Monday, May 16, 2011

Thanks to Will!

I am humbled by Will Richardon's latest post "There are some people who don't wait." I can't accurately express my appreciation and admiration for what Will has done for me and my students. The leadership, vision, and quest for something better continues to drive me in my pursuit or "hunger" for my student's learning as well as my own. He takes such a personal interest in helping all of us to better our learning.

To see my personal blog, please visit me at Learning and Laptops. To see my students' work, see us at Smith English 9 or Smith English 9 Honors.

Once again, thanks Will!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Philosophy of Education

It was great getting a chance to talk with everyone on Monday as well as have my new group contribute (Yeah- Adam, Amanda and Rob) and examine my philosophy of education. Together we created a strong philosophy that included:
  • The teacher is a facilitator, coach, mediator
  • The teacher is seen as student as well as the students are seen as teachers
  • The teacher is there to build bridges between the knowledge and skills to link the students to understanding.

I also have to say I really liked this quote from our reading this summer, " the teacher is a coach, providing scaffolding where needed, talioring mini lectures to clear up confusion or if things are going well, simply moderate discussion and allow students to figure out things on their own." I really felt as though this summarized how I would like to see my classroom.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another try at soliciting feedback...

I am going to give you guys another try at giving me some feedback on an assignment. Hopefully, this time I won't have to send email reminders, outlook calendar updates, and nagging people in class or in the hallways to complete this assignment (oh, wait that's just Karl that does that).

My seniors are teaching each other Brave New World. They began teaching their classmates after much discussion about how to teach and what good teaching looks like methods of instruction, methods of assessment; basically it was reviewing what they thought was effective form their years of education and what they thoughts was not. For the most part I have been really happy with this challenge they have undertaken. Where I am struggling is what to hold them accountable for. I have a rubric that I use to grade their group, but I feel like I am missing something on it. I want to get some fedback from you before I ask the kids what they think. The parts I am considering adding are one about classroom management (could I realistically get the kids to keep each other in-line?) and making sure they meet at least three of the five areas of the language arts curriculum in terms of reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

Here's the rubric:

Pre-teaching conference:
Meeting time scheduled and attended
Lesson plans ready _____ /20

Followed lesson plan

Participation/ Interaction required

Writing/Reading/Reacting assignment


Anticipatory set- Beginning activity to pull class together

Culminating activity- pull class together at end

Flexibility of lesson

Focused on ideas of assigned chapters, but not limited by chapters

All teachers participated

Enhanced understanding of concepts beyond basic concepts _____/ 90

Group/ self evaluation:
All members worked well together in planning and teaching
Goal of lesson fulfilled _____/ 20

TOTAL _____/ 130

Any feedback would be appreciated otherwise I will have to sick Karl the Invincible on you!


I am worried about giving out the student survey. Anybody else? What if the kids don't see the change? Or more importantly, what if they don't care? I know my freshmen Honors class as well as my seniors has been working well with me on feedback about trying new things, but I am unsure of whether or not my regular ninth grade will know what we are asking. Just something I am thinking about. I hope I can bring them to the computer lab so I can go through it with them without leading them. This is something I am also going to do with their survey from the grading pilot program.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sing a song of six pence...

I am trying to come up with a some songs that parallel themes in two novels that I am currently teaching; I need some help though trying to find the best songs. If you have a few minutes and can think of some songs, please let me know:

Brave New World:
The Use of Technology to Control Society- Video Killed the Radio Star, I Want My MTV
The Consumer Society (success of society is equated with economic growth) We Didn't Start the Fire
The Incompatibility of Happiness and Truth- (happiness at the expense of truth) Just Another Day in Paradise-Phil Collins
The Dangers of an All-Powerful State-(govt controls people) American Idiot, something by Rage Against the Machine?

Farewell to Manzanar:
The Destruction of Family Life under Internment-
The Everyday Nature of Prejudice-Black or White- Michael Jackson
The Difficulty of Understanding One's Identity- Politik-Coldplay, Who are you?- The Who, Turning Japanese-The Vapors, Survivor- Destiny's Child

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Editing Part 2

I am having my regular freshmen redo their position papers wokring each day on a specific task, practicing editing, and then applying it to their own papers. I am astounded how little they have retained about writing from past year's English classes. It is one of the few moments in my teaching career where I am really struggling with covering all the curriculum or spending more time working on the writing process. I think I will do additional little writing assignments when we do Romeo and Juliet to help them retain what we have been working on.

