23 July 2014

Another way you know you're on holidays ...

is when you get a head cold. That's not to say I don't get them other times, but somehow my body just seems to know that I'm on holidays and thinks it's OK to get sick. A friend commented on Facebook that something similar happened to her. I wonder if our immune system winds down a bit as well when we're relaxing. Maybe it's just that I'm in another country, and I'm being exposed to a whole new set of bugs and my body couldn't take it. Never mind, at least it's just a head cold with a bit of a cough. Unfortunately it's not always as easy to get the symptom relieving medicines you'd use at home in another country, but I'm hoping I've got something that will let me get a better night's sleep tonight.

Meanwhile I decided that, since I wasn't feeling so great, I'd just have a quiet day in the guesthouse and do another jigsaw puzzle. This one also had 300 pieces and cost me the very extravagant (not) price of 60 baht (not quite $2). I think it was easier than the one I did the other day. There were a few tricky bits, but I enjoyed doing it.

Now I'm happily working on a reading and reflection task before I head out to get some dinner. Then I really need to see if I can pack my bags. I made one purchase for school (for implement the Daily 5) that is going to be a bit tricky to fit in. Hopefully I can do it and they'll all get home to Phnom Penh without any damage.

20 July 2014

You know you're on holidays when ...

you have time to do a jigsaw puzzle!

I found this cute 300 piece puzzle in a 60 baht ($2) Daiso shop here in Bangkok. Just the right size to do in my room at the guest house. Might have to go back this evening and get the other one that they had, which was kittens! 

18 July 2014

The CAFE Book Chapter 7 - The last

Strategy Groups

This chapter starts with a justification for strategy groups as opposed to levelled reading groups. The strategy group approach allows the reading strategy needs of students at different levels to be me through small group instruction.

Structuring and Managing Strategy Groups
The key points here were that Daily 5 needs to be up and running before I start strategy groups, and that I need to have completed individual assessment of the students so I know what they need. Even with strategy groups there will still be whole class instruction and individual conferences.

Using the Strategy Group Form.
This form helps the teacher keep track of who needs to work on what strategy, and which students can work as a group on a strategy. It is also used to keep track of progress within the group. One key point is that students can move in and out of strategy groups as they master strategies. The strategy groups support individual instruction and give students a chance to work with a buddy who is focussing on the same strategy as they are.

Strategy Groups in Action: What a Typical Morning Looks Like
The key point I noted in this section was that the timing for strategy groups is similar to that for whole group instruction. This is based on Brain-based learning and is approximately one minute for each year of the age of the children. Using this thinking, most of my strategy groups should be 9-10 minutes since I'm teaching mostly 9 & 10 year olds.

Sample Strategy Groups
Once again the principles of this chapter are made clear through detailed examples. Three examples are given: One for Accuracy with a group of Kindergartners, one for Comprehension with a group of Third Graders, and one for Expand Vocabulary with a group of Fifth Graders.

And so ends my review and notes on The CAFE book. I still have all the appendices to read, but they can be done as I need to use them. Next step is to work out what it will look like in my classroom this year. This is going to be different in some ways because of my unique situation for timetabling with our bilingual program, but I know I can make it work.

16 July 2014

The CAFE Book Chapter 6

This chapter starts with a reminder that the order of introducing strategies isn't that important. While the four strategies introduced in Chapter 4 are foundational, the rest can be taught in any order that meets the needs of the students. Whichever strategies are chosen, it's important to keep the whole class focus lessons short, in line with brain-based learning principles. It's also important to remember that you don't just teach a strategy once and then move on. You can revisit strategies as often as needed throughout the year, with the whole class, with small strategy groups, or with individual students.

The next section provides an example of the Flip the Sound strategy lesson. One think I really liked here was the hand movement that signals the strategy. I think that will be really helpful for my kinaesthetic learners.

