Friday, January 25, 2013

Mixing it Up

With the start of the new semester, we mixed up our seventh grade class. We switched some students  from one section and placed them into the other while keeping some in the same section.

When the students first learned that we were going to changing things up a bit, they panicked.  Did this mean that they were in a higher group?  Did this mean they were in a low group?  I had to reassure them  that we were not looking at test scores but maybe focusing on learning compatibility - which trust me, has nothing to do with learning compatibility.

We looked at how students work together. Do they allow these other students to concentrate?  Would they do better paired with this other student who would perhaps own their work and tell them to step it up?  Do they need a paraprofessional resource?

The mix was under lock and key.  I have to say that I was nervous.  I was worried that I'd have two sections that were challenging to handle instead of just one. 

And on Tuesday, when we made the switch.  I have to say.  I regretted it.  Change is hard for seventh graders.  Change is so hard.

But on Thursday, they had already forgotten there was a change.  The morning went by brilliantly.  These students have been some of the best behaved students I've seen all year.

And now,  maybe we can move on to more rewarding challenges. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gateway Poet

Three of my English sections are selecting and studying poetry.  My seventh grade and Practical English course that includes twelfth and eleventh graders.  

I came across the poem, "Digging" by Seamus Heaney along with an example essay based on the poem.  Even though there was not a specific assessment that went along with the poem the kids could start to have an idea on what to write about when writing about poetry.  How can a poem inspire 500 words?

I asked my students how do 500 words inspire one tweet.  They followed along and read the poem with me and saw how to point out poetic devices and personal connections within the poetry.

Earlier in the month, I went back to  And even though, I'm not sure if we'll be ready for a competition.  I gave these students the instructions of finding a poem that finds them.  They all laughed at how corny it was - some of the kids picked the usual "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost - and really?  What's so bad about that poem?  They probably think they're being lazy - silly kids.

One of the titles I found interesting was "Fishing" by A. E. Stallings,   I can't wait to read this guy's paper - this guy is an excellent writer -  Of course, I had the usual Emily Dickinson - which I pointed out to one young girl "I'm so glad you like poetry."

She laughed "I only like Emily Dickinson."

I laughed; "You know she's a gateway poet, don't you?"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Advice to Myself -

Wednesday,  I took a fancy to Louise Erdich and brought "Advice to Myself" to the attention to my 11th and 12th grade class along with my 8th grade class. 

Advice to Myself
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

I noticed that my 8th graders were the ones clinging to the words of the poems and really thinking about being authentic, being real - where my older students  - I had to rattle their cage and ask them the old age question if they were "Duds or Studs of Learning"? +

And then, yesterday, my eighth grade girls came rushing into class and told me to turn on the youtube video of  "Girl on Fire" by  Alicia Keys.

It was one of those moments - when I knew just knew I had the best job in the world...  and then, sang the song to every kid I saw in the hallway.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sticky Note Book Club

Even though I haven't been constantly writing on my blog, my brain has been reeling researching best practices.  One of my favorite ideas came from my friend, Teacherscribe, a blogger I've been following for years.  And, he just happens to be a childhood school friend.

The basic idea of the Sticky Note book report is for kids to write on sticky notes and tag it in their books as they read giving us, the teacher, an insight into what they are thinking as they read.  Most importantly, it forces kids to slow down and think about what they are reading and interact with the book.

The Sticky Note Book Report has pretty much rocked Red Lake County Central's junior high.  Kids love sticky notes.  They love, love sticky notes.

After the first project, another teacher member of my team commented that book reports need to be fresh.  So, she was trying to decide what to do for her next report.  I had an idea... TA DA!

I gave my kids the choice of four books.

The Giver by Lois Lowery

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia


Roll of Thunder Hear Me Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

In the end, only three books left the room for Christmas vacation.  I had two kids reading The Giver, five girls reading One Crazy Summer, and four kids reading Hatchet.  Of course, there were kids who took books and didn't finish the assignment.


Those kids didn't have anything talk about. They were left out.

But.... those students who read their books.  .....  Those students had lots to talk about. Each kid took a sticky note and talked about it with their group.  This gave the kids something to talk about.   I had a room full of twelve and thirteen year old  students talking about the characters they admired. They were really, really talking about their books.

Just like a book club.  The only thing missing was hot coco and biscotti....

Maybe next time.