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Friday, January 31, 2014

Applying the Instructional Model: Part 3

Assessment. In my mind, always synonymous with test. Multiple-choice test. Icky, yucky, waste of time test. But my mind has been changed. This week, I truly learned the difference between formative and summative assessments in the simplest of ways: 

  • formative = for learning
  • summative = of learning
Because I have often held the viewpoint that summative assessments are standardized, I can honestly say that I did not realize how much summative assessment I have been using in my class when I thought I was using more formative assessment. And I am a more than a bit disappointed in myself because I thought I was a better teacher than that. 

My first lesson of the marking period was winter break haikus. I did not share the art of haiku with my students. I did not show them examples of wonderful poems. I showed them the format, then told them to write. Yes, I helped them along the way - if they made it to me before the bell rang. So some students got immediate feedback. Others, however, got no feedback. Bad, Ms. Foti! 

Then I had them write an acrostic to fill up a day when I was going to be out. No formative assessment for understanding. Just an assignment to turn in, thereby becoming a summative assessment of the method. Bad, Ms. Foti!

Rewriting a passage from "Flowers for Algernon"... three homework writing assignments... compound sentences... a reading passage reflection... a thinking map... All summative. None of these assignments have been for the learning. They have been of the learning. I am disappointed in me. I am sure I am doing some informal formative assessing, but based on what I have learned this week, I am far from where I need to be. 

This week, I read that we, as teachers, have spent a great deal of time focusing on the craft of teaching in recent years, and I know that I definitely have, but we, as teachers, have not spent as much time focusing on the students' learning. Time to shift thinking once and for all. Good, Ms. Foti. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Applying the Instructional Model: Part 2

I have spent the past few hours reading from two different books:

There is a great deal of crossover between the two, and my mind is racing with more information and ideas than I can keep up with - unless I start writing some things down, of course. 

One of my weak areas is student self-assessment. I never feel like I have any very good ideas for this, but I ran across one in tonight's reading. We write learning logs on occasion, but the kids never really figure out what I want them to write about or how to write it (guess this is another weakness in my explicit teaching). 

In Classroom Assessment, there are briefs from teachers about how they have applied the methods within. One teacher, Kristen Gillespie, has put together a method of self-assessment that I can definitely work with and will be applying next week. 

I will be hanging three poster boards up on the wall:  


Each student will receive a sticky note with each class receiving a different color. Rather than putting their names on the notes like Gillespie does, I am going to have them draw a symbol that represents them on the front and put their name on the back. As we move through a lesson, the students will post and/or move the notes, allowing me to assess their learning and modify my teaching as needed. 

I believe that if my district is going to pay for this training, it is my responsibility to study the material and apply it. I am jumping in head first. 

As always, more to come...


The penny gallery

So, to make myself feel better about Tuesday's penny disaster, I had my kids draw the pennies Wednesday. I used it to show that sometimes we need to go back, look at things, and get more information to do a better job. We discussed, in great detail, what we needed to do in order to have drawn perfect pennies the first time, and then applied it to the inference work we were doing for the day. Pretty insightful. 

I keep waiting for a worse penny than mine, but no so luck. They all at least knew the president on the penny was Abraham Lincoln!


Applying the Instructional Model: Part 1

Tomorrow I head to my second day of training for the instructional model pilot program that my district is adopting. After one day, however, I was already able to apply the information that I learned.

One of the things we discussed is called Deconstructing a Content Standard. Essentially, the goal is to break down the standard into smaller pieces to determine what the students need to know. The four pieces are knowledge (understanding), reasoning (thought), skill (something the student does that can be seen by the teacher), and product (the work made). The process also reveals the steps in scaffolding instruction. 

I already knew that I needed to go back and reteach an inference assignment because when I started grading them, I realized that there was a flaw in my teaching process. But where? To figure this out, I deconstructed:




Looking at the knowledge targets, I was able to conclude that my students know the meaning of inference and textual evidence. They can speak these definitions back to me (this is a skill target), and with a bit of prompting, can also use the Total Physical Response routine I taught them to remember the definition of inference. Two targets eliminated. 

