Saturday, July 28, 2012

Candies A - Z

Candies A - Z

I've heard from a few people who have had difficulty linking to the alphabetized candies that I listed recently.  I saved the file again as a Google Document, so hopefully everyone who wants the environmental print can access it now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Environmental Print

Last week I presented a session at the National I Teach K! Conference in Las Vegas that focused on the use of environmental print in the classroom.  We know that environmental print, or the print of everyday life such as signs and logos, offers excellent entry points for young children, learning-disabled students, and English language learners to interact with print in their own environment as they learn to read, write, and do math. 

Children get excited when they realize that they can "read" the print in their environment.  This excitement helps build motivation in young students.  I'm always thrilled to use materials that help students learn much quicker and that create excitement in learners -- especially when the materials don't cost much money!  All I have to do is collect (and invite students to collect) things like catalogs, coupons, flyers, labels, magazines, menus, newspapers, posters, telephone books, and print-outs from websites. 

I promised the participants in my session that I would post some environment print from candy that I use to help students cross the bridge from phonemic awareness to phonics.  I have found a pretty common candy wrapper for each letter of the alphabet.  Usually, most students can use the incidental visual clues from the wrappers to "read" many of the wrappers long before they can recognize and name letters of the alphabet.  This vital first stage of development of word recognition, the logographic stage, is highly context-dependent.  Therefore, I make sure that I have the wrappers in full color available to the students as we begin working on the alphabetic principle.  The wrappers also can be used as engaging manipulatives for word work in literacy work stations.  I hope they're helpful!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March Madness

As April is rapidly approaching, the warmth of spring is definitely upon us -- as is one of my favorite times of the year -- the NCAA basketball tournament (go Wildcats!). While the tournament is frequently referred to as "March Madness", I realize that March inherently brings much madness to the world of educators, as well. March means that Spring Break occurs, or is soon to occur, for most of us. This, of course, results in a frequent rise in distractions for our students. Educators have to be creative in planning lessons that build upon the known and the predictable (to keep students in a comfortable zone for learning), while continuing to seek innovative ways to add novelty and unexpected elements to lessons (to keep students attentive and engaged). Attempting to meet our students' simultaneous need for predictability and novelty is a constant balancing act that can result in teachers feeling overwhelmed.

We also look at our calendars in March and realize that there is still SO much content and SO many strategies that we want to equip our students with before the end of the school year, yet there isn't a whole lot of time left to get it accomplished. It reminds me of watching the basketball games and seeing teams who are losing a game. As the clock ticks down the remaining seconds, many teams who are losing but are still within reach of victory, often begin making careless errors in their stress. Great coaches know to call a time-out when this happens and refocus the players on their mission. Similarly, in our classrooms we must "keep our eyes on the prize" (our prize, of course, is our students -- especially when they successfully meet or surpass academic and behavioral standards).

March also means, for most of us, that our state tests have been administered to our students -- or they will be very shortly. This results in even more stress for our students and ourselves (and our students' parents, and our administrators, and ...). Let's all take time to have our own personal pep rallies and reflect on ALL that we have accomplished this school year with our students -- and all that we WILL accomplish before this school year ends!

A great book that I believe should be required reading of educators is Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. This book explains relatively simple instruction methods (49 of them!) that put students on the path to college. If you are a relatively new teacher, or a seasoned veteran, and you're looking for ideas to implement during March Madness -- and to help you end the school year on a wonderful high note, I strongly recommend this book!

I have had another great month of working with great educators in March. The faculty of Wendell Elementary continues to impress me by the energy that is put forth for expanding the vocabularies of the students of Wendell. I spent two great days (minus the tornados -- that part wasn't so great!) working with the educators of Rutherford County on comprehension and test-taking. We explored ways to refine and expand QAR so that students truly internalize the thinking processes for answering questions and generating questions. As I write this, I'm preparing to leave to work with the educators of Medford County. During our two sessions, we'll examine meaningful, research-based methods for vocabulary instruction.

May April be a wonderful time for learning and teaching for everyone!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Professional Development This Summer

I’m so excited to be presenting this summer at SDE’s 2012 I Teach K! National Kindergarten Teachers Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Be sure to save the date and mark your calendars for July 9-12, 2012.

At this year's conference, I'll be making presentations on four different topics. One of my presentations will focus on Environmental Print in the Kindergarten Classroom, where we'll explore practical strategies for using everday objects, such as toy labels and cereal boxes, to guide young children in building essential literacy and math skills. Another session that I'll lead will focus on Nurturing Voluminous Vocabularies in Kindergarten Classrooms, where we'll examine research-based ways that we can strengthen students' oral language development. I'll also share ideas for Meaningful and Independent Practice in Kindergarten through Work Stations that help students build reading skills and stamina. Finally, I'll make a presentation on Bringing Young Males into the World of Literacy through Informational Texts where we'll explore what motivates beginning male readers to engage with texts and ways that we can nurture that motivation in classroom settings.

