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Classroom management

Managing instruction when kids are sick

Molly went back to school Monday morning after being out sick all last week. She had the double whammy of H1N1 and strep throat. It was a loooong week for her and me! She was miserable, feverish, and missed five days of school.

Flu-related absences present a real instructional challenge for teachers. After all, it's hard to run a reading group with half the group out sick. And what about that new science unit, or the concept in math you planned to teach? Should you hold off new content, or go ahead and teach it and plan to teach it again when the sick kids are back?

The U.S. mail and teacher–student relationships

Postcard

Oh, the wondrous things a postcard with a quick note from a teacher can do! Molly received this post card in the mail from her third-grade teacher. I wish Mrs. M could have seen Molly's face when she realized what the mailman had brought. She rushed in to show me, grinning from ear to ear. This small gesture from Molly's teacher did so much to further Molly's perception of herself in her new classroom.

Postcard from teacher

I Do, We Do, You Do

Susan Hall, co-author of Straight Talk About Reading and more recently the editor for Implementing Response to Intervention: A Principal's Guide gave a workshop at the Center for Development and Learning's conference. The topic was on teaching the tough phonological awareness skills, and in it she referred to an instructional procedure she called "I Do, We Do, You Do."

What's good for ELLs is good for all

If you follow us on Twitter, you know that I was in Chicago at a conference sponsored by the Center for Development and Learning. I've got lots to share from the conference; there were several great speakers and exhibitors. Many attendees came by the Reading Rockets booth to tell me that they use the site all the time, especially our Parent Tips.

How running a reading program is like running a campaign

As I write this blog on Wednesday morning after our historic presidential election, I'm struck by an article I read on msnbc.com. Howard Fineman summarized what he saw as Obama's seven-prong approach to his campaign that served him well.

It was easy for me to see how well these same seven prongs could serve schools and districts well as they consider how they teach reading.

Below are the seven prongs as described by Fineman, with each prong's relationship to reading summarized. See what you think!

Teachers, please reorganize those bins!

I read Lisa Koch's essay on Choice Literacy recently. Koch shares a poignant story of her son who desperately wants to read from the "L bin" at school, but his reading skills aren't quite there yet. The book choices in his lettered bin seem dull and dry. Koch watched as her son's motivation to read drained slowly out of him. At the end the piece, Koch pleads with teachers: please reorganize those bins!

How young is too young for cursive?

My friend Cathy called to talk about her daughter's first grade teacher. Lilly, her six year old, started complaining about school a few weeks ago, and over the past two weeks the situation has gotten steadily worse. Cathy finally coaxed it out of Lilly that the problem is all about handwriting. Lilly's teacher requires that all school assignments, including spelling tests, be written in cursive. In cursive! In first grade! Lilly's handwriting is apparently not up to par, and she's had to do lots of extra practice sheets to work on her cursive writing.

No more Friday spelling tests!

I think I'll open a can of worms this week and declare that teachers should abandon the age-old practice of Friday spelling tests. You know the routine (because you went to elementary school, and it hasn't changed): students get new words on Monday, "practice" them during the week using various drills; they take a test on Friday, and then on Monday, misspell the words and all the other words that share that spelling feature.

Using volunteers in the classroom

Sometimes parent volunteers require a lot of extra work for a teacher. Other times, parents work as a second set of hands but don't really work one-on-one with kids. Somewhere in the middle is a setting in which the time flies by with both the volunteer and the students benefitting from spending time together.

New school year = rough transitions for some

My friend Kathy has a son with mild to moderate disabilities. Henry is going into third grade this year, and I just got an email from her:

"Back to school" has special meaning for Henry. Transitions are tough for him, so these first few weeks of getting adjusted are hard for everyone. I know things will eventually settle down, but I wish these this time of year could be easier. So many tantrums, so many tears.

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio