Thursday, September 30, 2010

Compare & Contrast

No, not the essay although it was a good guess. The compare and contrast part is right but there is no essay involved. Confused yet? Let me explain, tomorrow my honors kids get to read two of my favorite short stories and then look at the main characters or the flowers that play a prominent role in them both. They'll start with 'The Possibility of Evil' and then read 'Marigolds' in groups, filling out thematic webs as they go. They then get to take that information and compare character vs character or flower vs flower. It's more fun for me to watch them compare what happens to the characters and if they deserved what they get.

I do love my job.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lesson Learned!

One of the constants in teaching freshmen is The Odyssey. Now the book does not have the entire poem, it has books 9-12 and then the last few where Odysseus gets even with the 100 suitors and gets to live happily ever after with his wife and son. I normally do only books 9 & 10 because it allows me to show how Odysseus changes after his encounter with the Cyclops and because there is a plethora of material that I teach so time becomes an issue. Last year I started out by having the students read Book 9 (Cyclops dining on Greek Sushi) silently and taking notes, then having the students listen to it before the test. That was not a great plan because half the class didn't understand the text until they heard the audio version. Duh, it's a poem for crying out loud. Now I wised up for Book 10-12 last year and was planning on doing it this way the next time around.

This year I did the same thing again, knowing they were going to struggle with the text, some of them anyway. I didn't want to cheat the readers out of using thier abilities so I planned for three days of silent reading and two days of listening to and following along in the book before the test. It went much better this time around, the kids who struggled reading it, understood it once they listened to and followed along in the book. The kids who knew the story really got it and I am hoping that I have a plethora of good scores and a paucity of flame outs on the book 9 test.

The other lesson I learned last year that I applied this year was the importance of breaking down the writing process into steps, my honors kids are ripping through their essays this year precisely because they went step by step and because they prewrote their essays, which is the big key. 30 minutes of prewriting = 3 hours of writing is the formula I told them and they totally bought into the concept. The result is that there was far less confusion and far less frustration with the process, which is good because the source material was challenging to say the least.

Reflection has its benefits when you take the time to do it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Too Much Of A Good Thing

No I'm not talking about beer! What I am talking about is teaching the same thing 5 times in one day. One of the lessons I learned as an apprentice teacher (the hard way) is how to get burned out in less than 1 year. One of the big things was teaching the same thing over and over and over and over again.

When I hit the HS I am now I vowed not to repeat that mistake a second time if I could help it. I did a good job the first semester, all the way until I had to teach parts of The Odyssey at the end of the first semester.

When the second semester hit I fell back into my old ways and basically taught the same thing until the end of the school year, to the detriment of 6th period. You see while I really like Romeo and Juliet, I don't like it as much the 5th time around, and the same thing went for poetry. By the fifth time I read the balcony scene I wanted Juliet to jump off the balcony so it would be a one act play.

This year I'm fortunate that I have both honors sections so it's easier to split up what I am doing. So while my honors classes are doing their writing project, my regular classes are doing the Odyssey. This way I can improve my writing project for my regular classes and do a better job with the Odyssey with my honors kids.

The best part is that I don't want the Cyclops to win this time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

So Far So Good

Funny how different a year can be. At this point last year my classes had established their identities. 1st period was quiet but worked hard and rarely gave me any issues. 2nd period was nothing but issues and lots of 12oz therapy. 3rd period was my zany honors class loaded with smarts, attitude and a dash of insanity. 5th period was my best regular class and 6th period was simply a typical 9th grade class.

Not so this year. Neither one of my honors classes is as zany as last year although they might be even more gifted that that bunch. And the only reason my 4th period class is giving me issues is because of one kid I had last year who basically did the same thing before moving to Washington. 5th and 6th have a couple of goofballs but they are willing to work and have given me little if any attitude. Not only that but they are doing better academically as well.

It'll be interesting to see how the personalities of the classes develop over the year. I just hope that NEXT year doesn't give me 5 classes of future felons.

It should be an interesting year.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All Freshmen All The Time

That is the story of this year. Now don't get me wrong I love teaching 9th graders, I just figured it would be a cool title for a post. Last year ended pretty well. 2nd period was of course, second period and I did get one brain sturgeon back from that class again this year. I pulled him aside and asked him if he actually wanted to graduate from high school because I was tired of him wasting both his time and my time. His reply was that tomorrow would be a better day and that he was just really tired. Uh huh...

I have both sections of honors English this year which is really cool because I don't have to collaborate with anyone they are mine to educate as I please, so I am having them do a writing project before I start them on The Odyssey. Speaking of stories, we got in new textbooks this year. Sigh, I really wish they had allowed us to see them BEFORE the school year started and not three weeks into semester 1. I had blocked out most of the first semester as far as stories go and half of them are not in the new book, so we use the old one until second semester starts. Then we can start with the new books assuming they have audio files like the old one does.

One good thing the school district did was to add in dealing with politics first quarter since it's an election year and then move around a couple of writing projects to better match the the schedule. (The county tells us what standards to teach each quarter, the rest, for now, is up to us) That is not a big deal to move them around since they take about the same time and the writing process is pretty similar.

Well that is about it right now, I promise it won't be eight months before the next post.