Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Like yesterday: after school, I did laundry, worked out, and entered some more grades, ending with Heroes. Good job, me.
Grades are due Thursday. Today at school I bubbled in the comments and midterm grades. Right now I have just finished updating the last grade stuff and so, if I were so inclined, could sit at home bubbling the grades to finish everything up. Yeah, well. Actually, first I need to find where I put the final grades from first quarter. Any ideas?
We are slowly making progress with our media unit. My middle class appears to be utterly incapable of behaving themselves. So three of the last four days I've seen them, comma time! Interestingly, that they can handle. They all get to work fairly quietly and industriously. Weird, right?
The other two classes are doing better, though. We finished up newspapers and moved into magazines. The workbook I'm using has excellent worksheets that help the students break down and analyze the sample articles. Tomorrow--cross your fingers--we'll actually get to handle real magazines. I'll be hoping that they can keep track of different sections and amounts of ads, photos and features, and the like. To attempt a prevention of trouble, I told the classes that the students who work hard and behave well will be together, working with the magazines, while the students who do not work or behave well will be separated and working with commas. They were like, a-ha/uh-oh.
On Friday, my afternoon class and I had a good time. To help them in identifying f!gurative l#nguage, I played them Simon & Garfunkel's I Am a Rock. (You may remember this from a post almost exactly a year ago.) I played the first stanza and chorus a whole bunch of times, and each time more and more kids starting bopping and moving to the music, and then even singing along. It was quite entertaining. Especially when a kid asked amid the din, "What kind of music is this?" And another kid answered, "Hip-hop." I couldn't help laughing at that!
Um, so I think it's Tuesday now. My prints from Amsterdam arrived! They are so pretty, I want to show them off all over again.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Saturday, Jan 27.
8th Ave just south of 14th, on the A/C/E. Right next to a hip chocolate shop.
I'll be there 9ish. Look for the ubiquitous black NYCTF bag.
Check in the awesome back room too, just in case.
Hope to see you there!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Also, I let them do some interesting, investigative work. Each group got a New York Times, and they had to figure out how it was organized, and why (which they totally understood right away--yay!), then make a list of sections. We had to discuss how you can tell what a 'section' is. (A lot of students wanted Weather to be a section, even though it's a single page.) They got that there was a title on the front page, and all the articles dealt with the topic, and as I kept prodding them, someone finally noticed the letters and numbers in the corners. So at least they learned that valuable life skill.
I had to explain the "Metro" section--that it's not a section all about the train. (And do you know that when I asked my last class about it today, more than one of them said it WAS about the train?) I asked where Superman lived. "Metropolis!" they chorused. What was a Greek city called? They didn't know that yet, but it's a polis. "Metropolis" just means "city." So what about the word "Metropolitan"? Related to the city, and when people say "the metropolitan area" it means the city and the nearby areas too. So, in other words, what would they call the Metro section? Local news!
We also talked about 'importance.' I asked them to think about what is important, according to the newspaper, and how you can tell. Eventually they saw that the 'important' news was in the front, and the 'less important' stuff was toward the back.
Today we discussed a little bit more of that. I introduced them to the terms 'hard news' and 'soft news' and they had to look in their papers for three examples of each. They saw that the hard news is facts, while soft news has opinions.
They worked on a handout which showed two brief articles, and asked them to think about the main idea and what kind of news it was, and to prove it.
It seemed to go fairly well.
Except for the middle class today. Once they all got newspapers, they were all calling all over the place, and playing with the paper and clearly not being on task. I didn't want to deal with trying to corral them again and it was clear that they could not, as a large group, handle doing open hands-on activities.
So guess what I did? I removed the privilege of that hands-on activity. I gave them ten seconds to get all the desks into rows, and I made them take out the class set of grammar texts and we began to work on commas (which they all need to work on anyway). We just got the first exercise done, the dates and place names. (And they had all forgotten what a proper noun was, lazy uncapitalizing all over the place. Shame!)
We will continue with the grammar for at least a day, and if they work hard and quietly, then we will get back to the media stuff. But I will be very stingy with hands-on activities, and will pull them in a moment if I need to.
It's a shame, because the next activity should be really interesting. I want them to investigate the economic reality of newspapers, and count the ads in each section, comparing different sections (I have no idea what they'll find, but I have a hunch there will be something interesting to note), and also keeping track of what kinds of products or services are advertised where, and how often.
