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Showing posts from May, 2013

My Thoughts on Literature Circles (or what works for me)

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Yes, I know that the school year is over~I'm only "working" tomorrow and giving out report cards on Wednesday for a couple of hours~but I'm one of those professional teachers who is always a teacher no matter what day or hour or holiday or season or event. So with that being said, let me share with you one of the (many) things that I would like to improve on next year.

I would like to use literature circles more effectively. I've used literature circles on and off for several years but always with mixed results. I don't like the dynamics of the groups or the quality of the work. I feel like some students do all of the work, while some get a good grade just because they're in a group with an overachiever. Those that will read the book are the same ones that will read the book whether they're in a literature circle or not, and the others won't.

So what's the solution? I'm sorry to say that I don't have the answer. However, I will share …

Work in Progress (or the new writing assessment rubric)

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The newest set of writing rubric posters that I'm working on for next year.

I'm still counting the days down...one more day with students and then two more days next week to finish things up. This is not another sappy blog about endings really being beginnings. This is about teaching writing and using the new Common Core writing rubric.

As of right now, my state of Tennessee will only test 5th, 8th, and 11th graders next year. But beginning with the 2014 school year, students in 3rd through 11th grade will take a comprehensive writing assessment as part of their standardized testing.

When I first began teaching, students in the 7th grade regularly took a writing assessment as part of their annual standardized testing routine, so I'm no stranger to the experience of teaching timed writing. However, the new testing will be different in a few ways from the way that we've done it up to now.

The new writing stimulus will involve the reading of two passages. This is where l…

Change is Gonna Come

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Counting down the days and hoping I can keep my patience in check. The end of the school year is bittersweet and filled with a variety of feelings and emotions. Another year is going by, another group of students made it through another year of Language Arts with me. Teachers look forward to the end of the techno year and summer break, yet we also know that the end of one year means changes for the next.

And there I'll be changes...in curriculum and testing. The next few years are going to be pivotal in the future of public education in this country. In some ways I embrace those changes and in some ways I'm scared of where we're heading. I want to embrace these changes. I want to take the Common Core State Standards and make them my own.

Over the summer, I would like to explore each of the standards and develop a thorough plan for teaching each. My PLC team has plans to get together over the summer and develop formative assessments to give next year.

Changes cause me to b…

Countdown to the End

Well, another school year is about over. Two weeks until I've completed another year of seventh grade.  I often jokingly say that I have no job skills, but if the truth be broadcast to all, then teachers have an abundance of  job skills that make them perfect candidates for just about any profession.

Unfortunately, teachers are no longer appreciated for what they have to offer. Teachers make the best employees because they are punctual, have the ability to multitask, and are flexible in their approach to dealing with people.

I will admit that this past year with the second round of evaluations has been a roller coaster of a year. I have never before cared so much about my value-added scores. I spent a good portion of my time looking at data and achievement scores. Mastery and proficiency have become integral parts of my vocabulary.

But in spite of it all, I wouldn't change jobs for anything...at least not yet.

Teaching Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction by David Macaulay

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One of the recommended Common Core Explemplar Texts is Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction by David Macaulay.Since it is the end of the school year and standardized testing is over, and our school library had a classroom set of the book, I decided to have my seventh graders partner read this text with each other as one of our daily lessons. I had no other plans in mind, other than introducing this interesting YA picture book to my students and give myself a chance to read it myself. I'm so glad that I did.
Published in 1973, this award winning book tells the story of a fictional cathedral in France. The story progresses from the idea for the cathedral and goes through its detailed construction to its finished product. This book may sound boring for middle schoolers, but it's anything but boring. 
The reluctant readers (mostly boys) were interested in the detailed drawings, while many of the girls loved learning new vocabulary ("flying buttresses" was a big hit)…

Disney got it wrong

Cinderella didn't need a sparkling gown and glass slippers; she needed some sturdy walking shoes and cargo pants. She needed a backpack and a one-way ticket out of that podunk village. She didn't need a fancy carriage made from produce; she needed a Eurorail pass so she could ride the rails anywhere and stay in cheap hostels. One night on the town did her no good at all. She ended up late with only one shoe. What kind of cruel joke is that?

Cinderella had skills; skills that would have served her well almost anywhere. She wouldn't have been above bussing tables or cleaning homes for minimum wage. She might have been able to afford a small flat somewhere and taken night courses. She had a great singing voice and presence; she could have sung in nightclubs in a big city. Disappeared into the night with her dreams and a journal.

A good journal and some ink pens would have been a better gift as she had a story to tell. Unfortunately, those Grimm brothers told it instead and be…