December 21, 2009
This article from the New York Times, Studying Young Minds, And How to Teach Them gets me so excited about what we will learn about learning from brain-based research. The idea that we can target skills when we know that students’ brains are best ready to learn them could have such huge impacts on how we teach. I’m adding these two books to my wishlist to investigate further:
November 15, 2009
An article from Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal that discusses the purpose of children’s literature blogs got me thinking about focus in writing as it relates to one’s blog:
Yearly conferences take place, and each week children’s literary bloggers of all stripes contribute to Nonfiction Mondays, Poetry Fridays, blog carnivals, blog tours, interviews, reviews of new titles, and more.
It all begs the inevitable question: To what end? Sometimes I wonder if this is just a case of bloggers reading one another’s posts, commenting on one another’s blogs, contributing to an insular community that doesn’t have much impact on the outside world.
This resonated with me because I too find myself wondering, “To what end?” I often witness the “echo” of one blog posting about another’s post – in all categories of my feeds, not just kidlit. I subscribe to quite a few home design blogs and you can see a topic or item pop like popcorn around the web – going “viral” it’s sometimes called. And while this is to be expected and totally fine, I sometimes wonder what the point is of my blogging about something I’ve seen on another person’s site. Why contribute to the hollow echo? That leads me back to the question of focus. What’s the point?
These are good questions to discuss with students to help them frame their own blogs, writings, or communications. If my blog is just “things I see on the web and want to remember”, then that is fine, but it will not have much focus. If my blog is “Filtering the web for reading and writing ideas for the intermediate classroom”, then what I read and whether or not I post about it will be a much easier decision. Focus. It helps make things clear.
Extending it further, is your contribution valuable if you don’t add some new learning to the topic? This speaks to those higher order thinking skills: application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation. For a piece of writing to be worth posting (or sharing in the classroom, or submitting as an assignment…) shouldn’t it be more than just a regurgitation of information accumulated elsewhere? On the other hand, how exhausting! All that THINKING. hmmmm…
September 2, 2009
The New York Times has been sparking great discussion in the past week with it’s article about The Future of Reading. Stanley Fish has caused similar debate with his articles What Should Colleges Teach and What Should Colleges Teach Part 2.
In his first article, Fish laments that colleges are no longer teaching composition courses that focus strictly on the craft of writing. He wishes to see more focus on crafting an argument and understanding grammar and syntax, rather than content-based writing courses that use interesting topics to get students to want to write. In his second article, he responds to the flurry of complaints he received in the first article’s comments.
The argument highlights the balancing act we face between getting students to be engaged with their writing and teaching them to be competent crafters of the English language. I understand the motivations of “writing courses” focused on controversial issues that will inspire and engage students to want to write. However, I also feel we are not doing enough to teach our students how to write effectively.
In many ways, isn’t this the same argument we have in every issue in education? Love of writing vs. mechanics? A love of literature vs. phonics? Concepts vs. math facts? And haven’t we learned yet that the most effective answer is “yes and yes” – you need to teach both?
It seems to me, a course that uses articles and essays written on interesting, engaging topics could also teach grammar and mechanics by using those essays as mentor texts. I believe this is what we try to do when we use mentor texts at the elementary level to teach sentence structure and style.
However I do feel that we as teachers need to be sure we are capable of teaching grammar and mechanics well. Much as I felt I learned how to multiply and divide all over again when I first began learning how to teach those concepts, when I look at why I change verb tense or use a comma, I find I don’t have a very strong grasp of the subject at all. Things just “look right” or “sound right”. Obviously, not good enough.
I think this article piqued my interest for two reasons. First – and here’s where I get to put on my snobby teacher hat -I am appalled at the poor spelling and grammar people use on Facebook! It’s unfathomable to me that one would not reread his or her comment and fix the wrong homophone or mispelled word! [pause while I scan upwards to make sure I haven't made an such aggregious errors in this post...] Secondly, since I’m not taking classes this semester, I’ve been hoping to tackle the pile of “teacher books” I have waiting for me on my desk. I think this solved the question of which book I should read first: Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer’s Workshop. Hopefully I’ll learn a thing or two!
August 17, 2009
I just read “The Vod Couple” from T.H.E. Journal this month and it sparked so many ideas. Basically, these two chemistry teachers, over a couple of years, have gone from teaching a typical lecture/homework type course to having students watch the lecture in video podcast form the night before and then complete labs and activities during class. They use a “Mastery of Learning” model where students complete the activities and take/retake the assessment until they show they have mastered the material.
First of all, from a student’s perspective, I would SO PREFER this style of learning. I hate taking a course where you get to class and the professor just disseminates material or rehashes what you read for class. It assumes that you haven’t done your work, and makes you feel like you are wasting your time.
But how could this model be used at the elementary level? Obviously we can’t have 3rd graders watching a video of your science lesson the night before and showing up to do the worksheet. Not exactly hands-on! But what about as a communication tool with parents? And as a review for students who need it? I could see taping important math and science lessons and having them available on the class web site so when mom or dad is helping with homework, they can watch with their child how it was presented in class. This would help so much in areas – like math – where we teach basic concepts so differently than we did when our students’ parents were in school. I wonder what copyright issues would result in teaching a lesson from a published textbook online?
What about our anchor lessons in shared reading and shared writing? What better way to show parents what connecting/predicting/visualizing look and sound like in your classroom? Imagine having a homework sheet with a link at the bottom that says, “Watch Mrs. Markelz do this online at www….”
Lots of ideas. Lots of potential pitfalls. Hopefully some of them will be solved before I get back in the classroom!
July 6, 2009
May 19, 2009
Getting caught up on the overflow in my Google Reader while I wait for this baby to arrive! Earlier this month, Stenhouse’s Quick Tip Tuesday focused on Finding the Main Idea in fiction texts. It showcases ideas from Amy Greene and Glennon Doyle Melton in their book Test Talk: Integrating Test Preparation into Reading Workshop.
I like the explicit way Glennon introduces the main idea to her students while reading Thank You, Mr. Falker (what a tear-jerker, by the way). And it immediately brought to mind another teacher’s way of teaching theme in her classroom. Read the rest of this entry »
May 15, 2009
I’ve added a downloads section to the site to house some of the resources I have made throughout the years that help make my classroom run smoother, or teach important concepts/lessons. I find lots of great ideas online, so hopefully these will help someone else in return! Click on “Downloads” at the top of the page to see these resources.