Reasoning. Yes, my students can create inferences. We discuss them all the time. Target eliminated. 

Product. When I looked at the standard, I realized that I had not focused on writing a  complex inference. I was not transferring the information we discuss into writing them clearly and specifically. With this information, I planned accordingly for reteaching.

I started by showing a student example from the original assignment. The kids had to copy down a specific quote from "Flowers for Algernon" and make an inference about Charlie based on that information. We broke the student response into pieces, making sure everything fit and looking for areas that needed improvement. We then took that information and rewrote a new, more precise inference. 

As we discussed, we also created a checklist of information for self-analysis (another piece of the instructional model): 



This is an example of the original work:



And this is an example of what the work looked like after it was rewritten:



To some extent, this process almost seemed a bit DUH! It is logical, and I already knew all those pieces and steps in my head. Writing them down and analyzing them, however, let me see them in a new light. 

I'm anxious to head back to training tomorrow. I have only learned two out of five chunks of information. I am ready to see what I can do with the rest. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Can YOU draw a penny without looking?

Today was day one of my Instructional Model Pilot Program training. We are using Classroom Assessment for Student Learning from the Pearson Assessment Training Institute as a guide (sorry for the Amazon link; it's not posted with detail on Barnes & Noble). 

Although I will share more as we go along with this process, I want to reflect on one activity I participated in. Ken Mattingly, our facilitator for today's journey, instructed us to draw the face of a penny without looking at one. Simple enough. I'm forty years old. I know what a penny looks like...?

I got the circle part. But then I couldn't remember which president was on the penny, nor could I remember which way he faced. I knew there were some words but drew a blank about what they were. I had to look at my friend's sketch to even remember that there is a year on all coins (my students taught me that TEACHING and CHEATING have the same letters, so my actions were completely acceptable). How did I not know what a penny looked like?

Now, I'm no artist, but it is really that bad? (cough-cough, wink-wink)


Despite my belief that this lesson was designed to humiliate the non-artistic in the room, there actually was a bigger purpose: without preparation and a clear target and purpose, learners are often left stumped and confused. (more on this in the future)

For now, I am taking away a bigger lesson. Tomorrow, I will be making fun of my students using this activity. I can't wait!

Monday, January 27, 2014

"Flowers for Algernon" - Double-Bubble Thinking Map

My class is up to the last progress report in "Flowers for Algernon." Before we move on to Charlie's downfall, we are stopping to compare and contrast his character pre- and post-surgery using a Double Bubble Thinking Map (a glorified Venn diagram for those of you unfamiliar with these). 


Today, the kids are working in groups on planning. I counted off to put them in groups, something I rarely do. I decided they needed some mixing up. For the most part, it has worked. I have only had one group so far that did not want to get anything done. 

The single bubbles are for the categories: pre-surgery and post-surgery. This is the foundation of the work the kids are doing. 

The box is called a Frame of Reference. Within the F.O.R., the kids must include the title of the story and the page numbers as a manner of citation. They also have to include two quotes that describe Charlie - one prior to the surgery and one after. Regardless of how many times we cover over what a quote is and the proper punctuation, they do not get it. Guaranteed, I will get final copies with mistakes. 

The bubbles in the middle, D, E, and F, are for similarities: What about Charlie stays the same before and after the surgery? I am getting questions like, "Is it okay to say Charlie is a boy before and after?" Nothing like deep thinking on a Monday morning. 

The outside bubbles are for the contrasts. Unlike a Venn diagram, the contrasts must connect together. For example, for 1a, I can say that Charlie had an IQ of 68. For 1b, I would then say that Charlie's IQ was above 200. This pairing doesn't always work with a story, but for "Flowers," it does. 

My model is color-coded and labeled to help my ELLs(and probably the rest of them) understand the pieces that fit together. When my students make their final poster board copies, they are required to color-code theirs as well. 

The secret agenda: Open House. At this level, I rarely have much to show, especially since we do so much on the computer. I am going to hang these up for parents to view. It's always nice to have something to show. 

Examples to come. 





