Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."
--Tom Hanks, American actor, in "Forrest Gump"
I like most chocolates, fortunately, and now I have had a taste of what I will get for next year. I have accepted the position of ELA (English Language Acquisition) Specialist. I will be based at North for three days per week as it is one of the SK schools with a large population of ELLs (English Language Learners). I will also visit West once a week. At these schools I will be coaching-mentoring ESL teachers as well as those providing content to ELL's using SIOP or sheltered instruction observational protocol. Fridays will be professional development days for coaches to learn and practice strategies and protocols to take back to our schools. We have all been trained in SIOP, for example, a great protocol for great teaching. All great teachers will recognize how important it is to:
Prepare students for learning by telling them the learning objectives of the day as well as the standards they will be meeting not only in the content area but also in literacy and in language.
Build background by discovering prior knowledge of students and using that as a gateway to new material. Graphic organizers such as KWL charts aid in this step.
Provide comprehensible input by using visuals and manipulatives, clearly outlined procedures and protocols to help students understand the content. Choose appropriate strategies from your teacher toolkits and explicitly teach those strategies to your students to help them learn and retain information which can support them not only in other classes but in their lives beyond the school door. Model the stategy first, following the gradual release of responsibility instructional model. Allow for class interaction. Release some responsibility to students to apply the strategy through extended practice with the teacher near by to help. Complete the lesson delivery by reviewing what students have learned as a class. Assess learning through an exit slip or 3-2-1 sheet. This important step will indicate where to start the subsequent lesson.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"The World is Round...

and the place that may seem like the end may also be the beginning." Senior Motto 2009

I thought a lot about this quote found on the West Salem High School Seventh Annual Commencement program as I listened to Principal Ed John talk about holding fast to ones dream. I thought a lot about this quote as I contemplated the messages of our young speakers anticipating a bright future. At my sixth West commencement, the quote tugged hard at my heart, because currently I don't know where I will be next fall. Nevertheless, I am still holding fast to my dream - to continue working with wonderful educators in the lofty effort of educating our future citizens and leaders of the world in the 21st century. In going back to the beginning of the year and looking at what I envisioned, I realize that I wasn't too far off. Enjoy!

A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others.
~Author Unknown
VoilĂ  two shining examples:Kara shows excitement over the bacteria her students are growing in her lab.Carol shows excitement about depositing money in the MAPS credit union and about the new books she has just received "Good to GREAT!"

Thank you for lighting the way for our students and for lighting the way for me in endless ways this year. Happy Summer!

