Trading Spaces: We are not alone.

I couldn’t resist that title — sorry.  The whole internet thing always has this slightly sci-fi feeling for me — very “we are not alone” with some spooky sounding John Williams music as the soundtrack. 

Moving right along —– Karen from Literate Lives dropped us a comment on our classroom design notes.  She noted that  Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading are having a Trading Spaces session on the blog.  They’ve invited readers to post photos of classroom spaces after a re-do.  (Karen has some of her ideas and photos on Literate Lives too!!  Go see and remember:  the best teachers are not born, they’re made by the teacher next door!  In other words, it’s not “stealing” if you use one of her ideas — it just makes you a better teacher.  And she does have some ideas worth using!)  Check out the links below for some of the other folks that have added their ideas to the pool. 

Bill — also writes at Literate Lives — you gotta love his library PIT here

Katie D has some terrific photos — I’m personally on the hunt for the beanbag cubes she has — I’ll figure out how I’m dealing with the fire marshall later…..  Check out her classroom here

Now I know that many of you are doing some amazing things again this year (despite the challenges of the asbestos removal and other construction work this summer!)  And I really think that some of you should send in some of the ideas you use in your rooms…. I’ll even help you take the snapshots!!   We can set up a post her to link over to A Year of Reading and participate in this fun event.

Common Assessments

I worked on a couple of committees this summer and the same theme kept rising over and over again — we need some kind of common assessment.  And it was followed each time by the echo:  something that means something!!

Currently, we have some standardized assessments like the DRP and the SAT and of course we have the good old Connecticut common assessment, the CMT.  But we don’t have assessments that give us real-time information about our kids.  We don’t have information to really know how effective the teaching we’re doing really is.  Who really got it?  Who sorta got it?  Who is sitting there behaving and seeming to get it and doesn’t actually have a single clue what “it” even is?  (I seem to encounter at least one of those every year!)

Common assessments do that.  Good common assessments, anyway.  We surely don’t need another standardized test.  We don’t need to collect another piece of data that no one looks at, no one analyzes, no one even cares about.  We do need information that helps us to teach, helps us to adjust our instruction on a day-to-day basis and makes what we do EASIER

So — I got to looking at the latest new publications from Stenhouse — and whadda-ya-know?  They have a really practical book out on COMMON ASSESSMENTS.  And right now — you can read the whole book online (I do adore Stenhouse for this!!)

So check it out here — and we’ll have something to add to the conversation when it gets going this fall (and I’m betting my bottom dollar, it will get going this fall — hint, hint)

First Day of School Read Alouds

By now we’re all thinking and planning for the first day of school.  One of the things I’m hoping that you’re planning for is your read aloud.  The read aloud choice for the first day of school does so much in a classroom:

  • it sets the tone for reading for the year — will this be fun, engaging, boring, same-old-same-old??
  • it sets up the expectations and tone for discussions within the class
  • it lines up the teaching for the entire first week or month — buddy work, accountable talk, even the beginnings of the reader’s notebook
  • it provides a vehicle for minilessons before there is much substance with which to work —
  • and so it sets up the entire structure of the workshop and leads the class through the teacher’s dream of the workshop structure.

Wow!!  That’s a lot to ask of one little book.  But it makes it even more important that we don’t just run up to the Media Center on Wednesday morning and grab any old book off of the shelf.  It means that even as knowledgeable as Kristine, Sharon, and Lila are, just asking for a title from the Media Center and hoping for the best, isn’t the best way to go. 

If the read aloud on the first day of school is going to all that it can for our classrooms, it needs to be carefully thought out, selected, planned and then lovinging delivered.  No one else can choose that book for you — because no one else will desire quite the same tone that you will.  No one else runs a classroom quite the way you do.  And no one else builds the same relationships with students that you do.  The first day of school is yours and yours alone.  And the read aloud on the first day of school is your secret magic. 

I borrowed some ideas from Choice Literacy for the read alouds — I’ll connect you to some blogs and reviews of great books to consider.  But ultimately, the choice rests with you — the Dreamweaver for the first day of school.

On the Choice Literacy site you can find the results of a poll from last year.  Shari Frost polled her colleagues about read alouds — you can see the list and the mix here

For the primary grades, check here for a blog by Denise Johnson called Joy of Children’s Literature.  She has a list of possible read alouds for the first day of school.  Her blog is well worth the read any time.

For the upper grades, take a look at Karen Terlecky’s suggestions for read alouds to begin the year.  She’s a fifth grade teacher who writes a blog called Literate Lives.

You’ll also find some terrific book ideas (although not a specific back to school list — yet) at A Year of Reading  These tend to be recommendations for the middle grades (3-4) but you’ll often find materials for kiddos a little bit older or a little bit younger. 

So — what other terrific sources have you found for choosing your read aloud to start the year??   Share — please — Remember, the best teachers are NOT born – they’re MADE — by the teacher next door!

Kids' Books Websites

Most of us are beginning to think about books we might want to use for read-alouds or as Mentor Texts in September.  But — we’re still in vacation mode — and sitting in a library studying books just isn’t going to cut it!  (Although an afternoon in Barnes and Noble or Borders with an iced latte is a possiblity)

I found a few websites to the rescue — these will help — you can wrap your head around some new books without leaving your lounge chair. 

:: First the International Children’s Library.  This is free to use. (Be smart and REGISTER Then select “advanced search”, otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time struggling with tons of  books in all different languages — not fun and definitely not relaxing!!   You’ll be able to see the original versions of some classic stories.  You can actually read the book…click through on the link and see what you think. 

:: Next, Storyplace.  This one is also free to use and is organized by school age groups. They have animated stories with coordinating activities! I’m thinking that it might become a favorite for some independent reading computer activiites for some of those kiddos with special needs who require a variety of media to sustain independent reading over time.   Each time you reload the page, a new set of categories pops up!  Kinda cool.

:: And Rosetta Project’s Children’s Books Online is loaded chock-full of classic stories,  (you’ll remember lots of these from your own childhood).  These are mostly antique, illustrated books.  They’re fun to look at as an adult — and they might play nicely into a study of how illustrations support books, or how illustrators make decisions about their work.  It might be a terrific integrated study with the art teacher??  Any other ideas???

Learning the ABC's

I noticed this interesting article this morning and thought of my kindergarten friends….

Letterpalooza has 26 ways to learn the alphabet!!  Sounds like fun.  Its a two page article intended mostly for parents.  I’m thinking that some of the ideas might be fun in our classrooms.  But I’m also thinking that we might want to take some of these fabulous ideas and create some sort of a take home brochure or refrigerator card for parents to use. 

So — take a look — the link is here.  And write some comments and tell me what you think.

More Back-to-School Shopping

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