Choosing the Right Technology for Schools

For the past week I have been giving a lot of thought to the conversation my professional development partner and I had with some folks in Northern Michigan when it came to the implementation of technology in the classroom with informational writing.  Teachers there were worried about not having the training necessary to use the tools properly.  Not tools like Twitter, Google Drive, or Celly.  They were worried about the hardware itself. For instance, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.  For over a week now I nave been talking with parents, teachers, and other colleagues about this very topic. I have been very shocked by the conversations and the reactions I have received from others.

 Choosing what technology to use within in a school is a difficult task, it can’t be a knee-jerk reaction for any school district that may feel the need to implement technology.  Any school district is heading down the wrong path if they are simply implementing technology for the sake of saying “We have the latest and greatest”.  It isn’t going to work out well for all parties involved, especially the students.  Districts need to examine what is going to work well for them.  After talking to several teachers about Ipad implementation, there seemed to be more gripes and groans about them, then positive feedback. Teachers are not liking chat features that can’t be taken off the Ipads, apps like Google Drive work, but is limited.  In addition, anyone with an Ipad knows there is not a flash plugin on the Ipad.  Other conversations revolved around bandwith space and tech support at individual schools, which aren’t completely out of the hands of the teacher, but can certainly be a struggle for teachers to get a listening ear on the situations.  The comments by teachers were not a real huge surprise to me.  I know launching a 1 to 1 program can be difficult in any school and there are going to be gliches along the way.  

Teachers themselves though, want a say in what gets implemented. There are school rushing to implement Ipads and other tablets and then finding there are limitations to using the tablets.  Teachers are crying foul in some instances because they never had a voice in the decision process.  Others expressed to me that they did have a voice, but it was ignored.  I deem it crucial for their to be discussion on what gets implemented into schools in terms of technological hardware. My school has a mobile lab and it looks as if we are going to be getting another one.  The decision to buy more only came after a year of the first mobile lab being in place.  Prior to the first one being bought, we had staff meetings discussing the needs we had for technology and what we would like to see. Our superintendent even asked this past fall what we needed, it was amazing.   Don’t get me wrong, it has been a bumpy ride to get where we are at as a district, but I really am not interested in getting Ipads or a tablet because I don’t see those meeting the needs of our students.  We have students who don’t know how to use Microsoft Word correctly, so why would I want to waste the time showing them how to properly use a tablet. This doesn’t mean tablet won’t work in other districts. Finding out what fits for the students and the district itself is the best route and we can’t forget about the parents.

Parents I talked to were frustrated and actually down right angry. One parent from a district who has implemented tablets (not Ipads) was furious because her daughter was chosen for the pilot program and has never been taught how to use it.  As a parent, she was given a one sheet handout on the program and asked to sign a contract for responsibility. No where on that sheet was there a discussion on being a digital citizen or how teachers were going to be using it in there classrooms.  At the moment, the parent told me the tablet sits on the counter at home, not being used. Now, I don’t jump the gun and automatically take one parents word for it, so I did dome digging and talked to a teacher from the district and the teacher was just as frustrated because they never received any training on the tablet either, so they couldn’t instruct their students properly.  In addition, they have had tech and server issues without a tech person able to assist them.  The teacher relayed to me that many other teachers are just as fed up and are not using the devices.  So why are districts advertising in newspapers that they have they new gadgets to use when teachers, students, and parents don’t know how to use them?  Is it a marketing ploy to get more students to enter their district because numbers have been falling around school districts here in Michigan?  

What ever the reason may be, districts shouldn’t be so quick to force the use of technology onto their teachers, students, or parents unless they are willing to do some research on what works best for their district.  Students and parents need to be involved in the decision making process and parents need to be EDUCATED on the device and being a digital citizen.  They big question should be “why” are we looking to use this type of hardware and what what are our intentions.  Tis the season for implementation!

 

Cheers!


Why Twitter is Valuable in the Classroom

Have you ever looked at the idea of teaching informational writing and thought to yourself it was going to be a struggle to motivate your students?  I honestly used to dread teaching any type of informational writing to my students.  I always felt my students were very disconnected in the informational world of writing.  I have taught compare/contrast, and a straight up expository writing where students had to pick a topic and “explain” it or give information on the topic they chose.

