Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Summer Vacation (so far)...

Right after school I headed out for a SCUBA diving vacation.   Getting to the location, the Bay Islands of Honduras, required a long flight and I was able to dig into some reading.  I read three books that I recommend.  First, I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I had seen trailers for the movie and it looked good but I try to read the novel before seeing the film.  I got attached to the characters in the story, especially Jacob, ninety-three year old narrator.  The story gives you a peek into the life of the circus world but it was the story being told through the memory Jacob’s life that struck me and reminded me of my father.  My father is 87 and I am just now hearing stories of his life that I have never heard before.  There is a clarity in the details he tells and a distant look in his eyes.  I think he is recalling his life so vividly that he is fully absorbed.  This book absorbed me as well.  In the end notes, it was interesting read about the research that went into creating this novel.
    The second read is from an author that I call my “go to” for a fun summer read -  Carl Hiaasen.  I like his books because they keep me laughing out loud and I enjoy looking for his spin on an environmental issue that plagues Florida, the setting for most of this story.  He didn’t let me down with his novel, Star Island.  The main character, Bang Abbott, was an unlikely candidate for paparazzi and that worked well with bringing in the surprises through out the book - this is Hollywood after all!  This is just over the top with it’s link to show business and all of the star qualities that go along with being in the spotlight.  This is definitely my beach book choice of this year.
    My third book is a change in genre - nonfiction.  I try to read something that will help me with my financial place just to keep me attentive and working toward goals but this year I deviated a bit and chose Paul Sullivan’s book, Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t.  As a teacher, there are challenges were I will be asked to embrace and lead in initiating change.  I thought this book would give me insight into the qualities that would jump start me for the coming year. There were five key aspects of being clutch that were discussed in varying settings: focus, discipline, adaptability, to be present, and the fear and desire of drive.  I read the book looking at these traits through the lens of a teacher but it would be applicable to anyone.  Reading about each trait and thinking about how it could apply to teaching was relevant and I will be mindful to keep them in the forefront during challenging situations.
    So, that rounds out the fist half of my reading this summer.  I’ll share about my trip to Honduras and the fun of diving next.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pass On a Good Book!

On Wednesday, the Corinna School is having their Family Literacy Night.  The gym will be packed with families and friends to share in activities around books and writing.  One of the traditions that has evolved over the past few years is the Book Swap.  The book swap is in the center of the gym and tables are put together to lay out hundreds of books that have been donated by community member.  Inside the books are placed a small label that says:  Family Literacy Night, Pass On a Good Book!  Each child that participates in the Family Literacy Night can choose a book to take home with them.  The truly wonderful thing that has happened is there is a culture about sharing good books in our community.

Throughout the year, students and families stop by the Title 1 room to drop off books for the Book Swap.  When I talk with students about the books they like, titles are discuss and which ones should they give to the book swap.  There is nothing more fun that pawing through a sea of books in search of your next read.

Come and join us on Wednesday, March 2nd (Dr. Seuss' Birthday!) as we celebrate Family Literacy Night at the Corinna School.  The event will be held in the gym from 5:30 - 6:30 and there will be fun family activities!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January's Woodpile

There is a window in our garage where you can see the cut and split wood stacked up. It is a portal into how the weather has been through the winter months. By mid-January, you can tell if the weather has been warm because there are tiers of wood stacked up to the height of the bottom sash of the window. If the weather has been cold, there is no wood visible. This year I can see plenty of dried wood. It's comforting to see the woods stacked so high. It let's us know we have done well with conserving the use of the wood in the wood stove. The sight of wood through the garage window is like a gauge radiating out letting us know we can make it through the rest of the winter in the warmth.

Beginning next week, your child will be participating in the mid-year reading and writing assessments. These assessments serve as a gauge to help your child's teacher monitor the progress your child is making.  The results of the assessments will be stored in your child's portfolio so that you can view them.  

The Family Literacy Night is schedule for Wednesday, March 2nd from 5:30 - 6:30 in the gym.  That's Dr. Seuss's  birthday.  Be sure to mark your calendars for this fun family outing!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Hmm… What is that?

 It was a remarkable 43 degrees out today.  Unheard of on the last day of December in Maine!  I went out snowshoeing in a field in back of my house and found all kinds of beautiful dried gasses.  Many reminded me of Dr. Seuss characters with their odd formations and twisted, curly leaves but there was an odd object that I kept finding as I tromped through the field - galls. 

A gall that I found while snowshoeing.  Picture by Eliot.
It is spring
the growing green stalks
are creating storage of food.

I’ll need sustenance
during the long, cold winter.
I bubble up my mixture
and irritate.

I crawl,
surrounding myself
inside what will be
my edible sphere.

I sleep,
waiting for spring.
When I will eat
an escape hatch.

- a poem by Sheila

Sometimes a walk outside gives reasons for a fun writing project.  I wrote the poem about galls after doing a little research.  Encourage your child explore winter and chances are good that topics for writing will be abundant.