Fun Friday: Playing with our new Ipads

As part of the Texas Literacy Initiative, my school received two carts of brand new Ipads. The carts had been in my room for a few days, but my students did not notice. They were a bit surprised when I said we were going to be getting them out. Then they were a bit disappointed when I said we were going to be playing word games. 

Despite their initial thinking, the word games were a hit. I gave them a list of apps to choose from, and each class seemed to have its own favorite. I expected groans, and lots of this is boring. Instead, I saw students working together to figure things out. They asked questions when they were stuck. They told me they learned things. I was really impressed, and I am excited to do this again. 

The choices (we used the free versions of all apps):
  • RhymieStymie - determine a set of synonyms that rhyme together
  • This is to That - solve analogies
  • Get+Together - figure out compound words based on clues and pictures (this one was really good for my ELLS)
  • Grading Game - find all of the errors in a paper or be fired
  • Idiom Stories - What does the idiom mean? (another good one for my ELLs)
  • Word Stack - put together words by association


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Wonderopolis Made My Day


During my English department meeting yesterday, one of our regular subs came and pulled me out. My boss sent him. He is going to be subbing long-term for another English teacher, and I was asked to make lesson plans for this class during her absence for this particular sub. 

Not a problem, except that: one,  I was scheduled to be out Wednesday for a TELPAS testing coordinator meeting (that's our ELL state test for those of you outside Tejas);  two, I have no idea what her classes have been working on (we all do our own thing); and three, it was the very end of the school day. I emailed my boss and let her know that I would be putting together some day-to-day lessons until I could talk to students from this teacher's classes upon my return Thursday.

At our staff meeting after school, I made a list of possible online resources to use (and yes, I was still paying attention; multi-tasker extraordinaire). My colleague recommended  Wonderopolis. I am familiar with the site, and I have heard many others talk about it, but I have never used it myself. I had looked at it before, but not in-depth.

My class has been working on "Flowers for Algernon," and I know the other teacher taught at least part of the story. So, when I got home, I looked up mouse on the site, and found an article about mice and cheese. A bit of a stretch, but the kids need to be able to make intertextual connections. So I threw together a step-by-step lesson for the sub, using the article "Why do mice love cheese?" and information from the site. And then I tweeted about it. 

This morning, I woke up to a tweet back from Wonderopolis:


My first thought: "Well, I cannot say no, but man, are they going to be disappointed. It's just a quick lesson for a sub." Then I got all sorts of confused about DM, but that's another story. 

The response to my lesson was much different than I expected:



Seriously? Who am I to turn down a well-known website from using my lesson based on their information? 

I appreciate this moment and the response from Wonderopolis. It is nice to know that the work I do is appreciated, especially by (what I now know is) a wonderful and resourceful group. 

Thank you, Wonderopolis. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mossflower Choice Board

My Pre-AP students are currently reading (or they are supposed to be) Mossflower on their own. I gave them the book before winter break, and when I mentioned it last week, they said, "Are we supposed to be reading that?" Because this is one of my favorite stories, I was quite disappointed. But I cannot expect them all to enjoy animal adventure stories. 

For the novel, my students will be completing mini-projects based on a choice board. A couple of years ago, I picked up a wonderful book for differentiating assignments. It includes sixty different choices, as well as different types of menus for students to make choices from - baseball, game show, tic-tac-toe, list, and 20-50-80. 

For Mossflower, I chose tic-tac-toe. I have included eight options plus a free choice. For the students to use the free choice, they must submit an idea to me. Initially, I did not include this, but I wanted to give them some creative choice. This is the first project-based assignment they are doing for me, and I am curious to see what they are capable of producing that I might not think of. 

The kids will receive a hard copy of this assignment. I will also be posting it in Edmodo, creating a forum for them to ask questions as needed. I am hoping this may cut down on some of the repetitive questions I often receive. 

Links:





My first ever trade book read-a-thon

This past week was our school's first day for our enrichment program. Every Friday, we are going to be on a shortened bell schedule that allows for an extra class period at the end of the day. During this time, students will be involved in an enrichment program - clubs, organizations, etc. Our full-length classes are 47 minutes. The enrichment program takes about seven minutes off each class. So what to do with a 40 minute class period? This week, because we were also at a stopping point with our lesson, I decided to do a trade book read-a-thon. 

