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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Announcement and Calendar Events

Spring Pictures—The complimentary package for teachers is "Package 6." Notice you can choose a style A, B, D, or D. If a student wants to buy a package where his or her name actually appears on the package, there is a spot on the envelope for the student to clearly print that name.

Serial Numbers and Length of RJ45 Adapter—Blessed are they who handle simple things quickly. If you receive one of the computers that had been in the lab and have e-mailed me the serial numbers and the length of the RJ45 adapter you need, thank you! If you are wondering where we are in the process of getting you those RJ45 adapters, I am going to give John a list of what we need at one time. That means if you got one of the computers and have not responded, you are holding up the show for everyone. (Yes, it's been a long day, and that's the best I could do at putting it diplomatically.)

Next Week
Friday—Due date for spring pictures
Friday—End of six weeks

Week After Next
Tuesday—Deadline to post grades
Friday—Report cards
Friday—Poetry Alive

Friday, March 17, 2006

A two-handed truth

There is an old story about a man looking for a one-armed lawyer. When asked about the strange request, the man replied as follows:

Whenever I ask a lawyer a question, I always get a reply that begins, "On the one hand..." and what follows is a logical explanation, and when I am just at the point where I know exactly what to do, the lawyer will say, "But on the other hand..." and proceed to with an entirely different point of view. I wind up more confused than before. I am looking for a good one-armed lawyer.

So many truths are two-handed truths. One the one hand, there is this to consider; on the other hand that to consider.

An article in yesterday's Birmingham News featured one of the two-handed truths I see. The article was about the trend in elementary schools to return to a more unstructured "recess" time during the day. The article focused on Jefferson County, Shelby County, and Hoover. One quote from the article, in reference to Jefferson County Schools:

"A movement is under way, in line with national trends, to persuade the county Board of Education to mandate recess in all elementary schools." Also, "...unstructured play would undoubtedly benefit children, especially those who have trouble focusing in class."

What's the point? On the one hand, our students at Graham would benefit from a structured program that would ensure students are mastering course of study standards in Physical Education. On the other hand, our students are benefiting from the unstructured play that so many kids are missing.

I have posted the article on the Staff Room bulletin board if you would like to read further.

Supervision of students

As the weather gets warmer and students get “antsy” the quality and quantity of supervision become more and more critical if we are to prevent problems. Some things we all already know, but need to bring back to the “front burner” at this time of year:

  • Students who have nothing to do will find something to do (usually something you wish they weren’t doing). Minimizing “dead” time prevents problems and adds to your instructional time.
  • Transitions (to and from restroom, music, lunch, etc.) can be problems waiting to happen or opportunities to practice and enforce procedures. The longer students stand in line, the more potential exists for problems. Students are on their feet, in close quarters, and have nothing productive to do. A higher level of supervision is needed for this setting or else you spend time on the other end trying to determine who-called-who-what and who-hit-who-first.
  • During bus duty, “divide and conquer.” Having available supervision scattered throughout the area (lunchroom, front yard, etc.) is better than having all of the adults standing in the same place.
  • Exhibit what Jacob Kounin calls “withitness,” the awareness of what is going on in all parts of the room. The teacher who lacks “withitness” sees the 3rd spitball throw. The teacher who exhibits it not only sees the 1st one thrown, but may well notice that Johnny constructing the spitball beneath the surface of the desk and move in that direction.

Benches and picnic table

I hope the location is OK with everyone. During the cooler weather, you have benches on the hill. When it's hot, you have the picnic tables as an alternative to transporting chairs if you wish. We can also move the tables as needed to get them in the shade.

Poster Contest on Parental Involvement

I have received information about a poster contest on parental involvement. The end result will be to have a state winner whose design will appear on a billboard. One entry per school system may be submitted, so elementary students would be completing against high school students. In the past we have generally not participated in this type of contest, chiefly because there are so many poster contests that come along. If you would like information on this one, let me know, and I will make you a copy of what I have.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Calendar Events

First Week Back from Spring Break

  • Monday—Representative from Sam’s (2:50 in library)
  • Tuesday—Faculty Meeting for grades 3-6 (Training for testing)
  • Wednesday—BLT
  • Thursday—Plato Training for grades K-6 (more details coming)
  • Thursday—ESPO Meeting in lunchroom
  • Friday—Recycling
  • Friday—Kindergarten to Channel 13
  • Friday—Graham Shirts

Second Week After Spring Break

  • Thursday—Spring Testing
  • Friday—Spring Testing
  • Friday—End of Six Weeks

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Clearing up bad information

"As a parent, I don't dare spank my child, even though I think he needs it. DHR will take mychildren away!" Ever heard that one? Is it true of false?

How about this one—"You can't touch my child. You touch my child and I will call my lawyer."

