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Friday, October 31, 2008

Spreadsheets and M&Ms

We know that hands-on activities provide for better retention. When introducing spreadsheets, the classic lesson plan is to use a bags of M&Ms and examine how many of each color are contained. If this is a lesson you are interested in doing, you can find a good handout here.

For a host of other activities involving spreadsheets, click here.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What Would You Like to See at the Ritz?

Yesterday, our 3rd and 4th grade students experienced a wonderful performance of Rapunzel made possible through the Birmingham Children's Theatre. Next month, our 1st and 2nd grades will see the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, also brought to us by the BCT.

If you could tell the "powers that be" at the Birmingham Children's Theatre what you would like to see in the future, what would you tell them? After all, the "powers that be" is about to become George Culver! While he will be leaving us, I know there is always going to have a vested interest in Talladega. Here is your opportunity to make your voice heard now, or at any time. Simply click here.

Student guides are available for both of these productions. You can download them by clicking here.


Even the Cat Wore Red!

Red Ribbon Week is always an event-filled week.
It is always the week of Halloween so excitement
is already in the air. Add a week's worth of
activities and a Fall Festival and it all equals FUN!
We hope you enjoy the pictures of our Red
Ribbon Week...so far! Stay tuned...more to come

Monday was "Sock It To Drugs Day."

These students were happy to show off their

crazy socks on Sock It To Drugs Day!

This picture and the one below displays some
of the posters created by 2nd & 4th grade students
for Tuesday's "Say "Boo" To Drugs Day."

The two pictures above were taken this
morning in Mrs. Armstrong's class. A cat
followed her kindergarten owner to school and
decided she was older than that so she crept up
to the main building and entertained Mrs.
Armstrong's students for a while. And, she
happened to be wearing a sparkling red collar.
How appropriate; today was Wear Red Day!
Thank you, Mrs. Bailey for taking our photo!

Mrs. Hodnett, our wonderful secretary and
friend, likes to follow directions. She wore red, too!
I guess it is a good thing it is Halloween!
They say great minds think alike and
Mrs. Armstrong and Mrs. Bittle
thinking alike is a very scary thing!
I bet Mrs. Pattie Thomas agrees, too!
Thank you Officer Thornton and partner! Our
students are more informed about the dangers
of alcohol and drugs because of the time you
both took to talk to them. Who knows? A
child may choose to take a different path in
life because of the activities and lessons taught
this one week of the year!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

For Teachers in Grades 3-6 (Saxon Common Assessments)

Thank you for getting the results of the Saxon Common Assessments to me. We all now see how the mechanism works as far as entering data and reporting it to your principal and the central office. As we approach the next common assessment, here are a several questions you may have:

What do I do with the answers from the last assessment?

The easiest thing to do is make a copy of the spreadsheet. (Right click on the icon. Choose “Copy.” Click somewhere else. Right click and choose “Paste.”) Rename your new spreadsheet. (Right-click on the icon and choose “Rename.”) That way, you still have your old data. You can look at it and disaggregate it any way you wish.

What about the students who are no longer with me?

If you want to simply leave them on the spreadsheet, you can. It will not hurt anything and having their names on your spreadsheet will not impact your scores. If you want to get rid of extra student, highlight the name and other data about that student and delete the information. Be sure to do this on the tab that says “Enter Answers.” The entire “Results” tab is protected so that you cannot make any changes. On the “Enter Answers” tab, you will also not be able to delete the student’s average. Deleting the answers will automatically get rid of the average automatically.

What will happen with the data?

From the moment you entered data in the spreadsheet, you could begin to see strengths and weaknesses in your class without going through a lengthy process of conducting item analysis. For those who have significant subgroups, you have been able to see a graph of each of those subgroups with the click of a mouse. Your principal has been able to see how all classes in the school are performing.

At the district level, I will be putting together graphs that show how our district as a whole is doing. At each grade level, we will be able to tell question-by-question how our students performed and also break down that data to show how various subgroups performed on each question. I will send your principal information on how each grade level at your school performed. What I will not be doing is sending any rank order of teacher or school. You will be able to see how your class performed versus the school system as a whole. No other teacher will know your scores.

Can I use this spreadsheet for things other than Saxon common assessments?

Yes! That’s the beauty of it. You can use it on any multiple choice test. Just make a copy of the spreadsheet, give it a new name, and use it with any multiple-choice test.

Could junior high or high school teachers use this spreadsheet?

Absolutely! We had the immediate need at the elementary level of a tool that would conduct item analysis. We have one, it requires no special equipment, and it’s free. Any teacher in our school system can download it from here.


