Looking CLOSELY

I haven’t had time to write, which is wonderful because I have been so busy meeting with teachers and coaching. I do enjoy reflecting, however, so I am going to write a brief post about close reading.

Last year, I didn’t know much about close reading except that one reads a text at least three times. This year, I am learning so much more about it. For instance, a close read consists of reading the same text three times for three different purposes.

  1. Read for key ideas and details: comprehension
  2. Read for craft and structure: organization and author’s choices
  3. Read for integration of knowledge: meaning, theme, connections

Here are the anchor posters I am using in my classroom this year to remind myself and the students of each purpose. (Please forgive the mistakes.)

20170919_105627.jpg

Once they have read once for comprehension, either I will read aloud or pair them up to read aloud while they annotate the reading. Last night, I had students pre-annotate for homework prior to our discussion today about The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. They can use the following annotation symbols, or create their own annotation system.

20170919_105634.jpg

We had so much fun today dissecting these 16 words:

20170919_102109.jpg

20170919_102135.jpg20170919_102207.jpg

20170919_102144.jpg

It took about 30 minutes before we even talked about the words themselves. I asked students if they thought that this was actually a poem, then had them justify their answers. We discussed them:

a. No, poems need not rhyme.
b. Yes, there is a clear pattern to the rhythm.
c. Yes, there is a clear structure to the number of words on each line.
d. Yes, the words sound like a beat – raindrops, or the rolling of the wheelbarrow tire, perhaps.
e. Yes, the words look like a picture – furrows of crops, tall grass, the pattern of falling rain.

Then, the meaning.

This was the most fun. Do all of these elements mean something? If so, what? Is the wheelbarrow symbolic? Of what? If it was so important, why was it in the rain? Is it about useful things that people don’t appreciate until they can no longer use them? Is it about taking time to really see what’s around you? Is it about living in a moment, appreciating every detail rendered in our senses? Is it about understanding the interconnectedness of everything? The cycles of life? Where our food comes from? The temporary nature of life? Being an outside observer?

I tell my students, it’s whatever they can support with text evidence.

We connected William Carlos William’s dedication to imagism with good writing: the detailed description of things to represent ideas. They will hopefully be infusing their narratives with the items from their sensory detail chart and idea web.

I reminded them of some good advice I heard in a writing training: “Don’t describe all the rocks. Describe one rock.”

Without the close reading of this poem and the opening paragraphs of Fall of the House of Unsher, it would be quite difficult to convey these elements of high quality writing. I hope you can also use some of these strategies in your classroom. Please contact me if you have any questions or need additional support.

 

Advertisements

Copyright-Free Resources for…Free

apples-1386386_960_720Education is one field where copyright law provides more freedom than others. We still need to be digital role models and avoid any impropriety or misuse of copyrighted material.

The best way to do this is to either ask for permission to use other people’s material, create your own, or use material that is copyright-free. I usually use Pixabay for my images on this blog. Pixabay clearly states which images must be attributed. Some material requires no attribution, which is why I like it.

Here are some other sources for free videos and images that you can use in your classroom. Be sure to check the requirements for usage and abide by them. When people release the copyright on their materials for others to freely use, it is important to respect their choices so that they will continue to offer this material. Attributing your source also helps the artist to gain recognition and further his or her career, so be kind and attribute.

Copyright-free Videos (free)

https://videos.pexels.com/
https://pixabay.com/videos/
https://www.videvo.net/
http://mazwai.com
https://vimeo.com/groups/freehd/
http://www.coverr.co/
http://www.beachfrontbroll.com/p/general-stock-video.html
http://www.vidsplay.com/
https://www.videezy.com/

Copyright-free Images (free)

https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons
https://500px.com/
https://pixabay.com
https://compfight.com
https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search
https://www.wylio.com/
https://unsplash.com/
http://www.photosforclass.com/
http://www.freeimages.com/
And anything with a download button on http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/

Educate yourself about the differences between Public Domain, Copyright, and Creative Commons so that you can be a digital role model and teach your students how to be a responsible and creative internet user.

