Posts tagged Reading
Posts tagged Reading
This is the speech that I gave today at a school-wide assembly honoroing our third grade students who scored 100% on the latest IREAD3 test. This is an example ofeveryoneworking together and believing in students and their achievement possibilities.
WE. Flip ME over and you get WE. WE are here today to celebrate quite an accomplishment. This accomplishment is not the efforts of one individual, but the concerted efforts of many. WE are here to celebrate our third graders. I just received the IREAD-3 Test results and 100% of our third graders passed! Congratulations! Let’s hear it for the third graders! This is the second year in a row for this accomplishment! Our theme this year as a staff is “Let’s Play Ball”. I think these third graders, not only played ball, but they hit a homerun!
WE. WE did this together. Third graders – great job! You showed amazing EFFORT and look – it paid off. Third grade teachers – great accomplishment – what a ton of pressure and stress to give these tests. But you prepared the students for this year’s test. Grades K, 1, and 2 teachers: You have prepared as well. Grade 4 and 5 teachers: You share in this success too. When it was time to give the test – It was All Hands On Deck. You gave up your computers from your classroom so that we could gain the maximum amount of peak student engagement time. Everyone adjusted schedules. Everyone moved around parent-teacher conferences. Everyone knew that this test was a public indicator of our worth and our efforts and WE were all in it. WE. Every single person on this staff from the classroom teachers, to the custodians, to the instructional assistants, to the school psychologist and specialist, to the SLP and resource teacher, to the school Tech, to the cooks, to the secretaries, to the nurse, to the instructional coaches, to the bus drivers, to the specials teachers, to the parents and to the community – you all have a hand in this success and I applaud you. Parents, you adjusted your child’s doctor and dental schedules to make sure students were here for the test. I also applaud the efforts of our central office who have worked to provide opportunities for us to disseminate through the mountains of mandates and the miles of procedures and protocols. And finally, a huge shout-out to the Technology Department for prepping the computers and troubleshooting the many errors that came our way. WE. Once again, third graders – I am so proud of you! You all did it! WE speak a lot about EFFORT and we will be learning soon about a new word: GRIT. You gave tremendous EFFORT and you showed outstanding GRIT. You did a great job!
I read recently that in schools today, there is a great emphasis on profits. Profits are those tangible pieces that can be measured. Test scores are a reality and they are a measurable profit. I would argue that a school’s merit is also solidly rooted in other profits that are harder to measure like Life Skills, Community Service, and Engagement. But today, for our purposes on this IREAD Test for our students, passing or not passing is a tangible measure. Summer school, re-taking the test and possible forced retention are the outcomes for failure. But there is a larger measure of failure than these outcomes. There is the horrific thought that a child might pass through school unable to read. These children before you at least have a solid foundation under them. According to research, they have the road a little smoother toward graduation and a future career, with just this basic reading ability. That is something to cheer about.
