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I’m so bummed that I stumbled upon this article today instead of a week ago. I just had a discussion with someone about homework, but for the life of me I can’t remember who!

Anyway, this is a research summary worth checking out. Why do I like it? Because it agrees with what I think, that’s why!

Homework Research and Policy: A Review of the Literature


Nothing much to say here (what’s new?), but I wanted to record this date for posterity.  On August 24, 2010, I told my wife I’m ready to drop “technology” as a major part of my third-grade teaching effort.  I know that students at this age are doing incredible things with technology…but so what?  I’ve done blogging, wikis, and programming with Logo and Scratch.  We’ve beaten MS Word and PowerPoint into the ground.  Movie Maker or Photostory? Done that…big whoop.  When I tell my students we’re going to the computer lab, there’s absolutely no enthusiasm.  When I tell them we’re going outside, though, I get a totally different reaction.  Tech is out, outdoors experiential learning is in.

The source of my blasphemous thoughts: Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv.  My class and I are returning to my first love (which was established when all phones were attached to the wall and we had 4 channels to choose from).  I don’t even need parent permission to embark on this new endeavor!  See you outside…

I found out today that I’ll have a yearbook photographer in my classroom to take candid shots for the yearbook.  That’s a bummer.  My classroom is clean…well, cluttered…I mean, it’s obvious that we do stuff there…okay, it’s really trashed and needs to be cleaned.  I fall into the category of “piler.”  Too bad.

1/18 of the school year is behind us.


I’ve never thought of it that way, and it’s a little sobering to do so.

That said, I’m feelin’ good about it!  School has, indeed, been rolling along for the last two weeks and I’ve actually accomplished almost all that I wanted the class to do.  My emphasis with the students this year has been establishing routines.  I’m a little slow, my wife likes to say, but I get there.  In the past, I’ve sort of tried to establish working routines in the middle of the year (bad plan), but things never really worked out.  This time (hey, it’s only been three years, I’m getting there), I’ve actually implemented AND ENFORCED/MAINTAINED these routines at the beginning of the year.  Good thing, too, because if I hadn’t, this year’s situation would seriously reach up and bite me in the backside.

Concerning my last post: I’m puttering less.  Again, good thing, too, because this year could definitely be a reach up and bite me…  well, you know.

Note: updated 31 July

I’ve been pondering my first read-aloud story for the upcoming school year.  I have a list of books that I usually read, but was looking for something different. 

I’ve been on Twitter for a few months now, and have watched (and contributed) as people consulted their PLN (Personal Learning Network) with various questions.  So, I asked my own question in a tweet: “Trying to decide on the crucial first read-aloud for my 3rd grade class. Leaning toward _The BFG._ Any other suggestions? Please…!”  I followed it up a few hours later with, “I’m still looking for suggestions concerning my first read-aloud of the year (3rd grade). So far: _Sideways Stories from Wayside School_.”  Apparently, 8:00 AM isn’t the time to ask questions, because the later query got a greater response.

Here’s the list:

  • @terriderrough suggested Sideways Stories from Wayside School
  • @alicemercer put forward Tales Julian Tells
  • @MrsTG said The Indian in the Cupboard is a favorite of hers
  • @MaryKK mentioned The Geek Chronicles
  • @Scout7 went way above and beyond the call of duty when she listed (over 3 tweets!)  Charlotte’s Web, Charlie & Chocolate. Factory, Pippi (any!), Stuart Little, Frindle, Mrs. Frisby & Rats of Nihm, From the Mixed Up files of Mrs. Basil E Friankweiler, Ramona the Brave, Bad Beginning, Because of Winn Dixie, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Holes, and Bud, Not Buddy.  I believe her when she said she “could go on & on.”
  • @Dave_Hatton pitched in a recommendation for Matilda
  • @Critchie17 likes Ferdinand as a springboard for discussion on how we’re all unique.
  • @VandyGr3 recommended Muggie Maggie because of its subject matter: third graders and (gulp) cursive writing (that’s my gulp, not VandyGr3’s!)
  • @kellyhines suggested BunniculaThe TwitsEsio Trot, and any of the Wayside School books.

Wow! It’s incredible to me that I’ve received so much input from so many people!  Thanks again to all of you!

That’s like asking if we’re there yet…

It’s Friday night, and I’m regretting the nap that I took when I got home from the last day of AMSTI.  90 minutes of sleep at 4:30 makes it tough to call it a night sometimes. 

Overall, AMSTI was good, but I’m glad that it’s over.  I’ve got a mountain of math and science materials to go through: it’s a good thing there’s a month of vacation left. 

Why do you get critique sheets at the end of an event?  Okay, I know that you can’t give feedback on an event until it’s over, but by the time a two week long training session is over you just want to get out of there.  Given the magnitude of the endeavor that is AMSTI, I think that the powers that be do a pretty good job.  There’s quite a bit of tweaking that could be done, but nothing too big. 

