Saturday, June 20, 2009

The End of the School Year

The school year is finally over for 2008 - 2009. It was a difficult year due to changes in our school, especially after joining the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. We still have a lot of work to do to remake our school into the best it can be. There are many encouraging signs for the upcoming school year.

I wait with trepidation on our upcoming CST scores that usually are delivered at the beginning of September. I know we progressed as a school. I'm sure our API went up considerably as it did last year. However, our AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) that is determined by NCLB is a different issue. We did not meet our two subgroups last year, African Americans and English Language Learners. I'm afraid we may have missed the mark this year, too. Our bar for this year was 45% proficient in Language Arts and 48% in Mathematics. Each year our bar is raised roughly 8%. If you are already behind in these numbers, it makes it exponentially more difficult to catch up in the upcoming year.

What that means is that, if we don't make our mark, we will be in Program Improvement status 5. Essentially, the state could come and take over our school and start over. I do not think that is a logical option considering we joined the Mayor's Partnership to try to reform the way we do business at school. Hopefully, that will help our case in future program improvement status.

Next year, there will be 5 teachers that will start the process of becoming Nationally Board Certified. It is a rigorous process that requires about a year's worth of time to accomplish. I am looking forward to the process and the learning that will be involved. I won't be doing it alone. All of my colleagues on my grade level are also participating.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Technology Projects and InfoTech

Students at Figueroa Street create a myriad of technology projects. In the 4th grade, they first learn to type using Type to Learn 3, a fun interactive program that teaches them the keyboard in 26 lessons. After learning how to type, students are able to publish their Unit 1 writing using the computer. In the business unit, Dreams to Jobs, I teach them how to create flyers and posters using Appleworks and Microsoft Word, using drawing tools and Word Art. This year, we are making Secret Grams for our 4th grade business. So far, the designs the students have been creating are phenomenal. I will post the 5 winning designs for our Secret Grams next week. Our Mystery to Medicine unit revolves around web research and culminates with an oral and PowerPoint presentation of a illness or disease. The Survival unit allows students to be very creative in how they create a digital story using Appleworks and iMovieHD. At the end, students record their narratives as pictures and drawings are fading in and out in the movie. Finally, we create movies from our own original scripts in the Communication unit. We go from a pitch to a script to filming to editing and then to a final presentation at our own Technology Night in June. With the new knowledge I have gained at CSULA from the EDIT 430 class, I will probably revamp some of the 4th grade technology projects especially the ones that involve PowerPoint.

For the past three years we have showcased student technology demos and projects at InfoTech at the LA Convention Center. We have had students demonstrate how to draw in Appleworks, do digital storytelling, make movies in iMovieHD, and how to build your own computer. Usually the 4th and 5th graders present during InfoTech and submit a movie for the yearly competition. The supervising teacher for the 5th graders who won in 2007 received a brand new SmartBoard. The 5th grade students received $50 gift cards to Best Buy.

This year we would like to enter a 4th grade and a 5th grade group into the competition. We are eagerly anticipating what the topic will be for this year's InfoTech. If you want to find out more about LAUSD's InfoTech from last year click here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Art in the Classroom

Since the beginning of school, the students have been taking visual arts lessons. We have done printmaking, gesture drawings, oil pastel drawings, self portraits, figure drawing, and foil figure sculptures. I will begin a gallery of the student's work without their names. So, you will get a sample of how talented students in the inner city can be. Every art project they do amazes me. I have a bulletin board outside my classroom that displays the current week's art project. At first, the students were reticent to have their work posted, but after several weeks they actually enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Figueroa Street Elementary School

Figueroa Street Elementary is where I have spent the last 7 years of my career teaching 4th grade. I am also the unofficial instructional technology coordinator at the school site. We have a fully functional computer lab with 30 eMacs and one central iMac. This past year we moved our API up to 699, a 47 point increase. We have not reached that magical 700 threshold, but we hope to do that this year. We joined the Mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles School which is a part of the iDesign schools back in May 2008.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Favorite Music

The Cure - Underneath the Stars

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Today, as every day, starts with many handshakes and a warm smile. After attending a Capturing Kids' Hearts training in August, I decided to begin each day by greeting each student with a handshake, a smile, and a warm greeting. My students expect to greet me each day in this way and they remind me if I forget. So far, I have not missed a day. This gesture allows me to guage how a child is feeling and whether we are going to have a good day or are we going to have to work very hard to turn a bad day into a good one. I have noticed the handshakes have been firmer and the smiles from children in my class have increased. Sometimes they seem embarrassed that a smile escaped from their faces as if they were not allowed to smile or show emotion. Maybe school is a welcoming, warm, and safe place to be.