Monday, March 30, 2009

Thirty Poets in Thirty Days

For the past several years, Greg Pincus has been publishing a poem a day during Poetry Month. This year he wanted to do something different on his GottaBook blog. “I wanted to create a big event celebrating children’s poetry, and I wondered if anyone else would join me,” Pincus said.

It’s gotta be a lot easier to get 30 people to do one poem than it is for one person to write 30 poems, he thought.

So he started emailing children’s poets…

The result is the debut this month of Thirty Poets/Thirty Days. Each day in April, a new never-before-published poem for children will be posted on Gotta Book. The list of contributors is a veritable Who’s Who of children’s poetry. Jack Prelutsky, Jon Scieszka, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and Jane Yolen join the likes of Mary Ann Hoberman, Kenn Nesbitt, and Nikki Giovanni. By the end of the month, Pincus and his pack of poets will have produced an archive of fresh poems to ponder or make kids smile.

Poetry Month is a perfect opportunity to develop in your students a love of verse in its many forms. As the “principal poet” in your school, perhaps Thirty Poets/Thirty Days is an event and resource you might share with your teachers. Or you might even decide to share a poem a day during your a.m. or p.m. announcements.

Whatever you do, don’t miss this opportunity to share never-before-seen poems from the most prolific of children’s poets and to promote a love of poetry.

Do you or your teachers do anything special to recognize Poetry Month? Click the pencil below to share ideas that might be of interest to school readers who read our blog.

Additional Resources

Just One More Book: A Conversation With Greg Pincus
Greg Pincus explains the genesis of Thirty Poets/Thirty Days in this podcast.

Poem of the Day
A short poem by Greg Pincus.

Poetry Month: Education World Archive
Browse our archive of poetry resources, including lesson plans, activities, projects, articles, and more.

The Principal Poet
More than three dozen poems about life in school from Mr. Ivan, our own Principal Poet.

Eric Baylin’s Songs to Brighten a Teacher’s Day
The songs of Ed World’s resident singer-songwriter, Eric Baylin, are sure to bring a smile to any educator’s face.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Are You Doing
To Motivate Your Test Takers?

Will your students be duct-taping you to the wall if they improve their scores on state tests this year? Will you be camping on the roof overnight if the kids help you meet AYP? If either of those rewards is what you’ll be facing when students meet testing benchmarks, then you need to get down on your knees and be thankful you won’t be kissing a barnyard animal again!

Principal stunts have always been great motivators for kids, but if you’re not really a “stunt person,” there are plenty of other ways you can motivate kids to give those state tests their best shots.

In Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, each school uses some kind of reward to get kids focused on the test task. The rewards vary by school and grade level, Teresita Kolenchak, district director of public relations, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. [See Some Schools Offering Test-Taking Incentives] Those incentives could be a dance, pizza party, or ice cream social. Or a raffle that gives students a chance to toss a pie at one of their teachers.

Other schools do special things to motivate kids before the tests. One Penn Hills elementary school presents pencils printed with a rhyming reminder to “Do your best on the test.”

At Carpenters Middle School in Marysville, Tennessee, teachers and the principal have joined forces to create a character, Captain TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program), who helps kids focus on test-prep strategies. Nose picking and belching are sure to get middle schoolers’ attention, but the messages these educators present all in fun are serious ones. Take a look at the Teacher Tube video below. The last segment of this video introduces their superhero (the school principal), Captain TCAP.

The educators at Carpenter Middle have even created a blooper reel -- real outtakes from their video production. And if you have another moment, be sure to take a look at their “Men in Black” spoof. You’ll be amazed at their creativity, and you’ll instantly see how this video worked to get the school’s students excited about doing well on the TCAPs.

What are you doing in your school to motivate your test takers? Do you do practice tests all year long? Do you focus on the “bubble kids” who with an extra point or two could push your school to the next level? Do you talk with all kids about test data? Do you hold pep rallies in advance, offer incentives, provide rewards…? Thanks 1,000,000 for clicking the pencil at the bottom of this entry to share what you’ve done so others might benefit from your experience.

Read More

Boosting Test Scores: "Principal" Strategies That Work
Raising test scores is a goal at the top of all principals' lists. It's a task that requires focus and a multi-pronged approach. In this article, Ed World's "Principal Files" team shares strategies that have helped them boost sagging scores -- strategies that could work for you too.

Big Test Pep Rallies: 2, 4, 6, 8 -- Taking Tests And Feeling Great!
A little stress over tests can keep kids on their toes, but too much will knock them off their feet. So, taking a page from the athletic department's playbook, schools are using the popular "pep rally" to get students excited and motivated to do their best on the tests.

Cheering Classmates Send Students to Tests
Most of Parkville Community School's students know where they are and where they need to go on the state’s high stakes tests. So after months of preparation, the school holds a pep rally to get its test-takers pumped.

Larry Bell: Somebody Needs You
An award-winning educator and in-demand speaker, Larry Bell's inspirational messages focus on practical ideas for improving test scores and helping at-promise students achieve success. Here Bell presents tools and strategies for helping your at-promise students achieve.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cool School Tool #2:
Geocaching Is “Caching On” in Schools

From time to time, I share in this blog a “cool tool for schools.” This might be a tool you will want to use, share with your staff, or pass along in a parent newsletter.


Are your students engaged in geocaching? If not, they’re missing out. Geocaching is “caching on” in schools around the country.

