As I work on my own homework, I am taking a few minutes to check on some of the projects that students have been working on - primarily the middle school students and their classroom blogs.
So far, they look great and I am excited to see that some of the students have taken time outside of class to personalize their pages to reflect their personalities. Love it! Not only does this tell me that they are excited to work on this project, but that they were listening to (and able to retain) the instructions I gave them in class on how to design their pages.
I know that web design doesn't require as much know-how today as it did at the inception of page design...today we just have to drag and drop the elements that we want to include, no coding knowledge required. However I think it is safe to say that none of the students have any real experience with this type of work and they are doing an amazing job so far.
But in looking at the projects, it reminds me that the students have been raised in a culture where nothing is really secret any more. Students are ready to share their email addresses and other information about themselves. Our students have grown up in a culture of oversharing.
So this week, even though these blogs will never be shared with the public, we will talk about online safety as well as Internet etiquette. In a world where we tweet, snap, and Facebook our lives, it is important to realize that sometimes (almost always) less is best when it comes to cultivating your online profile.
As always, I realize that all families are different when it comes to where their comfort level is when it comes to students being online. I work hard to make sure student information is as protected as possible and always encourage students to privatize information on any social media platform they are a part of. Also, I will never require your student to create a public profile on any media platform- so if they come home saying they have to create a public website please know that they don't. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions.
Students in grades 7 & 8 are taking the digital world by storm and are working in small online communities to create small blogs that allow them to share their writing and give feedback in real time.
The first assignment that 8th grade students are working on is a fractured fairy tale. With this assignment they pick at an original fairy tale and identify a new narrator, giving the story a different perspective. Once they have identified a new narrator and his/her traits, they start retelling the major events from that new perspective to get the "true" story of what happened.
One example of a fractured fairy tale is The TRUE Story of the Three Little Pigs as told by A. Wolf.
7th graders are exploring short stories. Their assignments will be focused on journal entries that respond to various stories and discussions in the classroom. Students will be expected to share their thoughts and give constructive comments on each other's entries.
All websites are password protected and are moderated through our classroom site.
Sharing with Your Neighbors
BY MADISYN TAYLOR
If you are craving community look to your own neighbors to forge new relationships and build something new together.
Many of our relationships can be fleeting or do not deepen past a superficial level, yet these connections, as trivial as they can seem, often have the potential to grow into something much more essential. When we crave community, we should focus our attention on these casual acquaintances. To forge a bond with neighbors, we need to work together with them so that we have a context from which to begin a more mature relationship. Sharing tasks that are part of living can be a wonderful way to become a part of a larger community, make new friends, and lighten the workloads of everyone involved.
Creating a network of neighbors who agree to pool certain resources and share daily duties can be as easy as taking the initiative. If you are willing to take the first step by reaching out to the individuals and families who share your building or your street, you will likely find that others are receptive to the notion. Starting small, with just a few people, can help you orchestrate a smoothly running system. Together, you will need to decide what chores you want to do communally and what resources can be shared. Ideas for community sharing are child care, errands, housework, keeping a joint garden, cooking for the group, and carpooling. For instance, if you cook large meals for four neighbors once a week, you take off four nights after that. As you grow to trust one another, you can begin adding new members to your evolving network or introducing new tasks to your shared roster of duties.
Actions speak louder than words, so working closely with neighbors to ensure the well-being of the group can be a wonderful way to build a sense of community in your locale. Not everyone you approach will be open to the idea of becoming a part of a network of sharing. As you connect with those who do appreciate the merits of such a system, you will discover that others are just as eager as you are to create interpersonal connections that are defined by substance.
I took the above article from The Daily Om, a site that often shares short, but insightful, articles about various topics.
Today's topic had me thinking a lot about the community around me and how actions - big and small - impact my world, which in turn impacts the world of those around me.
Being in the classroom every day, I may not be asking students to perform assigned duties, but I am asking them to behave in a certain way: be respectful, be kind, be honest, etc. These requests can be shown in a number of different ways - picking up the space around a desk, saying hi to fellow students, raising hands to speak instead of interrupting, offering assistance, etc.
It also means helping to turn a negative into positive.
When students fail at their initial attempt to accomplish something, many react with feeling defeated. They may be overwhelmed or lose confidence. Sharing the journey with your neighbors means that you are supported and encouraged to try again. It means that we all learn from the mistake. It means we grow individually and as a community.
Maybe I am interpreting this article in a way that is far from the intended meaning. But when a middle school student can sense another person's stress, give that person a pat on the back to give reassurance, and continue with the project without judgment, then I am pretty sure that middle school student is well his/her way to being an essential person in the community. That student is helping to turn a stressful, and potentially negative, situation into a positive so the community - our classroom - can be productive.
It is hard to believe that we are already 8 days into the new school year. Yet at the same time it feels like we have been here for-ev-er.
I don't know about you, but I am exhausted at the end of the day as we transition from summer schedules to the more structured (and possibly more chaotic) schedule of the school year.
