Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Daily 5, pt 3: Independence Day

Continuing from before, the biggest change to my classroom operations is the addition of choice and with that comes independence.

Those are SCARY words! Even The Sisters, who wrote The Daily 5, accept that cutting the cord of control can be a frightening decision to make. Funny creatures, we teachers are. We like students who show independence but we like to control it. We want students to manage themselves but we obsess over managing our classroom. We strive to get students engaged in the task that we prescribe for them. Then we wonder why little So-and-so won`t do as he is asked.

Independence day (in the classroom sense) is about coming to terms with the fact that students can make the right decisions if they are given the opportunity. Having taught the skills and expectations that are required to be successful, we need to let them think about how they are going to learn on each day. Let them manage themselves and help them if they struggle. Let them make a choice and guide them if they make poor ones. To really make the point, consider this:

If you instruct a child to read, they know that they have two choices: 'do' or 'do not'. Instruct a child to choose between a list of activities and 'do not' is seldom considered.

So the day approaches.

It is only a matter of days until I explain to my classes how and why they will be trusted as independent and responsible learners. Cross your fingers and stay tuned.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Daily 5, pt 2: Choice

This is just a short one to a) let you all know I haven't completely vanished, and b) update anyone who is interested in how I am adapting the Daily 5 program into my teaching. Due to the scheduling at my school, I get my English classes in 50 minute blocks each day. Add to that the time it takes my class to arrive at my door and settle and we are down to about 45 minutes. That's not a lot of time so my Daily 5 is weekly.

Each week, my students check in with me and have the following options:

1. Independent Reading - Just as it sounds, students read quietly to themselves.

2. Reader`s Theatre - Students choose a script, assume a character, and read through it using voice and expression.

3. Free Writing - The kids I teach like Free Running. I liken it to that but with a pencil. Write whatever you like...just write. (...hmm... that might be a better name for this activity...)

4. Writing Skills - Students work on editing a text, vocabulary, punctuation, or whatever I identify as the focus for the week. 

One of my concerns that I expressed in an earlier post, was that I was nervous about starting up something new without really knowing what I am getting into. As I started to draft up what this program would look like in my classroom, I was thrilled to realize that I already do most of these things! Reader`s Theatre will be a new addition to the classroom and Writing Skills will look different but the biggest change to my English classes will be the increase in choice and independence. Pretty sweet, eh!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You Tube to Mp3? Yes, Please!

I took today as a sick day as I was battling a horrible virus that has mostly seemed to pass. After sleeping away most of the day, I got on to being quasi-productive with planning and then slipped into surfing blogs to find some answers. In doing so, I came across Tales of a Teacherista who had posted about building a library of songs for her classroom. Its such a fun, cheap, and easy way to liven up the classroom. In that post, she explained how to use Real Player to download You Tube videos as Mp3 audio files.

That's exactly how I used to do it, too, but similar to the comments on Mrs. Pollard's post suggest, you need to download Real Player to use it and my experience is that you can't move the file once you save it onto your computer. If it isn't working for you if can be Headache City. Here's a nice and easy alternative that was shared with me!

Step 1: Find the video you want from You Tube
Step 2: Copy the URL from the address bar (CTRL C)
Step 3: Go to
Step 4: Replace the URL that is in the textbox with yours (CTRL V) and click "convert video"
Step 5: Wait a few minutes. Perhaps pour yourself a coffee. If it is a short video, you might not have time though. Sorry.
Step 6: When it is all finished, click on "download", then "save". Choose where you want it saved and what you want to call it. Click "Save"
Step 7: Go to and tell everyone how much easier this has made your life!

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7!
Now if you didn't get to pour that coffee, now is your chance.

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