Saturday, August 9, 2014

Great Giveaway at I'm Lovin Lit

Who wouldn't be interested in one of those cool toolboxes with the cute labels for their classroom.  Well, Erin over at I'm Lovin Lit is giving away one of those great boxes with your choice of label design!  And, even if you don't win, you can nab some pretty nice labels and make your own toolbox or one for a teacher friend.

I have seen these over the years but I never get in the mood to make my own.  The only time I really have is summer and I tend to do a lot of reading on the deck and making excuses for not getting my list of things I wanted to do, done!!!

But Erin seems to have an abundance of energy because she is always posting about the fantastic things she makes both for herself and for her classroom.  You should check out her TPT store too.  She has some great products.

So, before you head back to school, head over to Erin's blog and check out her giveaway.  I am sure you won't be disappointed.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Great new historical fiction book!!!!

Jump over to the  Teaching Authors blog to read about the new novel, Odin's Promise, that focuses on WWII and the occupation of Norway by the Germans.  There are links to the author's website to learn more about the novel, and The Teaching Authors are raffling off a signed copy of this book.

I teach a huge unit on the Holocaust and this would be a great addition to my library, so I am secretly hoping that I will be the winner!!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Simplest Explanation of the Common Core that I Have Seen!

Thanks to Shannon Clark over at I Run, Read, Teach I found the best way to explain the Common Core State Standards to everyone. I honestly don't understand what all the hoopla is about. They are standards, and pretty good ones if you compare them to what Illinois has had! But they are only standards, not a curriculum. I still teach the way I want and what I want, only now I get to go into more depth. Why doesn't everyone just stop and think about what is best for the students that we teach instead of worrying about who decided what! If you study the standards, it is obvious that thought was put into them and that they were written to raise the level of education in the United States. Isn't that what we all want????

As for all the testing they are insisting that all schools participate in, I think that is crazy. Do we just teach to a test or should we teach to educate???? That is where I see the problem!
Easy Explanation of the Common Core State Standards

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Summer Institute at the Smithsonian

Last summer I was lucky enough to spend a week in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art participating in an awesome workshop that showed middle and high school teachers of English/reading and Social Studies, how to incorporate art into the classroom. It was such an exhilarating experience. I learned so much, not just from the presenters at the museum, but from the incredible teachers that I met at the institute! I became fast friends with a woman from Florida (we actually met waiting on the bench outside the dorm where we were being housed for the week) and another woman from New York. I also met another wonderful woman from Florida who was embarking on a new teaching assignment working on a reservation in southern Florida. They taught me so much about what goes on outside my little world in the suburbs of Chicago. There were people from all over the country, as well as Korea and China. Our learning did not stop once the day came to an end. Being able to walk all over D.C. and experience the rich history that city provides was also an added bonus. I can't even begin to tell you how many miles my old feet clocked! And staying in a dorm room on the campus of George Washington University was another eye-opening experience, since it had been a long time since I spent time in a college dorm room!!!!

The Smithsonian is again offering this experience to middle and high school teachers of ELA and the humanities. The fee is small, the housing affordable and the experience a "once in a lifetime." If you are at all interested, please click on this link, Smithsonian Teacher Institute and apply. I guarantee that you won't regret a single minute! Application deadline is March 31, 2014!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Please help my school win new computers!

CDW is having a contest to win new computers for your school. The school I work at is a very small Catholic school in an economically challenged area. The majority of our students are low income, Hispanic families. Many of our families pay reduced tuition or are subsidized by the Archdiocese of Chicago. We have a computer lab that has old computers that were second hand when we received them. Don't get me wrong, we are very thankful to have been given them, however, we definitely could benefit from new ones! Please help my school to win new computers from CDW. All you have to do is click on this link and enter the zip code 60073. Once you have done that, just scroll down and click on St. Joseph School. Our school community will be extremely grateful if you do.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm still on the search for support of my beliefs in assessment!

I follow Life of an Educator by Justin Tarte and I found this amazing entry. It really supports what I believe about education. I try to follow these beliefs in my classroom and it isn't always easy to do when you have to deal with other staff members. You can read the entire article on his blog, just click on the title above and it will take you to his blog.

"6 myths in education that need a debunking!

Myth 1 - Students will abuse and take advantage of a situation if we treat another student 'differently.' We all believe in differentiating, personalizing, and customizing the educational experience for our students as much as possible. Having said that, many believe that if you do something perceived to be 'easier' for one student or you 'cut them slack,' then other students will exploit and use this situation to their advantage. Here's the deal, what's fair isn't always equal, and what's equal isn't always fair, and a majority of students aren't going to take advantage of a situation just because you treated another student 'differently.'

Myth 2 - Students learn from 'zeros.' When a student receives a zero for not completing an assignment (this could be for numerous different reasons), the student deserves a zero because in turn they will learn from this zero and learn not to repeat this behavior. For the record, I'm still waiting to find the kid who gets a zero and says 'I have now seen the light and I will no longer commit myself to such atrocities and hence forth all of my future assignments will be turned in completed and on time with a little pretty bow on top...'"

I also read this article about averaging grades by the Association for Middle Level Education that I think everyone should read. I refuse to ever average another grade as long as I teach. I truly believe that averaging has no place in education. I want to let the student and parent know what the child knows, not what a bunch of numbers average out to be. Personally, I think letter grades are stupid. Give me standards based grading any day. Let the parent and the student know what they need to work on and what they have mastered. What do grades really tell the parent anyway? Especially when Susie teacher down the hall gives all A's and B's because she just doesn't want to deal with the parents. Read the article if any of this has made you curious!

Student Motivation

I instituted the 3P grading policy for the second semester of the school year, with my principal's blessing. I truly believe that student's should have some input into their final grade. I also believe that when a student feels that they are valued they will perform better. So, all that being said, I thought that this approach to grading might help to motivate my current 8th grade class. I was wrong. They certainly seemed excited by it when I explained it to them, but their work performance did not change. The same students that did not do their work before, continue to not do their work. I don't know what else to do!

We do much of our work in class because I know that they go home to environments that are not conducive to study. Many have parents who do not speak English or parents who do not arrive home from work until quite late. If anything does become homework, it is only what was not finished in class AND it is ALWAYS something that any one of them could complete independently. I NEVER ask them to do anything, with which they might struggle, without me. And still, I get nothing.

I have a good relationship with the class. I do not belittle them or scream at them or even nag them about work (I have colleagues that do all of this and more!). These students come to me with their problems, their hopes and dreams, and they tell me repeatedly that I am their favorite teacher because I understand them and my class is fun and interesting. So WHY CAN'T I GET THEM TO DO THEIR WORK!!

I know, some of you are thinking my work it boring! But it isn't. I am not a drill and kill worksheet lady. I turn grammar lessons into songs and use a story approach to teaching. We have LOTS of discussion, turn and talk, work with a partner, and hands-on activities going on all the time.

I really feel like this class is an anomaly, but I know that the upcoming 6th grade class is like this 8th grade class so I am wondering if this is what the future holds. Is education not valued anymore? What can I do to make sure these students will be successful in life?