Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting My Teacher Groove On

It's hard to believe that two months of teaching have breezed by me so quickly.  Ok - it hasn't been a breeze.  Going back to teaching full-time has been a challenge.  I haven't always mastered this challenge with grace.  I haven't walked from school every evening with the feeling that "Oh - I made kids' lives better today."

Yesterday, I had that moment.  Finally.

Finally.  I feel like I got my teacher groove on.

The biggest help for me to get "my teacher groove" was to ask my principal for advice.  He gave me some great classroom management ideas and gave me some excellent words of encouragement without making me feel belittled or inadequate.  Having a mentor within the building makes life so much easier.

Also, I think it makes a difference to be "coachable". I hear coaches in the teacher's lounge say "Oh yeah, an excellent athlete, but that kid is not coachable.

This makes sense in teaching, too.  Kids need to be coachable, but also, teachers need to be coachable, too.  Coaches need to be coachable.

We can all improve.

I know I can.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saving Hester Prynne...

Wednesday afternoon, my Practical English class finished chapter 8 of The Scarlett Letter.  On I found a e-text of the Scarlet Letter - I'm finding that this is working quite swell.  I've been modeling how I read within the text - how my brain works.  I remind the students that I'm not a genius...  That this is the fourth or fifth time reading this text, and I think this helps a bit.  It puts them at ease.

As we finished reading Chapter 8,  I realized that the last two paragraphs had some deep thoughts.  This is the chapter when all the men get together to decide if Hester should keep Pearl, or if Pearl would be better off with more fitting parents.  In the end, Reverend Dimmsdale speaks up for Hester asserting that Pearl has saved Hester's soul.  Hester leaves the house and is confronted by Mistress Hibbins to join her in the woods.

The affair being so satisfactorily concluded, Hester Prynne, with
Pearl, departed from the house. As they descended the steps, it
is averred that the lattice of a chamber-window was thrown open,
and forth into the sunny day was thrust the face of Mistress
Hibbins, Governor Bellingham's bitter-tempered sister, and the
same who, a few years later, was executed as a witch.

"Hist, hist!" said she, while her ill-omened physiognomy seemed
to cast a shadow over the cheerful newness of the house. "Wilt
thou go with us to-night? There will be a merry company in the
forest; and I well-nigh promised the Black Man that comely Hester
Prynne should make one. "

"Make my excuse to him, so please you!" answered Hester, with a
triumphant smile. "I must tarry at home, and keep watch over my
little Pearl. Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have
gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black
Man's book too, and that with mine own blood!"

"We shall have thee there anon!" said the witch-lady, frowning,
as she drew back her head.

But here -- if we suppose this interview betwixt Mistress Hibbins
and Hester Prynne to be authentic, and not a parable -- was
already an illustration of the young minister's argument against
sundering the relation of a fallen mother to the offspring of her
frailty. Even thus early had the child saved her from Satan's

 We finished reading together.  I turned to the students and sighed "Wow - I missed this.  How could I miss how important this passage is?  How could I miss this?"

So, tomorrow afternoon, we are going to think of how important a mother and child relationship is and how a mother can save a child and a child save a mother.  Will they draw conclusions into their own lives?  Will they connect the dots?  Will they realize just how important they are to their parents?

Monday, October 8, 2012

On lexiles and such

If you've ever read A Day No Pigs Would Die, you would understand my students' excitement.  When I would stop reading, multiple seventh graders would moan..."Nooooo, keep reading!"

The first chapter embraces excitement. The kids laughed and were scared and amazed at young Rob's bravery. 

"Oh wow.  This is a good book."

The lexile is at 790.

In eighth grade we are reading Treasure Island, the lexile score is 1100.  Even though we are reading out loud, the jump in lexile scores has the kids trudging along and often confused. 

In my older class, we are reading The Scarlet Letter.  Again, we are reading this out loud, but the students seem to be into the story.  I had one student ask me;

"Mrs. Aakhus, if this is so hard, why are we reading it?"

"It's worth it."

They seemed to be content with that answer.  I think the themes speak to them.  I found a lesson plan that paired stories and songs  with The Scarlet Letter by theme.  What a super idea!  Of course, this educator as included great activities from The Holocaust Museum,  "Run to the Hills" by Iron Maiden, and The Help. T  I will also pair this with Will Weaver's first chapter in Red Earth, White Earth and Dr. Suess' Sneeches

The Scarlet Letter has a lexile score of 1100.  Granted these students are three years or more older than my eighth graders, but what makes The Scarlet Letter more accessible to students?

Could it be the theme?  Could it be the thinking required of the deeper meaning of life?





OK ok ok -   It's MONDAY.  It's a whole fresh week of journal entries, correcting quizzes and tests, and READING.

Last night, I sent a question out to all my co-workers; "What is your favorite book?"

We need to share this with our students.  Our students NEED to know that we are readers.

What's my favorite book?   oh geez... How do I pick just one?  I believe it is To Kill a Mockingbird.  How very English teacher of me.  I just love the characters.  I love people.  I love quirky characters who try and try to become better people.  This is why I love To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Let's Talk About Books Baybe

Last week, my older students began reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter.  I left the book for the Sub to start. When I called to see if she had any questions, she asked me if she could give them a summary of the Introduction, "The Custom House" and move on to Chapter 1.

"In my experience, that first bit loses about half the students before the really nitty gritty even starts."  I decided we could go back to "The Custom House" if we really needed to and gave her the go-ahead to start reading chapter one.

I think the kids are starting to shake in their boots.  They think the book is too difficult for them.  I think they'll be just fine. 

At this time, Eighth Graders are finishing up Treasure Island.  This book has been a difficult read.  We stop and summarize all the time.  I'd like the students to realize that Stevenson has come up with the mold for most adventure novels.  The Lightening Thief and Harry Potter all start in similar ways with teens as main characters. There is definitely something very Indiana Jones about Jim Hawkins.  Hawkins' dramatic flair adds so much flava to the story.

Tomorrow, seventh grade will start A Day No Pigs Would Die. 

I get to do this.  Lucky me.