Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hello, hello??

Yesterday, I had some fun in Home Depot.  While Mr. Gumby and the Gumby boys were finding a new toilet for our bathroom, I was happily amusing myself in the plumbing section.  I rooted through several bins and boxes of PVC pipe parts and found what I needed to make a couple of "phones" for my classroom.  I'm not much of a crafter (or craftsman, for that matter), so I needed to go the easiest route possible.  I didn't want to saw PVC into sections (that's way too much work) so I opted for the "put-together-already-cut-pieces" plan.  With a little twisting, turning and connecting ...voila!  I had a "phone"! 

Of course, I had to try out my new "phone" right there at Home Depot.  Younger Son came walking down the aisle as I was talking to myself on my new "phone".  He grinned, rolled his eyes and then jogged off to tell his older brother that Mom was talking to herself again.  (My family never quite knows what to expect from me.)  In a few moments, Mr. Gumby and both Gumby boys came around the end of the aisle pretending to talk to themselves on make believe phones.  I'm telling you I live with a bunch of jokers!  I proceeded to explain to the three goofballs that I had a very good educational reason for talking to myself with  1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. 

These devices are called whisper phones, phonics phones or toobaloos. They can be homemade (like mine) with PVC pipe or purchased from teacher stores.  The ones I've seen at teacher stores and websites are called Toobaloos.   Toobaloos come in fancy colors and shiny metallic finishes.  According to the Meyer-Johnson website, they are "an interactive learning tool ideal for students to improve reading fluency and comprehension, phonics, articulation and voice. The Toobaloo is a simple, break-resistant device that magnifies voices so students hear themselves loud and clear as they softly practice their reading rate, phrasing and speech."  The phones are used by special education teachers and speech and language pathologists. 

The devices are also wonderful tools to use with English Language Learners!  I made myself two phones and am going to try them out with a couple of my students in the new year.  If they're successful, I plan to make myself a few more.  I don't need fancy colors and my homemade PVC pipe phones are dishwasher safe as well.

I found several articles on whisper phones. I'm including the articles here in case you would like to read them, too.

Open Websites from the University of Texas Department of Education

The CANDL Foundation 
(The CANDL Foundation folks will send you 6 free phonics phones, if you send a request signed by your school's principal.)

Honeybee Listening

Whisper Phone  (The Solo from this company has a harness that fits over a child's head to hold the phone in place.)

Make Your Own Whisper Phones
(The author of this blog says it costs her 50 cents per phone when she makes her own.)


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Word Callers, Part 2

A while back I wrote a post about the book Word Callers by Kelly Cartwright.  If you haven't read it, I recommend the book.  It's not a difficult read and it makes a lot of sense.  We've had some success with it. 

I found these notes from a presentation at the National Reading Recovery Conference.  If you're interested in Word Callers, take a look at the notes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What's My Last Name?

One day last week, one of my morning Kindergarteners rushed into my room, beckoned to me and said, "My teacher said, 'Come!" 

Since it was the beginning of the day and I had a few minutes left of my planning period, I rose and followed Sam down the hall to the Kindergarten room.  I had no idea WHY I was being summoned, but I figured it was important.  Sam literally danced and twirled down the hall. 

Just before we reached his classroom, he stopped dancing, looked at me and yelled excitedly, "What's my last name??"

I looked back at him and said, "You know your last name.  It's 'Bryzzert'. Your name is Sam Bryzzert."

We opened the door and entered the classroom.  Mrs. Kindergarten was seated at the front of the room at the easel while the rest of the class sat on the rug in front of her. 

She smiled at me and said, "Hi, Mrs. Gumby!  We need your help.  Sam's not sure what his last name is."

I replied, "Bryzzert."

Mrs. Kindergarten grinned and said,"That's what I thought. Remind me how to pronounce it, please."

I looked at the easel and realized what she was doing.  They were talking about initials.  She had written three childrens' first and last names on the easel and then had underlined the first initial and last initial of each child.  Molly O'Brien's initials were M O;  Tom Jones was T J;  and then there was Sam. 

Mrs. Kindergarten laughed and said, "Thanks, Mrs. Gumby.  Sam insisted his last name was 'I-AM.'  He said that's what his Mom always called him at home.  We knew you would know the answer."

Yes,  Sam was convinced that his whole name was Sam I-Am !!!   It took the combined efforts of Mrs. Kindergarten and myself to change his mind.
I truly never know what problem I'll be called upon to answer.  Every day is a new adventure at Cheerful School! 

"That Sam I-Am, that Sam I-Am...." Giggle!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh, It's Holiday Time Again

Today was a big day for our first graders.  My students have been reminding me for the last few days about today's assembly. ("Are you coming to our program, Mrs. Gumby???") They performed their Holiday Music Extravaganza for our entertainment this afternoon.  There's nothing like a gym packed full of kids waiting for the little first grade cherubs to come onto the stage and sing and dance. Talk about energy!

I have to give the music teacher major points for managing to come up with a program full of upbeat fun non-sectarian/non-religious songs.  There was one selection done to the rhythmic beat of "We Will, We Will Rock You" but with holiday words.  There was a lot of foot stomping and handclapping.  "STOMP, STOMP, clap. STOMP, STOMP, clap." It was hilarious watching the first grade students having so much fun with it that they jumped ahead of the music teacher who was valiantly trying (without success) to keep them in rhythm! 

I especially enjoyed watching my English Language Learners perform.  You could tell the children knew the words and gestures.  There were a lot of BIG smiles on their faces as they sang.  However, my favorite part was watching one of Mrs. Pokey's tutor level students.  Little Elf Boy was rocking, singing and dancing around in the front row.  (He's pretty small for his grade level, so he was on the end of the front row.)  The Kindergarten teacher and I cracked up watching him boogie to the music.

Rock on, little dude.  Rock on!! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Missing Mrs. Pokey

My good friend and colleague, Mrs. Pokey, is away from school for a bit.  She is currently on medical leave after having total knee replacement surgery last week.  We miss her terribly at school, but are happy she is getting better every day.  And, hopefully, with her new bionic knee, she won't need to use a cane (or stick as the students keep calling it) to get around anymore. We look forward to the New Year when Mrs. Pokey assures us that she will be back to make us laugh and learn. 

Go, Mrs. Pokey!   We love you!

From Mrs. Gumby and the English Language Learners at Cheerful School 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SchoolTube and Sight Words

Yesterday, we had a district technology expert spend the day with us.  She camped out in our computer lab and we had the opportunity to work with her during our planning periods on our school web pages.  The district provides a basic template we have to use for our web pages, but it's not terribly attractive, in my opinion.  Since I had started my web page early in the the school year, I worked with her on how to improve the appearance of my page.  My planning time is pretty scattered, so I started the day in the lab, spent about 20 minutes, popped back in again during lunch and then at then end of the day. 

While I had the technology expert there, I picked her brain about my sight word powerpoints and how I could get them to work for every child.  We discussed several ideas including putting together a YouTube channel.  I thought about it for a while and decided I didn't necessarily want my little ones on YouTube unattended.  There are some very good educational videos on there, but there is also a LOT of items NOT appropriate for children.  I shared my concerns with the expert. She listened and agreed. While I taught my classes, she did some investigating and when I returned at the end of the day, she showed me SchoolTube.   I had seen TeacherTube before, but wasn't familiar with SchoolTube.  She found some ESL sight words presentations posted there and shared them with me. 

The district expert and I want to work together (with any other district ESL teachers who might be interested) and create our own district SchoolTube channel where we can post our own videos and presentations.  Woooo-hooo!  It should be fun!