This is a short but great blog post, so I didn’t want to share too much. Click through to read the rest- it’s something that is important to do.
The best professional advice I was ever given was by a math teacher at the school where I student taught. He told me to create a “happy folder.”
I had one of these in Little Rock when I was working with City Year; it was actually the wall above my desk in my HUD housing apartment bedroom, at the time. Every letter from a student, every coloring book page and picture, every great quiz score from my hardest-struggling student went up on that wall. Now it’s all in a great big Manila envelope with a smiley face draw on it, stashed on a bookshelf next to my portfolio, which includes the letters and creative work that came from students in my student teaching placements more recently.
"(anyschool) is an educational management organization, which operates (anynumberofcampuses) of (acharterschool)."
I am an educator. I want to work for a school, not a management organization. I do not manage, I teach. I teach students, not clients or customers. It’s a matter of semantics, but the semantics are important. These are children’s lives to me, not a business.
Maybe that’s why I’m having such a hard time finding a place to teach. Maybe the new view is that we are providers of a commercial service to customers in an industry. If that’s the case, I’m not sure where I stand.
monasequeda answered: I know I’m late to the party- I’m 5’3 and I work with little kids, so it’s no prob. But when I wander into the 5/6th wing of the school…
I’m 5’2” and apparently look like I still belong in high school. When I was placed in sixth grade for my first placement, quite a few of my students were as tall as or taller than me, but they knew who I was, and as long as I stayed in the sixth grade wing I was fine.
One day I was in the hall during passing time and my student-teacher badge was in my desk because the cord had broken. Without it, an eighth grade girl apparently thought I was a student, because when I tried to get by her in the hall she picked her head up, gave me the nastiest challenging look, and stepped in front of me instead of around me. When I tried to move around her she did it again, and then again. She was trying to move as if this was a casual encounter, and just a sheer coincidence that we couldn’t seem to get around one another. I guess she thought I was younger, or new, and that she needed to be sure I knew who had the say in this hall.
Well, I asked her if she wanted detention in the firmest voice I could muster and I have never seen a student in that school move as quickly as she did. I’m pretty sure I started wearing heels after that for sheer convenience’s sake.
And in chemistry class I was talking to my friend, Jack, about a gay pride festival I went to. My teacher, stupid nosy bitch, decides she wants to join in on the conversation. She asks me what I’m talking about so I turned around and her reaction was to make a noise of utter disgust. She asked…
Read the whole thing — this turns uplifting and applaudable. A great reminder to students of the power they have to make a difference for one another, and a strong reminder for teachers to be…well, you know what, “tolerant” seems like such a lukewarm, forced word. Your students don’t want to be tolerated. Even “accepting” has started to sound tired — “I accept you for what you are” sounds like it comes with a caveat, “even though you are what you are.” I think what our students need is to be supported. This student was unfortunate enough to have a teacher who clearly did not support her — but lucky enough to have a fellow student who did.
Something very big and very good may be coming my way
but then again, it also may not.
It boils down to this, as far as the options I have right now:
move somewhere I know I may be socially and emotionally very happy, but will lack a defined “purpose”/a career, or
stay here to do something incredibly good in terms of “purpose,” but be trapped in a place I know I don’t fit.
The first option feels irresponsible because it’s focusing primarily on my happiness, without a direction that would leave me feeling deeply fulfilled, but at a time where the thing that would make me feel fulfilled (working with students of my own in some capacity) is, thus far, just seeming unachievable. It almost seems like…some extended vacation.
The second option…makes me on one hand proud, and on the other very depressed and already missing the first.
Can’t I make these meet in the middle somewhere? (Maybe not, for now.)
What do I choose? Aimless wandering in a place where I will struggle because I will be aimlessly wandering, and the guilt that will come with feeling like I’m not donig anything good for anyone, which is what I’ve dedicated my life to thus far, or security and unhappiness?
Have a lesson to teach, then a final to take, then the grown-up equivalent of a prom. And then about forty more pages worth of work to finish.
On the upside, I showed a friend the final in which we had to answer as to how we would improve reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing in our classroom. She responded “I want to be in your class.” Made the day better from the start.
Teacher Dare Day! (Technically it still is in the next time zone.)
Do you/Do you plan to build your classroom libraries primarily from school-supplied texts, texts you choose yourself on the school budget, or texts you’ve collected yourself (from used bookstores, library sales, etc.)?
Teacher Dare Day: Given the names of your certification tests (New Yawk), where do you hail from?
Well, I can’t be too specific for the sake of protecting myself — I mean, I’ve outed myself here, I talk freely about my program, I criticize our union, etc. — but I can tell you at least that I hail from Long Island.
(I wonder, are you a New Yawk girl too, matching those tests with the state, or is that common outsider knowledge?)
Students keep showing up to tutoring that I have never seen before, and becoming regulars.
I had to argue “Brendan” back to his homeroom, because he was done with his homework but just wanted to hang out with me some more. I’ve gotten approval to start pulling tutoring hours on more days during the week.
"Shanna" came back for the first time to comic book club today…and churned out five pages worth of very manga-typical, exciting script (complete with student running late out of the door with toast in her mouth).
"Hal" (…Devin renamed this student, this seems to explain the level of sheer geekitude on this one) finally got to use an online comic generator today. He has severely limited writing skills, and his drafts, rather than scripts, are panels with his own stick figures and scrawled notes, but they’re translating beautifully and thoughtfully into great pages. I love watching him work through all the details of making the pre-set characters, props, and backgrounds work to fit his story.