Well, without a doubt it is safe to say I was being a lousy teacher in the past.  Sometimes I wish I could have those days back when I could have done so much more for my students. 

Now, because I can’t change the past,  I won’t dwell on it. Today, my students are exploring several different pieces of informational text.  As mentioned in my last post, my students know informational writing already. I have to give them a lot of credit.  On the other hand, when it came to introducing them to Twitter, they were not so well versed.  Out of the three 7th grade classes I teach I had a total of eight students raise their hand when I asked who had a Twitter account.  This led me to ask them about their use of Twitter and only two of the eight students actually use Twitter at least once a week.  This has led me to do some thinking about social media.  Is the hype over using social media winding down? I believe I even mentioned this in my last post about Facebook.  Students, or at least my students, don’t seem to be connected as much to the social media sites.

Now, my students are well aware of what Twitter is and they know about people following you and you following others. As our discussion progressed we discussed professional uses and business uses of Twitter.  Students came to the understanding that businesses use it because it is free advertising for companies that would otherwise have to pay for commercials, billboards, or magazine ads. They were spot on when we talked about reaching audiences who were technology savy and may do their shopping online.  We even talked about free giveaways (like the one I am having now). 

When it came to the professional use of Twitter, it was a tougher conversation.  Students needed to understand how Twitter can be rich with information that can be valuable to them and adults such as myself.  It is much more than following what Justin Beiber is doing. I shared with my classes who I follow and what I am trying to get out of Twitter. I talked about how it is my professional community where I can obtain resources and information about teaching, education, reading, and writing.

At this point, this is where we discuss the idea of hash-tags and what they are used for on Twitter. For my class, we will be using hash-tags to display items like examples of complex sentences, compound sentences, subordinate clauses, etc.  This will build mentor texts for my students to refer to when they are reading or writing.  In essence I am helping them build their own professional community.  Twitter will also help them build more understanding about being a digital citizen as they follow other classmates and use the community we will build using hash-tags.

Our lessons on Twitter runs about two days.  By the end of the second day I have the students do a paper tweet in their journal practicing the 140 character rule that Twitter has for tweets. Students write about anything from what they did the night before to what they might be doing after school.  Next week, we will start effectively using our hash-tags in class.

Cheers!


Transitioning from Narrative to Informational

Pushing forward this time of year seems to be a slow process and transitioning from narrative to informational reading and writing can be a rather challenging task with 7th and 8th graders.

Previously my students just completed a 12 week journey with narrative reading and writing.  From memoirs, to This I Believe, and on to mysteries, my students did a lot of reading and writing in the narrative world.

With the narrative unit in the rear view mirror, it is time to emerge my students into the informational world.  Before I write about my introductory lessons for this unit I want to share with you some thoughts shared at a few conferences I have attended since last Spring.

Recently I returned  from Las Vegas and the NCTE conference. While there I listened to Kelly Gallagher speak about writing in his classroom.  He echoed the thoughts he had at the end of  his book Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts about great writing isn’t just narrative alone, informational alone, or argumentative alone.  Great writing should involve elements from all three or at least more than one.  Jeff Anderson said the same thing at a session I attended last year at MCTE.  While trying to motivate us as writers, he pointed to a book on the triangle fire and discussed with us how the book used both narrative and informational elements to reach the reader.

Now, I relay this information because I want educators to understand that though I spend a lot of time on separate units revolving around Narrative, Informational, and Argumentative reading and writing, I am also building on each unit as I enter the next.  For example, I began my unit by displaying some of the Common Core Standards.

  • (RL.7.1) Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

 

We discuss the idea that informational reading and reading is used to inform and explain a given topic. I tell my students they are going to hear the words inform and explain A LOT from me.

Then,  we generate a list together on a shared Google Doc where they see information reading or writing.  Below are a few items they listed:

  • Magazines
  • Letters
  • Newspapers
  • Internet searches
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

When the students were done adding to the list we took some time to talk about what type of information each of these genres were trying to inform or explain or what was the purpose.  I was very satisfied with the conversation that took place.

