Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Five For One Project: 20 Teachers Needed

The Five For One Project was birthed by a simple concept, at-risk youth need caring teachers.

The past three years teaching, it never fails that I always have one student who needs me more than the others. This is not because I am great in any sense. Their need is due to a lack of some sort at home. Many times the kids just need someone to show attention and let them know that you care. This simple concept is what got me thinking about starting a call to teachers around the country to be intentional about investing in One Student for Five Days Straight (and document your experience).

Who: I am looking for 20 teachers to take on this task with me.

When: starting date is a bit open. 5 for 1 should be completed and documented by Feb. 25, 2011.

How: Simply pick the student you want to invest in. Spend days showering them with care and positive attention. Document your experience (daily or at the end of the week).

Where: We will use a hashtag on Twitter (I use Tweetdeck): #541. We will also use Wallwisher. You can also document your findings on your blog. Post them below in the comments, or even create a wiki. Make sure you share links to your thoughts. When talking about a student please choose a fake name or use initials.

Why: You are a teacher. You have the ability to change lives through your words and actions.

Please pass this around and share with other teachers. 20 is certainly not the limit!

Sign Up:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Getting Kids Reading: A Guide (part 2)

(if you missed part one, click here)

Rewards and Dangling Carrots

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.- Maya Angelou

This quote is true. I have also found that any motivating factor to get a kid reading is also good. Motivating kids in second grade is incredibly easy, so when I speak of these dangling carrots, remember that my strategies may not work in all grades.

One great thing about my school has been the inception of Scholastic Reading Counts. Whether you agree with reading programs or not, this computer based tool has kids reading all over our school.

The basis of the program is kids read, kids take quizzes on what they read, and kids rack up points. The points really have no value unless the school ascribes value to them. For my second grade kids, setting and reaching their goal is usually enough motivation. The big motivation from the school is a big carnival for all students who reach their goals (which we set month to month).

Beyond the motivation of the school, there is much more that can be done to get kids reading. Each year I have thrown my kids a huge party when they reach 1 million words read as a class. This year, my students reached that goal much too soon, so I upped the ante. They have to reach 4 million (yeah I know, big jump), and here in January they are already over the 3 million word mark.

I also set little rewards throughout the month that really get the kids fired up and reading. I will give out various passes as rewards (homework, class movie, extra recess, eat in the classroom, etc.). These little touches of flavor can do a lot to get kids reading.

The last bit I have to say has to do with competition. I am a believer in healthy competition. The way we do this at school is to compete at each grade level for a traveling trophy. The class with the most reading points gets to keep the trophy for the month. This was a cheap investment that really gets the kids excited. As the month goes on I always keep a tally of the three second grade classes. The kids love to see if they are ahead or if they need to get moving. They watch these numbers closely and talk about them with the other classes at lunch, recess, and other times they pass. The competition is motivating for all the kids.

The Ongoing Results (keeping kids reading after your job is done)

The last point I want to make is simply this, if you invest intentionally in getting kids reading when they are in your class, you will also be able to influence their reading beyond your class. Confusing? What I am saying is, if you are an active participant in kids reading (asking them about their books, finding them book you know they will like, finding cool projects they can do, encouraging them push the limits), they will value your opinion when they return the next school year. For the past two years, I have students returning to my class to borrow books, and asking what book they should read next. They will still share what their books are about, because they have become book lovers. A book lover will always seek out another book lover who shares their passion. If you do not have this passion, you are irrelevant in a way that matters so much. The ongoing benefits of pouring yourself out, to get kids reading, will not always produce the quick results we love to see. The ripples from this work are subtle, but resilient. Your effects will flow through all areas of learning. You will create kids who can multiply passion, and the end result of that, you can never measure.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Weeks 6-Something Using Technology

It's been a long time since I talked about my tech. use.

Here is a quick update.

I have found some sweet apps to use on my Ipod Touch. Kid Favorites:
The World (Kids look up facts about a specific country)
Train Conductor 1 and 2 (Kids favorite game with a nice twist of strategy and quick thinking)
Mathster (Fast, Easy to Use, and Reinforces fact families)

My favorites:
Evernote (I have my students record their Dolch lists so I can review on my time)
Chorepad (I have a new student track their classmates class job completion)
Read Me Stories (I have my students look and listen to stories)

Ones I am looking to use once I get Wifi:
Tales to Go
Dragon Dictation
Discovery News

I also took advantage of the deal on 2 Flip Cameras for $150. I got one for my class and donated the second to the school to use. Starting today, the camera is out on loan to a student for an extra credit project. She is recording a tour of her house, having use meet her family, and is going to interview her brother. This is just the first of 5 kids who are completing the requirements to take the video camera home and use for an extra credit project.
Other projects kids are doing:
- Recording a weekend trip
- A Tour of My Town
-Meet the High School Wrestlers

I am really excited to see what they come up with!

I also applied for a grant to get an IPAD for my classroom. Keep your fingers crossed.

How have you been using technology the past two months? What is your plan of action for the New Year?