I am beginning to feel that I need to change how I teach writing to my students. Up to this point, the way I have taught writing has always seemed to work, but this year it seems they are having more difficulty. Is it just this class or is it the teaching? ( The struggle every teacher faces!) Either way, I guess I am grateful for the chance to spend more time getting them to improve their writing and just hope that it sticks!


Progress toward my goal..I have found that I am doing a much better job after creating goals, to actually focus on achieveing them. Amazing, isn't it? I tend to be someone who sets golas in my mind but does not put them down on paper. Once they are written though, it makes me follow through and complete them. So far, I am doing a good job. My seniors actually decided with a little guidance how they wanted to complete their last novel. They decided rather than fishbowl they actually wanted to teach one another. This brought a whole new set of problems (umm, challenges) to deal with since we had to talk about what it means to teach. Group one already went and did a fantastic job. They had a multitude of acitvities during the class period and not one activity went on too long; we wrote, discussed, visualized and presented our findings. It really was impressive to see the thought and effort put into their lesson plan. I have also been trying to encourage my freshman both regular and honors to have more say in due dates and assessing their work. This is more difficult with my regular class because they aren't accustomed to having a say and now I am allowing them to help determine their grades. The biggest struggle with this is to get them to actually read and interpret the rubric I give them for a project. My sophomores did well with determining their grades so I am hoping I can encourage my freshman to do the same. We will get there eventually; I just need a little patience!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Harper's Index...

Harper's Index...This is something I want Kristin to talk about at our next meeting,but I thought I would give you a preview. The man who presented this is an AP teacher in the Cherry Creek district and it is something he does to teach critical thinking skills to his AP kids. He gives them a copy of the index and asks them to categorize the statisitics themselves. Then they are to find connections among the statistics and create an interpretation of the organization of the list. Basically, why is the list organized in this way? Then he asks them to discuss their own personal interpretations together as a class. He says the discussions get quite heated at times but it is interesting to have them hear each other's opinions and try to support their side and refute another's. At the end ,he asks them to write a well constructed paragraph supporting one of their catergories and why they grouped that particular set of statisitcs together. Hopefully this makes sense...Take a look at the index when you have time. It's fun and scary all at the same time (kind of like Disney World).

Thinking 'bout a revolution (actually just next year)

I have been try to think in terms of next year, how I am going to tramsform my current classroom into a laptop classroom. It is scary and exciting. I am not one of those people who is good with failing at things and so I know I need to do a lot of planning and talking with Karl, Brian, and Brad over the summer to prepare my self and my students fo r the journey they unknowlingly are going to undertake with me. In some ways, I wonder if it would be beneficial to let the students know there is a possibility they could be put in a laptop classroom much like the single gender classes. On the other side, it might be better for the shock and awe aspect (thanks Bush). I am trying to save student writing examples to practice peer editing next year. I am also trying to think of journaling assingments that aren't Microsoft Word based. Maybe on their own personal blogs?? Is that going to be too much to read? To keep up on and react to? The cool thing would be that other kids could react to their peers' thoughts and not just me.

Kristin and I got some great ideas at the CLAS conference in terms of student organization of ideas that I want her to share at our next meeting.

So much to think about but yet I still want the kids to contribute to process and decision making so I feel like I don't need to decide everything myself. Alos, I a know I am going to be pulling Ray in periodically to observe and help me reflect. It will be quite a ride!

Monday, March 06, 2006

What to do?

I am thinking pessimistically here, but I know my regular ninth grade position papers are going to be worse this year to grade than in years past. Why you ask? Because the kids waited and waited to make the corrections necessary to succeed until the last minute. Also, they jsut didn't seem as motivated to understand the writing process as in years past. So now comes the big question: do I give them the ability to rewrite? I want them to learn these concepts. I want them to be able to apply all of this to their future writings, but if they haven't put in the effort by now (many did not complete the three required teacher/student conferences) , then why should I reward their lack of participation and effort?

Essential learnings

Recently in our English Nine and English World Literature meetings we have been discussing the idea of essential learnings. I can see the benefits of this especially in English Nine, English Ten and even in American Literature; however, the issue I am having is with English World Lit. I can see how we all need to be teaching some of the same concepts and learnings, but it seems to me that this class is purely college prep and needs to be less focused on a set standard of requirements but rather on skills the kids want and need to know before they go off to college. It is somehting I need to do some more thinking about.