Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Six-Word Memoirs

Many of my English teacher friends, may have used a lesson plan about creating six-word memoirs with their students.  I took that same concept and used it while teaching Meisner with my Theatre Students.... I had them create a six-word memoir about who they are - summing up how they would describe themselves more inadvertently.  It turned into a cool lesson and opportunity for self-expression.  Here are some of the ones I used across my classes:

Starting to climb, afraid to rise.

Ready to become greatness and freedom.

Laughter contained in soul-searching pain.

Wild imaginiation with planned spontaneity embedded.

Musical vixen fearful of our desires.

Alone in thought, alive with friends.

Captivated mind.  Beautiful heart.  Free soul.

It's simple!  Teach your students to create simple, sincere six-word memories and discuss WHY the students see themselves this way.  OR, have them write them on a notecard and stick them up on the board, then have classmates guess which ones belong to which people - just be sure to let them know this is the plan if you're making their notecards public reading.  Happy writing!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Classroom Blog 101: Ten Tips to Get You Started!

A blog can be a great resource for any teacher.  Whether it's a classroom blog for all students, or more informational based for parents, a blog can be a great tool for communication.  Here are ten tips I have on creating and maintaining a good classroom blog.

1.  Find a template or background for free online.  You can use the ones provided with this host site, but it's fun to find cuter, more versatile ones where you really like the look and feel.  Some favorite sites: hotbliggityblog.com, thecutestblogontheblock.com, and shabbyblogs.com. 

2.  Keep it simple to start!  There's no need to add a million pictures or gadgets to your blog, especially when just beginning.  However, feel free to experiment as you grow more confident. 

3.  Keep your blog up to date!  It's no good if you post about a project's due date or try-outs for the Fall musical after the time of these events.  Keep the news current and easily accessible to readers.

4.  Check spelling, grammar, and word-use before publishing - especially as a teacher.  It can be really awkward to explain certain word foul-ups because you didn't proof-read.  Also, you want to appear (and be) professional.

5.  Cite sources!  Just like writing a paper, you need to give credit where credit is due.  If you find a cool idea give a shout out to the source site or a add a link.  If someone else creates an entry, have them include their name if they'd like to.

6.  Save Often.  There's a great auto-saver on blogger, and I rarely have needed to save my work on here.  However, there have been times when something goes wrong and I regretted not saving manually.  So, just to be safe, SAVE.

7.  Get written student AND parent permission to post any students photo or information on a classroom blog.  This is a MUST.  No matter how chill parents may say they are, written permission forms cover you legally in all situations. 

8.  Be careful of what you write on your blog.  You're audience can become those you did not intend it to be, so be cautious.  Also, just be extra cautious of how you write/say certain things.  You could make it a private blog, but that doesn't always work for your class.

9. Use it as your classroom website!  A blog is a great way to communicate with students and parents, and could easily be used as your class site. 

10.  Have students create personal bios for themselves and spotlight a different student each week on your blog!  This would be fun for students, can make a good English or creative writing assignment (so, it may be cross-curricular for you...), and teaches you and the other students in class about the individual.  Again, make sure students and parents are okay with this and sign a written permission form. 

Anyone else have great tips for a classroom blog?

Students on a Quest!

Webquests can be a fabulous way to incorporate technology, research skills, and cooperation into you classroom, as well as add a change of pace to your normal lessons.  Here are some tips to help you create your first webquest!

1. Find a cool template online.  There are really cool webquest formats you can download online that will make it more intriguing to students.

2.  Be realistic about time.  It will require time for students to finish their webquest, so figure out how much time you'd like to spend and create the quest accordingly.

3.  Don't be too tricky.  I hate it when tests, webquests, worksheets, etc. try to trick students.  Make the questions straight forward enough so that they don't loose a ton of time second guessing or re-doing their answers.

4.  Add activity links into your webquest!  Liven up your webquest.  Have students complete these as part of the quest.  If all students are doing is reading a sheet of paper and answering questions, it will grow rather monotonous.

5. Add quotes and/or pictures!  Again, liven this quest up!  Add something more for students to see or read that remove them from the same activity over and over again.

6. Base the direction of your webquest off of the following questions: What is it that you want the learner to know, understand and be able to do at the end of this WebQuest?  What concepts should they understand? What skills should they have?

7. Gauge interest off of your interest.  Let's be real - if you think this webquest is boring, students will definitely think this webquest is boring.

8. Make the introduction attention-grabbing!  If students aren't hooked in the first few seconds doing this webquest, they are not likely to suddenly snap into interest.  The introduction should make students excited about the webquest.

 9.  Allow students to partner-up.  This is more using the webquest than creating the quest.  However, I'm going to add it anyway... Have students do longer webquests in teams and simply monitor to make sure that one person is not taking on the majority of the work. 

