Why Poetry?

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For years I had used poetry to teach everything from the content areas to grammar to literary devices to literary elements to….well, you name it. Then I discovered Nancie Atwell’s book Naming the World. She has copyright permission on all the poems as well as ideas for mini-lessons to go with each. The poems lend themselves to a more mature audience — seventh, eighth, or ninth graders. I highly recommend!

Feedback….

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Feedback can be one of the most powerful ways that we as teachers impact our students’ learning…if the feedback is specific. This is also where we get into public commentary on exemplar work to hang in our classrooms so that our students know what it looks like to meet or not meet a given standard. After all, what good does it do them if they don’t know what they are working to achieve? I remember in year’s past (not in any of our teaching careers, of course!) when it was a great mystery to determine how one would get a given grade on an assignment. No more are those days. Now, by setting mock models of work with the commentary on them, our students know exactly what our expectations are of them as they are learning. And just think how much more they will learn with the expectation in front of them –in black and white!

After all, what good does it do them if they don’t know what they are supposed to learn?

CCGPS Math

calcThere are so many resources out there claiming to be made for Common Core. I keep seeing them all over Pinterest, but when I look at them, they are often the same old worksheets or rote practice dressed up in something pretty. Often they are computer games that are just encouraging rote memorization which is everything that CC is not. I do have to say that the Georgia training webinars have done a nice job of explaining the purpose of CC as well as why it is so important for our students to get the conceptual knowledge, fluency, and understanding of numbers.

This link is to a Georgia math wiki that includes videos, conversations, and resources that are wonderful for deep math instruction that our students deserve –whether they live in Georgia or not!

Implementation | PARCC

This link takes you to to PARCC which is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. They are working on the new standardized assessment that will replace the CRCT here in Georgia –so let’s be informed!

Implementation | PARCC

Writing

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Writing is the one subject I taught throughout my career. I started as a second grade teacher and made my way through the grades up to eighth grade. I adored teaching it because I learned so much about my students through their writing and felt like I got to know them so well! Early on in my career I felt ill-equipped to teach literacy, so I found myself getting a degree in Language and Literacy. This was one of the best career decisions I made. In my early years I tried hard to model my classroom after gurus such as Nancie Atwell and Lucy Calkins. As with many of us, grammar was the ongoing struggle — until I attended a training by a teacher by the name of Jeff Anderson. If you haven’t read his books or attended one of his trainings, his simple ideas for integrating grammar instruction into the context of writing workshop are amazing. My students didn’t even realize they were learning grammar. It’s inductive, integrated, and appropriate — everything that constructivist, integrated instruction should be.

Helping Students Understand Differentiation

Years ago, courtesy of my team-teaching friend, Nicole, at the start of each year I would tell my students a story. The story went something like this: one child goes to the doctor with a stomachache while his sister goes to the doctor with a headache. What is the treatment for each? Is the the same? Is it equal? Is it fair? And thus would be my conversation into differentiation throughout the year. We would discuss how not everything would be the same (homework, reading groups, activities, etc.); not everything would be equal, but everything would be fair.

Enter a few years later when I had the amazing experience of attending a Rick Womeli workshop. He taught his students this same lesson through a different activity which I think is even more visual and easier to understand. He talked about taping a dollar bill (or a five dollar bill) high up on the classroom wall and calling on the tallest student in the room to get it down and keep it. He tapes another one and then calls on the shortest students who usually either asks another student for help or pulls a chair up for assistance, at which time he would stop the student and say that it was not okay to use assistance. Usually, the students come to the rescue saying that it’s not fair. Again, this leads into a wonderful conversation about fair and equal and differentiation in the classroom. Effective for most ages!

If you have never had the opportunity to hear Rick Wormeli speak, I highly recommend reading his book Fair Isn’t Always Equal. He explains standards, differentiation, recovery policies, and practical applications of all of the above. A timely book!

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