To help demonstrate to students(7th grade) that there are reading selections with both narrative and informational elements I chose the short story “The Green Mamba” by Roald Dahl.  When the students were reading it they completed a T-Chart with one side labeled Narrative qualities and the other side labeled Informational qualities.  If you visit the ReadWriteThink website you can find a really nice T-chart for the student to use. When students complete the T-Chart I have them listen to the short story on CD (RI.7.7) and they complete a short quiz about the selection.

I feel my students begin to understand how a reading selection can have both narrative and informational qualities by completing the T-chart and listening to the story again.  The short story serves as a quality transition piece for my students as we dive into informational reading and writing.

Today we discussed Facebook and the type of information the social media website portrays.  After taking a short survey with my 8th graders, about 80% of them have Facebook but do not visit their page that often.  Most 8th graders said they visit it once a week.  Most students who had access to it via mobile phone didn’t even check Facebook during school.  It makes me wonder if Facebook is on the way out.  Both my 7th and 8th graders are creating Facebook profiles on paper and then we are going to use those profiles to create a profile on Schoology, the social media website I use in my classroom.  More to come later!

Cheers!


As the Common Core Band Wagon Rolls By, I Stand and Wave

I wasn’t sure how to title today’s post.  I hope by the time anyone reads this, my post is well understand.

Recently we had another department meeting and I must say I enjoy our department meetings because we are always busy and engaged and trying to do what is best for the students that face us every day! One of the high school teachers was feeling the pressure of potentially not doing enough to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards. The word rigor came into focus (See my previous post on rigor -vs – vigor). As the conversation progressed,  I couldn’t help but wonder how many other teachers are feeling the way my colleague has been. Their thinking was perhaps if  they used another Shakespeare unit in addition to what they were already doing might make their class more demanding and students would be required to do more deeper thinking.  Note to anyone: Adding more, does not mean a class is more rigorous (My colleague wasn’t thinking this, I just wanted to throw that out there).

This also spurred the conversation about looking at different curriculum in general to use in the classroom.  Though we weren’t considering replacing what we are currently doing, we were discussing what other possibilities could be included to extend our current practices or what were valuable resources to aid us in our teaching.

I have done a lot more thinking since that meeting and my colleague had a great point about what they have observed.  The sad thing is, I have observed it too. We have both noticed this mad frantic race to implement Common Core and have heard teachers discussing how their schools have these curriculum teams to rewrite their entire curriculum and these huge meetings are taking place to change to the CCSS.   In addition, everyone is making this mad dash to find the best books that are available to help them implement the CCSS.

Well, as I stand here and wave at the bandwagon rolling past me with others on it, I will tell you I haven’t completely changed my curriculum or gone to some canned program that companies might be trying to sell to schools and teachers. When my school did switch to the Common Core, I got out my curriculum and went through it with the Common Core Standards right next to it.  I went through and looked at what standards I was already meeting with the existing units and lessons I was teaching. Now, was I missing some things?  Absolutely! I will admit, I had to do some overhauling in some areas and not so much in others.

What I didn’t do was scrap everything I was doing in my classroom and look for the easy way out by trying to find existing CCSS units.  The Common Core allows us to use what we already know and it also challenges to implement new ideas and technologies.  I strongly believe if teachers are trying to find the magic button for teaching the Common Core in their classroom, they are going to be really disappointed, because there isn’t a magic button to push.

So, if you feel you are one of those people who are completely lost and you hope there is going to be this miracle curriculum program that is going to come out for you to use in your classroom, I invite you to examine what you are currently doing in your classroom first before jumping on the band wagon.  If you do jump on, I will be waving to you as you roll past!

Cheers!


Rigor -vs- Vigor

I have officially arrived at NCTE. As a first time Vegas guest, I must say it is crazy. My body has not transitioned to the time change and I am up at 5:00 a.m. working on my blog. A nap may be order later, but who knows with so many great sessions.

Speaking of great sessions, yesterday evening Barry Lane gave another one of his spectacular performances for NWP teachers. Though I didn’t attend earlier annual meeting sessions, my NWP peeps convinced me to peek in on what Mr. Lane was doing. If you have ever been to one of Barry Lane’s presentations, you know it is very entertaining and informative.