You can learn more by visiting my Summerjam session in June!

 

Amazing Resources for Last-Minute Lessons, May 8, 2017

achieve-1822503_960_720

Some days you just didn’t get to plan the quality lesson which you usally take time to carefully and intentionally plan. Usually you develop a lesson aligned to the standards and include all of the necessary frontloading you need. You have your resources ready, which were painstakingly researched and selected specifically to meet the needs of all your unique students. But then something happened.

Maybe your child was sick and you had to stay in Urgent Care all day. Maybe you had a migraine and couldn’t fathom doing anything other than lay in bed with the lights off and a cold washcloth on your head. Maybe you are planning a wedding and were just so swept up with cake-tasting that you didn’t have the time or energy to invest today. That’s okay. Temporary lapses in complete and extensive planning happen to everyone.

I wrote the following email today for suggestions to include in a substitute handbook for emergency lesson plans. But then I thought, this compilation of resources could help anyone who needs a standards-based lesson plan FAST for those days when we lack the time, motivation, or energy to lay out comprehensive lesson plans. Here is the entire email:

“Hello All,

All of my emergency sub lesson plans related to news and current events – there is always news! (Of course, subs should preview the daily content in advance if they can to ensure appropriateness.)

Students can use their phones to access — or teachers can project — a program such as CNN Student News (http://www.cnn.com/cnn10).

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

They can also assign articles on the following sites:

These first two provide options to customize articles according to reading level:

Other sites to consider might be:

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Any activities asking students to do the following meet the California Common Core English-Language Arts standards, and the literacy standards apply to all subjects. The following activities or questions can be used with current events or news article analysis (some might be more applicable to the Opinion/Editorial section):

RI1. Cite evidence

Example: What evidence does the author use to support the ideas in the article? How reliable is the evidence? How well does the evidence support the claim? What evidence did the author miss? What evidence is irrelevant?

RI2. Determine central idea

Example: What is the central idea of the text? How do you know? How would you evaluate the author’s organization? What could the author improve? What are some other topics that this idea could apply to?

RI6. Determine an author’s point of view

Who is the author? What do you know about the author? In which point of view is the author writing? Why? What biases does the author appear to have? What influence might the author’s demographics have on the article? What other points of view might the author consider?

RI8. Evaluate arguments and claims

What arguments does the author make? What claims does the author use? How are these claims supported? What evidence supports the claim and what evidence might need to be investigated further? Why? What are the counterclaims to the author’s claims? How does the author anticipate the counterclaims and how well does the author refute them? What side are you on? Why?

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

W1. Write arguments

Write a rebuttal to the article, create a chart with pros and cons, create your own argument on a different topic, change the point of view of the article

W2. Write informative/explanatory texts

Write your own article on the topic, explain why the article is important, think of related issues and write a cause-and-effect article, explain the history of the topic

W4. Produce clear and coherent writing

Write a summary, paragraph response, blog entry, letter to the author, social media post, meme

W6. Use technology to produce and publish writing

Create a news video on the topic, make a comic about the topic, report your own research in a screencast, create a Wikiproject on the topic, hold an online interview, publish a letter to the editor, write an article together on a shared Google Doc or Google Slides presentation, create a website or social media account to satirize the article

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

SL1. Participate in collaborative discussions

Debate the topic, have a panel discussion, interview experts in front of the class, think-pair-share, whip-around the class, four corners (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree, class discussion, two sides of the class debate, Socratic seminar, Philosophical chairs

SL4. Present information and findings

Present a speech, research with a partner, find information on a related topic, research the origins of the topic, investigate how the topic has affected people in other places and times, publish a journal or blog with different perspectives from students on the topic, argue a related case in mock court

I hope that these suggestions are helpful.”

Just a little plug for our services: if you are having days like this more often than not, you might want to consider seeking additional support. You can contact an instructional coach to support you with your lesson planning, classroom management, assessments, instructional strategies, curriculum, and more. We are here to assist with instruction and learning.

