Wednesday, October 15, 2014

So about that blog I started...

I really need to make a better habit out of this blogging business! Do you ever feel like sometimes you have all these grandiose plans and some of them just fizzle out? I don't want that to happen in this case.

It's raining outside. Oh how joyous that is. Here in drought-stricken California, we'll take ever drop we can get! Plus, nothing seems to calm the kids quite like a nice rainy, gray day. I recently had a project funded by I asked for comfy floor pillows and bean bag chairs for my class. I'm teaching two reading intervention periods this year, and I am trying every tool in the book to get these kids engaged in their reading. Sitting on these comfy pillows and bean bags is so much better than the rigid desks for some of them. They race in each day to claim their floor seats.

I've read a lot over the past few months on teaching reading and reading intervention with middle schoolers. One thing that really stuck out was from Nancie Atwell when she talked about the importance of helping kids get in to that "reading zone." This notion is super important. Kids need to be conscious of the fact that the mental state they are in while reading is not the same as their normal mental state. They also need to realize that silence can be essential to getting in to this zone. And comfort during reading time is also key. If you haven't read The Reading Zone, I really recommend you take a look.

I've come to the conclusion that the most important thing I can do for all my students is to push them to be better readers by the end of the year. Yes, our other curriculum matters. Yes, being a solid writer is also important. But I just really feel that the READING skill - fluency, comprehension, and just the love of reading, is the most essential for my students' future success.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Slacking

I've been slacking a bit with the blog posts as the year came to a close. That last month of school is like a whirlwind! I always get to the point when I'm cleaning up my class the day after school ends where I just want to shove things in drawers and worry about it in August. I hope I'm not the only one who does that :)

So now I'm in the summer school swing. Our summer school is four weeks long. I'm teaching one section of 7th grade World History (remedial). It's actually not as bad as it might sound. I have a very small class, only 10 kids. They are very calm and focused. They do things a bit slower than I'm used to with my 8th graders, but it's not a huge deal. Plus I get to sample a little World History in the process. I have the course set up so we focus on a different region of the world each week. The first week was Asia - Medieval China and Japan. This week is Africa - the Empires of Africa. We'll do a week on Mesoamerica and a week on Medieval Europa to wrap it up.

I'm always searching for some good videos to use with my summer school kids. I like to mix up the media a bit and not have it all be from the book. But finding a good video for these kids is a bit tricky. It can't be too long or dull. I might show them something from Crash Courses in History.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Classroom Management... Wouldn't it figure?

Today is Parent Open House on our campus. What this means is that the parents can stop by classrooms today and watch classes in session. This gives parents a better idea of what an actual class day is like. I've had about six parents come by so far. Two I know were parents of students I have currently, but I'm not sure about the other four. Some parents from our feeder schools even come by today to get an idea about what classes here are like. I don't mind them visiting. What I DO mind, however, is my second core being totally rowdy, unfocused, and off the wall to start class when two parents are watching. I was torn in my brain as to how to handle it. Do I get mad? Do I yell? I thought it was best to avoid those two scenarios, so I tried to put out spot fires as best I could - targeting specific students and asking them to stay focused, stay quiet, get back on task, etc. But this didn't really help. When the parents left, I let the kids know how I was feeling. Can you imagine what those parents were thinking? I asked them. One kid replied, "That we're horrible students, you're a horrible teacher, and this class is horrible." Yup, about sums it up. "Do you want adults to think that about you and me?" I asked them. A lot of them looked petrified at the idea. I'm glad that our candid conversation sort of drove home the idea that not only does it embarrass me, but it makes them all look bad as well. Hopefully the next time other adults are around, they'll be more conscious of that. How would you have handled the situation?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Teacher Work Days... A Blessing or a Curse?

