Monday, August 30, 2010

my notebook, page 1

ok, this is not rocket science and i learn over and over again that i need to use my resources wisely, instead of trying to recreate the wheel. while some of my lessons are damn original, while some of my practices are cool, i am part of a body of intelligent, sentient beings who try daily to connect with their students, and i am not a genius, or a pioneer. anyway, one practice i want to persist at this year, to see how it affects my organization and my students', is to keep a master notebook, which contains all classwork, vocabulary lists, free writes, basically anything the students write... i'll write too. many teachers have done this before and it will be a challenge for me to really keep up daily... to do each free-write and assignment before them, to know how it feels to do the work, and to be able to estimate the amount of time that it will take them in a more accurate way. our periods have been cut short this year, so every minute counts and i don't want to waste them. I also want to be clear about my expectations this year, and their notebooks were not up to par last year. I want to see if me modeling this notebook will help them keep up with and organize their work.

here is my intro page for the notebook (which i won't really advertise, we'll see if they read it):

Hey there. This is Lauren, one of your ELA teachers. This is my fall 2010 notebook. Everything you do for my class in your notebook, I will also do in this one. I am doing this because I want to show you that I'm invested in the work I give to you. I also want to be clear about my expectations of your notebook work, so I will show you here what I expect. Please know that the freewrites will be different, because that's your writing time to focus on what you think, believe, dream or draw. i'm going to try to keep up, but there will be times when I might ask for your help, too. We can help each other become more organized. I 'll be the first to admit that I need some help sometimes.

So yeah, come look for this notebook if you're absent, to figure out what you missed, and please let me know if i'm missing anything. I'm going to try and record all freewrites, class activities, brainstorms, graphic organizers and grammar lessons/practice here. I'm so looking forward to learning with you, class of 2014! Love, Lauren


if only i could revamp my personal life the way i am my new classroom. i am chanting like crazy and praying for patience. i will need it, but life is beautiful and everything is perfect.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a retreat at home

it was incredibly helpful to my planning for the year to have a department retreat in my classroom yesterday. we talked about where the dept has been and where we're trying to move this year. we drafted our own professional goals, and began talking about the concept of a "principle of practice" (roberta lenger-kang). i'll talk about that more once i get her okay, lol... but we began the day by doing a timeline of our reading - which would be a wonderful activity to start the year off with my kids. i wound my way from "where the wild things are" (from which I learned that creating your own worlds is sometimes necessary and that anything is possible), to "teaching to transgress" (from which i learned so much about teaching from the heart and always with critical consciousness embedded into the work).

i began by making a calendar of my year, knowing that i want to condense my units and add 2 more. i want well-planned, every-day-is-essential units this year, and 6 weeks is mad long. i need to plan in time for giving and going over feedback on writing work, and strengthen the connection between the students' independent reading and literary elements/vocabulary. we need to make genre a daily conversation, and the students should be able to speak and write thoughtfully about why a text is from a particular genre - which means i need to up the ante on identifying genre features. i also need to broaden the scope of the texts that i introduce and do much more comparing and contrasting, to solidify form in their minds.

the idea of starting large - with what i want students to be able to do and understand, and working back to figure out which smaller skills they need to be able to tackle the large task - helps me incredibly in my planning. as s pointed out, it's similar to the concept of backward design (which i'm sure all you MACers are learning), in which you begin the product/assessment in mind. i do design my class that way, but i'm always struck by the fact that it's so difficult to assess true learning. who am i to judge if they have really mastered a skill? it's part of my job, and this is why i try to provide as many ways as i can for them to demonstrate to me what they know. i try to focus on progress and not on deficit, and find that they want to learn, subconsciously.

next steps - defining and designing my classroom roles and the job application process for such roles that i'm implementing in ELA, figuring out advisory's first few weeks, making the 9th grade intro zine, thinking about independent reading projects and daily logging/journaling, organizing and cataloguing my classroom library so ppl can begin "checking out" books. checking in with g to begin planning our class. making posters and bulletin boards (my favorite!!!! such a nerd)

i have my work cut out for me. but as always, with the chill of a late-august evening, i'm getting ready to begin anew. i love the prospect of each new year, the growth i've seen in myself and the challenges ahead. despite a crazy summer, i really do love my life and am blessed in so many ways. but my job is a big blessing, for real. so are my loved ones. thanks, universe. i'm trying to give back that good energy you supply me with every morning.