Thursday, August 09, 2007

Summer Reading...Need advice

Students within our department are required to read during the summer. My students (seniors) are required to read three required, two chosen from a list. So far I've had no complaints.

The freshmen read Lord of the Flies, and the juniors read The Giver and The Good Earth. These were chosen by the teachers and were pulled from our curriculum as well as the national curriculum list (although The Giver is quite young (as far as the reading level) for juniors.

So I was approached today by admin to choose new books that were less controversial... that there have been parental complaints this summer. I immediately answered "okay", but less than 2 seconds later I said..."no, not okay."

This is a slippery slope I'm not willing to slide down. Our teachers have valid reasons for choosing the literature they chose and they plan to utilize the themes in these books with discussion and writing within their own classrooms...(at least I'm hoping these teachers chose these books for some valuable educational reason.) If we change books, who's to say someone else won't complain? Can we please everyone? If we do that, will we please no one?

It's a rough way to start the school year and a definite downer for teachers who are excited about the year getting underway. What do you guys think?

Are there alternatives? Can we put a list out there and allow the students to choose from the list? Does that defeat the purpose of having classroom discussion on a specific piece of literature? What are the purposes for reading. The New York Times ran an article last week that promoted summer reading for kids in order to keep their minds engaged with something academic over the break. And Ive found, for the most part, students enjoy having the reading to do over the summer.

Is it truly possible to say "Read whatever you want" and students will be able to understand themes and realize emotional or intellectual development within the book's characters and/or possibly within themselves without discussion with others?

We'll see how this plays out. I've asked to meet with admin and the parents to find out what exactly the problem is with these three texts. I'm open for discussion, but I'm not open to change a classroom plan b/c one parent decides it would be better for her children. Options, or opportunity for options,I'm fine with.

By the's one parent...the same parent of two child is a freshman, the other a junior. And the junior apparently is now coming forward to say how disturbed he was as a 9th grader (two years ago) while reading The Lord of the Flies. We had no idea. (And that book is only for the College Prep class.)

Power Quotes: Revisiting Our Action Plans

Two days left. Well, four if I count the weekend. Whew! It's gone too fast.

I've been working on my syllabus, rearranging my classroom, putting up bulletin boards, deciding what to wear, and organizing my thoughts for the first few days of classes. It's a big job, and gets bigger every year I teach (And I thought the longer I taught the easier my job would become...WRONG...definitely not in the technology age!) But what a great time in history to be a teacher!

So as I started thinking about this year, this cartoon always come to mind. I've searched for it online, but couldn't find it to I"ll just write it for you.
One student, with backpack in tow is talking to a lawyer.
"I want to sue my teacher for stupidity," he explains.
The lawyer replies, "Your teacher is stupid?"
"No," says the student, "I am."

I've gone to tables this year rather than chairs. I've been asking for the last four years and this year I just finally did...the age-old adage "it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission" seems to still work. So, with the new furniture and new look of my classroom will come a new phrase..."GREAT NEWS! There's lots of room for learning in here today!" :)

In my cooperative learning groups this year I'm going to focus on remembering three things:
First...individual written work
Second...bring that individual work to a small group....then come to a consensus within the group
Third....take that to large group discussion...thus mediation/arbitration
Then...moving further...we might use this to solve a problem....???

I read Marzano and Kendall's new book "The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives" last week and I want to keep in mind that students can interact four grade levels higher than their reading level.

I hope this year my classroom is going to be one Giant Metacognitive Organism....Thinking, Reading, Discussing!

Dealing Parents In: The three F's: Fun...Food...Family. I'm diving in this year. I'm going to have parent mtg. nights in my classroom...invite them for cookie/milk snacks....invite a few at a time into my classroom for different things...I don't know. I'm just going to dive in and see what will work this year and what won't. I'm tired of saying I want more parents involved but I don't give myself or them second chances. I guess it's put up or shut up time for me.

So, as I was organizing my thoughts and my syllabus and trying to put my ideas into action...or in the trenches I should say...I revisited my binders from the summer institute and started perusing around our blog once more to steal practical ideas and good advice from great teachers. And as usual, your words inspired me. Thanks to you all for some great ideas I plan to implement starting on Day 1.

Every day, I will leave the comfort zone of the familiar, product-driven college course and move more toward process.~Michael

I will teach writing a little differently this year. I definitely plan to make my writing more hands on with my students actively engaged in their thoughts and experiences.~Jason

Thomas's presentation opened new opportunities to explore character in real life. I loved his idea he explored in "Adding Skin: Role-taking Within Journal Writing." ...Now, with the information from Thomas's demo and discussing with Casey the different approaches to journal writing, I will adapt this element in all of my classes.~Julia

I would like to write a foundation grant to let elementary students participate in a WRITING MARATHON at the zoo. I would like to complement this with stories about animals (fiction and non-fiction...". ~Laura

Use the phrase “Make it different” instead of “Make it better”~Zak

My classroom will look much more like Summer Institute – more consistent in our schedule allowing for students to find a routine that will allow for writing surprises but forging foundations for better writing, small writing group work, and a safer writing/sharing environment.~Kelly

I am going to encourage my department (and my district)to become a writing department and teachers of writing, not just for the MAP test, not just for book reviews or research papers, but for the sake of writing. ~Julie

Video, poetry, and genre…I have wanted to compile an Anthology of Hollister for a few years now. Showing students ways to communicate their history and their experiences in a variety of formats is perfect.~Shelly

I will provide my students with more writing opportunities -- velocity, fluency, productivity. ~Ashlei

This new way of approaching poetry as a genre in writing and journaling is a direct reflection of my new-found comfort with the genre itself...I hope to inspire my students to learn and stumble with me in the process, laughing at ourselves and cheering on our emerging voices.~Liz

Shelly's demo showed how I can use art to connect to literature and get the kids to use analysis and evaluation through art. I'm also thinking about how I would like the kids to be able to create artifacts around their reading.~Teri

I plan to continue researching the topic of whether or not "direct modeling" of cross-sensing is a viable/effective way to go. I always enjoy the "generating writing" activities, but from my first small exposure to the writing project several years ago (thank you, Keri), I have been drawn to issues of "craft," particularly revising strategies and development of skills.~JoAnn

I like the reformulation revision concept, especially coupled with either an introduction or conclusion, especially when coupled with Michael's spicing up an intro.-Susan

I would love to do a demonstration/presentation at the Write to Learn Conference. I would love to show how easy it is to integrate video into a writing classroom.~Larry

*Casey's disclaimer: Please forgive me if you name doesn't appear here. I searched and searched through the entire blog to try to get something from everyone, but it seems I couldn't find every one's plan. However, just b/c your name doesn't appear here, please know I've stolen ideas from you!! And when I use them, I'll keep you posted. :)

I hope all of you have a blissful and productive year.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

New Blog


The new site looks great. Thanks.

I cannot really decide how to vote on the first day of school reaction. I am torn between ice cream and wearing black. Actually, I could eat the ice cream and also wear black, a slenderizing color that will hide the ice cream weight gain. HMMM.

Ach!! We go back the 13th also. Doesn't seem possible. Have a great (well maybe good? well maybe . . . ?) first day.


P.S. I responded to you general e-mail, but it came right back as undeliverable. Wonder why?