Friday, December 4, 2009

Journaling through NCTE

I filled a journal during sessions at NCTE. I've been thinking a lot about journals and my journal habit, especially after some twitter conversations about them, so I thought I'd start my reflecting on NCTE with a little peek into my journal. I journal and I blog and I tweet, but journaling is different more primal, more creative somehow. I know that no matter how easy it easy for me to connect with the computer in my pocket, I'll continue to journal. I journal because:

  • It's tactile and my brain processes information that way.
  • It's visual and when I draw and sketch I make connections between information and my long term memory.
  • It's fun.
  • It helps me think beyond the surface of things.
  • I've jounal sinced I was 15.
  • I enjoy journaling.
  • It helps me pay attention.
  • I stay with the speaker in my mind if I journal; it keeps me focused.
  • I'm less likely to talk to the person sitting next me if I'm journaling (definitely something my own high school teachers appreciated, I can tell you).

I barely remember a time when I didn't carry a sketch book or a composition book or a Moleskin or a mini-spiral Mead notepad around with me. I'm a journaler. My journal is what Fletcher would call my writer's notebook. In it go notes, ephemera--artifacts that get me writing--scraps of poetry, ideas, outlines for books, photographs and drawings.

I write my way to knowing. As E.M. Forster says, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"

When I take notes in my journal I code things. Red question marks are for quetstions (an obvious one). Q is for quotes I'd like to remember. A green, double-ended arrow <-> signifies a connection while a blue H notes where I record my thinking (also where I write things as if I'm talking back to the speaker... erase those when I publish my notes as they are more for me than for everyone). A green B denotes a book title and a light bulb an idea. If the light bulb has a red T or red W next to it, I've classified my idea for either a workshop (W) or for teaching (T). If I write LU I'm telling myself to look up something later to either verify or extend what I've heard. At the end of each conference day (or when I get a chance), I make an index type list on the back pages of my journal. I devote 1-2 pages to book titles and write down all of the green B titles I noted. I do the same for quotes, things to look up and ideas. That way, at any time, I can flip to the back of my journal and have an overview of what I captured.

With a recent post on the English Companion Ning, Penny Kittle reminded me that we rarely get to peek into each others' journals, so I thought I'd invite you into mine. I've scanned a few pages: my opening word art piece, notes I took during Gary Anderson and Tony Romano's session on creative nonfiction and an index page of quotes:

Peek Into My Journal

I have just started to go back through my notes and sit down with teacher friends to talk about what I learned and thought about while I was there. I've been holding off writing about NCTE. If I put it off I can still savor the ideas, sink into the swirl of thoughts, chase rabbitt trails and research citations--pretend it's not over. Until next year, I can hold onto that thinking in my journal.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Would You Please Un-block?

The argument for controlling and censoring web content in schools goes something like this: we need to keep students safe; we need to keep predators out of our system; we need to keep students on task; we need to limit distractions. We need to limit students's access to sites on the web in order to protect them from pornographic or other inappropriate content. We need to control what our people can and can not do on the Internet from schools.

Why? Why not teach students (and teachers for that matter) what is appropriate? Why not teach folks how to be good digital citizens? I want students to feel empowered to learn, electrified by ideas, and enabled to succeed. I can't foster those creative and capable habits of mind if students are stuck in the web sandbox.

Today, I'm at the district headquarters learning about Moodle and am reminded of Dean Shareski's post, "Control is a Worthless Pursuit." He also wrote about filtering here. Like Shareski, I am not averse to district tools. I enjoy using them and am grateful for them. However, in my--probably adolescent mind--I feel a disconnect between what happens at the district, or what's allowed, and what happens at schools or what is allowed in our schools. There is a"do as I say not as I do" at work here. That whole "do as I say thing" vexed the teenaged me.

My thinking began with a discussion about messaging within the Moodle system.

A teacher asked, "Can students send messages to each other?"

The facilitator, who is all for giving students free reign inside the Moodle system, answered, "Well, I'm going to say that we sure wouldn't be working in a collaboratative environment if we could not send messages to each other." He continued with the idea that kid's messaging each other while on a Moodle site is a managment problem, not a system or a Moodle problem. He will not block students or block the messaging function.