Monday, October 27, 2008

ARMT Open-Ended Questions

Here are some of the “big ideas” I took from a workshop on ARMT Open-Ended Questions:

    • Doing well on the Stanford is still important. On the ARMT, 60% of the reading questions are actually taken from the Stanford-10. In the area of math, 30% of the questions are from the Stanford-10.
    • Open-ended responses in reading test one thing—Reading Comprehension
    • Students need to use a “just the facts ma’am” approach. No topic sentence. No concluding sentence. Simply list what is asked for. Spending time writing great prose won’t help the score, and will take away valuable time that could be spent elsewhere.
    • To help students prepare throughout the year, as you read things in class, ask students questions such as, “What three things did you learn from this?”
    • We all know that charts and graphs are important. When these appear in the textbook, train students to quickly locate in the text the reference made to the chart or graph.
    • Why can’t I write outside the lines? The instructions on the open-ended responses caution students against this. What happens if they do? Here is the explanation: The answer booklets are cut apart and the individual sheets are scanned into a computer. When the booklets are cut, anything outside the lines will be cut off. The people scoring the responses will never see what had been written.
    • Students are not supposed to underline passages on the ARMT. Why is this not allowed? After all, underlining is a good strategy. The answer is that the machines which score the answers are so sensitive that something written in the booklet several lines away will still be read by the machine. Here is a strategy that students can use: Put a finger on the particular spot in the booklet as a “place marker.” A student may wind up with several fingers spread up and down the page to mark specific spots.
    • Here are some activities to help prepare for ARMT
    • Here is a pretty thorough handout on the subject of open-ended questions
    • This year, we have schools in our system who have been chosen to take the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress). You can go here for sample questions. What you will find is that you could run off one reading passage and glean sometimes as many as 80 questions that you could ask from that one passage.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reminder: December 19 is a Full Day of School

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more Now is as good a time as any to look at the school calendar and realize that the last day before the Christmas holidays is not an early dismissal. Even though the calendar we have posted on this site has no indication of early dismissal and we have already done one post on TeachTalladega specifically saying there is no early dismissal and another on TalladegaCitySchools, I have no doubt there will be those who are still confused and ask why nobody let them know.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

THS Band Featured on ABC 33/40

The Talladega High School Band was selected as ABC 33/40’s “Blitz Band of the Week” on the October 24th show. To view the entire show, click here. The spot on the THS Band occurs between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way through.


A Whole New Mind

One of the items on my list of "Books to Read" has been Daniel Pink's best seller, A Whole New Mind. Dr. Horton just returned from a meeting with a DVD of a 48-minute presentation given by Pink which summarizes the major points of the book, so I guess that saved me some time in not having to read the book.

The DVD is outstanding. If anyone would like to borrow it, let me know.


Friday, October 24, 2008

THS Band to Be Featured

The Talladega High School Band has been selected as ABC 33/40’s “Blitz Band of the Week!” The band will be honored on tonight’s Friday Night Blitz Show at 10:15.


Saxon Common Assessment Schedule (Grades 3-6)

The Saxon Test Preparation and Practice and the Saxon Benchmark Tests provide a schedule telling after what lessons each assessment is to be given. As a way to have the entire schedule for grades 3-6 in one place, you can view a complete schedule by clicking here.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Performances at the Ritz

The Ritz is sponsoring two professional productions exclusively targeting first through 4th graders.

Rapunzel is being presented on Tuesday, October 28th at 11:00 for 3rd and 4th graders.

The City Mouse and the Country Mouse is being presented Monday, November 17th at 11:00 for 1st and 2nd graders.

Both performances are being offered free of charge to our students. Thanks to George Culver and the Historic Ritz Theatre for bringing these opportunities to our students.

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Music is Alive and Well!!!

On October 10, 2008 seven students from Graham Elementary School, and their music teacher, Mrs. Barrow, hitched a ride to Samford University with the music teachers and students from Talladega County Schools.

They were all going to the Alabama Music Educators' Association's 2008 Elementary Music Festival. This is the third year that Samford University has graciously allowed AMEA to hold this event on their campus.

Students and teachers were at rehearsals for hours on Friday but the time spent practicing was well worth it!

