Search This Blog

Monday, June 8, 2015

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher

Below is a sample from the notes/quotes I have begun to take out of the book Readicide.  With all the conversations about high stakes testing.  This book makes a STRONG CASE for why more reading is vital to have in the classroom.  Click on the pages link with title to see quotes from more chapters.  They will be added as I am assigned them.

Chapter 1- The Elephant in the Room (pg. 7)

A Vicious Cycle (pg. 21)

As a teacher I’ve always had an intuition that the high-stakes testing wasn’t best for students or education but I couldn’t articulate exactly why.  Readicide is providing some concrete ideas.  For example, the Paige Paradox and WYTIWYG.  In my mind these processes explain why the standards/testing movement is simply continuing to escalate in pressure but not results.  There were no gains in reading from 5 years of NCLB.  I also never realized how ironic it is that in trying to increase reading proficiency that we are taking away reading from the students.  In regards to all of this I agree that we have definitely “lost our way” (pg. 23).

What Can You Do to Prevent Readicide (pg. 24)
“A terrible price is paid when schools value the development of test-takers more than they value the development of readers” (pg. 26).

Chapter 2- Endangered Minds (pg. 27)

This chapter continues to emphasize how the most struggling of readers need to be reading the most.  Yet what the school is doing about this issue may never even come up during staff meetings.  

How do we get them to read then?
“…they need to be immersed in a pool of high-interest reading material. (pg. 30).

“Readers who are undernourished need good books.  Lots of them.  Instead, what do many undernourished readers get?  They are often placed in remedial classes where the pace is slowed and where the reading focus moved away from books to a steady diet of small chunks of reading.  In an effort to “help” prepare them for reading tests, we starve readers. (pg. 32-33).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Recycled Art with A Purpose--Pedagogy of Listening

Recycled Art Project BUT SO MUCH MORE!

A realization that is being confirmed for me over and over these days is just how important listening to our students is.  Listening to them and letting them know that we care about their life stories and themselves.  One way to weave this idea into your classroom is to give students opportunities to engage with ideas and modalities that interest them.  

This was an end of unit project for our chemistry unit.  We had studied the basics of chemistry, food/health chemistry, drug chemistry, and synthetic materials (plastics) chemistry.  

The project was for students to create an art piece out of recycled/reused materials.  The art piece HAD to have a message!  However, students were able to choose one of the chemistry sub-units we had covered that most interested them.  This may seem like a minor thing but giving students that choice makes a HUGE difference! 

It was great watching students think about how to best get their messages across and problem solve how to build their projects.  Thy were able to use glue, tape, string, and/or a glue gun to put their projects together!  The students had previously brought in recyclable "trash" for us to examine.  We used that plus anything else they wanted to bring in but it had to be something that would be otherwise thrown away or recycled.

The easiest theme for the art project was the recycling theme and the harmful effects on animals and especially the ocean.  We watched the movie 'Bag It'.  Below are a few with the recycle theme. Students were allowed to create a notecard to accompany their art piece. 

Piece #1:  This piece is of a fish that is puking up plastic! 

Piece #2

Piece #3

Piece 4--This was a head/face "on drugs".  Notice the eyes are funky.  The most creative thing was the "brain" that is full of pill bottles and they made a "syringe" that is in there too! 

Piece 5--The message is obvious but what is cool is that everything in there was made by the student.  This includes the ash tray and cigerattes.  

*Note:  We had previously had a debate on the legalization of marijuana.  There were a few students who had argued "for" it and wanted to make their art piece in relation to that.  After much consideration I told them that they would be able to do that but it would not be displayed in the school! 


Piece 6

HARD WORK--The reason I include the piece below is because they represent a significant amount of work that students put in.  Some of it at home while engaging the parents to help!  

Piece 7
This piece was supposed to be a lightbulb.  However, if you look closely you will see a bike sprocket as the base for the bulb.  What you wouldn't know is that I had brought in an old bike frame.  A group of boys spent 2 class periods trying to take it apart.  The took of the chain, took out spokes from the rims, and felt quite a sense of accomplishment when it was through.  Definitely worth it! 

Concluding Thoughts
1) I didn't have the easiest of times finding actual examples to show my students.  Therefore I wanted to include some photos and may add more if asked too.
2) Students were given a choice between a few different themes.  All of the theme choices were given by the teacher but giving students a choice is not to be underestimated.  

This is the first year that I used this project in this way.  I was very happy with the student effort and the results.  I will either keep this theme next year but I think I'd like to add something where students have to build a piece of furniture out of recycled/reused materials!  Till Then! 