Also, if you are having significant personal issues, our district offers support through an Employee Assistance Program. Please contact them if you are feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, overworked, depressed, worried about money or family problems, or just stuck.

(And, it might seem extreme, but just in case you are – or someone you know is – in crisis and considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7. Life is complicated and sometimes overwhelming and you never know when you or someone else might need the help. I keep it in my phone and posted by the desk in my classroom just in case: 1-800-273-8255.)

Best wishes to you, no matter the reason why you need these lesson plans. If something is wrong, I hope that it resolves soon. If you are hurting, please seek help. Teaching can be stressful and cause despair at times, but your influence is positive and powerful. Stay strong! (Summer is almost here!)

May the Fourth Be With You! May 4, 2017

millenium-1627322_960_720

Today is May 4th and many students and teachers like to reference Star Wars and say, “May the Fourth be with you,” a play on words originating from the phrase “May the Force be with you.” May 4th is a fun day because of this, but it’s also fun because it’s a sign of the end of the year. Palpable energy fills the air as students anticipate the exciting events like attending prom, Senior Grad Night, Senior Breakfast, and of course, graduation!

I don’t always miss the graduating class as a class, but some years do stand out more than others. Some years the kids just mold together in my mind and don’t really distinguish themselves from one another. This year, I am going to miss the class of 2017 because of their personalities. I remember them clearly in my sophomore classes two years ago – they were funny and talented and unique in their individuality.  I know I feel differently about the class of 2017 because I remember their names when I see them. They spoke up for themselves, they challenged each other, they approached their work in creative ways.

Maybe it was because of the popularity of Instagram and Snapchat that they developed their personalities in a more concrete way, almost like they were branding themselves.

Maybe it was because I was given the opportunity to have some of these kids for three years in a row based on the pure luck of being assigned 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes in consecutive years. (I always told those students I was sorry…!)

Or perhaps I was able to use some of the more recent trends in education – the emphasis on group collaboration, passion projects, movement, and classroom design – that I felt that I got to know them more.

I don’t know what the cause might be, but the fact is that I will remember this class and the students this year, and I will miss them terribly when I no longer have the privilege of seeing their smiling faces on campus.

But this is the first year that my students encouraged me to have an Instagram profile, so we’ll see…

Reflections on Coaching This Year – April 20, 2017

I have to say that I value my experience as an instructional coach, not just because I get to challenge myself to try new things like organizing and presenting professional development offerings, but because I also get the chance to find out what is happening in the field of education.

This year, I have seen dramatic changes taking place. The innovations in technology are coming so fast and furiously that we simply cannot keep up. In SAMR trainings, presenters often emphasize that you can’t try everything, so just try one thing. The key seems to always be “baby steps.” Technology is overwhelming for us all, and especially so for people whom grew up without computers and the internet. It’s a monumental challenge to process all these changes and visualize the new applications for these changes in the field of education.

I am trying my best to support these changes by learning as much as I can about the new resources available and investigating how other teachers are utilizing the new resources in their classes. I am trying them out in my class to test out the students’ reactions and see what the limitations are when the resource is put to use in a real scenario. I am also attending trainings that inform me how to use the resources. I want to support teachers in the district and help students to learn more effectively, but there is so much to absorb.

I have found that sometimes it is much easier to maintain the status quo and resist change because it is so efficient. I am trying to push my comfort zone, though, because learning today is not what it used to be. Everything is changing in education, and at lightning speed. Even so, it is not even close to the pace at which change is occurring in technology. We must embrace change to provide our students the modern skills they will need to succeed.

Of course I am not saying to abandon the foundations of learning. No tool is more effective than solid reading, writing, math, critical thinking, and other important skills we learn in school. But some time must be dedicated to understanding how to apply these skills in the context of the future. Education and employment will change and demand not only the basic skills but the technological skills and adaptibility to change that all of these advancements are bringing. We are shortchanging our students if we teach them the way we were taught. This is a new world. Forge bravely ahead!