Geocaching, a kind of high-tech treasure hunt, involves students in using small portable GPS devices as they collect clues or information or trinkets. Students are actively absorbed as they learn about geography and other subjects. Geocaching can involve individuals, families, or entire communities.

Some call geocaching a sport. Others call it a hobby. Or a game. Whatever you call it, it is providing exercise and fun for individuals and families around the world. And many schools, after-school programs, and community groups are using geocaching to engage students…

Colts Neck, New Jersey. Fourth graders are charting the “westward expansion” of four caches. Four of the school’s families dropped off “travelbug” caches locally and recorded their locations. They posted the geographic coordinates of the caches on the Geocaching Web site. Other geocaching enthusiasts use the site to track down local caches and follow the instructions attached to them. In the case of the fourth graders, they ask each person who locates their cache to move it closer to the west coast. As a geocacher moves one of the students’ caches, they use its identification number to access its online record and enter its new location’s geographic coordinates. There the cache will sit until another geocacher comes along and moves it farther west. Back at school, the students are tracking on a large map the westward movement of their four caches. [Read a News Transcript article about their project, Colts Neck Pupils Track Travelbugs’ Adventures]

Hamlet, North Carolina. Instructional technologists here have adapted geocaching to their own uses. They created a geocaching activity to train local teachers in the use of GPS, and now those teachers are using what they learned to create activities that adapt the technology to their own curricula. For example, one elementary-grade teacher had students use the GPS devices to track down a cache that included a plastic gray squirrel, a box turtle, a pine needle, and a picture of a dogwood blossom; those students were learning about geography, technology, and their state’s official symbols. [Read more in a blog posting, Geocaching at School]

Jackson County, Oregon. This county’s Library Services group recently introduced a “Find That Book” geocaching event. Copies of a book were hidden in five regions of the county. Students use the coordinates posted on the Geocaching Web site to track down the book. When they find the book, they autograph it and return the cache to its spot for the next person to find. Finders’ names will be printed in a local newspaper at the end of the month-long event.

Have students in your school or area gotten involved in geocaching? We’d enjoy hearing your about your experience. Please take a few moments, click the pencil below, and share your thoughts about geocaching as a learning activity.

Read More
Read more about geocaching and a similar activity called letterboxing…
  • Wiggins Treasure Hunt Teaches Skills
  • Letterboxing: Clues Lead Kids on an Educational Adventure
  • Letterboxing With Children: Walking With a Purpose
  • Thursday, March 12, 2009

    In Face of Budget Cuts,
    Principals Get Creative

    The economy is on edge, and schools are certainly not immune to the current downturn. That fact has spurred some principals to take matters into their own hands -- like the Arizona principal who took her school’s need for supplies public. She posted this telling message on her school’s marquee:


    It’s a “sign of the times.”

    Some people think the appeal was a humorous attempt to draw attention to a need. But Principal Debra Drysdale told the Yuma Sun [read the article] that the marquee message she posted was a serious appeal. While she knows her teachers will spend money out of their own pockets for anything their students need, she hoped this very public plea -- posted in large letters above the school’s phone number -- would result in some help. And it has. Drysdale says there has been “quite a nice response” from community members, parents, and passersby.

    Facing similar budget constraints in Florida, Principal Dominick Ferello is taking a different approach. He recently invited local business leaders to a “power breakfast” at his school, Explorer K8 School in Spring Hill, in an attempt to draw attention to its needs. Representatives of nearly two dozen local businesses showed up. They were asked to take a look at a list of items posted on a wall display and invited to sign up to fulfill a need. [Read the St. Petersburg Times article]

    Tough times like these require some out-of-the-box thinking, and that’s what these principals are doing. Perhaps you know of other ways in which principals are raising awareness, donations, and cash as budget cuts eat into school resources?

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Offering Green for Grade$

    No, the title of this blog entry doesn’t refer to a special program being offered just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Nor does it refer to an effort to improve the environment in or around schools. Instead, it refers to the title of a new program being piloted in Chicago’s schools that rewards students for the grades they earn. Green for Grade$ joins a growing number of programs that reward student grades, like the Capital Gains program in Washington, D.C. Still other districts are paying cash incentives for reading books (Dallas’s Earning By Learning program) and perfect attendance (see Chelsea High School’s Attendance Policy).

    Some of these programs that are popping up are funded by taxpayers while others are funded by non-profits or corporations with a vested interest in improving the stock of local graduates. But what if your district or community is too cash-strapped to offer a program that pays performance incentives to kids? Or what if your district is doing well on state tests without offering such incentives?

    Is there a better way?

    Maybe our states should consider funding an alternative plan that rewards all kids as it encourages good grades and parent involvement. How about rewarding students’ good grades, perfect attendance, and other positive outcomes with “scholarship credits” that can be used to fund their future education at state colleges and universities? A plan like that would encourage students to focus, reward learning, encourage students to think ahead, and help offset future college tuition and fees, which are rising faster than American Idol’s TV ratings.

    Granted, an incentive like this one is not immediate gratification, but it could offer encouragement to kids who are too aware that they’re going to need a ton of cash or a truckload of loans to fulfill their dreams of a college education. And it would ensure that parents will be there beside their kids -- encouraging them and monitoring grades and attendance -- because they will see the potential impact of this incentive on their own wallets.

    More About Rewards
    Have you seen my previous blog entry on the topic of rewards?
    Who Said Rewards Don’t Work?