Saturday, March 7, 2009

First Grade Response to Literature

In first grade during a Kevin Henkes' author study, students worked during reading to compare, discuss, and retell Kevin Henkes' texts like "Chrysanthemum", "Julius, Baby of the World", and "Shiela Rae the Brave". A class favorite was "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse." In Writer's Workshop, students focused on responding to literature. They concentrated on writing a great introduction, retelling the main parts of the story, and providing a sense of closure with a connection or a comment on why they liked the story.

In this video, you can listen to a student reading her Response to Literature on "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse." The piece meets the standard for a first grade writer. You will notice that her paper begins with an introduction--Have you ever herd a book called Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse? Well I have. Let me tell you about it. The student continues with a fairly detailed retelling that captures the main parts of the story. (Lilly loves school; Lilly goes shopping and buys a purse, boots, and sunglasses; Lilly gets her items taken away and writes Mr. Slinger a bad note; She goes home and brings snacks back to school.) She then concludes the story with a connection--I liked this book because I like to bring things to school even though I do not get in troble. The next step for this student would be to add to her retelling by stating that Mr. Slinger gave back her items at the end of the day and Lilly went home feeling badly for placing the bad letter in Mr. Slingers backpack. At home she punishes herself and writes Mr. Slinger a new happy note. In addition, she could work on articulating a big idea or theme in the story (e.g., "This story is about Lilly learning a valuable lesson in obedience and keeping the special relationship between teacher and student.")

Video Link:

Have you ever herd a book called Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse? Well I have. Let me tell you about it. Well first she started school and she loved her new teacher. She would say "I love school!" She went shopping the next day. This is what Lilly got a purple plastic purse, some boots, and some rockstar sunglasses. The next day she went back to school. She was VERY exited. She really wanted to share them. "Not right now" said Mr. Slinger. "Wait until recess or sharing time." But Lilly could not wait!
This is what her purse looks like. This is what the three shiny qurters looked like! This is what her rockstar glasses looks like!

She kept on asking "Could I share yet?" "No not yet," said Mr. Slinger, "Wait until recess or sharing time." But Lilly just could not wait. She wrote a note. Here is the note she wrote. Later in the story she wrote a nother note at the light bulb lab.

After school she sneaked the bad letter in to Mr. Slingers Desk. The next day she got her purple plastic purse and her three shiny quarters and her rockstar glasses tooked away. She was very sad. She ran right home. She told her Mommy and her Daddy. Then her Daddy made som chezzy, crunchy and yummy snack's to take to school. It was kind of a sorry snack. She felt better now. I liked this book because I like to bring things to school even though I do not get in troble.

Grade 1 Skills Block

At CCE, the Kindergarten and First Grade 2 1/2 hour uninterrupted literacy block consists of a 30 minute Skills Block, a one hour Readers' Workshop, and a one hour Writers' Workshop. The Skills Block is comprised of three to six fast paced activities focusing on phonemic awareness and phonics.

Co-teachers Maria Mallon and Cheryl Dillard, known affectionately as the Mallards, begin each morning with their "Class Promise", letter combinations, morning message, and skills practice. You will notice as you watch this video that the rituals and routines are firmly established and students move with ease from one activity to the next. Though the rituals and routines remain the same, the focused activities change throughout the year to meet the needs of their students. I hope you are delighted by this glimpse into their classroom because they really are a dynamic duo.

1st Grade Skills Block 12-08 Mallon and Dillard from Melanie Holtsman on Vimeo.

Personal Learning Networks

I was recently recognized by my technology coach and principal as a Geek from the Creek, The duo asked me to present to our faculty and write a blog post about our Setting the Standard ning, as well as to explain the attention this social network receives as I introduce it to the 400 educators who visit Chets Creek every year.
For me, completing this task was not easy. I've never been a planner or a prompt writer, and have a hard time envisioning what a post will look like until I'm in the midst of writing it. So, as I began typing I found my attention wandering from the ning to personal learning networks. I tend to see the forest rather than the trees, so this diversion made sense. I needed the faculty to understand how the ning fit into our personal learning network before I could convince them to pour more attention into Setting the Standard. I'm not sure that my teaching equated to their learning, but I hope it helped.

My Geeks from the Creek Post:

Learning networks are not a new phenomenon, but they are drastically changing due to global connectivity. Unlike the localized teacher learning networks of the past that heavily relied on face to face correspondence with colleagues across the hallway, today's learning networks provide teachers with the opportunity to collaborate with peers around the world. They are rapid, in real time, 24/7, and free. This diverse network has teachers connecting, collaborating, and contributing through the use of many PLN tools.
Alec Courosa's diagrams give you the visual for comparing the changing PLNs.
Today's networked teacher is a life-long self-directed learner who seeks to be a contributor and producer rather than just a consumer. This two-way street allows them to get and to give, to construct their own knowledge and provide to the knowledge of others. You can see that the networked teacher does not forgo typical teacher tools like collaborating with colleagues and digital resources, rather embraces those and adds a plethora of new tools to their bag of tricks.
At Chets, our vision for this year has been to immerse ourselves into as many PLN tools as possible to move from being typical to networked. Many have embraced PLN tools like classroom blogs, grade level wikis, digital photo sharing, google docs, and social networking sites to embark on this journey. We know that we have only begun the journey to connect, collaborate, and contribute, but we are proud of our accomplishments.