Renew Your Enthusiasm!

sport-562154_960_720

Teaching cannot be effective without joy.

Teaching is a calling of tremendous responsibility. If we lose our joy, we cannot reach students. They are all struggling and they need us to be their anchors, champions, cheerleaders, advocates, and inspiration. I will be talking about teenagers because that is the population I teach, but younger students will be dealing with their own struggles.

Remember your teenage years – all the problems that suddenly developed with your family, your own identity, fitting in within the social atmosphere, maneuvering through emotional rollercoasters – depression, anxiety, insecurity, shame, doubt, physical changes, unexplainable ennui, physical attraction, anger, jealousy, exhilaration — sometimes all within the same class period!

Today I took the time to listen to some students. They were working on their narrative essays and I was monitoring the groups, chatting them up while they worked. I realized then that they all had so much on their minds, the daily challenges of every day life that they sometimes do not know how to deal with. When one started opening up, the others chimed in and talked about things like how they wish adults would listen to them, how they sometimes wish those around them would let them have space if they are upset, and what worries were occupying their minds – anything from failing a driving test to an ill parent to just being in a bad mood. I realized that I don’t always listen to them, to their side of the story, to their feelings.

I think most will agree that adolescence is a rough time, and no matter how capable and mature students appear to us, there are still major changes occurring in their bodies, brains, and mental states. Chemistry and biology are influencing them just as much as the situations they find themselves in, often through no choice of their own.

I remembered today that I often need to renew my joy of teaching, to remind myself why I pursued this calling, to consider all the stable, wise, responsible adults who modeled to me how to be professional and (appear) well-adjusted.

I hope those reading this will be inspired to pursue activities that bring joy, to take care of your health and mental well-being, and to remember that we might just be one of only a few positive influences in a child’s life. In the day-to-day grind of every day life, I can easily forget that.

Being a parent or coach or adult with bills and a mortgage can weigh heavily on us. Maybe we have parents who need our care and attention, or we are having personal problems with a spouse, or our own children are going through a rough patch. Maybe we have our own medical problems or financial struggles or personal worries, but we need to be mindful of our students. We need to show them that adults must sometimes simply carry on despite everything else. This is an important lesson.

Yes, life is hard. Struggles and pain and despairing situations are real, but we need to remember to make our moments with students count. I need to show students that I care about them as people just as much as I care about their schoolwork. I need to remember that I am the adult and I must honor the sacred responsibility with which the students’ parents or guardians have entrusted me with.

We are more than purveyors of knowledge, we are lighters of fires and sparkers of imagination. We must remember to be passionate about our students and to demonstrate hope, love, and belief in these kids. Renewing our enthusiasm and keeping our practice fresh and innovative can keep us engaged in teaching. If we don’t show our students we care — and want to be there with them — then what are we doing?

 

Hyperdocs: The Next Frontier – February 16, 2017

space-886060_960_720.jpgImage Credit: Pete Linforth, Public Domain, Pixabay

Hyperdocs seems to have a hyper-enthusiastic following of giddy teachers who view them as the ultimate pinnacle of lesson planning. In a way, this is understandable. Who doesn’t love a customized product packaged in an attractive, appealing way?

I am trying to jump on the hyperdoc bandwagon, but I have some reservations.

I don’t want to discount a new idea just because of my preconceived notions, but I’ve spent my life as a closet pessimist and that little demon just always wants to claw his way out first before I even have a chance to consider something. So here is what my demon’s first responses are:

First, what motivates the student to navigate the document? What if he or she just looks at the document and thinks, “Forget this!” Then what? How much of the lesson is completed independently online?

Do we think that a boring, adult-designed Hyperdoc is going to engage students just because it’s on the computer?

The same computer where open tabs beckon to fantastic games full of rich sound, visual stimulation, movement, action, and colors?

The same computer where instant messages populate the screen with enticing photographs and tempting messages requesting an immediate response?

