Thursday, November 10, 2011

Welcome edcampPDX participants - Classroom Community Building

Here are some links to resources we may talk about today - hopefully you'll leave some more on the edcampPDX wiki or in the comments.

At the Beginning of the Year
Letter to Students - docx | doc | pdf
Information Sheet  - docx | doc | pdf
Classroom Grid - docx | doc | pdf

Throughout the Year
Conversation Calendar - docx | doc | pdf
Letters to Students -  docx | doc | pdf
Membership Grid - pdf

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Brain Dance

At the beginning of this year I attended a new teachers academy, as I was a new teacher in Beaverton School District.  As expected, some information was a review, and some was valuable new ideas.

One of those ideas was the Brain Dance.  This was developed by Ginger Habel, a mentor-teacher in Beaverton, for her Master's thesis.  When students find out or enter the classroom to take a quiz or test, they are in a fight or flight mode, with most of the blood in their brain stem.  This does not serve them in an academic environment as all the information and analytic prowess is centered in the now oxygen-starved cerebrum.

The purpose of the Brain Dance is to move blood from the brain stem to the cerebrum by getting them active and making them laugh.  Which, as you can tell from the video of me leading the Brain Dance before a quiz earlier this week, is well accomplished by the dance routine.

I forgot some of the original moves when I first taught them the Brain Dance, and they have stuck.  But here's the original list Ginger Habel was kind enough to send me:

After the Sunrise: 3 big yoga breaths.  Start arms low and breath in while arms reach for the sky
Chariots of Fire:  Slow mo run
Staying Alive: Disco move- point left cross body (2) point right cross body (2) both arms (2-3)
YMCA: You know this one!
Hand Jive: Hit legs twice, clap twice, shuffle twice, pound it twice then point right then left
Billie Jean:  Moon walk
Thriller: Scary hands (right, left right) then walk, scary hands again, walk back finish with scary hands
Chicken Dance: You know this one
Ice Ice Baby: This is the running man or run backwards (The Jerk- some kids call it)
Mony Mony: Ride the pony!  Lasso in air, reins in hands and gallop around in a circle
Jump Around: Just jump up and down
The Rose: Butterfly hands up left, Butterfly hands up right, then swirl from high to low and end with right arm reaching toward sky (like it's growing!)
What is Love: Head bobs- 4 to the right, 4 to the left then repeat both sets
Cotton-Eyed Joe: Cowboy kick right and left or a variation of jumping around
Hey Ya: Shopping cart, Lawn mower start, Sprinkler then end with Yoga breaths as music fades.

And I will link to the CD track in this post next week - the CD lives next to my school CD player right now.

Update: 12/21/2011 - Sorry this took so long, y'all.  Here's the CD track.  I'm not sure how much bandwidth I have, so if you have trouble downloading it, come back and try again the next day.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Three Ways to Show Students Respect

My greatest strength as a teacher is my ability to build relationships with students1.  Collette pointed me towards this TED Talk; fresh ammo for the new year2.

Update: I remember now that this video freezes periodically throughout the talk, but the sound continues and the video eventually catches up. Keep listening.

Update 8/20/11 7:03PM: Angela Maiers has a follow up post to this video here.

1. When I remember that it's my greatest strength and use those skills.  Sometimes we forget what we're good at. [Go back.] 2. If someone gives me a job.  If not, those who call me in to sub, you are on notice.  I will be telling your students they are geniuses.  [Go back.]

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Welcome edcampPDX Participants

Here are links to the different tools I'll reference today:

THIEVES Previewing
Article of the Week Example

Good News Sites

Scholastic News
Headlines Spot for Kids
Science News for Kids
CNN (video)

Lexile Analyzer 

If you have further questions or ideas about prior knowledge, content area literacy, or anything education, continue the discussion in the comments or on Twitter @bleckley.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Best of Pedagogy in Practice

If you've come here because you're looking at my application to work in your school, I've put together this post with links to a few of my posts that I consider to contain my best thoughts on education.  Being push-button publishing, blogging doesn't always produce fully developed thoughts; however, I strive to publish my best reflections using this medium.  I hope you enjoy them, and thank you for your interest.

