Monday, October 5, 2009


A big thank you to everyone who contributed to this book study blog. I appreciate your sharing reflections, experiences, and ideas with the group. The more we, as educators, engage in professional dialogue about our craft, the better we become.
I look forward to blogging with you again.
Keep it rigorous!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Final Post

I loved the example of the graphic organizer on page 142. In my class I have previously used the "spirit" of the idea of the graphic organizer. I try to encourage the student taking responsibility and making corrections to a test on a separate sheet of paper where they will show all of the work or some other explanation for why they missed the problem, as well as the new solution. The benefit is two fold - 1) the student is rewarded for making the appropriate corrections by receiving half of their missed points added back to their score, and 2) I know that they are putting time and effort into correcting the problems and understanding the concepts so that they can avoid future errors. This is more valuable to me than cramming for a test and forgetting the material as soon as they walk out of the classroom. I am definitely going to adapt the organizer on page 142 to my chemistry class. Since chemistry is very close to math in concepts, I won't have to make very many changes to the organizer itself, I would just reformat it for multiple questions (not 1 page per missed question).

While on the subject of grades, I agree with Ms. Blackburn that the students should not just be assigned busy work and work that is graded for "completion" or "effort". While I believe that students need to be challenged with a rigorous amount of work, I do think that the work assigned must be emphasized as important to them and then followed up as important to us by taking the time to actually grade it. I know we all get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time/effort it takes to grade a class set of papers, and the tendency is to give each paper a once over, and give a completion grade. I personally have done this and am trying to move away from assigning work that is essentially "completion". Chemistry takes a lot of practice and I am still trying to work my way out of grading for completion and not accuracy and understanding. I would enjoy the opinions of others on how they accomplish this.

Final Assignment

I think that the graphic organizer on p. 142 could be adapted to any subject in the upper grades. I think that if the students feel like they have a say in school, they are more interested in the process. As a follow up after an assignment, I think the organizer would give students an opportunity to assess themselves. I really like the way it requires students to explain hwy they know they have the right answer.
Review strategies in chapters 4-8. Pick three specific ideas to try.

Complexity with Vocabulary. I take for granted words I assume a 5th grade student has been exposed to--I'm continuously amazed at words they have never heard or do not comprehend. It has been my goal for the last year to find ways to increase vocabulary--to simply find time to implement a plan of action to achieve this. I do not like memorize and regurgitate-that tells me they can memorize. I like the graphic organizer on pg 72 but have found one that flows better [Laura Candler's page on the web] and is continuous -this way I can use it in a center on a daily/weekly basis. This g. organizer will be kept in their reading folder to refer back to when writing so they can use these new words. Also, I plan on meeting with our literacy coach and have her help me implement/plan how to utilize this center and use it on a daily/weekly basis. I hope to have this in place when the students return from fall break. I already have a daily vocabulary center set up and the pages laminated thanks to a parent helper this week. Now I begin the planning and implementing and I'm very excited. I want to use terms from all subjects in addition to other words a 5th grade student should be familiar .

Another idea I would like to try is Complexity in Review Games. I already implement Jeopardy as a review, and I'm working on higher order thinking questions to implement into the review. In addition, I am working on incorporating our own version of Are you Smarter than a 5th grader. I hope our principal will volunteer to come in a review with us when I have this in place. I also have a parent/other teacher volunteer form I will be sending out. Also, I want the students to have ownership of their review so I am allowing them to search and compile their own questions for review. This is mentioned on pg 76 and I think the students will enjoy hearing their questions read.

Lastly, The graphic organizer for math word problems in Chapter 5, pg 83 looks like something I will try. We complete a daily word problem at the beginning of math instruction. I always have them write what they know and what they need to find out on their paper-but they still struggle. Perhaps this graphic organizer will assist them in their quest for the answer. Also, this will give them practice in writing as they are required to write a sentence explaining the solution. Orchard is set up this way and they struggled with the benchmark as they had to explain why they chose an answer or how they came up with the answer. Even if they arrived at the right answer, many could not tell me how. I think this organizer will be a great tool.
How I give my best to my students. Keeping a positive attitude towards all of my students in one way I give my best. I teach 5th grade and at this age students are going through so many changes it is important to always be positive in attitude and demeanor. It is essential to build their self confidence on a daily basis.

In addition, I have high expectations for all my students, regardless of previous academic history. If I know a student can perform at a certain level, and they don't, I have a one on one conference with them where we discuss study habits, always doing our best on every assignment and then we set goals on how to succeed. Lastly, they are required to redo/rework or retake the assignment. Further, some students are required to research and write a report on a social studies or science topic to help them understand the topic better and receive points on their grade. This allows them to demonstrate mastery in a different way. All math errors are corrected. This lets them see their mistakes and learn from them. I also utilize small groups across the curriculum. This allows all students to receive the support they need at all times within all subjects. Granted, by the end of the day I'm worn out because I've met 20 times with small groups-but it is a good worn out feeling.

My students feel comfortable answering questions even whey they aren't 100% positive about the answer because all responses are considered "stepping stones" to the correct answer. If they are completely stumped they have "life lines". They can phone a friend, look in a book or receive a teacher prompt. This has increased student participation as they know they will receive assistance if needed and not feel embarrassed about not answering correctly.

I also share my failures as an adult and as a student. This lets the students understand that we don't always make that A-but it is o.k. as long as we are always doing our best. I tell my students they all have the potential to be top students and we set goals on how to reach the top and succeed.

I do not allow incompletes or F's on any assignments or tests. There are consequences in place until all work is turned in and all concepts are mastered. They know and understand this from day one and this sets the tone throughout the school year. It also cuts down on being "lazy" with work.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Final Assignment/ 3 strategies

I spend a great deal of my day teaching vocabulary. Students with a strong vocabulary are more successful. Presidents, CEOs,
and CFOs all have one thing in common. It is a strong vocabulary. I have used a variety of techniques to enhance the student's knowledge. Looking at the Riddles graphic organizer, I know my students would enjoy this activity. The love laughing. I also think using the question starters would help students. I could see using this with vocabulary as well as during a novel study.

I also liked the activity on page 69. It was short and with a new novel might help engage the students. Using it as a springboard and helping students to peek their interest.

I look forward to trying these activities as well as several others that are used in this book.

Final Assignment/Giving students your best

I expect my students to give their best. I want my students to see their potential everyday they walk in the classroom. One thing I do with my students is we have one on one meetings to see how they can improve. I explain it takes so little to be above average. They just need to spend 5 more minutes, or read one more page each day, or ask one more question in order to be above average. I want them to see that each step will lead them to accomplish their very best. We look for best answers and I tell them I want their very best.

Each time I call on students to answer questions, I have students that always want to answer and they continue to raise their hand. I know that is intimidating to student on the point. I have the other students put their hands down and reassure the student that is trying to answer the question that I know they can do it. I then help guide them to the answer. Usually their is one student that wants to answer each time, and to keep from discouraging them, when the student answers correctly I will ask this student if they are correct.

I loved the section about learning not being an option. I have students retake quizzes or redo sections for mastery. Some students would rather take the lower grade than redo until they redo it successfully. We discuss how much better it feels to pass the test and learn the skill. Sometimes I let a student who is not as successful teach another student the concept. With a little pushing they both learn the skill and the student that is doing the teaching probably learned the most.

I also loved the idea of a victory list for students. We all have them.