Like always, we continue to share our practice with others. We host on average close to 400 educators annually at CCE. They come from across our nation to tour our school, watch classroom instruction, rummage through our student work in portfolios, read our standards based bulletin boards, take notes on our rituals and routines, and capture through photographs our artifacts. We debrief their observations, discuss our professional development, and talk with them about our communication. Because of our change from typical PLNs to networked PLNs, we also spend a part of our day on digital connections. We teach them how to access our blogs, wikis, and webpages, and we introduce them to our Setting the Standard ning. We invite them to be part of our PLN so that when they walk away from our school, they can continue to connect and collaborate with us. With these easily accessible PLN tools, we are contributing to their professional learning, in turn, impacting the children they teach. In this global society where connectivity reins, one has no option but to become a networked teacher, or fear being left behind. I am thankful that we openly embrace the change. I encourage each CCE teacher to continue to connect, collaborate, and contribute. And, if you want to learn more about building your PLN, visit

Friday, March 6, 2009

Is 50th Good Enough?

“The right action of all of us is made up of the right action of each one of us. Unless each of us is determined to meet the duty that comes to us, we can have no right to expect that others will meet the duties that come to them.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

No one can deny that we are living in trying times. All around the country, our friends, relatives and acquaintances are suffering. On Monday, your friend was laid off. Last Friday, you heard about your relatives living without power and water as their homes are buried in ice. Two weeks ago, your neighbor left with his unit for a tour in Iraq. Your spouse is worried about their job security. Discount stores are advertising entire store clearance sales. We are all hurting in some way. If we are not yet hurting, we are just waiting for it to trickle down to our house, our job, our bank account. We know it is coming.

Your child’s school is not immune.

Duval County expects to suffer from a $150 million budget deficit for the 2009-2010 academic year. All the facts tell us there is NO WAY to “trim the fat” and balance this budget crisis without affecting the classroom. In short, your child's school will suffer.

Guidance and Media services could be reduced!
Valuable resources like Art, Music and PE may be cut!
Essential supplies and materials could disappear altogether!

It is important to understand that this problem, this CRISIS, is not limited to Duval County alone. This fiscal crisis is statewide. The state of Florida was ranked 47th out of 50 states in tax revenue prior to the passing of Amendment One, which served to further reduce our state taxes. Regarding the total amount of funds allocated and spent on education, the state of Florida is ranked 50th in the nation. I ask you, does this represent your priorities? I doubt it.

Article IX, Section I of the Florida Constitution guarantees that:

"The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida."

"It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for … a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education …."

Are our legislators upholding the requirements of our state constitution?

As voters, we share a heavy burden. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves with accurate facts. It is our responsibility to make our voices heard. It is our responsibility to act.
It is our responsibility to advocate for our children. It is our responsibility to fight for their rights, for today and for their future. If not us, then who? If we do not meet our duties, we cannot expect others to meet theirs.

I urge you. Educate yourselves. Research the facts. Go to the source. Ask questions. Speak out. Make demands. Do not accept it as fact because others believe it to be true.

Ask yourself, is 50th good enough for your child?

If the answer is NO - contact our state's legislative delegation and ask for immediate help from one of these short term solutions:

1. One cent increase to the sales tax of Florida for just 3 years. It generates ten billion dollars over 3 years to plug the education funding cuts!

2. Please give flexibility to the school districts in the areas of categoricals, (SAI, Class Size, Instruction Materials, Reading, Safe Schools).

3. Please suspend unfunded mandates on the districts. (Examples: Transportation, Testing & Curriculum Requirements, Safety Nets, and Staffing Requirements.)

4. Please give flexibility of capital funds—so they can be used for General Revenue.

Ask them to find long term solutions to the critical funding situation in Florida and urge them to make public education a priority so that even our children's children can benefit from a right guaranteed them by our state constitution!

(Cross posted from )

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

FCAT Formal 5

Next week, our CCE students will take their state standardized assessments in Reading, Math, and Science. They will be graded on a scale of Level 1 through Level 5. To earn a Level 5, they literally can miss only a few problems on the whole assessment. I think you will agree that this is quite a feat. To honor their hard work and recognize their accomplishments, we hold an annual FCAT Formal 5.

Last Friday evening, Formal 5 inductees dressed in their Sunday best and escorted by their parents, attended this recognition ceremony. Principal Susan Phillips greeted the inductees at the door, as teacher volunteers signed students in and had them pose for their glamour shots. The 166 inductees eagerly greeted their friends, received a program, and took their seats in preparation for the celebration to begin.

Principal Phillips took the stage to welcome students and guest speakers, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Lankford. The former Miami Dolphin defensive back and former Miami Dolphin cheerleader spoke about their experiences in the NFL and urged students to set goals, work hard to achieve their goals, and to never never give up. Mr. and Mrs. Lankford also applauded students for their accomplishment of scoring a Level 5 on last year's assessment.

The celebration continued as students paraded onto the stage to receive their awards, and then afterward, Principal Phillips called for an unveiling of the FCAT Formal Five tile wall. Students and parents emerged to take pictures of their student's tile that now has a permanent place as a chair rail on our dining room wall. Lastly, the deserts were served and DJ turned on the tunes, as students, parents, and teachers alike (lead by Principal Phillips of course) danced the night away. What a great way to celebrate our students' success. I know this is night they'll never forget.