10. Use your resources.  If you need ideas, check out Webquest.org to gain inspiration and find additional tips.  

Any other tips or websites you've found helpful in creating a great webquest?  Post ideas or links below!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Behavior Contract

Hopefully, we teach in classes where students have no behavior issues at all.  However, being realistic, we know that we may run into some behavior issues.  If it becomes a more severe issue, a behavior contract could be a possible solution and motivator for certain students. 

Here is an example of a contract that I have created!  You are more than welcome to use this for your own classroom.

Does anyone else have other behavior contracts that work well with your students?

Research on Context

It's not always easy to find out about our students and their family backgrounds, but knowing this information can really allow us to tap into their personal funds of knowledge. Hopefully, we can do this through forming natural, appropriate relationships with our students and build that trust. If it's tough with a group of students, here are some ideas to use in your classroom to help you get to know your students and their family backgrounds a little bit better.

Research on Context Assignment Ideas 

1 – I will find out about a student’s neighborhood by using specific journal prompts.

Journal Responses: Use the following journal responses to find out about a student’s neighborhood.
• “Write about your neighborhood and home using descriptive terms and imagery?”
• “What do you see outside your kitchen window?
You can do so through poetry, free-write, or in a story format.”

2 – I will find out about a student’s family history through a “Student of the Week” presentation.

Student of the Week: Each week a different student will create a short power point (5-8 slides) telling about themselves and including some family history or genealogy.
Tell us something about what is important to you. For example, you may choose from the following:
- Your family.
- Your family’s history.
- A story from your life that helped make you the person you are.
- The person you most admire and why.
- Any other relevant topic with homeroom teacher approval.

 3 – I will find out about a student’s family history and culture through a “Who Am I?” Paper Bag Activity.

 “Who Am I?” Paper Bag Activity: Make a collage on the outside of a paper bag with at least ten pictures that represent the outer you – things that people would outwardly see. Inside are five items that tell us about where you come from – i.e. Family history, culture, etc. On separate note cards, explain each item inside the bag and how it relates to you and your family. You will present the outside of the bag, but only need to share one of items inside of the bag.

4 – I will find out basic background about my students and their families by having them write an autobiography.

Autobiography: Have students write an autobiography about themselves, including details about their family.

5 – I will find out about a student’s family history, educational background, and work history by having them create a family crest.

Family Crest: Students will draw their own family crest using symbol ideas from below of things to include within the crest. Then, students will write a description of the crest and what each part of the drawing represents. • Symbols that depict: What your family and you enjoy doing, your parents alma maters, family businesses, beliefs, interests, favorite foods, where your ancestors are from, an animal that depicts your family, etc.

6 – I will find out about the educational background of a student’s parents by having them conduct an interview about write about their parent’s favorite educational experiences.

Educational Biography: Students will interview their parents about their favorite educational experiences (elementary, secondary, college, etc.) growing up. Write about at least three different educational experiences that your parents had that contributed to the person they are today.

7 – I will find out about each student’s family work history and educational background by having a “Career Day.”

Career Day: Have students work out their presentation skills as they introduce their parent or guardian and tell a little bit about what they do for a living. Then, have the each parent give a short presentation about their occupation, and how they needed to prepare for that occupation.  

What are other assignments you can give to get to know your students and their family backgrounds?

Friday, March 16, 2012

What's In a Poem?

So, I'm in my methods class for Middle/High School English and have been digging in pretty deep trying figure out what I want to do in the classroom with the core curriculum I've been given.  I actually really like the core - a lot.  It gives a good amount of direction on the skill set that students need, but also enough freedom to allow teachers room to teach in a way they enjoy.  Plus, I'm really into the idea of a National Core, even if states maintain the majority of rights in school, because it allows students who move around or transfer to a new place opportunities to not be way ahead or lag behind.  I moved a LOT growing up... I know how both sides of that feels.  Thus, I like the common core.

Anyway, this is not about the common core.  Haha!  I know - I go on a lot of tangents... I can't help it.  Eh!  I want to actually talk about my English methods class and the focus we've been pulling on poetry.  Some teachers love it and other hate it... I'm one who loves it!  I know that not all of my students will feel the same initially, but my goal is to have them leave my class feeling that way when we're through with the unit I'm creating.  I'm being a bit tricky in that I want to start off the unit not letting them know it's about poetry...  There's a lesson plan below to start off my unit with and I'm hoping that it will be fun and effective.  Let me know what you think!

