Tuesday, October 18, 2011


You should know, before I start this story, that I have a very serious People Magazine addiction. Major. Now, here's the story...

The family and I were sitting at Five Guys, having yummy burgers and fries on a Sunday afternoon. My son, age 7, wants to be a pop star like Justin Bieber, so the Biebs is one of his heroes. (Hey, it could be worse.)

My MIL was talking to Ashton about Justin Bieber. He mentioned that Selena Gomez is his girlfriend. My MIL looked taken aback, and she asked, "How do you know that?" He just shrugged and pointed at me. He said, "I learned it from Mom. She does research."

I laughed SO HARD that I thought I was going to choke! He knows that every now and then (okay, honestly probably more than that), I like to catch up on my celeb gossip on the computer. And once in a while, he'll come over and say, "Who's that?" and I'll tell him what I feel is appropriate for a 7-year-old to know. (My favorite was when he was aghast at the picture of Lady Gaga in the meat dress. "WHO would do something like that? That is DISGUSTING.")

The funniest thing to me was that he called it research! It's just a guilty pleasure, a time-waster. But then, the teacher in me started to think. Is it research?

Right now, I'm planning an expository writing unit, complete with a final research project. In my quest to keep in mind the needs of 21st century learners, perhaps I need to broaden my view of "research."

Let's think about it. What are kids looking at on the Internet? Things that interest them, right? Maybe for a few of them, it's Bieber. For some, it's skateboarding tricks. Others are looking at YouTube videos (Lord help us all), downloading music from iTunes, or watching upcoming movie trailers.

As our students do that, though, they're READING. To LEARN something new. They are building on their prior knowledge of their interests, learning something new, thereby broadening that knowledge base. Later, on the bus, the playground, or in a text message, they are sharing what they've learned with other kids. That's research, isn't it?

So, perhaps my love of celebrity gossip and the time I devote to learning more about it isn't useful research. But I like it, and I'm using a lot of the research steps when I check up on Jennifer, George, Kim, Kate, Brad... er... well, you know. I'm thinking about ways I can use the kids' interests to help our culminating research project be even more meaningful. I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head tonight, but nothing down on paper just yet. I'm excited to get started!

And to think, this all started with my 7-year-old's hysterically serious declaration about mommy's "research!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


My son is in karate. When they've all been working particularly hard, the instructor will call out the word, "Enthusiasm!" Everyone stops where they are and starts clapping for each other.

As teachers, we need to do this to ourselves. So here's a little enthusiasm for me and the other teachers on my fifth grade team! We've devoted our year to one basic principle in reading, and here it is - reading. Yep. We want our kids to read more.

We have TONS of books in our classrooms (see the shelf from my classroom in the photo). We love to read. I talk to the kids all the time about books I love, and I recommend/talk up books like I'm paid to do it! (Well, in truth, I am, aren't I?)

Kids have time for independent reading in our classroom. Yep - every kid. Time to read silently. I love it!

I have even been accused of being crazy. I have a few kids who have been hooked on a book series, but I only have perhaps books one and two, so I will invite the student over to my table, get on my laptop, and order the rest of the books in the series from Amazon with One-Click. (Thank goodness for free shipping from Amazon Prime!)

And one of my most favorite things that we do? We allow our kids to select their own books to read. Yes, it's true. When I teach the standards, it is quite possible that I'm teaching a reading standard to 55 different novels. Scary? Sure. Effective? You bet. It has made an amazing difference in our classrooms! Our kids are reading more, it seems, than ever before.
As a true teacher, aka "data collector," I wanted to see if our reading initiative was working. I asked two questions on Edmodo, a safe and secure social networking site for teachers and their students.

1) Compared to your other years in elementary school, do you think you are reading
     a) the same amount as in previous years
     b) more than in previous years
     c) less than in previous years.


2) If you answered that this year, you are reading more, why do you think that's true?

So far, in 2 days, 1 student has said that he reads the same, and 17 students say that they are reading MORE. Enthusiasm!

I was also pleased when the students told me what made the difference. Here's the breakdown:

*7 students said, "My teacher loves to read, and she encourages me to read." (Pass me a tissue!)
*4 students said, "We are allowed to choose our own books to read." A true testament to the power of self-selected books!
*3 students said, "My teacher helps recommend books to me that she thinks I will like."
*2 students said, "We have time in class for silent reading."
*1 student said, "We have a lot of books in our classroom."

If I had to recommend any tips for a teacher who wants her students to read more, here's what I'd say: 

1) Read. A lot. And tell your kids, and
2) Let kids choose their own books to read!

If you follow a scripted reading program at your school, then I understand that sometimes you have to have more structure. However, if you can find a time during the year, or a little bit of time during the day, for your kids to choose their own books - do it! You'll be amazed at the difference it will make!

In 8 weeks, my students have read between 3 and 22 books each! Enthusiasm for them! They are proud of themselves, and I'm pretty darn proud of them too.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Looking for H.O.T.S. Stuff?

Sometimes when we write lesson plans, it's easy to think of a good remediation for our lessons. The harder part, however, is thinking of good extensions for students who require more of a challenge in their work. In the course of getting my gifted endorsement, I have found that I LOVE using two gifted strategies in my regular-ed classroom: Six Hats and SCAMPER.

You can Google them to find out more information if you are interested, or you can download the bookmarks I created to use these strategies in my classroom. They work for ALL of my students, and they encourage higher-order thinking from everyone. Click here for Six Hats and here for SCAMPER.

We also use a lot of Bloom's Taxonomy in our reading classrooms. Click here to download the bookmarks for fiction and nonfiction books that the kids use to ask EACH OTHER higher order thinking questions about their reading! This lets me sit back and listen, working as referee, coach, and diagnostician all at once.

If you choose to use these, please email me your feedback! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

GTOY Conference

Today, I promised some documents for my new District TOTY friends that I met at the GTOY Conference. All of my documents are on my school laptop (sheesh!) and I will load them on Friday. Check back soon!