Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What to do over the summer????

If your district is like ours, you are winding up for the year about now. The countdown has begun for teachers and students in a happy way and sadly for parents! The question we hear most from parents is "What do we do over the summer to keep my child's skills fresh?". Usually parents are looking for something inexpensive and easy to access. I don't blame them.

Teachers are the kings and queens of finding items and activities on the cheap. Typically I like to recommend our public library as a resource. They usually will have some type of a reading program for the children to encourage reading over the summer. Our public library even offers the children incentives of prizes for a certain number of books read over the summer. Barnes & Nobel has a similar summer reading program available nation-wide.

The next question we hear is "What should my child read?". Luckily our district has what we call Championship Playbooks for each grade level. Within each playbook is a recommended reading list for the summer. I am posting our list for first grade going to second.

Suggested Summer Reading List for First Graders
Moving Up to Second Grade
Level Name of Book
E All By Myself by Mercer Mayer
O Bats by Gail Gibbons
M Berenstain Bears by Jan and Stan Berenstain
I Big Dog, Little Dog by PD Eastman
G Carrot Seed by Robert Kraus
G Curious George by H.A. Rey
J Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
K Franklin and the Tooth Fairy by Paulette Bourgeois
K Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
K Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crock Johnson
G Just Grandpa and Me by Mercer Mayer
L Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
J Little Bear (series) by Elise Minarik
P Magic School Bus (series) by Joanna Cole
M Mitten, The by Jan Brett
O Moon Book, the by Gail Gibbons
J Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel
J Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel
J Mr. Putter and Tabby (series) by Cynthia Rylant
K Nate the Great... (series) by Marjorie Sharmat
J One Fish, Two Fish by Dr. Seuss
G Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
J Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
J There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
I There's An Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer
M Three Names by Patricia McLaughlin
M Thunder Cake by Patricia Pollaco
J Very Hungry Catapillar by Eric Carle
H We Are Best Friends by Aliki
M When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant
F Who Will Be My Friends? By Syd Hoff

We use the Rigby reading levels to rank books from A-Z (easy to more difficult). This list gives a variety of levels to choose from for your child. You can find our Championship Playbooks at : http://www.cityschools.net/instruction/instruction_news/championship_playbook.php. You can find the first grade list on page 26 of the first grade playbook.

Remember: if you ask the children what they need to do over the summer they will tell you that they need to be swimming in the pool. But children cannot live by chlorinated water alone! They need to stretch those brains and continue reading over the summer. So check out your local library and see what type of summer program they offer.

See you in August!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Using iTunes apps in reading

My district is a Mac district. All of the computers are Macs and we love it. I have been the owner of iPods since the beginning and have adored seeing how they have changed and grown through the years in capability. As someone who works with students who struggle academically I have struggled to find different ways to approach students so that I engage their interest in addition to helping them overcome learning difficulties. Today I hit the jackpot! I love iTunes apps. I'll admit it, I'm an app addict. I adore my iTouch and think every child could use one in the classroom in a variety of ways academically. Today I found 153 FREE APPS using materials from Reading A-Z.com!! These free apps allow students to use the reader books on their reading level on the iTouch (or if you are lucky, iPad). The list of apps can be found at http://books.readsmart.com/LAZ/free.html. The apps are through Language Technologies, Inc. So take a moment and go check them out. Don't just use the iPod for audiobooks, look into how an iTouch could be used with apps to work on reading skills. I know I will be looking into what else is in the app store!

Monday, May 10, 2010

What to do about students being pulled out for services?

Found at:  http://www.theeducationcenter.com/tec/afc/learning/professionalcorner/NightmareonPulloutStreet/go.do

Nightmare on Pullout Street

Freddy has to go to speech now. Nancy's back from AG. Jimmy's still in the resource room. Help!

Dear The Mailbox magazine,

Every day, kids are pulled out of my class for various reasons, and it's driving me nuts. I know the pullouts are necessary, but when students come back to class, they're behind in their work and they've missed important instruction. I'm also finding that since I spend more time playing catch-up with these students, I don't have time to move forward with the fun projects I've planned. What can I do to make this less of a nightmare?

Any Town, USA

Dear Pulling-Your-Hair-Out,

Try using one or more of the following strategies to help you deal with the ins and outs of pullout programs.

  1. Create a weekly class calendar that outlines activities and assignments. If students miss instructional time or assignments, their first responsibility is to refer to the calendar for the information. Also pair students for peer tutoring. When students return to class, check their calendars, and find that they have questions, they can ask their peer tutors to explain the information. Using these methods will keep you from having to field all the questions.
  2. Analyze the traffic flow in and out of your classroom by creating a sign-out form to keep near your door. When teachers arrive to take students to special classes, have them sign the form for documentation. Use this information to determine when the most and least interruptions occur; then consider the following options:
    • Adjust your schedule so that core-curriculum instruction is held when most of your students are present.
    • Add a catch-up period to your daily schedule to give students time to complete work that they've missed.
    • Develop a list of times when pullout programs would best fit into your schedule. If feasible, ask teachers of those programs whether they would adjust their schedules.
    • Discuss the pullout concern with colleagues who teach at the same grade level. Simply trading a few students' pullout times may improve everyone's schedules.
    • Plan ahead. If schedules can't be changed now that your school year has started, prepare to develop a working program for next year.
  3. Go ahead and start the "fun projects" while your pullout students are out of the classroom. As these students return, they will usually integrate quickly into these types of learning activities with the help of their classmates. This approach allows you to include fun projects even though all your students are not present for the introduction.

  4. Work with the remedial instructors to incorporate classroom topics and skills into their lessons whenever possible. The students don't feel as if they're "missing out" if they focus on the same subjects.
  5. Meet with the other teachers involved and reschedule the pullout times so that more convenient blocks of time are created. Whenever possible, schedule all your pullout students to be out of the classroom at the same time, which creates fewer interruptions.
  6. Pair the students in your classroom (not just those who are pulled out) so that every child has the opportunity to be a peer tutor. When students who have been pulled out return to class, they can ask their partners for help. You'll find that students take pride in helping each other. This buddy system will also prove helpful if a student is absent from school or is having difficulty with a particular assignment. It's a good solution for everyone involved.
  7. If disruptions of numerous pullouts have become a huge problem, try the following steps toward a solution:
    • Bring your concerns to the attention of your administrator and the other specialists involved.
    • Create a large chart to show all pullouts throughout the day. This will vividly depict the magnitude of the problem.
    • Determine times when no pullouts will be scheduled; then create a reasonable schedule for the pullout sessions.
    • Occasionally, try rescheduling a pullout session during a recess time. Most students don't mind this change in their play schedule once in a while.
  8. Prepare a recording sheet that lists categories such as name, subject, pages to read, assignment, and time or date it's due. When a student leaves for an out-of-the-classroom program, place the blank recording sheet on his or her desk. As you introduce information, write it on the sheet so the student will have a complete record of what was covered during his or her absence. You might try having a student fill in the information to make the task less intrusive on your teaching time.
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