We were stuck in the video game room — the classroom where the gaming club sets up the Wii and the Playstation and proceeds to scream through the hour and a half of club time — but collected two defectors who, rather than just wait for a turn at the controllers, sat down and scripted comics instead.
On a break, while everyone was working independently, I pwned one of my female students in Wii boxing. I am now the princess of nerds in that school, and those girls did not break into one more fight for the remainder of the session.
I demonstrated a light box and prismacolor pens for the first time today, and with the students’ responses, might as well have been doing Houdini-level magic tricks. It was great to see them so excited about something I tend to see as frustrating and mundane. I don’t think I could take it for granted again — now it’s all magic to me, too.
"Jay" came back for the first time since they started rehearsing for Talent Night. When he first came back to the room, it was "I’m going to see if I can start coming for the second half on Tuesdays." Within ten minutes it was "I’m going to see if I can come HERE at the beginning on Tuesdays." By the end of the session, it became "Wow, I’m gonna come here on Tuesdays again."
"Tony," the student who was constantly testing my authority right off the bat and trying to make me mad, was giving Mr. J hell. Or I assume he was giving him hell. I could hear Mr. J shouting at him (and, I believe, some compatriots) to get in their homeroom.
"I’m going to tutoring."
"You’re not going to tutoring today!"
"Because you’re disruptive."
"Who told you that?!"
"The tutors say you’re too disruptive!"
I’ve got to say, I was not pleased. Maybe the other tutors have said this but, aside from those first few sessions, he has never been so disruptive that I would bar him. If he’s gotten to the point where he’s taking away from other students, I tell him so, and he quiets down or leaves. I wouldn’t call him disruptive.
One of the other kids oooed, “They BURNED you!”
The students were waiting at the door for me, around the corner from all this, asking if this was the room for tutoring, and so I let them in and we started organizing by discipline for the sake of my sanity.
Not ten minutes later Tony comes in and takes a seat at the end of the room closest to me and farthest from the door. He says nothing, just starts taking out work. “What do you need help with today,” I ask him, and he tells me he doesn’t know yet. I just remind him, “Try to find out before you come in, ok? That way we can work on it sooner.”
"Okay. I have English. But I have to read it first."
The first time I actually got him to sit down and take out his English work (the first week I’d been working here), he pointed at the questions he didn’t have answered and fought me every step of the way when I told him he needed to read the passage to find the answers. He’s never done this of his own accord before.
Tony was well-mannered today. He was self-motivated. And he interacted in a casual friendly way with another boy in the front I met last week — I thought they’d been buddies since school started. My supervisor came in later asking if the two of them had given us any trouble, and asking one of them to move away from the other just to be sure. Apparently they had been getting into serious altercations with one another…but I never would have known. The two of them talked to me candidly about it when he left.
"Why’d he do that," Tony complained, but mildly, without a temper.
The other boy explained to me, for background, “We were fighting but we stopped like…two weeks ago. We’re cool now.”
They couldn’t understand why he wasn’t giving them another chance.
I don’t know. Tony has improved drastically, yet it seems from what I hear that it’s only me he’s improved for. Yet, they can’t cite anything recent that he’s done — it’s mostly based on old incidents. They automatically take any attitude he gives them as an immediate affront to their authority, and then it escalates.
What do I do? I make sure to reinforce good behavior — I gave him five, or tried to give him five, today, and he gave me a half-hearted return…but smiled when he thought I didn’t catch him. I can’t be the only person in the program he’s improved for, and if I am, I don’t even know that to make of it.
Almost all of your public school teachers have sex. Most of them enjoy it and do it repeatedly, even.
Many of your public school teachers vote for the Democratic party. Some are conservative Republicans. Some are Communists.
Some of your public school teachers are atheists. Or Episcopalians. Or Baptists. Or Scientologists.
All of your public school teachers go home at the end of the school day and have private lives, where they do things that really aren’t at all relevant to your 8 year old daughter, your 15 year old son. That you pay taxes to cover their salaries for doing their jobs during work hours does not entitle you to control the entirety of their lives.
All of your public school teachers have a history. Almost all of them have masturbated. Many of them have smoked marijuana. Almost all of them have dated; most of them have danced. Some of them are gay. Some of them are heterosexual. Almost all of them have private kinks which you don’t know about, because they don’t practice them in public, let alone when they’re doing their jobs. Some of them have been sex workers.
And you know what? All of them can be fired or blacklisted by local prudes on school boards or the school administration. Teachers: you don’t get to be human. This outrages me.
(To me it is not just about whether I passed, but what scores I got, and I was satisfied enough, as much of a perfectionist as I am - some of these questions, I think, are about telling them what they want to hear, rather than a measure of how good a teacher you have the potential to be.)
Next stops: CST-General, GRE. I haven’t yet scheduled the CST, I have to wait until after my next paycheck to have the money for it. The GRE is scheduled and, quite frankly, terrifies me. I would rather not even take it.
I remember saying I was going to go somewhere/eat something/do something for myself when I passed these…but for the life of me, I can’t remember what that was. Whatever it was I am sure that it was fattening and cost money.
"Courts, Kids, and the Constitution" - Suggestions for Use in the Classroom
Because this particular set involves direct transcripts of Supreme Court cases, there are a few important steps that need to be taken before using them in the classroom.
Make sure that students understand the purpose and function of the Supreme Court, even if in a basic way.
After choosing a particular court case, go over any potentially unfamiliar vocabulary beforehand — but this is standard for just about any reading in the content areas, yes?