This is a WE Effort. Every time you stop and give a second grader with their clipboard a chance to read their fluency poem, you are being part of the solution. When upper elementary students partner with lower elementary students and model good reading, you are being part of the solution. Every book you check out of the library or offer a recommendation to another student, you are being part of the solution. When you stop a student with a Book of Excellence or a Leaf for the Growth Tree and celebrate with him/her, you are part of the solution. PTO – when you reach deeply within your shallow coffers and provide computers for our classrooms, Book Fairs, pay for professional development, and provide author visits, you are part of the solution. Parents, when you work with your child’s teacher on areas of deficit and encourage reading at home; you are part of the solution. Grandmas and Grandpas, Moms and Dads – each time you sit down and read to your child you are building their vocabulary and background knowledge and instilling a love of reading, and you are being part of the solution. Teachers, when you meet with instructional coaches and learn new techniques on your own to make yourselves better, you are part of the solution. Teachers again, when you use the data from multiple sources to track student progress and adjust your instruction; you are part of the solution. When the Postmaster in town asks students about school and encourages their community service, she is being part of the solution. When parents and community members volunteer to help in school, you are part of the solution. When legislators use common sense in their legislation of school and student accountability, you are being part of the solution. When bus drivers get students to school on time and out of harm’s way, you are part of the solution. When the Central Office instructional, technology, and maintenance departments work to fix issues and concerns, you are part of the solution. When the workers at the Stockwell Market ask students about school, you are part of the solution. When the church pastors help with donations and also hold a high level of expectation for the community, you are part of the solution. When a maintenance man fixes a furnace that isn’t producing hot air, you are part of the solution. When the cooks provide a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch, you are part of the solution. When recess and lunch supervisors mitigate discipline issues and keep smiling faces in classrooms where they can learn, not in the hallway or in the principal’s office, you are part of the solution. . When teachers work hand-in-hand with the special education teacher to offer students exposure to many facets of instruction and shuffle schedules to meet individual needs, you are part of the solution. When everyone from our law enforcement to our ambulance and fire departments, to our parents work to make sure our students are safe at home and safe at school, learning happens and you are part of the solution. When community members donate to and provide space to pack backpacks for some of our students to help out at home, you are part of the solution. When organizations like Keep Stockwell Beautiful, Community Helping Hands, and Lauramie Summer Rec ask about student progress and put education first as a priority, you are being a great partner to our school and you are being part of the solution. When the Scout leaders – both girl and boy –encourage students to read and to earn badges, to do their best, and to exercise self-discipline, you are being part of the solution. When you offer a hug and a “How are you doing?” statement, not as an isolated incident, but as the norm, you are part of the solution. And when you listen to people like me, your proud principal and believe - believe that students can learn through their hard work and through the concerted efforts and determination of many, you are being part of the solution.
Third graders, you have crossed a milestone. I am so proud. Kindergarten, first, and second grade students, you all have it within you to pass this test in the future. Work at it. Parents, support the school and support your teachers and your children. Visit the Bookmobile that comes around every two weeks. Check out books and track your child’s progress. Attend school functions to learn how to help your child be his/her best. You can do it. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students – you still have several milestones ahead of you to cross in terms of reading. It is my expectation that you all leave fifth grade reading at a sixth grade level. It is also my expectation that you will walk across the floor at your high school graduation and receive a diploma. That is the minimum expectation that I have for you.
Do you know what your prize is for being able to read? A whole lifetime ahead of wondrous places and fantastic people and stories told and yet untold. I love to read and this spring break I didn’t leave the house much physically. But I read a children’s story about a little girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, traveled back in time to the 1950s to be part of a story about a little girl who was an amazing marble player, read about a giant tree in Reader’s Digest, and followed the happenings of the news each morning with the newspaper. I finished an audio-book about Railroads, Semis, and Tug Boats, and began another about one of baseball’s greatest hitters and ambassadors – Henry Aaron. I read websites, emails, Facebook posts, blogs, and Twitter feeds. I read from books, from magazines, from my Nook, my iPad, and from my computer screen. I read cereal boxes and recipes. I even read part of a book about how to teach reading better. Teachers (and principals) must always keep learning. I read and I read a lot. And you will too. You are all readers, third graders. Fourth and fifth graders – keep working hard to get better at all kinds of reading. Kindergarten students - keep asking me to listen to you read. I love it! First graders - finish those Phonic Chapter books and get going on AR Books! Hey, you get to ride on the tandem bike when you do! Second graders – you are readers too. Keep working on those poems and your fluency. I want you confident as readers. I love you all and want you to have the best in life. If you can read – you can write your ticket.
This is a very exciting day for me and one that fills me with great pride. It is also a day that I hope each and every one of you here today feels the same sense of pride because this is quite an accomplishment. WE did it together and WE will continue to work together in the future.
Now, it is my honor to lead the staff and our visitors as we shake the hands, hug, or high five our third graders. You have made us all very proud. When we are finished, please return to your seats. I am not quite finished.