For example, as lead teacher this year I was the one from my school to sign for our new big-box-o-stuff.  Last year’s box had thermometers, a weather shelter, a huge tape measure, and some other cool stuff.  I was sort of looking forward to taking some time this summer playing with whatever goodies we got this year.  I cut open the box (about the size of a really big briefcase) to find: cloud charts and an equally really big bag of packing peanuts.  Cloud charts?  That’s it?  Granted, we’ll probably use the cloud charts, but I’m pretty sure that the packing and handling cost more than the charts.  Um…why?

Or my aforementioned (last post) classroom management session.  By my rough calculations, Alabama paid our group around $500 to spend an hour discussing how to use this material with our students.  Nothing earth-shattering (same stuff I’ve heard many times), and presented to a group with 200+ years of combined classroom experience: best use of funds?  Maybe not.

I don’t like negative posts, but I did want to get that out of my system.  There was a lot more positive than negative on the week, and I’m excited about getting the year rolling.  I don’t know if I can take my marching orders for the upcoming year from a t-shirt slogan, but one day the staff had a shirt that said something like this:

To get what we’ve never had, we must do what we’ve never done.

Alright, let’s do it.

We’re 80% of the way through year two of AMSTI.  We’ve finished Math, made it through Earth Materials, filled in the science “holes,” and have just Human Body to go.  It’s been a little bit like the old “drinking from a fire hydrant” experience that you hear about, but it’s not nearly as overwhelming as last year.  Good thing.

I suppose the biggest difference from last year has been the materials.  Last year we went home with a disparate collection of books and materials.  The math materials in particular were not inspiring.  I’m not holding it against her, but last year’s math teacher wasn’t supposed to let us know we were a “transition” (sometimes I really don’t like that word) group.  Last year’s materials: black and white with an overwhelming amount of text on each page.  This year’s materials: color with plenty of relavent illustrations (pictures! and not line sketches of apparently eager students) and a logical progression.  Who’da thunk it?  Those Scott Foresman folks are on the ball (not to mention making a pretty penny from the ol’ yellowhammer state).

Science has had different materials as well.  Last year’s material was by Carolina; this years is FOSS.  Neither are bad, but I like this year’s layout a lot more.

I suppose that having a year of experience under the belt has made this year a bit easier as well.  Instead of wondering how this will work in our classroom, I’m able to think about how I’ll be able to fit this into the master plan.  Big difference.

Two stars and a wish:

  • Star: I like the materials a lot.  The array cards ($185.50!) that we were given seem a bit much (since we already have set from last year), but everything else looks great.
  • Star: Overall organization of the session has been nearly flawless.  It’s obvious that the AMSTI/UAHuntsville folks have done this before. 
  • Wish: By my conservative estimate, the group of teachers I’m with has over 200 years of combined classroom experience and nearly 80 years of college under their belts.  It’s probably not necessary to spend so much time on generic classroom management and teambuilding.  Not a lick on our teacher; it’s a question about the program.

Like I said, it’s been a good time so far.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out in the real world!

Summer vacation is here!  That mythical “three months of getting paid for nothing” that all teachers allegedly enjoy. 

Well, the three months are actually two, I have training for 3 of those 8 weeks, and a week has already gone by and I’m still not sleeping as well as I should.  Oh well, the enjoy part has proven to be correct! A little gardening, some time spent with daughter #2 at her college orientation, and every morning drinking tea with my wife.  I like it.

What to do this summer?  I guess that revolves around my goals for the upcoming year.  (Ok, I’m going to do a bit of traveling, see my family, do some stuff around the house, and relax–but that’s not really what this blog is about, now is it?)  I have one big goal so far, and one smaller (supporting) goal.  My big goal is to base my entire teaching effort on writing.  Reading (especially), language, mathematics, science, social studies: I want to base all of these things on writing.  The supporting goal: using technology to support the big goal. 

In previous years, I’ve made technology my goal.  I’ve come to realize, though, that making technology a goal in and of itself is like saying your goal is to put one foot in front of the other or to learn how to swim the crawl stroke.  Don’t you really mean that you’d like to hike the Appalacian Trail or swim the English Channel?  Technology is a means to an end, not an end.  That’s probably obvious to everyone but me, but, hey, I’ve got it figured out now too!

Since most of my students will be unable to accomplish even the simplest task (outside of video games) on the computer, I will be teaching a bunch of tech; again, though, it’s a means and not the end. I’m looking at blogs and wikis, PowerPoint (as in, “No, Mr. Gels doesn’t have to help me I can do that myself” PowerPoint), Photostory, Movie Maker, word processing, and a little bit of Logo programming thrown in to help with geometry. Oh, yea, file management too.

Other goals for the upcoming year:

  • 45 minutes of meaningful reading each day in addition to reading during lessons
  • Going outside 3-4 times a week in addition to recess (year-round; you’d better have a coat)
  • Replacing the concept of classroom management with the reality of community
  • Going into testing season (early March around here) without breaking the normal routine
  • More stuff that I can’t think of yet

Writing, writing, writing! First step: learn how to teach writing.  The last few years have been okay, but let it suffice to say that they won’t be models for the upcoming year…

It’s time to start planning for next year…


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