Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reading is FUN-damental

    I remember growing up with enough books to build a fort. And I did just that. I would surround myself with books to read. As I got older I would read multiple books at a time, and I am so grateful that my mom was able to turn me on to reading. Part of the reason I am en-route to becoming a teacher is because I hope to one day inspire children in the same way I was. Reading is Fundamental; here's why:

    Started in 1966 by Margaret McNamara, a school teacher, and a group of school teachers who distributed books to schools in Washington, D.C., Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) began as a way to give students and children the opportunity to have their own books.
    With grants from foundations such as Ford Foundation and money from the United States Congress, RIF took a step further by being able to support children with free books across the Nation. By 1977, 1 million children received books and RIF is now serving 4.4 million (and growing) children a year. They are not only working to help America, but also spreading literacy programs in Argentina and the United Kingdom. 

    RIF's vision includes providing students with books all over America. No child should ever grow up without a good book to read! Their website offers many different opportunities for volunteers, parents, teachers, and children. There are articles and lists that help to educate parents and teachers, and even book lists of the new books out there for children. 

    Okay future English teachers (and every other teacher!), I know what you are thinking: How can I use this in the classroom? Well behold, there are multiple opportunities to incorporate the great knowledge from this website.
  • There are opportunities for monthly activities that students and at-home children can engage in to encourage their curiosity with reading. These activities are offered in Spanish and English and they cover multiple content areas including Science, Math, and History. (So Elementary-Ed...you have options!)
  • If you are looking for a good book, but don't know where to start, try the Booklists link where RIF offers multiple lists ranging from Newbery Winners to Young Adult books. These are always helpful because students will be able to read the latest and the greatest!
  • As previously mentioned the articles offered by RIF are important for getting parents and teachers to understand the importance that reading holds in their child's lives. If you are looking for a shorter and briefer way to educate other teachers and parents check out the brochures that give quick and colorful advice. 
  • One of my more favorite parts of RIF's website is the Multicultural page. Here, there are many ways to see the best books for bilingual students, and books that incorporate different cultures into the classroom. I think it is so important to include the great variety that we have in our classrooms, so why not start with books?!
  • In my future classroom I hope to have students that not only love reading but are engaged in spreading the great love for reading. I think that as a class, it would be a great community activity to have the students help raise money for organizations such as RIF. There are many opportunities to do this, and if the word is spread through students, parents, and teachers, then the options are limitless. 
    RIF has now expanded and as of 2010, RIF has been able to reach 4,302,116 children and distribute 15,432,853 books. WOW! To check out more about their annual accomplishments check out their Annual Report. RIF now has ten partnerships for spreading the love of reading, and has come so far since 1966. I think Margaret McNamara should be proud, I know I am for her because she is spreading the one important thing that all children should have: A love for reading. 

To find out more and to explore: http://www.rif.org/

Blog-you later,

Ms. Watkins

P.S. Happy Valentines Day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Help!: The Love Song to Every Teacher's Last Minute Lesson Plan

It happens to the best of us. In fact, many times it happens simply because we have worked so hard on making sure our students learn material that we forget to create a worksheet, or an assessment. Well, teachers, fear no more. Thanks to Education World, there are seven helpful websites to help last minute lessons perfect. The following hyperlinks in this blog will direct you to more in-depth helpful information. Enjoy!

5-Minute Websites
Web Poster Wizard will help you create a class website when in a pinch. Four steps help guide you through creating the perfect website. EducationWorld also offers other helpful resources for ideas and tools.

From Barriers to Bridges
BabelFish is helping teachers all over create accurate letters home to families. Alta Vista's BabelFish simply allows you to copy and paste your document into the translation box, pick the language you want to translate into and...voila! you have a freshly translated document for the families at home. This is a great way to make sure that you are getting you information across to the families who are not fluent in English. It keeps them in the loop and on their toes for what to expect with their children. But be careful, these translations are very literal. While you may be effectively getting your point across, there may be a few mistakes or choppy meanings.

Good Job!
CasaNotes allows for teachers to create their own unique notes for students, teachers, and families. The opportunities are endless with graphics, color options, and most importantly a Spanish Version for ELL families. A helpful tip: Print in black and white to help save on the color ink. For many K-5 classrooms, awards and encouraging notes help students acknowledge a job well done. Education World offers more templates for awards and notes on their website as well.

Wonderful Worksheets
Creating engaging worksheets last minute can be time consuming and stressful. Thanks to PuzzleMaker, teachers have the opportunity to create crosswords and word searches for students to use. While I do think that this would rarely be used in secondary education classrooms, it is a great idea for students to use in Elementary schools. PuzzleMaker even has the option for students to create their own puzzles. So give your students the chance to challenge each other while they are still engaged in learning the content.
Education World also provides Enchanted Learning as a source to find more puzzles and worksheets. Some may require a small fee, but most (like PuzzleMaker) are free, so enjoy!

Poster Templates
Classroom decorations can become pricey and time isn't always on our side, thankfully though, Education World's Teacher Templates has multiple for decorating your room for free. If you are still having trouble finding what you are looking for they offer a tutorial for creating your own on Excel.

The Key to Success is Assessment
Assessment is quite obviously the most helpful tool a teacher can use in adjusting or modifying lesson plans for students. The good thing is QuizStar is a helpful website to create multiple choice, true/false, etc. assessment tests for students to take online. The great thing is, the website grades the tests for you and the teachers can have the students see what questions they got wrong. Online testing is also great for students who have a hard time focusing on tests on paper. ADD and ADHD students are better at keeping focus on computer screens than on other tests. Also be aware to not always test students online, there are many different ways to assess students.

Plan in a Pinch
Imagine a website that can give you a lesson plan on anything you may need. Education World's Lesson Planning link can help you find a lesson plan for any topic. So if you don't have the time, need fresh ideas, or a new way to teach the topic, check it out!

These seven quick and helpful ideas help teachers find what they need quickly and creatively. Be careful to use some sparingly and others, whenever you need them. Sometimes we just don't have the time, and other times we need a fresh burst of inspiration. Education World has many other links to the helpful use of technology for classrooms. I can't wait to use some of these websites and internet sources in the classroom. Part of being a teacher is sharing what we know, so share the wealth!

More on Education World's website: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech203.shtml

Until next time...
Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it. Marian Wright Edelman (1939-) American activist for the rights of children.