Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Today our presenter shared an idea totally unrelated to history, but brilliant as a management idea. He shared that when he assigns the typical class jobs we're used to (attendance, lunch bins, etc.), he also gives the job "Class Energizer." This person is in charge of coming up with a quick activity when energy is low (like it happened to be today in our afternoon lecture session). It could be jumping jacks, a song, cheer, or whatever else this energetic kiddo can come up with. Our presenter said he had a student in the past he referred to as Jillian Michaels that loved giving out physical challenges.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
One of the highlights every year is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It's a lovely little museum dedicated to the beauty of books.
The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats." I remember reading The Snowy Day when I was very young. But I never realized how influential and pioneering this book was.
The exhibit did a fascinating job telling about how ground-breaking this Caldecott-winner was. The Snowy Day was the first full-color picture book put out by a major publisher featuring an African-American child as the protagonist. And not only that, but as Keats pointed out, "My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along,” (more info here). Keats was not putting his main character, Peter, there to prove anything, he was just a boy exploring a snow-covered city.
Not only are the galleries of this museum wonderful, but there is a charming studio where kids can work on Carle-esque collages and drawings. And to top it all off, the gift shop is a wonderfully dangerous place. Imagine all the best books for kids in one room... I have yet to make it out of there with less than four new books.
This year I picked up Jennie's Hat by Mr. Keats, This is the Dream by Diane Shore & Jessica Alexander, Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made A Difference by Joyce Hansen, and a surprise gift for a friend. I also bought some Very Hungry Caterpillar-inspired borders and name plates. I can't wait to incorporate them into some fresh classroom decor (okay...maybe I can wait a few weeks still!).
One of these years I hope to stop by when Eric is in the building. What a nugget.
Monday, July 23, 2012
ATP ("Awesome Teaching Partner") and I are excited for all the ways these games can be used next year to provoke friendly competition and an excitement for language.
Did you know there is an official foundation called The School Scrabble Association? They have awesome lesson plans, bulletin board ideas, and other classroom resources. There's a great article here that explains all the benefits of word games on learning. We can't wait to use some of these next year and I promise to share the results and fun that ensues.
Wouldn't ATP look great in this?!
Sunday, July 22, 2012
One of those teachers was Mrs. Pam Hayes. I remember watching her daughter's home videos from Christmas morning. I remember her having us act out Julius Caesar by running on yard sticks for our sword. One day we even watched "Family Feud." Just because. Basically, she was meant to teach HS juniors.
She was similarly humorous when I entered the teaching profession. Below are selections from an email exchange I came up recently and just had to share. It reminds me how thankful I am to those educators who not only do a great job teaching their students, but also have a great deal of fun along the way. I strive to be one of them!
Hey, Mrs. Hayes!
I have been in the field all day this week (and next, too). Long hours you teachers have. I went to my very first waste-of-time teacher inservice on weds too! ha ha. Tomorrow I teach my very first self-planned lesson! Yay! Let's hope it goes well!
You may have already taught your lesson, but I've been sending very positive vibes your way all morning. Hope they reached you in time. On my first day, I allowed a 7th grade girl go to the bathroom and she set the garbage can on fire. The entire school had to evacuate. True story. Jones Jr. High on the east side of Toledo. 1996. Yes, the newspaper even wrote about it. Luckily, my name wasn't mentioned or else I'd sweeping floors in schools, not teaching in them.
If you didn't have fire trucks, your first day was better than mine.
Stay in touch.
Your letter cracked me up! That is a great first day story! Things have been busy as usual. I am back in the field again, this time with 8th graders. Man, they are a tough crowd! I taught a Ray Bradbury story today (good guy, but man, he is out there enough anyway...) and it went okay... the kids got it at least and were participating. It is just amazing the difference between 10-year-olds and 13-year-olds... wow. I got almost no reactions out of this group. I would just look at them and think, "Do they get it?" "Are they bored?" "Confused?" They just stare at you... oh man. Anyway, I guess it's good to know that I favor the younger ones.
Overall, the semester is still going well. Though I have a busy course load, I love my classes. I feel like they are starting to get practical. Which is also scary to realize that I actually am going to be a teacher someday and not just always taking classes on it. Eek! When did this all happen? I feel funny having authority over 13-year-olds as I don't feel all that separated from them myself.
"Can I go to the bathroom?"
"I don't know. CAN you?" (If you are guilty of saying this, you are officially an English teacher.)
