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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Like jumping in to a cold swimming pool. Classroom blues after a break.

Heading back to school after a break is always tough for both me and my kiddos. We are lucky to have a week off for Thanksgiving in my district, so yesterday was the first day back after a week of relaxation. By the end of the day, I could tell it was super hard for the kids to focus. I have three classes of kids - each for a two period block. The first core is always very well behaved. This is usually due in part to being tired. This year though, they really are a great group. The second core is like the middle child - kind of rowdy, and right before lunch. This year that group is very, very smart, but very, very social. The third core is after lunch and before the end of the day. This usually means they have the most behavior issues. Yesterday, they had totally checked out about half way through class. Even with the best lesson plan, the added challenge of keeping their focus after a week of being off is a pretty daunting task. Today is better, and we have a solid three week stretch before winter break. I'm planning to stuff as much in to these three weeks as I can. We're finishing up the Outsiders in class during these three weeks. My colleagues and I completely revamped our Outsiders unit to make it Common Core-aligned. So far, I'm really really enjoying the new unit.