August 13, 2007

Long day of in-service

Posted in classroom library, curriculum, lesson plans, planning at 8:38 pm by mrsmauck

Except for the fact that I got to know some of my fellow teachers, today seemed like an incredible waste of time. We were supposed to be learning how to use test scores to individualize our teaching, but really, isn’t that pretty self-explanatory? You look at your students’ and class’s scores, pinpoint areas of weakness, and remediate! But for some reason, a couple women who talked to us like we were elementary kids had to explain this to us for about five hours. I felt a better use of our time would be to create benchmark exams that align to our state standards, since our principal wants us to administer these every 9 weeks.

 Other bits of information I learned today: This year is a textbook adoption year for language arts! Hooray!

 Our library has tests over most of its books, and the middle school teachers require their students to read and take tests over four books per 9 weeks. Hmmm…this seems like a good way to ensure that kids’ read–I suppose the scores on these tests could be worth a major project grade, to show the importance of reading. But here’s my dilemma: What about my classroom library?  I’m starting to feel like I’m making things too difficult. I should just do what the other teachers do, and not worry about “creating a reader’s environment.” I mean, I’m proud of my little library, but how can I keep kids accountable for reading those books? I haven’t read all of them, so I can’t write tests on them. I still want to do weekly reading journal entries to encourage reflection on reading, but I need to make sure they’re completing the books, not just reading during SSR in class. Suggestions?

I’m also the Student Council sponsor and one of three Junior Class sponsors. I’m keeping a positive attitude about this right now, though I know many of you will think these jobs are a burden: I’m looking forward to getting to know my students outside the English classroom. We’l see how much time these things actually take.

Tomorrow: CPR Training and classroom work day. I’m going to apply myself to my classroom expectations bulletin board, my 6+1 Writing Traits poster arrangement, and my book reviews bulletin board.

Any opening day activities you teachers have found successful? We’ll just have Thursday and Friday with the kiddos this week, so I’m just planning on doing getting-to-know each other, the classroom, my procedures activities. Here are my plans so far:

  • Fill out student information sheets (activities, academic goals, short answers on attitudes/aptitudes for reading and writing)
  • Write letter to me using your student information sheet, telling me what I need to know about you as a student (this will probably be weekend homework)
  • Introduction to expectations, policies, English binder, outside reading
  • Activities that introduce my teaching style and help me get to know them.
  • Mini-lesson on choosing books you’ll like.
  • Choose first books.
  • Learn procedure for weekly vocab.
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3 Comments »

  1. Tim Fredrick said,

    I’ve found from students that our efforts to “make sure they read” are what actually discourage them from reading. My advice is to make it as low key as possible: Each week, give them 10 minutes in class to write down what pages they read and what they thought about them. You could even give them large index cards and tell them they have to fill them up. This is non-threatening to the kids, serves as a way to check in with your students, and assures that the focus is on reading/enjoying the books, not on pleasing the teacher. Or, if you really want to try something different – don’t require anything from them other than they read. There is no way to make sure that kids read – there’s always ways around every assignment. I’ve found those kids who are determined to not read won’t do it no matter what I assign. When I backed off though, I found that some of those kids actually began to read.

  2. Jennie said,

    Please, please keep up your “reading friendly environment!” Remember, the best “bump” you can give your students is to make them readers! On the “management” side–I’ve always just kept a running record of page numbers and book titles for each student. I’ve even thrown out the “required books” idea and just told them to never stop reading. When they’re done with one book, they pick up the next one–that way they don’t feel like there’s some “number” they have to reach.
    It’s tough, but it’s worth it. Your library will grow, and you will love making books an integral part of your teaching!
    (p.s. ahem, the testing thing is okay–but it’s important to realize that there’s an IQ component–my Special Education students really struggle with tests like that, as do my ELL students–I have become sort of stubborn about giving them alternative ways to show me that they’re reading.) And always, have fun!
    (Also, a GREAT podcast is at http://www.bookwink.com The girl is a ton of fun, and the kids like her approach to reviewing books!)

  3. X said,

    I agree with the above commenters! My most effective method of combatting fake reading (or non-reading) has been to locate good books and to communicate my enthusiasm about them. Doing quick book talks about newly arrived titles is a great motivator. My kids do a daily log (M-F) of their in-school and at-home reading, but I try to keep it as simple as possible.

    One of the things I enjoy about reading your blog is its reflective quality. It’s good for me to read about your efforts to balance what your school is requiring from you with what you believe is truly best for your students.


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