Amy, it's always great to hear from you. I appreciate all of your updates. Let me give you a bit of advice. When students collectively give you the blank stare with mouths half open...When their eyes glaze over and don't blink...well, they can only be thinking one thing: "Wow, she is SOOOO hot! I want to be just like her when I grow up. How do I get a detention? I think I need private tutoring. I haven't heard a word that she's said. Is it time to go already?" etc. etc. You get the idea. Trust me, I get this all the time.
Got essays staring at me!! Have to run. Keep me posted.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
This means I' ve been reading! So far this week I've finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry.
I loved all of them, for completely different reasons. Henrietta is a great nonfiction narrative about the first living cells taken from a woman without her knowledge in the 1950s. Skloot does a brilliant job of weaving together history, medicine, science, and human interest. Moneyball kept this girl who knows little about baseball totally engaged. I still haven't seen the movie, but I'm hoping to soon.
And The Willoughbys. Do yourself a favor and get this from the library soon. I actually listened to the book on tape (still counts, right?), which I also highly recommend. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I love anything by Lois Lowry. It's sort of a pseudo-Series of Unfortunate Events tale (with more likable characters). It's charming and lovely and very quotable. I need more people to quote it to in my life...so get on it, won't you!?
What have you been reading this summer? Anything that's surprised you?
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
In fact, I have a refrigerator magnet declaring my nerd-love of grammar. It was a gift from my aunt and uncle and says, "Grammar Ninja: Ruthless, Deadly, Articulate." I think grammar appeals to the part of my brain that likes order, organization, and math. It’s logic meets language—what a wonderful combination.
If you're looking for the best professional text on the subject, check out Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson. It's sure to shake you of any traditional views of grammar instruction and put your beliefs solidly in the power of grammar in the context of writing. This text has been the focus of my grad class and has been the touchstone of my own grammar instruction for the last several years. I promise to share more tidbits from it this coming school year and I roll out my own adaptation of J. Anderson on fifth graders.
Monday, July 16, 2012
From Mrs. J., my 5th grade Language Arts/ Social Studies teacher:
From Mrs. D., 12th grade Math:
From Mr. D., English/ HS Yearbook Advisor:
*I think my main take-away from sharing these is realizing how blessed I was with MANY fantastic teachers. I guess partly I do it as a "thank you" to them!
And thank YOU for being a part of my first official week of blogging.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
From Mr. S., 8th grade Social Studies:
From Mrs. C., 12th grade English:
Friday, July 13, 2012
Loveliness aside...when we have these moments as teachers, when we fantasize about having any job but our own, what do we do? I asked this question of some of my favorite former teachers and got some powerful advice that I've still held onto and now will share with you in a few installments. I hope you enjoy part one:
From Mr. S, 7th grade Social Studies & one of my early field mentors:
Somedays I am just happy and nothing can change that.
From Mrs. R., my 10th grade English teacher:
When I was going through grades K-12 myself, I looked forward to school every day. My home life was depressing. My parents caused turmoil daily and school is where I found love, support, and encouragement. Teachers and coaches became the role models that I wanted to emulate in my own future. I was quiet and lacked confidence in my own abilities. Secretly, I admired every teacher's patience, knowledge, and dedication. Today, I'm on the other side of the desk. I know that some of my students are sad, some are hungry, some are in pain. I try especially hard to make every one of them feel important, especially the wounded ones. Trust me on this. Even on the days that you really want to call in sick, you will say something or do something that will leave a positive impression on some kid. And that should be all the motivation that you need. I can't begin to explain how extremely rewarding my career choice has been for me. I am so rich for having had thousands of students walk through my door over the last 18 years. I have to fake a smile here and there, but my kids are counting on me as much as I'm counting on them. That's what keeps me going.
From Claire S., early ed. Art teacher & one of my mom’s teaching mentors:
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Ralph Fletcher calls this activity "Digging Up Buried Stories." As students go through the activity, they first draw the place (a tried and true vacation spot, their neighborhood, house, bedroom, or anywhere they know well). This allows the chance to deeply think of the details of that place. Next, we label our drawings. Not just the actual place or object, but any memories of that specific place or object. The best step is allowing students the chance to talk to a buddy about their drawing. This is huge! Letting students talk and ask questions encourages them to share stories they may not have even known they have to tell. It validates their thinking and gets them excited to write.
Last, of course, we write. It could be a quick 5-10 minutes, or turn into a longer piece for those students who find something really great to continue working with.