Yes! One for the students.

Interesting. Why? Because the district is controlling when it comes to blocking and filtering out-of-system sites at schools. Outside of Moodle, students cannot access email at school-- personal email accounts; there are currently no district wide email accounts for students even though we have access and approval for two systems (ePals and Gaggle). Outside of Moodle, discussions or chats or blogging is discouraged: flat out blocked at school sites.

Within, Moodle, however, teachers can create online course content using Moodle which is approved by our district for use with students. We can email within the Moodle system. We can message within the system. It's as if the district must always be in control of the web environment in which students work. As a parent of an 8 year old, I can see the benefits of that, but as a 21st century learner, I resent it.

At the district, however, it seems that you can access anything. I can access all of my Nings, my blogs, twitter and who knows, I may even be able to dip into Facebook from here (I can. I checked.). Should I? If it's not instructionally relevant, no, I shouldn't. But should I be allowed to collaborate via the web with other educators? How can a district that pushes collaboration bind teachers to building-only resources? I learn a lot from my PLN--after hours, of course, when I should be grading papers.

Why can't I do some of these things from school? Any url with blog in the address is blocked. Twitter is blocked. Nings are blocked. Blocked, blocked, blocked. Firewalls are high and mighty in our schools.

There's a disconnect between what is available and allowed for administrators and what is available and allowed for teachers and students. Why? Is it that way everywhere?

Sometimes I wish I had the problem Bud Hunt wrote about in his post, "Would You Please Block This?" Instead of asking for sites to be blocked, it seems teachers in my district are asking for sites to be un-blocked.

I teach in the 12th largest school district in the nation. We have more than 5,000 teachers. One, unfortunate soul gets all of the "please un-block" emails. I've heard they are deleted as they arrive. We don't even get a canned response for our un-block requests, but that's another issue isn't it?

I want to empower students and teachers to learn. Everyone learns. What are we learning now? How can we empower learners when we keep them contained? What do you think about this issue? What happens in your district?

Image credit: Badjonni. "Neutron Man Presents."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Want a Teacher

Yesterday I met up with my A.P. Language & Composition friends. We spent a few hours at Barnes & Noble talking about lesson plans and what students need to learn. We read "I Want a Wife" by Judy Brady and got to thinking about having students write their own satirical definition essays. We thought about writing our own version too. I would write about teaching. I might start my essay just as Brady did:

I belong to that classification of people known as teachers. I am A Teacher. And not altogether incidentally, I am an English teacher.

Recently, a friend fresh from a two-week vacation met me for lunch. Bemoaning Monday's approach, she marveled at my luck. She wished she had summers off. She wished she didn't have to work on the weekends. Oh, to be a teacher, she'd love to have my schedule.

I'm still thinking about writing the essay this morning. Especially after reading Lee Kolbert's post. Kolbert's frustrated.

Back in the classroom fresh from a technology specialist position, she sees that not much has changed. The change we've all been preaching about or reading about or watching unfold online hasn't arrived in most classrooms. She wonders, why couldn't we create our own school? A school made up of our personal learning networks. What would a PLN school look like?

My literacy friends and I used to dream of our own school too. If Nancie Atwell can found a school based on her workshop principals, couldn't we? What would it look like? How could we fund it? Who would teach with us? Stop by Lee Kolbert's blog. Think about your PLN school and leave her a comment. Then take that conversation to your lunch table--what's stopping us? What's stopping us from doing as Ghandi says? From being "the change we wish to see" in our world?