I hope my regular readers will enjoy this updated trip into the archives as well.  And now that summer vacation has started, look out, because I've got at least five drafts just screaming to see the light of day.

Why I Blog
It's About the Teaching

A Conversation With My Wife
One Trick Pony

Explicit Reading Instruction
Teaching Reading: A Reflection and a Way Forward
Book Clubs
Multiple Intelligences of Teaching Poetry

Rethinking Vocabulary Instruction
Semantic Mapping Website
Human Brain Cloud

Writing and Grammar
Giving Feedback
Correcting Writing Errors
Teaching Grammar

Classroom Management
Learning Students' Names
Disciplinary Interventions
Conversation Calendars

Individual Formative Assessment with Graphs

Professional Development
Summer Reading 2011
Welcome OCTE Conference Colleagues
Readicide Book Review

General Pedagogy
Third Times a Charm: IEP Assignment
WebQuests Are So Cool!
IEPs for Every Student
Classroom Community Building

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Reading 2011 on Twitter

My copy of Classroom Assessment & Grading that Work just arrived.  This evening or tomorrow, I'll start the reading due Saturday, this year tweeting responses as I read with the hashtag #PIPreading.  If you're reading or have read Classroom Assessment, hopefully you'll help make this more than a one sided conversation.  I'll be searching Twitter for that hashtag, but if you'd like to leave your Twitter ID in the comments, I'll just follow you.  Mine is bleckley.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Reading Schedule

So looking at the page counts we're dealing with, we've got 770 pages to cover in 10 weeks.  That's about 77 pages per week.  Hopefully I'm not the only one having second thoughts.

Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work
  • By Saturday, July 2, read through page 88.
  • By Saturday, July 9, finish the book.

Narrative Counseling in Schools
  • By Saturday, July 16, read through page 87
  • By Saturday, July 23, finish the book.

Comprehensive Classroom Management
  • By Saturday, July 30, read through page 76
  • By Saturday, August 6, read through page 155
  • By Saturday, August 13, read through page 254 (ouch)
  • By Saturday, August 20, read through page 330
  • By Saturday, August 27, read through page 428 (ouch again)
  • Saturday, September 3 - catch-up day if needed 
I realize this isn't ideal for those not on the west coast.  Should we knock out Marzano or Winslade in just a week to accomodate those who'll start school around August 20th?  Your questions, comments, concerns, threats, and tomatoes are are welcomed in the comments.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Twitter for Students

I've talked about it for sometime.  Last year, I even had my students choose user names and everything.  Next year, provided I find a place to work, despite what internet filters are in place, I will make this happen.

I don't think I'd use it in the same way Legaspi does here - it looks like all the discussion is happening on Twitter.  Seems like it could be used in addition to classroom discussion, as a sort of background chatter that continues after class.  And did you hear what Oscar Lorozia said about feeling valued and respected in the classroom.

Yeah, it's gotta happen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Individualized Formative Assessment with Graphs Galore

I've blogged about this before, but recently I made some essential tweaks and stumbled upon the scientific basis for it from . . . wait for it . . . Marzano.  Bam!  That's right!  Oh yes, I most certainly did!  Get ready, as Tom Fuller would say, to pick up what I'm about to throw down1:

First, credit to Tonya for showing me this originally for use on OAKS, Oregon's state test.

Your students take a test.  In this case, it's a multiple choice test on identifying figurative language in Romeo & Juliet.  You spent a day or two going over the many different types of figurative language Shakespeare employs, using 2.2.1-30, where we first meet Friar Laurence (O'Brien, 1993, p. 156).  Then, you give them a short test on identifying some examples of simile, metaphor, personification, classical allusion, and soliloquy from Romeo & Juliet.

Now, if you're like me, you give your answer key to your student TA and ask her to mark wrong ones and put the total out of 13 at the top.  You just happen to check out Marzano's Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work from the professional development library on the same day.  You get home and sit down with a cup of tea for some easy reading, and get this:

(2006, p. 5)

And you're like "woah, -3% gain in student achievement!  That's not good!"

So the next day, you give your TA the tests again and ask her nicely to write the correct answer next to the ones she crossed off, explaining that it's not her fault, while she rolls her eyes.  Then you pop open Excel, because you want that .70 effect size.