Very soon I do want to get into magazines as well. I've already got a big stash of magazines from myself and from last year's students. They can investigate the elements of magazines and look at ads and reviews, and then we can get into who owns what, and best of all, the ad types and techniques. That's my favorite!
Oh, so when the middle class left, I had them leave the desks in rows. When the afternoon class came in and sat down, I told them that the previous class couldn't handle the fun activity and so got to do grammar. I told them that they would have ONE chance to be working hard, cooperating, and on task.
Then, because I was cranky and also itchy to do something, I let the good tables start, very obviously. "I see that Table 4 is all quiet and ready, so they're going to start the activity right away."
I must say that I was happy with the class and their work/behavior, perhaps the warning at the beginning worked, or maybe the individual start times meant more kids wanting to participate and be on task (and those sometimes-lazy ones were on task! woo!), or maybe I was too worn out to be too harsh on them.
It's really hard to take each day one at a time, especially when different parts of the day require different energy levels and quick thinking and adaptation. The kids laugh when I gester vaguely and say things like, "Okay, gather the...thingamajigs at the...whatever-it's-called," but they sure know exactly to do--pile their notebooks at their tables. I'm too harried to always consume energy in recalling the precise names of things. Bah!
Monday, January 22, 2007
You know how I have a high-level class (by which I mean that they're on grade level and they work hard), and two low-level classes? And how the low level classes are chattier?
Well, apparently that gets magnified, doubled, whatever, after the test.
Today we began our new unit. I used a great media literacy workbook to create today's introductory lesson. Here's what we did:
1. You have a message you need to get to one person. In groups, brainstorm a list of all the ways you can communicate a message to that person.
2. Share: Things like email, call, pass a note, text message, message in a bottle, etc. Many groups knew about carrier pigeons! I was very surprised. Although later I realized that Harry Potter uses that basic concept. Never mind.
3. Now you want to reach a group of people, say, between ten and one hundred people. In groups, brainstorm a list to reach that small group.
4. Share: posters, flyers, loudspeaker, etc.
5. Let's expand the number of people to up to a few thousand. New list, with group.
6. Share: blimp, local paper, billboards, etc.
7. Now, let's get that message to as many people as possible--like millions of them. Brainstorm new list with group.
8. Share: tv, newspaper, magazines, music, internet, blah.
9. Blah blah, this is mass media!
There was supposed to be a bit more, but my last two classes didn't have time to finish even that amount.
Notice that every few minutes, they had a chance to talk in groups. Notice that they STILL didn't have time to finish, because they were TALKING and making NOISE when it was time to be quiet so we could share. GAH.
I tried to tell myself that it could be so much worse. The noise that bothers me wouldn't bother most teachers. Most of the noise was coming from students who meant well, sort of; they were just calling out. But there was also noise that were boys talking to each other or just literally making noise. And there were too many kids talking. And that bugs me. And I had to keep stopping and waiting and doing the quiet signal. And then it kept being noisy. And then when I took off class points and table points, they LAUGHED. Laughed! Can you believe the nerve? Assholes!
I really wanted to make this unit fun and very group involved, so that they could get out their energy but still be able to focus, when it's time to focus.
But if they can't do that, that makes me want to take it all away. It also makes me want to put the desks in rows and eliminate the group aspect altogether.
GAH! I don't want to give up, but I don't want to put up with this for the next five months. What if it gets worse?! Ack!
Friday, January 19, 2007
Wow! Real snow! What a treat. And shock.
There, black and white makes it much prettier.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Also, I got to bring some more teachers to the bookroom, and they each found a small box worth of books to take back to their rooms with them. Hurrah!
Somehow, I also found the drive to write up some great plans. Double hurrah! Next week for reading, to ease us back into the swing of things, we will do a short mini-lesson (because it's review!) on figurative language, two per day. Then they will read their books and note down the examples they find. I was thinking that the week after that, we'll practice making connections for a couple days, and then making predictions, and then, oh shoot, I forgot the rest. But I'll figure it out. :)
There's a pile great media workbooks in the bookroom. I started flipping through it and found that it had different units for each form of mass media, and included information and activities. Score! In my notes, I condensed the first two (newspapers and magazines) and fashioned those into three to four days of 'writing' workshops. That will bring us into the types of advertising for the next week, the third week we'll specifically look at race and color in the media, and the fourth week we'll be narrow it down to civil rights ads.
And my friend found some fantastic activities in a vocabulary workbook, including a big crossword that involves finding antonyms, synonyms, and homophones! Awesome. That's going to be the main activity for tomorrow, because it will be fun and will help get the kids thinking about words. We'll be jumping back into vocabulary next week, and I think I might do word games for warm ups and see how that goes.
