Colleen’s Classroom: Testing Time!

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A few years ago while taking coaching classes, I learned about Crazy Makers. Crazy Makers are people or events that drop into our space uninvited. Once entering, Crazy Makers cause turmoil and drama in the areas we thought we had some control. Crazy Makers are experts at throwing us off balance and causing chaos. Over the years I’ve been pretty good at identifying them before they invade my boundaries. Recently however, I am finding that before I can even identify who the Crazy Makers are, they have already infiltrated my perimeters. The Crazy Makers have a knack for making it difficult for teachers to facilitate the kind of teaching that reflects best practice and developmentally appropriate learning.

Historically, January, February, and March are the “meaty” months of teaching. Routines have been established, community has been formed, and both students and teachers are immersed into the rigor and excitement of learning. Not so much this year. The Crazy Makers have invaded my classroom with the latest round of testing: computerized testing no less! The tests bring with them a prescribed list for implementation. The Crazy Maker mandates require that my third graders have key-boarding skills, that there is a scheduled time for practicing the test format, another time for an interim practice of the test, then yet another practice for an example of an almost real test, and finally in March, the real deal which requires six hours of testing for both ELA and math. The results of the final tests arrive before summer break so the students who don’t meet the benchmarks can have a special parent conference with the principal to set up summer plans for another chance to meet expectations for the following year.

Now to my way of thinking, if my teaching efforts were totally focused on actual teaching during those three months instead of scheduling practices in the computer lab, we probably wouldn’t need summer plans for students. But true to Crazy Maker form, they didn’t ask for my opinion, they just showed up uninvited.

I have encountered similar Crazy Makers in the past, but the Crazy Makers of late are sneaky and elusive. I am not sure how they scaled so many walls so quickly.  I am also not sure how to protect my students from their unsound mandates. There is however, one thing I am very sure of. I am sure that I will continue to carve out sacred spaces for learning in spite of the Crazy Makers. I will not let the Crazy Makers take away the joy of learning from my students, or the joy of teaching from me.

~ Colleen


What is “Fraction Phobia?”

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There was a very interesting article in Ed Week that is worth sharing. The Common Core Math standards have had a lot of criticism from teachers and parents. This frustration comes from the decision to teach math differently, but not necessarily understanding why. Hung-Hsi Wu, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that the anxiety is evident is students too. Students have had math anxiety before Common Core even came about. But why? He believes the beginnings of math anxiety can be linked to the first day they learn about fractions. Read more about “fraction phobia” here. To help students better understand fractions and other math concepts, look to Rourke’s Got Math! series for step by step instructions, visual supports, and practice problems.

Funk Fractions available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook
Funky Fractions available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook
Fraction Action
Fraction Action available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook

From Library to Media Center to Learning Commons: The Library Evolution

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School libraries used to be one of silence.  A place to get lost in stacks of books. The growth to media center came about to assist in curriculum development. Many school libraries today collaborate with teachers and support the curriculum needs of the school. The future of libraries is driving towards becoming more interactive and supporting 21st century skills. This article posted by eSchool News, explains this new space and the changes and benefits it has had on the library and students.

We support school libraries! Rourke understands the needs and challenges of school libraries. We are currently offering the “Best of Both Worlds” promotion until May 31, 2015! You receive the hardcover title and eBook for $29.95! Contact the office or your sales rep today.

2015_Best of Both Worlds_Flyer

QR Codes and Education

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QR CodeQR codes are everywhere. You see them on real estate postings, in magazines, and even on products. These little one inch squares are packed with information that you can access immediately with your smart phone or tablet.

Can you imagine this technology in schools? Well it is and there are many ways teachers, students, and parents are benefiting from. But first, how do you even create a QR code? There are several free website like this one that offer QR code creation services. It is simple to create and effective in learning.

Check out some of the ways teachers, librarians, and administrators are using QR codes. Scholastic offers several ideas including ways parents can use them while waiting for conferences. Edutopia shares even more ideas including ways to use QR codes in reflection or homework. Finally this author and educator, David Hopkins, offers ways to incorporate QR codes in projects and assessment. This new trend in learning is keeping students engaged and using the technology they are so accustomed to.

Rourke is currently offering a Best of Both Worlds special! With this special you get the hardcover title and eBook for $29.95! The hardcover book with have a QR code that will allow access through a smartphone or tablet. HURRY because this offer ends May 31, 2015!

QR Code Flyer

Shift in School Libraries: An Interview

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As school librarians embrace their new roles in the age of the Common Core, many are left with questions and a vision. Carl Harvey and Linda Mills are practicing school librarians and have the answers many librarians are seeking out. In their new book, Leading the Common Core Initiative: A Guide for K-5 School Librarians, Carl and Linda provide practical advice and lessons that put the library back on the map and show how school libraries can be a partner in the school.

Carl and Linda further discuss the importance of librarians and their new book in this interview.

Rourke: Your new book, Leading the Common Core Initiative: A Guide for K-5 School Librarians, gives school librarians the professional development needed in understanding what Common Core is and what it looks like in action. How do you see the librarians’ role in schools shift in these changing times?

Carl & Linda: The librarian’s role is to help our teachers as they design new curriculum and instruction that goes with our standards.  This is a perfect opportunity to collaborate with teachers with new projects that integrate school libraries and utilize new tools and resources.  Working with teachers to examine a wealth of informational resources and to teach students how to navigate these sources is the job we undertake to implement these standards.

Rourke: Were there struggles that you experienced that are addressed in the book?

Carl & Linda: Oh, finding time to write a book was a struggle for us.   We’re all busy, so trying to carve out time to get it done was certainly a challenge.  Also, I think trying to make sure that we thought about not just what works for us in our libraries, but what might work for most librarians. 

Rourke: What do you see as the most important aspect of your new book? What do you want librarians really to walk away with from reading your book?

Carl & Linda: I think anytime something new comes along, it is the perfect opportunity to focus on collaboration with teachers.  When teachers have to redesign their lessons, it is the perfect opportunity to get them to experiment with new projects, new resources, and new ideas while collaborating with the school librarian. 

Rourke: Your book has actual lessons that librarians can use. Are those lessons that you practice in your library? What was the response from your teachers and administration?

Carl & Linda: Yes, all the lessons in our book were ones we tried with students in our libraries.  I think we hope that other librarians can adapt and modify them for their situations.  I think our teachers certainly see the benefits of collaborating with us, and so they are always open to trying new ideas and approaches.  Some of these lessons are ones we have used before common core, but just modified a little to meet the new standards.  As with anything plans always change and evolve as you work with teachers and students.    

Rourke: Do you have any advice for librarians that are trying to adjust with this shift in their schools?

Carl & Linda: Be open.  Be proactive.  Be willing to jump in and demonstrate how the school library and school librarian can be a valuable resource for students and teachers.   Anytime there is something new, it is an opportunity for collaboration, so take full advantage of it.


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