Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Oddities

Will Rick in the second row actually bring in his homework?

Will I see an administrator in my area of the building?

Will student costumes be viewed as humorous instead of possible dress code violations?

Trick or treat!

What to do?

I have a frustration this week; it's rare that students truly frustrate me, but this week they have accomplished the feat.

Three weeks ago I assigned a required assignment for my American Literature class, a class with quite a broad range of skill levels. The assignment was quite simple: each student chose a chapter of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to summarize using at least eight events and/or quotations.

I gave the students one week to accomplish this small task, one I assumed would be quick, painless, and easy for the students. However, when I received the writings the students had not even come to close to meeting a minimum standard on the assignment. I received thematic analyses, editorials, and character analyses.

Next, I created a check list for the students, so they could rewrite the summaries. Last Friday the students turned in the summaries. They were better. However, they did not use the check lists. Of the ten items on the check list, only one student completed eight of the check list items.

Today I returned the summaries for a final time and walked the students through the checklist with their summaries item by item. They have until Friday to make the corrections.

I'm not entering a score until this third due date. I want them to do it correctly rather than worry about points. My concern, though, is that laziness and not inability is the culprit. When capitalization and indentation is an issue for 11th graders, I become quickly concerned. Granted, this is not the most exciting assignment, but I am required to have the students complete it at standard.

I guess I'll find out if the third time really is the charm.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What We're Reading Now

American Literature: Puritan and Colonial literature such as Bradford, Bradstreet, Equiano, and de Vaca.

College in the High School (C.H.S.): Finishing Miller's The Crucible and beginning Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mythology: Finishing "Pegasus and Bellerophon" and starting "Jason and the Argonauts"

Sophomore Honors: Just finished Night by Elie Wiesel and starting The Chosen by Chaim Potok tomorrow

By the way, the students finished their projects in Mythology, C.H.S., and Honors, and they were awesome!

It's Over

Conference week is over!

I love conference week, but I'm even more happy to see it end. This week could be the most fatiguing of the entire year.

Normally, we teach half-days and then conduct conferences with parents for two nights and two afternoons. However, this year the Boss Lady (after canceling Open House if you'd forgotten) changed the schedule to three nights. While this may not sound earth-shattering, three split shifts with coaching, activity advising, and other meetings is a torturous stretch.

I must admit I was on cruise-control for the last day.

Still, I love talking to the parents. They are so appreciative of the opportunity to meet their students' teachers and to hear first-hand what is happening (or not happening) in the classroom.

The best conferences are when the students arrive with the parents. With these, I just start asking the student questions until he/she has essentially led the session. It's great!

Tomorrow is the last half-day, so a couple of us are going to play basketball right after the final period. Following that I have a three hour drive to our football game in a far corner of the state. Late night, but we'll win the league title tomorrow. Go team!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Celebrate good times...c'mon!

I got caught up on all of my grading! My final set of projects come in tomorrow, and conferences are next week.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Movies at Night

I have started a bit of a tradition here at my school, where I show films related to the literature we read in class. Students must bring in a note from a parent/guardian to view the film, but the students seem to enjoy it, especially since I give a very few extra credit points for the viewings. Add extra credit to anything and students will do it!

I showed:

Chocolat for Magical Realism,
Interview with a Vampire and Dracula for Gothic Literature,
Marie Antoinette for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and
A Man Called Horse for Fools Crow by James Welch (mainly for the Sun Dance).

So far the movies are a hit!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Goofed

I had three tests and two projects due this past Friday. Grrr!

Now the grading begins.

On the bright side, I get to start The Crucible with my College in the High School class. It's one of my favorites!

Monday, October 8, 2007

No Confidentiality

A survey was sent out to staff last week, which was supposedly confidential and people's anonymity would be maintained. Well, one teacher was honest, blunt and negative, but honest. Later, he received a call at home by the administrator of the survey who wanted to know if the teacher had "a bad day" when filling out the form. Apparently, the administrator of the survey can click a button to discover the identity of the responder.

