Monday, March 29, 2010

Get Set to Celebrate Books During
School Library Month, Children’s Book Week

Your students might not end up appearing on Oprah’s show like the kids at Ocoee Middle School did earlier this month, but the video those Florida students created [above] might make a nice reading motivator to share with your students.

When Ococee’s reading coach, Janet Bergh, was looking for a way to motivate readers at her school she thought it would be fun to recreate the dancing flash-mob scene that the Black Eyed Peas originated on Oprah's show for their song “Tonight Is Going to Be a Good Night” [see that video].

“Students have a lot of other interests,” Bergh told the Orlando Sentinel. “Oftentimes reading takes a back seat to those interests. It’s not always cool to be seen with a book.” [Read the Orlando Sentinel article.]

But the video and all the attention it has garnered have made reading a very cool thing to do at OMS. And it could do the same at your school. With School Library Month/National Library Week and Children’s Book Week right around the corner, you might build excitement by sharing the flash-mob video or recreating it with your own students. The song lyrics, which are available online [lyric source 1, lyric source 2], could be easily adapted to your school and state.


National Library Week
This year, National Library Week (April 11-17), and its companion celebration in schools, School Library Month, are times to celebrate the contributions of libraries and librarians and to promote library use. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Communities Thrive @ your library.” The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) offers many resources for school libraries, including a flyer with 30 Days of Activities for School Library Month (PDF format) and their popular Toolkits. The American Library Association (ALA) offers many additional resources; its new Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit includes tips for staging rallies in support of libraries.

Children’s Book Week
Join millions of others in celebrating Children’s Book Week (CBW) from May 10-16. CBW began in 1919 with the idea that children’s books can change lives. In communities around the country, local celebrations emphasize the importance of books and reading in a child’s life. Larger national programs help direct attention to the vital role literacy plays for every child. As Frederick Melcher, a founder of Children’s Book Week, stated so well: “A great nation is a reading nation.” This year, Every Child a Reader (part of the Children’s Book Council Foundation) and Scholastic are teaming up to provide the annual Book Week poster [pictured] free of charge. For the cost of an envelope and postage stamps, you can send for free posters to display throughout your school. Learn how to order posters for your school.


Find many lesson plan and activity ideas, as well as ideas for school-wide reading celebrations, on these Education World archive pages:.
National Library Week
Children’s Book Week

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver
Stand a Chance?

Are you watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution? Oliver has chosen Huntington, West Virginia, as the locale for his six-week ABC series because Huntington made headlines back in 2008 when it was declared America’s Unhealthiest City based on leading indicators of health. But, truth be told, Oliver’s Food Revolution could be taking place in many communities across the United States -- including, perhaps, your own.


When it comes to what kids eat, everyone always blames the kids, says Oliver. Parents, school nutrition workers, and local officials all pass the buck. They say they feed their kids what the kids want to eat -- things like pizza and chicken fingers and hot dogs. “But that’s absolute rubbish!” adds Oliver. “The problem is not with the kids -- it’s with the adults. Kids are really open-minded. If you make food fun, the sky is the limit.”

Oliver made a name for himself by transforming the food program in British schools. Now he’s focusing on America. And based on the sneak-peek broadcast last night, he has his work cut out for him.

Of course, Huntington’s schools are one of the focal points of the series, which gives us educators a reason for watching. But it remains to be seen if Oliver’s attention-getting schtick -- starting with a dumpster-load of fat representing the fat being consumed by Huntington’s school kids in a year -- will make an impression.

Will Oliver be able to make any kind of lasting impact on the families and schools in Huntington? Will his “Food Revolution” catch on in other places? Stay tuned.


It’s full steam ahead for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! health initiative. Last week, while hubby was busy in D.C. pushing for national healthcare reform, the First Lady was working hard in her fight against childhood obesity. Her four-pronged attack aims to
give parents the support they need,
provide healthier food in schools,
help kids to be more physically active, and
make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country.

One of the cornerstones of Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign is partnerships. She hopes to partner with groups that can help get out the campaign’s messages. Earlier this month, she spoke to the National PTA [read about it] and last week she asked food manufacturers to get on board by doing their part to improve products they offer consumers [read about it]. She hopes to involve video game makers as partners, too; she has offered $40,000 in cash prizes for software tools and video games that get kids excited about eating better and exercising more [read about it].

In the weeks ahead, the First Lady will be involving sport teams, pediatricians, entertainers, local and nationally elected officials, and other stakeholders as partners in her campaign.