A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind | Edutopia

A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind | Edutopia

Shared via AddThis

Sunday, May 31, 2009

From Good to GREAT

In an article entitled "The Missing Piece of the Puzzle in Professional Development," the author Kevin Washburn, Ed.D. ends with "One final note: a coach can only be helpful to the degree that a teacher welcomes the dialogue. It never feels comfortable to have a colleague observing our instruction because we think the focus is on what we’re doing wrong. A great coach will work for your success and celebrate your success. Let’s welcome such input. As we grow, our teaching improves. As our teaching improves, our students’ learning increases. And that’s a piece we all want in place."
I was barely getting started into my coaching journey and now I've come to a T in the road, contemplating what would have happened if the coaching journey had been "The Road Not Taken." Ultimately, I would be so much the poorer. I wouldn't have verified what I always knew to be true: West teachers have endless talents to share, but too little time and opportunity to share them. So let me challenge you once again to make the time. Visit a colleague's classroom at least once a month in the year to come to continue our journey from good to great. Here are some examples of what you might find:
Susi, Ty N., Damien, and Shawn will be promoting fitness via the gradual release of responsibililty model of instruction - GRM. Lane, Micah, Janet and Terra will be facilitating student role play to bolster them against the onslaught of drugs, alcohol and other teen social pressures. Dennis and his crew - Judy, Melissa, Chris, Carolyn, Jackie, and Teri - will be preparing their students to make sense of and choices in the wider world through daily news discussions. Lynne, Cynthia and Teena will be helping students apply study skills to their core classes and make a connection (academic word of the week) to the world beyond. (Lynne's students under Teena's guidance serve a large following in the Wake Up Cafe just before the first bell.) (Cynthia's students word process letters to troops in Afghanistan.) Others working one-on-one to secure this link include Jan, Janice, Jacquie, Jim, Jude, Taylor, Ted, Bryan and Ann. Teresia will be helping students write stories with at least three incidents. Michelle will be using WIKIS and BLOGS to facilitate teamwork in her careers class. (Go to http://www.nicenet.org/ and enter code E6668EW46 to try out this wiki. Enter yourself as a student and alert me that you did at wshsfrench@hotmail.com . I'd like to try it out.)
JD will be taking students through the writing process with a focus on ideas and organization. On the side, he'll be organizing another baseball trip to Arizona. Ingrid and crew - Leigh, Jeanette, Jeff, Gina, Meagan and Doris - will be playing games and using visuals to differentiate instruction. Nancy will be preparing German students for their summer exchange to Germany via http://www.quizlet.com/ vocabulary flashcards web site; Christy's students will be listening to authentic French language via IPODs (and Christy's instruction) and planning for a real trip to France. (If you want to go but can't afford it, try the virtual Eiffel Tower). Jesse and Daryl will be emphasizing the meaning of lyrics and the songs of the heart through musical expression. (See http://www.titanchoirs.blogspot.com/ and http://titanorchestras.blogspot.com/ ) Lori V. will be simulating a court case with Twelve Angry Men on the jury. Drew will be in court with twelve + happy students winning their mock trial. Alissa will be guiding Park's forensic students in sketching criminals from witness/victim descriptions. Park will be guiding his class to use his BLOG to find makeup assignments and handouts (see BLOGS I am following below.) Scott W. will be thinking aloud about American foreign policy leading up to WWII. Kappy will be thinking aloud about estimating solutions for algebra problems. Ike's and Brian's marching band will "float"as a single unit to the top every time. (Watch them from a vantage point where you can't see their feet - they float!) (I finally got a snapshot of Ike.)
Lucy will be demonstrating childlike poses for her photographers and how to create a stunning photo essay. Barb and Brenda will "Teach With [their]Strengths." (Buy this book by Liesveld and Miller and discover your strengths.) They will be inspiring students to discover their artistic potential to display in our halls and touch our minds and hearts." Bob will be signing instructions, new words and phrases in ASL with all students signing happily along. Estella will be tapping student comprehension through telling and acting out stories in Spanish. Mari 's students will be using literacy strategies for comprehending Spanish while Mary's students will be using literacy strategies for comprehending English (Say Something). Karen's students will be using literacy strategies to research current topics as per Bryan's insightful powerpoint. Jay B. will be using SODAS (situation, options, disadvantages, advantages, solutions) to enhance decision-making skills in day-to-day living, with support from Dan, Josh, Sarah, Elaine, Carissa and Pamella. Jason's students will be using Venn diagrams to compare such things as temporary vs permanent effects of drugs in English and Carlos' students will be using such things as food ads to compare foods and prices in Spanish. Ressi, Susan and Barb B. will have books displayed in rain gutter shelves - cover side out - per research to promote reading for enjoyment - thanks to grants received. Pattie will be sitting atop piles of blankets and school supplies surrounded by Students for Change who will send them to Afghanistan - (Make sure