Bentheim Annual Report 08 09


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Bentheim Annual Report 08 09

  1. 1. Annual Report to Administration 2008-2009 Annual Report to Administration Mrs. Bentheim 6th Grade Reading Bailey Middle School Las Vegas, NV 1
  2. 2. Annual Report to Administration Table of Contents INTRODUCTION ____________________________________________________ 5 INSTRUCTIONAL PERSPECTIVE ______________________________________ 5 THEMATIC FOCUS ___________________________________________________ 5 INSTRUCTIONAL HIGHLIGHTS _______________________________________ 5 Weekly Computer Lab Usage 5 Three Novels Researched and Read 5 Student Feedback 5 High Expectations 6 Cross-curricular Instruction 6 Classroom Community 6 Technology Integration 6 Interactive Student Notebooks 7 Non-leveling of Reading Materials 7 Use of Modern Young Adult Literature 7 Self-selected Student Vocabulary 7 Writing Component 8 Project-based Instruction 8 Thanksgiving Inquiry Project 8 Holoocaust Learning Project 8 INSTRUCTIONAL CHALLENGES ______________________________________ 9 STUDENT VOICES ___________________________________________________ 9 BASIC STATISTICS __________________________________________________ 11 STUDENT SURVEY SNAPSHOTS______________________________________ 12 OUTLOOK FOR NEXT YEAR _________________________________________ 13 3
  3. 3. “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humili- ate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de -escalated, and child is humanized or dehumanized.” - Dr. Haim Ginott
  4. 4. Annual Report to Administration Introduction At the conclusion of a school year, I believe it is critical to an educa- tor’s future success in teaching and learning to reflect upon his or her instructional choices and performance of students. This annual report to administration provides a comprehensive summary of student learning experiences during the 2008-2009 school year in Mrs. Ben- theim’s 6th grade reading and accelerated reading classes at Bailey Middle School. Instructional Perspective Student choice is critical for motivation and engagement; it encour- ages additional learning through personal inspiration. It is from this point of view in which I run my classroom. Thematic Focus The focus of this academic year was relationships—relationships with others, the self, objects, and/or experiences. Relationships are central to life; every student has a connection to at least one. However, not every child knows how to appropriately develop and maintain good relationships, or abandon a relationship that is harmful or unhealthy. The purpose of this theme was to encourage students to examine the relationships in their lives through a more critical lens. All through exploration of inten- tionally selected texts, students were provided with the opportunity to live through the successes and failures of strong characters’ relation- ships, while drawing upon personal experiences to inform future life decisions. Instructional Highlights WEEKLY COMPUTER LAB USAGE We participated in course-related research, projects, Accelerated Reader, and Compass Learning activities. THREE NOVELS RESEARCHED AND READ All classes read Al Capone Does My Shirts, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and The Boy Who Dared. A variety of related multigenre materials (photos, old newspaper clippings, other primary sources, complemen- tary stories, etc.) were also used in conjunction. Reading was con- ducted in small groups, with partners, whole group, via audiobook, and independently. A variety of reading response activities were used to monitor comprehension, check understanding, and strengthen higher-level thinking skills. STUDENT FEEDBACK At two key times this year, I solicited feedback from students about my performance. Feedback is used to restructure and modify proce- dures, policies, and instructional practices as appropriate. Survey re- sponses are available for administrative review in their entirety. 5
  5. 5. HIGH EXPECTATIONS I feel my teaching is informed and purposeful when guided by experts through professional reading. Yet in most professional books, it’s rare to find successful vignettes of students who are in schools with rigid initiatives for AYP, uninvolved and seemingly uninterested parents, poor attendance ratings, and high percentages of IEPs or entry-level ELL ratings. However, these factors are not valid excuses for failure to try and tweak, or to be afraid of change. I believe expectations are relative. An educator with high expectations believes every child can and works with the child to train him or her in the way he or she should go. CROSS-CURRICULAR INSTRUCTION It is up to classroom teachers to provide opportunities for students to explore curricular links between classes. Connections are made not only explicitly by the teacher but by shared learning experiences with other teachers, and higher-level thinking discussions that prompt students to apply their learning to varying situations. My accelerated students benefited most from cross-curricular instruction this year by having Mr. Benthim as a co-teacher during our in-depth study of the Holocaust. His first-hand knowledge