Another Day in Paradise,
~Mr. McKinney

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why We As Teachers Should be Opting Out Of Testing!! :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Performance of Close-Up Teaching

I LOVE planning and reflecting on what goes on in my classroom. The class with Dr. Meyer always sparks a more in depth examination of what is occurring in my classroom.

We just finished moving all of our belonging from one household to another. It is always interesting to see how much stuff has been accrued over a number years. It is exciting to clear out some things you don't need and I always seem to re-discover a few books and items that I need to spend more time with.

In my college days I used to perform magic as a hobby and a way to generate extra income. I have attended a few magic conventions and been fortunate enough to watch some very talented magicians. One such magician is Eugene Burger. I have a book written by him called 'The Performance of Close-Up Magic'. I can't say I remember ever actually opening it up and reading it. To my surprise as I flipped through the book and read the Foreword that the book wasn't simply about magic tricks but was more about the philosophy of performing.

I have come to believe that people are always performing. We perform differently depending on which audience is in front of us. Teaching is no different. We are putting on a certain persona and performance for our classes. Admittedly, I also believe that teaching is THE most demanding sort of performance in that it is for so many hours in a row and for so many different participants.

Recently I had the privilege of watching a great presenter by the name of Arel Moodie.  I can see why he was named "America's Top Young Speaker".  What an inspiring performance he give to students all across America!  

As I began to read this book I realized there were many similarities between this book and my current musings about education. I have always enjoyed pulling relevant quotes out of pieces of work. Whenever the term performer is used, I believe teacher could easily be inserted. Let's take a look.

Quote 1: " What is important, in short, is the thinking that is necessary before any performer can reach any of [their] goals." (pg. 20).

The thing I love about the class with Dr. Meyer and the performance from Arel Moodie is that it challenges us to think about the performance in our classroom. Unfortunately, I think when teachers believe they are "thinking" about what is going on in their classrooms they are really just worrying about all the things that their administration is going to be looking for. This is not thinking that is going to help them reach their goals. Assuming that their goals are about doing what is best for their students.

Quote 2 is out of Chapter 4. In this Chapter Burger is discussing the idea that the tricks aren't what makes a magician.
"His ability to communicate his own sense of wonder and fun to his audience" (pg. 23) is what makes the magician.

I believe that this holds true for teachers as well. Unfortunately teachers are often times required to use the "same tricks" in the classroom as if that is what is going to "fix" them. When in reality the teachers ability to communicate is most important.

I have to admit that in this Chapter there were quite a few pages describing a certain trick and I was about to abandon the book as far as relevant information towards teaching goes but at the beginning of each chapter as Burger discussing his thoughts on magic in general I find another gem!

For example, on pg. 36 it reads, "The modern problem, Nathan Scott Jr. once wrote, is a failure of the imagination." (Quote 3)

There are many analogies that could be made between this quote and education. I would say that administration doesn't truly appreciate teachers using their imaginations in regards to the classroom AND even more disheartening is that teachers are less and less afforded the opportunity to cultivate the growth of student imaginations.

In Chapter 8 Burger discusses the idea of approach. How one approaches people (and by extension a classroom full of students) is vital.  Arel Moodie comes to mind here as well! 

Quote 4: "In close-up magic, as in life, it is very often our approach --- the impact of our initial appearance, presence, and manner---that determines whether our efforts will be successes, failures, or complete disasters." (pg. 51).

I can't help but be saddened thinking about all the teachers who allow their approach to be dictated by systems focused on testing and activities that lead to a disadvantageous approach.

Quote 5:
"Consider the following two propositions.
1. My show will be good if my tricks are good.
2. My show will get off the ground if my approach is strong.

Frankly, I very much doubt that the first proposition is true. In most instances, I think it is largely false. The second proposition, however, I take largely to be ignored but, nonetheless, to be true. A strong approach obviously cannot
guarantee a good show because even a strong approach can be followed by material that fails to be sufficiently deceptive and/or entertaining [or educational].

"Well", you might ask, "how does one make a strong approach?"

Wouldn't is be wonderful if I could simply tell you by spelling it all out in a few sentences that you could memorize and apply!