Those A.P. teachers I met with? We were gathering essays for students to read and annotate. We were planning common lessons and coordinating the copies we would need to make. Kolbert notes, "Every day I pass the same teachers making oodles of copies of worksheets at the copiers. (They haven't even planned their lessons yet, but they've got tons of pages copied from their resource books.)" Nancie Atwell used to deem these types of people creationists; if the teachers are the creationists or the workers in a class then it is the teachers who are learning, not the students. Atwell started as a creationist herself:
I confess, I started out as a creationist. The first days of every school year I created, and for the next thirtysix weeks, I maintained the creation: my curriculum. From behind my big desk I set it in motion; then Imanaged and maintained it until June. I wanted to be a great teacher—systematic, purposeful, in control. I wanted great results from my great practices. And I wanted to convince other teachers that this creationwas superior stuff. So I studied my curriculum, conducting research designed to show its wonders. I didn’t learn in my classroom. I tended my creation. Today, I learn in my classroom. What happens there has changed, and it continues to change. I’ve become an evolutionist. (1998)

We need resources. I would love to give my students their reading assignments online. I would love to create a portal or a web page or a wiki of course readings to which they could responsd. I would love students to use Diigo to annotate or Delicious to note connections as they read. All of that would get me away from the copier. All of that I can and could do. If only my students had access to the Internet. If only my students could have reliable access to a computer 24/7. But they don't. So what do I do?

I do both. I show students how to build knowledge online with digital tools. I maintain a virtual classroom, a wiki, the occasional portal-o-links. I create help videos, screen-casts, to support their digital learning outside of the classroom. I use my LCD project and ELMO and digital camera and tool-box of web 2.0 tools everyday. But do the students? I am the digital creationist in my room. I do it more than students. At my school we get 2 days a quarter in a working computer lab. That is 8 days a year not to be scheduled consecutively. There is one C.O.W. for the reading teachers (a wonderful thing!). I have computers in my classroom but they are not reliable. Would you wait 5 minutes for a page to load? How much would you accomplish if Google Docs froze each time you tried to create a presentation? What if you couldn't access email?

We work around issues as much as possible. I maintain a can-do spirit. Sure, I can do it. But can kids?

How do I become an evolutionist? How can I do it without equpiment? Without a change in the zero-tolerance policies? How can I tap into resources we already have? Cell phones, unused desktops? How can I do it tomorrow? Because I haven't found the time to manage writing a grant that would either buy equipment or an alarm system to secure my portable classroom. I haven't figured out how to tap into untapped or unused district or community resources. Surely they are out there and boy do we want to use them! Couldn't we allow students to break the computers out of their pockets and get going? How can I become an evolutionists so that students are the ones creating?

If you've got ideas, I'm listening.


Atwell, Nancie. In the Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading and Learning. 2. Portsmouth: Boyton Cook, 1998. Print.

image: The Hunger Games summer reading collage created by Lee Ann Spillane

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Who do you spend your lunch time with? Lunch at my school is only about 20 minutes long not counting the 6 minutes of passing time that kicks it off. A group of portable teachers --we all have classrooms in the portables out behind the main campus eat together. We leave the outback and travel in to the main buildings.We meet in a room behind our media center. Part office, part multi-purpose training and teaching room. E102 has been our lunch hot-spot.

Do you eat lunch with others? Or do you hole-up in your room and work through lunch?

It's easy to isolate yourself. There are many days when I'd prefer to work through lunch or to stay in my own classroom and enjoy the lunch peace and quiet alone. But you know what? I don't. Well, I don't do it too often. Every once and a while I miss lunch. I miss it because a student stops by with a question and I can't get out of the door fast enough or a parent or a teacher calls--occaisionally I get hung up and can't make it to lunch with the group. When I first came to Cypress Creek and missed a lunch in the opening weeks of school, my friend Lee called me to make sure I was okay. Not overwhelmed by the new school, new schedule, new everything. I loved that she checked and I laughed when she said "Lunch is not optional."

I've thought about it since. What's important about lunch? Not the eating--the meeting. Getting together with other teachers during the school day is what's important. Lunch to us is like executives golfing, I imagine. We bargain. We collaborate. We share. Ultimately we lift each other up. During especially stressful times, we bake.

This week has been cookie week. With lay offs or teacher transfers due to less than expected enrollment we've all been a little stressed. So we bake and we bring in treats to share. We comfort and care for one another during our little lunch break. What's more important than that?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mark it Up!

"Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; That is, some booksare to be read only in parts; Others to be read, but not curiously;And some few to be read wholly, and with dilligence and attention."