of and passion for history sparked curiosity and interest in my students. CLASSROOM COMMUNITY In the classroom where literature and literacy are at the core, students are free to express themselves, share their understandings—and mis- understandings—as well as enjoy the stories that emerge through community and sharing. Each student brings his or her emotional baggage, life experiences, and frame of reference, which may or may not be similar to another’s. At the beginning of each school year, I distribute a battery of reading and writing inventories, as well as per- sonal surveys and questionnaires to my students and their parents. If I am familiar with their interests, difficulties, pleasures, and experi- ences, I have every opportunity to weave relevant learning experi- ences into my curriculum. TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION The two class websites used in my classroom are and The for- mer is open to all students and parents and is a place where informa- tion is disseminated and community is further developed. Many stu- dents continue to use the site daily and several have taken leadership roles after proving to me that they are responsible. Leadership roles include moderators who police the site for content appropriateness, as well as keep discussions going by posing questions for other stu- dents. Each student has his or her own account (with parent permis- sion) and has their own MySpace-like profile. The benefit here is that this is a secure site and no one is allowed access without my permis- sion. The other class website is exclusively for my accelerated stu- dents and serves as a record of our learning. Each student has his or her own page to record connections, impressions, and wonderings, as well as capabilities to respond to other students’ musings.
  6. 6. Annual Report to Administration Other classroom technologies include the use of the Flip video cam- era and the iPod. An early adopter of both tools, I routinely use them with my students to record and listen to book talks, brief project presentations and speeches, video diaries, mini-lectures, and the read- ing aloud of books. We also spend considerable time drafting story- boards and recording digital stories (sometimes known as DigiTales). With videos and soundbytes readily available, absent students can quickly catch up before even returning to school, and parents can remain updated about the goings-on in their child’s educational envi- ronment. An added bonus is that students are appropriately exposed to 21st century literacies in a supportive environment. INTERACTIVE STUDENT NOTEBOOKS This is the first year I used response notebooks (or Interactive Stu- dent Notebooks) that remain in the classroom. My purposes for in- troducing these notebooks to my students include making sure every student has the materials he or she needs to be successful, charting growth and progress related to reader response and writing, and de- velopment of comprehension using a variety of student-centered strategies that are directly taught and then applied. NON-LEVELING OF READING MATERIALS Given what we know about readers and reading, I’m still surprised programs like Accelerated Reader dominate district-wide literacy ini- tiatives. When AR is pushed so hard that students are focused more on points and levels than on true enjoyment of literature, students are being disserviced. Students often “ask” if they can read a book out of their level. This frustrates me. Reading is not about specific levels. (We already know children will rise to the occasion if true desire to read specific text is present; consider the Twilight and Harry Potter series for reference.) Reading is not about pizza parties, free home- work passes, or even lunch with the principal. Reading is about en- joyment. My purpose is to keep the fire, that innocent love of reading, going strong—not to snuff it out! USE OF MODERN YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE Meaning-making is the entire point of reading. If one does not relate to what he or she reads in some way, there is no transaction or inter- action with the text. Good readers are made by reading good books! Those good books are found when students are free to read materials of personal choice. As children migrate towards texts they enjoy and have interest in, they’re more apt to experience connections relevant to their lives, thus understanding the text. Student interests, then, drive my curriculum in effort to “hook” readers. SELF-SELECTED STUDENT VOCABULARY Just as in any vocabulary instruction, students must have meaning to attach the concepts to. This is why students in my classroom select their own vocabulary. When students are unsure of word meanings, they document the word using the Frayer Model and determine the meaning through context. The assessment is through observation when students orally teach partners about the words they just learned. 7