I have occasion each year to visit the Christmas parade. I love to see the Snow Prince and Princess. I love to see you all in your scout uniforms, cheer outfits, and gymnastic attire. I love to see the floats and I love to see the smiles and the waves. Most years, the fire trucks carry a winning state champion sports team down the center of Main Street. Their sirens blare and letter jackets show proudly on the chests of the athletes. How exciting is that! But I also feel it is a bit misplaced. Where are the fire trucks for the National Merit Scholars? Where are the fire trucks for the students who got a perfect score on their SAT or were Valedictorians in their class? Where are the fire trucks for the schools who teach students to read English even though their first language is another? Where are the fire trucks for the students or the schools that were named 4-Star? Where are the fire trucks for the school that got 100% on their IREAD3? Well, Cole Cub third graders, you are my state champions! The fire trucks are right outside for you all. This community is proud of you and they want to show you that they appreciate your hard work. They appreciate your effort. They appreciate the teachers and staff. And they are so thrilled with this accomplishment. Because it is a big deal and one that I hope inspires each and every one of you. Each teacher. Each Student. Each Parent. And each community member. Go out and set your future. Read. Work hard in school. And set your destination. Let’s all stand for the Cole Cheer Song led by our third graders. Each day I am proud to be the principal of James Cole Elementary School. But today, my chest is stuck out a bit more and I have energy pacing through my veins because WE did it! Great job everyone! Repeat after me, ‘WE are the Cole Cubs!”
There is something quite fulfilling about finishing a book and either thinking or saying out loud, “Now that was a great book!” I finished the book The Marble Queen by Stephanie J Blake today. I started this young adult chapter book shortly after lunch on this snowy spring break day and finished right before dinner. It was a great book and I couldn’t wait to tell my wife - who bought the book. I have had the same feeling after reading Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck, Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty Birney, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Katie DiCamillo to name just a few. I love the feeling I have when I finish a good book. The former fifth grade teacher in me thinks immediately of the possibilities. I also love that I can easily recommend the book I just read to students. They also offer me suggestions as well.
There are many perks to being an educator. One of them is that my reading circle includes a wide variety of children’s literature. I simply love this. My next quest is Mockingbird by Kathryne Erskine. I have heard it’s a good book from several adults and joyfully by a fifth grader as well. I try to balance my reading cycle with professional, children, and personal reads. I also enjoy non-fiction audiotext in the car to and from school. But there are simply few feelings in the world similar to the one I have when I close a good book after reading the final few words and can say, “Now that was a great book!”
“I don’t charge a dime. I don’t charge a nickel. I’ll just eat you up like a crunchy pickle!” This is a line quoted from the troll in the performance of “Three Billy Goats Gruff”.
That phrase is one of my favorites from a Reader’s Theater/Puppet performance that has become an annual event in my world from Mrs. Storms’s first grade classroom. This is a big deal for these students as plays and performances are new to them. Mrs. Storms does a great job of dividing up parts so students have a turn reading parts in the Reader’s Theater portion - expression is a big deal for a first grader who is just beginning to master the nuances of print. Students also get their turn behind the screen with their puppets: Listening for cues, moving their puppets on sticks, and entertaining with their actions.
The play is performed of a morning for various groups who visit. We also began this year taping the show and broadcasting it on our announcements. It’s fun for the students to get to see themselves perform as well.
My favorite part comes when the goats approach the bridge and want to cross it and are met by the evil troll. He says my favorite line, “I don’t charge a dime; I don’t charge a nickel; I’ll just eat you up like a crunchy pickle” to the first two goats before the Large Goat gets the better of him. It always makes me laugh hearing the cute words phrased together with the expression of the first graders. It is equally fun to hear the squeals from the audience - some kindergarten and some a bit older who remember being the performers and remember that line so vividly.
I have begun my own little ritual after the performance: A Pickle Cast Party. I buy a jar of dill, sweet, and bread & butter pickles for the class to sample. It is always interesting to hear how many students have never tried a pickle or have only had one variety. In my head, you can’t have a great line like that without a crunchy pickle or two after a long day of performing.