For my entire 10 1/2 years of teaching seventh and eighth grade, I have heard, "But I don't like to read. There aren't any pictures in these books." Well, let me fix that! 

Since participating in #bookaday, I have discovered that many children's books are fantastic. There is much more out there than the easy reader: wonderful stories, rich vocabulary, beautiful paintings. If I was missing out on this for so long, my students are certainly missing out. 

I went to the public library and picked up 35 trade books (I made sure they were ones heavy with words). I placed the books all over my classroom, letting the kids know that they did not have to choose from the stack at their group. I was pleased to see that most of my students moved about the classroom and searched for books they found appealing. This was more than the usually do when we go to our school library. 



I did, of course, have to have some educational focus for the day. We would never want the kids thinking we were reading for enjoyment (cough-cough). Having shared my plan at an ESL meeting the night before, I decided upon this:




"That's all we have to do?"

Yep, kids, that's all we have to do. 

They read. They were quiet! And most importantly, they actually enjoyed reading. 

When I asked, "Did you find a book you really liked?", I heard yeses throughout the room.

When I asked, "Do you want to do this again?", I heard, "Not every week but maybe every three weeks." Nothing like specifics. 

I did have one student try to cheat. He was reading a couple of pages of each book, writing down the information I had requested. When he had ten titles written down within the first few minutes, I knew something was up. His classmates ridiculed him plenty for cheating on reading kid books. 

Now that I have done this once, I am excited to try it again and see what I can do with it. It's been awhile since I have attempted Donalyn Miller's forty-book challenge, but now I am seeing new possibilities. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Flowers for Algernon: Part 2 - Characterizing with acrostics

We started "Flowers for Algernon" last Friday. We went through the first two progress reports slowly, discussing direct and indirect characterization. It wasn't a tough lesson, and the kids grasped the ideas quickly. I did note that we still need more work with supporting our ideas with text evidence, but that will be addressed shortly through dialectical journaling. 

I am a very hands-on reading teacher, and I am nowhere near being ready to turn my students loose with this story. BUT, I have the awesome pleasure of getting to hear Jeff Anderson speak tomorrow afternoon, and an honor like that takes precedent over the lesson. So I have put together the kind of lesson of which I am not a fan, reminding myself that one day of lower-than-standard lessons is not going to hurt anyone in the long run. 

My students are going to read the next three entries on their own. I struggle with independent reading in the classroom. Student reading levels range from third grade to collegiate, and we usually do guided reading to manage pacing. They all need to know how to read on their own, however, and they need to build their reading stamina. Maybe this is not such a bad idea after all. 

Once they finish reading, I am going to have them write a characterization acrostic using Charlie's name. Their assignment is to come up with phrases that describe what we have learned about Charlie through either direct or indirect characterization prior to the surgery. And here again, they may end up surprising me. I am going to keep my fingers crossed. 

Next up...irony. Now would be the perfect time for some other guest speakers. 

Writing Assignment: Describe a day in class from the teacher's point of view.

Sometimes, even I have to admit that things are meant to work out a certain way. The first week back from winter break is always rough, but last week was ridiculous. The kids were uncooperative. They were not following their entry routine. They were not listening. They were off-task. And I had to write two referrals, something I do not enjoy as much as I used to. I will admit that I threw a temper tantrum or five. 

After last week's writing assignment, I have been contemplating how to approach this week's. flipped through my writing books, but I was not finding what I wanted. I started clicking through links on Pinterest (suddenly my new best friend), and there it was. The greatest writing assignment ever! I believe I may have some great samples to share next week. 

Link



Bookaday: Graphic Novels (Fangbone)

For my #bookaday selections, I generally read children's trade books. I have been getting some good teaching ideas - inference, plot, Notice & Note signposts, allusion, alliteration. It's all there. 

During my Friday afternoon visit to the library, I decided to venture into unknown genre territory: the graphic novel. Generally, there is nothing that appeals to me about a graphic novel - other than being able to get my daughter to read one on occasion. But I feel it is my duty (insert dramatic music here) to explore and learn as much as possible. 

