Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Workshop with Kelly Gallagher

I spent two days this past week in a workshop with Kelly Gallagher. If you don't know who he is and you teach middle or high school language arts, you really need to read his books and if you get the chance, hear him speak. I have been teaching for 20+ years so you can imagine how many workshops I have been to and I have to say this was one of the BEST and most informative. I couldn't believe when 3:00 p.m. rolled around and he said it was time to leave. I felt like I could sit there and listen to him forever. He spent the first day talking about the importance of writing and using mentor texts. He also spoke of the importance of modeling for the students. He gave us a plethora of ideas to work from. He talked about how you don't have to grade everything they write, in fact, you don't even have to READ everything they write! He uses somewhat of a workshop type of organization, but a bit more structured. He stressed the importance of having students read and write EVERY DAY! Less us talking and more them working! I highly recommend: If you look on Amazon you can find them used for much cheaper than list price. These are 4 books that every middle and high school teacher should have in their library. I also met a lovely woman who teaches in a different district than I, and we exchanged lots of great book titles and she gave me some wonderful bulletin board ideas! We are both on Goodreads, so we will follow each other and we have exchanged email addresses too! It is always wonderful to find someone who has the same love of reading myself. I have another workshop in July through the Illinois Holocaust Museum. This is a week long workshop. Its topic is Genocide and Racism. I am really excited about this workshop because I already teach the Holocaust and now I will be adding this unit to be taught in conjunction with To Kill a Mockingbird which I will be teaching to my eighth grade LA class. I know this class and they are bright and motivated and I think they will do a great job with both the novel and the topic of genocide. In August I am attending an inquiry based reading 2 day workshop through the Great Books foundation. Anybody out there ever been to one of their workshops? I don't know much about it but I am hoping that it will be good. Then that will take me right to the start of school! No, we don't have any vacation plans. Last winter we went to St. Maartin over Christmas break and we loved it so much we decided to do another island vacation this coming Christmas break. It is so nice to get away from the cold Chicago winters in December!!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Give-away over at The Mixed Up Files of....

You absolutely must visit the following blog for information about a new book that middle school students will LOVE! The blog, From the Mixed Up Files of... is an absolutely fabulous place to learn about new books and authors. On this blog you will find this offer: One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of THE CLASSROOM: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet Epic Kid. Leave a comment below and our random generator will choose a lucky winner on Saturday, June 23. You’ll get extra entries for sharing a link on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter. So head on over there for your chance to win! I couldn't figure out how to make the link so you just clicked on the name to get to the blog because evidently I am a blog/computer idiot, but the blog is listed on my blog roll to the right so just scroll down until you find it and click and it'll take you right to the blog. I did figure out how to get the trailer for the book however!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dog Attack!

Ok, this has absolutely nothing to do with school things, just a very upset me letting off some steam. I have a whippet. He is 14 years old, mostly blind, deaf and losing his strength in his back legs. I have lived in this same neighborhood for 28 years and so have walked him on the same streets for his entire life. This afternoon, I was taking him on his usual walk and out of nowhere this dog comes and bites him on the rump. He kept attacking my dog and I am beating the dog with my hands trying to get him off my dog. I finally get him by the collar and yank him off my dog and then the collar comes off. Yep, I thought, oh s___, now what!! The dog finally ran off and then the owner comes out and starts telling me that I shouldn't be walking down her street and that no one on the block likes my dog etc, etc, etc. How is any of this relevant??? Here I stand, totally shaken with a bleeding elderly dog and she doesn't even apologize or offer me any help. When I called the police to file a report she accused me of wanting her dog put down. All I know is that I need to file a report and then get my dog to the vet. I ended up carrying a 32 pound injured whippet 4 blocks home. We got to the vet, after hours mind you, so it is an emergency visit and he ended up with stitches and mega antibiotics since I guess dog bites carry lots of germs. The vet told me that in Illinois the owner of the dog that did the biting is legally responsible for the dog and anything it did and will have to pay the vet bill. Also, our town has a leash law so there will be a citation for that. They will need to take their dog in to be observed for rabies. My dog couldn't defend itself if it wanted to. It is old and frail and was just enjoying his afternoon stroll. What is most upsetting to me now, knowing that he will be ok, is that this woman took no responsibility for her dog attacking my dog at all. Seriously, what is this world coming to????? This is what his poor little behind looks like after the vet visit! Here is his sad little face resting on his bed.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Teacher's Funeral, A Comedy in 3 Parts.

Let me just say that my eighth grade LA class will be reading this book this year!!! I found it to be quite humorous and opened the door for discussing dialect. The Lexile score on this one is only 750, so isn't in the range that the new common core standards say eighth graders should be reading, but I think it is increased in difficulty because of the language and the background knowledge that I know my students don't have. I will probably start the year with this book and do some CLOSE reading with it. I think the kids will connect with the characters since it is all about their trials with going to school. I have several other books by this author so I am thinking I could make this an author study. Hmmm... I'll have to do some more thinking on this!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer Vacation?

School's out! My last day with kids was June 1. Teachers had to return this week to finish packing up rooms. I spent all day Saturday at school with my husband and friends, putting together the interactive whiteboards that were purchased for the school by an anonymous donor. It was quite a day!!! The boards are on mobile carts so they can be shared between rooms. The carts had a zillion pieces so it was kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle! You know, the kind where all the pieces are the same color and shape!!!! I am glad that is done! I finished packing up my room on Tuesday. The pastor came through with a guy who had to serve community service hours and he left him with me so I got done about 3 hours sooner than I thought I would. That was a wonderful surprise! Now I am gearing up to work on new units for next year. I am changing from a self-contained sixth grade where I taught all subjects, to teaching only LA to sixth, seventh and eighth grade. I am really looking forward to NOT teaching math and science. Those are probably my weakest areas. I LOVE language arts (although the grammar area is a bit boring. After this last class where the students were not motivated to learn at all, I will enjoy having different groups. This way, if one group is not motivated I have the chance to get another group that will be motivated. Unfortunately, I will have the same group I had this year for 2 periods. Oh well, at least I won't have them all day!! No travel plans for the summer. My husband and I went to St. Maarten over Christmas this past year and we loved it soooooo much that we have decided to do our traveling at that time of the year. It is nice to be able to get away when it is so cold here in Chicago. And I will enjoy being able to relax in my own house all summer! If anyone out there has any ideas for novels aligned to the Common Core, could you point me in that direction. I really don't want to have to reinvent the wheel!!!!