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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Last Call: EdCamp Malden is October 18!

I've been working to plan an EdCamp at my school, and I'm really excited about it!  My colleagues have been so helpful in setting it up, and my students are volunteering to help at the event.  



The theme is ELL Success, but the event is for everyone, not just ESL teachers.  I'm not an ESL expert, but I want to know more about helping my students who are struggling.  After RETELL, I feel much more aware of the issues.  I don't know everything, but I can get better!

EdCamps start with a blank schedule: if you can think of a topic, throw it on the grid.  If you just want to listen, find something you think sounds good and join the conversation.

So, PLEASE COME.  We have over 100 people from across New England signed up.  Come late, leave early, come without a ticket . . . 

http://edcampmalden.wikispaces.com/

EdCamps are amazing events.  Truly.  It's simple: open notebook, open mind.  Nothing to stress about.  Just come, speak, and listen.  Everyone at an EdCamp is passionate and willing to share.  It's just free, fun PD.  You'll leave with new ideas and new friends.  You'll leave with something to try on Monday.

If you have any questions at all, email me at abbeydick1@gmail.com or edcampmalden@gmail.com. 

I can't wait to see so many friends and members of my PLN in my home!   

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Wrapping up the blogging challenge

I gotta end this thing now!  The blogging challenge was fun, but I am swamped with work, so unfortunately I need to end it.  Thanks for reading, if you've been keeping up.  I'll go back to blogging when I am inspired . . . 

Day 23
Write about one way that you “meaningfully” involve the community in the learning in your classroom. If you don’t yet do so, discuss one way you could get started.

I think that learning a second language would help me a lot in my current setting.  I have a good head start on Spanish, so I should continue with that.  I'm not exactly sure how I could improve my abilities to get the community into my classroom--I do a lot of activities that have the students share about themselves, and I do keep parents updated on our work.

Day 24
Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.)

I wish I had more time to learn about Accountable Talk and instructional coaching.  

Day 25
The ideal collaboration between students–what would it look like?

On topic conversations where students refer to the text and help each other understand topics--it almost happened in period 3 recently!

Day 26
What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

I use the College Board Web site a lot.  I also do Tweet Chats on Twitter and use the AP Language Community on Facebook.

Day 27
What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

I generally relax on the longer holidays, but I work all weekend.  That lifestyle is getting old, so I'm trying to find more fun things to look forward to one weekends.  Balance!

Day 28
Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?

I think it's obvious that curriculum trumps technology, but getting them to work together is the goal of 21st century education.  Right now, I'm happy with less technology and more basic skills.

Day 29
How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

I've changed a lot, and I think in good ways.  The more experienced I get, the more I know how to do things right, but doing things right takes a long time.  So I put more time in, but I find more satisfaction in my work.  I am also much more flexible than I used to be.

Day 30

What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?

I think I'd do less content work and more self-exploration for students, but with 180 days, I have to make priorities.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blogging Challenge: Days 17-22

I can only get these done in chunks, I think!  Fell a bit behind . . . September is the hardest month!

Day 17
What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

For me, it's time management.  To assess the ways I want to and plan the way I want to, I need so many hours before and after a class session.  I am blessed to have two prep periods in our seven period cycle (meaning some days I have 45 minutes of prep and some days I have three hours of prep), but it's still nowhere near enough time.  I work before school, after school, and on the weekends, and I still struggle to do a good job.  I'll just keep fighting the good fight!

Day 18
Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…”

Friend who makes you feel good about yourself and learn something (hopefully).  Maybe this isn't the best definition, or the most rigorous image of teaching, but it's what I think I'm trying to do right now.  

Day 19
Name three powerful students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.

I need to work on this.  I used exit tickets, journals, and some metacognitive writing.  

Day 20
How do you curate student work–or help them do it themselves?

I take a lot of pictures and hold on to student work while I still have room for it!  I am trying harder to display more current student work.  I have a good folder of good examples that I use in my classroom of the essays I assign often.

