Saturday, February 16, 2008


Autism Orlando
Biennial Conference, 2008
“Autism Through the Lifespan”

Although I spent four years working with autistic children in Tampa eighteen years ago and have had a few children with PDD, autism and Asperger’s Syndrome through the subsequent years, I have wanted to look at the most up-to-date research as I am including FOUR children on the autism spectrum in a regular Kindergarten classroom this year. I have been looking for conferences and reading material that might make a difference for these children. This weekend, I was able to attend an Autism Conference in Orlando, FL through EP LiveOnline Webcasting in the comfort of my own home, saving a substantial amount of money and time for this professional development in a new format. This conference is billed as “22 of the leading autism experts in the biochemical, behavioral and developmental world.”

About the content
This conference definitely presented the biomedical interventions that are now available for children on the autism spectrum. They stressed again and again, that they will not all work with every child and that parents must be persistent and discerning about which treatment(s) are appropriate for their child. The conference was peppered with “recovery” videos and recovered speakers (including Raun Kaufman and Elijah Wapner). The videos and personal testimonies certainly offer hope. This is good background for me as parents question and make decisions about their particular child's program.

Below are just a few of the therapy options available to parents today. Some of these are outside of education, but need to be understood as education partners with the family for the best outcome for each individual child.

  • Detoxification/ Chelation therapy
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy
  • Antiviral and Nasal Methyl B12 Spray therapies
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Dietary interventions
  • Digestive/ gastrointestinal interventions
  • Melatonin replacement

Possible autism causes:

  • Genetic and Metabolic (that you can’t really do anything about)
  • Fungus/ Bacterial
  • Viruses
  • Metal toxins

Resources to check: (with 22,000 parents reporting)

Interesting information:

  • Calling stimming “deep interests” that should be developed (Valarie Paradiz)
  • There may be a connection between some autistic children and lower abdominal discomfort that explains their behavior such as peculiar posturing, difficulties with bowel movements, recurring abdominal pain, general discomfort (Arthur Krigsman)
  • Regressive autism is used to refer to children who were developing normally and all of a sudden, regress or quit making progress and then are diagnosed with autism (Arthur Krigsman)
  • Raun Kaufman, who is the recovered child of Son-Rise is the CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of American. He advocates "joining" stimming behaviors which he calls "isms" as a way to enter into the child's life. He also advocates using a child's interest to teach him new skills. The idea is to pair the skill with the child's interest in a game-like situation so that the child learns to do it with joy and independently out of the training session. Everything is taught through play. In their program you will not see total structure because you want the child to be more flexible. His program advocates a more flexible environment to teach flexibility. Teach socialization goals before academic goals. Prioritize the interactions over the goals. In other words, put priority on meaningful, caring relationship with others instead of compliance. A non-judgemental and optomistic attitude are the keys. Celebrate what is before you try to change it. When you get proper biomedical intervention and dietary changes, it makes a difference in the son-rise playroom, because stress drops and the child can go into recovery mode.

About the on-line experience
This experience is different than blogging because you get first-hand experience with the sessions at a conference while they are happening. You see the presenter, their videos and slide shows as the participants are also seeing them. However, this is not High Definition! The picture is a little grainy and the sound sometimes includes echoes, but given that you do not have to travel to the conference or spend the extra money on room and food, it is a deal. In this case the on-line version was $175 as compared to the conference registration of $310 (add on travel, room, food). Of course what you have in traveling to a conference is the networking that happens after hours and the time away from your normal activities that gives you a chance to synthesize the information. I think an on-line option will definitely be on the radar for the future.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

At Long Last....A Virtual Tour of CCE

Ever since the week we left to attend the conference in Hollywood, CA I have been trying to upload our Virtual Model School Tour video that we showed in our session. The problem was...the length of the video. At long last, and with the help of my twitter network and Liz B. Davis, I was able to upload to The quality is not as good as the real thing...but we hope you will enjoy this visit to our school and learning about the relationships, risks and results that make us who we are. Without further ado....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mathematics Navigator: A Safety Net Program for Struggling Students

Mathematics Navigator: A Safety Net Program for Struggling Students
Angela Phillips and Rick Pinchot
Chets Creek Elementary, Jacksonville, FL

Rick Pinchot and I presented a session on our school's success in using Mathematics Navigator, a mathematics safety net program developed by America's Choice for helping students who have fallen approximately two years behind that of their peers in core math content areas (such as fractions, place value, and conceptual understanding of operations).

We began our presentation by sharing the Chets Creek Data Story. We shared the Vision of our school and our history of "high-stakes" results on FCAT Mathematics (grades 3-5), our state's "high stakes" accountability test. Our data shows a steady increase from year to year from where we began with 21% of our students scoring at proficiency levels (10 years ago when our school first opened) to where we are now- with over 90% of our students meeting proficiency in recent years. In considering N.C.L.B., the effort to leave NO child behind, our emphasis two years ago became searching out a meaningful and aligned safety net program (to compliment our everyday regular classroom "constructivist and conceptual-based teaching", which occurs in all classrooms Kindergarten through Fifth Grade in our school.

We shared our excitement in finding Math Navigator, and remarked on the six "philosophies" of Navigator to help tell our success story. From there, we introduced our participants to the components of Navigator- the "Skill Cards" and a "Lesson". After our participants had the opportunity to work through several skill cards and a Navigator lesson, we regrouped to discuss anticipated student misconceptions that would arise and be addressed (corrected) through the lesson. We then shared actual samples of student work from the lesson and discussed the student misconceptions that were evidenced in the work. We then shared what each of the four students learned from their mistakes when they corrected their work after receiving teacher feedback and further development.

The next emphasis of our presentation was to share the various Implementation Models that we have found successful for use in our school (through our Extended Day after school program, through our Exceptional Student Education department, and through committed teachers and coaches pulling small groups of students before and after school).

The final and most important component of our presentation was to share our incredible results. Our "Data Story" shows that over 98% of the students in our school (these modules serve grades 2-5) who have gone through a complete Navigator safety net module have shown improvement, and in many cases, the improvement has been significant. Almost all of the students who are assessed on FCAT (grades 3-5), scored at proficiency levels on the assessment after participating in a Navigator module of study. Our previous predictions of these students indicated that they would not have scored at proficiency levels had they not experienced Math Navigator. Our sources in making these earlier predictions, which helped to identify these students as needing to be targeted for participating in this program, came from a very reliable diagnostic resource- a comprehensive math diagnostic assessment used in our school and developed by teachers in our school to document growth (August to December to May) and predict performance on FCAT based on our alignment of historical data (December midyear scores) to what students actually received on FCAT (taken in March) in years past. The results we have received from implementing Math Navigator with our struggling math students far outweighs any mathematics safety net attempts we had explored prior to using this product.

For these reasons, we highly recommend this safety net program to any elementary school searching for a conceptually based safety net mathematics program. Math Navigator identifies and surfaces student misconceptions in the context of the embedded assessments (pre-, checkpoint, and post-); addresses concept, skill and problem solving development; teaches students to be held accountable and responsible for their own learning; and best of all, improves teacher pedagogy, which then transfers into the regular classroom and affects all learners in the teachers' care.