This weekend, I met Fangbone. Fangbone is a child warrior from another planet. He is sent to Earth with a precious artifact (an alien toe) that he must keep hidden to prevent the reassembly of a vicious villain. Armed with sword, I found Fangbone to be a bit of a child-like version of Thor. Thor is far from being my favorite superhero, but kids like him.

Although I cannot say this graphic novel has converted me into a fan, I do see value in this particular series. Fangbone is a dream book for a little boy. In addition to being the tale of an unlikely hero, the story is filled with boogers, farting, a clueless teacher, sound effects, and all around silliness. Yeah, even I giggled. 

I am giving this one my stamp of approval, especially for resistant young male readers. 

Reflections on the first writing assignment of the year

I hate when I get excited about an assignment, thinking I have done something positive for my students, when the reaction is quite the opposite. When we returned to school Tuesday, I discussed our weekly writing homework. With my lower classes, I went over the expectations in detail. With my higher classes, I was briefer, putting more responsibility on them. The writing is not due until tomorrow, but I am already declaring a disaster. 

Since this was their first online homework assignment, I gave them five days to complete the work, telling them they could come in to advisory, go to the library before school, go to any teacher during tutoring time, use their phones, or complete the work at home. The first night, I had three students complete the work, none of whom followed the instructions. I know that I am supposed to be teaching explicitly, but by mid-eighth grade, I do not feel like I should have to read every single instruction to the kids. Gradual release of responsibility. By January, I would say we are well past gradual

Wednesday, a student told me that she tried to get to the Pinterest links while on campus, but the page was blocked. Over the break, I spent time setting up resource pages on Pinterest for the kids to use as needed. Well, it turns out that Pinterest has an age restriction, and since many middle-schoolers are not yet 13, the page is blocked until the get to high school. 

Thursday in class, many students had some extra time. I offered to let them get the Chromebooks out and do the homework. Nope. "I'll do it at home," was the only response I heard. 

Yesterday, my phone was blowing up with student questions (I have a messenger for them to contact me for help). Am I supposed to be writing about a gerbil? I don't get what we are supposed to do. Am I supposed to put my answer in the comment box? What words do I use? Almost every response I sent back was read the directions. 

I logged onto Edmodo this morning to see how many assignments have been turned in. There are only a handful out of the 108 students I have. (I love when I give them time, and they wait until the last minute.) Some of the students did not follow the instructions. Some of the students turned in adequate work. And then I found a couple that made it worthwhile to be grading this early on a Sunday morning:



On to this week's writing assignment - with some adjustments. 




Saturday, January 4, 2014

Getting a little wild and crazy with writing

For the first semester of school, I have had my students completing assignments from Writing Frames. I have used this book for years because it provides scaffolded writing lessons. These are very beneficial to my lower-level ELLs, special ed., and dyslexic students. They have probably even saved my Pre-AP students some thinking. 

For the second semester, I am ready to pull the rug out from under them. It is time to do some actual thinking for their writing assignments. So, I went to my handy-dandy bucket of writing books and pulled one out. 


You thought I was joking,
didn't you?
The Write-Brain. 366 exercises. Plenty to choose from. I have used this before, but I have never had my students complete many of the assignments. (Honestly, I bought it for me, but I have not completed many of the assignments.) I don't think I have touched more than five of the assignments. Well, that is a waste of my money and my resources and my push for myself to do more writing. So time for my kiddos to get to work. 


Because of the high number of laptops we now have on campus, we are under pressure to really move to being paperless. My students do most of their work on the computer (I have 1:1 in my classroom), but homework assignments have always been a concern. I have decided that I am going to survey who can access online homework assignments, and I will make paper copies for those who need them, or they can come in after school on tutoring day to complete the assignments.
Their first assignment from The Write-Brain will be Day 1 (may as well keep it simple for myself). One of the things I have worked on over vacation is exploring what I can do with different types of social media. I have discovered that there is value in Pinterest - aside from sharing recipes. I have started making resource folders for my students. I am also trying to use for photo editing apps to bling up my assignments a bit. (Yes, I know I am a nerd. It's all right. My students love me for it.) All of this will be linked up to Edmodo for assignments to be completed. 