The simple things like a Reader’s Theater/Puppet Performance always remind me why I believe being a principal and getting to see the many different aspects of each grade level and what each has to offer is incredible. It’s why I go toschoolevery day - not towork.
It was a great day earlier this week for everyone at Cole Elementary School. We received word from the Indiana Department of Education that all 31 of our students had passed the IREAD3 Assessment! This was such a great piece of news for everyone involved. The IREAD3 is a new assessment given to all third graders across the State of Indiana in March to assess basic reading skills. There are no exemptions from IREAD3. All students, including special education and English as a Second Language learners, must take the test. The results of the test require action by the school. Students who do not pass the IREAD3 are required to be retained (up to two times) unless a special education case conference decision says otherwise, or if the student’s English proficiency is in the lowest two tiers.
This test brought anxiety to our third graders. It also brough anxiety to our third grade teachers and staff. Obviously, we want all students to be proficient, strong readers and understand the importance of strong reading. We have adjusted daily schedules to focus on reading. We have held parent meetings. We have done many other assessments of our students. We are charting benchmark and growth levels of our students. Our focus, like the focus of all schools across the board, has been strong toward reading. Still, the students and staff knew the ramifications for students not passing. The day of testing was long, tiring, and stress-filled. Students cried. Teachers encouraged. The whole school worked hard on noise level and was supportive during this testing day. It was a team effort.
So, when the news came out that all of the students had passed this test, there was definitely a call for celebration. We held an impromptu school-wide assembly and called all staff members and all third graders forward. Then I shared the great news. Applause roared through the gymnasium. Teachers cried. Students cried. Students applauded. An affirmation of a job well-done and for lots of effort and sweat equity. It was a great day for everyone. If you look at the picture, there are two lines. One with third graders and one with Cole Staff. Hugs, high fives, and handshakes are being exchanged. I am out front giving hugs and “Good Job, I am proud of you” to each student.
This was a great day for everyone. I am very proud of the accomplishment. When I think about the students who took the test, they gave EFFORT. I don’t think I would be any less proud of the students had they not passed the test because they left it all on the field. They tried hard. Our teachers worked hard. The test is a snapshot. It’s a glimpse. It is not the complete picture. That’s my hesitation with judging schools solely on test scores. But sometimes a group of students, a staff, and a community need a buoy of confidence. Our IREAD3 scores gave just that. I am proud of the parents for helping to emphasize reading. I am proud of my staff for working so hard, encouraging, and fighting the good fight. I am proud of my students above all for showing EFFORT. Because in life, when it’s all said and done, you can have the best support from home, the best training, but if you don’t give the EFFORT, you won’t succeed. Cole Cubs, well done! It was a great day for everyone when we found out all of our students had passed IREAD3. I am proud of you all!
What is in your professional library? I have two book shelves in my office. One holds children’s books and one holds professional literature. I looked up the other day and thought, “I need to re-read some of those books. They have a lot of good stuff inside.” Todd Whitaker’s books are very helpful, Seth Godin, Robert Marzano, Mike Schmoker, Barry Lane, and others are there staring me in the face each day - offering me reference if needed to overcome an obstacle or to find a solution.
What is in your professional library? If you are a teacher, your library should include information that heightens your craft. If you are a principal, your library must include books about teaching craft, communication, educational philosophy, and even marketing. I find that my library is beginning to extend beyond the book shelves in my office and in my home. I find that my library includes EBooks on my Nook, links I receive from my Professional Learning Network (PLN) from Twitter, and blogs I find on Tumblr. I have written before about the fact that sometimes I love to read a book on my Nook and other times I love to hold a book in my hand, and when finished - hand it off to someone else.
My professional library contains mostly books that I have read, but I admit there are a few whose bindings haven’t been creased. The books have changed as well. I used to find it necessary (in my mind) to leave the book in pristine condition after reading it. Not any more. Now I write in it, I stick Post-it Notes inside, and I dog-ear the heck out of the book. Because I figure, if I need to find the value-gained again, it’s at my finger tips. I also figure that someone who wants to borrow the book will just have to cope.