Review any necessary background knowledge with the class to a depth that will allow comprehension. Go beyond the vocabulary to be sure that your students will understand the issues being debated. Transcripts are more than just a demonstration of the Supreme Court’s function; they are the vehicle for some of the most important political issues of our time. If you’re going to cover Island Trees Board of Education v. Pico, for example, you may want to do a lesson on censorship in itself before using the court case in the classroom.
A suggestion for how to use these transcripts:
1. Introduce the argument at hand in the court case in a way that directly addresses the students before touching the transcripts or recording. I’ll stick with Island Trees Board of Education v. Pico as the example. You might propose the issues as a writing prompt, a class debate, or a small-group discussion activity, either as a question or as a scenario.
Your prompt might explain, “A group of parents and school faculty and staff has decided that some of the books in the school library are too inappropriate for students. They want to remove these books from the library and ban students from reading them. Some of the books include racist or anti-religious language, swears, or references to sex or drug use.”
It might end:
"Do you think the books should be banned from the library? Discuss. Remember the rules of good discussion (respect others’ opinions, listen quietly, speak when it is your turn)."
"Write a persuasive letter to the school board supporting or rejecting this group’s decision. Remember to clearly explain your choice."
"Working with your group, decide whether to support or reject this group’s proposal. Be ready to explain your decision to the class."
2. Have students share their thoughts on the issue with the class, whether this is through reading a written response to the class, presenting decisions as small groups, or participating in a class discussion/debate.
3. Connect the dots. Explain that this same situation was presented to the Supreme Court. Ask students what they think the Supreme Court may have decided.
4. Review the basics: make sure students understand who’s on what side. Go over any new or tricky vocabulary. If necessary, review the process of a Supreme Court case.
5. Play the recordings while students follow along on their transcripts. There are a couple of options for how to break up the audio: you could stop intermittently to ask questions, you could have students interrupt with raised hands and either help you keep a scoreboard for each side or for questions or comments, or you could do a little of both.
Obviously there are a number of ways of going about this. This is my take; my brother’s is a little different, and a little more general (as he lacks familiarity with the classroom, lesson planning, etc.). Whatever way you choose, I think it offers a great chance for enrichment in your classroom’s social studies curriculum.
Guest Post: In Which My Brother Is Articulate, Goofy, and Adorable, but Maybe I am Biased
I’ll be posting my own recommendations shortly, but the highlight of the night is my brother — English major and Supreme Court groupie — and his general suggestions to teachers everywhere, written from personal experience and a geekish love for law.
EDIT: Fixed all that bizarre jibberish. Wasn’t there when I first posted.
May it please the Court.
I have a dream. I dream that in every school in America there are law classes and that in every child’s backpack a law book discoursing each Supreme Court case’s issues and arguments. As I said, I have a dream. More realistically, I’d like to just see the issues facing the highest court in the land and, arguably, the most powerful governmental institution, understood by our youngest generations; Names like Warren and Rehnquist and, I daresay, Taney should be stamped on the children’s tongues like the mythical men of the Constitution.
Never before has any attempt been made to introduce Supreme Court rulings before high school, and, specifically in my case, senior year. I’m not writing to upset the normalcy of education that includes the basic history, math, science and English. I am not a rebel, or an entrepreneur of thought. My purpose in writing this is to promote Courts, Kids, and the Constitution to educate youth not only on the importance of the Supreme Court in American life, but to teach debate and philosophy.
To make a, truly, appreciative use of Courts, Kids, and the Constitution it should be said that your kids should be first taught the Bill of Rights, at the very least.
The format of Peter Irons’ book is perfect for teaching basic discussion and philosophy skills; Cases are divided into three sections: The issues, the transcript, and the decision. To promote conversation, it is recommended that after the issues are explained you stop the tape (assuming you are using the tape) and let each and everyone express their opinions on the issues, either verbally, or through writing. It should be said that, while more difficult to maintain, conversation is suggested over writing because it promotes peaceful discussion (hopefully) and the free exchange of ideas, tenets basic to living in the United States. After conversation has ended, inquire as to what the kids think each side will say to argue their case. This is assuming that the class you teach has knowledge of the Bill of Rights. If not, the transcript is probably better off skipped. In either case, ask the kids what they believe will be the outcome after the transcripts.
Of course, not every teacher has use of that ancient tech known “cassette players,” which will surely get you laughed at by your high tech students. Don’t fear though, for if you fear this sort of thing, or you just don’t happen to have a cassette player, you can easily teach about the cases (as teachers you obviously know this). You can act as the narrator and have different students act out different people in the case. As I never found this teaching method ineffective, being the one wishing I could leave every time someone embarrassingly overacted, or under acted, I should alternatively suggest a mock Supreme Court. You can act as the Chief Justice and set up each lawyer and Justice to your liking. This can be complicated to enact and easily can fall flat, so be wary.
Hopefully I have inspired a hundred teachers to create a hundred new curriculums involving court cases. Realistically I have made a hundred teachers think about court cases and maybe teaching it. All know certainly is, that from personal experience a class can’t debate the morality of algebra, or the outcome of chemical reaction, and even themes in literature is questionable for debate because of the necessity for evidence. Simply put, court cases allow us to express opinions on matters that affect our lives every day, and our youngest generation need more than fact shoveled into their heads.
I rest my case.
As for the professionalism of my title, the entirety of the body of the email he attached his text in read “Butterscotch Puppycakes,” so I don’t feel like I’m shortchanging anyone.
My name is Cathy Rubin. I am following your blog, which I find insightful and thought provoking. I am launching a series of articles on global education sytems and their issues on my blog, today. Would you mind following me for the duration of this series and giving me your feedback?