Click below to watch the video of our presentation:

Going Big Screen

Envision five large screen projection televisions attached to the ceiling displaying your image with an audience of approximately 1,500 educators hanging on your every word. This image was a reality last week at the America’s Choice Conference for two of our own, dayle timmons & Melanie Holtsman, and they handled the attention beautifully! Although, I cannot tell a lie... Melanie may have been mumbling something under her breath about her hair!

Melanie’s large screen debut occurred during the Opening Keynote when Judy Codding unveiled Literacy Navigator. A promotional video taped by Learning in Motion was broadcast to the audience, and included footage from Melanie’s Literacy Navigator group. Also, showcased were our friends from Twin Lakes Academy Elementary. What an excellent way to start this action packed conference!

Coming full circle, dayle’s debut concluded the conference in her Closing Keynote address that brought some in the audience to tears and left the Chets Creek observers beaming with pride—This is an extraordinary teacher we get to work collegially with every day! How lucky are we? She shared her journey as an ESE teacher and literacy coach who had the opportunity to learn and grow in an America’s Choice Cohort 2 school and how that training changed everything!

She even shared a small secret—she was so eager to obtain literacy training that she signed in as a friend, snuck into a training session and stole her very first standards book! You should know that this is sooooo out of character for dayle--she is the most genuine trustworthy responsible teacher I know. Although, I will say, she is also the most passionate, too, and has an insatiable hunger for knowledge! Hence, the “borrowing” of a book that would become her life line to improving classroom instruction. I’m sure she hasn’t ever looked back!

dayle talked about the exhilarating ride of her life as she joined the learning community of pioneers at Chets Creek Elementary. The staff is passionate, fast-paced, and full of energy, and dayle fit right in. In fact, her leadership qualities and early literacy knowledge landed her the role of primary literacy coach. She is among the most revered teachers at our school, and has earned the distinguished award as the 2004 Florida Teacher of the Year. She gives accolades to the America’s Choice School Design for bringing her the platform for this honor, and specifically thanked General John Fryer for bravely bringing this design to Duval County Public Schools in 1999.

As a Chets Creek risk taker, dayle, along with many other learning leaders at CCE, have stepped it up a notch this year. She has learned how to blog in order to communicate with our stakeholders and as a way to have a discussion that encompasses a larger, world-wide audience. She is in the process of archiving a year in the life of kindergarten, including how a high performing America’s Choice Model School impacts our youngest learners.

She concluded as she addressed trainers and coaches, administrators, and teachers, and urged each of us to never underestimate the work we are doing. To build our legacy. To shape our children's destiny-- our future.

A well deserved standing ovation ensued. After all, she's the queen...

The Real Heroes of Chets Creek

Being in Hollywood was so much fun but while we were there, the work of Chets Creek continued. 4th grade teachers worked furiously to prepared students for the Florida Writes. Scribes worked with our neediest students, taking the incredible amount of time necessary to make sure that each student is prepared. Kindergarten teachers began their annual conferences with parents which means a entire day of conferring and then meeting mornings and afternoons for two weeks during their planning time to make sure to meet with the parents that couldn’t come on a single day. Target Team (our Intervention Team) met two mornings while we were gone during their planning time, just like they do every week of the year, to discuss, brainstorm and develop strategies for our most challenging students. The teachers committed to the Target Team process do the work simply because they believe that every single child deserves the best we have to offer. Intermediate teachers continued to tutor mornings and afternoons on their own time to make sure every child is ready for our state test. A teacher in Hollywood asked me how we get our teachers to commit so much of their time and talent – what about the union contract? I didn’t really have an answer for her except to tell her that our teachers are passionate about the children they teach. They really believe that they can make a difference and they see that difference every day.

While it is fun to share what we are doing, and it is certainly fun to do it in LA, it is the teachers in the trenches that stayed at school to work that deserve our highest praise. Their hard work is the heartbeat of our work. We may have gotten the glory, but they are the real heroes!

Dr. Elaine Weber's Stack the Deck Game

Imagine a session designed to show the multiple ways to bridge the use of technology with the teaching of reading. Sounds interesting doesn't it? Last week at the conference Michelle, Debby and I attended a great session in which Dr. Elaine Weber shared a few of the many sites and tools available to assist in the teaching of reading. Below is a great game that can be used by readers to practice the 7 habits of highly proficient readers. Imagine the possibilities...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Home Sweet Home

In an effort to save a few dollars, we decided to fly back on the red eye... which means that we flew all night! Susan asked more than once, "NOW WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?" Our flight from Hollywood to Atlanta, which was the long leg of the flight, was on a plane that must have been made for children under three feet tall! The plane was full and it was impossible to even cross your legs, much less sleep. We had a short layover in Atlanta (where the sun was coming up) and then it was finally home to Jacksonville. We lost three hours on the way back because of the time change and the entire weekend with our families.

We do a lot to save money at Chets Creek in order to send as many people as we can to conferences. We stay 3-4, even 6 to a room, unless, of course, you are Rick! There are some advantages to being a man in an elementary school.

We also encourage teachers to send proposals to present at major conferences, and then do everything we can to find the money to support their travel. In fact, the 10 Chets Creek faculty that went on this trip all went because they had sent in a proposal last year that was accepted for the Hollywood conference. The acceptance pays for a teacher's registration and without that financial support, it would impossible for our school to send anyone at all. I think we all feel that these sacrifices are minimal because we so want to be able to hear first-hand what is going on across the country. We are so fortunate to have a principal that believes that this type of knowledge and travel makes the difference. Thank you, Susan, for sending us and for learning with us!

Get ready, Chets Creek teachers, proposals for the 2009 America's Choice Conference in Orlando will be due in March!

What They Do Know Can Hurt Them:

What They Do Know Can Hurt Them: Identifying and Addressing Math Misconceptions
Presented by: Phil Daro and Cindy Fielder- America’s Choice

Early in the presentation, Daro shared some compelling results of International Comparisons that have been done in an extensive N.A.E.P. study (1991-2007). He shared that in Reading, we are at the head of the pack. In Science, we are in the middle of the pack. In Math- we are at the back of the pack. The point was made that these results are based on the same kids with the same teachers- same parenting, same culture, etc. This suggests the idea that there is something wrong with the way math is being taught in our country. While reviewing the data collected in this study, the comment was made that the data shows that we are making progress in our country, which is very encouraging…but the data also shows improvements on an international level. The charge was made to move more aggressively toward closing this gap.
On another note: Daro also commented that when doing data comparisons, it is best to compare data against other states to assess your own state’s progress.

Three Areas of Needed Focus
Suggestions were made on where we need to focus in order to facilitate this needed change. 1) Time- Kids are running out of time to seize the opportunity to go to college, etc. Problems must be faced before change can occur. Students with a history of learning more slowly are not going to catch up without spending more time on their learning. The strategy must be to accelerate their learning with their time…shift more of their time to learning mathematics (which means giving up something else). 2) Attention: “Who Teaches Whom” – One problem that we face is that first year teachers in inner city schools spend much of their time on behavior management, some leave after Christmas…etc. The professional development they receive during that first year of teaching will begin to help the following year, but many of these students will have moved on to another grade level or teacher (who may likely be another inexperienced teacher). Middle school math departments must then take ownership of this problem.
3) Algebra in 8th grade? If we want kids to enter college without remediation, they have to complete Algebra 2 by 12th grade. This leads many districts to accelerate their course work, and many times, students struggle to pass other courses to get to that point. There is time if we spend it wisely. If kids are not ready for Algebra, Daro suggests giving them algebra readiness courses instead – this can happen even at 9th grade. There will still be time to complete Algebra 2 by the end of 12th grade.