The students filled the stage that evening in the lovely Wright Auditorium. The sound of the singing was beautiful and well prepared. The playing of Orff instruments and movements of smaller groups of students filled the stage and auditorium with creativity, excitement, and beautiful sound. All of this was produced by fourth and fifth grade students from all over the state of Alabama. Do they want to work hard and go back again? You bet!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Positive Public Relations

Tips in developing positive public relations are taken from a back issue of Alabama Education News:

  • Contact the parent of every child by phone early in the school year.
  • Remember the first thing you say will set the mood for the rest of the class. Not every student comes from a loving home. Look for opportunities to start the day in a positive way.
  • Letting the cat out of the bag is much easier than putting it back in. Don’t participate in rumors. Be known as someone of character.
  • Don’t say anything negative to anyone who can’t do anything about it. When you have a problem, only address it to someone who can solve it.
  • What you say in the grocery store is gospel. You are “the school” to the people you meet. When people overhear what you say in the checkout line, are you bragging on your students, or are you saying things that reflect badly on the school?
  • Smile and say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Keep parents informed on student progress.
  • Return phone calls within 24 hours.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Podcasts on Think Central (Elementary Schools)

One of the resources on Think Central is a series of video podcasts. On each one, you can elect to 1) watch the podcast on in real time; 2) download the podcast to your computer to watch later; or 3) download the podcast to an iPod. If you experience problems with the podcast starting and stopping, you can run through it a second time and it will play without hesitation, or you can download it.

For a direct link to the podcasts, you can click here.

National School Bus Safety Week

For many students, the bus driver is the first school employee they see in the morning and the last one they see in the afternoon. We can probably all think of those little kindnesses that our bus driver showed us when were small that made the day go better. Those days are not gone, and continue to happen every day.

Aside from being a friendly face, our drivers are entrusted with the incredibly important task of transporting scores of students safely, and do so despite weather conditions which are sometimes not ideal, other motorists whose driving skills are less than optimum, or a student who fails to realize how his or her conduct on the bus jeopardizes the safety of everyone on board.

Every year on the third full week in October, the nation spotlights this important piece of the educational puzzle. The theme of this year's National School Bus Safety Week. The theme for this year is, "Stop on Red, Kids Ahead" and emphasizes the idea that bus safety includes educating the public at large on its responsibility to respect school bus as it runs its route.

The artwork displayed here is one of the national poster contest winners. To view the other winning pieces of artwork, click here.


Friday, October 17, 2008

New ZEJH Builders Club Blog!

The Zora Ellis Jr. High Builders Club now has a blog that is ran and updated by the students. They will be conducting several activities that involve donations throughout the year, and are always thankful when the community can get involved. Stop by and check out this site to stay updated on the club, and find out the many things they are involved in so you can help too. www.zejhbuilders.blogspot.com

"Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something."Author Unknown

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Using "Wait-Time" To Make Questions More Effective

The use of questions is a primary way we interact with learners in both large and small groups. The skillful use of questions not only increases the number of students who participate but also increases their level of thinking. Frequently, teachers ask questions but give learners very little time to think and construct answers. This results in teachers either repeating the question or answering their own questions. A questioning strategy called "wait-time" has been shown to give some amazing results. "Wait-time" is a 3 to 5 second period of silence (silence by the teacher) after he/she asks a question. Educational research has shown that allowing this 3 to 5 second period of silence can give the following results.

  • The number of student responses increases.
  • Students who respond infrequently respond more frequently.
  • The length of student responses increases.
  • The depth of student responses increases.
  • Students respond with more confidence
  • Student-to-student interactions increase.

Well, you may be asking, "If this is so simple and the results so good, why don't more teachers do it?" Answer: Some don't know about it and for those who do, they find it isn't so easy. Teachers seem to have this tendency to fill any silent space in the classroom with some sort of verbalization or with non-verbal cues that communicate that an answer is expected almost immediately. Using wait-time takes a practiced and concentrated effort. One strategy is to ask a question and then not make eye contact with the class such as looking down or making momentary eye contact with a teaching visual (PowerPoint slide) while at the same time saying silently to yourself, "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi."

The above comes from the Forida State University College of Medicine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Microsoft Office 2003. Is this the Version You Have?

Our school system has a license for Microsoft Office 2003. Your school may or may not have a copy of the CD-ROM floating around. If you come across a computer that is running an earlier version, you can pop in the CD-ROM and upgrade or have John Locklin do that when he is at your school. There is one code that you would need to enter, and it’s the same for the whole school system.

If you are unsure about the version that is on your computer, in just about any program, you can go to the "Help" menu and select "About this program."

For our elementary teachers who are using the spreadsheet to let the computer grade Saxon common assessments, figure the results, and graph the item analysis, it's important that you are running version 2003. (If the graph is working, you have the right version.) The element that makes that whole spreadsheet fly is a feature called "Data List" that was not present before the 2003 version.

Public Comment Invited on Course of Study Draft

Part of the process of adopting any Course of Study in Alabama is making a draft available to the public and providing an opportunity for input. Revisions are made from that input before the document is presented to the Alabama State Board of Education for adoption. This year, the Course of Study is being adopted for Mathematics, Physical Education, and Health Education. The easiest way to examine these drafts is to download them from the Alabama State Department of Education website. To download these documents, click the links as follows:

If you have comments, the easiest way to communicate those is to e-mail Dr. Sara Mason at the Alabama State Department of Education. Her address is smason@alsde.edu The deadline to submit public comments is November 3.