I can't. Performing doesn't work that way. It is you who must find your own strong approach through your own work. That is, through your own trial and error. Others might give you pointers along the way which you may (or may not) be helpful and effective for you. The final criterion, is the response that you are able to generate from your audiences...If the response isn't what you want, the only answer is more thought and more work. This, I submit, is the path to performing excellence. It is a path the requires great attention and awareness. A willingness to look at our own work with ruthless honesty and to see what is there." (pgs. 53-54)

I don't think teachers would read Quote #5 and have any difficulties understanding the similarities between "performing" and teaching. Unfortunately, I believe the general public has a grave time understanding that the best approach to education is a process. It isn't something that can be prescribed to masses of educators in a cookie cutter format. Without acknowledging that the best approach is unique to each teacher, teachers are always set up with a disadvantage.

In Chapter 12: Conversation at the airport, the whole chapter actually revolves around a conversation that Burger has with a teacher during a plane flight. Towards the end of the conversation the topic turns towards discipline.

Quote 6:
"Magician: I am saying that the real work leading to real accomplishment requires great energy, great interest, it requires clear vision.

Teacher: Yes, but it also requires great discipline.

Magician: Doesn't interest create discipline? On the other hand, if there is no interest, then I am simply following orders, following some program imposed from the outside, trying to conform to what someone else says I must do. That, I'm afraid, is a most uncreative way to approach one's art.

Teacher: But if there is no discipline

Magician: If there is sufficient interest, then there will be discipline--but discipline of a quite different quality from one which is simply obeying orders...I see that a teacher who doesn't challenge me to move beyond my own little interests, and wants and worries and likes and dislikes--all of it--leaves me exactly where I was. I don't move forward. There is no real accomplishment."

I stand behind my use of the Whole Brain Teaching techniques and score board that I use in my classroom to ensure appropriate behavior. However as I reflect on the particular techniques I use, I realize they work so well for me because they are part of my developed approach. I've always wanted to write up a "how to" for other teachers in regards to how I run those techniques but it always seems too complicated and involved. Why? Because IT IS! I have developed that approach through many years of trying, failing, and trying again!

However, as I believe Dr. Meyer has been trying to convey for most of this semester, getting students interest is so vital! A student with interest will help create a system with discipline. Perhaps part of the great thing about Whole Brain Teaching is that it embeds interest and fun within the general framework of the classroom. Reflection on some of my "behavior students" is leading me to rethink their interest level. 

Thanks to Dr. Meyer and Arel Moodie for providing inspiring performances and creating authentic interest among students and teachers.  

Till We Meet Again,
J. McKinney

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Seriously!?! IEP Let Down

I went to an IEP today.
 It was for a wonderful, sweet, hard-working 8th grade girl I have in my 5th period science class.

 She comes in as the meeting has already started. One of the testing facilitators tells her that she scored average on her IQ test and this is a good thing but she scored low on everything else. The next 30 minutes is a list of all her deficits (and there are many).

 Her older sister was there in place of her mom. The sister mentions how in first grade it was mentioned that "Kassie" was having trouble and mixing up letters. She was held back that year, as the teacher thought she was just lazy.

 It was noted that there was a possibility for dyslexia in her IEP file during our meeting. As the meeting was drawing towards it's conclusion I realized, with shock, that NO ONE was going to offer suggestions for how to help her with possible dyslexia. There is no assessment for it according to the IEP facilitator, therefore there were no assessment deficits to rattle off and discuss.

 I was so upset and disgusted that our educational system had let this young lady go from 1st through 8th grade without acknowledgment or offering of help for the family to figure out what was going on. The older sister confirms that she's been trying to get help for years.

 It turns out the counselor did have a sheet of colored overlays that she was able to try out. I was able to look up and give some possible options for discovering what works best for her.

 Another colleague had brought to my attention that IEP's have become so disassociated to the actual human students. It has become a reading of data and discussion about how to "improve" those data scores.

 These are our children, our future. I am thankful I was there today to stand up for one of my beloved students. She deserves to really be looked at and listened to. Come On education! Seriously!

Till Next Time,
Another Day In Paradise,

 ~Mr. McKinney

Monday, October 20, 2014

White Privelage

True Inquiry!?!

I am working hard this year at not giving students answers in my 8th grade science class. I want them to discover information for themselves. The students took some great strides in trying to figure out the independent variable of an experiment today. They believe they have come to a consensus but it's not the correct answer. 

I'm not sure how to proceed next. Maybe have them come up with a statement that says what the variable is and why. Perhaps in coming up with this they might realize their misconception? 

Any suggestions that wouldn't involve me giving them the answer!?!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here it is! The official T-Shirt! :)

Check this out! Plickers!!