Well, even if this is one of those messages that showed up in others’ inboxes as well (sorry, the internet has made me a cynic!), I’m flattered. Global education is something I find very interesting but consider myself sadly lacking in knowledge of, and I’d be happy to follow your series to educate myself as well as for feedback.
Therefore, I have absolutely no justifiable reason to keep stockpiling things I might use for cool classroom activities or decoration that are now piling up in my limited space. (Empty chocolate boxes, empty water bottles, scraps of colored paper, boxes…)
That’s it. I’m getting a garbage bag. This is going to hurt.
OK OK OK my gosh my own hoarder guilt complex is bad enough without the help, you!
How’s this: I have a massive amount of stuff. I am going to be moving soon and, besides that, my room is becoming a painful safety hazard. So, because we have the glory of media mail and such things, my local teacher connections have lapsed with retirement, and I do not have large enough quantities of most of these things to provide class sets in their own rite, I will see who can make use of such things here.
- a stack of old newspapers and magazines I would have been saving for classroom activities, but cannot continue to save for the next three years unless I want to start wearing tissue boxes on my feet and wrapping my hands in plastic (I joke because I do have a legitimate hoarding problem)
- a few skeins of cheap unmarked yarn in bold colors that I cannot necessarily knit anything with
- a large empty heart-shaped chocolates box that I wanted to keep for some kind of sorting or literacy center game but again, three years, can’t
- a couple of empty cardboard boxes, larger than shirt boxes but smaller than filing boxes
I also have a massive amount of red fleece that I was thinking of just making red stuffed hearts with, but I don’t know that anyone would buy anything as simple as that. If anyone has any good ideas for simple fleece stuffed things (or non-stuffed things) that might be of use to a classroom or to some kind of child- or non-profit-oriented thing in general, by all means let me know and I will make use of this stuff. I had originally bought tons and tons of fleece to make scarves for my first-graders as a parting gift, and had certain colors left over in bulk.
If I find anything else that might be useful in a classroom I’ll let you know. I’m sure I will. I hoard these things like crazy thinking “I can use these, I know I can, I can’t throw them out,” and then…never use them. Our local recycling is just…impossible with their pickup schedules and location, but I can at least bring the empty bottles to my campus to get them recycled. I don’t trust that the paper in the blue containers there actually GETS recycled, I have a feeling it just gets thrown out.
Therefore, I have absolutely no justifiable reason to keep stockpiling things I might use for cool classroom activities or decoration that are now piling up in my limited space. (Empty chocolate boxes, empty water bottles, scraps of colored paper, boxes…)
That’s it. I’m getting a garbage bag. This is going to hurt.
There are five announcements, but everyone using the tickets is in my immediate living-in-our-house family. So they get to keep one, and the other four will be used as cards to four teachers who helped me get here, sappy thank-you letters included..
Take your average teenager and picture his home environment. He most likely has a computer with high-speed Internet and loads of gigabytes, and probably does his homework while downloading movies and answering text messages on his cellphone, with his favourite tunes blaring away on his iPod.
Now picture his school environment.
It hasn’t changed all that much since we were in school. Aside from the same old buildings now even more in need of a makeover, in the average classroom, teachers still lecture in the front of the class, writing notes on a blackboard and using static textbooks as materials. Sure, there may be a computer and perhaps even a SMART Board in the classroom, but kids must feel like they are in a time warp.
Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti thought he was offering the key to rape prevention. “I’m not supposed to say this,” he told a group of students at an Osgoode Hall Law School safety forum on January 24, but to prevent being sexually assaulted, “Avoid dressing like sluts.”
Not necessarily about education per se, but important for anyone out there concerned about women’s rights and safety, regardless of your gender, politics, age, etc., etc. If you can’t attend an event, please spread the word about the issue.
This could be one of your students getting fingers pointed at them in the midst of sexual violence. No matter how they present themselves, no amount of clothing or makeup (how little or how much) could ever justify rape.
Usually the only people who see my lesson plans are the people I’m working with directly. Please feel free to make all the recommendations you want, and/or to take it and make it your own for your classroom use. The initial link is the static snapshot version; the editable version of the doc is here.
This lesson plan includes potential options for:
It can be used in several subject areas, though I didn’t specify how in the doc; but basically, if you just specify that the current events have to do with politics, or science, or health, etc., etc., it’s flexible.
Pieces I know need a little help with:
Differentiation: I included an option for students who may need additional help outlining the article for comprehension, but effective differentiation techniques eluded me in the first session of this particular lesson. In the second, students choose their own articles, so in a way the differentiation is built in — students would, I would think, choose articles they were comfortable reading.
It seems painfully bulky to me, but people in my program want to see every step of every other step, because many of our supervisors sincerely believe that a new teacher cannot be trusted not to forget to breathe if they have not written it down first. They’re just being cautious — and they do not like surprises. Let me tell you though, having to write out every single step made me terrified to ad-lib when a lesson was going sour until I realized “Hang the lesson plan; if the students aren’t learning it means the lesson plan isn’t working and I need to try something else.”
Newspapers in the Classroom: Picking the Right Paper
There are plenty of newspapers with extra components for use by teachers — weekly highlighted articles, lesson plans, maybe even sections written at a level more appropriate for young readers. But if you just want to pull in the local paper, there may not be any special programs attached.
Sometimes we can just go by general feel when trying to decide whether or not a piece of writing is at the right level for our students. If we want something more measured, however, and we’re not working with a publication that’s necessarily meant for the classroom, there are a few ways of going about it.