  7. 7. WRITING COMPONENT Children must have focused time in which they can sit quietly with their thoughts to mold a piece of writing. It’s uncomfortable at first—that blank paper. However, the more we write, the more fluent we become, and the words just begin to flow. It’s teaching kids to sit through those less-desirable and uncomfortable moments that help them make it through to the good stuff. After spending considerable time learning how to generate ideas for writing (via the writer’s note- book and the Idea Store), students are taught the proper structure of the writing process. We wrote six formal essays this school year be- ginning with thinking maps through the publication phase. My accel- erated class took one essay a step farther and published their works into hardbound books. PROJECT-BASED INSTRUCTION My course is heavily project-based. Students are encouraged to dem- onstrate their knowledge in some type of visual form, which is limited only by their individual imaginations. However, if the student cannot explain how he or she decided to create the final product—the steps, process, reasoning, and learning—the display is pointless. Finished products range from video clips, to scripts, to interviews, to posters, to models, to murals, to scrapbooks, to diaries, and more. I believe this approach not only fosters creativity; it also allows the multiple learning styles in my classroom to succeed with their strengths. THANKSGIVING INQUIRY PROJECT In November I taught a Thanksgiving Inquiry unit that I wrote fo- cusing on new and little-known bits of information about the holiday. (I wanted students to shift away from what Thanksgiving is more to the hows and whys.) Students explored the main topic via webquest, then decided what new information they wanted to focus on. From there, they developed individual inquiry questions and followed the Big6 format for planning the inquiry. Students shared their learning with each other via visual means of choice. HOLOCAUST LEARNING PROJECT For four months, my students were engaged in an in-depth study of the Holocaust through the examination of primary sources, the read- ing of personal accounts of survival and demise, independent re- search, class discussions and Socratic seminars, the creation of indi- vidual Holocaust learning pages on our class website that serve as compelling records of individual learning, the writing of original newspaper articles about the Holocaust that were assembled into class newspapers, the use of web 2.0 tools for literature response, the viewing of a related film and documentaries, and through examina- tion of self-selected fiction and non-fiction books from the school library media center, among other things. After we built a solid foundation of background knowledge about the Holocaust, we read our two related novels The Boy in the Striped Paja- mas and The Boy Who Dared, both capturing innocence and naivety splendidly so we were able to see the Holocaust through the lens of
  8. 8. Annual Report to Administration both a Jewish boy and German boy. Within a very short time, stu- dents were captivated by the topic and were authentically using their speaking, reading, and writing skills to infer, question, summarize, respond, reflect, connect, and most important, to think critically. Our learning experiences culminated with a final project that required students to select three literature response strategies where choices ranged from creating a digital scrapbook, to writing an instant mes- sage conversation between two characters, to creating a digital book talk/digital story about one of our books, to designing costumes for key characters, and so on. Each response strategy was followed up with a written reflection where the student told why he or she chose that option, explained his or her design and content choices, and justi- fied his or her position with evidence from the novels. Instructional Challenges I’ve discovered that one of the most difficult tasks for students is to make connections to their reading. While a connection can be drawn in some manner from almost any text, the quality of connections var- ies depending on the quality of the actual text. Additionally, teaching students how to make connections requires modeling of metacogni- tion. So many children (and adults) don’t know how to think about their thinking. It’s a very difficult skill to teach because it is so ab- stract. I tried using a strategy this year called the think-aloud. When modeling good reading for my students, I paused and offered glimpses into what I was thinking about the text, and why. By the end of the school year, most students were proficient with this concept. Student Voices The following words have been pulled verbatim (including errors) from student surveys, essays, and student-teacher communications. “She teaches in a way that makes a big impact on our learning … You should expect to learn a lot from Mrs. Bentheim just like I did. I learned more in my second year of 6th grade than I did in my first so I really owe a lot to Mrs. Bentheim she turned my life around.” “Her classroom is always active and ahead of every other reading class … She doesn’t yell at students.” “She gets really involved in class projects and she loves to interact with students and really teach you first hand … I give her a 9 out of 10.” “You really have connected with your students and you even have your own website for the students to chat and showoff their profiles and you basically have looked into what students like and you made that real with your website and your teaching tech- niques …” 9
