Tag Archives: lesson planning

Sticky Notes Bonanza

I love using video to share ideas with students. I also love sticky notes. This week I combined both to teach a lesson on the importance of planning before writing.

First I showed this video:

Then we talked about the message, about what happened in the clip. Was the presentation effective? How long do you think it took to make? Do you think they knew what picture came next or did they make it up as they went along?

Then I show the making of video:

Imagine…6000+ stickies each with a little round of tape on them. The second video shows a lot of what the artists did to plan. Since all the kids (really, all of them) like the first video, I can make the point that good things take time to create. When they write, they need to take the time to work out a plan, to decide what it is they want to say before they start saying it. I think these videos helped get that message across. Beats just nagging them to write a web.

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New Year, New Goals

Today is the first day back to school. While I still wish summer were a little longer (that feeling intensified the day I had kids), there is still an excitement about the first day of school. Before I listened to all the new policies and procedures and begin the manual labor of getting the classroom ready, I thought I would take a minute to get my thoughts together and list the things I wanted to accomplish in my class this year. (Here’s last year’s list which I came no where near to finishing.)

  1. Start student blogging, at least with advanced kids with the hope of extending in to all classes by next year.
  2. Practice Backward Design by putting the lessons I want students to learn at the forefront of planning.
  3. Organize the class around guiding/essential questions both on the large-scale and the small one.
  4. Provide and use an online place for regular book discussions.
  5. Maintain a class blog and/or podcast.
  6. Find a way to publish both a newspaper and literary magazine for free.
  7. Maintain a positive attitude no matter what my situation is.

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Weighty Matters

Two weeks until I go back to school. This is the time I start mulling over how I want to set my class up. One item always on this list is the matter of grade weighting.

I weight grades because I want students to get credit for trying. Not trying in that half-hearted  “Well, at least I did something…” way, but trying in the of “I’m not sure if it works, but I did something new.”  But I also want students to gain big points for final projects, the things that take tons of work.

For the past few years, I’ve used the following system and tweaked the percentages slightly each year: Classwork 30%, Reading 30%, Portfolios 20% and Projects 20%. I give two portfolio assignments  and two projects each term to make sure that one grade doesn’ t make or break you.

But I’m thinking of ditching that system. Since my lesson plans have become more open-ended and I’ve started allowing more student choice into my class, it has become harder for me to tell what skills a student has mastered by looking at my gradebook. This matters at the end of the year when I have to fill out paperwork on students who did poorly on the state test. (For the record, when teaching a concept, I use a variety of assessment methods to check student progress.)

So here’s what I’m working with for the upcoming year:

  • Reading – 30%: Including literacy letters, RC points/book reviews, and tests/activities based on reading.
  • Writing – 30%: Including portfolios which will count double, writing practice and quick writes/journaling.
  • Grammar/Vocabulary – 20%: Including vocab tests/activities and grammar work.
  • Projects – 20%: There will be a final project for each quarter, but students will complete many activities before the due date so there will be a few grades in this category.

I’m thinking this will give me (and the administrators who look at them at the end of the year) a better overview of where a student may be struggling.

What do you think?

(Photo credit: tompagenet)

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Brain Rules

My first venture into my summer PD reading is a Brain Rules by John Medina. Chapter one deals with the importance of excercise. Rather than repeat all the findings here (you can get the book or check out the website), I want to talk about what’s bugging me about that chapter…

In many ways, this issue is out of my hands.

I’m not in charge of PE. Lucky for me, the state of Florida requires that all kids take PE and few wavers are given for this requirement, so I have a little bit of leeway with this “rule.” But it still begs the question, “Can I incorporate physical activity into a forty-five minute Language Arts class?” Is it even a possibility?

Ideas:

  • Have more station activities where kids are moving from place to place a few times during class. (These are very time-consuming to plan and I tend to avoid them.)
  • Have movement breaks during the period.
  • Let kids move as they see fit during class as long as they aren’t disrupting others. (I already do this really, and it’s not really exercise but it’s better than nothing.)
  • Start class with exercises.

Any other idea?

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All in One URL: Krunchd

Usually when I take a class to the library to do research, I try to incorporate as many real life strategies as I can: tabbed browsing, social bookmarking, google searches… But that isn’t always possible when working with kids who need more structure in their lessons (or the ones who just don’t follow directions very well).  Plus, teaching those skills, or just using them during class, can sometimes take up too much time.

I was facing that problem when I decided to take the class to the computer lab for some background research on Mt. Everest for the novel Peak.

That’s when I found Krunchd. You can load mutiple URL’s into their site and it will give you one web address. When students type in that one address, one window opens that allows students to scroll through all the websites you’ve inputted. Here is the one I set up for my students. See the arrows on the upper right? They move you back and forth throught the different pages, but they don’t stop you from exploring the different sites. Pretty cool.

fur.ly is another site that does the same thing, but with Kruched, you can name part of the URL, while on fur.ly you can’t. Both sites, though, are quick to set up and use with students…no learning curve necessary.

What works: This site lessens the time it takes for students to type in the address and to move from page to page. Cutting down on the time it takes to get ready to learn, the more time students have to actually learn. Plus, by loading the page with lots of different types of text, students can choose what they want to look at (words, pictures, videos, etc.)

What to watch for: While student were easily directed to the sites I wanted, they were not stopped from exploring each site. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one of the sites I chose had videos and many student got side-tracked from the lesson by looking at videos. The videos, although educational, didn’t really help them understand their reading. For another lesson though, I can see this being a plus point.

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What’s Wrong with Poetry?

I’m starting a poetry unit tomorrow. I’m angry about it, too. Angry not at the poetry (who could be angry at poetry???), but because I swore that I wasn’t going to teach a poetry unit again.

This year I was going to do a poem a day, or at least a few a week. I was going to incorporate poetry into everyday lessons. Make poetry a regular feature in class not a special unit.

Yup…you guessed it..didn’t work out. Why is it so easy to abandon poetry? Everything about poetry ties into good reading skills and to great writing skills? Of all things that I wanted to do this year, this seemed the easiest, so why couldn’t I do it? I love poetry, yet even I seem to think it isn’t important. Why?

Next year, I’m thinking about refocusing my class under a series of key life questions. Maybe that would be easier?

So much to rethink before next year. Meanwhile, I have to plan a poetry unit. Sigh…

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The Big Plan

I’ve been working on a plan for next year. I hate saying next year since I’m still working on a plan for the last quarter of this year, but I the new plan is a big plan and most of the last quarter of school it taken up by a required unit anyway.

I’ve been thinking about Essential Questions. I’ve been thinking of Project Based Learning and Inquiry Based Learning. I’ve been thinking of students’ passions and outside learning. I’ve been thinking about edtech. I’ve been thinking of real world writing and reading. But mostly I’ve been thinking of how to do it all…at the same time.

I think what I’m going to do next year is have one question per quarter. Then we will read to see how others have answered the question and write about what we have read. Then each quarter each student will have to complete a project answering the question for themselves.

My Questions:

  1. What is your story?
  2. What is your passion?
  3. How do you succeed?
  4. What does it matter? (not sure about this one)

We will focus on key skills each quarter. 1. Biography, genre, character and plot, memoir writing, digital footprint. 2. Expository/Persuasive writing, conflict and resolution, research skills. Still working on 3 and 4.

I’ve been loving Evernote, since whenever I see or hear something that works for a given question, I’ve been recording it. I have a file for each of these units as well as a general “For next year” note.

Anyhoo…that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Any thoughts?

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