July 31, 2007

More on SSR

Posted in lesson plans at 11:01 pm by mrsmauck

Athena left a great suggestion in her comment: to have the students use Library Thing to track the books they’ve read in SSR. I love it! What a great, nonthreatening way to have some closure after you finish a book! And the kids would have such ownership of that kind of thing. I think I’m going to start out requiring students to complete at least four books per semester–Is that not enough?

Another idea I had yesterday: students could be required to post weekly responses to their reading on blogs. I would also require them to read and comment on the blog entries of say, two classmates per week. I have two classroom computers–to avoid having to take the entire class to the computer lab once a week, perhaps I could allow students to rotate everyday, four of them missing part of SSR to post to their blogs and read the blogs of classmates. Does this sound too complicated? I think I’ll try it with one class my first semester and see how it goes.


6+1 Writing Traits, Beowulf

Posted in classroom appearance, lesson plans at 10:12 pm by mrsmauck

I worked on my 6+1 Writing Traits poster today. I plan on matting each of these on construction paper and grouping them somewhere in my room. Anyone have any bits of advice on implementing this program? I think it will be really helpful for students to have these on handouts as they write, revise, and peer-edit, so they have some structure and language to articulate what is good and bad about their work.
I also read Beowulf again today, as it will be the first unit for my seniors. I remember thinking it was completely archaic and boring as a student, but now, I thought the poetry was beautiful and the plot fast-paced and interesting. Is that a difference in maturity and knowledge of language, or did my previous learning experience suck the life out of the oldest English poem on the planet? I plan on introducing this with a comparison chart of today’s epics and heroes, having students brainstorm the traits of an epic by analyzing Harry Potter, The Matrix trilogy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and/or Star Wars. We’ll do this using the elements from Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I think we’ll read it aloud in class, as it did begin as an oral tale, and we’ll pause to discuss, and do structured group work, in which each group discusses and writes down notes on different aspects of the poem: poetic devices, Christian influences, heroic traits, villanous traits, and storyboarding. The storyboarding group will work on a master timeline of events with drawings, noting elements from the Hero’s Journey. As final projects, students will put together a Heroes Booklet and also write a short essay on one of the aspects the small groups explored during our reading.
bought two beautiful graphic novel versons of the poem: this one by James Rumord and this one by Gareth Hinds. I’m trying to decide how to use these. Perhaps students could choose to do a graphic novel version of one of the battles rather than the short paper?
Any constructive criticism of this unit plan is most welcome!

July 27, 2007

Classroom prep

Posted in classroom appearance, lesson plans at 6:05 pm by mrsmauck

With only two full weeks until school starts, I’m starting to get a little anxious about getting everything done. I’ve got a magazine deadline August 6, so next week will be divided between that article (on Oklahoma blogs–whoop!), Claire, and hanging out with visiting relatives. That leaves one week to ready my classroom. Here’s my to-do list for that week:

1. Walls: minimal in the beginning, as I plan to create posters to remind them of things we learn.

  • Class rules: Respect yourself, Respect your classmates, and Respect your teacher
  • Promises to my students (jacked from the perfectly seasoned Graycie): I promise that I will not ask you to do anything you cannot do, I promise that if I ask you to do something new, I will show you how, and I promise that if you do the things I ask you to do, you should pass this course.)
  • Book recommendations: I post brief reviews of books I’ve read recently, replacing them with student reviews as they finish books.
  • 6 +1 Writing Traits

2. Class Syllabi

3. Lesson Plans, of course! I’d like to have the first couple weeks planned when we start school.

4. Class Library: I’m up to about 70 books now, and I’m going to arrange them by genre, and then within each genre, I’m going to try to order them from less difficult to more difficult.

Question about SSR: I’m now planning on devoting the first 10 minutes of every English class to SSR, with weekly journal entries or creative projects due, book talks every other week, and frequent mini-lessons on choosing books, active reading, authors, and genres. I think I’m going to require that every student read at least 5 books per semester, with books with more than 250 pages worth two books. Any other ideas on how to make this SSR beneficial and effective for students?

July 19, 2007

Great feedback!

Posted in classroom library, lesson plans, reading workshops at 9:10 pm by mrsmauck

Thanks so much for the great comments on my last post! Here are my thoughts on reading workshops now:

So I’ll have between 75 and 100 students in my five English classes (My other period will be for Newspaper and Yearbook), and only 30-40 books in my classroom library. (This is how many books I have now, plus about 10 I just ordered from amazon.) How do I help students choose books when they have to go to the library?

I really like Jennie‘s idea of having students do some sort of weekly response to their books. However, I’m wondering how I can have students juggle a day of reading workshop and a weekly writing assignment for that, a day of writing workshop, with various writing assignments for that, and the textbook curriculum. I’m working in a poverty-zone school, where academics take a back seat to sports and everyday survival in many cases, so I want to keep outside-of-school reading and homework to a bare minimum.

July 18, 2007

Back to school fever!

Posted in big picture planning, lesson plans at 2:41 pm by mrsmauck

I start school August 13, and the students comeback on the 16th. I’m getting so excited! I have a couple ideas on which I’d really like some expert feedback, if anyone gets a moment:

Reading workshop day. As I’ve mentioned before, I’d like to use some of Nancie Atwell’s ideas from In the Middle, and one of them is having a reading workshop once a week. However, I’m nervous about relying on our fairly meager library to keep all my students interested and reading all year long, and about keeping them accountable for reading. I know if I want this to work, I need to talk with students a lot about how to select books they’ll like, and that it’s okay to abandon a book they don’t like. I’m also concerned about some of the books I found in our library yesterday: Classics Illustrated, People magazine celebrity profile books, and professional athlete profile books. Should I outlaw these for reading workshop day?

I don’t want to make students responsible for reading a certain number of books, as some books will be longer and/or more challenging than others, but I do want to make sure they’re reading. Here’s what Atwell does: 1) Go around and conference with each student for a couple minutes during the reading workshop to see how they’re enjoying the book, what they think of it, and how they’re progressing. 2) Have students write a letter about what they’re reading to me once a week (and I respond), 3) Allow students to select a writing project to do after they finish a book (poems, essay, short story, etc.). However, a writing assignment for each book read might encourage students to take their sweet time reading books so they don’t have to get to a writing assignment. (Am I not trusting students enough when I think this?) Any ideas on making this reading workshop day work?

Classroom ownership projects: Instead of worrying about getting my classroom looking perfect before the big day, I thought I would have my students take some ownership of the classroom by having them make wall decor in small groups. Here’s how I thought I would do it: each class decides what kind of projects they want to do: poetry, authors, quotes, or books. They must come to an agreement any way they see fit. Then, in small groups, students choose something from their class’ category and make a visual representation of it to put on the wall. To structure this a little more, I thought I would talk with them about assigning roles for each group member: each person must have a responsibility in the project. And of course, I would monitor the group work closely, not just use the time to say, read blogs. What do you think? Is this a bad idea for one of the first projects of the year, because it might be too unstructured? (An experienced teacher I know thought it might be.) Any feedback on this project idea is very appreciated!