After laughing continuously and feeling energized as ever, he brought up the term “rigor”, which has been associated with the Common Core Standards since they have been released. Teachers are supposed to have more “rigor” in the classroom with the CCSS. When he asked a woman in a video what her definition of rigor was she stumbled and passed the buck on to her friends that she was standing with. Needless to say, their definition was less than perfect. So Mr. Lane put up the first six definitions of rigor from the dictionary. Here are a few of them!

1. Strictness, severity, or harshness, as in dealing with people.

2. A sever or harsh act, circumstance, etc.

Does this sound like something we should be infusing into our classrooms? Barry Lane had a few other definitions from the medical dictionary too. One medical definition is, shivering or trembling, as caused by a chill. Again, do we really want to be teaching something like this in our classroom? Tom Romano was even in a video where he said rigor is the sister of mortis. I cracked up on that one.

Instead of “rigor”, Mr. Lane said we should be teaching “vigor” instead. I couldn’t agree more, especially after seeing that definition

Vigor

1. Healthy physical or mental energy or power; vitality.

2. Force of healthy growth in any living matter or living organism.

Perhaps the two are easy to confuse. I know that vigor sounds much more appealing and attainable in my classroom. I also know “rigor” can occur in my classroom too and if I adhere to the definition, my students are going to get turned off as learners. Can there be a balance of both? What are your thoughts?

Cheers!


Rubrics, Guidelines, or Checklists

It is amazing how much I can miss writing my blog.  I am finally going to be able to get back to doing my brain purges here on the Hyler 1 blog.  I apologize once again to my readers for taking so long to write.  Those of you who made requests for certain topics, I will be addressing them through out the next few weeks. Rest assured, I have been writing. I have been working on a chapter that was accepted for a practitioners book and I am working on some other writing for another book.  I am truly glad to be back to writing my blog.

With all that being said, I would like to give some thoughts on rubrics, guidelines, and checklists. Three or four weeks ago I was engaged in a conversation on Twitter with another NWP colleague about rubrics and guidelines.  After the conversation came to an end, I was left with a lot of confusion in my brain.

First, I am an avid user of rubrics, I have been using them for as long as I can remember. I am a firm believer they help my students understand what I want from them when it comes to a writing assignment or a project I am conducting in class.  My colleague stated that they do not like rubrics, they like using guidelines.  Their opinion of using a rubric was that they are too restrictive to the student and don’t allow the student to be expressive.  He liked the use of guidelines better because it didn’t restrict students in what they were doing. He feels the students have to do what is requested on the rubric, where a set of guidelines does just that, it guides the students to making the appropriate decisions necessary for an assignment or project.  Now, do rubrics and guidelines sound the same?  Perhaps they do.  As of right now, I am not sure of the difference.  A typical educational definition of a rubric would be:

an explicit set of criteria used to assess a certain type of work or performance.

For a guideline, it is defined as:

a recommended practice that allows some leeway in interpretation, or how it can be used.

Okay, so based on those two generic definitions, I can see my colleagues point.  However, I am not sure how one switches from using a rubric in class to using guidelines.  In addition, does it make a difference when the students are completing the assignment?

Then, you can’t forget checklists.  Where do those fall in to place.  We all know that checklists are merely there for students to “check” off the items on the list to makes sure they have everything.  For example, I give my students a checklist of items to look for when they do both peer editing and peer revising. But, are rubrics essentially a glorified checklist?  Hmmm. I can’t help but wonder what others are doing in terms of rubrics, guidelines, and checklists.  Furthermore, if anyone is a guideline implementor, how does one implement them into your classroom.

Cheers!


Teaching Bad Writing Habits = Bad Writing

It has been almost a month since I have written for my blog. Something had to give with grading papers, writing a book, and trying to spend time with my kids.  So, my blog took a back seat while I tried to keep my nose above water enough to breathe.  I have a lot on my mind to write for my blog, so the next week or two should bring plenty of posts!

