Sometime this week there be a sweet treat,

A cool character for you all to meet

Let’s see if we can figure out

Who it is without a doubt

So let us explore,

Let us learn more

 

Clue number one

The character is from a book, isn’t that fun?

Clue number two

Worries, this character has a few.

Clue number three

This mouse is worried to the tenth degree.

Clue number four

Her worries get to be more and more.

Arthur

Character 6


Arthur Writes a Story by Marc Brown

Book Synopsis: Will Arthur find something he cares to write about or will his story be a big mess?

Instructional Focus: (Numbers are for the Virginia Standards of Learning, generally Reading/English)

Writing: Organizing, (2.2B, 3.9B, 3.11C, 4.7D, 5.7C)

Creating the Costume:  Hot glue, felt and a headband is all it took to get the ears for Arthur.  Dye an old sweater yellow and the costume is complete (I should own stock in RIT!)  This is an example of how the character costumes don’t always have to be elaborate.


Delivery:  
Arthur is told to write a story for homework and everytime he goes to share his story he gets suggestions on how to make it better.  HIs story quickly becomes a disorganized hodge-podge of everyone else’s ideas.  I used the book to help introduce my students to the purpose writer conferencing (both with a peer and with the teacher) and to help hit the idea of organization home to my students.

Come To My Classroom, But Not Today

Do you want to know that my students are learning? Come to my classroom.  Do you want to know how I am doing as a teacher?  Come to my classroom.  Do you want to see how education is working?  Come to my classroom.

But not today.

Don’t come to my classroom today because you won’t see those things.  You won’t see my students working collaboratively, learning from me, their peers and making sense in their own minds.  You won’t see them growing in their understanding of the world or gaining new information or skills.  Don’t come to my classroom today because all you’ll see is us struggling through a test.  A test that, in theory, is designed to show decision makers the effectiveness of my classroom but in reality does something far from it.

A couple of months ago when politicians announced a reduction in the amount of standardized tests for my state, my colleagues and I cheered.  Not because we are afraid of what such tests show, but because we know that they don’t really show what students can do.  We don’t argue with the need for standards and a shared curriculum.  We don’t argue that there needs to be accountability and assessment to make sure that students and teachers are doing the best they can.  As a special education teacher, collecting data to write goals and monitor progress is my bread and butter, so I completely understand the need to do so for all students and teachers.  I understand that to an untrained eye, it is difficult to come in my classroom and see and measure my effectiveness and my student’s progress.  Even another teacher might look at one of my fifth graders and see insufficient progress because he is reading at what they’d expect a second grader to be reading on.  What they don’t know is that this time last year he was reading at what they’d expect a kindergartener to be reading on.  By current measurement and accountability practices, my teaching and his learning have not been sufficient.  In fact, by current measurement and accountability practices we are failing below basic.  So once again I cheered with the news, because I knew that when they reduced the number of assessments, they were not asking us to reduce our expectations, but rather asking us and our districts to find a better way to show that students and teachers were meeting them. We’d still have to create an accountability measure and report the information, but we’d have the opportunity to make the measure a more accurate portrait.

Come into my classroom today and you’ll see what has been created.  You’ll see that that it is a test that copies the very worst aspects of the one it replaces.  You’ll wonder if it is really assessing their ability to write, or just their ability to type and navigate a computer.  You’ll see a test that tells students that the writing process is one done in isolation and can be completed start to finish in a sitting.  You’ll see a test where the spell checker is telling one student to change “got to” into “gotta.”

Last year when I knew my students were being assessed in this way, I made sure to give them plenty of test practice, plenty of writing in isolation and plenty of typing practice even though typing isn’t something in our curriculum.  I wasted time I could have been teaching them how to become better writers by forcing them to write in a way totally different from how we learn to be good writers.  Good writing comes from collaboration, conferencing and time.  There’s sparse time to reflect and revise your writing when it is done under these conditions.  It killed me last year like it is killing me now, because they are trying, they really are.  I can see one student’s idea face.  That’s the face he makes when he needs to talk about his ideas and get them out so he can decide which idea is one that actually makes sense.  But he can’t get those ideas out like he’s used to.  He has to silently figure it out on his own.  I can see one student who’s written this great metaphor, but it’s one that the scorers won’t understand.  It’s an inside joke that we as a class would get, but few otherwise would.  I can see one student with a smile on his face who asked me if I could read his writing.  He wanted to share and get feedback.  That’s how we become good writers, but I couldn’t do it.  And it’s killing me.

It’s killing me, and it’s not what you should see in a classroom. But I get it.  It’s easier for an outsider to understand Pass, Pass/Advanced, Fail, Fail/Below Basic.  It’s easier to put a number on achievement so you can say “that’s not good enough.”  It’s easier to say that to a number than a person.  But come into my classroom when they are learning and I am teaching.  If you come into my classroom and still think that is something you need to say, say it.  I won’t like hearing it, and I may disagree, but say it and I will work harder to be better.  If you want to know how my students are doing, if you want to know how I am doing as their teacher, come into my classroom.  Just not today.

image

Sometime this week there be a sweet treat,

A cool character for you all to meet

Let’s see if we can figure out

Who it is without a doubt

So let us explore,

Let us learn more

 

Clue number one

The character is from a book, isn’t that fun?

Clue number two

Troubles?  This guy’s got a few.

Clue number three

He complains a little too much for me.

Clue number four

He’s a little bit of a bore!