Well, let's take a look at what the law says, and see if that clears it up for us:

Code of Alabama 13A-3-24
Use of force by persons with parental, custodial or special responsibilities.
The use of force upon another person is justified under any of the following circumstances:
(1) A parent, guardian or other person responsible for the care and supervision of a minor or an incompetent person, and a teacher or other person responsible for the care and supervision of a minor for a special purpose, may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the minor or incompetent person when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of the minor or incompetent person.

There are times when in order to conduct class, a child must leave the room. Should he or she refuse and the only options are to let little Buford hold the class hostage with his fit or to physically remove him (even though he may kick and scream), the law maintains we are justified in removing the child in order to maintain discipline, not to mention do a little teaching.

Announcements and Events

Test Prep

As we enter these last several weeks before thetesting, gradually more of our emphasis needs to be on reviewing concepts you expect the students to see on the test. Also be sure they know the “test-smart” things to do:

  • Answer all questions.
  • Read the question thoroughly.
  • If in doubt, start by eliminating answers which are obviously wrong and making a guess from the remaining couple.
  • Budgeting time.
  • Going back over the section if they complete early.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before the test.
  • Eat a good breakfast.

Retentions—Please let me now the names of any students in your class that you feel may be retained at the end of the year. Please be sure that you are communicating with the parents as to what the student would need to do to be promoted. We do not want anyone to be surprised at the end of the year.

Repeating Task List—I will be placing in your boxes hard copies of the repeating tasks that you have signed up for. The size will be larger than what you have had on previous versions.

Next Week

  • Tuesday—America, We the People (4th and 5th grade at the Ritz)
  • Thursday—ESPO Meeting in lunchroom (4:00)
  • Friday—Spring Pictures/K Cap & Gown
  • Friday—Fire Drill

After Spring Break

  • Monday—Representative from Sam's Club will be here with membership information (2:50 in library; Optional)
  • Wednesday—BLT
  • Thursday—Plato Training (More info later. Similar to the way we conducted the last training.)
  • Friday—Graham shirts
  • Friday—Recycling

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Should we teach less and assess more?

You probably had to read that title twice, thinking you had misread it, and then thought I must have simply gotten the words mixed up.

I read an interesting article that I will be putting in your boxes. The author contents in this day of high-stakes testing, we spend more time delivering the curriculum. Giving students feedback through ongoing formative assessment often gets the shortchanged.

The article does a good job of outlining what good feedback looks like and how it helps students assess their own work.

Alfa Teacher of the Month

Each month Alfa recognizes a teacher in Alabama. The recipient receives a plaque, a $1,000 cash award, and a $1,000 cash award for their school. October 2006 will be the month a teacher in our state school board district will be honored. If you know of a teacher you would like to see receive this award, I have all of the details on how to apply. (Just remind me I have it filed under "A" for "Alfa.")

Makes Sense Strategies

At our faculty meeting on Feb. 17, we mentioned the "Makes Sense Strategies." The CD is actually a very useful tool, but I don't think it has gotten much use. Here is how you can have the entire contents of the CD-ROM on your computer:
  • Go to My Computer
  • Double-click on the G drive
  • Double-click on the "Stuff" folder
  • You will see a folder called "Makes Sense Strategies." Drag it to your desktop.
  • You will see it start to copy files. When it's done, you are through.
  • After the files have finished copying, I would suggest you drag your new Makes Sense Strategies folder into you’re my Documents folder.

    To me, the best part of this CD is the graphic organizers that you can pull up and write on. Once you have copied the folder to your desktop. Here is where to find them:
  • Double-click on the Makes Sense Strategies folder.
  • Double-click on the "Think-Sheet Templates" folder.

    You will see two folders. They contain the same graphic organizers. One is in color and wold be good to use on your scan converter. The other is black and white and would be more for printing off and Xeroxing. With either one, you can type right on the organizer and save it with any title you choose. As you will see, the individual graphic organizers are not that well named. You will pretty much have to just double-click on each one to see what it is. I doubt you will use all of them. Instead, you will probably find a few that you will use over and over.

Playground benches for teachers

One of the items for the March 11 Playground Workshop is assembling the metal picnic tables and teacher benches. The teacher benches will be set in concrete, so it’s pretty important that we make a good decision on the front end as to where to put them.

The feedback I have gotten so far is to place them close to the playground and in the shade and be able to see all parts of the playground from one spot.

Calendar Events

Next Week
  • National School Breakfast Week
  • Tuesday—Cookie Dough Sale Ends
  • Thursday—I will be in Montgomery
  • Thursday—World’s Largest Concert (Noon on PBS)
  • Friday—Recycling

Week After Next
  • Thursday—ESPO Meeting in lunchroom
  • Friday—Kindergarten Cap & Gown Pictures/Spring Pictures
  • Friday—Fire Drill