Day 21
Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

I used to bring more music in--I'll need to get into that again.  I try to buy a lot of postcards when I travel and visit museums, and I use those in the classroom.  I have brought in Scrabble quite a bit!

Day 22

What does your PLN look like, and what does it do for your teaching?

I had a terrific time with my PLN over the summer--Twitter fun, EdCamps, etc.  Now that school's back on, there is less time, but I love having friends all over the state (and the country!) that can help me out with new ideas and inspiration!  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blogging Challenge: 13-16

Catching up and trying to get a bit ahead!
Day 13
Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.
Our school is not edtech heavy, but I've been able to integrate the following in somehow over the past year as options for assignments: Twitter, Instagram, Google Drive applications, PowerPoint, and Prezi. I also love Remind for housekeeping.
Day 14
What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?
Feeback is tough, especially when I have 125 students. I try to give as much out loud feedback and whole group feedback when I can. I'm also trying a +/- t-chart with written assignments this year, trying to be as specific as time allows.
Day 15
Name three strengths you have as an educator.
I'm a hard worker. I have high standards and expectations for my students. I think teens are awesome people.
Day 16
If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?
Ah.  Good question. I wish I had the ability to explain something ONCE, not 25 separate times per day. I'm getting better at getting simpler and more concrete, but it's still frustrating to repeat directions over and over again.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Blogging challenge: Day 12

Day 12

How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?

My goal is to get better in my new environment. I'm at a big urban high school now, and I learn something new every day about the culture and the students.  I've made many adjustments to my materials and how I do my work, and I'm slowly getting better at understanding this new environment.  I look forward to spending the next five years doing what I can to present the standards in the most successful way for my kids.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blogging Challenge: Day 10 and 11

Today and tomorrow at the same time!

Day 10
Share five random facts about yourself.
Share four things from your bucket list.
Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.
Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.
Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

Day 11

What is your favorite part of the school day and why?

Day 10
Random Facts:
1. I hate to exercise (but I'm working on that).
2. I very rarely listen to music and prefer NPR or podcasts.
3. When I get The New Yorker each week, I drop everything and read it cover to cover. 
4. I'm a vegetarian.
5. I have a growth mindset, so I don't mind making mistakes.

Bucket List:
1. Write a book.
2. Travel more.
3. Get healthy so I can live as long as possible.
4. Learn how to not hate cooking.

Three things I hope for this year:
1. More personal/relaxing time for myself.
2. Plan on the weekend and grade during the week.
3. Say NO more (it's working, and I already feel less stress!)

Two things that make me laugh/cry:
1. Untapped potential/kids very behind (cry)
2. Using technology with kids (laugh and cry)

One thing I wish more people knew about me:
1. I work this hard because I actually enjoy it!

Day 11
My favorite part of the school day is the end of it! I like to hang around for hours at the end of the day to catch up, plan the next day, and meet with students.  I like meeting with kids one on one because we can both focus. Room food and laptops also help. I find that whomever shows up gets a lot done, and I get to know the students better in small groups or individually.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blogging challenge: Day 9

Day 9
Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).
One thing I've noticed lately is that as I get older and get more years under my belt, I've become more empathetic and patient.  I now address issues and situations that would have gotten a sarcastic comment or been ignored in the past.  I think less about myself and more about the students' feelings.  Maybe this is not a wild accomplishment, but I am interested to see how I can continue working on listening and responding more supportively.   

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blogging Challenge: Day 8

Day 8

What's in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?

Oh, my classroom is filled to the brim with stuff--books (for independent reading), snacks (in case someone is hungry), office supplies (in case I think of some activity on the spot and need index cards RIGHT NOW), snacks (for me), stuff to grade (because I'm behind), and snacks (in case a colleague is hungry).

Basically, my classroom is like my second home (I also have a lot of clothes and shoes there).  Although it looks a bit messy, it has everything I need.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blogging challenge: day 7

Day 7

Who is or was your most inspirational colleague and why?

