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Showing posts from May, 2015

How Opening a Pool Opened My Mind

This past weekend, I spent a few hours helping my future father- and brother-in-law opening their family's pool. This was a completely new experience for me. I'm not the first person that people think of when they need help with physical labor or mechanical reasoning, but I volunteered because I like to learn new things.

Growing up, my family didn't have a pool. My mom occasionally lived in an apartment with a pool, so we could reap the benefits of having one. I just had never done any of the required maintenance to open one. And this work reminded me of what my students must feel when they encounter a new task for the first time.

I offer a few comparisons between the opening of the pool and the learning that takes place in classrooms:

Watch out for the spiders! Maybe there aren't gigantic arachnids in our classrooms, but there were in the pool. Asking kids to step outside their comfort zones can be scary. You won't want to do it, but the more you do it, the less sc…

The Real Thanks

I've taught ninth- and tenth-grade English for the past three years. With the exception of a few students that I've had for credit recovery, this is the first time that I have had a large amount of graduating seniors. Watching them last night at prom, made me realize how privileged I am as a teacher to get to see young men and women grow and mature over four years.

Per the advice from my field instructor in college, I keep a "bad day folder" in my desk at work. I've placed thank-you cards and small notes in there over the past few years, and I have turned to it every now and then, especially on those days that lessons just seem to fall flat. I've come to realize this past week that sometimes our lessons don't take at that moment, but students listen more than we think.

I received a few letters from graduating seniors this week with these messages in them:

"Thanks for introducing me to John Green. I've read every single one of his books."

"…

Pop Sonnets

I hardly watch television, and it's been months since I've been to a movie. Students are always quick to express their disbelief when I share this with them. Books and reading take centerstage in my life, and I'll occasionally indulge in a Netflix binge.

And because reading is at the forefront of my life, it's often easy to forget that it isn't (yet) for students. Sometimes their exposure to words and ideas comes from popular culture--popular culture that I really don't know as much about as I should.

I also know that students fear Shakespeare. Many of them hadn't even met the bard yet, but they were quick to share their apprehensions. I encounter something similar with To Kill a Mockingbird. Word can sure get around that texts are difficult, that you "don't really need to read them," etc.

To prevent this, I started off our reading of Romeo and Juliet by looking at pop sonnets. If you haven't checked them out, go here. Today we looked at &…

Playing Devil's Advocate

I can't count how many times I've reiterated one of the tenets of my teaching philosophy to students: "In here, talk drives learning." And in a world where I've noticed kids have much to say but sometimes struggle with recognizing that spoken words can become the written, I try to leverage their abilities to talk as much as possible before, during, and after writing.

I also believe that we learn the most when cognitive dissonance occurs. This is why my students participated in a round of devil's advocate on Friday, with several students sharing their claims and reasons, evidence, and examples in front of the entire class.

I have to say that the teaching and discussion were messy. Not only is it the first time students are really wrestling with writing about self-chosen topics and personally relevant subjects, but they are also having to defend those views publicly.

In order to provide students with some structure, we covered ground rules first. We agreed to …