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Monday, April 14, 2014

Preparing for a visit from TLI

This Thursday, representatives from the Texas Literacy Initiative in Austin and within the district are coming to observe classes to see vocabulary use in action. I am the contact person for this program at our school. Last week, a colleague stopped me to show all that she has done to prepare for the visit. I am so impressed that I have to share. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Are you driving your teacher crazy?: What the kids had to say

I am posting some of my favorite pieces from my student writing assignments for "Are you driving your teacher crazy?"

Why yes. I DO have this student.

This one is actually about the group member of the author. I am constantly telling her to stop reading. Such an awful thing do to as an English teacher. 

Such violence!

I got a few of these that state the teacher will dislike a student
for sharpening pencils during instruction. Dislike?

The student who wrote this actually wrote it about a friend of his who truly drives me bonkers. 
What is it with my girls and Starbucks this year? My own daughter is just as bad. 
No comment. 
Do not use the & symbol.
If you are going to use the word pissed, spell it correctly.
Better yet, don't use it!
Side note: I got numerous entries about putting makeup on. Interesting. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Was it the voodoo?

Last weekend, I bought a Mini Voodoo doll. She represents focus on the climb toward one's goals. Some situations this year have creeped into my thoughts and caused a setback in my focus and optimism. Why not give little voodoo lady a try?

I have been wearing her on my school lanyard all week. Today was such an overwhelming good-news day that I am wondering if she played any roll in it. 

My day started with a really good Insanity workout (the Max one, too). Usually, I struggle to get through Shaun T.'s madness, but today was a bit easier than normal. 

Shortly after I got to school, I received a message from my boss. The district head of the Bilingual/ESL/LOTE program emailed her regarding a colleague and myself. She said she had heard great things about us and was inviting us to attend a Title III symposium in May in Austin. Heck, yeah! I love new opportunities. 

A little while later, I received a message from a colleague at the high school we feed into. I have been nominated - by my principal - for a Girls Rock award. The award is presented to junior high teachers who work with female students and assist with the transition between junior high and high school. I have never even heard of it before, but how awesome!

During my sixth period class, I looked up at my doorway to discover one of my former students - and her baby. I didn't even know she had been pregnant. I got to do some baby holding and hugging and kissing in the middle of the day. I am a sucker for a baby. I have always said that if we had to teach while holding a baby all day long, we would be some very peaceful and smiley teachers. 

At the end of the day, our district director of curriculum and instruction came in to meet with those of us in my department involved in an instructional model pilot program. She kept raving about the work we have done and how excited we are about it. She then invited us to become part of a group of teachers to be trained as trainers for the program. The negative - it happens at the same time as the Title III symposium. But, it looks like we may still be able to attend a two-day session with the author of Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. She did mention trying to set up future sessions for us to become trainers. 

The director also let me know that she used my student self-assessment posters in a presentation she gave to principals in the district. 

On her way out the door, she also told a colleague and me that she would like to be able to come film our classrooms for use as examples with this program. 

Lastly, I lost my wallet last night. I looked through my car multiple times and thought it must be at school. It wasn't at school, so I called the grocery store I was at yesterday morning. Not there. So I knew it had to be at home, but when I got home, I still couldn't fine it. I tried the car one more time and found it peeking out from under my driver's side seat. Phew!

I am not used to days like this. It has all been a bit overwhelming. Blame it on the voodoo?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Writing with Participial Phrases

Now that my students have a living first draft, it is time to teach them some higher level sentence structure. Tomorrow, we will begin focusing on participial phrases. For seven of my eleven years teaching, my primary role was that of a writing teacher. I am thrilled to be able to move to writing instruction at this time of the year. 

As much as I would like to take credit for everything in this presentation, I have used three resources. I started with a lesson on Writing Fix, then referred to two Image Grammar resources. 

