Friday, June 19, 2009

Taste my own medicine, part 2

Scrabble game picture above is my game with a sixth grade student who had no worthy opponent among his peers during a class last week, and I told him I wasn't sure I could beat him, so we played this game that took us 2 class periods to complete.  (We started the game during his last class with me, then he came back the next day during a study hall to finish!)  We ended finally with just those 3 letters left, on the left.  When I posted this pic on my Facebook profile, a friend said we missed making "ut".  So for those of you who specialize in words you only learned for this game, save your breath.

The title of this post refers to the fact that today we teachers were given our teaching assignments for next year.  I had not expected any changes, but SURPRISE!  In addition to teaching remedial reading and writing like I did this year, I'm going to teach one "regular" English class with students who DID achieve proficiency score on the state assessment.  The reason is that another English teacher (Teacher A) proposed to teach a double-period class of students who did NOT achieve proficiency.  I would teach the "extra" class of students from her team so that she would only have the contractual five teaching periods per day.  It's even possible that my one class of "at or above proficiency" students are also the accelerated 7th grade math group, hence, probably high achieving and motivated students.

Some of Teacher A's reasons for the double-period of "below proficiency"-only class is the extra period would make student think that the "extra" period is an extension of their regular English class, thus motivating them to work harder and work for grades, not just blowing off the usual pass-fail remedial course.  Also Teacher A said these students do need extra time to practice skills.  I support those two claims based on my own experience, and I am glad for the opportunity to instruct students with different levels of proficiency.

We are going to ask our principal if it's possible for me to "push-in" and perhaps co-teach the "extra" period of her "below proficiency" class.  I may end up with a sixth teaching period each day, but we'll see.

So I say this is a taste of my own medicine because just last week I stated to colleagues that, given the inevitability of change, we could choose to be agents or victims of change.  Touche!!! Thus... I choose to be an agent and not a victim.  Even though I did not choose this assignment, the details of which are not yet clear, I look forward to the chance to try new instructional methods and work with different colleagues.

One other aspect of "change" in this new assignment is that I will be part of a "team" again.  In our building, the 5 "core" subject teachers (ELA, math, science, social studies, Spanish or French) all teach the same group of about 120 students and conference often to help students and sometimes parents.  Another aspect is giving graded assignments, though grading English assignments for 25 students is not the same as 120!  I certainly would appreciate both those changes!

I'll have the opportunity to try out many methods I learned from Donalyn Miller the Book Whisperer in both "regular" and "remedial" instructional settings!  I have ideas cooking already...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Taste my own medicine

At one point this evening, I felt bored and whiney. I felt stuck with some stupid task. Then I thought, I'm just as whiney as my students.

So, I tried my own medicine and read a few chapters of Eldest. I was so engrossed that I missed most of So You Think You Can Dance even when I was in a room with family watching the show!

Bored no more, but now I'm anxious about the situation that developed in the book! (spoiler alert) What will Roran do about Katrina being taken????? I even tried to cheat by flipping pages ahead.

This medicine is bittersweet.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 1

Yesterday I decided to move the Book Swap selection to my classroom and not use the small gym, considering the "modest" (i.e. small) volume of books and swappers.  This is part of the set up in my room - it worked really well today, day 1 of selection!  My students took their "jobs" very seriously, and when "business" was slow, we did Mad Libs for fun.  Tomorrow is the second and last day of Book Swap.  YAY!

My friend (who's also our school library media specialist) shared this link to an article "How Reader Girl Got Her Groove Back - one woman's heroic quest to overcome the classics" by Shannon Hale who published several popular young adult novels.  It expresses my sentiments exactly, and it also supports Book Whisperer extraordinaire Donalyn Miller's disdain for classroom novel units - I hate "required" classroom reading that kills reading joy.  When browsing Hale's web site, I found some neat articles she wrote for young writers on the writing process and also publishing.

Also, on a personal note, it's day 1 of my 8 year old daughter wearing glasses!  She chose these funky plastic magenta frames and loves them!  I have some angst as I think I gave her poor vision genes and remember hating my first pair at age 13.... but I'm not telling her (yet).  I just don't want her to be like many middle school girls who pretend to not have or need glasses but clearly do.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

wrap it up!

Isn't that the best sign of what's coming soon???  It's a student drawing posted on a classroom door.

So I'm forcing myself to write this post - I just want to write a really quick update even though I REALLY want to write about the great books I've read recently and my current independent reading unit.  Here's the short version... *deep breath*

After reading the practices of the Book Whisperer a few months ago, I embarked on a "get ready for summer reading" independent reading unit sometime in May.  I loaded up my classroom with as many trade paperbacks, fiction, nonfiction, various genres, magazines, newspapers, etc., as possible, and expected my students and me to read about 15 minutes every class.  We were supposed to choose/bring our own reading, and if someone didn't, then they had to choose something in my classroom.

It's been a great journey!  I've witnessed a LOT of reading among students and most certainly for ME - yay!  I've seen student growth in their choices, their actual reading, their enjoyment of reading... I could go on and on, but this is supposed to be short!  My own reading journey included The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Eragon by Christopher Paolini (yes, I finished it!  I thought I would never finish!  But I did!), The Last Olympian (book 5 of the Percy Jackson series) by Rick Riordan.  I started Eldest (sequel to Eragon) 2 days ago, and even though I was filled with the enthusiasm of finishing Eragon just days prior (I read The Last Olympian in 2 days), the same dragging pace and the feeling of reading as LABOR returned (gee, helps me relate to students), so I didn't bother bringing it home this weekend.  But I shall resume tomorrow!  Really!

Last but not least, I am in the middle of coordinating our school BOOK SWAP!  I did this about 2 years ago, and I just didn't have the energy last year (note to self - must involve a partner so program continues despite my personal concerns!).  But this time, I involved my students to make flyers and post around the school, AND they will be WORKING the Book Swap during my class time during the book selection phase of the program, i.e. I gave them JOBS!

So the first phase of the Book Swap was book collection.  Last week, any student in the school who wanted to participate in the swap dropped off books in my classroom.  I recorded their names and how many books they brought in.  Second phase is this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, when all the books collected will be displayed in the small gym on tables, and students come during study hall periods to choose books they want.  During this second "selection" phase, my students will be working (during my regular class time) check-in (issuing tickets with name and how many books), table manager, book talker, and check-out.

I'm a little nervous right now.  Participation is somewhat low - only about 40 students have brought in books so far (out of 1300+ students in my building).  Also I have to make sure tables are set up and books moved from my room to small gym, etc.  But I'm glad we're doing it!  I think it's a GREAT way to involve my students in an authentic LITERARY activity!