Friday, February 24, 2012

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss

My friend Carol has written a lot lately on our state’s “big” event.  As we all know the pressure put on teachers and students over this test is counterproductive to what we should be doing:  teaching, and learning. 

One of my student’s father works for a rocket company.  Kindof cool.  I can say “What, you think your dad is a rocket scientist?  And he can reply “Why, yes he is!”  Well, anyway his company goes to schools and builds rockets out of two litre soda bottles, and other fun stuff.   After they are “built” we take the third graders out and they shoot them off.  Last year it was the best memory of the year.  Given the company’s busy schedule, and our science unit about space the logical time for this activity was set for the Thursday and Friday before the “big” event.  Like I said this has been planned for months.  Everyone from the principal to the other third grade teachers knew the dates and time commitment.  Well, today came the realization that it is days before the “big” event, and even worse it takes time away from mathematics.  There is concern that by a few kids missing two days of instruction it will negatively impact their test scores.

I read the email multiple times to see if there was fine print saying “just kidding!”; but alas it was not there.  Now to be blunt a few things entered my head, and some were said with my door closed at lunch; but for the sake of this being a blog I’ll just censor my thoughts:  “What the…..” Really!  If they aren’t ready now what will two more******* days do?”  After calming down I decided that I would do what I always do when I need to be calm in front of my class.  I READ A PICTURE BOOK.  Not any book, but one that told them what I really thought.

I read Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! by Dr. Seuss.  I have read this book many times.  I use it as a mentor text when we discuss using our brains to think, and that we are capable of doing so much.  In third grade they split up the “big” event over two months.  ????? We take Reading in February and Writing and Mathematics in March. In our class we discuss how we started preparing for these test the day our first story was read to us, the first time we knew a number, and the first time we wrote a letter.  In other words we know what is on the test, so sit back and show the state what you can do. 

In my heart I, truly, believe this.  I am, also, not naïve enough to believe that I don’t need to teach these wonderful students the formats of the test.  The format of the editing paragraph on the writing test is enough to put anyone over the edge. What will the results show?  They will show that some students still struggle, and some fly.

What won’t the results show?

·      laughter
·      compassion
·      deeper thought
·      questioning

So in the words of Dr. Seuss:  “Miss Bonkers teaches a pig to put on underpants, and ducks to sing.  Mr. Kimmal teaches your shoes are untied,  and what's on your shirt?  Mr. Kimmal, also, teaches EVERYTHING!  He’s different-er than the rest.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bigger Than A Breadbox and the Joys of Read Alouds

“You can’t stop!”
“Read more!”

These are just a few of the many comments I heard when I tried to finish my read aloud the other day.  We were so very close to the end of Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder.  When this happened I, again, was stunned at the intensity children listen to what we read to them.  I promise to not get on a soapbox and write about the importance of Read Alouds.  Instead, I will share the pure joy I felt while reading this wonderful book to my class.

Full Disclosure:

Bigger Than a Bread Box is not a guy’s book.  I can’t imagine most boys picking it up on their own accord and actually reading it.  Now, that is not to say that a boy would not enjoy it because 13 third grade boys listened intensely to the beautiful words of Ms. Snyder.  But to be blunt:  girl on cover, girl main character, grandma, and mom.  Not a lot of dudes!

Back to read aloud time.  I do it daily after lunch, and it last about 15 minutes.  Trust me when I say that it could easily go longer.  That is why there were groans and protest the other day.  I try to find new books each year.  It is not that the cannon is not filled with great read alouds, but I want to make sure kids get a well-rounded literacy experience.  I try to have a mixture of male and female protagonist, genres, and lengths.  That is how we ended up with Bigger Than a Bread Box.

The story is about a family going through problems.  Mom splits from Dad and takes Rebecca and her little brother to Atlanta to stay with Gran.  While there Rebecca finds a breadbox that grants wishes.  A couple of catches:  one it must fit in a bread box, two it won’t get her parents back together.  Along the way Rebecca learns some important lessons.  I’m not going to give more way because it is a book that must be read and enjoyed.

Like I wrote earlier this is not a soapbox post about the importance of read alouds, but more a statement about the love I have for this daily routine.  Every summer I start the quest for the first read aloud of the year.  (Yes, that is the dictionary definition of DORK!)  I email friends, talk to people at The Bookies, read blogs and find the perfect first book. 

There have been times where the book is not well received, so that leads to a discussion about it is OK to stop reading a book.  Luckily this rarely happens.  And, so on to picking our next read aloud.  I have a couple of ideas.  I am toying with reading a classic.  I might read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, or The Phantom Tollbooth, or something new.  I still have some time to decide.  One thing I do know is that what ever it is will be a wonderful time in my room.