The lesson is scaffolded as follows:

  • Students will define participial phrases. 
  • Students will deconstruct participial phrases from a mentor text. 
  • Students will identify participial phrases within a paragraph. 
  • Students will write participial phrases to describe photographs. 
  • Students will write participial phrases to describe an event. 
  • Students will add participial phrases to a previously written text. 
Because I am teaching students on all different levels, and because a long-term sub in another classroom is also teaching my lessons, I have built a great deal of practice into this assignment. For students who grasp the concept quickly, I will move on to -ed participial phrases. From past experience, I know that the -ings tend to be easier for them. 

Keeping my fingers crossed. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tableaux follow-up

During our post-tableaux talk on Friday, I asked one of my classes what they thought about using "Are you driving your boss crazy?" as a lead-in to a writing assignment: "Are you driving your teacher crazy?" I do not think I really should have been surprised that they liked the idea. I know they do not like to write, and my thinking was that this was a topic they to which they could all contribute. 

Boy, was I right. We used a circle map for brainstorming, and I have never seen their pencils moving so quickly. One student listed more than could fit within the circle - and he isn't even one who annoys me very much! 

I also got a number of questions I didn't expect. Some students decided to write the piece as a warning to students. Others decided to write it as what to do to annoy your teacher. One girl was so excited about writing a how-to guide that she insisted on taking her spiral home to continue writing. 

From our discussions, I learned that it must be very difficult to be a student. One teacher allows gum; the next does not. One teacher tells students to turn off phones when they go off in class; another takes them away. Some teachers call home when they forget to bring a pencil; others tell them to borrow from a classmate. With our levels of tolerance so different, no wonder the kids are confused all the time! 

Tomorrow, my students will be typing their writing. I am then going to use their assignments for editing and revision activities (time to pull out my Jeff Anderson books). Thinking ahead, I realized life will be much easier with some computer color-coding rather then writing and rewriting by hand. 

As always, I am looking forward to sharing what they come up with. 

Tableaux: Part 2 - Performance Art at it's finest (at least for eighth grade)

After my excitement over last week's lesson on tableaux, I started to get a little nervous about the actual performance pieces. My falling asleep thoughts started drifting toward the negative. As much as I would like to believe that my enthusiasm for each and every lesson carries over to my students, that is not always the case. Was I misreading them? Were they not enjoying this as much as they appeared to be?

Friday showed me that they were absolutely engaged and pleased with the lesson. Not only did they enjoy the lessons, some of the groups I expected the least from produced the best statues. I love being surprised by them. This lesson is definitely a keeper. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Turning down new assignments

4. Asking too many questions

8. Fueling the rumor mill

6. Refusing to admit your mistakes

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tableaux: Part 1

I woke up excited about this lesson, and after today, I am even more excited for tomorrow. In my bones, I knew this was going to be good, and it has been so far. 

After days of state testing, I wanted a lesson that allowed my students to move and speak. Sitting still and being quiet just ain't our thang! I was flipping through Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading and found the perfect lesson: Tableaux. This lesson contains everything I wanted for today and tomorrow - reading, collaboration, inquiry, presentation, speaking, and moving. 

I put together a brief presentation to introduce the article and give instructions. I told them we were reading "Are you driving your boss crazy?" because I couldn't find "Are you driving your teacher crazy?" I used this as a springboard to discuss their future employment (some of my eighth graders are already old enough to work) and what not to do. I even talked about all of my former students I saw working at Six Flags last Sunday and how I believed some of them would make the mistakes in this article and not be employed long. Hook! 

We then looked discussed the word tableaux and analyzed the Iwo Jima statue. My students, without prompting, told me that this is a French word because of the ending (and this is a Spanish-speaking school). I was also surprised that many of them knew the statue by sight. It's always a shock when I don't have to spend too much time on background knowledge. 

Most of our class time was spent planning, preparing, and practicing (PPP). Within four classes, I only had one group off task . I may not always realize it, but my kids are usually following instructions and participating in class activities. For the most part, I stood back and watched the show. Isn't this how it should be?

I did have to leave early from one class, and a colleague covered for the PPP part of my class. Her feedback: My goofballs were being funny trying to figure out facial expressions and poses. I am filled with anticipation for their presentations tomorrow.