Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Google Docs

My students are currently working on a research presentation assignment. My initial purpose behind the assignment was to have students research current governments that oppress their citizens. We finished reading Animal Farm, and discussed many themes related to the corruption of power and tyranny's distortion of language and history. I wanted my students to realize that these occurrences did not just happen under Stalin's rule and in the past. So, students were assigned various countries that have issues with human rights and were instructed to work in small groups (2-3 students) to create a PowerPoint presentation on their research. They became engaged with the research quickly as many are not aware of international news; however, I was most surprised when students became excited about collaborating via Google Docs. They used the PowerPoint feature and were able to see immediate changes in slides of students who were working in their groups. They also were able to work more easily at home without issues of saving or emailing the document. It was nice to see technology again increase investment in an assignment.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Great Online Resource

This year I'm working as my building's Individual Literacy Plan (ILP) and Response to Intervention (RtI) coordinator. I have found the most challenging part of this is to have resources available to teachers, especially in terms of reading comprehension. I found this site from Muskingum College's Center for Advancement and Learning. There are some excellent resources for content area and language arts teachers

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Creating Awareness through Literature Circles

I'm currently working on a unit based on middle eastern non-fiction to use with my 9th grade honors class. I was inspired by the books Three Cups of Tea and Reading Lolita in Tehran. My students have varying knowledge about this part of the world, and I feel it is part of my responsibility to acquaint my students with issues in this region that go beyond the politics that many might see on the news. Any suggestions on titles would be appreciated. In addition to the books that inspired me, I'm currently looking at The Bookseller of Kabul, and Baghdad Burning. I would also like to utilize the graphic novel The Pride of Baghdad.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reviewing the 20 books in a year

After our first quarter, I have run into a few problems with my 20 books in a year I have encountered a few joys and challenges. Several students still claim that this assignment is impossible; however, all have made an effort to read. It took about a month for some students to get over the fact that reading was their homework and that they would not have other nightly homework in exchange for this challenging assignment. I would hear students in the hallways stating that they didn't have any homework for English. It was funny when another student would reply with a sarcastic comment about that is why they didn't have more than one book read yet.

The projects that go along with this assignment have gone well. I have allowed students to choose their project which is approved after they write a proposal to me. They enjoy the choice around the projects, and I have enjoyed the variety of assignments I receive.

The big change I am going to make in terms of this assignment is more of a weekly responsibility. I have checked in verbally with some students; however that does not seem to be adequate. I will start a simple 3-5 question survey each week based on some of the work that Jim Burke has published. It is my hope that this weekly accountability will help motivate some students to not wait until the last week to read, but to keep a steady pace in their readings. In addition to this, I will work with peer conferences on books so that they can share their reading with each other more. I have been proud to see some students talking about the books that they have read with their peers, and I think this more frequent book talk will help promote some book to other students.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Planning for this coming school year - 20 books in a year

An English Journal article by Amanda Stovall (Nov 08 edition) accounts the step she took to increase the amount of reading students do and decrease the other homework that she assigned. Stovall's plan was to have students read 20 books in the year, create projects for each book. As a result, the students had no other homework.

After a few years of struggling with how to ensure that my homework assignments were beneficial and yet challenging, I found this concept to be an exciting one. So, I am implementing it this school year with my 9th regular English class.

I am excited about this because I find that reading benefits students in so many ways beyond just reading skills. Among other things, it helps students write better, think more critically, see points of view beyond their own, and connect with other readers. The creative project aspect is a bonus to this as it will allow my students a chance to share their books with others in class and beyond.

My students will not be completely free of other homework as I will still assign tests and quizzes that they will need to study/practice for. However, I will be working on keeping writing assignments as in-class work. I have done this in most cases in previous years and have enjoyed being present to work with individual students during all stages of their writing.

While I will still have books that I assign to the whole class (which will count in this total), students will have a choice of the other books. My biggest hope for doing this is to create students who enjoy reading. With their number of choice reading books increasing greatly this school year, I hope they find a few books, genres, authors, or topics that they connect with. I know my challenge will be to not only read 20 books with them, but to also be a better reference/reading embassador for students who are reluctant readers and think they will hate every book.

I look forward to reading with my students, seeing what they love to read, and seeing what projects they develop to share books with their classmates and the world.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Back to blogging

It's been awhile for me between finishing my thesis for my Master's program and other life events; however, I'm ready to begin again. My goal for this school year is to incorporate authentic 21st century literacy into all my classes. I know that this involves more than just using technology, so I am working on my plans for the school year with the intention of helping my students utilize technology to demonstrate their learning and to connect with others. I like how NCTE's Inbox blog paraphrases Kathleen Yancey stating "21st century writers write in order to take action, to make a connection." I look forward to challenging myself to make education more relevant to my students and to help them build skills they will use both in and out of school.

Some things that I plan to implement include:
  • students using blogs or Google applications to share personal writing - especially book reviews to help other students find interesting reads.
  • continuing my website to keep parents informed on what is happening in class.
  • encouraging students to view and respond to blogs from bloggers who are writing about their experiences in places across the globe.
  • working with students on their literacy skills in the areas of visual and technological literacy.
  • projects where students work together for authentic purposes of their choice

I'm looking forward to an exciting year!