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Classroom management

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.

Arranging your classroom

Our babysitter is starting her first year of teaching this week. She'll be teaching kindergarten at one of our high needs schools. It's an Open Court school, so while most of her curriculum is already prescribed for her, how she arranges her classroom is up to her. And she's filled with questions!

Open House: What does a good classroom look like?

Our school has an Open House the week before school starts. It's always a day or so after we find out our teachers for the year. School is open for an hour so families can help kids find their new classroom, and meet their new teacher. There's lots of nervous excitement in the air!

We start school early here (August 20), so our Open House is next week. The girls can't wait, and neither can I. The promise of a new school year never gets old.

School spending: Parents and teachers

Molly, Anna, and I went shopping for school supplies yesterday. It's always a bit of a giddy shopping trip; choosing which color for the composition book, 16 or 24 box of crayons, Elmer's or Rose's glue…getting to buy colored pencils…oh my! We were there for at least an hour.

Total cost: $47.00 for two kids.

Reading logs: Our own hot topic

I've written twice before about reading logs: back in August 2007 with "Reading logs, reading blahs" and then again in April 2008 with "Should reading with parents count?"

Those two posts have sparked lots of comments, all of which carried valid points about the purposes and pitfalls of reading logs.

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"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl