It’s National Library Week and we want you to join the celebration! Libraries offer so much more than books. They introduce children to amazing new worlds, favorite authors, and lovable characters. Librarians show children other cultures, the history of their community, and ancient times. Children find their interests, make connections, and grow into future leaders all while wandering through the bookshelves. Libraries open doors for so many children. What do you love about your library? How did going to the library inspire you? Show your support by downloading these free graphics for your website and library.
Because of Winn Dixie is one of my favorite books. My students always quickly become intrigued with the characters and can easily identify with the ache of loneliness and the power of friendship that resonates throughout the book. During a recent discussion my students were using text evidence to support a focus question regarding the meaning of the word ghost. There is a conversation in the book where one of the characters is explaining why she has empty wine and whiskey bottles hanging from a tree. She refers to the bottles as her ghosts. During the discussion, some of my students took the meaning of the word, ghost, literally. Others realized that the meaning of the word represented things of her past, and one student made a connection that gave me goose bumps. It was the kind of answer that exhibits understanding at a deeper level. This particular student made a connection using an analogy that was far beyond his years.
I shared this scenario with a team member which led to a conversation about levels of understanding. As the conversation continued, we wondered how we could accurately measure the depth of a child’s thinking. We went on to discuss data and how some data can appear as evidence of successful learning but really tells us nothing about a student’s level of understanding. I no longer use percentages because eighty percent of something correct does not tell what a student is thinking or how she connected the dots to create understanding. Rubrics can cause the same dilemma. Sometimes they end up being nothing more than checklists. I saw this happen when scoring state writing samples. Everything a student needed to have for a proficient score was in the paper, but the writing had no soul, no voice. It wasn’t wrong, but the student had done nothing more than follow a formula. A minimum amount of thinking was all that was necessary to look successful.
As we stood talking in the hallway we brought up more questions than answers. What kind of thinking were we asking our students to do? How does each child’s development play into levels of understanding? Could we come up with a better way to measure our students’ thinking?
We didn’t walk away with any immediate answers but now that we have raised the questions, we have in a sense, created our own ghosts. These ghosts will haunt us until we come up with answers. It will take a lot of work, further discussions, and trial and error. Just as we want our students to think critically, we too must think in deeper ways to improve our methods of measuring our students’ depth of understanding.
Rourke has attended the many ELL and Bilingual conferences, including NABE and CABE, this year. The one thing we always walk away with is that there isn’t enough materials for these populations of students.
Rourke has Spanish, English, and Dual Language materials to support your ELL populations. We make sure our titles are authentically translated. Our informational text titles have the visual supports needed for all types of learners. Rourke’s titles fit naturally into the curriculum and can be used in explicit teaching, small reading groups, or independent reading. We offer most titles in hardcover, paperback, and eBook. Our many supplemental products support dual language programs in reading and content areas.
So if you are looking for more Spanish and dual language materials to support and supplement what you already have and do, reach out to Rourke today!
March is testing time for many schools. Students are subject to a marathon of standardized tests while the teachers try to make them comfortable and prepared through iPods, mints, and snacks. Whatever your opinion is on standardized tests, you want to make sure your students have the skills and tools to overcome such intense testing.
Scholastic Teachers shows you what works for other teachers in order to ease the anxiety of their students. What tips or tricks do you use to help prepare your students? How do you prepare yourself for standardized testing?
Rourke’s new series, Hitting the Books, offers titles that help students with writing, reading, and test prep. Studying and Test Taking teaches students how to be good test takers and ways to ease testing anxiety. This series is definitely one to add to your collection. Contact a representative today!
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.