Steady is the Pace

Recently I received an evaluation.  I want to say how thankful I am for an administrator who offers constructive feedback.  I often wonder how many teachers would take that constructive criticism personally or take it to heart and actually reflect on how they can better themselves.  Not to float my own boat, but I do A LOT of reflecting on what I need to do to make my students more successful. Often times, I am up well past midnight thinking about different strategies and lessons I can implement.

With the Common Core being fully implemented into my classroom and having less than  2 years under my belt of teaching 7th graders, I can’t help but feel I am not doing an effective job getting through to them.  Am I going too fast with my 7th graders?  Right now I feel as if I am not following my own advice where I said I would teach a mile deep and not a mile wide. I don’t want to push through curriculum for the the sake of saying I got through all of the curriculum, yet I know I have a responsibility to get through the standards.

Could the CCSS have anything to do with the way I am feeling?  Even with having minutes added to each of our core hours for more instructional time I find myself running over class time trying to squeeze in last minute details and key points with lessons.  Could there ever be enough time added to get through everything?

As I look back through what I have done this year, I am pleased with what I delivered in the way of curriculum to my students, despite the fact we have had snow days (I think I am one of few teachers who always wants school). However, did the content I deliver to my students really sink in?  Perhaps I did a better job of just skimming over content rather than making it rich and meaningful. Quizzes, unit test, and other forms of assessments show positive growth, but how much are they truly retaining and would they retain more if I slowed down?

Pacing for 7th graders has to be different than my 8th graders.  I have found plenty of support from other district’s pacing guides that help me draw that conclusion.  I am going to continue to reflect on what I can do differently in way of pacing and I am hoping I can continue to help my students to grow academically.

I am always going  to be a life long learner and will continue to strive to be my best. If there are any middle school teachers out there that would like to provide some suggestions, I am all ears.

Cheers!


Myths as Informational Reading and Text

No, your not seeing things! I actually wrote the title you see before you.  Last year was my first year teaching 7th grade and my first year teaching myths.

Last year when I taught the myth unit, I felt it was a success.  We looked at many different types of myths from different parts of the world and students wrote their own myth.  This year I am continuing this mini – unit within my bigger informational text/writing unit.  Below is a list of the myths my 7th graders read.

  • “Persephone and Demeter” (Greek).
  • “The Epic of Gilgamesh” (Mesopotamian).
  • “The Secret Name of Ra” (Egyptian).
  • “Why the Sky is Away from the Earth” (African).
  • “The Instruction of Indra” (Hindu).
  • “Amaterasu” (Japanese).

All of these myths are found in our literature text book we have.  I use our literature book the longest during the time we read the myths. During the rest of the year, it is a filler where I may use a story to introduce a specific genre or a certain literary concept before going on to a much bigger piece of text such as a chapter book.

Now, besides sharing the different myths that my students read, I want to share the reason why I view myths with my students as informational text. I share at the beginning of my informational unit with both my 7th and 8th graders that informational reading and writing does two things: informs and explains. We also discuss how informational reading and writing helps individuals learn something they may not already know.

As many people know myths were stories created to explain events or objects in the world that could not otherwise be explained.  Despite the fact the explanations themselves revolve around supernatural forces, learning about different myths from around the world gives us better insight into the cultures from where they originated.  Furthermore, myths can lead us to look at the similarities and differences of the different beliefs and attitudes of traditional cultures.  Finally, the students are better informed leading them to identify and relate  to contemporary literature and modern English when there are references made to the myths we study.  So what information is being given or taught to the students? Specifically:

  • students learn about different cultural beliefs.
  • as an expansion for S.S., students learn about different regions in the world.
  • there are valuable lessons to be learned from each myth.
  • students gain insight into more contemporary literature and can better understand it.

Many English teachers may think I am really stretching this and perhaps taking a wrong approach to the way I teach my students about myths.  For me, I feel I am pushing or challenging  my students to think critically about the oral tradition that includes myths. The same oral tradition where legends are thought to be historical, but lack the evidence to prove them accurate and true.  Folk tales, fairy tales, and tall tales all come out of this tradition as well.  And although these may not hold truth, what better way will students learn about personification without a good fairy tale such as Pinocchio.

My students also write their own myth where a lesson has to be learned within their myth.  That can be saved for another post!

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!