The two I’m using here are just estimations, and their results don’t actually match. They’re consistent, though — the first method is almost always about two reading levels higher than the second — so it gives you a general frame of reference. And, of course, these are good for more than just newspapers. Any text you can copy-paste (or type in) can be leveled.
What I do is go to the newspaper’s website and find either the article I’m specifically using that day in digital format, or, several related articles just to get an average reading level.
1. Leveling your Paper with Microsoft Word
This is for Word on Microsoft 7. It might actually be easier to change these settings on earlier versions; from what I remember, the “tools” area was much more accessible there.
Go to the Office button in the top left corner of Word. At the bottom of the drop-down menu are two small buttons — “Word Options” and “Exit Word.” Choose “Word Options.”
On the left are your categories; go to “Proofing.” Look for the third heading down in the section - “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word” - and check the last box that says “Show readability statistics.”
Now, when you spell-check a document, you’ll get an extra window at the end that will tell you your counts, averages, and readability. For example, Word tells me the Flesch-Kinkaid reading level of this blog post up to the beginning of the directions is grade 9.9.
You’ll see in a second, though, why you should take that with a grain of salt. (But hey. Apparently I could write these things for high schoolers!)
2. Leveling your Paper with Online Generators
There are a number of online tools with which to assess the readability of a text — just search “readability calculator” or “reading level generator” in Google. Some are more potentially accurate than others, and I’d recommend testing a few out before you pick one to stick with. These are the two I use to get a balanced number.
OKAPI! assesses the readability using the Dale-Chall index and will also underline difficult vocabulary, give a word-count at the end of each line of text, and, at the end of the text, specify the formula used to find the raw score and grade level. According to OKAPI!, the same entry as in Word scored on a 7th-8th grade level.
The Readability Calculator at Online-Utility.org gives you the approximate grade level based on multiple tests. This is what my sample looked like:
Coleman Liau index : 9.81 Flesch Kincaid Grade level : 10.43 ARI (Automated Readability Index) : 10.64 SMOG : 11.66
What makes this tool unique is that it also offers a list of sentences to consider revising in order to improve readability.
You might notice, by the way, that the Flesch Kincaid score I get from the Readability Calculator is not the same score that I got from Word. I don’t know exactly what it is that each does to get those scores, or how they come out differently, but it’s just another of those examples of YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
And lastly, for anyone who really wants to get into the nitty-gritty, I found this article that walks you through calculating the levels yourself, by hand. I personally don’t know who would have the time to do this on a regular basis, but I have to admit that doing it at least once sounds like it could be fun.
I got some great responses to the Newspapers in the Classroom post, and before I put up the lesson plan I’ve created (or, rather, while I try to figure out how to make a google doc accessible by link), I’m going to post your suggestions/answers/questions. Thanks to anyone who gave some feedback!
csmonitor answered: If you’re interested in using the Monitor in your classroom, we can hook you up. Head to our Tumblr and send us a note.
This is very, very cool, and though I don’t have a classroom of my own to use it in right now, I figured this would be good to know for anyone who does.
lessonsfroma4thgrader answered: My students are required to give me a “News Update” every week. Some weeks they have to write a summary, draw a picture, make a quiz, etc.
I love this idea! How does it work for you in terms of making time for it in the classroom every week? The biggest challenge I hear from other teachers is that, although things like this are great enrichment for the classroom, they don’t have the time in between all the things they have to teach. But then, I would imagine this activity would hit enough ELA and Social Studies essentials, including building good citizenship, that it would be justifiable.
Do you have a “News Update” bulletin board? Can we see pictures? May I steal this idea the second I have a classroom of my own?
I’m glad to see that there are so many papers out there that do things like this for teachers. Maybe we should start keeping a list of all the newspapers and news magazines that have resources specifically for the use of the publication in the classroom. If there’s any interest, I’ll try to figure that out. (For someone my age who wants to teach, certain aspects of technology are still embarrassingly elusive.)
ana-coluthia answered: I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for but it might be interesting to get students to find puns in newspaper headlines and articles.
I never would have thought of this on my own, but it could be a great activity when covering figurative language. Our local newspaper is terrible, but I’ll give it this - it could probably win an award for most bad puns crammed into the headlines of any single issue. If you’re working with ELL/ESL students I imagine this would also be very helpful in exploring the intricacies of the language.
Coming up next (I feel like a TV announcer), the lesson plan itself and some tips and tricks.
Hey all, I’d love to construct some more Grammar Games and the like but I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing in the classroom right now — at the moment, most of the districts here are in the middle of their state tests, and curriculum boils down to review. (Part of this is sheer curiosity — I love to know what people are doing in the classroom.)
What’s coming up? What do you plan to teach next? Or, for those who don’t necessarily have curriculum-planning power yet, what’s coming up next in your classroom?
In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.)
For some reason, I had been under the misconception at some point in my program that the school was paying for my tests.
This past week I found out that the fingerprinting for the Department of Education costs an additional $100 to send in, and that my certification application will cost me $50. I have no money left. I am lucky that I have a good line of credit, because by the time I have this certification I will have abused it to its last dollar. I would assume this isn’t an uncommon story, but I have yet to hear anyone in my program mention anything about the financial issues behind it. It may be that they planned for this ahead of time and have saved for it; many have more regular jobs and, for them, it may not be such a stretch. That, or they expected it. I was a late-comer to this game. I had no idea WHAT to expect in regards to the technicalities.