I had a department chair for a few years who really inspired me a lot. She stood up for decisions she thought were right, and she definitely influenced my practice with her activities and mindset. She lent me books and encouraged me in everything I did.  We both moved on but remained friends for many years.  I hope to be half the teacher she is someday!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Blogging Challenge Day 5 and 6

I fell a little behind . . . two entries!

Day 5
Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.
I love my classroom--high ceilings, big windows, giant whiteboards, and lots of air conditioning.
What I wish I'd see is a better organizing model--I still feel like some students are too far away.






Day 6
Explain: What does a good mentor “do”?
I like this question because I've had so many good mentors, and I hope I've been a good mentor to others! 
I think a good mentor checks in. No pressure, just "how's it going?" A good mentor also shares something that works--a system, a handout, a text.  A good mentor also listens without immediately problem solving. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Blogging Challenge: Day 4

Day 4
Respond: What do you love the most about teaching?

Ah, where to start! I once left and had to come back because it's where I felt valued. Teaching is the hardest job in the world, so you must love it to stick with it. I really feel at home in my current teaching setting.

One thing I love most about it is the intellectual work--figuring how what you need to teach and how you're going to communicate it most effectively.  It's constantly challenging, both cognitively and personally. I am occasionally frustrated but never bored!

This week was super fun--new students to meet and former students to catch up with, all crowding the door. I also simply love being a part of kids' lives. I really remember my teachers. Who else can say they know thousands of people they've impacted over the years? Feels like a healthy way to spend one's life and contribute to the world.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Blogging Challenge: Day 3

Day 3
Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

My two SMARTGoals last year included work on ORs (short Open Response questions) and improving my teaching of speaking and listening, and I think I want to stick to those goals.  Teaching ORs is an important aspect of the CCSS because it involves close reading and textual evidence.  I'd like to meet with people from other departments to work on this goal.  SL standards are something I really need to tackle, and I can already tell I am getting better because I'm trying new activities and routines.  I need to be more student-centered!

I also want to improve my communication with parents.  It's a struggle in my community, but I'm getting great ideas from my colleagues.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blogging Challenge: Day 2

Here's the question for today:

Day 2
Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.

I am trying harder to use Google Docs with my students.  While I hate the idea of being completely paperless (I would much rather read on paper), using this tool as a way of communicating and having students submit work is one of my goals for the year.

I am starting by having all students create a Gmail account if they don't have one and emailing me at my Gmail account.  We'll see how it goes!

I'd also like to try polling with phones in class.  Maybe that would be fun.  I'm using a strict anti-phone policy this year, but perhaps I could try this--the students would love it.  

Blogging Challenge Day 1

Hey, all.  It's day 1 of the blogging challenge.  Here's the question and answer:

Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!

I have a bunch of goals for the school year. Some are hard, while others should be easier.  

I'd like to talk in a normal tone of voice.  Usually, I'm hoarse by the end of the day and have a sore throat for much of the school year.  I'm going to have to improve my classroom management and ability to explain directions clearly. I explained my "hand up" for silence procedure on day 1. I need to make sure everyone is silent before I start talking.  

I am leaving school at the end of the day on Fridays--no exceptions!  Even if I come back on Saturday and catch up, I need to get out of there and have a fun afternoon!

I'm taking time in September to lay out my Ed Eval stuff--no more stressing in April and May and wishing I'd done better documentation of my work!

I'm also trying to plan more on the weekend and grade more during the week.  I've always done the reverse--scrambling for plans and activities all week and then grading all weekend (which wastes time as a formative assessment AND the kids get their work back so much later that they've forgotten what it is).

