year that have transformed our school; teaching the seven comprehension strategies in every classroom will be equally fulfilling for our faculty and ultimately rewarding for our students!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Huntington's Literacy Blog

The Huntington Viking participants at the Content Literacy Academy shared our experiences with Mrs. Holloway, our principal, and we set about incorporating the strategies from the conference into out Literacy Excel Program. Each day, beginning today, September 14, from 8:25-8:45 a.m. our school will focus on literacy instruction using the Magnificent Seven Strategies. All administrators and specialists will visit classrooms daily and provide feedback. Everyone will focus on making connections and asking questions across contents during this quarter and use Comprehension Strategies Instruction (CSI) by Pacific Learning. To prepare our teachers, we held three staff development training sessions, the first, August 27, focused on team building and the question, “Why focus on literacy?” Teachers reviewed what a nurturing literacy classroom environment should look like and every teacher’s class has the Magnificent Seven posters displayed! The second staff development, September 1, focused on the overview of the Magnificent Seven strategies and their application in the classroom with the use of the jigsaw strategy, and we modeled the use of the Bio-poem for students’ team building. On Thursday, September 3, the team facilitators planned and modeled the content literacy lesson in each subject area, and the teachers applied their experiences with the use of the literacy timeline.
All of our teachers are in professional learning communities. Marcia Little and Rosalyn Price are the facilitators for science teachers; Karen Hinton, and Sallie Herndon, are the facilitators for social studies teachers; Valerie Banks, and Vanessa Stephens are the facilitators for math teachers; and Arleatrice Winters and I, Alice M. Alexander, are the facilitators for English teachers. Our first week of Literacy Excel was a big success!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I have been using my ipod nano daily! The addition of music in the classroom is something I have always wanted but in the past had found difficult to achieve. I love my nano!! I started the year with my desk in "pods" of four. I have really enjoyed watching the students grow in their level of trust of each other. Today I used the story book "Listen to the Wind" by Greg Mortenson to teach a literacy lesson like we were taught at the conference. It was a great day!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pair & Group Work: the importance of Structure & Consistency

When I was told that I had been picked to attend this conference I was happy, and thought that it would be an opportunity to pick up some new techniques to use in the classroom. What I didn't realize was that it was going to help me implement strategies in my room that I had been struggling with since I started to teach. I knew how important it was to get children interested, and had been told what to do to get them involved. Every once and awhile I would try to use group work. I would work diligently on the lesson, and when the day would come it seemed to work okay for some classes and not at all for others. I was starting to get convinced that it could only work for some teachers and not for everyone. Although I knew it was important I wasn't sure how to get there. I had a good relationship with my students so I couldn't understand why everything seemed to go chaotic when they interacted with each other. The difference with this conference was they didn't just tell you, they showed you. I, like my students, needed to see the theory in practice, and not just once but many times. When I left after the three days I was excited, rejuvenated, and a little apprehensive. Luckily my teammates were willing to try anything which is very important as we collaborate on our lesson plans. From the very first day we have been using pair & group work. We have not just told them what we expect, but we have shown them. As they do work with each other daily it is starting to become part of their routine. Although I am still working to prefect the process I am convinced that everyone including myself can implement these strategies in their classrooms. This makes the learning environment more enjoyable for the student, and the teacher.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Teaching the Magnificent Seven One at a Time

While it may be evident to most, today's experience in the classroom re-inforced the fact that the magnificent seven must be taught, and it must be taught one at a time.

It was a normal day at its best. Each class was truly engaged in the before reading warm-up where they explained what they saw when I said the word, "treasure." I increased the questioning level little by little until we were differentiating between the literal and figurative definitions of "treasure." This being the case, I was not prepared for what I uncovered
during my students first exposure to a think aloud.

Wow! As I read and made the invisible(my thoughts) visible, my students struggled to put what I was doing into words. One child said, "comprehending," a possible regurgitation of what I had explained I would be doing. Several other students said things like "adding words." I had done this activity already with my honors bells who quickly identified that I was "connecting my experiences to the text," "inferring," "asking questions," "self-correcting when I had misunderstood something earlier in the text" (an intentional flaw so as to model for them my ability to catch my mistakes), but I was at a loss seeing my regular ed. students unable to connect to what was happening in my mind as I read. In fact, it took even my volunteers several tries before they were able to read the text aloud as I did, and somewhat share their thought processes.

I see now that truly these students are not engaging the text. They seem to have trouble even recognizing "visualizing" and " asking questions" let alone attempting it. All this to say, I am looking forward even more so now, to teaching our comprehension strategies one at a time.

(Post note: For those of you teaching highly challenging classes, you can do it. With the unique mix of autistic children, the farsighted child who is too embarrassed to where his glasses, many children who I am finally realizing are unable to afford supplies for my class, and two emotionally challenged students who have already manifested to the chagrin of the onslaught of troublemakers, yet I see children many or most of whom have missed the joy of comprehending and connecting with a text. All things are possible! (to him/her who believes.))

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's only the second week of school...

...and I have already used a few strategies I learned at the "iTune into Literacy" conference! On the second day of school (6th grade) my students wrote a Bio Poem (based on the Bio Poem Template) to introduce themselves to their classmates. This poem was especially helpful for me because not only did students reveal the types and specific books they enjoy reading, but also the learning style they in which they respond to best. Later the first week I introduced my students to "Text Connections"...and we practiced the strategy. I plan to copy the bookmark on page 185 (of Power Tools), laminate it, and let the students use dry erase markers to jot down their text connections. Finally, I am doing "Interactive Notebooks" for the first time...and loving it! I am looking forward to using some of the vocabulary strategies starting next week. Good luck to everyone...don't be afraid to try the strategies we learned. Have a fantastic year!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What's on Your Nano?

During the 2009 Summer Literacy Academy, participants received iPod Nano to encourage them to use the web to identify instructionally appropriate videos and audio/video podcasts to bring into the classroom.

Many years ago, I took an American 20th century history class (yes it was still the 20th century) in which the professor said that all too often US history classes struggle to finish in the current day. So he started with the end of World War I and went forward. The professor used a variety of video clips and laser disc clips (remember those huge disks-thank heavens for the advent of the cd-rom) throughout each class period. We'd talk history, see history, hear history, and have the opportunity to interact in ways that made our readings and discussions more meaningful. Clips were a few seconds to minutes long and helped contextualize the events.The retrospective on 20th century history that uses Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire could have been an engaging way to introduce such a history class.

The upcoming issue of Edutopia has an article on using videos in the classroom. The author observed that “teachers all across the country are finding that judiciously chosen videos help students engage more deeply with the subject matter, and recall the information they’ve learned longer.” The article highlights several websites that teachers may find helpful for getting videos. The article also includes a “primer” to YouTube.

Scholastics' 10 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids provides 10 recommended podcast sources that address core content areas, ESL, and/or are regularly produced by students.

Just yesterday, I was looking up information on Jamestown and came across the Settlement center's podcast collection. Couple with other sources from NPR to NASA to TeacherTube and YouTube there is a plethora of material available. So let's share our favorites.

If you use online videos or audio podcasts in your classroom, are sites that you recommend and share a particular video or audio podcast?