“Let’s Move! is going to take families out of their isolation and give them the nationwide support they need from a whole range of industries to get our kids on track,” Obama said.


As if we needed more proof...

Did you happen to catch the news report yesterday about a study out of Cornell University? A professor and his brother, who is a Presbyterian minister and a religious studies professor, have studied more than 50 paintings of the Biblical Last Supper. Their study reveals that the portion sizes on plates in the paintings have grown between 23 and 69 percent over the years [read the article].

As it turns out, the artworld offers still more proof that we overeat today -- and that we have created an obesity epidemic of "Biblical" proportions. I fully believe that future depictions of the Last Supper should come complete with a Nutrition Facts side panel!


So it looks as though Michelle Obama and Chef Jamie are going to need every educator's help to turn things around. Thanks for doing your part! Here are a couple resources to get you started:

Let’s Move! -- Kids’ Collections
Use these resources -- including games, activity books, videos, and posters -- to spread healthful messages.

Michelle Obama to 'Shine the Light' on Childhood Obesity Issue
The First Lady’s explains the origins of Let’s Move! in this PBS interview.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Blog Bits #4:
Cookies for Kids With Cancer
Hip-Hop Teaches Vocabulary, More

When the staff, students, and parents at Valley Ranch Elementary School in Irving, Texas, were looking to organize a school-wide event for charity, they researched causes and narrowed them down to three. When the votes of the student body were tallied, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer had won their support. With everyone on board, the school community was able to raise $1,200 for their chosen cause.

Cookies for Kids' Cancer was created to raise awareness of -- and funds for -- pediatric cancer research. The organization started when 2-year old Liam was diagnosed with a deadly form of pediatric cancer called Neuroblastoma. Liam’s mom and dad, Gretchen and Larry, learned quickly that more than 50 percent of children with this form of cancer will not survive. The main reason for those horrible odds was that little money was being spent on research into pediatric cancers, which are the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18.

That need for research funding was what motivated Gretchen to do one thing she knew she could do to help: hold a bake sale. She and a team of 250 volunteers ended up selling 96,000 cookies in that first sale. They raised more than $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. And Cookies for Kids’ Cancer was born.

Today, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer raises money for research through two main avenues: school and community-group bake sales and online sales of cookie gift boxes. The organization’s Web site makes it easy for individuals, schools, churches, and businesses to hold bake sales by providing all the necessary tools, including letters and brochures, signs and posters, and supplies.

Maybe your school or a school club is looking for a cause around which they can rally. If so, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is one worth considering.

Explore More
Valley Ranch Elementary - Good Cookies in Action
Get Involved: Throw a Bake Sale


Sixth-grader Denzel Bernard knows the meaning of the word nefarious. “It means ‘wicked,’” he told the New York Daily News.

Nefarious is one of many “$10 words” that Denzel has learned with the help of Flocabulary, a program created by two hip-hop artists to teach everything from word definitions to Shakespeare and math equations [read a Daily News article].

Flocabulary has been creating original hip-hop music and standards-based curricular materials since 2005. The company’s roots reach back to founder Blake Harrison’s days in high school. Harrison was a good student, but he struggled to memorize facts for tests. He wondered why it was so easy to remember lines to his favorite rap songs but so difficult to memorize academic information. If a rapper released an album that defined vocabulary words, he thought, he might have a fun and effective way to prepare for the SATs.

Today, the lineup of Flocabulary learning materials is being used in more than 12,000 schools to teach vocabulary, reading, and writing skills as well as social studies, math, and science. The programs have been proven to increase student motivation and achievement.

Explore More

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Silence Is Golden on the School Bus

School leaders could never hope for silence on a school bus, but some are leading efforts to improve behavior and reduce bullying on the big yellow Blue Birds.


Last fall, Matt Federoff was at home thumbing through an electronics catalog. One ad in particular caught his eye: “Wi-Fi hotspot in your car.” But Federoff wasn’t thinking about his car. As the chief information officer of the Vail (Arizona) School District, he wondered, “What if you could put that on a school bus?”

Federoff did a little more digging and learned that $200 could buy an Autonet Mobile router. For an additional $60 a month for an Internet contract, he might be able to reduce behavior problems on school buses in the district’s fleet.

Federoff’s idea has been transformed into an experiment that is returning interesting results. Since some students in his district travel 50 or more miles, a mobile Internet router enables them to use their time on the bus to research reports or do homework -- in essence, to extend the school day.