I take it back--all of these goals will be hard, but I'll work on them.  GROWTH MINDSET!  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thirty-day blogging challenge

Hi, all.  Just read about this 30-day blogging challenge for September, and I'm going to do it! The craziness of September has already begun, but this will help me get focused. See the questions below:

Reflective Teaching Questions: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers
Day 1
Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!
Day 2
Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.
Day 3
Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.
Day 4
Respond: What do you love the most about teaching?
Day 5
Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.
Day 6
Explain: What does a good mentor “do”?
Day 7
Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why?
Day 8
What’s in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents?
Day 9
Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).
Day 10
Share five random facts about yourself.
Share four things from your bucket list.
Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.
Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.
Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.
Day 11
What is your favorite part of the school day and why?
Day 12
How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?
Day 13
Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.
Day 14
What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?
Day 15
Name three strengths you have as an educator.
Day 16
If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?
Day 17
What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?
Day 18
Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…”
Day 19
Name three powerful students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.
Day 20
How do you curate student work–or help them do it themselves?
Day 21
Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.
Day 22
What does your PLN look like, and what does it to for your teaching?
Day 23
Write about one way that you “meaningfully” involve the community in the learning in your classroom. If you don’t yet do so, discuss one way you could get started.
Day 24
Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.)
Day 25
The ideal collaboration between students–what would it look like?
Day 26
What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?
Day 27
What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?
Day 28
Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?
Day 29
How have you changed as an educator since you first started?
Day 30
What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?
Reflective Teaching Questions: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers
If anyone else wants to do this challenge, let me know at abbeydick1@gmail.com. Have fun!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bye, bye summer: UDL Now!, EdCamp Malden, curriculum units, new tech, Twitter chats, fun!

Hi, all.  It's the end, my friends.  We go back on August 25, so this post will be the last blog for a while.  Although my professional reading did not get completed as scheduled, I did poke around a lot of books and get some ideas for this coming year.

What I'm loving right now is UDL Now! by Katie Novak, from right up the road in Chelmsford, MA.  I've studied UDL a bit in the past, so this book was an excellent refresher.  Universal Design for Learning is a philosophy of providing learners with multiple ways to access information and multiple ways to show what they know.  It's based on brain science but also on common sense!  Good teaching provides kids with a classroom that is high engagement, low stress.  I'd definitely recommend this book--it was written in a refreshing style that really appealed to me as a learner!




I also did a lot of planning for EdCamp Malden this summer.  The event is Saturday, October 18 at Malden High School (free parking and an easy walk from the Orange Line!).  All are welcome, and the theme for 2014 is ELL Success.  With the advent of RETELL and the increasing number of English Language Learners in our district and nearby districts, we decided that this theme would give the day some focus without limiting it too much.  Please get your FREE ticket today at edcampmalden.wikispaces.com.  I'm really proud of my colleagues and administrators for giving this PD model a try and offering so much help to get it started.  It will be a great day.

I got to work on two curriculum units this summer: Technology Synthesis for 10th grade (with MT Anderson's Feed as an anchor text) and a high school unit on argument writing with editorials from The Boston Globe.  First drafts, but it's good to get something down on paper and really think through a long-term plan!  The 2011 Frameworks (CCSS) are truly awesome.

I learned how to use HootSuite, Tweet Deck, Canva, and Storify.

I also made a LOT of new friends this summer at an AP Summer Institute and on Twitter.  Here's a menu of Twitter chats I enjoy.  If you have no other time for PD or just want to find some thinking partners, check these out!  All times are EST.  If any of the info is wrong, please let me know.  Some chats were on summer vacation, but they're going now.  Click on the links for more info.

#edchatri is Sundays from 8 to 9 pm
#ellchat is Mondays from 9 to 10 pm
#elachat is first and last Tuesdays from 8 to 9 pm
#aplitchat is Sundays from 9 to 10 pm
#aplangchat is Wednesdays from 7 to 8 pm.  Check out our FIRST EVER chat: https://storify.com/abbeydick/aplangchat-august-13-2014.
#nctechat is the third Sunday of every month, from 8 to 9 pm
#edchatma starts August 19th and will be 1st and 3rd Tuesdays from 9-10 pm
#engchat is Mondays from 7 to 8 pm

I did a lot of non-teaching stuff too.  Saw friends and family and just chillaxed.  Traveled locally.  Read all of Rainbow Rowell's novels.  Remarkable!

Happy back to school, everyone!  Have an awesome fall!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

How to participate in a Twitter chat (for beginners!)


Hi, folks.  Can't believe it's August.  I'm freaking out.  I'm so excited for the new school year, but August came quickly!