So yeah, a class wide graph of their results.  That's cool.  You know what's cooler?  When every student gets a personalized copy of one of these2:

You know you need to hit simile through classical allusion on your reteach.  This student knows they need to study up on personification first, with a little bit of simile and classical allusion2.  You reteach, grade, graph.  The student gets a new chart that looks like this:

You get a new graph that looks like this:

A 24% improvement on similes, 30% on classical allusion, and 13% on soliloquies.  It feels awesome to know that your students can identify a simile or classical allusion written by the Bard over 80% of the time.  Not bad, but for the third test you know to prepare them by hitting metaphors and personification over the head since you're grading by proficiency, and your student is just a couple points below your required 10 out of 13.

One could use this on more than just multiple choice tests.  Rubrics that were used multiple times throughout the year, like 6-traits, could be charted to show student's growth in writing and areas to improve.

To give you a jump start, here's the blank Excel file - I've left the formulas in so you can see how they work.  I'm also including all the materials I used for this lesson, just in case you want to use it for Romeo & Juliet.

Excel results graph
Figurative Language Study Guide
Figurative Language Test #1
Figurative Language Test #2
Figurative Language Test #3

Works Cited

Marzano, R.  (2006).  Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

O'Brien, P., Roberts, J. A., Tolaydo, M., Goodwin, N.  (1993).  Shakespeare set free: Teaching Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Macbeth.  New York: Washington Square Press.

1. My here intention is unbridled enthusiasm rather than any sort of pretentious arrogance.  Hopefully that's what's coming across. Go back.

2. The first time you make this in Excel, it does take some time - up to an hour depending on how savvy you are.  But once you have that chart created, you can just adapt it for every test afterwards.  Maybe 30 minutes for data entry, depending on how many sections you have.  I know time is precious, but try it once and go over the results in class with the graphs, and I think you'll see that it's worth it. Go back.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Reading 2011

As I did last summer, I'll be doing some summer reading and blogging about three professional development books.  This year, if you care to read along, I'll be posting a reading schedule here in one week's time, and tweeting reading responses as bleckley on Twitter with the tag #PIPreading - I'll probably be more reliable with 140 characters than with a full post per chapter. 

Consider this your notice to track down the titles - links go to, where you'll find a number of sources for finding these titles on the upper right side of the screen including Amazon, Abe's, and WorldCat.

Marzano, R. J.  2006.  Classroom assessment and grading that work.  Alexandra, VA: ASCD.

Another meta-analysis of best practice for the classroom.  Marzano compiles hundreds of studies on assessment and calculates the effect size of various strategies, helping readers determine what will best help their students grow.  I got a chance to peruse the first chapter this spring and have a great post scheduled to publish this coming Monday.  This is the science of teaching at its best.

Winslade, J. M. & Monk, G. D.  2007.  Narrative counseling in schools (2nd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

A suggestion from my partner Jennie from the place where social work and education meet.  Narrative counseling is talk therapy that places problems outside the individual - rather than the student has behavior problems, behavior problems affect the student.  "If we are located in a school story line as dumb, mischievous, or a bad egg, there is a tendency to live our lives according to the contours of the problem story laid out before us by such a description" (p. 3).  The objective of narrative therapy is to help the student rewrite that story line.  I would argue that teachers are the ones most responsible for writing the original story line to begin with, so who better to help the students rewrite it (besides Jill Griffin or other incredibly amazing school counselors)?

Winslade and Monk describe how to do a narrative therapy step-by-step, and how to apply it to different situations.  They also discuss bringing narrative therapy into schools and the resistance one might face.

I'm pretty gung-ho about this one, so if you find yourself skeptical, I'd appreciate having you read along and help keep me reading critically.

Jones, V. & Jones, L.  Comprehensive classroom management: Creating communities of support and solving problems (9th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Publishers.

This is the book on classroom management I should have read in college.  In January 2010, I read Marzano's Classroom Managment that Works, and while it gave me some quick, go-to strategies, it barely brushed the surface.  Comprehensive Classroom Management is certainly comprehensive.  It tackles the issue from a solutions-based, prevention viewpoint.  I only got a chance to read one chapter this year, but that alone made a huge difference in the tone of my classroom.

