August 14, 2007

Teacher shopping

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:26 pm by mrsmauck

All the teachers at my school get $75 to spend on their classrooms. I was pleasantly surprised at this, until I found out that our school does not stock ANY basic supplies that we had scads of at my old work. At my college office, it was very simple: we had a supply room with plenty of file folders, hanging folders, tablets, highlighters, pens, tape, scissors, Post-its, everything we might need to do our jobs. At school, as I’m sure most  of you teachers have experienced, NONE of that is provided. I found it really difficult to choose things for my classroom when I haven’t even gotten into any kind of routine yet: Will I want a file folder for every student? Maybe–so I bought 100. Will I do Greek and Latin root flash cards? Perhaps, so I bought some 3 x 5 cards. Will I use an overhead projector often enough to need to buy transparency markers? Maybe, so I threw some of those in.

I have had much less free time during these two days of in-service than I thought I would, and now I only have one day left at school to get everything ready for the first day! Yikes!


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.

This is the week!

Posted in lesson plans, reading workshops at 4:04 am by mrsmauck

Three days of in-service starts tomorrow with a day of curriculum alignment. I’m pretty sure my brain short-circuited today in the middle of about a million decisions about my classroom procedures, methods, and first days of school.

After slaving all afternoon on my “Outside Reading” handout, informing kids they’ll have to read at least four outside reading books per semester, my brother, who just graduated from high school gave me a harsh reality check: He said his English teacher of the last four years (small school) had the same requirement, and very few students ever read any books. During in-class reading, they’d pretend to read or just sleep, and then patch together a book report from the film version, the back cover plot summary, and/or online plot descriptions. I’m hoping that my scaffolding of this requirement will make things different: help selecting books: mini-lessons on genres, authors, and books, occasional read-alouds to pique interest. However, I’m realizing I need some sort of grade consequences to enforce this four book thing. I’ve got points for in-class reading, bringing the book to class, and weekly reading journals, but no grade mentioned as of yet for number of books read. I suppose a test grade of 100 for each book completed, and a 0 for books not completed? It seems like that would encourage faking completion, though. My brother’s English teacher assigned a highest-possible letter grade based on amount of books read: if you read only 3 books, the highest you can get is a B, 2 = C, etc.

August 11, 2007

Long day at school

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:52 am by mrsmauck

How did I get to school at 9 a.m., leave at 2 p.m., and feel completely exhausted by the time I got home? Because I did a dry run today: seeing what time I needed to wake up to get me and little miss mauck out the door by 7:15 a.m. The good news? I did it, waking up at 5:50 a.m. to feed her (and I use the term waking very loosely here). The bad news? At New Teacher Orientation this morning, our superintendent informed us we need to be at school by 7:50, when I thought my arrival time needed to be no later than 8:15 a.m. That 25 minutes is precious. I need some adjustment to this 6.5 hours of sleep business. I’m used to sleeping as late as little miss will let me.

I made some progress on my classroom today: I covered my three bulletin boards: two in yellow swirly fabric and black borders (school colors!), and the long skinny one above my chalkboard (who uses a chalkboard, anyway?) with paper and these cool bookshelf-looking borders I found in my cabinets, which I thought were only crammed with useless old textbooks and endless amounts of supplemental stuff for my textbook. Covering the boards was the easy part: Now I’ve got to make posters, which is very hard to do for me, as my handwriting is horrendous, and my paper skills are a bit too flamboyant and messy to make good posters, although I can do a mean scrapbook page when I get the urge (Wonder when that urge will return so I can start little miss’ scrapbook?).

Sidenote: Who seriously has time to use all these resources? There’s an entire book of “lesson plans,” in which each page just lists abougt 50 resources for each text: Get these transparencies, these recordings, these CD-Rom interactives, etc., etc. I don’t know, it feels like “Teaching for Dummies.”

Okay, I need some input on read alouds: Does anyone use them at the high school level? I’ve been talking with the lovely Jennie over at Unabridged Opinions, and she does this often with her middle school students. I really want my students to only have to read their SSR novels at home, and save our whole-class texts for classroom reading and discussion. But I’m still worried that reading aloud will be monotonous and eat up all our class time. Any thoughts, suggestions, advice? Also, I really want to do Readers Theater with the plays that we read, like The Crucible, Shakespeare, etc.  How should I introduce this kind of reading to the kiddies? Should we read the text aloud first, and then stage scenes, or can we do cold readings as Readers Theater?

August 8, 2007

Classroom expectations

Posted in classroom management at 5:34 pm by mrsmauck

I decided to call my class rules “expectations” instead, creating some for me and some for students. I got this idea from the ever-reflective and inventive Laura Huertero.

 You can expect me to:

1)       Respect and care for students.

2)      Provide each student with an equal opportunity to learn by maintaining an emotionally, physically, and mentally safe environment.

3)      Encourage curiosity and discovery through teaching methods that appeal to all learning styles.

4)      Present problems that require you to develop your critical thinking skills so that you can be a leader in your field.   

In return, I can expect you to:

1)       Respect your teacher and your classmates:

a.       Bring required materials to class.

b.      Be seated and working when the second bell rings.

2)      Allow all students, including you, to learn and achieve their highest potential.

3)      Obey all school rules in my class.

4)      Be an active participant in your learning: ask questions, discuss issues, and be passionate and creative with your work.

And here are my consequences:

1st Offense: Verbal warning

2nd Offense: Documented warning, conference with teacher

3rd Offense: Detention/Referral (Check school policy), Call to parent

 I haven’t printed these up for posters yet, so any comments or constructive criticism is still welcome.

 After a year and a half of telling the teacher blogosphere about my teaching methods and classroom mangement, I’m finally going to be telling students abou the, in a little over a week! Excitement and anxiety hardly cover what I feel when I try to let that sink in!

August 3, 2007

New blog, new blogger!

Posted in blogs, mommy, reflection at 3:18 am by mrsmauck

I’m working on a story for Oklahoma Today magazine on Oklahoma blogs, and these insightful, dedicated, interesting bloggers have inspired me! As the school year is about to begin, I really want to have an online haven where I can count on more layers of content, more readers, and certainly more posts (that last one depends on me, I suppose). I really want to be a reflective teacher who participates in the current conversation on teaching, not just hiding out in my classroom, feeling scared and alone and unsure of what I’m doing. I know that to do this I need to be a better blogger: read the great blogs that are out there, leave comments, and put more thought and effort into reflection and posting. I want to be able to look back at this first year of teaching and learn from it, and I think this blog is the perfect place to start. I’ve been skipping through baby-land without a care in the world for blog-land (except for semi-frequent photo posts to my personal blog, at the hisses of my distant family members), but now I want that to change.

 Falling off the blog bandwagon was just way too easy: I quit reading the excellent carnivals, stopped posting comments, then stopped reading my Bloglines, and basically quit posting until very recently. But I’m back and I want to learn and think and reflect so I can be the best teacher i can be. Help me, fellow bloggers!

August 2, 2007


Posted in computer malfunctions at 4:15 pm by mrsmauck

I’m starting to freak out a little because I realized yesterday that my USB drive might be shot. Well, surely any blogger worth her snuff knows that putting all your files on one drive with no backups is like driving with no headlights in the middle of nowhere during a new moon. Well, my wheels are hitting the shoulder, because right now my computer is saying it’s a malfunctioning drive and the metal part is wobbling in the plastic drive. I’d made a lot of lesson plan notes, including all my ideas on teaching Of Mice and Men and The Way to Rainy Mountain, AND all my files from my methods class were on that drive.

Is there any way to save this drive?

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?

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