The results: 



My "blinged" up assignment.
Yeah, this is going to take some practice.


If nothing else, this forced me to do some writing of my own. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Personal Learning Network (PLN) Blog Challenge


January 1. I was tagged in the land of Twitter. Unbeknownst to me, I have actually become part of a Personal Learning Network. I have been engaging in the Twittersphere for the past couple of months, but I didn't realize I was tag-worthy. So let me begin by thanking Lisa Kincer for the recognition. 


Now what exactly is this thing? From Lisa's post, 

The PLN Blogging Challenge:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger. 
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself. 
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
______________________________

Ok, number 1 - check. That was easy. I can do this. 
______________________________

2. Eleven random facts about MEEEEEEEE! Are you sure you can handle this?
  • I have ten pets. Shhhhh! I have one cat from a litter that I found abandoned in a box behind a Gold's Gym thirteen (?) years ago. I have a second cat who was given to me by a student. We then adopted a dog from a friend/breeder whose dog bred with the wrong breed. Then we adopted another dog from the animal shelter. Then my daughter found a solo kitten in our yard. Then she found a two-week old litter whose mother had been picked up my animal control, so naturally, I had to take them in and help them survive. Then my son found a stray dog during his Pizza Hut rounds. Needless to say, I'm a sucker. 
  • Although it doesn't usually show, I am actually quite the introvert. 
  • I am an agnostic. 
  • I changed my major in college from journalism to sociology to anthropology to psychology to human development to social work. My bachelor's is in social work. 
  • I have a master's degree in teaching. 
  • I flunked out of my first college and have been to four total. 
  • I became pregnant with my son, out of wedlock, when it was still taboo. A lot has changed in twenty years. 
  • I have never been married, nor do I ever want to be. I do not quite understand tolerating someone for that life. LIFE, people. That's a long time!
  • If my best friend had not died when we were twenty, she would be 41 tomorrow. To this day, I still call her my best friend, despite having outlived her by a lifetime now.
  • I absolutely despise housework. 
______________________________
Okay, Lisa's eleven questions for me:

1.  What is one thing you tried this school year that you learned about from your PLN? 

This is still new to me, but I am trying to work #bookaday into my classroom. I have some ideas flittering through my mind. 

2.  If you weren’t in education, what would you do instead?

I would be a supermodel, of course. Duh! I think I would be working in the editing field. 

3.  Who was your favorite teacher growing up and how did she/he inspire you?

My senior English teacher, Mrs. Boss, believed in me more than any other teacher I had ever had. She told me that I was a true writer. Her words. Swear. 

4.  What is one example of ed-tech that you use daily in your work with students?

We learned about Nearpod in December, and it has become a classroom hit. 
5.  What characteristic do you value most in a team member or colleague?

Actual work ethic! I have incredible passion for what I do. I do not understand people in this field who just get by. It makes me insanely angry. 
6.  What is the best book you’ve read lately?

Lately? Eeee! Toughest question yet. Let's see... I don't read much adult lit., but The Husband's Secret was a great read. 
7.  If you could have dinner with three people, alive or no-longer living, who would you select, and why?  What/where would you eat?

Laura Ingalls Wilder - The Little House books are the first I remember ever reading. My mom says I was hooked on the show from the time I was an infant. 

Amelia Earheart - I did my fourth grade biography on her, and I have been fascinated ever since. A picture of her hangs on my classroom door. 

My dead best friend - Well, I miss her. So, yeah...

What would we eat? Tex-Mex! 

8.  Connections totally fascinate me, so name one member of your PLN and tell how you became connected with him/her.  {Just in the time it has taken me to type this blog post, seven individuals have popped up as my new Twitter followers - leaving me quite excited to check out who they are - but also curious as to how they found me.}

Oh, gosh. I have no idea. I have not been on here very long. It looks like one of the first people I started following was Jeff Anderson. One of our district curriculum specialists introduced me to his books, and I have been using them for years. 
9.   What is your favorite children’s or YA book of all time?

These questions are so difficult! I am going to be totally cliche and go with Harry Potter. I started reading the series to my son was he was five. 