you take Pattie off the pile first.) Grant might be bound to a post with colored duct tape to raise money for good causes while expounding wisdom on writing and other "stuff". John D might be guiding students through SQUEEPERS - survey, question, predict, read, review and summarize. He will tell me that "stuff" is a dead word. Derek will be collaborating with Chris V. and Kara on writing up and rating nuclear energy research papers. Chris V. will be using Bloom's levels of thinking to review life in the 20's - explain five major events - discuss five important names - analyze what would happen if.... Kara will be using scientific inquiry to assess the qualities of solids, liquids and gases. No! She will be the new science instructional coach. Laura and Amy will be collaborating on Twelfth Night character trait essays with sources cited in MLA format. Christina will be reciting Poe's poetry with his raven on her shoulder. Liz, Talana and Candy will be reading the latest and greatest reads - graphic novels about vampires anyone? Bryan H will be making Much Ado About Nothing if students have nothing to turn in translated from Shakespeare's English to modern day script. (Bryan transformed at Prom) As we know, Failure is Not an Option at West. Katie will assist students online while Ann keeps students in line with our 100% test participation goals. Karina, Linda and Barbara will be tapping student effort while checking for comprehension. Lily, Toby, Dave H. and Madalyn will be conferencing with students and parents with graduation in mind. Sarah will be telling them "where to go" for the next step upward. Dave F. will be teaching vocational skills with good recyling habits in mind. Julie Ann and Bobby will be collaborating on analyzing quiz/test questions to assess student progress in math skills. Jon will be reviewing the Pythagorean Theorem. Kevin C will be teaching how to read and follow directions in order to make a Mobius Strip. Kevin G will be hanging chart paper with complete lesson objects and chapter outlines. Jeremy's class will be shooting off water rockets while Mike's class will be shooting off solid fuel rockets - written reports to follow. Andy will be referring to the order of operations doing number puzzles and incorporating literacy in math through Fantasy Football (i.e. read a table for information.) Robert will be modeling the use of the GRM in learning about slope using direct instruction followed by shared and guided instruction through teamwork. Homework will provide the intentional independent element. The slope of student learning will be on the rise. Joe L. will be posing higher level thinking questions to ESL students who are applying and translating among mathematical representations to solve problems (MA.CM.PS.01-05) like how many hamburgers did student x sell compared to student y.... Check out his personal math video for the answer. Joe R. will be using authentic situations and Pi on the wall (Yes there is Pi on the wall in B111) to discuss and solidify vocabulary of Measures of Central Tendancy. Tate will be using think alouds to help students master ELS or essential learning skills. Krista's and Janis' classes will be cooking up sweet tastes and smells for teachers to test in the Black Box. Tara will be training students to teach tiny Titan Tots who will be Titan teens in no time. Michelle C's students will be presenting vocabulary posters and powerpoints to promote understanding of solubility. John B's students will be writing letters to the editor to convince the public that the Great Garbage Patch is real and we should do our part by asking for paper, or taking our own cloth sacks to the grocery store. Nikki B. will be back at West. Thanks to Eric for guiding her students while she was on leave. Larry and Scott C. will be golfing, but their past students will still remember the essays they wrote and graded on the four market structures, and monitoring their favorite stocks with "real" money invested. Ted D. will be supervising bridge building and Greg will be supervising robot building while Carol will be collaborating via electronic file folders with Matt to put Fireworks and Flash into web pages. (...when she is not at MAPS with Marina.)Graham's class will be deciding whodunit based on evidence obtained through the titration of bodily fluids discovered at the crime scene. Resulting student videos may be available for weekend viewing. John O and Nikki P will be assessing student comprehension of the Great Depression or Immigration Issues through clickers and simulations. Pat will be cooking up real life uses for working with fractions. (The need becomes apparent when all your kids leave home and you divide fractions for meal-making; when they return with spouses and grandkids, you multiply fractions to feed the small army. ) Speaking of armies, Jay M.will be using T-charts for comparing religions and other similarities and differences, which often led to wars in European history. Steve will be reading about and sharing thoughts on Darwin's Origin of Species (Don't refer to it as "origin of life, " as we have no evidence of that, Steve reminds us.) Ty T will be teaching note-taking skills while investigating the events that led to WWII via PowerPoint. Jason will be reading a letter by Benjamin Franklin; students will be summarizing and resorting to Renzulli for extended applications. Carol's students will be working with Jana, Debra, Liz, Dianna, Rob, Gayle, Hanna, Nicole, Marcie and Katie (Nicole and friend get their exercise) to take her students and teachers alike from GOOD TO GREAT. For a better picture of these teachers and the rest of our wonderful staff and administrators, check out the year in review in previous entries.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Writing to Serve