With this RIDICULOUS testing schedule, it's kind of like having two years in one. So next week, we start anew, and we get to have fun and do projects! I'm all over that, and I think the kids will do well. Triple hurrah!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
The above isn't totally true, though. I thought I'd let my kids play educational games, but I changed my mind. Yesterday I had a bunch of homework to hand back, and I gave each kid their portfolios to look at, and evaluate their progress. I don't think it really worked like I wanted to, but at least they got to see their work and their grades.
And then thinking about the various skills in which my students are lacking, and thus the skills I will get to return to or begin working on--reading, parts of speech, sentence structure, reading, spelling, vocabulary, READING, writing in paragraphs, writing full essays, and you guessed it, reading--I didn't want to give up the class periods with my lower level classes. So today we reviewed vocabulary and homophones. It's a start. We'll continue with that type of thing on Friday.
Though we're beginning a media literacy unit (apparently using the one I drafted last year! woo!), I am excited, though nervous, about doing some real catch-up, basics work. We WILL be doing solid reading periods where the students actually read for at least 15 minutes. I'm not going to stress about lessons, per se, for that. Maybe I'll do those fluffy note type lessons ("tag the text" "put a question mark next to something you don't understand" blah blah)(and okay, I've never done those, but they're quick and some say they can aid in comprehension, or at least aid in paying attention, which is the bigger worry). But I want the kids to read.
I'm even contemplating centers. For reals this time, yo. Though, more for writing than reading. Maybe. Perhaps.
One of the most exciting things about the bookroom (I say "one" because each thing is really exciting to me, cause I'm a dork) is the discovery of a three brand new boxes of audio books, and corresponding actual books. So we have multiples of a number of classic titles like The Giver, Holes, Bud, Not Buddy, etc. We also have one class set of The Westing Game, which I may not-so-stealithy conquer for my own classroom.
Tomorrow is our grade's Book Three, and some assembly, and I'm caught up with grading for now, so maybe I'll use my time tomorrow to further develop the media stuff, and figure out how exactly to tie in some civil rights stuff, and write up some 'plans' for reading stuff. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
First, I say we have a big teacher-blogger gathering this Saturday, to celebrate a)the end of the t3st, and b)making it through half the year. Maybe the Art Bar in the West Village, around 10pm Saturday. Let's all bond and imbibe alcohol!
Second, the summer travel group. I'm going to Australia as a teacher leader. My friend is going to be a leader with a group going to the UK. And they need more leaders! The obligations include group meetings once a month until June, and three weeks traveling and supervising the students (leaving sometime in July). There is no pay/salary, but there's also no cost. Email me if you're interested!
Monday, January 15, 2007
Oh, brother, PLEASE! Are you kidding with this?
I uploaded another picture, without glasses, face angled off to the side. Thankfully, no MEN on the list this time. Now the number one person I look like is BEYONCE (PS, shut up, Beyonce. I will forever go TO THE RIGHT, TO THE RIGHT, to forever avoid you and your repetitive 'songs'). And every other equally-unlikely person on the list (Grace Kelly and Raquel Welch!?) was also facing the same angle.
Now it's just laughable. DUH, stupid website. You suck.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
You are Hulk
|You are a wanderer with|
Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...
This is the book closet, and this is the impressive 'after' picture. I forgot to take a before picture, but there were two old doors on the left, and piles of boxes on other boxes. You couldn't get more than three or four semi-steps into the room. I had to step on boxes and then step on that old card catalog, and turn sideways and suck in to get to the back. But now all the reading books (all brand new l!t c!rcle books! in so many boxes!) are out, and the next step (because there will always be more) will be organizing all the t3sting materials in this room (because there's a ton in the other room, and it would make a huge difference to get it out of there).
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Oude Kerk, I think.
One of the hostel kitties. Cute!
I went because I felt like I had to. When I saw the line, I very seriously considered just going to the gift shop in Museumplein instead. It was drizzly and waiting alone is really boring and lonely. Although I eavesdropped on a French family standing nearby. And they offered free hot cocoa. But I didn't get any, because I'm not sure why.
Then the stupid museum was really freaking crowded and I was irritably elbowing my way through the throngs to move along to the next room.
That famous model ship that actually wasn't a ship.