-Francis Bacon, Of Studies

So, what are you reading? How are you reading it? I'm teaching an A.P. Language course and that question is following us this year..Today we're going to talk about annotation: what is it? how do you do it? what does it look like? Students annotated the books they read for summer reading. Most of their summer annotations were personal responses--students talking back to the author, to the book.
Certainly annotations, effective annotations, are that, but they are also much more. I'm thinking about the codes I use in the margins of the professional books I read: Q for quotes, ? for questions, <-> for connections, L.U. for look up and a lightbulb for ideas.

Today, we're going to read and annotate Mortimer Adler's "How to Mark a Book." Yesterday I annotated Adler's article using Diigo, but then when I went to review my annotations last night, they were gone! Yikes! Little did I realize that I had to access the page I'd bookmarked from Diigo using the Recent Bookmarks choice from the Diigo menu selection (see picture). Now if I could just figure out how to make the annotations public, or how to include them in a group meant for my A.P. class. That's my next technoventure.

I want students to see that annotations help you organize and remember information. They can be created with more than just pen and paper. They also live and can work on the web. Social bookmarking annotations, tags, all of these contribute to the folksonomy of information on the web. That will be the hook for this lesson. I'd better get going, so that I can get it all together! It's going to be a great day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday 5

Lucy Gray started a Friday 5 tradition on her blog, High Techpectations, posting 5 or more web links organized by theme. She's now cross posting with Lucie deLaBruere on the Infinite Thinking Machine. LaBruere says "in a world where we are overwhelmed by choice, "more" is not always better." Definitely. When it comes to the web, narrowing the field, counter-intuitive as it may sound, hones us in. One of my favorite list-o-links covers cell phones and includes the must-read 2009 Horizon Report.

If you'd rather have your Friday 5 delivered, join the Google Group (think list-serv) and get the email digest. I don't know that I could keep up with a weekly 5; though a 2 for Tuesday kind of thing might be fun to try.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Out With the Old

Have you ever changed schools? Last year I changed schools. I’d been teaching 10 years at University High when I decided it was time for a change. Five years as an English teacher , 5 years running a Reading Writing Center, 10 years as a total pack rat.
How many books would you accumulate in 10 years? How many files? How many notebooks? How many pens and pencils? And I’m not even counting the stuff I hadn’t thrown away since my last move. My Mom and my friend, Lee Corey, helped me pack up.
“Do you really need this? These files look pre-Internet!” Lee commented as we started on the first of 4 full filing cabinets.
“Well, I might teach British Lit. one day," I said eyeing the thick Canterbury Tales folder in Lee's hand, "I don’t know. I might need that!” I argued back knowing full well she was trying to get me to throw stuff away.
“Lee Ann Spillane, you do not need that!” Mom chimed in.

“What if I do?”

“I’m telling you—whatever you think you need you can print off of the Internet. Honestly,” replied Lee.

“Okay, okay, I give up. I’ll throw it out. I’ll purge. I’ll turn over a new leaf. If I haven’t used it in 2 years, I’ll think about tossing it.”

“Two years?”


“How about 1 year and you toss it—don’t just think about it.”

“Fine. Don’t let me look. Let’s just pitch it.”

And we did. I borrowed a flat bed hand truck from the janitors. It took 3 loads to the dumpster to get rid of things I’d collected but not used in a long time. I took pictures as we hauled one of the loads—thinking it would remind me not to collect so much stuff. But you know what?

At first all I could think when I looked at that picture was “Dang… I threw that away!” After cleaning up my classroom for this past week, getting ready for students on Monday, I realize that I've probably got at least another filing cabinet full of files I can purge! When was the last time you went through your files?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ta Da: Prezi !

Teachers come back to school, officially, on Monday. The "houses" or small learning communities at my school are hosting 2 day institutes for their teachers on Monday and Tuesday. I am facilitating 2 workshop sessions for teachers. One on the AVID binder and one on Google tools. I wanted to try something different for these workshops, so I turned to Prezi.

