Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Unit 1 Reflection

More often than not, when teachers "reflect," they don't often see an honest picture. It has taken me literally years teaching to honestly reflect. There are always good things and strengths, and always things that could be better.

Positives so far in my first unit:
1. I've been using Kelly Gallagher's "Article of the Week" to make sure I teach nonfiction skills along with the short story unit. My kids have written a 1 page response for each article and have read about Tesla electric cars, Seamus Heaney, and how to improve their brains.

2. I tried a Socratic Seminar for the first time, and it ROCKED. The kids had rich conversations and a better  written response as a result.

3. We read The Scarlet Ibis, The Necklace, The Gift of the Magi, and will be finishing up The Red Headed League soon. We had some very rich conversations. I loved how mad some of my students were at the end of the Necklace.

4. I have developed an easily updated system for Bell Ringers. I'm loosely following Kelly Gallagher's outline of grammar skills found in "Write Like This!"

Negatives/A chance to grow:
1. My unit plan turned out to suck. I did not effectively backwards plan assessments, nor plan for effective learning goals with effective exit tickets. I'm going to have to get better about grading meaningful assignments based off of clear learning goals and assessing smaller chunks. 3 short stories in one unit test? WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

2. I did not effectively pace my reading assignments. Part of this was because I truly struggled to gain data about my students. It was easy for me to look at some basic writing samples and see some giant holes in their writing understanding. But, I did not start the year with reading levels. I went from the last two years looking at DRA scores to only having anecdotal information passed on from lower grades. I don't know how to effectively gauge reading levels for 150 students.

3. I want my students to be able to continue to develop their writing into multiple page assignments; we are scheduled to write a 2-4 page research paper in January and I want students to start that assignment with some foundation writing skills. However, assigning a 1 page response for homework, even after reading the article in class and modeling an outline gets me a 50% return rate.

4. Vocabulary instruction-what vocabulary instruction?

Next steps:
1. I am starting to Kill A Mockingbird with more resources; I will find exemplar assessments to align standards and learning goals to weekly sets of chapters by the end of the week. I will build an end of unit assessment based off of those weekly quiz questions/essay topics.

2. I will research high school reading assessments for next year. I will consider asking the grade below me assess students at the end of the year.

3. I need to better incentive smaller homework assignments; starting this week, I will assign 1/2 page paragraphs or short grammar practice-after looking at the unit assessment results, we could use some more practice.

4. I've bought a couple of vocabulary instruction books. I will find pre-made lists from Mockingbird, or I will have kids preview the texts and make a vocabulary list/per chapter. Either way, I will find a system and try it. If it doesn't work, at least I tried something in this unit.

Since you read this whole thing, have something cute from the internet:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Cautionary Computer Tale

I've been getting up early, getting to school around 6:30, and generally getting home around 6. Not particularly healthy, I know. Unfortunately, it's my computer who paid for it.


Inside the white square, above, is a tiny dent. Funny story. I had let my iPad charge last weekend and then carelessly laid it on top of some clothes I hadn't put up yet. I was up late the other night making notes for the next day; when I finally went to sleep, I laid my macbook gently on the floor next to my bed. In a hurry to find a shirt the next morning, my iPad fell from the chair and onto my macbook. I hurried to school without another thought. 

That afternoon, I opened my laptop to find this: 

I didn't know whether to throw up or cry. I did neither.

My nearest Apple store is more than a two hour drive; when I attempted to call Apple support (cue the internet laughter), I was prompted to cough up $20. Yeah. Right. I called a few other repair places and got estimates of at least $400 to $800; all said at least a month repair time.

I went with a friend to Best Buy to bemoan the state of windows laptops; did you know they are mostly touchscreen now?!? Crazy. I was generally more impressed with tablets, but I still need a laptop for managing music, using Office products, managing teacher files. Anyway, I decided to buy another macbook pro, this time with a three year protection plan.

My first macbook would have been 2 years old in two weeks. Moral? 1. Naked laptops should never be left unattended. 2. Always buy the warranty. 3. NEVER leave laptops on the floor.