Monday, February 28, 2011

I.F.S. Worked For Me!

People ask me what works when teaching children to read.  I answer trial and error, and to never give up.  I personally don't believe that people exist on this planet that don't like to read.  I'd rather think they just haven't met the right text yet.

My children read.  Believe me, it's not by accident, but more by design.  They started to read EARLY.  I wish I could take complete credit.  I cannot.

We were Hooked on Phonics.  I found a second hand set for my eldest after reading Why Johnny Can't Read.  We used it in our daily homeschooling.  When my youngest was reading ready, HOP had created a newer version sans audio cassettes.  Again, we chose this program.  Except she kind of taught herself.

This whole notion of what works led me to do the thing I do best.  Ask the babies.  A m a z i n g l y, they remembered!

One remembered the Bob Books and the Scholastic Sight Words Readers.  The other joyously recalled Starfall.

What, they didn't yell in unison, "Hooked On Phonics Worked For Me!"

Hey, wait a minute!

What I thought worked was completely different from the learner.  We had different objectives!  My objective leaned more in the direction of reading rule information distribution.

Their objective was reading fun and success!

I.F.S. are necessary!  Information + Fun + Success = Engagement.

Voila!  The info part includes a lot of particulars, but e n g a g e m e n t is what works!  My new answer!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Quote from Educational Leadership, February 2011 p24

"It starts with a school and classroom philosophy of sharing, with the idea that without sharing, there is no education (Wiley, 2010).  A culture of sharing doesn't mean just providing content for others to read and learn from; it means sharing to connect with other people with whom we can learn as well."

Cotton Trivia

Should we pay kids for grades, test scores or to go to school?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cotton Seed #8

Label Maker
If you don't own a label maker grab some sticky notes.  Label up your house.  Be age appropriate- if you need to label the window, label it.  If you need to advance- label the credenza or the armoire.  Try different languages.  

One, Two, Three - GO!

Check the Cotton Seeds Section for Elaboration.  Stay tuned.  New 'seeds' on Tuesdays & Thursdays!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TheStar Welcome to Global Voices

TheStar Welcome to Global Voices

Cotton Seed #7

Play Read
Pick a play, assign parts and perform! 

One, Two, Three - GO!

Check the Cotton Seeds Section for Elaboration.  Stay tuned.  New 'seeds' on Tuesdays & Thursdays!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!

Technolearning! Cotton Trivia

While visiting with a parent the other day, I watched her son prepare for an algebra test using flashcards self created with powerpoint.  One slide displayed the study term.  The following stated the definition of the term from the previous slide.  He enjoyed this technique!  

How are you using technology to enhance learning?

Thirty Minutes a Day / Cotton Seeds

While attending my child's basketball practice this past Monday a parent announced to me that she actually read to her child thirty minutes a day.  She couldn't believe that other parents did not.  Confession, I don't.  My tastes are not identically aligned with my children's and their's are not aligned with each other.  I imagined a parent of four spending two hours a night trying to meet the quota or beating themselves up for not.

Obviously, I'm not a purist when it comes to this nationally mandated read to your child thirty minutes a day.  I think what we as educators are intending to say or ought to be intending to say is expose your child to literature thirty minutes a day.  Create an environment that loves the read.  That's what the 'cotton seeds' section is all about.  

Check out the 'cotton seeds' page!  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cotton Seed #6

The Studio
Grab your phone or another recording device and record a favorite book or book part.  Use your most animated reading voice! 

One, Two, Three - GO!

Check the Cotton Seeds Section for Elaboration.  Stay tuned.  New 'seeds' on Tuesdays & Thursdays!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cotton Seed #5

Package Read
Read packaging and labels from everyday household items from the bathroom cabinets to the kitchen.  If you feel extra savvy- list unfamiliar words.

One, Two, Three - GO!

Check the Cotton Seeds Section for Elaboration.  Stay tuned.  New 'seeds' on Tuesdays & Thursdays!

Answers First!

It’s test season.  We employ so many scientifically based testing strategies that our completed standardized testing books look like my Granny's used check out line puzzle books! 

Underlines, boxes, arrows, highlighted passages- many of them work for most of the students.  I KNOW one that can work for ALL students and you can teach it right now with my guarantee. 
Answers First!
This strategy was first presented to me in a nifty book, Six Way ParagraphsThanks, Robin!  Among the other ‘tricks’ presented the one that sticks the most is:
To read the passage’s answers first.
Begin with the end in mind!  I want to see those pumpkins turning straight to the end and reading the questions that will be asked and their corresponding answers. 
When testers do this they have some idea of what to look for when reading the actual testing passage. 
They can still use their toolbox techniques that have been presented in their classroom.  Adding one more! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ooooh, The Possibilities!

f a b u l o u s!