Offering Students Feedback on their Work
Daro emphasized that you must ask children questions about their work. Simply saying “good job” does not offer enough. Questions drive learning and help to clarify misconceptions.
He emphasized that in a classroom of 30 kids and 1 teacher, each kid gets 1/30 of the teacher’s time. That is where partner work can benefit in offering feedback to students, when half the class talking and half the class listening (as long as the conversations are “on topic” conversations).
Offering homework help is also a vital part of offering feedback. Sometimes, if you help a student with just one of the problems on a homework assignment, they are able to complete the rest of the assignment without incurring problems…this can help them not become one year behind. (closing the gap).

Reasons Students Struggle in Mathematics
1-Misconceptions- Students need to develop their meta-cognitive development of analyzing their own thinking and work.
2-Bugs in procedural knowledge
3-Mathematics language learning – There is a lot of math vocabulary that kids need to understand, which needs to be developed meaningfully and in context.
4-Meta-cognitive lapses
5-Lack of knowledge (gaps) – You should not look at data and look at not what they are getting wrong, but why they are getting it wrong; Extra feedback for kids is the key- they need to receive feedback early in their schooling and often.
6-Disposition, belief, and motivation- If students believe if they can change for the better, their behavior can change. Research shows that teachers can build student confidence with practice, feedback, and encouragement- and make a difference. He also stated that sitting a kid alone in front of a computer is poison…. They need to have conversations with someone asking them the right questions.

Ïmportance of Number Lines
If a number line is not in your classroom, there is a problem.
Number lines are the most important key in moving from the concrete to abstract.
Rulers are also important number lines in showing fractional parts of wholes.

~As teachers we need to think~
“What is the math that my kids need to learn by doing these problems?”……not……
“How can I show the kids how to get the right answer?” (using math they already know- this means I am not teaching you the math you need to know…I am just helping you get the point to do well on the next test)……this is where misconceptions come from. It was emphasized that answers are important, they are part of the process, but they are not the product. Even incorrect answers are important. (Why didn’t that strategy work?)

One of the most compelling statements Daro made was the following;
**If kids forget how to do something, it means they did not learn it in the first place. The brain forgets very little of what is learned.

Walking the Talk

When I got back to school, Maria Mallon dropped by to bring me a piece of writing that had been done by Ryan during our live lesson to the America's Choice conference in Hollywood. During the conference we dropped into Maria's class for a Writers' Workshop. Ryan was working on the following piece:
Today at school we got video taped. We had a TV in our class. We have a fun teacher. Then we ate lunch. Then we played outside. The TV went back to California. I was delighted!

I wonder if Ryan thought his piece was a 1, 2, or 3 on his classroom rubric? Bet he could rate each element of the rubric and decide what the paper needed to move to the next level!
Debbie Harbour, another of our kindergarten teachers presented a session at the conference on the vocabulary that we wrote as a professional learning community, based on the work of Beck and McKeown, and are currently teaching to our youngest learners. She will be very pleased to know that Ryan used the word "delighted" in his writing in Maria's class which was one of the vocabulary words that he learned from Red Riding Hood. Just goes to show how we really do walk the talk!

Response to Intervention

Why Response to Intervention (RTI)? Enhancing Outcomes for All Students
Jack Fletcher
University of Houston

Dr. Jack M. Fletcher of the University of Houston presented an outstanding presentation on one of the hottest topics in Special Education today, Response to Intervention (RTI).

Some interesting points for me...

Although Joe Torgensen was able to improved accuaracy and comprehension in an 8-week intensive (2 hours per day) phonologically-based summer program, he was not able to increase fluency. Why? Because fluency increases because of practice and children who are struggling to decode every few words don't enjoy reading, so they don't read. They don't get the practice they need to improve their fluency.

Early intervention works. We can cut our at-risk to 2-10% in K-2, but we need small group (3-4 kids) in a Tier 2 supplemental pull-out intervention. (We should be proud at Chets Creek because this is exactly what we have done with universal screening through DIBELS and then K-1 Reading Mastery intervention. Unfortunately we have NOT figured out how to do this in addition to our core instruction!)

Tier 3 intensive intervention should be with 1-3 kids at a time for 45-50 minutes a day. (How can our Special Education teachers at Chets continue to provide this when the county is suggesting that we cut from 8 to 5 Special Education teachers next year?)

Because IQ does not matter in the type of intervention that you plan for LD students, then there is no need for the type of IQ testing we have been doing. With RIT we would switch instead to academic evaluations (Again, Chets should be proud of its Target Team because this is exactly what they are stessing. We are so far ahead in this new RTI model!)

Everything you ever wanted to know about Progress Monitoring can be found at

Dr. Fletcher's website

With the author's permission, Dr. Fletcher's PowerPoint is shared below.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hollywood Work and Fun

There weren't enough hours in the day... We woke up early to attend or present sessions and by the time we ate and returned home to blog, it was only a few hours before we started the pattern all over again. We worked hard and played it's time to look to next year.

Who gets to go on these conference trips? People who submit presentations. Everyone who went wrote a presentation and worked at the conference. 2009 presentations are due this spring. Get with your coach and start thinking now, about what you could share. We would LOVE to see an even bigger group go next year!

Susan Zimmermann revisted

Teaching the Seven Keys to Comprehension - Presented by Susan Zimmermann

Susan opened her session by describing herself as a “born again reader”. She says that there are three things that are universal in good reading classrooms.

  1. An unwavering belief in the capacity and capability of every child who enters the classroom.
  2. Teachers who allow children to fail. Teachers allow children to practice and practice and practice whatever it is they want them to master. In our classrooms we must create an environment of safety where they feel comfortable failing.
  3. Reading quite simply must be a joyful adventure for children.

Ms .Zimmermann continues to explain why these three things are so vital. She says that we must NOT leave any child behind.

During the presentation Susan covered reading cueing systems, with many interesting examples illustrating both the surface structure systems (Grapho-Phonic, Lexical, Syntactic) and the deep surface systems (Semantic, Schematic, Pragmatic). Next it was so exciting to hear Ms. Zimmermann explain “The 7 Keys to Teaching Comprehension”.

What a treat to hear from the author about the very things that our first grade team has determined should drive our instruction throughout the school year. As Susan described the role of the teacher, Michelle and I could list the many colleagues that we are privileged to work and learn with each and every day, who understand and take their role as “Teacher” as the most important job on the planet.

Teaching the 7 Keys to Comprehension

Teaching the Seven Keys to Comprehension
Presented by Susan Zimmermann
Denver, CO

Six Chets Creek teachers attended Susan Zimmerman's session on Teaching the 7 Keys to Comprehension. Most of the time, we try to divide and conquer so we can attend as many sessions as possible in order to debrief our new learning with the group. However, this time no one was willing to compromise...we all wanted to see Susan Zimmerman in action, because we have read Mosaic of Thought and were fascinated to see her speak and learn more.