This morning at an all-staff meeting we were again told our identities were not able to be discerned. This was obviously a lie. People now know we are being lied to.

Sadly, the level of distrust in the building grows.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Test Prep

Last week I gave my students study guides for their novel final exams this week. One of the teachers in the copy room saw my study guide and asked why I give the students all of the identifications, quotes, and essay questions. I explained that I see teaching as:

1. Tell the students what they need to know. I show the students everything I want them to learn, skills and content.

2. Teach the students what they need to know. We learn the content as we learn the skills.

3. Make sure the students show me what they need to know. The exam reveals to me how well I did in teaching the material and skills, and it shows the students how well they did. The exam is as much a test of my success as it is representative of student learning.

If I see very low scores, I know we need to practice more and redo the final exam or project. If scores are high, we were all successful.

Anyway, the teacher in the copy room with me seemed surprised that I would give the students so much information that will be on the test or in the project. I simply stated that I don't believe we (teachers) should surprise students or try to trick the students. I believe students should be responsible for their learning but with known targets and standards.

I don't give the students every question, but I do give them every identification and skill required.

Out of Class

One pet peeve I have is honesty. Another is being pulled out of my classes for trainings.

This week I have to leave my classroom to participate in a training. I don't mind trainings, but I abhor missing classes for it because it's twice as much work for me.

Last June my department was told we had to attend an assessment training, but it would only be a half day. Since we have great reading assessments, we knew there wasn't much to discuss except for range finding and creating anchor sets of answers.

However, when we returned from the summer we were informed that the training had become a full day because the district wanted us to attend ELL training as well. This angered the department because we were assured we'd only be out of school for a half day. It's why we agreed to attend. I understand the training is important, but I like to attend trainings after school or on weekends.

Well, half of the department (there are 20 of us in total) attended last week, and the ELL portion never occurred! It was an entire day of assessment training!

Now they have to attend another day of ELL training. We started at a half day out of the classroom and we are now at two days. We are not happy because the district office wants us to do this again next semester. My turn to attend is coming. Grrrr.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Final Projects

I finally decided to give my final projects to my students in my Sophomore Honors class. They are going to choose three of the following four options for their A Tale of Two Cities project:

1. The students must choose a moving or critical quotation or passage and create a visual representation based on it. Paintings, drawings, and the like are acceptable, and the selected quotation or passage must be a part of the representation. In addition, the students must compose a short explanation about color choice, images, and so on.

2. This option requires the students to select eight literary devices from the class list and to create a graph/chart. On the chart the students must have a column for the devices, a quotation showing the device's employ, and the effect of its use.

3. Here, the students recreate a key scene from the novel and film it to play in class. Clothing, backgrounds, and dialogue must be authentic, and the students must have excellent film work.

4. This final option allows the students to compose a 300-400 word eulogy for any character from the novel.

My American Survey class will finish Fools Crow this week as well. They will select a 100 word passage and will compose a diction analysis. For now, this is all they will do since they have written three essays on the novel already. Besides this, I'm excited to start The Crucible.

My Mythology students will choose two of the following options (though I stacked the points, so the sonnet is a desirable option):

1. A Shakespearean sonnet where each of the first three quatrains summarize three different myths and the final couplet explains the connection between the three myths.

2. An original myth which must include eight mythological figures. The myth must either explain the creation of something, follow two lovers overcoming obstacles for their love, or teach a moral or lesson. These three types mirror the myths we've covered thus far.

3. A comic book summarizing one of the tales covered in class.

4. A picture book aimed at children teaching kids about mythological figures.

I look forward to these finished projects!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Books Right Now

Here are the books I'm teaching right now:

American Literature: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
American Survey: Fools Crow by James Welch
Mythology: Mythology by Edith Hamilton
Sophomore Honors: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

We finish Twain, Welch, and Dickens this week. I just love when Carton mounts the steps to the guillotine and says, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." It gets me every time, and this line hooks the kids for good. They never forget it. What a finish!