Let's talk about S.E.S.

Free Love is in the air!

Check to see if your child's K - 12 school offers a S.E.S. program.  

Supplemental Educational Services are offered in low performing schools throughout the nation mandated by No Child Left Behind. If your child qualifies, you can receive top notch tutoring services for free!  Remember your child need not be struggling to enlist a tutor or a coach.  The rule of thumb (don't remember where I first heard this) tutoring starts at 80 not at failing.   

Sign up for the program.

Read through the providers one page summaries.

Choose a first, second, and third provider based on your child's individual needs.

The tutoring coordination will be determined after these steps are taken.

It's free! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cotton Trivia

If your child leaves home to school, with whom do they eat lunch?  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell: What we can learn from spaghetti sauce

Cotton Seed #4

Crazy Read

Grab something to read.
Find a funky place.
Read in a crazy position.

Try reading a magazine in an empty bathtub. 
Or a book in a tree?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Options Are: Save, Spend, Donate, Invest

Teaching Money, Too!

School Attendance and Thanks

My son had a doctor's appointment yesterday in another city in VERY interesting weather.    

The first item on the Wednesday advocate agenda is to fax the excuse note to the school.  Yes, I'm still faxing.  I always keep the original note and send a faxed copy.  This can work either way- send the orginal, keep a copy- das macht nichts.
After checking the grades online, I've decided to email a thank you note to my son's teachers.  My son had a serious wrist break this summer, that resulted in few months of medical treatment.  His doctor released him from his post surgical monitoring yesterday!  

The doctor's office sits exactly TWO hours away from my son's school and THREE on a Texas snowy day.  Weekly check-ups meant making sure this high school freshman Manchild made daily attendance, then whisping him away to an entirely different town and lots of follow up (for him) communication with teachers.  

He did a great job keeping up with everything!  

It's quite frustrating to educators to finish grading the entire stack of essays and realize you're really not finished- the non present students still have to be graded.  

When is ADA
To find out the attendance reporting time... call the school.  Many of you know this and some schools openly share that the ADA time is when the school reports their daily attendance.  

In grade school- push the EASY button.  If the time is 10:00 AM, make sure your child is present and accounted for until that hour.  This means cough drops until ten and schedule appointments after that specified time.  Your child is still present for the day!  

This is vital information for parents of competitive perfect attendance fifth grade medal receiver pumpkins.  Or if you have a concern that needs timely attention.  

I refused to check him out before the reporting period.  Even the hospital scheduling staff knew the ADA.  

We respect the school enough to not mess up their attendance rating or their funding.  

It's not as easy post grade school- your child may be reported present for ADA, but if they are missing the same class over and over, they may not receive credit for that class.

What is the present percentage for credit?  Determine how many days your pumpkin can miss from each class whether they are counted during ADA or not.  If there are ninety days in a semester.  Your student might need to be in attendance for 90% of those days.  That means they can miss a class about nine times in a semester and still receive credit.  The percentage varies from state to state and sometimes school to school.  Check the school's handbook or ask to be sure. What types of absences are excused at your child's school?  Usually, medical, bereavement, and legal are a given, but there are others.  Remember to turn in documentation for these kinds of absences. 

Who gets the note?  Make sure the note gets into the right hands.  Schools generally have a person on attendance detail.  Look for the person in the office who knows most all the student's names!  

How many days are alotted to make up missed school work for an excused absence / unexcused absence? The school's handbook is a great resource for this one as well.  If it's online- bookmark it. 

Oh, and here's the note to the teachers.  BTW, it was well received:
To all,
I want to take a moment to thank you for the additional understanding and patience that you have given to my son.  His Lubbock doctor released him yesterday to use his personal discretion and continue therapy.  
No more mid-week trips to Lubbock!
Thank you guys for everything!

Advocate Hour, check!

Cotton Seed #3

The CC Read
Turn on the Closed Caption.  Decide on a thirty minute television show. 
Turn down the volume.  Read  

One, Two, Three - GO!