She began her half day session sharing, in her opinion, three things that are universal in great teachers’ classrooms using great anecdotes to craft her point.

1) Belief. The belief in the unwavering capacity of each and every student. When you enter a great teacher's classroom, the feeling upon is palpable--You know something is different. The bar is set high.

2) Practice. Great teachers provide continuing opportunities within a safe environment for students to practice, practice, practice. Students can feel comfortable to fail and then keep practicing. She reminded us that Walt Disney went bankrupt five times before he was financially successful with Disney World, and that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

3) Joyfulness. Reading must be a joyful adventure for children. People who read are more involved in their communities. We must bring joyfulness into our classrooms.

Why is this so vital today? What was once good enough is not good enough today. We cannot afford to leave one child behind. The world is not what it used to be. We must embrace the teaching of reading for educational equity.

What is Reading? Reading involves six vital cueing systems include the visible ingredients of Surface Structure Systems and the invisible ingredients of Deep Structure Systems.

The Surface Structure Systems include:

Grapho-Phonic System
This system provides information about letters, features of letters, combinations of letters and the sounds associated with them. Susan illustrates the importance of this system by placing a Greek passage and a Korean greeting under the Elmo and asking the audience to raise their hand if they can read this. The audience cannot read the passage nor greeting. Kids need to break the code, to decode the text, but that is not enough.

Lexical System
Provides information about words, including instantaneous recognition of words, but not including the meaning associated with the word (visual word recognition, visual memory for words. To demonstrate the importance of this system, Susan asks the audience to read, “Si todos los rios son.” The audience reads this flawlessly, but most don’t know its meaning. She shares the translation--If all rivers are sweet, where does the sea get its salt? from Pablos Neruda in the “The Book of Questions.” Some kids can read beautifully. They can decode, but don’t comprehend.

Susan also shared this sentence and asked us to read it:
Aoccdrning to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinvervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is in the rghit pclae.

Syntactic System
Syntactic Systems provide information about the form and structure of language, including whether or not the text sounds correct. Meaning is linked by how we string our words together and how we punctuate text. In punctuation, there is power.

For example:
woman without her man is nothing

Woman, without her, man is nothing.
Woman, without her man, is nothing.

Reading is all about meaning.
The Deep Structure Systems include:

Semantic System:
The Semantic System provides information about the meanings, concepts, and associations of words and longer pieces of text (word meanings/associations). To exemplify this point, Susan provided a few examples:

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
Since there is not time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

Schematic System:
This system provides information from a reader’s prior knowledge and/or personal associations with text that permit him/her to understand and remember information from text (prior knowledge that helps govern storage, retrieval and understanding of information).

To illustrate this system, Susan shares these examples:
Do you know what this means?
*P3, SL next 2 STS to cable needle and hold in front, k2, k2 from cable needles, rep from*, end P3 (Only those that are knitters understood what these instructions meant.)

Can you read and understand these terms?

If you text message, or instant message on the computer, you would probably recognize these terms fairly easily as Be Right Back, Got To Go, Talk To You Later, Wait One Minute, and You’ve Got Mail. If you don't use text messaging, you probably struggled with reading and understanding these terms.

Background knowledge is critically important to understand text.

Pragmatic System:
The system provides information about the purpose and needs the reader has while reading. In other words, what the reader needs to understand for a specific purpose and audience (a reader reads differently depending upon the purpose for reading).

Susan shares a story about her family going white water rafting. She got a River Guide to read. She was reading for one keep her family safe. Reading for different purposes allows the reader to attack the text to suit the purpose. What do you read purposely? Recipes. Menues, Travel books, directions for assembly, contracts, bank statements etc...

All these cueing systems; grapho-phonic, lexical, syntactic, semantic, schematic, and pragmatic are imperative ingredients for reading meaning.

Next, Susan concentrated on sharing the 7 Keys to Comprehension Thinking Strategies...
Using background knowledge (schema)
Creating mental images
Determining importance
Monitoring for meaning (fix-ups)

To demonstrate these thinking strategies she turns the audience to a short passage entitled Custodian. Susan reads it aloud to us, asks us to read the piece a second time and be conscious of what we did to make sense of the text, and then asks us to share the meaning of the text with our table groups. At our table, two teachers immediately understand the meaning of the passage, (one a special education teacher who immediately linked her prior knowledge to the reading), one was still grappling with the ending which was made clear with table dialogue, and another went back to read the text again. This reconfirmed the power of student discussion.

After the table discussions, Susan pulls the large groups back together to share and Susan recorded on a chart the thinking strategies the audience used to make meaning of this text.

To teach reading, teachers should link reading and writing. There are specific instructional practices that cultivate awareness and engagement amongst students. The Teacher's Role includes thinking aloud, modeling, practicing, conferring, discussing, "going public", and writing.

As Susan was conducting her session, the Chets' Teachers were eagerly thinking about the possibilities. Will we buy next year's Books of the Month and teach each of the 7 keys to the faculty? Will we buy 7 Keys to Comprehension as a school-wide book study? You'll have to stay tuned to see how we implement our learning, but one thing is for sure, we'll make sure that each teacher in our building benefits from this learning and implements our new learning into their classroom instruction. After all, isn't that what it is all about?

Inquiry Science and Technology in a Primary Classroom

Using Technology in an Inquiry-based, 5E, Primary Classroom
Presented by Melissa Ross
Chets Creek Elementary, Jacksonville, FL

“Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I presented this session yesterday. I teach inquiry science in my classroom using a variety of technology each day.

Inquiry Science is the hands-on, minds-on approach to science. Students are the scientists. They have many questions (oh boy, do they!) and the want answers. Inquiry science is their chance to explore and find the answers themselves. Students connect their previous knowledge with new ideas and findings.

Today’s demo lesson involved a “Yikes, Stripes!” lab. Ever wondered why the stripes on a zebra are considered camouflage? If you have a newspaper and several pieces of white construction paper, you're ready to find out. (Place 4 white rectangles and 4 newsprint rectangles on top of a piece of newsprint. Have students look at the newsprint for one second and count the number of rectangles seen. Have the students look at the newsprint for one minute and count the number of rectangles seen.) As promised, here are the materials from the session.

Second Grade Lab Report K Lab Report PowerPoint

Technology I literally don’t do a lesson without it! From the projector and document camera to the Cricut and podcasting the possibilities are endless. I have discovered some great tools that I would love to share with you.

Melissa’s Favorite Things

(Okay, so they may not be as popular Oprah’s list, but I guarantee once you try these, you will be hooked.)

1. Cricut Expression personal electronic cutter from Provocraft. This machine has been a time savor on many lessons and projects! It has many teacher-friendly options such as setting the size and quantity of items to be cut. A class set of anything you need cut is completed at the touch of a button. Each cartridge comes with several hundred variations of shapes and sizes to create and explore. They have an entire line of cartridges designed for teachers. The latest Cricut project includes a Cricut Classroom where teachers can share and explore standards based lessons using the products of the machine. This site is set to "go live" on March 1. Check often for creative, standards based lessons you and your kids are sure to love. Rumor has it they will be giving away a machine a month to people registered on thier site. (Good luck!)