Last week I attended my first OWP workshop. Besides meeting lots of new educators and enjoying an elegant meal provided by Willamette University catering service, I put my pen to the first page of my new writing journal. This will be the receptacle of my deepest thoughts this summer. “What’s in a Name?” was the theme. We jotted down the details of how our name was chosen for us, what it signified in the 5000 Names for Baby book and stories of ancestors for whom we were named. We listed nicknames and experiences brought on by our name. One aspect of our names that was not approached, but perhaps should have been considered is “What have you done with your name and how will it be perceived when you depart ?” See some teachers, retired or retiring, whose names exemplify service to the West community and to the world beyond.(Meri with son Lane)(Papo supporting our ELL population)(Larry, SS teacher)(Scott, SS teacher)
This brings me to an article I just read in Educational Leadership, May 2009, entitled “Stirring Up Justice.” Laurel Schmidt states, “When we embrace social justice as a pillar of learning in our classrooms, we declare that we’re all responsible for improving our world.” I believe that this is the one thing we want to impart to each and every one of our students because this is the essence of a peaceful and productive society – caring about others and doing what is right to show it. Pattie has promoted world citizenship for the past years at West with admirable results. We want to encourage that to extend into the summer months.
For our year end activities we might initiate one last writing assignment to get students thinking about setting some service-oriented goals for their summer months. The prompt could be- Write about a time when you helped someone. You could scaffold the writing exercise with questions such as
What was the problem and how did you discover it?
How did you come up with a solution?
How did you facilitate the solution?
Did others pitch in to help and in what way?
What did you learn about yourself and others through this experience?
What will you do this summer to make a difference in our world?
This activity could serve as a springboard to encourage our students to get involved in a good cause over the summer, whether it is helping more at home, assisting an elderly person with yard work, babysitting for a single parent, or volunteering at the library, hospital or animal shelter. A good book proposed by Schmidt is It’s Our World. Too: Stories of Young People Who Are Making A Difference by Phillip Hoose (Joy Street, 1993). It tells about heroic kids who have made a big difference in the world.
She ends her five-page article, worth the effort to read, by stating that we as educators are influencing the next generation of voters, politicians and corporate leaders. Teaching students about the importance of taking a stand for a worthy cause and just plain caring about those around us, as “stewards of our environment and champions of human rights” will be the most important lesson they will ever learn.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. 'I'm just wasting my time,' she said to her mother. 'I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!' (Maybe she should learn sign language, Robert.)
At West, our goal is to help students maximize their time in our classes by reading, writing and discussing their reading and writing. We don’t want just one or two star players. We want the whole class – the whole team – involved in the victory. I have been reading a lot of articles obtained from coaching trainings and from ASCD's online Smartbrief as well as from educator BLOGs to solidify my ideas. (See the Edublog feed on the side bar.) Of course, I have also been visiting West teachers' classrooms. I would like to share a few ideas gleaned.