  9. 9. “Before winter break started, Mrs. Bentheim told us to learn a little bit about the Holocaust. I didn't even know what it was! I looked it up on the internet and I thought oh, it’s a war. BUT THEN...when we actu- ally started talking about it and I started getting inter- ested! In class, I picked a Holocaust fiction book about a girl who was given a doll, and everything changed for her when the Holocaust started. It got me THINKING how brave the kids were, to be able to go another country WITHOUT parents, not knowing if they were going to live through it (but really hoping they did). I don't know what I would have done without my parents.” “I like when Mr. Bentheim comes in and teaches with you its seems very helpful because everyone has their own opinion and they can take it to another level to where we would have a debate.” “i absolutely loved The Boy Who Dared i have to say that book was absolutely the best one i have ever read and will read. the ending was it that was what made the book quote "three black heads upon three white pillows and and i was floating" and was abso- lutely hearth breaking and warming and it just made me want to write a book myself Titled: "The Day I Felt Alive." Mrs. Bentheim theres really no other way to say it than this "Your The Greatest Teacher Ever" =) im sad im going to have to leave this class.” “It has changed my life knowing that the Holocaust really happened and it was the murder of millions of Jews just because they were different. After i learned about it i realized that it was only 1 man who caused it … He promised Germany peace but only brought them WAR!!” “The knowledge has changed me on what i think about racism and hate and how it can spread through one leader onto an insuperior race that the Germans thought was the Jews.” “It helped me understand how a person can change something for the better or for the worst and how hatred is sometimes more powerful than whats right. For it is easier to hate than to love.” “Well it made me very sad. I wish I could have done something about it. I learned a lot and it made me want to research things on my own.” “I now know why people hate(d) Adolf Hitler. After i have read these books i've realized that we have a good life, whether you're poor or rich we have a
  10. 10. Annual Report to Administration better life than people who were killed during the Holocaust. The people who were brutally murdered did not deserve to die, no one deserves to die, but because of Hitler's cruelty over 11,000,000 innocent souls and lives were lost.” “The Holocaust has really made a big impact in my life because I start to think about it. Then I question myself and look on the internet to try to find out more. It was a horrible thing that happened and if we know more about it we could prevent it from ever happening again.” “We now know not to bully other people because it could turn something little into something really big. Also we need to watch what we say and do to peo- ple.” “It helped me by like reading through the tapes. learning new words. pronouncing new words.” “It has changed my life in many ways like it's taught how times were back then. How history was at those times. It also showed me one of the worst mistakes anyone has ever done by killing Jewish people and others, hurting them, taking them and others privi- leges and rights.” “She made me realize things can and most likely will repeat itself if we aren't careful.” Basic Statistics • 102 students of a total of 165 have shown a growth in reading this year. 21 of those are demonstrating reading growth BEYOND TWO YEARS (with the most being 4.9 years)! • 16 total respect referrals were submitted to the Dean’s Office. Of those, 7 were for incidents that occurred during hallway supervision (not in my classroom). The remaining nine break down as follows (from my classroom): 2 for racial language, 1 for truancy, 1 for nui- sance item, 1 for lying, 3 for defiance and insubordination, and 1 for violence. • 2 denial of credit forms were completed due to excessive ab- sences (51 in one case). • 5 students had 504 plans • 2 students had IEPs • At least 4 students were permanently transferred from other teachers for behavior problems into one of my classes 11
  11. 11. • Homework turn-in rate increased by 60 percent (to 75 percent) after implementing student suggestions from the December teacher performance survey. Student Survey Snapshots The following snapshots come from two student surveys that were adminis- tered in December 2008 and May 2009.
  12. 12. Annual Report to Administration Outlook for Next Year The strong potential for administrative changes bring uncertainty about next year. However, after seeing the powerful learning that can occur when student choice is allowed, student interests are known, and a collaborative community of learners is fostered, I am confident that whatever changes come our way, I will be able to ensure a posi- tive and supportive reading environment for every student. Whatever happens in my classroom is up to me. 13