I want to begin by addressing a situation I am encountering in the district where I am teaching.  I have been teaching for twelve years and have been with the same district for the past eleven.  I by no means feel I am a know it all when it comes to writing, writing methods, or anything else associated with writing.  However, I did minor in English and have a lot of experience with writing. So, let me get to my point.

Since I have been teaching 7th grade ( two years now), I have been encountering a major problem with my students and their writing.  I spent the better part of three class periods correcting students who started topic sentences with:

  • “I am going to tell you about…”

They followed it with:

  • “Then I will tell you…”

As the students would progress through their writing and bring their paragraphs to a close, they would write a wrap-up sentence that started with:

  • “I just told you about…”

or

  • “Now I have just told you…”

Believe me when I say, I get absolutely livid when I see students writing with the above sentences I have listed. In past years I have learned that the students are being taught this at the elementary level. Before one teacher retired, I approached a teacher who was teaching this to our students and asked them to please try to find a different approach.  The teacher felt it was an attack and basically told me they were not changing how they taught it.

Within the past two years I have seen it more and more and I am at a boiling point.  Our students are not being taught quality writing skills.  At the beginning of the year, I discussed this with the one of the co-chairs of the language arts department to try to find a resolution to the problem. This individual is a writing project consultant and we had a great conversation. The conclusion was made that when the students start their writing careers in the middle school with me, I simply tell the students they are in middle school now and as middle schoolers they do not write that way anymore.  This would eliminate “attacking” any teacher or teachers in the elementary building. Well, I will admit, I was fine with that until this past Friday when I saw an outline given to an elementary student for what appeared to be a position paper about animals.  Within the outline, the students were blatantly told to use those sentences in their paragraphs and told to conclude their writing with the “Now I have just told you” sentence. To top it all off their was a spelling error.  I was beyond furious. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about helping students with structure and giving them guidelines, but that was ridiculous.

I reached this point of frustration because I am spending more time at the beginning of the year with my students trying to fix these  horrible writing habits, instead of moving my students forward with better writing methods. Now, I am trying to turn poor writers into mediocre writers, when I could be going from mediocre to quality writers.  In addition,  I watched my students complete the writing portion of our state assessment and the 7th graders were not that great. Our district has some things to fix.  We have low writing scores and I think I have found part of the problem.

I am not here to bash my colleagues or discredit them, but it is becoming more and more important that we teach our students quality writing habits. Right now I feel I am at a dead end on how to handle this problem other than spending numerous class periods trying to break my middle schoolers of poor writing habits.  I am not sure if I should have a conversation with my principal and see what he has to say about it or do I bring it up at our next K-12 department meeting.    If anyone has any suggestions, it would greatly be appreciated. Hopefully I can make some head way with the situation.

Cheers!


This I Believe and Memoirs

I want to take a moment and say thank-you to everyone who comments on my blog and actually read it.  Though I don’t get a lot of readers compared to most bloggers, I am happy to be as transparent as I can be to any teacher or educator.

With that being said, I took a few days off from blogging because I have been working on my book.  I will continue to give updates on the book status as things continue to progress. Rest assured, I have been writing, just not on my blog.

The last few days have been rather adventurous for my students and myself.  We kicked off Monday right away with the mobile laptops in the classroom.

7th graders are writing their first drafts of their “This I Believe” essays. As mentioned before the students did a Wordle as their brainstorming and on Monday they visited a website where they could read and listen to some sample essays.  They visited http://thisibelieve.org/themes/. There the students could choose from thousands of essays.  The students brought their ear buds in that day and I instructed them to listen to and read along to three different essays of their choice. As they were doing this, they had their writing journals next to them and they were listing characteristics they found similar between the three essays. When they finished I gave them all a link to a Google Document titled: “Characteristics of “This I Believe Essays”.  All of the students accessed this link I posted on Schoology they began to feverishly type on the document while it was projected on the screen.  When students were done after about 8 minutes, we discussed all of the characteristics they found in common between the three essays by looking at what they posted on the Google Document.  This class discussion let us into our rubric for their essay.  I asked the students if they noticed the similarities between the characteristics they noticed and what was listed on the rubric.  Many faces lit up and it started to click with them that they already knew what was required of them and it wasn’t going to be too difficult.  Students then had time to begin their rough drafts that were due today.