I remember when I taught fifth grade that I entered the profession with a philosophy. Five years later, it had changed, and when I left the profession, it had changed again. I find the same thing happening in my role as a principal. I find that through experiences and time, my philosphy grows and evolves. I also find that I gain insight from others that share their world in books from my professional library.
As professionals, educators must constantly evolve and grow. This requires a non-stagnant approach: One that includes many perspectives and much time in thoughtful insight. Whether you are reading an EBook, holding a paperback, reading a blog, or following a link from a Twitter Feed, your professional library is important and helps define not only yourself as a professional, but the course you set for children. What is in your professional library?
I like my Nook. I was intrigued by it the first time I saw the device, and was blessed to receive a Nook pretty early in its life as a birthday gift. I have since graduated to a Nook Color and see the horizon laced with tablets which offer both the ease of E-Books and the extras that allow for greater use and application.
I like my Nook because everywhere I go I have several of my favorite books. I also enjoy the ease in which I can take notes and highlight. I can then scroll through my notes and find the key points so much easier than having to turn every page. I like my Nook because it is bright and shiny. Most of the books I read are black and white pages, but I have found great joy in my very inexpensive subscription to Reader’s Digest - the pages even turn like I was reading the book myself. I also will occasionally purchase an ESPN The Magazine and be drawn in by the bright colors and the vivid images. I find a certain comfort in my Nook. It serves a purpose.
But I also like books. My house is filled with them. Most of them deal with education. Being married to a teacher who is committed to her craft helps that too. But I like books. As much as I love my Nook, I can never imagine grabbing a group of students and reading them an E-Picture Book. For some situations this book projected on a white board could serve a purpose, but there is an intimacy to my reading and sharing that comes from turning the page, the way you hold the book, the way you close it to make a point, and the fact that children want to reach up and touch the pages. That’s the power of a book.
I like bookstores and libraries too. I am pulling for Barnes and Noble because quite honestly, they offer a comfortable space. In some ways, they are a giant coffee shop which happens to share its space with a several dozen book shelves and a few thousand titles. It’s a unique space. It’s comfortable and I like it. I have gone to Barnes and Noble with my Nook and sat in a big comfy chair and read. It’s just nice. Sometimes when you’re getting your tires rotated, or your family is shopping, you need a place to sit and just have some introverted time. Book stores allow that. Libraries are wonderful spots as well. Every time I go, I say to myself, “You need to go back more frequently.” The librarians are so knowledgeable and the space is so comfortable. It’s a gather place of sorts but it’s also a treasure.
People are picky about their books. Our family has invested thousands of dollars in books. Some books are the type that can be shared willingly. Others, not so much. I have always felt the biggest compliment anyone can ever give me; or for that matter I can give them is to say, “Here, I think you will like this book.”
That’s the problem with E-Books. You can’t do that. I know, I know - it’s about business. But most times the simple art of sharing does one thing - it cultivates purchasing of the book down the road of life. Take for example the wonderful story, The Help. I was given this book by a dear friend to read who had borrowed it from another friend. I was told to return it to the original owner, a mutual friend, when I was finished. I did. It then created a situation where my wife and my stepson wound up purchasing the book because I had read it and raved about it. My wife loved it too and others have followed her advice and purchased it too. I don’t see that happening with E-Books because you can’t share. It’s almost like the publishing companies forgot that their greatest asset is word of mouth. I don’t care if you limit the shares to 2 or 3 - but allow sharing. It creates common ground and it creates a culture of reading and for heaven sakes, we teach sharing in kindergarten.
I see devices like Nooks or iPads slowly taking over at school. It just makes sense. It is more efficient, it is less expensive, and the amount of environmental impact for paper, etc. will be limited. Plus, it is very manageable for young bodies to take to and from. However, when I go to purchase a book, I still in my head stop and ask myself, “E-Book or Not?” Sometimes I go with the E-Book. Sometimes Not.