When they agreed to try out this idea, school officials didn’t have their heads in the sand. They knew many kids would use their Internet access to email friends or play online games. And that’s just fine. “That’s a whole lot better than having them bugging each other,” Calvin Baker, Vail’s superintendent told the New York Times. [Read the article, Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus Into Rolling Study Hall].


Many principals award a Golden School Bus to a different bus each week as recognition of being the best behaved on their bus ride home. In Milford, Massachusetts, a group of principals got together and took that idea to the next level. They came up with consistent rules and consequences that would be shared among the schools as well as a plan for recognizing the “best behaved bus.”

Each time a bus pulls up to a school, the driver gives a thumbs up or thumbs down rating for student behavior, which a teacher records. At the end of the month, the bus with the most thumbs up ratings is Bus of the Month. The winning bus gets the honor of sporting a large "School Bus of the Month" magnet for the next month. The students receive small rewards, too.

Principals in Milford report that referrals for poor behavior on buses are way down since they introduced the Bus of the Month program. The program has turned what one principal called “recess on wheels” into a tremendous motivator for good behavior.

“Bus behavior is definitely better,” Lenny Morcone, district transportation coordinator, told Education World. “It definitely helps that there is cooperation between the schools and the drivers.”


Bus of the Month Program Drives Better Behavior
This Education World article describes the Milford, Massachusetts, program that has improved student behavior on the district’s buses.

School Bus Discipline: Solving the Problem
Is school bus discipline a problem in your school? This Education World article shares two school-bus discipline policies that might serve as effective models.

School-Wide Strategies for Managing... Bus Conduct
More effective ideas for handling students’ behavior on school buses.

Improving Student Bus-Riding Behavior Through a Whole-School Intervention
This Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis article describes a multi-component intervention that improved bus-riding behavior in an urban public school.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Fourth R:
Making the Case for Recess

By now you’ve probably heard or read about the results of the latest Gallup survey of principals. More than 80 percent of you believe that recess has a positive impact on academics and achievement. This news comes at a time when recess has been taking a big hit -- the victim to time and testing pressures.

Among the other findings of the "The State of Play" survey were the following:
● Two-thirds of principals report that students listen better after recess and are more focused in class.
● An overwhelming majority of principals (96%) conclude that recess has a positive impact on social development.
● An overwhelming majority (97%) of principals believe that recess has a positive impact on general well-being.
● A solid majority (77%) of principals report taking recess away as a punishment.


Many principals who value recess have also taken a second look at a time-honored tradition: lunch followed by recess. By reversing the order of those two elements of the school day -- recess first, then lunch -- principals are finding they can cut down on wasted food and playground tiffs as they make kids more ready to learn after eating.

“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” Janet Sinkewicz, principal at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, New Jersey, told the New York Times [read the article]. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”

“We save 15 minutes every day,” added Principal Sarah Hartley, “because kids play, then go to the cafeterias and eat and cool down, and come back to the classroom and start academic work immediately.” Hartley, principal at North Ranch Elementary School in Scottsdale, Arizona, says 18 of her district’s 31 schools have adopted recess before lunch.


Another of the findings of the recent Gallup survey will come as no surprise to school leaders: the majority of principals say that 89 percent of the discipline-related problems they handle each day occur during recess or lunch.

It is those very discipline issues that have led many schools to take a second look at the value of recess, says Jill Vialet, founder and president of Playworks, a nonprofit organization that helps schools improve recess by putting trained coaches on the playground to help kids get games started and teach them conflict-resolution skills to use when problems arise.

The “organized play” that Playworks provides keeps kids safe during recess and helps them return to class better able to learn, Sara Shenkan-Rich, principal at Sherman Elementary School in San Francisco, told the Christian Science Monitor [read the article].

“It’s about giving kids the tools they need,” Vialet added.


See the following Education World articles about Recess First and Playworks (formerly called Sports4Kids).

Recess Before Lunch Can Mean Happier, Healthier Kids
Recess follows lunch almost as predictably as four follows three, because it always has been that way. Principals who have put recess first, though, have noticed children eat more and behave better after lunch. Included: Ideas for making the change to recess before lunch.

Playworks: Reforming Recess by Teaching Rules of Play
Many students don't come to school with the tools they need to resolve conflicts or the basic understanding of playground games. Through talented on-site playground coordinators and well-trained junior coaches, Playworks provides the structure and guidance required to make recess the powerful and productive experience it should be.

Playground Pass Creates Recess Success
Wouldn't you love a simple, straightforward teaching tool that steers students away from trouble and into recess success? Built on sound behavior principles, the Playground Pass system helps kids make positive choices during free play. Included: Links to the reproducible Playground Pass system and other free resources.