This one is $90 new and the cheapest I found used was $50, so you may want to do an inter library loan on this one.  I'll be reading it last, as I'll be waiting for a copy to come in from some distant college library as well.

Marzano, R. J.  2007.  The art and science of teaching.  Alexandra, VA: ASCD.

This is a bonus book if there's time before school starts back up.  More Marzano for the coffers.  Quite a title for such a thin book . . . we'll see if it lives up to it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Draft Excerpt

Thought I'd share this student's rough draft of his introductory paragraph.  He takes the whole idea of topic choices to task:
Did Romeo and Juliet really kill themselves?  I think three different groups may have killed them.  In this school forced essay I will explain my reasoning.  I first think the parents of them forced them to make the bad decision, the Friar Lawrence could have done it also, and the Apothecary.
I hope that third sentence makes it into the final draft.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blast from the Past: In Pentameter

I was digging thorugh some files in the basement today and came across a piece of paper with this sonnet on it, which I'd date from my student teaching days.

My students do not feel motivated:
She falls asleep, he stares and yawns and stares.
Sometimes I feel as if they are fated
To sit, quiet, apathetic in chairs.
I praise them, give them fun work to complete:
"Good job, Johnny!" "Keep working hard, Susan!"
But the enthusiasm fails.  'Tis feat
To win my students' hearts; I am losin'.
Yet just as a fair maiden requires
Specific commentary to be wooed,
Likewise learners will light their own fires
Of motivation and curious mood.
The difference 'tween Encouragement and praise
One is specific, one an empty phraise.

(Though, I'd say now, motivation is just a little more complex than that . . .)

Fun Fact: The other half of the paper this sonnet was found on contains ideas for a graphic novella about a mind reading super hero turned teacher who uses his powers to determine what would motivate his students until he's involved in a violent car crash and loses his abilities.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Research Paper Assignment

This is what I'm introducing to my 8th grade reading workshop tomorrow.  How you like them high-expectation-apples, foo?

Research Paper

Assignment: You will write a 3-5 page paper on a topic of your choice. Choose something you've always been interested in or have questions about. You need to have a total of 10 sources that you look at for the paper. Three need to be books, three need to be journal articles, and the remaining four can be from any source (books, journals, websites, newspapers, etc.)

You will practice previewing each of the 10 sources you choose. You must use all of THIEVES with two. You may choose parts of THIEVES with four others and use KWL with the remaining four. THIEVES works best with journal articles and websites – not so well with books – you wouldn't want to read every first sentence of every paragraph in a book, right?

Rationale: Completing this assignment will put you ahead of the game for high school, where you'll have to cite sources starting freshman year and write a research paper sophomore year. It will also give you an opportunity to try out different strategies for previewing and reading informational text and decide which ones work best for you.

Format: Your paper must be typed in Times New Roman font, 12 point, double spaced, with one inch margins. Your paper must have a title. It must also have an annotated works cited and works referenced page. This means with each source you use, you will need to write a brief summary (using the Keep/Delete/Substitute strategy we learned in class). The paper must also include at least five in-text citations from different sources. You must also create three text features (diagrams, pictures, graphs, etc.).

Grading: This paper will be read and graded using the same five point system we've used all year. However, it will receive numerous grades, one on each of the following skills:
  • Summarizing
  • Previewing text
  • Citing sources in text
  • Creating a works cited page
  • Using and creating text features
These skills will make up most if not all of your grade for third quarter.

Tentative Schedule:
  • January 26 – Topic Proposal Due
  • January 27, 31, & February 1 – Research in the library
  • February 3, 21, 24, & 28 – Drafting in the computer lab, additional research as necessary
  • February 28 – First Draft Due
  • March 3 & 7 – Self revision in the computer lab using STAR, conferences with Mr. B
  • March 7 – Second Draft Due
  • March 8 & 9 – Peer Revisions
  • March 10, 14 & 17– Revising in the computer lab
  • March 17 – Final Draft Due
  • March 19 – Spring Break!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ben 365/11

For those interested, I'm doing a photo-a-day blog with the camera I got for Christmas.