2. CPS Clickers from eInstruction. These personal computer response pad systems allow students to answer questions and have reports compiled based on results. With a wide variety of question types, reports to print, and even imported state standards, these clickers are great way to assess students or to survey them to check for misconceptions. Question types range from multiple choice up to 8 choices, true/false, yes/no, and numeric values. These can be used for any subject and are a valuable assessment tool.

3.Virtual Fieldtrips from DigitalFrog. These computer programs will allow your students to research and explore different habitats from your classroom. They are very kid-friendly and very easy to use. The set includes a virtual fieldtrip to the desert, rainforest, and wetlands. The students can explore different plants, animals, etc. Almost every word is defined with the click of a button and some even pronounced. Students also have the option of creating their own habitat.

4. Podcasting is great tool that allows audio feed to be recorded and used in a variety of ways. The program is free to download online. All you need is a microphone. The ones that work best are the headphones with the microphone attached so that the student stays the same distance away from the microphone the entire recording.

5. Cool Timer is what I use is students need to be able to keep track of the time during their lab. It is free, and a great visual. They also have really cool tools like the sorting hat to randomly order and sort your students.

The End Came Too Soon

On the plane ride home last night or was that just today. I took a few minutes to reflect on my favorite part of the conference. It is really too tough to decide which moment was the best. One of my favorites was the opportunity to present with everyone the virtual tour of our school. As I watched the images and heard everyone speak it made me feel proud to work at such a wonderful school. We are a group of professionals that care about all our students. The time and effort that dayle and many others put in to make the live conference lesson happen also shows the commitment we have of wanting to share what we do at Chets.

I also loved all of the conversations at the end of the day about each session we had the opportunity see. We discussed each session and the revelence it has to us at Chets. At night we had the opportunity to laugh and have fun. I know I feel so fortunate to have a principal like Susan. There are not many principals out there that allow you to attend a conference with them, have fun and openly share your ideas. Thank You Susan Phillips!! You are the best!

Susan Zimmermann was also a highlight of this confernce. We have studied her books for many years. It was great to hear about her passion for teaching and it inspired me to work harder.

If I were to pick the one moment in the conference though that will stick with me for a lifetime, it was when I had the opportunity to hear dayle Timmons give the Closing Keynote speech. She had the audience in the palm of her hand. She had us laughing, then teary eyed by the end. She spoke of her journey as an educator. She also spoke of her dedication to continue to grow professionally by attending trainings, reading the best books and having meaningful conversations with other educators. This is what I aspire to be as I grow as an educator.

Strategies for ELL

Strategies to Bridge the Gap and Meet the Needs of ELL Students
Presented by: Catherine Demarest
Woodside, NY

Catherine Demarest is an ESL teacher at IS 125 Thomas J. McCann. She travels with her group of 30 students daily to each of their classes to help scaffold instruction.

During the session, we explored various strategies for reading and writing that can be translated into any grade level. Most of the strategies can be used for various subject areas as well. Pictures are used as clues to help learners. The “target language” (English) is always modeled. Examples of the sheets used in class can be seen in the slide share below.

Strategy 1: Warm Up Activity. Students are asked to read a paragraph and predict the meaning on unknown words. Turkish was used in the sample. For example, one of the sentences stated, “They hunted bizonlar.” Students are asked to list pre-reading predictions as well as predictions after they read.

Strategy 2: Making Predictions Using Objects. The sample activity involved using the Polar Express. Relia was used to help students make predictions. Students were asked to list the name of the item, describe it using adjectives, describe its purpose, and predict what the story would be about using the object.

Strategy 3: Defining a Haiku. Students were asked to look at several Haiku’s to determine a definition. Picture clues are used with the Haiku’s. Questions asked of students include: What is this poem about? Does the poem rhyme? How many lines does the poem have? How many syllables are in the first line? In the second? In the third? Finally, students are asked to formulate a definition using what they discovered about the Haiku.

Strategy 4: Using Adjectives. In this activity, students are asked to group adjectives by personality traits or appearance. Students were given a graphic organizer of a child. If the trait was a personality trait, students were asked to place it inside the child. If the trait was an appearance trait, students were asked to place it outside the child. This activity was divided into two levels. Level 1 would be the students who have the most need or are least proficient in the language. This version includes using pictures with the vocabulary words as cues. Level 2 would be students that are a little more proficient. This includes just listing words, not pictures. Words are listed as opposites to increase vocabulary.

Strategy 5: Hands-On approach to Building Vocabulary. Students were given two bowls. One bowl contained fig Newton bars. The second bowl contained figs. Students were asked to describe each using their 5 senses.

Literacy through Rhythm, Rhyme, Poetry and Presentation

Literacy Through Rhythm, Rhyme, Poetry, and Presentation

Yesterday I attended a session of Literacy through Rhythm, Rhyme, Poetry, and Presentation. This group of presenters was from Powers Ferry Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia which included Carol Bradley (Primary Literacy Coach), Donna Byrd (Kindergarten Teacher) and Kim Pennington (First Grade Teacher). Their school has 450 – 500 students K-5 and are in their 5th year of being an America’s Choice School.

They believe in the importance of Providing Oral Language Activities. They began by reviewing the Five Areas of Reading – Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. They remind us that a fluent reader is able to:
-read accurately
- read smoothly through the words
- move along at a comfortable rate
- show appropriate expression
- phrase the words
- attend to punctuation and text features
- demonstrate comprehension

In order to build fluency they list 5 types of oral performance:
Shared reading – the teacher and students read together in unison from a shared text so that the readers’ processing of print is highly supported.
- Enlarged text and individual copies help to provide this opportunity
- Use a white board
- Big books
- Shurley English Program Method
Echo reading - an activity where a skilled reader reads a text, a sentence at a time, as the learner tracks. The learner then echoes or imitates the skilled reader.
- They also use chants for this type of fluency building.
Texts for two voices – texts (poetry or prose) that lend themselves to being read aloud by two voices (sometimes alternating, sometimes simultaneous) are ready by two or more readers. - Similar to choral reading
(Example with Expressive Alphabet chart with punctuation marks)
Readers’ theater - involves children in oral presentation through reading or telling parts on scripts. Resources for Readers’ Theatre:
- 25 Just-Right Plays for Emergent Readers (K/1)
- Readers’ Theatre (Grade 1 or 2) by Evan – Moor Educational Publishers
Poetry - expands listening and speaking vocabulary, knowledge of complex syntax of language, internalizes of memorable literary language, recognizes high frequency words, and builds a sense of community through sharing common language experiences. Resources for poetry:
* The Poetry Foundation
* Giggles Poetry
* Sing a Song of Poetry

If you get the opportunity here are a couple websites they recommend for building fluency.
* Larry Ferlazzo
* Scripts for School

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Alumni Schools Leadership Team Forum

Alumini Schools Leadership Team Forum

Our Head Learning Leader, Susan Phillips, participated in a Panel Discussion for Alumni Schools along with four other alumni principals. This session was meant to kick off a new era and “take the pulse” of active alumni schools and those who don’t currently have a relationship with America’s Choice.

