Friday, December 11, 2009

5th Grade Spelling Bee

I always find pleasure in serving as a judge at the annual 5th Grade Spelling Bee, but I can honestly say, I am thrilled not to have serve as the announcer! Each year, Mrs. Phillips, does an extraordinary job in her role as the announcer as she calls each participant forward, carefully pronounces each word, and gives definitions and sentences when asked. I don't know if she feels like she's in a pressure cooker, but I know I feel it for her!

The Chets Creek youngsters that qualified last week demonstrated great ability today during the one hour spell off, and we made it to Round 6 before one student was crowned Spelling Bee champion. I am certainly proud of her accomplishment and the courage of each of the other contestants. Good luck, Jaime, in the next round of competition at the district level, you will represent us well!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December's Book of the Month

December's Book of the Month, Santa Claustrophobia, authored by Mike Reiss and illustrated by David Catrow is a comical children's book that begins "North of the North Pole and south of the stars, lies a beautiful village called Stinky Cigars..." Principal Phillips, a former Kindergarten teacher, reads aloud beautifully and has the ability to engage the adult teacher audience. The room is full of giggles and teachers thoroughly enjoy their experience as she reads.

Each month, Mrs. Phillips ties a strategy to the Book of the Month, and this month's strategy is Fun Theory. As our forty minute session got underway, she engaged the teachers in a fun game of charades that involved parts of the text, the teachers then used their gestures throughout the text each time they heard their phrase, just an added piece of interactive fun! Then, after reading the text, she introduced the Fun Theory experiment.

She encouraged teachers, in this month of joyful celebration, to engage students and offer joyful fun experiences in their classrooms. Joyful classrooms offer rich learning environments where students enjoy active involvement and participation which leads to deeper learning.

As a coach, this strategy is very interesting to me, because it is all about the classroom culture. From my first hand experience, the classrooms that I enjoy visiting most are those that are joyful. Where students are excited about learning, where they sing, dance, and act silly, but not just for fun--for engaged learning activities. That is why I love visiting classrooms with interactive Skills Blocks, where teachers have replaced mundane pencil and paper activities with active participation from students. These classrooms don't sacrifice learning, in fact many times the learning is richer and lasts longer. I have to think if I am more engaged when I visit these classrooms, then students must be, too.