Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cultural Lenses

We made our own Cultural Lenses to start off the school year. On the left lense, you write general things about yourself--things that could describe a great many people. On the right lense, you get very specific--what makes you you. There were some really good ones, and we learned things about others that we never knew before! Things that made us the same as them and things that set us apart...

Here's mine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I wanted to document on this blog some of the things we're learning that makes us better teachers for our students. The thing I'd like to spotlight today is objectives.

All teachers have at least one (if not more!) objective that correlates to the lesson they're teaching; otherwise...they wouldn't be justified in teaching it! We were encouraged to take that good practice one step further. Since our ELLs are dealing with new content and new language, why not take some time to think intentionally about the language within your lesson? There are actually ELP standards, created by the Indiana DOE (our very own Wendy Long was part of that committee!) to help guide the language portion of your lesson.

Here's an example of how we used this in our classroom:

Up close:

It's so helpful to keep in mind the language of the lesson. And using ELP standards helps you do just that!

Cool side-note feature: we post our objectives for students to see. Totally gives them a context in which to place their learning. And. Totally stole that idea from a teacher at Leesburg. "Teacher" is really code for "thief!" :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So there have been a lot of changes...

 2009-2010 CHANGES
by Sarah S. Steele

It’s finally the day before the big day of the year
The kids are almost back now, and I think that I can hear
The quiet sounds of pencils writing, brains in thinking mode
And that’s when I remember all the changes that are coming
That make me want to start running
That will make my head explode!

Our class numbers are growing, although not our teachers’ aides
Our Sitton isn’t spelling “wonderful” like we had prayed
We want to learn to use our white boards with our Mimios
But the remotes for our projectors cannot reach outside our doorposts
                  Down the ever-winding hallways
                  To the place where they are stowed!

The math, of course, is different—grouping students into clusters
The 80% mastery has teachers in a fluster
The lunch prep has been shortened to tutor kids one-on-one
But with our time to prepare lessons given now to more assessing
                  Feeling more the pressure pressing
                  We are just about undone!

I feel called to mention Reader’s Workshop (not to start a riot)
The setup, training, all that testing—it’s harder than a diet
The students take their AR tests but don’t forget the other—
The F ‘n P and oh my, me! He’s not achieving Level G
It’s time, I think we all agree,
He’s failing; call his mother!

We have less time and money for our academic clubs
But we are pulled out so often that that money’s spent on subs
It’s all because we have no half-days for our teacher progress
Instead our days are loaded with data to be un-coded
                  People saying we’re outmoded
                  *Ahem* I believe I do digress.

Oh, the luxuries of yesteryear, doing what we want and when
But with the state dictating plans, we can’t even use red pens
And don’t even get me started on what I will do for grades
For those ELLs who leave my room and don’t come back ‘til half past noon
                  From yesterday ‘til we leave in June
                  And they just say, “Use S or U”
I could cry for goodness sake!

But my most consuming issue doesn’t deal with grades or rules
No, not even with the policies they hand us for our school
The problem is much deeper than the trouble in my classroom
The thing I’m needing most of all is in that place right down the hall
                  A place where I need not recall
                  These problems that do not enthrall
                  But make me want to hide or crawl
                  Or crouch down and feel very small
                  Or stand up straight and start a brawl
                  Because of the things I appall
                  But none of this matters at all
I need to use the bathroom!

Monday, September 14, 2009

I love Wayside School!

How many of you have read the Wayside School stories? I was first introduced to them just two years ago (a shame that I lived without them for so long!) when I did my student-teaching assignment in 4th grade with Cindy Nash. I love Louis Sachar's zany humor in them!

Anyways, so James and I were driving in Fort Wayne this past weekend and drove right by this sign. I got so excited that I made him turn right back around so we could take this photo!

So it's true! There really is such a place as Wayside School. I wonder if Louis the Janitor (that's his name, right?) has a brother named Mort that helps him sometimes... :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Chalk Talk"

So...I went to an ESL Workshop this summer. Learned a cool technique called "Chalk Talk" (although the term is a bit outdated; I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions??). The basic premise is that students answer a question written on the board, in our case, or a biiiig piece of paper, which we'll use for future "talking." Students answer the question, respond to each other, ask each other questions, and...bang! You have a very interactive and engaged group of students! They're not allowed to talk, only write. They can't be interrupted, because...well, they're writing. They aren't put on the spot, because they have time to think about what they want to write/how they want to write it.

Here are some pics from our 5th grade trial run. (We used an easy question for this first one to get used to the format. We'll use this many more times this year...)

The starting question.

Students writing, reading, responding, questioning, thinking...
The end result!
The girls started this discussion--shopping! 
Of course, we had a conversation about soccer!
We even talked about sleep! Really?? :)
Hope you enjoyed the "Chalk Talk" as much as we did! And if you have any new name suggestions, let me know!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Data, Data, Data

Everything we do in our ESL program, we do because of data. ISTEP data, MAPS data, LAS Links data, STAR data, and on and on and on I could go! Here's one where we have two years of LAS Levels, their current LAS Reading levels, and two years of each ISTEP test. (Of course, I've deleted the students' names and ID #s.) In this particular spreadsheet (Imelda's making me an Excel freak!), students highlighted in blue are doing above average work; green-average; yellow-a tad below (keep an eye on them); and red-in trouble!

It's such a process, but it's so very interesting to watch students as they progress in one area and how that affects every other area. Actually, the organizing/analyzing part of my brain enjoys this facet of my job very highly!

I've said it before and I'll never take it back: being a teacher is about so much more than just teaching!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Glyph to Remember

We're experimenting with this type of project called a glyph. In the example I'm showing here, students put blue petals on their flowers for the number of brothers in their family, green petals for the number of sisters, gray if they're returning to Harrison, red if they're new, etc. After they get everything glued on appropriately, they get to make a mini speech in front of the whole class, describing what their glyph signifies. We've done this as young as 1st grade, and I know a teacher who's done it with kindergarteners!

Anyways, back to the story. One little guy got confused during his speech. He was telling us what his orange petal meant: "This one means I'm orange-and-a-half. *pause* Ha ha ha! I mean seven-and-a-half. Ha ha ha. Orange-and-a-half...!" And the whole class laughed right along with him. Too funny!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A bracelet for me

One of my 5th graders made this bracelet for me out of her birthday beads. Aww... :)