The discussion was lead by Peter Heaney, America’s Choice resident superintendent, and the panel members included:
Michael Moore, Principal of Highlands, 7 years in the design
Faye Ogilvie, Principal of Honaunau in Hawaii, began the design in 1999
Susan Phillips, Principal Chets Creek Elementary, entered the design in 1999
Joe Miller, Principal from #77 in Queens, New York, began in 1999
Joe Lisa, Principal of #61 in Queens, New York, entered design in 2000
Bob Petit, National Model School Lead for America’s Choice

Peter asked the panel...

How have changes in your school district helped or hindered your work?
Panel members mentioned that funding is key to support literacy coaches, programs, and the purchase of new text. Some panel participants felt they had been supported financially even when there was a change of leadership at the district level. On the other hand, another panel member mentioned that there was a lack of district support and they had to manage a delicate balance to try to keep distractions at a minimum. In addition, in New York City, the district has empowered the principals to make their own school based decisions. A NY principal pointed out that the school leader needed to stay committed to the design and model to continue to show results.

How do you keep it fresh?
The panel reemphasized how important the Leadership Team is to keep the focus of the school on their vision, action plans, and professional development, and to avoid getting bogged down in managerial issues. A panel member mentioned that staff development needs to remain on-going for the leader, coaches, and teachers, and everyone should celebrate successes along the way. The consistent collaboration and monitoring must remain the central focus. Leaders of schools must spend time in classrooms looking at best practice. Principal Faye Ogilvie shared that they have refocused on visiting other schools so they can reflect on their own practice, borrow ideas from others, and know what her school can do better to move their work forward.

Fidelity to Program is critical. Schools must take ownership. What is the balance? The panel agreed that teachers must have input and there must be teacher buy-in. To keep fidelity, leaders must remain committed on the school’s vision, on staff development, and must offer financial support. Thinking about having different planning times to mix up content area plans.

Peter then turned over the discussion to table groups to discuss:
1) What are we currently doing that is most helpful to your school?
2) What areas/services need improvement?
3) Briefly describe the kind of support that you would like us to develop with you for your school. Structures? Workshops? Institutes? Professional Resources? Tech support? Data Analysis?
4) Please describe strategies that you have put in place that may not have been mentioned by our panelists today.
5) Would you be interested in working with ACI on the development of this support? Is so, please provide name, school, position, and email address.

The audience agreed that there has not been enough done to develop coaches and principals that are new to the design. They suggested a new principal boot camp with an experienced America’s Choice principal as a peer partner to assist them with the design.

Teacher capacity continues to be a problem with high turn over of teachers. Panelist, Susan Phillips, shared that at Chets Creek, they run a Boot Camp for teachers over the summer including three days of intensive training on the design. Joe Lisa also emphasized that common planning time is important for beginning teachers to have on-going support from their grade level teams.

Peter Heaney suggested that America’s Choice could think about:
Developing a way for colleagues to visit schools.
Content based coaching. Which teachers are movers and shakers? Work with them as change agents.
Help support presentations for national conferences—IRA, etc...
Provide more distance learning. How could we do a better job to share presentations?
Offer certification for in-service.

Additionally, the audience suggested the following ideas:
--Array of services to alumni schools—menu of services in a timely manner.
--On-line services for new principals and new teachers.
--Could we have a membership for those of us who don’t have access through extended contracts? Continue to have conversations.
--What is the cost of alumni services? ($10,000 minimum) What comes in the $10,000 package? (Answer: 2 on site focus walks with a follow-up day and creating an action plan. Leadership Training.) There should also be other ways to keep in touch with us. Are there district contracts at discounted rates?
--Cost effective ways to be connected on-line through webinars that have menus to select from.
--Cross district networks.
--Set a partner principal network where an experienced principal helps mentor a new principal.
Principal Academy or training session at regional levels with alumni schools that are at similar levels of implementation.
--What is AC’s plan for schools that have a long term relationship? Year 10, 11, 12?
--What does AC plan to do when they have so many intensive schools to take care of alumni schools?
--Consistency of staff from AC.
--When we ask people to come in and provide services, it is hard to get things scheduled.

The audience seemed sincerely interested in continuing this dialogue that has just begun. America’s Choice said their team would meet to discuss the conversation and create an action plan. If you have any further suggestions or questions, you can contact Peter Heaney at

Sign of the Times

Environmental Print: Sign of the Times
Presented by Cynthia Martin
Rochester, NY

My second breakout session of the afternoon was titled Environmental Print: Sign of the Times. Again I struggled with wanting to be selfish and attend The Real Work of a Professional Learning Community presented by Debbie Harbour from Chets Creek Elementary, but once again our committment to blog and our flight to the west coast told me to do differently.

The environmental print session was presented by Cindy Martin from Rochester, New York. She demonstrated many ways to use environmental print as a vehicle to produce better readers and writers. The presenter highlighted ways to use ads, coupons, labels, and packages. She showed us that using free phamplets from area attractions is a great way to create activities for students. We were introduced to a website at, where you can find games that use environmental print. Cindy also shared ways that she uses packages, wrappers, and boxes to teach different language skills. It was a well received session that the participants walked away from with many ideas on how to include the use of environmental print in their classroom instruction.

The "Cranberry"!

Although I've never cared much about cars, there are some in our party that care VERY much! When we arrived in LA we had to rent some wheels to get around town. Now, we stayed at a hotel in downtown Hollywood where the cars pulling up for valet service were Jaguars, Lambourginis, Bentleys, Mazaradis, Rolls Royces... We however, pulled up in our cranberry colored Ford 10-passenger van! Definately not the vehicle to impress! In fact, Susan Phillips, our principal and driver for the trip, begged for a red van instead of a white van at the rental office so at least we wouldn't look like we were robbing a bank!

The "Cranberry," as it was christened, had a GPS system that our driver talked to like it was a real person! When we got lost, which wasn't often, or when SHE said to turn on a street when our driver thought she knew a short cut, SHE took verbal abuse! However, SHE didn't seem to mind, because the very next time SHE was just as pleasant!
The Cranberry had 3 bench seats, and the far seat at the back wasn't bolted in very well! Now I wouldn't say that our fearless leader purposely found every pothole and speed bump in LA and jumped half a dozen curbs on purpose... but some would wonder if her wicked sense of humor didn't kick in and she didn't secretly enjoy those roller coater rides for those in the far back "sliding" seat! The Queen claimed the front seat - age does have its preferences - so that meant everybody else- even those who tended to get carsick in a regular car - took a turn in the back! "Cranberry", fruit or color, will forever make me smile...

Hooray for Hollywood!!!!

We have learned an awful lot at the conference as you can see from the posts about all the sessions we have participated in. It's enough to make your head spin! I know that what ya'll REALLY want to get the scoop on is what "stars" we have seen so here goes...

Wolfgang Puck - Our closest sighting, he actually shook our hands and spoke with us at dinner.

Wolf Blitzer - He was broadcasting live outside the Kodak Theater prior to the start of the Democratic debate. Melanie and dayle think he tried to interview them later in the day on the sidewalk - I think not.

Lou Gossett, Jr. - He was being interviewed along with Richard Schiff in the lobby of our hotel - we were mere feet away.

