Sunday, July 24, 2005

From the Mouth of Babes

Here's a little piece of authentic writing from my house this summer. I just got through scolding my boy for messing with his sister and I noticed that he was over in the corner concentrating on something. As I got a little closer, I noticed that he was writing a note for a very real audience - me - with a cryptic message.

As it turns out everyone except me had been ill the last couple days and Phillip thought now was as good a time as any for me to take my turn. More evidence that with the right motivation students will write without even being "prompted". We celebrated our little tyrant's note and searched his backpack for arsenic.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lasting Change

Regie Routman describes what happens when a staff of committed professionals work together to produce lasting change.
Change happens one person at a time, one school at a time, but when it's lasting change (not the fake kind that comes from a teaching-to-the-test obsession),change brought about by hearts and minds working together as knowledgeable, caring colleagues, it has a very large ripple effect. When our work gains credibility in the eyes of our colleagues and the public, excellent teaching becomes the norm rather than the exception.

My wish for Halecrest is that we will become such a school.

Write to an Audience Every Time

Or so says Regie Routman over and over again in her fine book Writing Essentials. In fact, the first of her 12 Writing Essentials for all grades is...
Write for a specific reader and a meaningful purpose. Write with a particular audience in mind (this may be the author herself or himself) and define the writing task.

Throughout her book she provides clear rationale for this idea and myriad examples of outstanding student writing motivated by a real audience. This goes to the heart of why I have enjoyed reading Routman's books. Her ideas are full of common sense and they work. I can see our students developing a procedural handbook for classrooms, lunchroom, playground activities and much more (p 113). I'm eagerly anticipating the collaboration among our staff around her strategies and thinking. I'm with Regie encouraging our teachers to...
Imagine happy and energetic students and teachers, quality writing, and high-test scores! That's what happens when the writing program is all about excellent writing for genuine purposes and real audiences.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Celebrating excellence or just plain mediocrity

Here's an excellent post by Joanne Jacobs on the celebration of mediocrity. It made me think once again about our Recognition Assemblies. What message are we sending to student and parents about what we value?


Here's an idea to get some focus on math and community service as well. The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Math-a-Thon helps raise money for child cancer research and builds math skills.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Joseph Marsh, great American revolutionary

So, you've never heard of Joseph Marsh? Well, don't be discouraged. I only stumbled upon him recently reading David Mccullough's book
John Adams. It appears that young John Adams ran into a lackluster "churl" of a teacher early in his educational life and told his dad he wanted to be a farmer. Dad decided to switch schools and Adams came into contact with the aforementioned Joseph Marsh. The change was immediate and powerful.
John made a dramatic turn and began studying in earnest.

What a wonderul illustration of the power of a teacher. In this case we observe the power of a poor teacher to nearly kill the spirit of an obviously capable young student as well as the power of an outstanding teacher to re-ignite interest and enthusiasm toward learning. A salute to all the teachers who have paved the way for great achievements of their students both past, present, and future!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

To worksheet or not to worksheet

I got through a couple pleasure books these first two weeks (I highly recommend the Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker), and finally picked up Regie Routman again. I came across this tidibit on page 142 of Writing Essentials that is worth thinking about.
I have not been able to locate any research showing that worksheets or drills carry over into students' successful application of skills in authentic reading/writing contexts. In fact, decades of research show that drills do not improve student writing. Much like passing the Friday spelling test, students can perform the skill in isolation, but they don't apply it in the course of daily writing and reading.

She goes on to explain that the skill we want students to master islearned best in the context of a meaningful piece of writing where the student can see how the skill being taught makes the writing clearer and more understandable to the reader. Food for thought as we consider purchasing a truckload of workbooks for our literacy program.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Blogs Take Over the World

OK, maybe I got a little excited after seeing a trailer for War of the Worlds and reading this article. The potential for increasing communication and immediate feedback certainly exists with this medium. I'd love to see a few teachers start a blog with their classes. Already one of our future 3rd graders started a blog this summer. It's all about reading and writing and instant feedback. Join the fun!

Check out the website of Lewis Elementary (mentioned in the above article). This is a model of the type of website I'd like us to create here at Halecrest.