Day 91 Trying Out Reading Plus

Our literacy coach sent out an email recently asking for volunteers to try out a new web based silent reading program designed to help students develop better fluency and comprehension skills. Several of my kids immediately came to mind, and since we have the netbooks, I saw this as a great opportunity for the Cove! I submitted 5 names for the trial study, and Mrs. Evans quickly got them set up and registered.

The program is called Reading Plus, and is the only subscription based program we have used this year. We are part of the pilot, as our county is considering a purchase for next year. At first my kids were a bit hesitant. However by day 3 of using it, they are hooked! The program is very engaging. After logging in with a unique password, the kids "warm up" by participating in some tracking activities in which they must count digits and letters which flash on the screen in a left to right sequence. Another activity involves having them read a story which appears line by line in a rectangular box across the middle of the screen. A blue bar slides automatically from left to right covering the words as they go. The kids are then given comprehension questions pertaining to the story. The better they do, the faster the blue bar slides on the next story. The program lets them know how quickly (wpm) they are reading and how accurately they are comprehending the material. They LOVE it! It is fast paced with short stories and motivational feedback. They are often given the message, "You're doing great! Keep up the good work!" There are also audio components to the program which is always motivating to my kids. Since we are able to take our netbooks home now, the kids can have fun learning to be better readers at home as well! These five dedicated kids will be working with this program for 20-30 minutes a day, and we are hoping to see great improvement in their reading abilities. I'll let you know the results!

[caption id="attachment_331" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Reading Plus Program"]Reading Plus Program[/caption]

Day 92 Heading for the Reefs to Help the Rubber Meet the Road

A couple months ago I met with my Principal to talk about how the 1:1 program was going. I shared many of the really cool Web 2.0 things my kids had been doing, their wiki, their animated comic books, their blog posts, and lots of others that are linked on our site. He was very pleased and complimentary. But, as always happens in the offices of educators in North Carolina, the topic of the End of Grade tests came up. Now, my Principal is extremely supportive of all we are doing, but is wise enough to know that funding for expanding and continuing this wonderful world of 1:1 relies on the revered test scores. There are many blog posts which accurately describe the hatred teachers have for standardized testing and the negative impact it is having on education today, but as my Principal so accurately shared with me, it continues to be "where the rubber meets the road"; like it or not.

So, in an effort to "prepare" my kids as well as possible without boring them to death, I've decided to go full force with our Reefs. Basically this is Cove talk for centers. At each reef the kids will spend 20 minutes engaged in an activity which will help them review the content we have studied this year, practice the testing vocabulary, and get them ready for the big days in May. Each of our tables will function as a reef. As every good teacher knows, half the battle of using centers in the classroom lies in the transitions! So today we practiced moving from reef to reef. This can be a little trickier when you are taking your netbook with you safely! But as Ron Clark shares in his books, practicing the routines for anything you want to go smoothly with kids is essential. So we spent 15 minutes at the end of our day today hearing the timer ding, picking up our materials, and moving to the next reef without noise. Practice went well, we'll see if reality follows.

We also had a wonderful PBS (Positive Behavior Support) speaker come in and talk to our staff this week. He stressed the importance of including visual cues in your classroom to assist students in knowing what to do throughout the day. I have created lots of posters which describe the reefs, and also included lots of opportunities for good behavior support which will hopefully encourage on task behavior. We'll see how it all works out starting Monday!

[caption id="attachment_325" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Heading to the Reefs"]Heading to the Reefs[/caption]
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