Subject Matter/Grade Level
7th Grade/English

W3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
W4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
W5: With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
L3: Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
L4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 7 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
L5: Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
R4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
R5: Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning.
RI4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
Learning Guide Objectives
-          Students will know more vocabulary terms and proper writing structures.
-          Students will know the definition and purpose of figurative language, among other poetic conventions.
-          Students will know the different forms of poetry that exist.
-          Students will be able to use creative thinking skills and abstract thinking in writing.
-          Students will be able to write different forms of poetry for fun and to convey a message.
-          Students will be able to decipher conventions in poetic writing, understand word use and meaning, and deconstruct poetic structures.
Students will be able to use technology to enhance their writing and presentation skills.
Essential Questions
1 – What makes a well-written, creative, intriguing poem?
2 – How can I use poetry as a tool of communication?
90 minutes
(10 minutes @ beginning of class for starter – 5 minutes at the end of class for reflection and clean-up)
Prior Knowledge
Basic writing skills and knowledge of certain literary conventions (alliteration), though we will go into more depth within this unit/lesson. 
Phase I: Exploration and Explanation

Approximate Time to Complete
20 minutes
-     Give each students a blank piece of paper and have them draw their childhood “map” (or home) – what they remember from age five or six.
-       After they have been given adequate time, have students write at least five (but can be however many they would like) “I Remember…” statements about their childhood and/or where they grew up, using their drawing as inspiration.
Phase II: Guided Practice

Approximate Time to Complete
20 minutes
-          Talk about/share some of the statements that were written and talk about literary writing tools.  What they have written is a free-verse poem.  Explain that not all poems need to rhyme or have a set structure, though many do.  Poetry is simply about expression and can come in many forms.
-     If you're feeling brave, incorporate lines from your favorite (appropriate) raps or song lyrics.  Use artists that students might be familiar with and talk about the ways this is bound or free verse.  This can make poetry more relatable to students.  Point out how an artist uses alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyme, personification, etc.  (If you need ideas, Jason Mraz can be a great example!)
Phase III: Independent Practice & Assessment

Approximate Time to Complete
35 minutes
(Assessment: Due date for project and final draft of poem due at the end of the unit)
-         -     Rework and rewrite poems.  If needed, you can have students write a few sentences for each “I  remember” statement that feels incomplete, expanding on each individual statements idea.   Have opportunities for peer-review time, teacher evaluations, and individual writing, etc.

         -   When poem is complete the following project: put your poem to a visual – a video, dance, picture taken/drawn, write the poem into a form or image, etc. 

         -       Assessment: Rubric for project and poem - clear defined wants and needs to earn each grade.  This will go into their final poetry book and portfolio.  (I will attach the rubric later on the blog!)

     -         Students must only write 3 “I Remember” statements
     -         Make accommodations within the rubric section for the final poem – i.e. detail with literary conventions
Materials for the 90-minute lesson
          -          Blank paper
     -        Colored Pencils
     -          Lined Paper
     -          Literary Tool Hang-ups
     -          Peer/teacher evaluation sheets (poem rubric)
     -          Final Project rubric
Materials for this lesson
     -          Blank paper
     -          Colored Pencils
     -          Lined Paper
     -          Literary Tool Hang-ups

(What went well?  What would you change next time?)

Thoughts?  What are some things that you have done in your classroom to teach poetry, or increase student appreciation for poetry?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Classroom Managment Plan

Classroom Management Plan

Classroom management is the most essential element in creating a positive, productive learning environment.  The strategies and systems used within a classroom must provide consistency in procedures, expectations and consequences for behavior. When students clearly understand what is expected of them as a class and as an individual, academically and behaviorally, they are able to feel comfortable and successful within the context of the classroom.  

As educators, we can construct and maintain good classroom management by:

·         Teaching students to live and work by the lifelong guidelines (trust, truthfulness, active listening, no put-downs, and contribution by giving one’s personal best) so they will be more engaged in the classroom and feel comfortable expressing themselves in all situations.
·         Creating clearly defined procedures in the classroom, such as arrival (what to bring, etc.), daily routines (starters, etc.), turning in and receiving back papers, clean-up and exit routines, etc.
·         Allowing students to have a voice within the classroom by creating, signing, and posting their own “essential agreements” for classroom behavior and expectations.  As students are able to communicate their expectations, they feel ownership of their classroom and become invested, which generates respect and self-discipline. 
·         Establishing clear expectations and consequences regarding academics and behavior for the classroom.
·         Being consistent in our routines, rewards, and consequences. 

As a teacher implements these strategies and procedures into the daily classroom routine, a bridge of trust develops between student and educator. When mutual trust is evident in a classroom, students are more willing to respect a teacher’s guidelines, as well as their peers.  Students then take responsibility for their own actions and are able to look at direction as an impetus for growth.  

What is your plan or philosophy regarding classroom management?  What are some tips you might offer for better classroom management to a first year teacher, or a teacher in general?