Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Read Aloud to Children?

(The following are exerts by Jim Trelease, New York Times Bestseller The Read-Aloud Hanbook.  Mrs. Austin, one of Amana's 4/5 teachers whom I view as an expert in reading instruction, provided this information to me)
  • The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children
  • Without the "want-to," all the "how-to" drill work (reading instruction) is not going to create a lifetime reader.  Your reading aloud is what builds the child's "want-to."
  • Reading aloud...conditions the child to associate reading with pleasure, creates background knowledge, builds "book" vocabulary, and provides a reading role model
  • Regardless of sex, race, nationality, or socioeconomic background-students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest.  Conversely, those who don't read much, cannot get better at it.
  • Reading regularly to a child helps to close the gap and give the at-risk child a "head" start, especially important since most instruction in school for the first four years is oral
  • The larger the vocabulary, the better the child understands the teacher and the lesson
How can I give my child words if I don't have them myself?  All the words you may be missing can be found at the "people's university"-the free public library (and Mrs. Cooper and the staff at Amana provide a world class library!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Some interesting technological happenings in Amana:

(This is just a snip-it of the great teaching and learning involving technology at Amana)

1.  I've got some 4th grade helpers inputting our 100 great things about Amana (started as a 100s day project).  The helpers are creating a document in Google Docs, shared it with each other and me.  Very cool.  I am hoping to link the doc on a later blog.

2.  Mrs. Austin's class is continuing book talks with middle school students.  The students are using iChat and sharing books live from Amana and from the middle school.

3.  Mimio boards and training.  We got some more in-service this week on the mimio boards (graciously donated by the Amana PTO). Very cool.  Mrs. Toy's student teacher is incorporating the technology in her lessons.  We have mimios in three classrooms.  They are being used and the kids love it!

4.  We can't seem to keep our computers in the lab.  I love walking into the classrooms and seeing students sitting engaged, working on the computer or walking into the 1st grade and seeing the class using technology as part of their literature instruction and watching the kindergarten using Starfall to help reinforce letter recognition (check it out online) to name just a few uses.

5.  The preschoolers also have a computer center.  So cute. (I have a goal for this year to purchase at least one iPad for the preschool class.  So many great applications.  My own kindergarten daughter loves our personal iPad.  Very engaging.  As always, I have an idea for some funding...)

6.  Mrs. Cooper.  I can't thank her enough for her tireless efforts to integrate technology into the students' learning. 

7.  Last (and certainly not least) I want to recognize my wife Susan for all the hard work she does on the CCA website.  It's a tremendous source of information.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day!

I'm not sure who invented Valentines day.  Pretty sure they were candy makers, florists, or card companies.  Doesn't matter, I would like to thank them.  Valentines in an elementary is awesome.  7 sweetie grams, two heart shaped boxes of chocolate, two bags of chocolate, untold amount of valentines cards and enough candy to fill my candy bucket for a while (until the kids find it again).  Lots of hugs and "Happy Valentines day Mr. Macumber."  I love the way they try to spell Macumber.  My wife got to spend the day helping with the 2/3 party and the kindergarten party.  Very special day.  Happy Valentines day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ending the "not enough time/not enough money" argument

I have never met anybody who makes just enough money or has just enough time.  I have certainly had lots of conversations with people who make too little (or know someone who makes too much).  There's never enough time!  To this I ask, "why?"  Yes, there are new initiatives in education.  Proven methods of teaching and research on how students learn.  So shouldn't we say to the teacher who asks, "where does the time come from?" with "stop doing the things that are inefficient and ineffective, that's where you get the time."  I know there is a lot asked of teachers, principals, parents, kids, support staff etc.  But we get the kids from 8:00a.m. till 3:15p.m.  Let's use the time we have to inspire them and educate them.  Find out what they know and figure out ways to instruct what they don't.  Instead of letting students power down their brains only to go home to explore what they are interested in, inspire them to go home and continue their education through media, art, networking etc.  There!  There's the extra time we need.  When my son comes home and wants to learn more about slavery and discrimination, then I know the lesson taught in school ranked pretty high an Bloom's Taxonomy.  My son has never come home and just begged me to find him more worksheets. 

Money is a little more tricky, who can't use more money?  Again, I can sit back and lament on the fact that the school could use more money, I could use more support staff, I could use air conditioning in my building and perhaps a new set of office furniture.  I could take the time to lament on those issues, but wouldn't that be a waste of time and money?  There, I just saved some more time and money.

We should be focusing on making our time better used and our money better spent.  Wishing and wondering will not make those things happen.  Let's stop thinking of the million things we have to do in the little bit of time, and let's start thinking about the strides we can make if we focus on the student, the learning, and the education as a whole instead of all it's little pieces. 

If you do feel compelled to argue time and money, I promise to find some time to discuss the issue.  But it will cost you.  I don't work for free.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


(Clear Creek Amana District Leadership Committee)

Very good conversations last night with community, board, staff and students.  The topic of Standards Based grading came up. There was some concerned looks and questions.  One parent wanted to make sure we weren't lowering our standards.  Quite the opposite!  "As long as you don't get rid of grades, I know what a B is".  Interesting comment.  What is a B?  People make the assumption they know because a B is better than a C.  If I get an A I must have done something really good. 

Food for thought:  Student #1 turns in all her homework, brings in the Kleenex for extra credit, struggles with quizzes and bombs the tests gets a B for the semester. Student #2 turns in none of his homework, does OK with the quizzes but aces the test and gets a C for the semester.  Who learns more? 

It's a trick question.  We still don't know.  Assessment for Learning (formative assessment) focuses assessment on what the student does know which creates an opportunity to provide instruction on what the student needs.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hours not days

Counting hours not days?  Currently legislation mandates 180 days of instruction.  Proposed legislation could change that to counting hours, not days.  What do you think?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bohemian Rahpsody-Very cool

If you have never heard of Ted Talks, check it out.  I found this awesome version of Bohemian Rahpsody.

Here Comes the Snow

It was bound to happen.  Snow has arrived in force.  Two hour early out today.  We'll see about Wednesday.  Keep an eye on the news, website, and announcement lines.  Drive safe everyone.