Whole lesson elements

  1. Identify what is to be taught, and share the "secret to success" with the strategy.
  2. Teach the strategy.
  3. Students practise with partners.
  4. Select a student to write and illustrate the CAFE menu strategy card (1st time only).
  5. Review the strategy.
  6. Encourage practice during independent reading times.
  7. Post the strategy after independent practice.
  8. Continually connect new strategies to strategies that are already on the CAFE board

Sample lessons
Four more sample lessons are provided to demonstrate a variety of strategies. These really help me see how the CAFE can work to help my students become better readers.

Something I'm also beginning to see is how I can reinforce the strategies during other lessons as well, especially science and social studies where we do quite a lot of "reading to learn".

13 July 2014

The CAFE Book Chapter 5

Eavesdropping on Some Conferences

I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. It does just what you might expect from the title, let's the reader see how it works. As I would say, this chapter really shows where the rubber hits the road! There are sample conferences for each of the four CAFE areas: Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanding Vocabulary. A variety of strategies are used, with a mixture of Beginning Readers and Advanced Readers. I'm really starting to get some concrete ideas of how I can use this and make it work in my fourth grade classroom. I've also got a much better idea of how to keep the conferences brief and specific.

That's all I'm going to say about this one. If you want to know more, you'll just have to get hold of the book and read it!

10 July 2014

Checking in

About a month ago I wrote about all the things I still had left to do before school finished and some of the things I hope to do over the holidays. You can read that here. Since the first four weeks of "summer break" are almost over I thought it would be a good time to write an update on how I'm going with that list.

I'm happy to report that the first eight items on the list happened without any problems. The students enjoyed the Science Fair, and we all enjoyed the trip to Kids City (where we spent time on the playground, the Science Floor, and Clip and Climb). Most stationery requests came in on time, and I got all the teacher resources back. The review of stationery requests took a while, but my students happily watched a movie while I did that. I got the Math Summary Sheets done in time, but the Reading and Writing Continuums took me another week, along with finishing cleaning and tidying up the classroom. They're done now and in a safe place ready to hand over to the appropriate person.

So, what about the holiday "To Do List". Well, I'm slowly making progress with the things on that list. I've finally finished the Stationery Supplies (as far as I can). Here's the evidence of what I've spent a heap of time preparing for and doing.
The big picture (although you can't quite see everything).

Books, books, and more books.

Khmer teacher supplies

Classroom teacher supplies and more books!
Here's a few numbers to help you understand what a huge job this has been:
3417 exercise books in 7 different sizes/styles
1149 folders
285 highlighters (in five different colours)
192 erasers
92 boxes of writing pencils
95 packets of coloured pencils
All of which had to be shared among 50 teachers and teaching assistants.

Other things I have managed to do so far include reading a few books, catching up with friends, watching a movie or two, and setting up my plan book for next year. So here are the things I still have left to do. I'm sure a few of them might not get done, but that's OK too.

  • Dental check-up
  • Create pictorial Math Manipulatives Catalogue
  • Check student workbooks for next year & request some extra photocopies.
  • Buy fabric and make chair bags for my classroom
  • Lots of piano practice
  • Start studying towards my Graduate Certificate in Education (Inclusive Education) which I hope will eventually lead to my Masters of Education
  • Prep my classroom for next year including setting up for The Daily 5
  • Review Science & Social Studies Units and think about how I can improve on them for next year
  • Write Unit plans for Language Arts Units
  • Read some more books
  • Catch up with friends - Two appointments made for this next week!
  • Watch a movie or two - I've seen 22 Jump Street and I'm off to see The Fault in Our Stars tomorrow.
I'm also participating in an on-line book club during July, which is a book I've started reading several times and not finished. I'm really enjoying the readings and the reflection/writing part of it is good.

Finally I've been helping out with keeping the school pool maintained over the break. That's been great because I usually swim first and then sweep the bottom of the pool. The swim and sweeping usually take about an hour, sometimes a little more, but it's refreshing and rewarding.