Common Core Standards Covered by “This I Believe” Essay:

 W.7.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  1. Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
  2. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
  3. Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.
  4. Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
  5. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

W.7.4 – Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

 W.7.6 – Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.

With the narrative unit pushing forward in 8th grade as well as 7th grade, the 8th graders continued their work on memoirs Monday.  Similar to the 7th graders, they had to look at two memoirs and discuss the characteristics they saw in each of them. I then asked them to extend their thinking and give each one of them a grade and give reasons as to why the student earned the grade they gave them.  It was very interesting to see the grades assigned for each of the memoirs and the comments the students gave.  Many students discussed detail or lack of detail, grammar mistakes, and spelling mistakes.  Both essays that were given to the students were polished student writing and we discussed this as we began to discuss the rubric for the memoirs.  A great extension would be for the students to grade the pieces using the rubric I assigned to them.  As with a lot of things I used a rubric I found online that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards.  Again, the students were given time to start their rough draft in class.

Common Core Standards Covered by Student Memoirs:

W.8.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  1. Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
  2. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
  3. Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.
  4. Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
  5. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

W.8.4 – Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 

W.8.6 – Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

We are rolling!  Not only are the students writing narratives, they are reading narratives.  The 7th graders are reading The Acorn People by Ron Jones and the 8th graders are reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  Though we just have just started the reading part, the students are going to be busy.  Between Article of the Week, writing their drafts, and completing vocabulary assignments, we are moving forward with full steam. Enough for now.

Cheers!


Getting a Grasp on Good Readers and Writers

It has been busy the last few school days of school. I feel as if I am wasting time at certain moments, but I know what I am doing only paves the way for the rest of the year. As I sit here in my local library, escaping the hustle and bustle at my house, it occurs to me that within the first few weeks of school, I still do not have a clearly painted picture of my students as readers and writers.

Thursday was great with my middle schoolers! I felt very accomplished with both 7th and 8th graders.  The 7th graders continued their brainstorming and pre-writing with completing their wordles about their beliefs.  It was an interesting start to the morning when students were having difficulty with the website freezing up from time to time and they had to start over.  Then, the printer was having issues with the ink cartridge and I had to have that replaced.  Needless to say, I was off to a rough start with the 1st hour of the day. As wonderful as technology may be at certain times, it still can cause major issues with completing your lessons you may have for the day. The students completed their wordles and handed them into the homework tray. As part of the brainstorming process for their “This I Believe” essays, I gave them a grade on their wordle.  Next, I gave the students an experience survey as a pre-reading activity for the novel we are going to start on Monday or Tuesday, depending on time.   The 7th graders are going to be reading The Acorn People by Ron Jones. In my opinion, it is a very compelling tale about a young man right out of college who learns to look past people’s differences and see people for who they really are and as a result the campers are allowed to be themselves. Below is the survey I gave to my 7th graders.  I posted it on Schoology for them to start the discussion.

  • Pick at least two questions to answer for discussion. Please use QIS and explain with detail. Respond to at least two classmates.Have you ever…

    1. Been faced with a challenge that seemed not only unpleasant – but impossible?

    2. Felt uncomfortable around someone very different from you?

    3. Felt uncomfortable around a physically or mentally handicapped individual?

    4. Felt adults underestimated your abilities?

    5. Met someone who stayed positive no matter what?

If anyone is curious about what QIS is, it stands for Question Inclusive Statement. I am a huge fan of my students writing in complete sentences that includes part of the question. This survey acts as a springboard for our discussion prior to the novel.  The students are already doing an excellent job of discussing the questions on Schoology.  In addition, we will also have another discussion about disabilities.  I am thinking I may have the students do a short 2 minute video using a webcam describing what they think are their disabilities might be.

In terms of technology, the 7th graders have been fully submerged.  Friday I finally was able to send home the Gmail/Google Drive letter to gain parents permission for 7th graders to create a Gmail account.  If you would like to see the letter I sent home, just email me.