#aplangchat starts Wednesday, August 13th from 7-8 pm EST.  Here are some notes for people who want to give Twitter chats a try.

How to participate in a Twitter chat
(either just read along or share)

To find a Twitter chat you might be interested in:

If these times don't seem right, search for the hashtag and see when people were using it the most.

Sometimes people use a hashtag in a chat.  Sometimes they just use it to share ideas that pertain to a specific group of people.  For examples, if I'm tweeting about the CCSS for ELA, I might add #engchat, #nctechat, #aplitchat, #aplangchat, or another hashtag.


Find out what time the chat is and the hashtag (#aplangchat is Wednesdays from 7-8 pm EST, starting August 13.)

Open your Twitter account. 

In the search box on top, type the hashtag you want to follow.

Then click "ALL" so you see all the posts made during the chat.

Just watch the conversation.  Depending on how many people are reading/writing, it will go quickly. Don't freak out.  You can always go back and read what you missed.

You may want to follow people as the chat goes on.  That way, you'll be friends for life!  Or you can unfollow them whenever you want to.

If you want to say something, open "compose new tweet" box.  

Type the hashtag (#aplangchat) into your comment before you send it.  That way, everyone following will see your idea.

You might have to toggle back and forth between the chat itself, notifications (if someone favorites or retweets your tweet), and messages (if someone sends you a direct message). 

Notifications will also tell you if someone has replied to one of your ideas, leading to a conversation.  Make sure you keep using the hashtag in your posts if you want everyone following the chat to see it.

There are sites to help you manage multiple Twitter actions at the same time, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and TweetChat, but don’t worry about those sites for a while.  Get used to Twitter chats first. 

If the chat is an hour long, and you are late or only want to stay for a while, that's cool.  If you only want to read and not contribute, that's also okay.  High engagement, low stress!

It's totally okay to get involved in a conversation with one or a few people on the side and lose track of what's going on in the bigger chat.  You can always go back and read what you missed. 

That's it!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Read

Hi, all.  Predictably, my summer reading fell off the rails a bit, but it's okay.  Time to catch up!

First, here's a book I said I'd read this summer that I actually read.  This cool book from 2009 explores the many studies on homework and its impact on learning.  Oh, what a complicated issue.  It is a learning strategy that dares to cross "the boundary separating school and home" (158).  Every school has its own culture and norms about homework (our department has a mandatory 15% chunk of the grade), and every teacher has his/her own expectations.  But ideas about homework are changing, just as schools have changed.

Here's what I know: when I assign less homework, my students seem to do better grade-wise, and the classroom experience is less jumbled and confusing (it's hard to plan for the next day when my data shows about 25% of my kids did the homework).  While I don't think I can assign NO homework (especially in AP and honors-level courses), I can make an effort to be thoughtful with what I assign outside of school.  The more engaging the assignment, the less difficulty students have with completing the homework, and I have fewer instances of plagiarism ("Blindly copying is NOT 'working together,'" is a phrase I used a lot).



This chart popped up on Twitter (from this blog), and I like it.  I'm going to work on varying the types of homework I give (right now, it's mostly reading) and how I assess students' efforts.



I'm now changing my summer reading focus to class participation, which goes by many names: speaking, listening, conversation, dialogue, speech, response, oral language, presentation, etc.  I'm presenting on the topic at NEATE, and I am tackling the subject for my SMART Goal again this year.  It's always been a part of my practice I felt needed help (or just never felt satisfied with), so I'm trying to read up.  Amazon to the rescue!

I finally got a chance to read The Power of Protocols, which seems like a staple for administrative teams, not necessarily teachers.  Protocols are challenging because the roles and rules feel stifling, but at the end of a protocol, I often feel that I was a better listener and that other people listened to my ideas more thoughtfully.  Protocols seem to change the accountability of everyone in the room.

This book features fairly traditional protocols (jigsaw, last word, hopes and fears) and some new ones I'd love to try with my students: analyzing a problem with a "consultancy" and examining a student's draft with a revision protocol.  In short, this was a great guide to why protocols are useful, and I definitely see some ways I could use them for many idea exchanges in my classroom.  