Yesterday I received a small scholarship with an award of excellence from my Psych department. It will be just enough to cover my fingerprinting and half my application fee.
McKinsey polled 900 top-tier American college students and found that 68 percent would consider teaching if salaries started at $65,000 and rose to a minimum of $150,000.
I have very mixed feelings on this. Part of me says, “This is a good shift in values.” But the rest of me says, “We don’t just want people at the top of their class. We want people that are good, passionate teachers. We want the people that would teach at low salaries if they could afford it, not people who are attracted for the money.”
I already see that here. My geographic area has some of the highest-paid teachers in the nation. Sometimes, it honestly disgusts me. It is not because teachers in general don’t deserve that money — but it is because, when everyone knows the salary and the benefits are so much better than other jobs in this area, people go into teaching that have no business being at the front of the classroom.
I’m not saying that there is a type of teacher that shouldn’t exist. That would be insinuating that I know what is best for every student, that there is a “right” way to teach, and that I am the one who gets to decide what that is. But if you are only here for the salary, if you make comments in your free time about hating your students, if you complain after being assigned a general/lower-level class for the first time in fifteen years by referring to them as “the dumb kids,” then you don’t deserve to be in front of the classroom. In other professions, maybe hating getting up for work in the morning can be a depressing reality. Teaching is too much like parenting for that to work. Imagine a parent waking up every morning wishing they didn’t have children, not wanting to see them anymore, wishing they’d done something else. We as a society would likely consider something horribly wrong there, and assume that in the end it will negatively effect those children in one way or another. Your students rely on you too much for you to be tired of seeing their faces every morning.
The first class of my Intro to Education course catered to a room full of nineteen-year-olds that were in the profession because their parents were in the profession - or their aunts and uncles or sisters and brothers or friend of the family - and they were told it was a stable, well-paying line of work. How do I know? Because within the first hour of class, thirty minutes was spent on the ways in which teachers could increase their salary and ultimately rise to the ranks of superintendents.
I apologize if these are strong feelings. I’m sure that they are, in part, due to seeing the profession from a very different and unfortunate place, geographically and (because of this) ideologically. If you poll my area you will most likely find very distinct opinions on teachers and their salaries and benefits packages and whatnot from the general population. I don’t know if this is an isolated thing, though I have heard that there is a similar problem in a few other tri-state pockets. (Just to clarify, I am in NY but not in NYC, that is a whole different world, profession-wise.) Not all, but many, of these teachers are the ones that politicians refer to when they talk about “bloated” salaries and tell horror stories. In other parts of the country people might be able to say “But that’s ridiculous,” but here, many people can look to a neighbor or a teacher in a friend’s child’s school or someone they know through their job and solemnly nod. Every teacher in my old high school who had been in the profession for more than fifteen years had a summer home — I am not exaggerating — and I found out recently that we are one of the poorest, lowest-performing districts in my area. Our teachers are also the least likely to compromise on anything, and have used the tactic of putting budgets to a vote over and over again until they pass while threatening parents with cutting all the extracurricular activities, etc. A couple of years ago, when a raise was not approved, most afterschool activities were canceled for nearly a year because the teachers would not stay after without compensation.
Again, I am not exaggerating, making things up, etc. I want respect for the profession. I want to be a part of this profession. I think it is a noble one, fueled by passion and the desire to make a difference in children’s lives, or at least that it can and should be.
There are also new teachers that work two jobs just to stay in the teaching profession. We have people like that too. But right now, the system in my area is dominated by people that bring a very poor reputation to the profession.
When I see the motivations of the people that were, at the start of the program, when it was still a competitive but strong outlook for those who made it into the jobs that remained, I sometimes find myself feeling appalled, disappointed, isolated, embarrassed, and understanding of the opinions of the people around me even if I don’t agree with them. There are some amazing teachers here. I am not on a holier-than-thou high-horse because I want to change lives and they’re in it for the packages.
Money is a natural motivator for job choice. Everyone wants to eat. Teachers should be able to live with less financial worry. But I don’t believe, I honestly don’t believe, that teaching should be a profession you go into for the money, even if the money is there. It may make it more attractive, but we need to be sure we are attracting people for whom the profession, the students, the purpose comes first, and the money second. Otherwise, I do think the students will suffer.
Prospective phys ed teacher walked us through what a gym class looks like, and did an excellent activity with Jack Prelusky’s poem “My Snake” where students used jump ropes (in our case, string) to make the letters of the alphabet. Great idea for learners who need that tactile reinforcement.
Prospective social studies teacher did a very interesting activity in which students would read summaries of each decade in American history, then try to match famous photos with the decade they thought they came from. Afterwards, the idea is to go over the symbolism of each photo and why they thought to match them with the decade. The overall theme, she said, was to help students grasp the idea that people tend to have images and events burned into their mind for certain times in their own history. Loved it. (I do hope someone warns her, however — even just for her own sanity — that there will definitely be students in her classes, even at the high school level, that don’t know the meaning of “systematic persecution” right off the bat.)
Learned a little more about baseball with a fun compound word activity that left most of us floundering. Are all those baseball terms really compound words? I think that sport is going a little overboard.
I’m writing up potential lesson plans for the peers in my Literacy Acquisition course to consider for using newspapers in the classroom — we have a lot of physical education majors in there, and I KNOW that they can make use of those, considering that I had to do newspaper article summaries whenever I missed gym for injuries. When I get the work done that I have to hand in, I may post a slew of those ideas up here, for anyone who’s interested. In the meantime, I’m wondering:
Who else uses newspapers in the classroom?