Well the semester ended on Friday. Half way through the year already?? Really?? Seems hard to believe. When this year began, I was dreading it in many ways - mainly due to all the emphasis on the switch to the Common Core. Reflecting a bit now that it's half way over, I see that this has been one of the BEST years of my teaching career so far. Yes the first few months had a LOT of growing pains associated with them. People at school were unhappy, morale was low. But after those first few months went by, I found myself really excited at the prospect of revamping a lot of what I do in my classroom. I've had two huge transformations this year that have affected my class the most - the first was the switch to interactive notebooks for my history curriculum. The second was the complete revamping of two units for class novels (and two more revamps to go!). Yes, no one likes to willingly go through change, because not changing it easy. It's HARD WORK to change your curriculum, especially if you're 10  years in to teaching like I am. But wow, am I proud of the work I've created so far this year. I actually find myself excited for the second half of the year that lies ahead of me!

Today was a teacher work day - no kids, just a full day of work time for us. I always underestimate the amount of work I have to do on these days. I got to school at 8 and found myself still grading at 1:30. I had hoped to grade for half the day and plan for the half the day, but alas that was not meant to be. Once I finally submitted my quarter and semester grades, I only had time to plan out some new history work for this week. And I swear I did NOT dilly dally on facebook or waste time online... just so much to wade through and entering grades takes longer than some might think.

Tomorrow starts the second semester. Good luck to all of you in the same boat!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Half way there! Common Core on the horizon!

Well, the semester ends on Friday for us. This is always a very busy time of year. Lots of tests and things to collect! My kiddos are taking their first semester WOD final today. WOD is our 8th grade vocabulary program - it stands for "Word of the Day". It's a great program. The words are solid and the routine of having WOD as a warm up each day is a nice way to start class. If you're interested in checking the program out, check out my TPT links to the right!

Monday is a teacher work day for us. I treasure these days. Lots of time to get work done and NO pressure of any meetings or anything to accomplish from the office. I usually am able to get all my grading done and still have at least half the day for planning time. It seems like planning time with my colleagues is super valuable this year with the implementation of Common Core. We are supposed to be fully Common Core by the end of the year. Are you feeling that pressure too? I'm not sure where our school district stands in terms of being behind or ahead of the curve for Common Core. I know my friend in Oregon who teaches math has been on the Common Core train for a few years now. It would be nice to hear your stories about your transition to Common Core and how you feel you are progressing!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

To work or not to work over winter break?

Winter break always feels longer to me when Christmas is earlier in the break. Now that Christmas is all said and done, I have the prospect of a lot of free time on my hands over the next week and a half. Part of me wants to work on stuff for school. Part of me wants to just be a slug. One thing I definitely want to do, however, is put up some more of my curriculum and lessons on I've really enjoyed sharing my work with people on there, and I've received some wonderful feedback. January always brings a new sort of vigor to the class - sort of a mini fresh start for the year. My department mates and I will be planning a brand new unit for our next core novel - The Glory Field - when we return. Our principal is nice enough to give us a planning day and call in for subs. Looking forward to that for sure!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The three awkward weeks between breaks

These three weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break always pose an interesting predicament to me. I feel both like I need to cram a bunch in to these three weeks but also as if the winter break is a barrier to anything I want to carry over to January. This quandary has proved to be challenging this year as my history planning has changed significantly from past years. My colleague and I have completely revamped our history curriculum and are using interactive notebooks this year in our classes. This, combined with more common core inclusion, means that I'm about 3 weeks behind where I was last year in the history book. And you know what? That's ok. Since we don't have the STAR history test this year, I don't feel as pressured to get through ALL of the history text. With our interactive notebooks, we're able to focus on more important aspects of what the kids are studying. What this means for my planning, however, is that I need to reach a firm stopping point by the end of next week. I don't want to be in the middle of a history chapter when break arrives and expect to pick it up after 2 weeks when we come back. Furthermore, I know from experience that the last day of school before break is its own special little monster. Hard to plan much substance for that day. So since we'll be finishing up the Outsiders next week, I plan on showing them the movie the last two days before break. Still haven't decided if I want to give them some sort of work to go along with the movie or just let them enjoy it since they have worked so hard on our Outsiders unit this year.