Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thing 4: An Innate Need to Talk

In Jay William’s blog he reflects on Klosterman’s surmise that humans have an innate need to talk which is why they answer questions. I am depending on this very innate need to talk to reach my less motivated seniors. If Klosterman is correct, just maybe their desire to create their own blog or website will provide them an initiative to read and write for their own personal reasons. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a long journey that will lead to improved reading and writing skills. Of course, like us, it may also be a short lived journey cast aside as other life obstacles move up their priority list. I enjoy reading comments from peers and staying aware of new developments, however, I struggle to make blogging a daily routine. I do believe, however, that blogging may well be my best opportunity to reach these otherwise unreachable seniors, as blogging will provide each student the chance to read and respond to information of personal interest and not limit them to the imparting facts of the classroom. Who knows, maybe we can build a habit together.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Possibilities & Authenticity

Reading Katie Hanifin’s article in Edweek, suggest our job as educators is to open our students’ eyes to possibilities. As I reflect on our discussion tonight during Classroom Redesign concerning authentic learning, I believe the two ideas must coincide. The authenticity for each student may not be the same, just as opening their eyes to possibilities will be different for each. 21st Century teaching appears to be way outside the box. As we encourage students to think more for themselves and become more involved in their own learning, we, as teachers, must provide enough freedom, enabling them to look for their own possibilities and create their own authentic learning.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thing 4: Cursive Writing - A Lost Art?

As schools muster students to be prepared for the future, some parents and educators fear cursive writing may become a thing of the past. Is this a loss we need to be concerned about? Both MSNBC and EdWeek carried an article from a Charleston, West Virginia parent who contacted her daughter’s school after realizing her 8th grade daughter could not legibly sign her own name. Apparently handwriting is only taught in 3rd grade at her school. The article continues to address the fact that students see little need to spend hours learning cursive writing when the only real life need for the task is to write notes to self or the power crashes. As educators we strive to address students’ realistic educational needs, and it is true, cursive writing may be on the way out like the typewriter. I have yet to ask my granddaughter who, by the way, is attending 4th grade in West Virginia, if she is practicing handwriting this year. I know they do not have computers in their classroom, so I suggest schools not get the cart before the horse. Should we be concerned about this lost art? Maybe it could be taught in art class? What do you think? Comments welcome.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Organizational Tools for Learning

Reflecting on this article from Lake Cormorant Middle School on integrating Think Maps to organize information, I can’t help but think that the idea might benefit our students needing remediation, and all of our struggling students for that matter. As I read tests to our resource students and one after another obviously has not read the chapter, or taken any notes, I realize our students do not know how to study. Those that do take notes, I find the notes disorganized and virtually useless. This subpopulation of students, as well as others I’m sure, would greatly benefit from learning to use Think Maps to organize information. By beginning the school year with this concept in every classroom, Lake Cormorant students rapidly mastered the process without other learning being affected. For teachers searching for a way to differentiate instruction in their classroom, this is a possible avenue that could benefit all students.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Willingness to Change

Edgar Allan Poe introduced himself into my classroom Monday morning through an interactive activity with The Black Cat. Pre-assessment discussion informed me that only one of my students had ever read any of his work. Since this activity provided audio of the short story and response through click and drag of visual images, differentiation was in place. Poe took care of the rest with his horrid imagery which lends itself easily to reflection. Students worked in pairs discussing the story and reflecting on our class wiki. Not a single piece of paper exchanged hands. Students perched and lounged with their mini laptops wherever they chose, even the porch bench. Every student stayed on task. Not one student exclaimed “how boring”! Now, compare this to me reading aloud The Black Cat to the students, walking the room to keep them awake, and asking questions at the end to see if they were truly listening. How can any teacher not see the need for change?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Time and A Season for Poe

After Mrs. Gillmore planted the idea of a Unit on Edgar Allan Poe, I spent my weekend reading and researching the possibilities. Once an avid reader of his works, I’m afraid I no longer welcome the uneasiness I developed this weekend at unusual sounds in the dark or unwelcome dreams in the night. However, this is definitely an element welcome to most teens. Stephen King’s Duma Key and Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club are just two recent examples of authors influenced by Poe. On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe by Mary Higgins Clark and nineteen other authors commemorates Poe’s 200th birthday. As Mrs. Gillmore indicated, Poe’s writing also provides insightful examples of the elements of writing to sneak in on the students. The web also offered numerous possibilities for integrating technology into the unit. Looking for short stories to introduce literature circles into my classroom this fall, the season truly is perfect for Poe. Thank you Mrs. Gillmore for sharing your idea.