Monday, September 30, 2013

Read, Yo!

Last year, I had a student paint a portrait of Lil Wayne as part of a multi-genre research project. She let me keep it. Needless to say, I got creative with it:

He now suggests different books for the kids to read. Each book is based on what we're doing in class. For example, the book in the right is about the Death Penalty, which is based on the book we're reading in class, The Innocent Man by John Grisham. I have one student who is reading that book independently because he enjoys The Innocent Man so much!

Yo, Yo, Yo, Check it Out!

Monday, September 23, 2013

$2 Giant Magnet Board!

Pinterest, once again, saved me when it came to decorating my room. I wanted a little more space to put projects or announcements that would constantly be on a rotation. I looked at the different white boards and whatnot at WalMart, but I am entirely too cheap to spend $10.

So, I found Classroom Collective. It had the best idea! Turn two metal filing cabinets sideways and cover with fabric to create a magnet board!

I didn't have 2 cabinets, but I used the one. The fabric was leftover from my bulletin board and the border was on clearance at Michael's for $1.

The border was peeling off in the picture, but here's what less than $2 made me :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Fishbowl Failure

I have 3 sections of English I. 2 of those classes are small and manageable enough that I have all those grandiose ideas and activities. I love that planning high, where you're not imagining the thousands of things that can and will go wrong, but rather the beautiful way a student will come up to you and say, "Ms. Turley, thank you for today. I really learned something."


Friday was not that day for me. I planned a Fishbowl Discussion with a bunch a freshmen. What was I thinking?!

I set up the room so that my smaller classes could have one discussion with the class split in half - one watching, one discussing. I allowed them to use any resources they needed for the topic (we just finished reading The Odyssey and the kids knew they were going to get one of three different topics).

Here were the topics I used:
  • How did Homer portray the gods in The Odyssey? What role did the gods play in human life?
  • Choose a hero from popular culture. How does the director/writer make you feel about that hero and his/her opponents? Compare and Contrast that hero to those in The Odyssey?
My first and second hours went great! A clear leader shined in each group and everyone participated, even if it wasn't always on task participation. The outer circle "graded" the inner based on "Respect for Others," "Comprehension," and "Willingness to Participate." It was a win-win-win-win. The students practiced with rubrics, discussion skills, listening skills, comprehension check, and except for a few changes, they handled the grading for me!

...And that's where I got my confidence up.

My 6th hour is by far my largest class - and the loudest. It's the end of the day, they're squirrelly, and it's just an interesting mix of personalities. I set up 2 different groups because one large one was going to be impossible, so there were a total of 4 circles... and it was awful all around.

One group didn't speak at all. One wouldn't get on topic if it meant to save their mothers from fire. One got upset because they wanted to talk longer. And the other - well - they tried. Really, they did.

I'm now in the reflection stage of planning. What can I do better next year?! I know that this isn't nearly enough information, but if any of you have suggestions, I definitely want to hear them!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'll Give the Teacher an Apple - Teachers Love Apples

I'm having a moment today... a student gave me an apple.  My very first teacher apple *sqeeeee*

Monday, September 16, 2013

Exit Card Idea: T-Shirt Design

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I am a big fan of using exit slips/cards. It helps me keep track of what students are actually learning before the test AND it forces even those who weren't paying too much attention to produce something before they leave the room.

My problem is that I don't always want a summary - that's super boring. I've tried to think of different, interesting ways to assess this, such as Ice Cream Flavors. I came up with this one after randomly finding this website - an entire "store" dedicated to To Kill a Mockingbird merchandise.

I'm not even sure how I got there - all I know is that I was planning my TKAM unit and there it was. Anyway, the idea.

Have the students create a T-Shirt design based on the section of the book/article they were supposed to read for that day. What would it look like and what it that design's significance? It takes it one step further than "summarize what you read."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Common Core Daily Planning Made Easy

Common Core has made it so that teachers must focus on the standards almost 100% of the time. Gone are the days where teachers can plan their lessons the way they want and then add the standards in later.

The Instructional Coach for our district came up with this neat little form that has made my daily planning so much easier:

It's really nice because I can create a document for the entire unit and it has everything I need. My favorite part of the objective and assessment. This keeps me accountable for daily formative assessments, such as exit slips, and helps me figure out if the students are actually understanding the standard/objective for the day.

I can't imagine planning without it any more...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Modeling Literature Circle Meetings

Starting next week, my freshmen are going to attack a literature circle. Last year, I did this unit at the end of the year, after they had some practice with discussing. I'm nervous about doing it so soon, but hopefully this "sink or swim" will prepare them for the rest of the year, especially since it's so guided.
(Not my Students, but this is typically what it looks like)

Anyway, I was concerned last year about modeling a circle meeting. Reading in a circle is fine - the students have done it before. It's discussing on their own that's a struggle. Luckily, I found this video to help out. I tried to embed it, but it didn't work :(

It's a 9th grade circle meeting, using the traditional roles. The best part about it is that there is a student that didn't actually read the material! The girls roll with the punches. It serves many different purposes.

In additional to watching it, I have to kids make a T-Chart about what they Hear and See in the video. We discuss and use it to create circle norms and rules. It worked well last year and I'll be sure to let you know how it progresses this time around!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stock Up on Paperclips!

If you're anything like me, you hate passing back papers and assignments once they have been graded. It takes forever, students must be left to their own devices on independent assignments (just something else that needs to be graded), and there are always those students, who know they didn't do the work, asking why they got such and such a grade on the assignment. In fact, you might even put off this task until the stack of paper is so high that it takes an entire class period to complete.

Well, after a couple months of doing it this way, I had enough. It actually completely stressed me out. I hated those days and my students weren't getting feedback in a timely manner. How are they supposed to improve when they don't know specifically how they're doing?

After a little brainstorming, I started this process:

  1. Create a student packet for all the assignments from the previous week.
  2. Paperclip the papers together.
  3. Go around the room once (which isn't a big deal because I'm constantly moving anyway).
  4. Once all packets are distributed, make a second lap to answer any questions students might have.

I typically do this on Article of the Week days, when students are annotating or working in partners. I don't have to plan anything differently than I already do AND it keeps up a routine that they're used to, so I don't have to constantly redirect of repeat instructions.

These are the results:

  • Students go through the packet, piece by piece.
  • When I go around the room a second time, they have all their questions organized, so I'm not running around.
  • Those students whose confidence plummeted at the sight of a  not-so-good mark can build back up with a good grade/comment on something else. I don't have to deal with bruised egos as much and I can focus on actual productive questions that will help my students in the long run.

I was concerned at the beginning that sorting the papers and creating these packets was going to take way too much time. However, I've found that in less than a plan period, I can get all 5 of my classes sorted, clipped, and ready for distribution. I typically do this the day before, so I can just grab a stack and go!

Extra Perk: I'm forced with this routine to keep up with my grading, so it doesn't stack up and stress me out when final grades are due!