Christina Applegate - We were in her way as we all waited on the valet to pull the Cranberry around. She politely smiled and said excuse me and she walked through our group. Explaination of the Cranberry involves the need for a whole other post - stay tuned.

Steven Weber - He was waiting outside the hotel at the valet stand.

John Roberts - He walked throught the hotel lobby while I was waiting on the group.

While I was on the way to the airport to pick up the rest of our crew who flew in on Wednesday the girls I left behind had the opportunity to go down to Grauman's Theater and watch Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson walk the red carpet at the priemiere of Fool's Gold. They stayed in the room to blog - LOSERS!!! There were several other uncomfirmed sightings - once you've seen one you think you see them everywhere! Only in Hollywood.

Math Data Made Teacher - Friendly

Math Data Made Teacher-Friendly
Presented by Scott Ridge
Cleveland, OH

A group from Cleveland, OH presented how they use Excel and Word documents to organize their data. Their main goal was to provide a platform for teachers to prepare and understand the data provided to them by their coaches, administration, and district.

Teachers are more willing to look at and use data if it is presented in a form they understand. Teachers can use these tools to help design ways to increase their effectiveness.

A copy of their documents can be found at

From Hawaii to Hollywood

We met for lunch to share a little bit of what we experienced in the morning sessions. We all had positive things to say about the sessions we attended. We would need more time to talk later. Michelle and I attended our first session together this morning. The focus was on technology. Because our classroom blog is our next goal, we thought it was wise to listen to the presenter together. It was informative and relevant. The presenter was Dr. Elaine Weber. To learn more about what Dr. Weber shared with the audience, read the post that Michelle and I wrote during the presentation titled Technology In The Classroom.

After lunch I was on to the first breakout session of the afternoon. It was really difficult to decide where to go because there were so many choices. Top on my list was Mathematics Navigator: A Safety Net Program For Struggling Students by Angela Phillips and Rick Pinchot from Chets Creek Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida. O.K. I know that flying all the way to the west coast to listen to my friends present was just a little selfish, so I decided to attend Breaking Through In Math Profieciency presented by a team of educators from Hawaii.

Breaking through to Math Proficiency
Presented by Faye Ogilvie
Honaunau Elementary School, Hawaii

The principal of Honaunau School shared the story of her school. They have 158 students and are a cohort 1 America's Choice school! In 2006, 60% of the 158 students met proficiency in reading, with 24% of the students doing the same in math. They missed AYP in math by 4%.

As a result they decided to make their focus on the math workshop. They knew they had to do in math what they had done in reading. They began by moving the math block to the morning. They developed a parent program to engage them in the student's mathematical understanding. The principal shared that their entire faculty and staff made a solid commitment to improve math instruction and it worked. Their math scores jumped 19% in 2007. It was inspiring to listen to the presenters successes.

Technology in the Classroom

An Adolescent Literacy Program: Hot Linked and Online
Presented by: Dr. Elaine Weber

In her presentation, Elaine explained how to use simple, free, easy–to-access technology to make your teaching more efficient and effective and get your students more engaged in learning.
Elaine began her presentation with a pictorial look at the timeline of “A Day In The Technological Life of an Adolescent”. She went on to share the ABC’s for a new way of instruction.
º Abundance of Information
º Better Access to Technology
º Changing Role of Teachers
1. Downloader
2. Uploader
3. Connector
When Elaine spoke about “Abundance” she recommended that we read A Whole New Mind. It was good to know that at Chets, a small group conducted a book study with this text in 2006 and at the beginning of the 2007 school year our entire faculty was given the book! Dr. Weber shared different ways that today’s teacher must be a “Downloader”. We must know how to use the internet to search for resources to impact instruction. We were so excited by all of the sites that she turned us on to. Many of them are accessed through This is a free website that Elaine says is easy to use with assessment, instruction, activities, podcasts, videos, and polls. Be sure to take a look at “Stack the Deck for Good Reading Comprehension”. This is a card game to use with students in the classroom. The photopage website will give you a link to slideshare to download the cards. Other interesting sites she shared were Grammar Girl and Teachertube. Dr. Weber showed us Lit2Go. If you visit this site you can pick a book title and find a read aloud of the text. We learned more about Voicethread and its capabilities.

Dr. Weber’s next focus in her presentation was the importance of the teacher as a connector. Blogging is the way to go! She asked us to share about our Live From The Creek blog. We look forward to seeing the results of our blog. It is interesting to read the comments that were already written.

World of Workshops

A World of Workshops
Presented by Barbara Heard, Debra Palmer-Gyebi, Gail Polak and Kiatonya Wormley: Leonora P. Miles Elementary School, Atlanta, GA

Miles Elementary School is an America’s Choice Model School in Atlanta, GA. Their focus was on using a thematic approach to teaching reading, writing, science and social studies. When forming a new unit they begin with the standards. Right now they are teaching a school wide unit called Freedom and Change. Martin L. King is the icon they use to connect the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, Social Studies and Science. We watched a clip of a mini-lesson in a 1st grade class. They were using a KWL chart on a book about Martin L. King. After listening to the story, the students went to their seats to respond to the story for the work period. During the closing the students shared their responses.

Next, a 4th grade class used a poem around the theme of Freedom and Change during Reader’s Workshop. Ms Gyebi uses a Poem of the Week to work on Echo Reading, Leader and Chorus reading, and small group reading. We watched a clip of a lesson. The students were doing a Choral Reading of a poem about Martin L. King. The lesson was on fluency.

Ms. Wormley used the Book of the Month to teach Writer’s Workshop in a 5th grade class. The students wrote connections to the story. The story was Feathers and Fools by Mem Fox. They choose this story because it is about war and peace, which fit into their unit of Freedom and Change.

At the end of each two week unit the teachers are required to display artifacts about the unit that are displayed in the hallway.

Science and Literacy

Science and Literacy: Capitalizing on a Synergistic Approach
Presented by Dr. Gina Cervetti and Jacqueline Barber
Lawrence Hall of Science
University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Gina Cervetti is the lead literacy specialist as well as coordinator and researcher for the Seeds of Science, Roots of Reading program. Jacqueline Barber is the associated director of the Lawrense Hall of Science and led the research and development of the Seeds of Science, Roots of Reading program.
(Sample activities from today’s session come from 2-3 grade curriculums from the Seeds if Science, Roots of Reading materials.)

Seeds of Science, Roots of Reading is an NSF funded program, designed to explore the collaboration of science and reading. The program “kicks down the interdisciplinary doors.” It uses the wonderment of science with literacy. Reading and writing are authentic to inquiry science. Reading about science without engaging in hands on activities leads to an incomplete understanding of the concepts. Scientists do not rely on science concepts alone. They use reading and comprehension strategies before, during, and after investigation. This approach ties reading, writing, and thinking to inquiry science.

Focus Questions:
How can science be used as a context for literacy learning?
How can text be used to support rather than eclipse inquiry science?
What does it mean to know a word?

“Do It, Talk It, Read It, Write It”
(The following activities are completed over several sessions. Students explore scientific processes as they incorporate reading and writing skills.)