Chickie Chickie Boom Boom

20150410_082149

A great opportunity arose, we took it and hatched it!  The school nurse approached me just after we finished our Life Cycle lessons.  She asked if we wanted to incubate and hatch baby chickens.  Of course I said yes and immediately went to the administrator with my excitement!  I think that is why she approved the process.  That, and the fact that they couldn’t get out of their enclosed area once they hatched.

Twenty-one short days later we have BABIES!!!!!!  Two of the three chicks hatched.  We were really sad that the 3rd didn’t make it but I thought it was a great lesson for the life cycle and how sometimes not all of the newborns live.

What was an amazing surprise was that several of my students became “Mother Hens”  The students would run, I mean they would literally run through the room from where ever they were at times.  One student would run every time the incubator beeped to see the eggs turn. Another student would run in from lunch or wherever they were in the school just to check on them, this occurred more as they got closer to hatching.  It really surprised me how they hovered.

When the hatch day came for the one that hatched while we were there, there was barely any room to see the incubator the whole day.  Students would gather around and exclaim their excitement of seeing the egg move or crack.  When the chick came out, there was a lot of commotion and excitement over the new arrival.  What a fantastic teaching moment.  It was very real and completely relevant to them by giving them a visual and relatable experience to relate to life and their lesson!  While the chicks may have to go back to the farm, the lessons they taught my students and staff will stay with us.  
Processed with Rookie

Emily Elizabeth and Clifford

Character 5


Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

Book Synopsis: Emily Elizabeth describes how she got her dog, Clifford.

Instructional Focus: (Numbers are for the Virginia Standards of Learning, generally Reading/English)

Reading: Fact vs. Fiction, (3.5l), Sequence (K9f, 1,9G, 2.8h, 3.5f, 4.5k, 5.5l)

Creating the Costume:  The skirt and socks from Eloise make a reappearance here.  The only thing I needed to do here was dye an old sweater pink and have an incredible mother who finds Clifford at thrift stores!


Delivery:  
My students used a number of Clifford books to help them work on the skill of sequencing using a Beginning Middle End organizer.  The good thing about there being so many Clifford books out there was that each student got to get a different book and then share with the group what happened in their stories.  A side note, the day I had this costume, I also had an IEP meeting with a parent who still refers to me as “young lady.”  I don’t think I did anything that day to convince him to stop calling me “young lady.”

Incredible Day? Let Me Count The Ways…

Did I just have an awesome day? I think I did.

When I committed myself to weekly Character Costumes this year, I promised myself that I would get everything squared away the summer before. I promised that I wouldn’t be scrambling the week of trying to find knee high socks or making tutus. I promised that I would keep it all organized and this crazy idea of dressing up as a character from a book once a week would not take over my life. My track record isn’t that great when it comes to keeping self-promises. For the most part though, I’ve been good about this one. Until today.

Today I got out of class thirty minutes late because the professor isn’t so good at time management, and I should have headed straight home and been in a terrible mood. After all, I wouldn’t be getting home until after nine (which when you leave at seven in the morning, makes for a long day) and all I had for dinner was popcorn and peach tea. Instead I went shopping for a yellow plaid shirt. I had a red plaid shirt all ready to go when I realized this morning that the character totally wore a yellow plaid shirt, and in more than one book too. Those scholars would totally call me out if I showed up in red. Coupled with the stress of upcoming standardized testing, how did all of this add up to an incredible day? Let me count the ways…

  1. I told a joke to a stranger and she laughed. The cashier asked if I wanted to keep the hanger and laughed when I punned “No thanks, you can hang onto it.” I didn’t even have to go “ba-dum-tiss.” She knew it was a joke, and gave a genuine laugh.
  2. I actually learned something from class tonight! I walked out with something I want to try with my students and something else I want to try with my teachers. While I might moan about the work, I’m happy to have decided to go back for this post-grad certification program.
  3. Sunroof. I got to use it today. It was amazing.
  4. My “problem” behavior this afternoon was that two of my students (in my most difficult group both academically and behaviorally speaking) kept sneaking out their choice books and reading when there was even half a second of a break in instruction. One even said, “I like reading.” This is a kid who hated reading and didn’t care about anything we did all last year and the year before. It was so gratifying to have this problem and to have him inspiring others to engage others in the same behavior.
  5. New music. I love getting new CDs (I know I can download music, but I’m still attached to the paper insert you get with CDs.) I love when I get something I can listen to over and over and over again until I am sick of it. Then I don’t listen to it for a long time, rediscover it and love it again.
  6. I actually got a moment to reflect on my instruction and was happy with what I had. Normally, my reflection skews more to “what went wrong?” Today I was reflecting on how I’m teaching persuasive writing, and realized that using mentor texts alongside letting the students write collaboratively, the graphic organizer, and the RAFT strategy pushed on me by a peer is making teaching persuasive writing so much more effective (and fun!)
  7. Cupcakes. There were free cupcakes in staff dining today. I might have eaten two.
  8. I got to read a book of my choice for enjoyment. I love reading, and I have since I was a kid. Still, I will find myself in a dry spell where I haven’t read a book of my choice for weeks. Recently though, I’ve got sucked into a good book and love sneaking moments here and there to read it. Today it was when I was brushing my teeth.
  9. My injuries have healed! Slacking on my running then doing two races in one day was not a good choice this past weekend. Add falling off the step and onto my ankle in step class, and I was not in very good shape. Things were not looking good for weekend’s race. Today though, I’m pain free and looking forward to Saturday.
  10. I got my electric bill today and it is less than half of what it was last month. I’m so happy winter is done!

Life is good. Plus, I found a yellow plaid shirt. It will be a $7.97 well spent.