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Statewide Testing

This year will be the first year that I'll have to administer the new Statewide test. There wasn't any statewide test for sixth grade in Michigan until this year. Now there are 3 subject areas being tested, and a total of about 10 hours worth of tests. They'll be testing the Grade Level Content for the previous year.

I don't mind the general idea behind the tests, but what I really can't stand is two big things, and I'd like to talk about that today...

The first thing that really bugs me about this whole thing are the tests. I think a lot of the tests are pretty decent, and are geared in the right fashion, but some consist of some real idiotic questions. I've seen tests where a vast majority of the state's schools fail the test. Do you think that maybe the questions are aiming a little off the base? I think that would indicate a chance...

Over the past year our state has revamped the school curriculums with the updated Grade Level Content Expectations. The tests we'll be giving the first 3 weeks of October will be testing the items from the GLCE. It's amazing though how many really dumb questions are still left on statewide tests. I know it has to be like that elsewhere, and I'm definitely not trying to knock my state, because I think our Department of Education is really near the top in the nation.

The other thing that really bugs me about the state tests is how the results are often used to mudsling the schools. Yes, maybe improvements should possibly be made. But do you think there could be other factors involved? A lot of times the media don't have all the facts, or only use a portion of the facts and write the story. We all know this. I'm not saying that all schools are doing a fantastic job, but I do feel that schools in general receive a lot of negative press without the whole story or facts being portrayed.

I guess my main thought on the whole subject is that we don't grade or assess students on one test, but a lot of times a school is graded or assessed by the performance of one test, just like this.


Classroom Management - Discipline

In today's world classrooms are different than they were when I went to school. I'm not complaining, I'm just stating a common fact. If you're a teacher, you need to sometimes be creative in your discipline plan. I would like to share the things that I do in my classroom, and if any teachers would like to share with me what they do, I'd greatly appreciate it.

When I went to school we all FEARED the "Board" of Education. Which was actually
a paddle that you got a good whack on the backside with if you were incorrigible. Back then I behaved, and I really didn't want to see the BOARD. And you know what else? I really don't remember too many discipline problems in my classrooms when I was in grade school. Maybe it was just the school, or my peers, but I do not recall anyone being sent out of the room, arguing with the teacher, challenging authority, or anything else of that nature. Just the possibility of it happening was enough for me to mind my P's and Q's.

So what do I do in my classroom to keep things under control? First of all you've got to understand that my style isn't every teacher's style. I'm different, and what works for me, won't work for all, but maybe if it's modified it could be put to use. I like to have fun in my classroom too. I joke around, but take my job seriously as well. I'm there to prepare my students for the next year of school, and I tell them that.

I tell them, "I'm here for a reason, and the reason is YOU. I expect that when you come into my classroom you come here to learn, you'll be prepared, and you'll try your hardest. If you fall short of any of those three things, there may be consequences."

I begin the year quite strict, but still approachable. I appreciate questions, but still deal with any disruptions, rule-breaking, or other nonsense IMMEDIATELY. The first incident of the year I usually give a warning, and then use it as a class example.

I keep a chart made on a spreadsheet with each student's name on it, and this has boxes that we can keep a tally of minor rule-breaking. I choose a student to keep track of the chart for a marking period, and they give a "mark" to a student if I tell them to.

If I'm explaining how to add like variables in Math class and "John" is talking and disrupting others and my lesson, I'll stop, and say "mark for John." This immediately quiets them down most of the time.

If the whole class is loud, and they shouldn't be, I give them a class warning. If this continues later on, I say "class mark" and every one that is present gets a mark. This works on keeping the atmosphere quiet enough to get work done.

Five marks in one week = a lost recess. Ten marks in a week = a trip to the principal's office. I rarely have to give 10 marks in one week, but I also take marks away if I witness good citizenship, or if the whole class is exceptional. At the beginning of the next week everyone starts out with a clean slate, zero marks.

Sometimes things happen that require immediate action. I just consider that an automatic 10 marks, and send them to the office. A lot of times I also talk to students one on one in the hallway and give them a second chance. I find it's much better to handle conflict with a student one on one, instead of talking to them in front of their peers.

This has worked for me for six years so far. I can't guarantee it'll even work for anyone else, but I wanted to share it with you.

*** School starts for me next Tuesday. I may miss a few days of posting here and there until things get settled. Thanks for visiting!


Top Books for Children

This list breaks the books into age levels, which is handy for those of you that are looking for good books for your children. This list is developed by Teachersfirst

Books for All Ages
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Books for Preschoolers
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise
Brown Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Corduroy by Don Freeman
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Books for Children Ages 4-8
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka A
Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

Books for Children Ages 9-12
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Giver by Lois Lowry
James and the Giant Peach: A Children's Story by Roald Dahl
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Books for Young Adults
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling


First Days of School

Pardon the pauses in posts as I begin the school year. Much to do getting things organized and ready, with other things going on too.

The year has begun very well. I've been pleased with the attitudes I've witnessed in my classroom so far. It is actually quite motivating to not hear any whining from ANYONE!

I will post a quality topic in the near future, but wanted to update this with what I've been doing the past few days.

Mainly I've been getting things settled. Things are always a big question mark until the very beginning of the year. I needed to settle on a schedule, and that took a good hour or more to figure out, and balance with specials, lunch, recess and other things. I also teach two sessions of Math, while my counterpart teaches two sections of Social Studies.

I also am using a new Math series this year for the first time since I've been teaching at the sixth grade level. It does a much better job at meeting the Grade Level Content Expectations given out by the state. So, I've been looking through that, and trying to figure out where these students are at.

There are many others things going on as well, not to mention trying to schedule time to work out in the evenings, and sleep, plus an hour drive to school, and back. The day has little free time anymore, so I'll try to "blog" while I'm going to and from school.

I wish all teachers and students a successful and healthy school year.