In attending SDE's National I Teach K! Conference, you’ll discover how to build extraordinary kindergarten classrooms that prepare our children for the rigorous and evolving demands of the 21st century— while keeping the fun factor alive and well. Please share this news and tell your friends and colleagues!

I’m also excited to be presenting this summer at SDE’s 2012 National Conference on Differentiated Instruction, which will also be in Las Vegas, NV. Be sure to save the date and mark your calendars for July 10-13, 2012.
I'll be making four different presentations at this year's conference, too. One of my sessions will be Working with Word Walls, where I'll share ways to make a word wall an interactive tool to promote growth in decoding, spelling, and vocabulary skills, rather than a mere classroom decoration. Another session that I'll be presenting will be Fluency: Teaching the Rhythm of Reading. In this session, we'll explore ways to differentiate instruction in reading accuracy, reading rate, reading expression, and reading comprehension. I'll also present a session on Nurturing Voluminous Vocabularies in which I'll share ideas for refining and expanding students' vocabularies by involving multiple learning modalities. Finally, I'll present a session on Increasing Motivation and Achievement through Tiered Partnering Activities where we'll examine practical ways of differentiating both the content and the methods of teaching (i.e., tiering our instruction) so that grade-level standards can be attained by ALL students.

In attending the National Conference on Differentiated Instruction, you’ll pack your toolbox with a wide range of relevant, research-based, immediately applicable strategies that have powerful theories into best practices. Please share this news and tell your friends and colleagues!

I hope to see many of you at one, or both, of these conferences in Las Vegas in July!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Professional Development Resources

March seems to have blown in like a lamb pretty much all over the country! I know that many of you enjoy the cooler weather of winter, but I love hot weather! I'm always so excited to see spring on the horizon, because I know that summer is just around the corner.

I would like to send a special "shout-out" to my colleagues at Casa Grande Middle School. I concluded my work with the faculty there in February. We've been exploring instructional methods for differentiating instruction throughout the school year. I had such a blast working with such energetic, dedicated professionals!

I also was able to attend some wonderful professional development myself in February. Specifically, I attended (and presented at) the Wisconsin State Reading Association Conference in Milwaukee and the West Coast Kagan Academy in Las Vegas. I met so many wonderful people and learned so many exciting instructional strategies.

People with whom I work frequently ask me for recommendations on professional resources to enhance their professional development work with other educators. While I am constantly reading blogs, websites, journals, and professional books to refine and expand my abilities as a professional development provider (as well as attending as much professional development as I can!), I want to personally recommend Sharon L. Bowman's work. While she tends to focus on training in the corporate world, her research and writings are extremely applicable to any group of adults, including educators (I know we are a special, unique breed!). For some quick ideas to make any professional development that you might be leading more engaging for your adult learners, check out her wonderful book The Ten-Minute Trainer: 150 Ways to Teach It Quick & Make It Stick! Another great page-turner is her book Training from the BACK of the Room! 65 Ways to Step Aside and Let Them Learn. I also recommend her latest book (I believe it's her latest, although she is so filled with brilliant ideas, she may have another one that I'm not aware of), Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick. This is the book that my presentation at the National Title I Conference in Seattle was focused around. I have to admit that I have only read excerpts of the book at this point. However, it is at the top of my agenda for this weekend to study closely the entire book and internalize as much as I can. I'm sure I'll be referring back to it for ideas for many years, as I have her other resources. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Bowman or hearing her speak. I can only imagine how amazing she must be! I have had the honor of communicating with her via e-mail, though, and I'll let you in on a little secret -- she is one of the kindest, most respectful people I've ever communicated with. I hope I get the chance to hear her in person one day soon!

Take care everyone, and try to get some extra rest as most of the country turns their clocks ahead!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Learning in the New Year -- The Power of Humor

Now that we're in February, I trust that we've all settled in to the new year well. I have been extremely busy! I have had the opportunity to speak at a couple of conferences (the East Tennessee Title I Conference in Gatlinburg and the National Title I Conference in Seattle), where I also was able to attend numerous sessions and learn from some great educators. Marcia Tate, who is always exceptional, did not disappoint in the two sessions I attended in Seattle that she presented! One thing that I took away from her presentations is the power of infusing humor into our teaching. Humor helps the brain retain information -- so it's good for the receiver. However, humor and laughter also increase the percentage of type T lumphocytes (T cells), as well as endorphins in the bloodstream, for the sender (i.e., the teacher). Our body's immunity and ability to fight infection are strengthened when we laugh. During this cold and flu season, I'm always looking for more ways to stay healthy! I guess laughter truly is the best medicine! Thanks for reminding me, Marcia.

During January, I also had the opportunity to work with some amazing educators at some wonderful schools -- specifically, Wendell Creative Arts Elementary School and Hunter Magnet School, both in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Casa Grande Middle School in Casa Grande, Arizona. As we have focused on vocabulary development and differentiating instruction, I have been so excited by the energy and enthusiasm that I see educators in these schools display! I can't wait to work with you again!