Something I didn't take pictures of, but actually found quite interesting, was the porcelain room. First the collection showed some Chinese vases and candle things and that sort. But then, in the 1700s a civil war in China meant that nothing was imported. So some factories decided to make their own version, and that's how Delft earthenware, ceramic and porcelain got started.
Did I post this before? This little Dutch girl was too cute. I had sat down to rest on a bench, and saw this tiny girl with a pacifier, grunting and stomping to get her father's attention. She clearly wanted him to take her on these round bars. He ignored her, so she walked over, pulled on his arm, grunting in a way that clearly said, "Daddy, come over here!" He finally noticed and allowed himself to go in that direction, but he didn't go far enough. She stood under the rings, stomping more, and longingly lifting her hands up over her head, clasping and unclasping them, to show what she wanted to do. Eventually he capitulated to her unspoken but strong demands, and he lifted her up. She grasped the rings like an old pro, and oh, how she giggled in sheer delight! And then he had the idea to flip her over, and that was just too much for her. The pacifier fell out in her laughter and happiness. Each time she was set back on the ground, she looked back up at the rings, with longing, as if they were the most amazing thing in the world, and why wasn't she up there again?
I shivered when walking through the doorway, both trying and avoiding putting myself in Anne's place. The stairs were even steeper than in other Amsterdam staircases. Thinking about the scared people treading quietly up those very same stairs...again, surreal and emotional. And then seeing the living room's measurement notes on the girls, and Anne's collection of pictures glued to the wall, tears came to my eyes. These were real people, who lived right here, experiencing something that never should have happened, and then they died. And too many other real but nameless (to us) people also had to hide and get deported to concentration camps, and I still wish that we could make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Except it's still happening, all over the world.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The bookroom is DONE!
All the novels and textbooks have been noted and counted!
It's not actually done, of course, because I still need to do some serious cleaning and a lot more organizing, but that has to wait until there are fewer books in there. Because right now there are still piles and more piles, on the dusty, dirty concrete.
Even better than finishing, I got to show it off to my grade department! They were not quite as enthused as I was (probably a byproduct of the dust and dirt?), but they did express interest in a few things 'on display.' And isn't that the whole point? It's very exciting.
Not so exciting is the progress of my students. Ugh. I was just talking to Boyfriend about it and got a little worked up. Argh. More on that later.
On a happier but unrelated note, I now have TWO wins on two-suit spider solitaire. Much better news, indeed.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
We've been continuing to review all the skills. Last week we worked on f!gurative language, a little. They haven't mastered it at all, but all we needed for the T3ST was a basic introduction so they could recognize. We'll definitely work on it more, a lot, later.
Over the weekend the homework assignment was to reflect on all of our t3st pr3p, and write about what things have been effective for them to use on the test, and which skills or practice will not be useful, and which skills and strategies they need more practice with, along with suggestions for classwork to help improve those skills. Awesome, right?
When I finally read them on Tuesday morning, and noticed definite trends--poetry, writing, vocab, inferencing--I changed my 'plans'. [Note: I don't 'write' 'lessons.' I write up the topics to cover, and I try to come up with homework and maybe warm-ups. The actual teaching seems spontaneous, though it's not, because I've done or thought about it all before.] So we practiced with another set of poetry yesterday, and today we worked on vocab and inferences. For the thousandth time, I reminded them of the importance of GOING BACK TO THE PASS#GE to find either the answer or clues.
We'll also be working on--a little bit--identifying what each quest!on asks. When you understand the quest!on, and you go to the pass#ge, you can do the task effectively, and you will not get tricked, which will give you the correct answers and as many points as possible. Simple!
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I never even leave the house without music. This past summer I received a hand-me-down (which equals FREE) mini iPod, and it totally changed my life. I was happy with my discman and CDs for many years, but the shuffle feature alone makes the iPod the best thing ever. I know, welcome to 2004, right? Yeah, well. The 4GB means I have to juggle albums, but it's not like I want to listen to every single album anyway. And sometime in the next year, I'll update to a sleek new shiny one, big enough to keep all the music plus back up all the digital photos on my computer. Anyway, hurrah iPod for being the most necessary nonnecessity of all time.
Um, I know this all sounds cheesy and forced, but I swear by all of these products. If you get any of them, I know you will love them too. (I got the first two for Boyfriend and he likes them already!) Obviously, I didn't mean it when I said 'sponsors,' but if anyone emails me and wants to...awesome. :)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Hans Brinker is the boy who plugged a dike. Except it's not a real legend; it's a made-up fairy tale from a book written by an American woman who'd never been to Holland.