In the spirit of modelling, here is my drawing that I share every year. It's one of my favorite places in the world (and I'm gearing up to visit soon!) It's tucked into the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. This place holds so much adventure, and culture, and nostalgia for me. I'm eager to have another week here with my family to create new memories.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
I'm still working out a few things of what I think this blog should be. Part inspiration, part rambling, perhaps? I have lots of potential posts floating around but yet to take form. So I'll start with what may be most helpful to you--a new resource for great ideas. (You can thank me later.)
Today, while responding to students in my online grad class, I was introduced to lots of fantastic online resources. (Isn't it nice when the students do the work for you!?) One that I feel very fortunate to have been introduced to is a great collection of student anchor texts. It's always a challenge to find samples of student work that feel like the right level for what I expect my students to produce, especially if it is my first time teaching a new genre. I'm excited to have a new place to search for just the right mentors for my young writers.
Check out this little gem from Smekens Education Solutions, Inc. Kristina Smekens has a great collection of videos, lesson plans, and resources that are all fresh, creative, and FREE! Enjoy.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
But with that freedom from normal work hours, there is also freedom to explore ways to improve my teaching for next year. I like to think about my goals for the summer at the end of each school year. This summer I wanted to start a blog. I finally jumped on that one five weeks in. (My Awesome Teaching Partner, henceforth known as "ATP," told me her summer goal was potty training her almost three-year-old. It makes my goals sound a lot more fun.) It's been a productive summer and yet still a great change of pace. So what have I been up to this summer? How am I doing on other goals?
Here is the list:
1. Teach Grad class on Grammar Instruction. More on that later.
2. Read more. I haven't been making as progress as I had hoped. I've finished The Bell Bandit, by Jaqueline Davies (author of The Lemonade War), Divergent by Veronica Roth, and am currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It's probably my favorite of the three and a great nonfiction read.
3. Read more professional texts. Because of above grad class, I've been digging into Jeff Anderson's 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know and Janet Angelillo's A Fresh Approach to Teaching Punctuation. Janet's work makes so much sense. She works with the younger grades to teach very basic discovery lessons on punctuation, tone, and the rules of writing. I'm going to be stealing a few things from her next year.
4. Attend Sycamore Literacy Conference. ATP and I, among others, attended this professional development the first few days of our summer. While I'm not sure any of us were that pumped going into the experience, I got so many good ideas out of it that you will be hearing about this coming year. Most of all, I learned I have a crush on Chris Tovani. She's amazing. Her book So What They Really Know? is totally on my wish list.
5. Attend some other upcoming PDs you'll be hearing about: Columbia Writing Project Institute, Teach American History Summer Seminar, and a War of 1812 Institute. Whew... who said this summer thing was a piece of cake?
6. Think about how to improve my vocabulary instruction for next year to make it more engaging. I found this gem through one of the awesome teachers in my grammar class. We'll be using this "Kick me Strategy" from Jody McCauley next year for sure.
7. Beat my sister in Words with Friends. Does that count as a professional goal? Because I did it last week! She's tough competition.
Just to round it out... I've also:
8. Completed a month of boot camp.
9. Babysat for 1.5 & 2.5 year girls while their parents were out of town for three days. (I don't know how you mommas do it!)
10. Caught up with lots of lovely friends.
How has your summer been going?
Monday, July 9, 2012
BUT...I did LOVE the Pixar short that came right before the movie. "La Luna" is an adorable wordless short film featuring a young boy who is working with his father and grandfather for the first time.
Here is a 30 second preview.
The whole time I was watching, I was thinking what a great inferencing lesson this would make for my students. It's such a magical little story full of lots of classroom potential. Apparently, Pixar releases these gems from time to time in a volume of shorts. Volume 1 came out in 2004 and is available at Amazon. For now, I am tiding myself over with a picture book version. I can't wait to use it. I'll be sure to share the lesson when my room is full of students.
This blog will be my musings, my trials and errors, and hopefully some triumphs in my teaching life. "The Art of Teaching" reminds me that we never really have all the answers...that teaching is a journey and an art.
I've been pondering starting a blog for a few years now. I've sometimes thought of it as narcissistic to assume that I have any thoughts that others want to read. But any time I read someone else's blog, I never have that thought. I love dropping in occasionally to catch up with a friend or hear what they've been cooking or where their travels have taken them. So it seemed like time to share my thoughts.
Welcome to my journey. I'm glad you're here.