So, I'm pretty happy with what I've achieved so far, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the break. I looked at my calendar today and there's just 3 weeks before new teachers start! I'm sure I'm going to wonder where the break went if I'm not careful! Looking forward to Bangkok too.

The CAFE Book - Chapter 4

Conferring with Children: Principles and Examples

I'm excited about this chapter because I really have no idea what conferences with students about reading really might or should look like, as well as how to keep meaningful records and keep on top of "time". The authors promise lots of examples.

Rethinking Conference Protocols
This section provides background as well as introducing a specific structure for conferences. The focus of the conference is the child, his/her individual reading goals, and the progress he/she is making. A neat "conferring form" is provided with scaffolding and cues to help teachers like me move into conferring. A key point is that conferences are really coaching sessions, and a structure called "Coaching Toward a Target" is provided and explained in details (complete with examples).

The Seven Elements of Successful Conferences
Step 1: Check the calendar for appointments - The Calendar and the Keeping Track forms are key to ensuring every student gets the support he/she needs, including those who are more competent and more able to work independently.
Step 2: Prepare for the conference - This step involves a quick review of notes from the last conference with this child, before you get to the child, to enable the teacher to quickly and easily connect with what the individual student is working on, including what his/her personal reading goals are.
Step 3: Observe child and listen to reading - Conferences happen where the child has chosen to work. This step involves listening to the child reading and noting if and how he/she is applying strategies.
Step 4: Reinforce and teach - In this step you tell the student what you noticed about his/her reading, and ask what they have noticed. Focus on one strategy at a time, and provide individual teaching using explicit instruction and modelling. This should only take about a minute.
Step 5: Practise the strategy - Now the child has a chance to practise what you've just taught them while you're there. This gives a chance to fine tune the instruction and provide further clarification if needed.
Step 6: Plan - The planning here involves the student. This section outlines how to know if a child is ready to move on to a new strategy, and how to keep track of successfully demonstrated strategies (using the CAFE menu). This is the time to decide, with the child, what he/she will work on independently, and when you will next confer with him/her.This also helps build accountability for learning in the students.
Step 7: Encourage - We all need encouragement. Remember to give specific encouragement about the progress that has been made, and to reiterate the key teaching point of the conference.

In summary, the key is that short, focused conferences regularly will help children become better readers much more effectively than longer irregular conferences.

04 July 2014

Rainy season adventures

I love the rainy season. I guess it comes from having lived with drought for some many years. Today I was out and about this afternoon when a tropical thunderstorm rumbled in. I donned my rain poncho, and headed on my way. It wasn't long until I joined the crowd seeking shelter at a petrol station. It poured, and it poured, and then it poured some more. At times the wind blew the rain in under the roof, and I ended sitting in about a centimetre of water. Being on holidays, I decided to just sit and enjoy the experience and watch the storm. Where I was, on a main intersection, it was interesting to watch the traffic continue to move, with some impatient drivers racing to get through the lights and others approaching things more cautiously.

I'd been sitting there for about 15 minutes or so when along came two young men who I would consider pretty clever. On the back of their motos, and in a bag over the handlebars, was a plentiful supply of plastic raincoats! They had obviously worked out that there was money to be made selling raincoats to "stranded" moto riders. They did the rounds of those waiting, bypassing me since I already had my big poncho on, and then headed off into the rain to the next servo.

Eventually, when it looked like the rain had eased about, and as I noticed that roads were flooding, I decided to head out. Getting out of the servo required going through some flood water, and then the main road home was OK. Once I turned onto the street the school is on I discovered that it was flooded. Not too bad, in that it wasn't too deep and I did manage to navigate it reasonably well, without the bike stalling. By the time I got to my own street that too was flooded, but not badly. Life's fun! Once the rain stopped the water went down reasonably quickly around my place. I imagine it wasn't so quick to get away in other areas though. It's still raining as I write this, although it did stop for an hour or so. Once again I'm glad I have a dry place to sleep tonight. There will be many in Phnom Penh who don't tonight.