We old fogeys and our ideas don’t seem to me to be able to compete with what interests students today.

They are immersed in a high-octane fueled digital life of excitement that whirls and spins at the speed of light, set to a high-intensity soundtrack of heart-pumping high-energy rhythm. All the educational programs and apps that I’ve seen all lack the eye candy and narcotic-like stimulation of social media or video games. How do Hyperdocs grab students’ interest?

Second, what does the Hyperdoc look like in class? Do students work quietly on their own computers, staring at cold blue screens, trying to hammer out coherent responses as their minds wander away?

Do they long for human companionship and conversation to elicit some kind of warmth and comfort?

Do they feel isolated on their own little digital islands, unable to reach out to the people who are seated all around them yet who are uninterested in speaking to them?

How much guidance and direction does the teacher give? Hyperdocs look almost like a self-contained McUnit, high in saturated fat and refined sugar but lacking in nurtrition and deep learning. How does the teacher complement the unit with instruction, group work, individual attention, etc.? How does the teacher reconcile the pace when some students will be starting as others just press the last submit button on the document?

Third, how is the workflow managed? Is each assignment submitted separately? Are the assignments assessed individually? Do students respond on the Hyperdoc and submit the entire monstrosity?

I am going to beat my little demon down into submission and share with you a Hyperdoc lesson I started writing. I used a publicly available Hyperdoc template and researched different content sources for lessons. But I’m stuck.

I know this Hyperdoc sucks, but I don’t know why.

I know that a Hyperdoc should not be just a collection of links, but I don’t know how to organize it so that students will be able to customize it and navigate it. Where do the assignments go? What if they understand a concept – can they skip it? How do I collect the work? What are they actually doing in class while this Hyperdoc “project” (??? I don’t even know what to call it.) is going on?

So, here is my lame attempt to start a Hyperdoc lesson: Lame Hyperdoc Lesson

Where do I go from here?

 

Classroom Meetings: Exploring New Horizons – January 17, 2017

sunrise-1634197_1280This school year was the first time I’ve tried having classroom meetings. I have heard of it with elementary students, but not with secondary students. I don’t know why it took me 17 years to try something that seems so intuitive.

As a teacher, I spent so much time planning engaging lessons and examples for students to better understand concepts introduced in class. I tried to find out what music and movies were relevant, what games and t.v. shows were popular, and who the best celebrities were to reference. I thought about what I would have liked to do as a student when I was younger, which was more than two decades ago…and memory fades as one gets older!

So when I read about classroom meetings and thought about using them to check in with my tenth grade English students, I thought it would be worth a shot. Now, I don’t know if I could ever let them go.

We started holding them weekly, but students didn’t have much to say. Then we talked about it as a class and we came to a consensus that they liked having the meetings but they were too frequent. We agreed to have them every other week, which has worked exceedingly well.

I provide updates, reminders, and information at the beginning, then open the floor to students to discuss curriculum first and then address any classroom problems. For example, we decided last Friday that we would use movie clips to introduce plot elements in narrative writing. Students suggested that they themselves research the best clips, then I will preview them and select the most relevant.

In the curriculum portion, I hear student questions about what we are studying and other students clarify concepts that may be confusing. Students give me good feedback about what they are learning and how I can help them to learn better.

As for classroom problems, I shared that I was spending my own money on food for the classroom that students were taking when it was not an emergency. I told them that I wanted to help them if they had no lunch or needed food for a medical issue (diabetes, for example), but that I couldn’t help students in need if they were just taking my stuff because it was free. No one raided my food today. They have also mentioned when too much talking becomes a problem or when the seating chart should be changed.

Instead of doing everything myself and trying to guess what students are interested in and how they will learn best, classroom meetings have helped improve my teaching significantly. Students are more engaged in class and empowered and I feel more effective. I hope you will consider holding classroom meetings with your students. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions.

Here is the agenda from our last class meeting: January 2017 Class Meeting

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