The 8th grader have spent more time writing this past Thursday and Friday.  Seeing how the 8th graders already had a Gmail set up from last year, we took some time and I showed them how to set up a folder on Google Drive to start their digital portfolio.  When they were done setting up their folder, I had them put their 6 word memoir and their 140 character Twitter memoir in their digital portfolios. When they completed adding work to their portfolio, I had the students try something I have not tried for a very long time.  The 8th graders completed their first reading assessment on a short story we read earlier in the week.  On Schoology, in the discussion section, I asked the students to take an event from the story “The Osage Orange Tree” and I asked them to write the event from the antagonists point of view. As readers we only saw the story from the narrators prospective. I wanted the students to write the event from that other point of view and ask themselves if the story changed at all.  I want my students to understand how the outcome of the story could be completely different if told from another characters point of view.  We actually spent some time talking about how The Hunger Games could be an entirely different story if it were told from Haymitch’s point of view.  The students of course laughed and I think they got what I was trying to say.  Upon reading their responses, most students did a great job and I started see some creativity pop out in some of their writing.  Others, still struggled with the idea and what I was trying to get them to do.

These first few weeks have been used to get a lot of technology and digital tools up and running. On the other hand, both 7th and 8th grade have already read a shorts story and completed 2-3 writing tasks.  Even though the students have been busy, I still don’t feel I have a grasp on what type of reading and writing skills they have.  I am referring more to the 7th graders of course, because I had the 8th graders all ready last year.  Next week I do plan on sitting down and talking with each of the 7th graders to discuss what their strengths and weaknesses are as readers and writers.

As I prepare for next week, I am looking forward to starting both grades novels and their bigger writing assignments.

Cheers!


Listening Skills and Article of the Week

7th GRADE

As we continue our narrative unit in class, I added something new today with the 7th graders.  I typically spend 2-3 days on a short story.  I use our literature book for the short stories and poems as a prelude to reading a larger work such as a novel.  The 7th graders already read “The Fan Club” as homework at the end of last week.  Today, I wanted to have the 7th graders practice their listening skills and, as a teacher, I feel it was important to cater to my auditory learners.  So, the students opened their books, I plugged the CD into the computer and they listened away.  I did require them to follow along in their books and gave them a few focus questions so they were listening and reading for a purpose.  Afterword, we discussed the story a bit more an moved on to a writing handout I had for them.  When I decided to do this particular activity for the 7th graders, I assumed with my knowledge of the CCSS, listening to the story covered a speaking & listening standard. Though it may be a stretch, I believe I have covered standard SL.7.2.

  • Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.

I really like this excerpt about new technologies and the CCSS.

  • New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. The Internet has accelerated the speed at which connections between speaking, listening, reading, and writing can be made, requiring that students be ready to use these modalities nearly simultaneously. Technology itself is changing quickly, creating a new urgency for students to be adaptable in response to change ( Information taken from the mastery connect website about the CCSS).

8th GRADE

Today I went through some guided practice with Article of the Week for my 8th graders.  Last year I tried to introduce article of the week, something I found from reading Kelly Gallagher’s Readacide. It flopped last year, not because of what the students did, but because I failed to follow through and assign it.  It won’t happen this year.  I am also more organized by providing a guide to the students to use when they are doing article of the week (I can direct anyone to sites where teachers have created guides or if you want my guide, let me know). I reminded my 8th graders the importance of reading informational text and stepping outside of their bubble.  In class we went over the guide to completing article of the week and then I had the students read the article once without doing anything but read.  Then, I had them decode the text and make notes in the margin so they demonstrated closer reading.  In the end the students will need to write about the article.  For example, they need to give me a brief summary, who was the intended audience, what was the author’s purpose, and what was their opinion about the article.  I give the students one week to complete the article and I try to return it within a couple of days.  I told the students I will post the articles for them to retrieve on Schoology.  If students can not get access to the article, I can print it off for them.  I also have the guidelines posted to the site as well. You can get articles on Kelly Gallagher’s resource page. With the students doing article of the week I am covering the following standards:

  • RIT.8.6 –  Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.
  • RIT.8.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • RIT.8.3 – Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

Tomorrow I am introducing my 8th graders to Youth Voices. In addition, my 7th graders are doing their Wordles and I need to start getting student’s Gmail up and running for the use of Google Drive.

Cheers!