A favorite article is Allison Zmuda’s “Springing into Active Learning” which gives insight into creating engaged learners who focus on the learning process more than the grade. See the link for a summary or email me for a full copy.

Fisher, Frey and Lapp tell how to meet "AYP in a High-Need School..." (Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Feb 2009). Highlighted are once failing schools that have beat the odds and made impressive progress through integrating reading and writing into their daily operation, demonstrating the power of content literacy instruction. In one such school, a literacy team settled on the pedagogical goal of helping students develop literacy habits that they could take with them from class to class. (WOW, this sounds like Cynthia's goal with project planner and her study skills diversity project based on Pattie's Afghanistan curriculum. ) The staff in the article was relieved that they had gained freedom from focusing on state tests. First, they discussed the 100 ways to engage in literacy learning and the fact that students experienced different instructional routines in every class. They decided to choose four intervention components with the following criteria:

  • they had a solid evidence base,
  • they could be used across content areas and
  • they had high utility in college or adult life.

The four components they chose were 1) Cornell Note-Taking to be used in all note-taking activities,2) Think-Alouds, to be conducted with a piece of text every day in every class,3) Writing to Learn, as a way to check for understanding in every class, every day, 4) Dedicated Reading Time, or reading for 20 minutes a day.Work in PLCs to create common formative assessments and to collect/analyze data, as well as participate in job-embedded training/professional development via the peer coach and collegial conversations led to staggering improvements over a two-year period. Some of the most motivating professional development activities were sharing videos of their own teachers. Think Karen, Drew, Bobby, Julie Ann, Park, Carol, Greg, Terra and Janet, as compared to Seinfeld. Active learning was evident in the many classrooms I visited recently. Scott's class used jigsaw to discover the 7 Aspects of Totalitarianism and key policies and events that led up to WWII. Lane's class reflected on their attitudes towards AIDS through a journal write. Janet's students studied the foreign language of medical terminology repeating each term to aid pronunciation and memorization. Jon promoted Intentional Independent Reading to investigate characteristics of functions in Honors Geometry. Teresia modeled writing creating with the class a new segment for Homer Simpson featuring Bill Clinton and a pesky squirrel. (Happy Birthday, Teresia.) Ressi engaged students in individual conferences about something they had been reading - was it Much Ado About Nothing? Students were working on a literacy scrapbook featuring notes about the same play side by side with their reflections. From what I have seen, students at West have no fear that they are wasting their time. They are busy reading, writing and talking about reading and writing, - what we need to see in our classrooms every day. Finally, here is my previous BLOG made into a wordle. Go to http://www.wordle.net/ Left click twice to get a bigger view.
Wordle: student strengths© 2009 Jonathan Feinberg Terms of Use subscribe

Monday, May 11, 2009

Plan Ahead for Summer Literacy

Summer break is only a month away. Get your reading list ready. If you need some help, check out the choice literacy website which has books for professional development as well as novels that you will want to read for relaxation. Reserve them now. If this list isn't long enough, there is a part II.
The book lists have some good suggestions for those who want to improve their writing over the summer without going to school. However, I may check them out even though I will be going to school. I have received a grant to participate in the Oregon Writing Project at Willamette along with Mari. We are looking forward to a fun summer of creative writing thanks to the encouragement of other faculty members who have done the same - Bryan H and Grant H. Who else should I include?
Now don't keep your reading plans to yourself. Motivate your students by sharing what you will read and by providing information about teen reading programs at the library, book lists and even blogs, like http://www.readergirlz.com/issue.html for teenage girls.
Then there's the ning. The ning is the thing for sharing with others with like interests. For example, check out http://www.englishcompanion.ning.com/. This is a social network specifically for language arts teachers, but it has a great deal to offer all educators, including how to join one or more of the groups, or how to form your own professional social network.
A classroom network you might like to try is http://www.nicenet.org./ You need to register but everything is free. If you want to practice, go to the link. Click on "Join a Class" and enter the Class Key to set up your account. Let me know via email. I have allowed any "student" to add links, calendar events, class assignments, make comments, hold conferences, etc. The key is: E6668EW46. Let's experiment. It could be a good way to extend your PLCs online.
Another idea is one that the art department has embraced. Order Teach With Your Strengths by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo ann Miller and take an assessment to discover your top five strengths out of 34. Join with others who have your strengths or complement your strengths to make a powerful team. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Vision to Last 100 Years