One of my favorite blogs for poetry is The Poem Farm.  In this site, the poet Amy LV has been writing a poem everyday and shares where she gets her inspiration.  Lately she has been on a non-fiction spree.  It inspired me to write about the odd formation in the field called galls.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good Fit Books

It's always interesting to talk about what a student is currently reading.  I like to take a moment to discuss with   my students what's in their book boxes.  This gives me a chance to see what titles they are reading and also an opportunity to talk about the books to see if they are understanding what they are reading.  If  book is to hard, a student may not be able to understand what they are reading.  What a student has selected to read gives me insight into their interests as well as opening up the conversation about if a book is a "Good Fit" for that student.

I enjoy this picture... look at how the bookmarks show the use of an avid reader and the corners of the book are curled from use and being toted around.  These are the books from Jamie's book box.  Jamie is a fourth grade student that I interviewed to help explain what a good fit book is. 

In the classroom, students are taught to use the I PICK ( from The Daily 5, Boushey & Moser, 2006) method to select books that hold a student's interest but are books at a reading level that is appropriate for the child so that the child can understand what they are reading. 

There are five questions that the student needs to think about when selecting books usig the I PICK method:

1. I - I choose the book.
2. Purpose - Why do you want to read it?
3. Interest - Does it interest me?
4. Comprehend - Am I understanding what I'm reading?
5. Know - I know most of the words.

I interviewed Jamie, a fourth grade student, about the books in his book box and we talked about the five questions in the I PICK method for picking "Good Fit" books.

Jamie - Good Fit Books from Sheila Cochrane on Vimeo.

 These are the three tiles that Jamie had in his book box in November 2010:

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: Book One, Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

Ranger's Apprentice: Book Two, The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

Goosebumps:  Horrorland, The Secret of the Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine

The books that currently interest Jamie are fantasy and he understands what he is reading.  What types of books is your child reading?  You can use the I PICK questions to discuss your child's choice in books and find out if the titles are a "Good Fit".

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Tricky Parts

This afternoon I went out for a run.  It was the first time since we had the snowfall at Thanksgiving and the first run this fall with distinctive signs of the winter ahead.  I knew went I set out that it would not be my fastest run and that I would need to watch out for the tricky parts along the way.  After running in Central Maine during the winter, I have learned the parts of the road that will be tricky: the place were the sun never manages to find throughout the day, the corner where the cars and trucks push the snow into a thick mound, or the highly polished black glaze that is pretending to be tar.  Knowing the tricky parts makes the run more enjoyable because I know what to do.  I either get into the fresh snow where I'll have some traction or onto the tar if the roads are clear.  I have my strategies for making my run go smoothly. 
The books that your child brings home to read should be 'good fit' books.  That is books that are at a level that is not to hard or to easy but just right.  Sometimes, your child may have a book that is more challenging and has some tricky parts in it.  There are ways that you can help your child manage through the tricky parts by asking a few questions before they start reading.
One great way to prepare your child for reading at home is to ask them about their book.  You can start off by asking why they chose it.  This will help your child think about what they know about the topic or characters in the book and gets their mind thinking about the book before they start reading.  Then you could ask them if there are any tricky parts in the book.  Usually a child will know if they have had trouble reading the book in the past or if there is a new challenge that the book brings.  Most students will be able to tell you what they will do if they come to a tricky part and share their strategy with you.  You might hear something like, “I will look for parts of the word that I know,” or “I will reread the passage (page, chapter, or part of the book) until I understand what I am reading.” 
By just checking in with your child before he or she begins reading, you can provide the support needed to begin thinking about the story and what to do when they get to a tricky part. For more ideas on helping your child, I found a nice web site that has great tips for parents on reading and writing called Reading Rockets.  Check it out!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Read to Self

There are two important ideas when it comes to reading… when you read, it helps you become a better reader and writer, AND it is fun!  In the classroom where the Daily Five is happening, you hear the students talking about read to self. 

      “Children reading to themselves is the first step in Daily Five and is the foundation for creating independent readers and writers.  On the surface—like all components in Daily Five—Read to Self seems basic and simple.  However, we have found that specific teaching techniques can make Read to Self a powerful tool for enhancing all literacy skills.” (The Daily 5 p.46)

One of the specific techniques that your child has learned in “Read to Self” is to read the pictures.  In this technique, the students look at the pictures to help them understand the what is happening in the story.  Another technique is to read the words. This is the traditional way most of us read independently.  The last technique is to retell a familiar story.  Retelling a story helps the reader remember what has happened in what they read and provides a time to think about the details in the story.  All of these techniques help your child to understand the story they are reading.
When reading to self, the student learns where to sit in the room.  This is important because you need a quiet environment in which to read.  Elaina, a fourth grader, tells us her experience with the Daily Five’s “Read to Self” in an interview:

The most important aspect of read to self is that it helps your child to build stamina in reading.  It is not uncommon for a primary student to be able to read independently for 30 minutes and an intermediate student to reading independently for 45 minutes!  Because the student has some choice in the books they are reading, it makes reading fun.  In the next entry, we’ll hear about “Good Fit Books”.