Next were two books I picked up at NCTE in November.  This text identified my main problem in leading discussion; I want "an open exploration of ideas rather than a simple recitation" (xiii).  This book proposes a curriculum of moral dilemmas that the students explore by positing ideas and supporting them.  I like this idea, but I'd need to connect the strategies to texts I already have, not hypothetical ethical scenarios.  I'd need my students' ideas to be much more text-dependent (this book was pre-CCSS).

There's a mention of online discussion in this book, but Twitter wasn't around when Talking in Class was written.  I have used Twitter for a few tasks this year--advertising their independent reading books was the most successful (look for #t3reading).  Maybe I could use Twitter for reading notes and discussion more often?



Great books!  Looking forward to reading about more practical strategies I can use to have my kids talking more in my classes (in a good way!).

Make sure you register for EdCamp Malden at MHS on October 18: http://edcampmalden.wikispaces.com/.  The theme is "ELL Success," so hopefully I can get some ideas on getting my ELLs to talk more in class.  All are welcome to this, our first EdCamp!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Three big announcements

Hello, all!  I am working on my summer reading.  In the mean time, here are three announcements for you.

Malden High School will host its first EdCamp on Saturday, October 18, 2014!  Please come for a free day of learning and community.  I swear, you'll love it.  See this link for details and tickets: http://edcampmalden.wikispaces.com/

AP Language is getting its own Twitter chat!  #aplangchat will happen on Wednesdays from 7 pm to 8 pm EST.  We'll probably start sometime in August.  Please feel free to join!  If you've never done a Twitter chat before, check out this list for hundreds of opportunities for free PD: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AiftIdjCeWSXdDRLRzNsVktUUGJpRWJhdUlWLS1Genc#gid=0

The New England Association of Teachers of English's (NEATE's) annual conference has been announced for October 24 and 25.  Check it out: http://neate.org/.  I'll be presenting on Saturday, October 25 on speaking and listening.

Please feel free to email me with questions: abbeydick1@gmail.com.  Hope everyone is enjoying summer vacation as much as I am!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Reading #1


            It's summer, and I'm already falling behind on my summer reading tasks!  I just finished Penny Kittle's Write Beside Them (2008), and it was a great way to start the summer.  So many good ideas for next year!



            I have been to Penny's school in New Hampshire, so that experience, combined with her stories of real students and authentic classroom challenges, really helped me imagine her teaching situation.

            She explains that to be a good writing teacher, you have to write.  This idea seems obvious, but I needed to hear it.  Many of us (myself very much included) are guilty of assigning writing, not teaching or modeling it.  She writes that in her teaching past, "My teaching was all tell, no show" (7).  One day this past school year, I did a draft in front of my students, and I offered watching me as a station (kids could select their task based on where they were in the process).  I was fumbling and stammering, and kids were spellbound—fully engaged.  Because they saw my struggle, they had more confidence.  They shouted out tips. 

            One of the qualities she features in her room is choice: "Choice has to be taught: I needed to learn how to help students discover their topics" (33).  Later, she describes how, without choice, "students become topic dependent.  Students who write their way through high school from one book to another forget that their entire lives are topics.  They sit and wait to be told what to write" (157).  I have been telling myself that I don't have time for personal, “touchy feely” writing, but I need my students to do more of it.  How can I sacrifice engagement?  I need to take advantage of my kids' experiences.  I can do Common Core rigor and let students pick their own topics and write personal narratives; these two priorities are not exclusive. 

            The book includes details on how Penny's instructional routines.  One key idea on revision is that students need to learn how to revise in their own time—they need feedback from a reader, not corrections from the grader.  Penny explains that sometimes we "kidnap the first draft" (213).  I laughed out loud when I read that because I am guilty of it.  I'm doing the hard work of writing, while kids sit there, waiting for me to tell them what to do next.  That’s not an authentic process.  As Sharon Taberski says, "The brain that does the work is the brain that learns."  