One of my mentors and I have a revolving lunch date about once a month. When we get together, the first thing we do is to hand each other reading material. I don’t know how it started, but I know that when I am going to see him, I need to try to remember to bring him something. He always talks about the ‘Smart’ books that I bring him, but I also find great joy in bringing him human interest stories like A Good Walk Spoiled or A Walk in the Woods. Because in my revolving door of reading materials, I try to balance ‘smart’, with fun, and with children’s.
I guess when it’s all said and done, the good thing about both printed and electronic text is that reading is being promoted. There is such wonderful reading material out there now for children - I am a big envious. Not because I would have read it as a child - because I wasn’t so into reading then, but because so many of my classmates and family were. But on the flip side some of the treasures from my youth like Bread and Jam for Frances, The Biggest Bear, Blueberries for Sal, and Matt’s Mitt are not mainstays in today’s culture but need to be. They are wonderful!
So if I ever walk up to you and hand you a book and say, “I think you will like this book”, realize two things: 1. I purchased the book with the idea that I would share it and 2. It’s one of the highest compliments I can offer you.
I have started a new collaboration with my students. They are recommending books for me to read and I am kind of getting into it. This collaboration began with Isaac told me, “I read the Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan and it changed my life as a reader forever. Interesting. I had to read a book that would change a fifth grader’s life as a reader forever. So, I said, “Go check it out of the library in my name.” Little did I know that it was 500+ pages. But it was interesting. It taught a lot about Egyptian mythology. Even though I am not particularly a cat person, I enjoyed Bast, the Goddess of Cats the best. This genre is not my favorite, but the book held my interest and I did become exposed to several Egyptian Gods and Goddesses along the way. What was the coolest was the dialogue with Isaac: “Mr. Pinto, how far are you in the book?” “Do you like it?” “Isaac, I’m at this point in the book. This character is kind of creepy.” Riordan has written several more books. My goal is not to read the entire series, but to get a flavor. These students would not have been exposed to this information most likely had it not been for the book.
Next, it was Drew’s turn. He recommended The Lightning Thief again by Rick Riordan. This is the first in the Percy Jackson series and deals with Greek Gods and Goddesses. Again, this is not my favorite genre, but I have enjoyed the dialogue. What I am amazed with has been how engrossed the students are in the characters and how much they know plot lines. Drew was no different. He seemed genuinely excited by my progress through the book. He also was a walking encyclopedia of Greek Mythology knowledge. Fascinating to me. I finished this book and again enjoyed my time with the book and with Drew.
Next, 39 Clues by Rick Riordan, was the referral by Josh. Are you noticing a theme? Lots of Rick Riordan. This time, the book I read took me with the characters to Russia where I learned about Rasputin and some Russian history. Josh again asked me for my progress and again filled in some clues along the way. I finished this book this morning.
Carson gets a crack at me next; then Evan; then Sarah. I am hoping that a non-Rick Riordan book appears at some point. But I have some great take-aways from these books. First, I read only the books I have not read before. So if someone suggests a book that I have read, I said, “Nope, give me another book or another series.” This I hope branches student thinking, but also forces me to read something new and different. Second, students try to find books that I might like but I also get a feel about what interests them. And, it keeps me present and up with what is popular and what is hot in the world of my elementary readers. Also, it has increased my dialogue with students on an academic front in a way similar to how I would converse with an adult who I offer a book and say, “I think you will enjoy this book.” Finally, this interaction has opened another gate. I am now referring books to students to read. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick is making its rounds through the fourth and fifth grade. My question, “Do you like it better than Hugo Cabret? If so, why?”
I have always said that one of the highest compliment I can offer someone is to offer them a book and say, “I think you will like this.” It is nice to have this interaction with students. I have learned a lot. And, it is interesting that the books I have read so far are teaching students a lot without them even realizing it.