Prezi is an online presentation tool. Users upload content, arrange it in a presentation space and go. Free-form, intuitively zooming, clean lines... very cool. I had a lot of fun playing with it to create the AVID binder workshop. Now, we'll see how it works when I use it to present! Click below or here to see the AVID binder prezi I put together.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Don't you love words? Today while skimming through postings at the English Companion Ning, I came across Sara Kajder's blog post on Wordia, a visual dictionary.

What do I love about Wordia? Not only is it visual--a rich milleau of voice and video, mostly British--but it's free and anyone can create and publish such word shorts. I could definitely use this in the classroom.

How fun would it be to hear these voices during a British Literature class? Daily word study is part of my classroom routine and more and more I've been using image, audio or video to engage students in word study. This site would make a great addition to the others I favor. Wordia reminds me though that everyday people (in addition to artists, thinkers, writers and the like) need to own words. How fun would it be to have students create their own Wordia videos for words we might be studying?

I also love The Princeton Review Vocab Minute, a definite favorite. Silly, sometimes outrageous, these podcasts are sung in a range of styles and each "song" features a plethora of words my students need. What student or small group wouldn't like to create their own such themed song? If I play one, I usually pull out a few of the words to show students what they look like in print. Then we negotiate which ones they want to add to the word wall or study further. I've only had a few students create their own songs--usually word raps--but next year, I think it will become a vocabulary assignment to choose either the Wordia video style or the Princeton Review podcast (or some combination there of that students could propose).

Got time for another favorite? Visuwords. Janet Allen showed me this one and I've almost developed the habit of checking it first (over I love the organization, color and graphic organizer-ness of Visuwords. It reminds me of Visual Thesaurus, but free.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Diagnostic AP Testing

I am teaching AP English Language & Composition next year. New to me, the class presents a challenge, so today after meeting with colleagues to discuss the class and how it is structured, I took a diagnostic AP Lang. test at Spark Notes I registered for an account (free) and dove in. Though I am leary of test prep as curriculum, I wanted to see how I did. I wanted to experience the passages and wrestle with the questions--rather difficult I realized in a household with interruptions, but still.

I did fine on the practice test. My confidence bolstered, I thought, "I can do this." I can be an "A.P. teacher" --that mythical A.P. teacher about whom I've heard Kylene Beers wax poetic. I didn't start my career wanting to become an A. P. teacher, but sure remembering thinking I would. I started my career as an intern with A.P. and I.B. classes. Internships, under the best of circumstances, are idyllic but rarely do they map one's professional path. As an intern, I thought that my students were so smart that I should immediately return to graduate school. I didn't know enough to stay one step ahead of them. Surely, I needed graduate school and I needed that master's degree before I could start teaching full-time. Perhaps I just postponed actual work, but it worked out.

As you can imagine, I've traveled far from the A.P. road in my nearly 20 years teaching. I want to blog my way through the experience of coming to the A.P. Language course as a veteran teacher. I'm beginning today.

Wish me luck and post a helpful link or two for me to peruse, I could use the support and who doesn't appreciate encouragement?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer = Time

I compartmentalize. I've think I've always been that way, boxing off my thinking, feeling and writing in particular. For instance, when I wrote about technology and learning web 2.0 tools, I wrote on a blog on my Classroom 2.0 ning page. When I write about my family and personal life, I write on my blog, Pink Stone Days. When I write poetry or memoir and the day-to-day reflections in my classroom, I write in an old fashioned sketch book. Sometimes it works for me, but other times I wonder.

Obviously, I haven't been doing much writing here this year, but with the advent of summer I see time on the horizon. Time to reflect on the year that just ended and think about next year's teaching schedule. Time to participate in book clubs, like the Readicide book club launch a few weeks ago on Jim Burke's English Companion Ning. Time defines this summer.

Speaking of time to think, check out Melanie Holtsman's post on homework, "To Homework or Not to Homework." If you have time, don't miss her links to the posts by Dayle Timmons and Silvia Tolisano that got her thinking. I'm letting myself sink into the quesitons Silvia Tolisano posed about homework. I'm returning to the English classroom next year, teaching among other things an AP Language class. I find I have a lot of questions about homework; here are a few:
  • How is homework different for older studens as the Canadian study suggests?
  • How can I ensure that students are engaged and immersed in meaningful work?
  • How will homework serve my AP students?
photo: Teo's photos. (10 July 2008). "Summer."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spread the Word

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
~ Anne Frank

Laura Stockman lives Anne Frank's words. Her blog 25 Days to Make a Difference never fails to inspire me to do more for others and our world. Her most recent challenge, a blog carnival on the r-word to promote Spread the Word to End the Word. Blog about the r-word. Tell how it makes you feel and how you will help put an end to it. Leave a comment on her blog with a link to your post and you may win a Flip video camera.