            All in all, Write Beside Them is a great read, with lots of ideas for lessons and a philosophical framework.  I can definitely build on some of the concepts here.

            I'd also like to give a shout out to Meenoo Rami’s new book Thrive.  She gives an apt survey of the profession right now and why it's such a struggle for teachers trying to do their best.  Then she identifies five ways to "(re)invigorate" teaching: finding mentors, building networks of teachers who inspire you, finding new challenging work, using your intuition, and empowering students to lead in the classroom.  She features stories of real teachers and real assignments to illustrate her ideas.



            Thrive is a short book, under 100 pages and an easy read, but it really hit me.  It was the perfect time for me to read this book.  I have twelve years in education under my belt, but while many aspects have gotten easier, some old challenges are still there.  This book identified many of my feelings and gave me confidence to keep growing.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Materials from MRA #4: Verbs Writers Do

Hello, all.  Waiting at Logan Airport for my plane to the AP Reading in Louisville, Kentucky.  This is the second time I've been an AP Reader for AP Language and Composition.  Friends think I'm crazy to travel to grade essays for seven straight days, but I enjoy it.  I get to read student work from all over the country and learn what works and what doesn't.  Plus it's fun to be in a city of English teachers for one week!

I am well on my way to reading my first book of the summer: Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle.  I promised myself I'd blog about it in a few weeks.

One activity I shared at MRA in April was the list of "Verbs Writers Do."  I try to teach all of these verbs: what they look like and what they accomplish in a paper.  Students read a model text and label what the writer is "doing" in each paragraph.  It's a kind of simplified "says/does analysis" or "says/does/because" analysis.

I hope to do this classroom routine with more regularity this new school year.  My kids need me to explicitly model the verb and examples of it.


describes
explains
develops
states a proposition
supports
narrates
contrasts
compares
provides history
introduces
conveys
lists
categorizes
notes
refers
itemizes
predicts
reflects
elaborates
reasons
focuses
asserts
traces
illustrates
posits
defends
provides an example
attacks
argues
evaluates
cites
proposes
comments
synthesizes
elaborates
demonstrates
exemplifies
deepens
expresses
offers a hypothesis
characterizes
presents
assumes
reveals an opinion
states a fact
reveals a bias
evokes
rebuts


Enjoy!  Let me know if you come up with any good lessons on this idea.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Materials from MRA #3: Close Reading Activity for Poetry



Hi, all.  I have found a lot of success with this close reading activity I started using a few years ago called SPIT.  It requires the students to read a poem at least 3 or 4 times before getting to theme.  Its sequential nature builds in difficulty as the student builds knowledge and confidence with the poem.  It encourages learning how to annotate before trying to get to meaning.  Enjoy!

THE FOUR STEPS TO UNDERSTANDING POETRY (SPIT)


Write anything on the poem (or on a Post-It) that you want to remember to think about.  You must read the poem actively if you want to understand it.


Step 1:  SURVEY.  After you number the lines of the poem, read the poem at least two times.  Look up any words you don’t know in the dictionary.

Step 2:  PARAPHRASE every stanza (or line, if it’s short) of the poem.  Write what you think it means in your own words next to the poem.  Write what is literally happening.

Step 3: IDENTIFY at least ten of these terms in the poem.  Analyze what they mean.  For example, find a metaphor and write a few notes explaining it.  Be prepared to discuss what you found.



« speaker
« alliteration
« assonance
« rhyme
« rhythm
« repetition
« point of view
« style
« stanza
« characterization
« mood
« irony
« form (patterns)
« metaphors
« symbols
« tone
« similes
« imagery
« onomatopoeia
« setting
« subject/topic
« hyperbole
« diction
« the meaning of the title
« use of punctuation
« paradox
« audience
« meter
« allusion



Step 4: THEME  Write a one- or two-sentence theme for the poem that sums up its meaning.  What is the overall message of the speaker?  Remember that a theme is a sentence.

If you want, your sentence can start: “This poem is really about . . .” or “This speaker is saying that . . .”