What’s your favorite activity/lesson for using them in your class?
Does anyone make it a goal to use them on a semi-regular basis?
Just in case I gave the wrong impression, some reasons why I love Elementary:
Every subject is awesome.
No, really, every subject. You get to be excited about every subject.
You can wear a costume to get a concept across and only be close to the lamest adult in the building — if it doesn’t make you the coolest.
Even into 6th grade, there are still some students that aren’t taller than you yet. (Only a few, at my height, but I’ll take what I can get.)
This is the beginning of these students’ academic careers. You can help put them on the right track to success. You can help them love school before they learn to think they hate it.
I’m not competing. Every age is great to teach for different people. High school teachers, I don’t know how you do it, that whole age range terrifies me. I just don’t want people to think, while I’m lamenting about middle school, that the Elementary Education degree wasn’t worth it — it is.
Never too late, but too late for this time around.
I love math. Love it. When B comes in for tutoring every week and takes out that textbook I am just filled with glee. Don’t understand why that formula makes a parabola? Let’s practice our order of operations skills, everybody take an x coordinate and solve for y and we’ll build one! Having trouble finding the surface area of a rectangular prism? Let’s see how many ways we can take apart a gift box!
But for most of high school and for the first two years of college, I thought I was the biggest mathematical failure on the planet. Things started out ok, but when no one could explain to me WHY a formula worked, or HOW they got that number, or what I did wrong in six pages — especially when accompanied by both honors math companions and one teacher in particular with “I don’t know what you did wrong here,” or “I don’t understand what you can’t understand about this.” — I was clearly convinced that I was an idiot. I was a straight-A student. I was on the honors track. I had honestly never had this problem before — and now that I was, no one could help me.
We’re not talking “Oh no, I got a B” level of distress here, either. We’re talking “You just failed your entire summer packet on circles, but I’m not going to tell you what you did wrong, because I’m giving you a second chance to figure it out, redo it, and hand it back to me.” We’re talking 76 on the regents. We’re talking 40s on in-class exams.
I was honestly convinced that I just wasn’t any good at math, and that I never could be.
That is such a big lie, guys. Everyone can be good at math. It is NOT a subject you can only get through if you have a natural talent. You do NOT need to rely on your scientific calculator for everything. In fact, that’s part of what made math, for me, impossible: how can you know you’re doing something wrong, how can you measure your own comprehension of a concept, if you can’t see what happened to give you the answer? If someone is only teaching a student how to use a calculator, I think they’re doing that student a great injustice.
Well, now I know better…with my Elementary Education degree, while everyone is looking for math teachers. Teachers-Teachers.com just left me a note in my inbox letting me know that the Recovery School District, the public school system in New Orleans, is looking for teachers. Breath-catching! Breath-holding! I loved working in New Orleans, please, give me a classroom there! Reading on! Math, science, special education, and foreign language.
I know in three years I can come back into the field, assuming the psych program I’m applying to accepts me for those three years. But I have got to tell you, there are days I wish so badly that I had known better. I don’t wish I’d known better about what would happen to the economy or to teachers or to teaching jobs — well, I mean, I wish that too. Everyone does. But what I mean is, I wish I knew that I loved math. I wish I knew that I was good at it. Because then, I would have gone into a math major with a degree in middle grades education.
In the meantime, I can take more math classes at a community college, I can sign up for the appropriate CST or Praxis II or whatever is available, and I can show someone three years from now that if they hire me, I’ll gladly attain a supplementary certificate and go through the hoops to get that extension.
…well, in the meantime meaning in the future. In the actual meantime, I’m going to finish my grad school app for my “fallback plan” and wonder if I’m making the right choice. Because once I do this, even if a teaching job does crop up, I’m committed. Three years. Just three years.
But maybe this is a good thing. Because maybe I was meant to be in a math classroom. Or at least some of my students seem to think so.
Over three years of working in the classroom, I’ve had too many students who ended up living in shelters or motels. So tonight’s episode definitely struck a chord.
While looking for a screencap from the episode, I also found this:
In the surprising Star article, Monteith [“Finn”], who dropped out of school in the ninth grade and subsequently worked various blue-collar jobs in his native Calgary, revealed that he nearly became homeless while trying to pursue an acting career in Vancouver, Canada.
Somewhere a student watched this and felt a kinship to that character (“Sam,” above) that I wish no student would ever have to feel. But I have to give Glee a thumbs up for covering a little bit of everything, even if it isn’t always covered in a way that everyone finds perfect, and even if it’s sometimes resolved a little too easily with a song and dance number.
Why another game so soon? Because it’s beautiful out, there’s not much school time left, and it gives me a twenty-minute reprieve from the draft of a twenty-page paper.
Like the idea of giving your kids the chance to run around while reinforcing important grammatical concepts? Check out the other game posted so far, “End Your Sentence!” (Let’s give it a little extra oomph.)
Again, these are untested. Please put in your two cents if you try them, so we can make them better together!
It’s suggested that your students have a basic understanding of at least one one-word modifier — whether adjective or adverb — though the best game would use adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and verbs for a more challenging and thorough review that better demonstrates’ students’ knowledge of what really modifies what.
Note: This particular game doesn’t have a buddy system/read aloud system integrated because it uses single words as opposed to sentences; my feeling is that single words are much easier to pre-assign based on students’ reading levels. It might be beneficial if working in a class of varied reading levels, especially if working in an inclusion class, to review all of the words (including and especially their parts of speech) you’ll be using before the game, indoors, either as a class or as an individual or partner/small group activity without letting the students catch on that you’ll be using them in a game. In fact, I highly recommend it.