Check the Cotton Seeds Section for Elaboration.  Stay tuned.  New 'seeds' on Tuesdays & Thursdays!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Conjunction Junction....Best School House Rock

W.H.I.R.L. on Acronyms and Abbreviations

How many of you remember when l.a.s.e.r. was an acronym?  I mean I know that it still is, but I remember being tested on the letter's meanings.  Acronyms and first letters of list and processes are one of the best devices that can be employed in remembering.  

When learning lists or procedures- 
make something up;
then make it funny!

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.  This sentence is used to remind learners of the correct order of mathematical operations.  Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and then Subtraction.  Until this process is automatic students are often encourage to write it at the top of their papers.  If one of the operations is done out of order, the resulting answer can be wrong.  

This is how WE say it- Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, she farted!  Yes, the more random and disgusting (especially for boys), the more memorable.  I always whisper, "She farted."  Does it add two more operations to the process?  No.  Have I ever encountered a student that thought it did?  No.  The extra two words have created a vision of that aunt full of flatulence and low on manners.

For those of you teaching in Texas, there is a little test called T.A.K.S.  Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills a standardized acronym in itself which will soon be replaced by a standardized abbreviation E.O.C. - End of Course.  In the T.A.K.S. E.L.A. (English / Language Arts) handbook there is guide to how the essay should be written.  

Peopletarians- Pretty Cows Really Eat People.  That's our way to remember Pre-Write, Compose, Revise, Edit, Publish.  Peopletarians!  

When one adds the funny summation word or sentence when explaining the process they can just use that phrase for assistance.  A simple announcement before an assignment of, "She farted!"  Will have students scribbling PEMDAS on their paper tops instantly.

Give it a w.h.i.r.l. (writing here in real life)!

P.S.  The F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. JOINED together to make a fabulous boy band!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tips for Reluctant Readers

Let's Read!

Cotton Seed #2

Fire Side Chat:   Gather around a camp fire, a fireplace, a flashlight or a candle and talk about something you have read!

Check the Cotton Seeds Section for Elaboration.  Stay tuned.  New 'seeds' on Tuesdays & Thursdays!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google Gallery Opening From Home

OMGoogle, you have out done yourself!  View art from world famous galleries from your computer!

Advocate Hour

Advocate Hour is once a week for an hour that day.  On Wednesdays, I check my children’s grades and attendance, email teachers, go to lunch with my babies, search around the district's website for ongoings that my little bits have neglected to tell me. One hour a week to keep the school to home communication alive and to be The Advocate. 
I picked Wednesdays for such tasks because as far as grades and attendance are concerned- there is not much one can do when the week runs out.  Attendance is firm by then, and grades are entered.  There also isn't much to monitor before Wednesday.  This weekly practice whatever day ensures that things don't get too out of hand.  A parent can know if their child is missing third period everyday, even if the teacher doesn't make the call home.  A parent can know if their child is struggling and failing.  A parent can also know when to praise for perfect attendance and rising grades. 
Today I faxed a note to my child’s wonderful (really) school to remind them of a minor error.  I carefully included the nature of the incident and how it made my child feel.  Remember people didn’t just sign up to be in education without caring about children's feelings. It’s simple- what happened and how it made the student feel.  My child was hurt because this happened. 
If you have access to fax and email, employ them first.  Don’t call and don’t show up unannounced.  Often in the midst of personalities and error throwing, the point gets missed.  I wrote my phone number on the fax and asked them to call me when the issue was resolved.   This implies that the receiver is completely capable of fixing the deal. 
The fax send time was 1:54; they called me in less than half an hour.  I didn’t answer the phone and waited for the message.  The message reported the entire issue had been resolved.  The resolution exceeded my expectations.  I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome!
I’ve been on both sides of the school house desk and under it a few times.  It is impossible to discuss your hurt child, without being hurt.  It’s near impossible to be hurt and not show it.  Subtle intonations are often ugly and loud.  In those moments the baby can get thrown out with the bath water. 
People are human. 
Why the fax, email, voice mail route?  In this day and age, documentation is important- sad, but true.  I wouldn’t need it for my child’s wonderful school, but you might.  It’s helpful for everyone involved. 
It’s 2:45.  I feel empowered; I’ve help my child.  I was The Advocate.  I’ve blogged about it for you and faxed a nice thank you note back to my child’s school. Advocate Hour – Check!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cotton Seed #1

Let us commence...
Fire Side Reads:   Gather around a camp fire, a fireplace, a flashlight or a candle and read!

Check the Cotton Seeds Section for Elaboration.  Stay tuned.  New 'seeds' on Tuesdays & Thursdays!