10.  What educational conference is on your “do not miss” list for 2014?

Our district pays for us to do quite a bit. I go to AP and AVID conferences bi-annually. I got to go to the Texas Literacy Initiative conference last year and expect to be going again next summer. On January 13, Jeff Anderson is coming to our district. I get to spend three glorious hours learning directly from him. 

11. If you had to narrow down your words of wisdom for students or fellow-educators to just three words, what would they be?  Please identify the intended audience (educators or students) for your words as you share them.

For both educators and students, STUPID AIN'T CUTE!
______________________________

Am I passing so far? This next one is the hardest, since I am just catching up with reading blogs. I have had a number of people start following me on Twitter lately, so I am going to choose them. Welcome to the hardest assignment of your life! Unless you have already done this. If you have, congratulations on surviving the challenge. 
  1. Jim Cordery 
  2. Christopher Peterson
  3. Jennifer Vivian
  4. Mary Lee
  5. Holly Fairbrother
  6. Denise (She only goes by one name. I think she is like Madonna.)
  7. Liz Garden
  8. Sasha Reinhardt
  9. Jennifer Isgitt
  10. Jessica Crawford
  11. Judi Holst
______________________________

And now, the questions from me:

1. If your house caught on fire, what would you grab before running out of the house (aside from family/pets)?

2. What is the best thing a student has ever said to you?

3. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

4. Barnes & Noble or Amazon?

5. Paper books or ebooks?

6. On a scale of 1(weak) -10 (hardcore), how intense is your addiction to Twitter?

7. How many hours of sleep do you average a night? Do you wake up thinking educational thoughts in the wee hours of the morn?

8. Who is your favorite Muppet? (I should not type questions while watching The Disney Channel.)

9. If you could only read one more book for all time, what would it be?

10. How many books do you own that you have not yet read?

______________________________

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Flowers for Algernon - Part I

This is my third year teaching eighth grade (after eight years teaching every possible reading/writing variation of seventh grade we have had). When I left seventh grade, I was teaching writing, and eighth grade is predominantly focused upon reading. One of the biggest issues I have had has been pacing. After two years of trying to manage every listed reading assignment in our curriculum, I threw it all out the window and decided to simply teach - and it is paying off. Unfortunately, there are still requirements. 

One of the eighth grade required readings for eighth graders is the short story "Flowers for Algernon." When I say requirement, I mean requirement. Oops. Missed this for the first two years! Year three, I got this...I think. So here goes. 

Progress report for March 5

  • Although my students should pick up on the indirect characterization right away, I am going to start with direct characterization. This will be a short and sweet review to introduce us to Charlie. 
  • We will be working on computer annotation skills (Google Drive), starting with some basic underlining/highlighting skills. I am trying to get them away from highlighting everything on the paper. I have been teaching annotation all year, but that has not cut down on the highlighter abuse. 
  • Since we will be using Google Drive, we will also work on adding comments to take notes. I have created a sentence stem (slide 3) to guide their reflection of the direct characterization. 
  • I am also going to have the kids rewrite the first entry in proper English. Well, as proper as they can make it, I suppose. I haven't quite figured out how to grade this. It might simply be a participation grade for them, but I want them to get some editing practice. 
  • For the second entry, we are switching gears to indirect characterization. I want my students to start putting together what we are learning about Charlie through his writing. 
  • Since we have been working on Notice & Note signposts throughout the year, I am going to review Again & Again. With our Again & Again lenses (I am combining the N&N signpost with a text evidence strategy from Falling in Love with Close Reading), we will be looking for patterns in Charlie's thinking that help us understand his traits. 
  • Click for larger copy
  • The hard part here is getting them to focus on the text evidence. For example, what does the "rabits foot in my pockit because when I was a kid I always faled tests in school" tell us about  Charlie? (It was really hard to type all of that incorrectly.) Using a modified version of the frame provided in FILWCR, I am going to have the kids write a character traits statement about Charlie.

This is as far as I have gotten so far. Now I have to figure out where to chunk the rest of the text so it doesn't take me until the end of May to teach the entire story. 

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