Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reading Rocks!

Teaching kids to read is not that hard. Most of my pupils have learned to decode, and read with fluency, and some can even entertain you with wonderful expression. Teaching them to read with comprehension, however, is a different matter. At our school we found that a great number of children tested very low on understanding of reading material. We used AsTTle assessment tests, and an alarming 84% of my pupils were unable to infer or make connections!

This term I have used some amazing tools, online and 'manual' to support me in my teaching of comprehension strategies.
  • Our school has adopted the First Steps program. This staff development program comes with comprehensive manuals and great resources. The trainers are professional, experienced and inspirational. The resource books include heaps of fun teaching ideas, games and guidelines. Unfortunately, the program is not online or interactive, but still a fantastic teaching and planning resource. The program is in line with the new NZ curriculum, but I'm sure is adaptable to most international curriculums, and is being used world-wide.
  • In our reading resource room, I came across a long-forgotten gem: SRA Reading Laboratory. I remember using it as a child, and I believe that my life-long love of reading can be directly attributed to this program. Although our set is a bit out-dated, it's still relevant and interesting for my pupils. How do I know? Well, they love it. I haven't seen kids so enthusiastic about written comprehension tests for ages. Even the boys have taken to the self-evaluating 'Power Builders', and work independantly and steadily, with very little motivation from me.
  • My all-time favourite online tool this term has been Into the Book. I have downloaded beautiful posters, songs and worksheets from the Teacher's Area. The Student's area is colourful, interactive and exactly on the right level for my Year 5's. The kids love the songs and we have been using the videos each week on the Smartboard as a whole class activity to introduce the strategy of the week. There are usually 3 or 4 interactive lessons to support each strategy, so I've been using them as follow-ups during our daily warm-up lesson before we break into groups. They focus on eight research-based strategies: Using Prior Knowledge, Making Connections, Questioning, Visualizing, Inferring, Summarizing, Evaluating and Synthesizing. Your class can watch their engaging 15-minute videos, and try the online interactive activities.
  • Another favourite website is Busy Teacher's Cafe. This cute website is jam-packed with teacher-friendly tools. It has a special area for Language Arts, with links to a variety of great resources.
  • If you haven't found Woodlands Junior School's website yet, check it out now. This award-winning British school site is fantastic! Although the interface is a bit staid, and not as flashy as some sites, it is not only super for Literacy, but also really useful for Maths and other learning areas. They have a link to some very handy comprehension tests, which are great for kids to do in their literacy computer time.
  • For excellent, colourful posters on Reading Comprehension strategies, try the Santa-Maria Bonita Schools website. I have downloaded and laminated these posters, and am filing them in a ring-binder for use with guided reading lessons.
Once more, this resource fits in well with all the others I have been using, so there is some continuity in my teaching and my planning is so much easier.

  • For loads more links check out the comprehension tag on my bookmarks!
I have really enjoyed teaching Guided Reading this term. Best of all though, my students have enjoyed, and looked forward to learning these strategies. It's such a thrill to see their eyes light up when they realize that they've made 'a text-to-world connection' or say 'I used my visualising strategies, Mrs T'. See more of our class in our class blog, Sparkle24.

In Room 24 we all agree: Reading Rocks!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Funky Faces

I've just had loads of fun with a cool site, called Befunky. It has a collection of applications, including a cartoonizer, uvatars and a video cartooniser.

I can't wait to use this in class to cartoonize photos and create uvatars. They can be used to enhance students blogs, or ePortfolios. It solves the problem of looking for free images, and is an easy way to protect your student's identities.

The only problem I'm having is that currently our school firewall blocks the uploading of images. I'm waiting for our techie team to sort that out.

Doesn't it just drive you crazy when you find something new, and just to find you can't apply it in class!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Blog Makeover

I've been blogging now for a little longer than 8 months, and I'm absolutely hooked! I started out, not really knowing what it was all about. My first few posts were, well to say the least, mundane!

Now that I actually get it, and have started making some friends in the blogosphere, and actually get comments occasionally - I thought it might be time for a makeover. I've changed the name of this blog, too. (Derek may get away with having his own name in his blog name, being so well known, but now that I know better, I'll stick to a name that actually explains what my blog is about!)

I found these Ten Tips on writing a good blog by Darren Rowse:

Here are his ten tips:

  1. Make your opinion known
  2. Link like crazy
  3. Write less
  4. 250 Words is enough
  5. Make Headlines snappy
  6. Write with passion
  7. Include Bullet point lists
  8. Edit your post
  9. Make your posts easy to scan
  10. Be consistent with your style
  11. Litter the post with keywords
That doesn't seem too hard to do! Anyone have more tips for improving my blog?