If I were caught up with my reader and feeds I wouldn't have missed this chance with my students, but we are on spring break this week. I can't have them add their voices to my own, but I know how the r-word makes me feel.

Stupid. Idiot. Moron. What are you a re...?

Stop! Don't say it. Language makes a difference. Language can divide or it can unite. The r-word, when I hear others say it, makes me feel awful inside. The meanness and judgment is palpable in the word. In my classroom, students, even in jest, are not allowed to use the r-word or any words that belittle someone's thinking or abilities. It's mean. It's abusive and I don't tolerate it. I tell students that using those words can and will result in disciplinary action. I let them know that abusing their peers or others with those words will result in a referral for harassment. We can not build a learning community in our classrooms, much less a humane community in our societies, if we use the r-word or let others use it around us.

Stop using the r-word. Take the pledge today. Share it with your students. Don't wait a single minute --do something to make a difference today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ASCD: From Pen and Paper to Wireless

I'm spending the weekend at ASCD in Orlando and already I've noticed a difference in the conference and in myself as a conference attendee. First, the wireless, free and reliable. Compared to NCTE's conference in San Antonio, the wireless here is an awesome amenity. This is the first ever ASCD wireless conference, complete with live streaming of general sessions. In addition, ASCD has added a Technology Corridor which I'm excited to explore later. Sitting in my last session, I was tickled to discover that a few of the folks I follow on Twitter are here. Incredible the network bloom.

As an attendee I have certainly changed. Over the past 18 months, I've noticed how web 2.0 tools have affected how I process information. I used to journal every conference--black sketch books, colored pencils and sharpies my primary tools. I took notes. I drew. I illustrated. I color coded. I connected--but only to my own ideas, only to my own background knowledge. I have shelves and shelves of big black sketch bookes whose spines record years and conferences.

Now I use my laptop. Taking notes on Google docs instead of merely journaling. While I'm taking notes, I can tweet, check in on tweets labeled by the conference hashtag. I can go immediately to websites presenters mention like Pieces of Learning from this morning's session on flexible grouping. Wireless lets me look up and tag research cited, so that I can read it later. The richness digital tools brings to my experience as an attendee is hard to describe.

I'm stuck to a plug at the moment, one side effect of my new reliance on digital tools. I'm sitting on the floor at the back of the general session which is just about to begin! But I'm wondering how digital tools have changed your behaviors at a conference? What do you notice about your own learning in the connected space of the wide and wonderful web?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ning, Ning

The best part of this project is that it has dissolved the kind of competitive learning that can happen in schools. Let me clarify, rather the subtle form of Social Darwinism that happens in education: the fit, the ones that know how to play the school game, succeed, and the rest, well, they often become the fodder for faculty room talk or worse. This was truly a project where everyone could shine. I also saw the spirit of community rise in our classroom. Tech savvy kids helped others who had less computer experience; better writers were willing to work with beginning writers, helping them craft clearer biographies; and most of all, these kids were having fun learning. A classroom of diverse learners truly became "We, the People."
I don't want my students become faculty room fodder. I can't Ning in my own district. Can you?

Monday, February 16, 2009


What do you call a 14 day writing symposium for 10th graders? Write-a-Palooza of course! Our own Lee Corey's students came up with the moniker for the event we just concluded at school.

Tenth graders were pulled out of their English classes and sent to a writing classroom for 3 school weeks. Students were scheduled into a writing room based on need and writing test scores. Lead teachers met Saturdays and early mornings to collaborate on curriculum which we then implemented with co-teachers in each of the seven Write-a-Palooza rooms. We had 14 days. 700 minutes.