Having serves on a Course of Study committee, public comments are taken very seriously. Every single comment is read to the committee. The committee makes a decision to accept, reject, or partially accept the recommendation made in that comment. In addition, the committee provides a rationale for the decision, and that reasoning is documented in writing and becomes part of the official record of that Course of Study committee.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Social Media on Plain English

Social media is a tool that is far more familiar to students than most adults. This short video, which uses the analogy of flavors of ice cream to social media, helps paint the "big picture."

Thanks to Lee and Sachi LeFever for producing this video and making it available through the Common Craft Show .

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The 3 Statements Parents Really Want to Hear

In an issue of Teaching K-8, Dr. Jullian Lederhouse reminded readers that as we begin the process of building relationships with parents, there are 3 basic messages they are eager to hear.

The author asserts that parents are not interested in hearing that we will be preparing them for the next grade level, which tells parents nothing about the experiences for their children now. Further, preparing students to do well on standardized tests is more a goal that we have for our school rather than one parents as a key goal for their children.

Parents are eager to hear three simple statements from us:

  1. I care about your child. Parents want to hear that you really enjoy working with children and care about them.
  2. I love what I teach. In a time when all too many go through the motions of work, people who are truly passionate about their jobs are truly an inspiration. When a child has a teacher who has that passion, and the joy of teaching is evident to the children, parents realize they are in for a special year.
  3. Your child is going to love my class. We all remember teachers from our own days in school that truly inspired us and brought out the best in us. Parents want their children to enjoy school and be successful here. Knowing that their child’s teacher shares that desire speaks volumes.


Missoula Children's Theatre Coming to Talladega

Open auditions will be held on Monday, December 1 for the Missoula Children's Theatre production of "Robin Hood." Auditions will be held at the Ritz beginning at 5:00 P.M. Any student in grades K-9 may audition.

Numerous roles will be cast, all with local students. No advanced preparation is required. After a week of focused rehearsals, there will be two public performances of "Robin Hood" at the Ritz. These performances will be December 6, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

The productions include professional lighting, sets, costumes, and music. Most importantly, it is a great opportunity for local students to perform in a theater production and have a wonderful educational experience.

Our partnership with the Historic Ritz Theatre is just one example of how Talladega City Schools is moving forward!


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Daily Home Article

Thanks to The Daily Home for this morning's front-page article. Brandon Fincher stayed for practically the entire program before writing the article. Bob Crisp was on hand to take photographs. You can read the entire article by clicking here.

This in-service was made possible through grants from the Talladega City Schools Foundation, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Thanks for a Great In-Service!

Thanks to our elementary teachers for a great in-service this morning! It was fun, and it was significant. Providing students with a well-rounded education is no small task, particularly when we can never be quite sure what tomorrow's world is going to demand from our young people.

If we can arm them with a firm command of basic knowledge, they may do OK. If we can augment all of that with the ability to think critically, to look at what everyone else has looked at yet see what nobody else has seen, to get up in front of other and be animated and interesting, and to not takes themselves or anybody else too seriously, then I have a feeling we are sending them into the world prepared to succeed.

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PowerPoint Presentation Template

If your students are projects and will be creating PowerPoint presentations to report their findings, they can download this template to help them get started.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thanks, George!

It was with mixed emotion that I read the article in this morning's Daily Home. A similar article appeared in the Birmingham News.

Congratulations to George Culver on being named Executive Director of the Birmingham Children's Theatre. This is a huge honor for anyone, and George is certainly very deserving of it.

George Culver has been a true friend of this school system. I have lost count of the number of times he has brought performers to the Ritz and then found some way to include our schools, and do at no cost to us. Some years ago I received a grant application for the highly-competitive Arts Pilot Project. It was through the guidance and wisdom of George Culver and Tommy Moorehead that we were able to write one of only six grants in the state to be funded. Ironically, the arts in-service with Mary Foshee to be held tomorrow, a program which will involve all of our elementary teachers, can be traced back to George.

Our challenge is to make sure that what George Culver began a decade ago does not wither, but instead continues to grow and continues to serve as one of those points of light for our school system and for our city.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Johnny Appleseed

Last week, I did two things that I have never done before:
  1. Wear a pair of overalls
  2. Go barefoot in public in a place other than a swimming pool

OK, I admit that does not sound very daring. Catch a glimpse of my portrayal of Johnny Appleseed for the 2nd grade students at C. L. Salter.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Machine is Us/ing Us

This video takes a quick look at how the web, and especially Web 2.0 have the potential to impact our lives.

Entitled "The Machine is Us/ing Us," this video was created by Mike Wesch, Assistant Professor at Kansas State University, and originally posted to YouTube.