For my 7th graders this year is particularly exhausting as they work their way into finding a balance with juggling school, extra curricular activities, and home. This may also be a big transition year for parents as well. The important thing to remember is to take a step back and know that mistakes will happen, but they are great learning opportunities. Communication to ensure that staff, students, and parents are all on the same page is a great way to reduce stress for everyone involved.
The year is already old hat for a lot of my 8th graders. Their mentality is more-or-less "been there, done that". However, it is still really important to maintain communications levels and not let students become complacent. It is very easy for students to let the organization slip and then anxiety may increase as they may not have a solid handle on deadlines and/or assignments.
As we continue with the year, I want to stress communication on all levels. Phone calls home are already being made and students are already receiving feedback on assignments. Without communication there are misunderstandings and frustration. The goal is to work together to create the best possible community for students and to help them take ownership of their learning experience.
Have a great Wednesday!
I was just introduced to bullet journals by a friend. It is a concept that I had never heard of, even though I have been keeping a journal and updating my online calendars forever.
To be completely honest, I was a little hesitant to try it. I mean, who needs one more thing to keep track of?
Then I started researching it. While the concept may look a little convoluted, once it is set up there seems to be so much potential to create a system that works for you.
So the few, very few, who take the time to read the classroom blog may wonder what this topic is doing here. Simple, students and adults all need be organized and we simply do not have the time or energy to carry around what seems like a million planners, phones, etc.
And no. I am not suggesting doing away with your phone. If you are a family that needs to coordinate schedules, one shared calendar app is extremely helpful. But I really do like the idea of having a personalized calendar, to-do list, and journal all in one location that doesn't depend on a charger or require me to open up 3 different apps to accomplish my goals.
Here are two different links that I found to be helpful. I will try to post pictures of my journal later, but these sites should be able to get you started.
How to Bullet Journal
It is really hard to believe that midquarter is here already. It seems like just yesterday we were reviewing expectations at the beginning of the year.
Grades have been updated. There aren't a lot of grades in the computer as of yet because we have been working on skill building in a variety of areas: 7th grade has been working with argumentation and Scholarly Academic Conflict (SAC) to help them identify important clues, establish warrants (rules), and develop an acceptable conclusion based on information gathered; 8th grade is covering research writing; and Communications is focusing on understanding the basics of communication and speech giving with a focus on impromptu speeches right now.
Communication with parents and students has been unbelievable so far this year! I have been impressed with the level of maturity students have shown when it comes to asking questions and notifying me when they may be struggling with an issue. This makes the entire process so much easier and lowers frustration so students don't feel left behind if they don't grasp a concept immediately. All my students seem to understand that this is not a sign of failure, but of needing to approach the learning a bit differently to meet individual needs.
And parents/guardians, I appreciate the feedback and questions on your end. As a parent myself I understand that sometimes the meaning of an assignment or a lesson gets lost in translation. Your students do their very best to repeat exactly what needs to be done, but with so much information coming at them all day, it is understandable that things get a little mixed up from time to time. Please feel free to continue messaging me via email or Remind and I will answer your questions as quickly as possible.
I know that I am a bit behind on updating the monthly calendar pages on the site, but I will work on that this week so everything is up-to-date.
Thanks for all you do!!!
It is hard to fathom that we are past the halfway mark of summer vacation and school supplies are making an appearance yet again on store shelves.
If you are seeing the same things I am, your inboxes and Facebook feeds keep showing you sales for the upcoming year.
A few parents have even reached out to me about what their students will need for the 2016-17 school year! (Thanks for being proactive parents!!)
So here is a list that will apply to ALL of my classes - English 7, 8, and Communications.
This past Thursday I was able to take my 8th grade class to the Guthrie Theater to see A Christmas Carol. This is the 9th year that I have had the privilege of taking students to this play.
I have to be honest, I do not relish bus rides with younger students - they do not nap or value sleep quite like their older counterparts. They also tend to hold on to a bit of their elementary selves - running and talking a little louder than necessary when exploring new environments. The excitement for novel situations is not lost on these kids. =)
But as I settled in for the show with the kids, there was silence. Silence from even the most active student in my room. I looked around during the performance and was reminded how seeing something created live before your very eyes, how storytelling at it's very best, can transport even the most hard to please child into a new world.
Every student was mesmerized. There were no phone screens shining in the darkness or loud whispers from behind. The students were momentarily transported into Dickens' world of poverty and hope, of selfishness and family - the book they had been forced to read in class had come alive and was suddenly real.
These are the moments that remind me of my classroom why. Teachers were sharing with me the next day how the students were "raving about the play" or "loved the experience". I grew up in a small town. We didn't do field trips. I didn't have the experience of going to museums or plays (other than the local playhouse in my town). I get how difficult it is for families in rural communities to get away to the "big city" to check out cultural experiences. This is why I love to see the reaction of students when they step out of their usual routine, put down their phones, and take in a new experience.
So I give a hearty thank you to the parents and caretakers of the community that support field trips like this. We may not be in the classroom, but the looks on your students' faces when they ask questions, share they experience, and talk about what they saw is more than enough proof for me that they learned something.