We started on Inauguration Day and used the event as a springboard to writing. I posted our first day's plans to Scribd (below).

What worked?
  • Meeting and building a writing community with new students mid-year
  • Writing with students nearly every day for 14 days
  • Collaborating with colleagues before, during and after instruction
  • Teaching the D.R.A.P.E.S. strategy and essay planning across the board

What issues were a challenge?
  • attendance
  • substitute teachers
  • students returning from in school suspension or extended absences
Those are just a few things from my own Writer's Notebook. The team is meeting tomorrow to debrief and reflect. I am looking forward to hear what my colleagues have to say.

1 Day

Friday, January 30, 2009

Climbing the Learning Ladder

How do you learn? How do you hone your craft? I just finished a reading endorsement course from which I just received, via email, a print-your-own certificate. This got me thinking this morning about my learning as a teacher. What kinds of professional development do I do? How do I learn? What makes the difference in my actual classroom?

I learn by:
  • reading professional books
  • reading journals
  • reading educational blogs (see the blogroll for titles)
  • reading listservs or email newsletters
  • writing blog posts
  • writing about my teaching in my journal
  • writing a column for Stenhouse Newslinks
  • taking courses online to add-on to my certificate
  • going to conferences (breakout sessions and keynotes)
  • listening to and reading comments from my personal learning network (PLN)
  • Following educators and edu-technologists on Twitter
  • Talking with teachers
  • Trying things out in- in class and online
  • Connecting with others online
  • Collaborating with teachers
  • Watching other people teach and connecting it to my own practice
  • Presenting workshops
  • Reflecting
How do you learn about teaching?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

Yesterday was the first day of Write-a-Palooza, a 14-day writing symposium for the 10th graders at our school. The entire 10th grade is participating which means that instead of English class, they will go to a writing class staffed by two teachers for the next 14-days. A team of 7 lead teachers have been crafting lesson plans for weeks and we kicked it off yesterday with the inauguration of President Barak Obama. Here's our kick-off lesson for Write-a-Palooza and below are links to the resources. If you're stymied by filters, try downloading the video files to your computer. I used DownloadHelper, a Firefox plug-in to do just that.

Inaugural Address

"Yes We Can"

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Want Books!

The thing I love most about my classroom is the library. I believe that providing easy access to books makes me a better teacher. I struggle to find the right balance in almost every aspect of my job, but reading and providing quality, high-interest books actually is the easy part. But even that is becoming more difficult. As the economy gets worse, there is less money for everything, including classroom libraries. Neither the school budget nor my personal budget are going to allow me to make the book purchases that my students and I enjoy. That means this is the time when getting grants is more important than ever.

I just finished reading Readicide by Kelly Gallagher online (a sneak peek generously provided by Stenhouse) and it reaffirmed for me how important my library is. That made me think about the books that I want to buy, which made me think about money, which reminded me of grants. In my opinion, there is nothing that makes grant writing easier than a little professional reading. Everything you need is right there in one shot: the ideas, the rationale for things you'd like to do, the research to show why the things you want are vital to your students' success. I subscribe to Stenhouse's newsletter and it is always a quick source of ideas and resources. It is how I found out about Gallagher's newest book and the link to read it online. It is also where I read ideas to help me be a better mentor to one of the new teachers at my school.

I don't work for Stenhouse and you certainly don't have to use their newsletter to find inspiration, but I as I was reminded of the free resources we have at our disposal, I wanted to share that with others.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Love My Question

It's midterm exam time in my school and I'm excited about exams! Half of my students' exam is an individualized essay question that I wrote for them based on the reading (mostly books/novels) they have completed this semester. The practice is based on my mentor's , Janet Allen started creating questions for her language arts students in Maine many years ago and I have been doing it for the past decade. This year, I'm teaching an AVID elective class. I gave students their questions last Friday. Each student gets their question and the rubric I will use to grade it on the same page. I love the day I hand out questions because students, for the most part, love their questions and they tell me about it. In the past I've gotten great writing from my students in response to their individual essay questions. Tomorrow I will dive into them and I can hardly wait. What about you? What do you include on your final exam?