Nikki's simulation on the Great Depression a few weeks back helped me appreciate all the more my Aunt Bea's 100 years of living, celebrated this past weekend by 300 friends and family members from all over the US. She was just turning 20 when the Great Depression hit. Her life story via video gave a glimpse of the roaring 20's followed by the crash of the stock market. I truly understand why she has worked so hard and lived so frugally with the constant goal of self improvement and self sufficiency. She succeeded because of a vision she had for the future. She actually had the goal of living for 100 years - in good health - just like her mother did!A book I read on the plane on my way home from the celebration, Tapping Student Effort by Steve Barkley, stresses the importance of helping our students establish their own vision of success. He talks especially about our intentional non-learners. Only by helping them find their strengths or abilities and showing them how just a little effort can multiply that ability can we hope to motivate them. Janet points out our many students who have found their strengths and understand how effort multiplies their abilities. How do we help all of our students find their strengths? By getting to know them and helping them visualize the possibitilies instead of focusing on their weaknesses - by not giving up on them no matter what. Here one of Cynthia's freshman envisions what she will look like at graduation in her cap and gown with diploma in hand 4 years from now. All Cynthia's students were photographed so that they could imagine the possibilities. They carry their planners to every class in order to take the small steps in the right direction. The academic word for the week is appropriately ACHIEVE. Help them achieve by frequently encouraging the use of planners in your classes as a way to set goals and check off those small steps to future success.
Note below (and in past entries) some West teachers who make an effort to know their students and help them visualize the possibilities. Susi models good health and personal fitness as well as a positive outlook for her students and West faculty. You would never know she has had her own personal obstacles to overcome - think pink. t Bobby and Julie Ann work diligently toward grading practices that give students immediate feedback on progress toward mastery of essential learning skills, using the results of those assessments to direct their next steps in lesson preparation. They exemplify teamwork and creative thinking in this effort which they are willing to share with West staff.Pat helps our students in math lab and Algebra I visualize how we use math every day. Karen fosters higher level thinking skills through modeling literacy strategies for students doing research and shares her classroom via video with the faculty. Thanks, Karen. Thanks to our media specialists, Liz, Candy and Talana for tech support and to Josh for making popcorn and Krista for providing helpers and treats. I was sorry to have to miss the show. Click here for a link to the bookmark you received - a pdf file from a website that also provides a wealth of other graphic organizers. Mary has used these same literacy strategies in a step-by-step version with her ELL's. See Say Something from Anita Archer.Papo strengthens connections between home and school adding support for ELL students.Lisa holds students accountable for attendance, pointing to the correlation between regular attendance and success in school.Nancy converses with her students in German to introduce and practice new vocabulary. Here she models guided reading, instructing her students in small groups through which differentiated learning opportunities are provided daily. Other students practice vocabulary of their choice with Quizlet, a flashcard website which allows classrooms to set up their own personalized sets for familiarization, learning, testing and proficiency.

Steve has students preassess their understanding of the history of life on earth by placing major events along a timeline. Then he presents fossil evidence which helps them adjust their thinking. He motivates students to read more about these ideas with a display of books from his own personal library with names such as Snowball Earth and The Day the Earth Almost Died. He shares his ideas with students but reminds them that there are no definitive answers to this age old question of how life started on earth. Perhaps they will be the ones to discover the answers. Oh, the possibilities. Matt makes his expectations for project-based learning clear through checklists and rubrics. He uses a 5-point grading scale. Ask him about it.
At the May 4 faculty meeting, you marked an observation form while observing Karen use four components of our district literacy model - modeled, shared, guided, and intentional independent reading. My focus for May will be to help you assess your use of these reading components in your classroom. Send me an email. I will get you on my calendar. It won't be quite an fun as attending prom with Jeanette, Jolie, Bryan and Tami, but it may be almost as enlightening. You will discover new strengths and get a better vision of future possibilities. I am only an email away.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Out of Your Comfort Zone

Nikki got out of her comfort zone on Earth Day. She took a trip into the past with her students to THE BIG DEPRESSION. The students, working as couples, budgeted, paid bills, saved money in the bank and bought treats until the Stock Market crashed. Then Nikki went around with pink slips for all the "husbands." No more $10 paychecks. They had to stretch their initial $100 over five years. By the end of the period, "families" were putting their children in orphanages because they couldn't buy them food. They were making their own clothes, selling their cars and houses, and setting up cardboard box houses in Hooverville. Nikki was trying this simulation for the first time. The students were totally engaged in living out the depression in "happiness," that is, ending up with at least $1 and not having to go to jail.
It made me think of Steve Barkley's April 19th entry "Pondering Out Loud," a most informative and thought-provoking educational BLOG that I follow every week. His biggest tenet currently is that we need to increase teacher effort to get kids to invest effort. He proposes that "there are too many kids who are too comfortable too much of the school day. " There are also "too many teachers who are too comfortable too much of the day." Speaking as a teacher, I know we could take offense to this. What I think he means is that we often teach without reflecting enough on the outcome for kids. Susi A and the rest of the PE department would agree with Steve in this BLOG entry on one major point -we really need more daily exercise and more movement in our classrooms. This leads to thoughts about teaching to different learning styles. If you read to the bottom of the April 19 entry, you will find a free learning style assessment for any teacher and up to ten students. This assessment is worth the click.