Need an easy formative assessment.  Don't all teachers!?!  Try PLICKERS!!  Brilliantly simple idea! 

Check this out!  Each student holds a shape and answers questions simply by the way they hold their shape. The teacher scans the shapes with their phone or iPad. The answers and class responses are instantly collected and shown. 
I have given it a trial run and it seems to work pretty well.
Anyone else use this before!?!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Testing Memoir

A student asked if they could go use the restroom yesterday.  The teacher said “not yet, they would need to hold it”.  The boy proceeded to grab his crotch and “hold it”.  The boy was not being facetious, he really thought that’s what the teacher meant.  Make sure when you are questioning that student that you don’t ask them to “spill it”!

I have a student who is continually digging and biting at his fingernails and cuticles.  The thought of it doesn’t creep me out but seeing him really just dig in there!?!  I wonder if I can handle one more day of that. 


There is all this emphasis on avoiding testing irregularities but never before have I heard mention of testing PTSD that I believe I now have due to the following incident:  The events that follow are true.  The name has been left out to avoid the chance of you also accruing secondary PTSD!  

Much of the time our brains unconsciously filter what is in our environment for us.  Our brains will decide which images are most important to us.  This allows for the possibility of not seeing large changes in our environment right away and then leading to us questioning ourselves on how we missed such an obvious change or object. 

As I walk and walk and walk and walk around my room my mind suddenly notices something large!  Like a mirage that you suddenly and horribly wish you’d not seen or even imagined.  One of my larger students has pants that have managed to slip their way down to uncover things.  As bored as we are test monitoring there are some things I never want to see.  Whether I like it or not I get visual confirmation that he is wearing Spiderman underwear.  This underwear is not covering the space that should always be covered…known as the plumber’s crack, which means there is an additional 1-2 inches of blinding white flesh peeking out above that.

Look Away…Look Away…but the image is already seared into my visual cortex.  I am now challenged with having to monitor this student’s test but avoiding my eyes scanning that part of the room.  I can do that. 

Walking by…not looking…OH Wait!  What is that? 

It can’t be….there is a smell as I walk by.  Is my nose hallucinating?  I can only hope so.

NOPE….it is a smell that can only be connected to one thing….butt crack!

OMG….how disgusting!  Make a mental note to spray chair with disinfectant when testing is over.

Now the challenge….to continue walking by and monitoring his area of the classroom. 

I take a breath, hold it, and go for another lap around the classroom!! 

Till Next Time!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

16 Things You Can Do While Actively Monitoring Standardized Testing!

I came across this blog! For any teachers testing these days….priceless!!

Check It Out!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

MIA during the school year!

Hello All! Just had my 2nd evaluation on the new evaluation system and using WBT techniques scored 4's & 5's! (5 is the highest by the way!). It is interesting how so many of us teachers "disappear" (including myself) during the school year because we are all working SO hard! I appreciate you all! P.S. The documentary 'AMERICAN TEACHER" was playing on T.V. this week! What a great documentary that hits the nail on the head (I think!) If you haven't seen it yet….you HAVE to! Peace & Love!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Casual vs Formal Register

I am about to finish up my first 8 days of school!  It has gone super well!  

One of my favorite things that I have implemented this year is something called "Casual Register/Formal Register".  This was mentioned by Ruby Payne at a conference in Florida this summer.  

Here is how is works.  You explain to students the difference between how people talk casually and how they might talk formally.  The example I used was if the principal called over the intercom. (We are the Tigers by the way).  I asked them, would I answer "Yo Mama Tiger, What Up, What Do You Want"?.  They of course laughed and I explained that it was too casual of a register.  I would of course use a more formal register when addressing the principal.  I explain that there are appropriate times for casual register and for formal register. 

In class this is how it works.  If a students says somethings that is either mean, disrespectful, or too simple I ask them to repeat it in a formal register.  I tell them that if they give too good of an explanation I might ask them to say it in a more casual register but haven't actually had that one happen yet! :)   

What I've found is that I've had to explain further how they are to change something mean into a more formal register.  For example I had a student say that they were going to stab someone in the eye with their pencil.  I asked for a more formal register.  They responded, "I am going to poke you in the eye with this utensil." Ha!  I explained to them they needed to address more formally what action or behavior was causing them to say that.  They then stated, "please do not say that to me".  Ahhh!!!  Success!  

It has really been such a GREAT way to correct students without "punishing" them.  Students are even starting to correct one another!  As a matter of fact they are even trying to catch me with something to make more formal! 

Till Next Time!
As Always,