You will need:
- clearly printed or typed adjectives, adverbs, or both, enough for half the class, large enough for other students to read
- clearly printed or typed nouns, verbs, or both, enough for half the class, large enough for other students to read
- a big enough space to run
Review parts of speech and model, all at once! Bring up four students and allow them to read the word on each of their signs. Have the class review the part of speech of each word as the students tape the signs to their shirts. Review modifiers — which parts of speech go together? Can a verb modify a noun? Can an adjective modify a verb? Explain that students have to find a word partner so that they can make interesting pairs, by linking arms. Who will link arms? (adjective and noun and/or adverb and verb)
Model this as many times as necessary until your students catch the drift of the game. Have students pass out signs, or have students pass the stack around in small groups and take the top sign, or whatever other method works most efficiently for your class.
Give students a moment to read their word to themselves before taping it to their own shirts.
Tell students to spread out and keep their word covered up so that no one can see it. This way, no one can plan to rush for their best buddy who also happens to have the part of speech they need. This can also be avoided by careful planning in word-assignment.
Give them the go-ahead! Let them run like crazy to find the proper part of speech to pair up with. In this round I’ve specified one-one pairs, but if you want to get adventurous and go for multiple modifiers, have at it.
When all the students have paired up, give them a second to catch their breath and have each pair read themselves out loud. This can go on for as many rounds as you have words and time.
Mad Libs variation
Want to make the combinations potentially hilarious to read, or, reinforce which parts of speech modify which without requiring students to identify them independently? Try this:
Instead of one-sided word signs, create folded signs with the part of speech on the outside and a word on the inside (for example, “noun” when folded over, and “dog” when unfolded).
Have students pair up according to the parts of speech on the outside of the folded paper without looking at the word inside.
When students are all matched up, have them unfold their signs and read the words inside in their proper pairs. If you choose some really madcap words to begin with, the pairs are bound to elicit some laughter.
Unfortunately, because of my limited resources and the current climate, I’m crossing my fingers for an option to work out, that option being my best, and one that could remove me from the classroom for two full years, plus this next coming year if I cannot find a position subbing, though I’m being told that’s unlikely. But if all works out, I’ll be pursuing a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.
I’ll still be posting about education, writing lesson plans, and reading all the wonderful information out there for teachers, by teachers. A teacher never stops teaching and never stops learning about teaching, even when they may not have a classroom.
But it DOES mean I’m going to be dropping more psych background at the blog, if I think it’s going to be useful for educators. I hope that’s alright. And hey, if you have any questions about psych-related stuff, please feel free to ask. As much as I’m apologizing for clogging your feeds with information you may not find pertinent, I really do love geeking out about psych. Like crazy. (Ha! See what I did there?)
Nice blog. I am a former teacher and just wanted to point out that it is shocking that sex in any form is a taboo subject in a day and age when it definitely should not be. The amount of fear surrounding the idea of talking about sex is frightening. I wish you the best. You will add immeasurable value to the lives of many.
Thank you. It seems like it would be shocking, but in psychology terms, the United States is considered a “semi-restrictive” society in regards to sexuality. These are “societies in which pressures against sexual activity exist but are largely ignored. …there is formal prohibition, but no enforcement” (from my notes). It means that teachers have very little leeway in talking to their students about these things.
The biggest problem is that, while we’re also a semi-restrictive society in terms of sexual values, our sexual climate is considered “sex-charged,” in which sexuality is nearly constantly present in our media, whether it be in news, movies, music, or advertising, and is frequently graphic.
So in other words, everybody’s talking about it, but we’re not supposed to talk about it. It’s a problem not-even-waiting to happen.
Frightening, incredibly. But the most frightening thing to me is that it seems like it would require an overall cultural shift for this nation to even consider enacting better policy and education regarding these issues. When it comes to how rapidly things are declining on this front, sometimes a drop in a bucket just doesn’t make a big enough splash, and then what do you do?
I take your last line as a highest compliment, but also would like to extend that to anyone taking the time to read these kinds of blogs, educate themselves, communicate about their work, and make themselves better teachers.
This “experiment” idea was spurred by an 8th grader who came in today with an Earth Science exam and couldn’t answer a question that should have been very basic to someone who read their text.
"Ok, be honest," I asked her, "Did you read your textbook?"
I proceeded to tell her that in my classes at college, I’ve tried not reading the textbook once or twice, and that it left me completely clueless and failing my exams — and that it never really works out well. Oh, the raised eyebrows at the idea of a teacher once trying the same tricks that they were trying.
What was she going to do, I asked when she left?
"Read the textbook."
She has a state test tomorrow. I can’t even begin to imagine what will happen when she sits down to take it, knowing she hasn’t read the textbook even once.
What I would like to do one day with my own class...
This might actually require IRB approval if you use the word “experiment”, but to me it would be worth it. I’m sure you could get away with calling it an “exercise.”
Give students a set untold amount of time in which you don’t inquire as to whether they’re reading their textbooks. Just assign the readings, and wait.
Then, give a quiz with information that they would have read in the textbooks that is basic enough to stick. Inform them that this is a class experiment, and that they are not to put their name on their papers.
At the end of the quiz, include this question:
Did you read your textbook? Y N
Plot the scores on a scatter plot, with one color for students who read the textbook and another for students who didn’t. Show the class.
Repeat. See how many students start reading the textbook.
I’d be curious to see if witnessing a more concrete representation of how reading the textbook helps their grades will improve their chances of reading the textbook.