Activity 1: The instructional sequence was introduced by a book Shorelines and Beaches by Catherine Halversen and Nicole Parizeau from the Seeds of Science program. (The story is about a girl named Jo who takes a trip around the world with her family. She sends postcards to her friend Linn about the beaches she visits. Linn needs to write a report about beaches for school and uses the information.) Have students turn through the book and find a picture that illustrates the difference between a beach and a shoreline. Discuss with a buddy the picture you have found. Discussion with the buddy leads to discussions of the definition of the important vocabulary and concepts. It begins to “seed” the investigation to come. It begins to get students to link the concepts and vocabulary to one another.

Activity 2: Have students look at a model of the beach. (A pie tin with beach sand and various pieces of items found on a beach.) Have students pick up items from the beach and explore them. Infer where the beach may be.

Activity 3: Guided sort. Give students index cards and allow them to sort the items in their beach. Kids share information and opinions with each other. What would you call the material that is left behind on the plate after you take the objects off the plate? What is sand made of? How can we test this idea?

Activity 4: Use a model to try to investigate this experiment. Use Jolly Rancher candies. Different colors of candy represent the different items found on the beach. (Example: green is evidence of plants and seaweeds, red is evidence of animals, purple is evidence of rocks and minerals, yellow is evidence of humans, and blue is an example of unknown) Place the Jolly Ranchers in a jar. Pass it around the room, letting each student shake it ten times. What do you predict will happen? Once complete, let the students sort the items by size. Some are larger, some are smaller.

Activity 5: Pass around bags of various kinds of sand. Have students classify them and put them in order of the size of the sand in the bag. Why are some of the pieces of sand different sizes? Leads into discussion of sand being made of different items so they break down differently. Do waves have something to do with it? Does the wind have something to do with it?

Activity 6: Exploring with tools. Pass out magnifying glasses. Have students explore the sand closer and record data on a recording sheet or in a Sand Journal. (Sample questions on the recording sheet include: Which sand has the smallest grains? The largest? Which sand is lightest in color? Which is darkest?) Give students each a “sand slide.” (The slide is simply made by placing glue on an index card and placing the sand on top. This keeps students from opening the bags of sand.) Give students a rock and mineral kit that allows students to try to classify the sand they have by comparing the sand.

Activity 7: Give the students the next book. Gary’s Sand Journal by Gary Griggs, Catherine Halversen, and Craig Strang. (Also from Seeds of Science series.) Students are now reading to inform. What did you learn in the book that you did not know? What did you get from the text that you could not have gotten from first hand experience alone?

Guiding Principle 1: Engage students in firsthand and secondhand investigations to make sense of the natural world. Text can support and enhance the investigations.
Guiding Principle 2: Engage students through multiple learning modalities.
Guiding Principle 3: Capitalize on synergies between science and literacy.
Synergy 1: Words are concepts
Synergy 2: Inquiry strategies are comprehension strategies
Synergy 3: Science is a discourse.

Transforming Education: The New York City Story

Keynote: Transforming Education - The New York City Story
Presented by Dennis Walcott
Deputy Mayor, New York City

This morning we attended the keynote given by Mr. Dennis Walcott, Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development in New York City. NYC has adopted the America’s Choice program as one approved intervention. Walcott mentioned that Duval County was the most improved county in Florida after adopting the America’s Choice program! The focus of his keynote was "Transforming Education: The New York City Story."

Walcott dedicates his life to his 3rd grade teacher – Mrs. Long. She was someone who made that difference in his life as he struggled with reading.

When he began his position he found that the system had many deficiencies. It was dysfunctional, there wasn’t any system-wide curriculum for any subject, funding was based on politics, there were stagnant test scores, no parent input, and no accountability. The first order of business was to gain control over the schools. There were 32 separate district boards without any connections. On top of that NYC PUblic Schools was one of the largest school systems:
• 1.1 million students
• 20 billion budget
• 1450 schools
• 140,000 staff
• 80,000 teachers
• Over 170 languages
• Over 8000 buses

Changes had to be made and it began as they combined all the schools into 10 districts. Phase 1 included the New Governance Structure and with a citywide core curriculum – they worked on the focus in teaching and learning. They created a coherent professional development program which would support classroom instruction across the district. They began the NYC Leadership Academyto provide support for professional development. They also provided the support for the teachers mentoring program and increased teacher salaries. They implemented a Parent Coordinator project where each parent coordinator has a public cell phone to provide information for their students. With this program they downsized the systems structure to become more efficient.

Phase 2 was about elevating good to outstanding. The focus of this phase was on accountability. The major components included empowerment, fair student funding, accountability, teacher tenure reform which gives principals new tools to help determine success, Teacher Performance Pay Program. Policy innovations were put in place such as conflict resolution and anti-bullying workshops. Schools were made into safer places for students and teachers because order was restored. Schools were added to an impact initiative and crime was decreased by over 50%. New promotion policies were put into place (3rd , 5th , 7th , 8th grades) because these were considered “critical years.” Additional support was provided for students who do not reach these goals. Office of Multiple Pathways to graduation was created in 2005. Students were given more meaningful options to meet them where they were. Transfer schools were created as an alternative to traditional high schools. Young Adult Borough Center (YABC) were created for students who could not go to school during the day due to a work load. (Over 5,000 students have graduated to date.) Learning to work programs were created. New, smaller schools were created. Since 2002 over 230 schools were created by splitting large, failing high schools into several smaller ones. The Average graduation rate when from 35% to 72%. What made the biggest difference? Leadership, trying something new, focusing on the students.

In closing he discussed the hallmarks of the approach which included partnerships, options, and challenging the status quo. This program has brought nothing but success for New York City public schools. They were the winner of the Broad Prize for Top Urban School District in the U.S. in 2007.

Using CPS for a Balanced Math Lesson

Technology and the Balanced Mathematics Lesson
Presentors: Michael Dantona and Victoria Moscatelli
Queens, NY

Michael is a vice principal at IS 5 Elmhurst. Victoria is a classroom teacher at Elmhurst that uses CPS in her classroom.

I was very excited to go to this session. The session focused on using the CPS clickers in math instruction. I personally own a set of these “clickers” and they have quickly become an essential tool in my classroom. I am presenting a science/technology session tomorrow in which I will take a little different spin on the clickers and use them for an actual lesson with participants.

What is CPS?

CPS is a Classroom Performance System, a package of software and hardware developed by eInstruction Corporation. The hardware consists of a receiver unit and 16, 24, or 32 response pads. The software and hardware work together to create and deliver course-relevant questions. The software reports student performance data.

The CPS system consists of a response pad and coordinating receiver unit. Each uniquely numbered pad transmits responses that the receiver unit records, and that the CPS software automatically attributes to the corresponding response pad number listed in the class. You must have a computer and LCD projector in order to use this system.

My favorite component of the system is the report generator. You can immediately generate data through a variety of reports that you can use to evaluate your students’ performance on a given assessment. Reports can be printed as an entire class, by question, by student, etc. You can review the report assessment, print your assessment, or export the assessments to the following file types: plain text, HTML, Excel, or PDF.

The clickers can be used during any part of the workshop. The most common time to use it, however, is the opening or closing session. The immediate feedback can be used to diagnose students strengths and weaknesses as well as any misconceptions students have.

Participants were shown how to insert questions into the system. Questions can also be used through PowerPoint.