Tag Archives: planning

Huswifery – A Brain Break with a Poetic Discussion

So far we have spent a solid two days on everything we have read. There is no way we can legitimately cover all of the biggies from American Literature in one tiny little semester. Such a tragedy in trying to narrow through the texts to find the biggest bang for the bucks. As an added bonus, if we skip too much time we have to teach students about the historical gaps because they don’t have the background needed to really comprehend the literature and the affect of the literature without a idea of the historical standpoint. Of course, I’m not sure I would have had all I needed to know either at that point in my educational journey, but at least we had a year to get through the curriculum.

Alas, if a module is 4 1/2 weeks, we are only a week behind. That can be justified since we did a Common Core Workshop during the first week to really take time to introduce expectations to the students (materials are free at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/American-Literature-Common-Core-Workshop-Reading-Info-Text-and-Writing-Task-844323; the blog entry is found at https://kirkscorner4commoncore.com/2013/08/24/english-iii-hybrid-tn-eocccss-course-what-is-it-to-be-american/).

So, we decided the students needed a break with a short task which could be accomplished in one day’s lesson. As an added bonus, we needed another practice with Accountable Talk stems. Huswifery, as old as it may be, provided exactly what we needed. What, then, did I do to prepare and how did it go?

First, I read the text and made notes. In my notes I noticed I was paraphrasing each part, so that became the reading skill for the students. This lesson was based on Accountable Talk, so I only needed to provide a quick reading support to build content knowledge and then scaffold a discussion. Just in case the conversation lulled, I knew I needed to have some discussion questions. Since I also want students to build critical thinking and self-directed, high-level questioning, I wanted them to created questions as well.

At first, students read the poem and took notes on what it made them think of and what they thought it was about. Next, I had them watch a video with a few images and the text of the poem. Here lies one thing I would change: If I were to do it again, between the individual reading and the video I would have the students share out with a shoulder partner to build knowledge and confidence. But the imagery served the purpose just as well. (You can find the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIod7xpO7jc.) After reading, paraphrasing the first stanza was modeled. Then, students were asked to summarize the paraphrase to get the main idea of the text. As a “We Do” the class was guided through the paraphrase process through questioning before completing the stanza summary. Students independently paraphrased and summarized the final stanza. To verify their thinking, I had students share out their ideas and then synthesize the point of the poem as a whole. From here, each student was given a post-it to create a short answer question pertaining to the text.

I collected all post-its and secretly pulled out the weak ones and added in a few I prepared in advance. All students were then given a post-it to start the discussion. I put Accountable Talk Stems on the board and set a timer for thirty minutes. From there, we had a great conversation about the text. A few students were taking notes on the poem, and I need to find a way to make more students do that.

After our discussion, we reviewed the process of close reading and paraphrasing/summarizing stanzas only to lead into a short answer writing question pertaining to the poem: What does Huswifery tell you about life during the time period? Apply what you know from previous readings to this response.

Nice.

So how did the answers turn out? I think I need to do a short lesson on how to formulate a constructed response this week. Oh… And we are going to focus on support and elaboration for the writing aspect.

If you replicate this process, please let me know how it goes for you!

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Staying Organized!

Teacher binder 1

Alas, summer has come to an end and it is time to start the new semester!

When I created my first “To Do” list, I realized much of it was paperwork I needed to do and keep in an organized fashion. This included student rosters, data, IEPs/504s, and class documents such as planning, powerpoints, student worksheets, and assessments.

For that reason, I created a cute organization tool (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Organization-Tool-Chevron-Teacher-Binder-with-Sub-Folder-Edit-in-Word-815564). This includes editable pages for you to use to make the binder your own. Better yet, if you want it a customized cover, send me an email and I will do it and send it back to you with the cute font I have.

For my use, I have a 3-inch teacher binder and a 3-prong substitute folder I keep in the back pocket for ease of use.
If you are going to create your own teacher binder, consider including a few of these:

INCLUDES:
1. Cover Pages: Front and Back
2. Outline: Includes suggestions for each section of the binder.
3. School Information
4. Security and Emergency Divider (include directions based on school/district policy)
5. Class Roster Divider
6. Seating Chart Divider
7. Class Procedures Divider ~ Includes editable “User’s Guide” for my class in case you are interested in using this valuable management strategy.
8. Behavior Notes Divider
9. Accommodations Divider
10. Lesson Plans Divider ~ For this, I track my lesson plans and print out my PPTs. You can add the file names to the footer of the file so you will never forget where to find a document again!
11. Standards and Objectives Divider ~ Here I have both Common Core and Tennessee State SPIs in a checklist form.
12. Curriculum Map Divider
13. Student Data Divider
14. Parent Contact Divider
15. Meeting Notes Divider
16. Calendar Divider
17. Pacing Guide Divider
18. Gradebook Divider
19. Evaluations Divider
20. Professional Development Divider

Next, I have a substitute folder ready to use in the event of a last minute absence. To create one for yourself, include:
1. Substitute Folder Cover Page
2. School Information Divider
3. Security and Emergency Divider (include directions based on school/district policy)
4. Class Information/At-a-Glance Daily Schedule Divider
5. Class Roster Divider
6. Seating Chart Divider
7. Class Procedures Divider ~ Include your classroom rules and any important schoolwide rules and policies
8. Behavior Notes Divider
9. Lesson Plan Divider
10. Completed Assignments Divider

Another item I have created but not yet finalized it the outline of the modules for English III American Literature. I plan to post this WORK IN PROGRESS for free in my TPT store at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Stephanie-Kirk-11. I have not yet decided what I will do with my weekly lesson plans at this point because they are so details. I wish I could just post the file to my blog for the few readers I do have.
This new content is going to be a huge struggle for me as I am re-learning this material as I teach it. To be honest, I’m about a week ahead right now but I plan to spend my weekends really marking up the texts and making sure I am prepared to teach it. I promise to post my files and lesson plans as I get them together and implement them in the classroom. I say all of that to say I may do much of my updating over the weekend, but I promise to regularly post my implementation process through the semester.

It is a work in progress. Any ideas? I’m open to suggestions.

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Day 1: How do I read a poem?

Students really struggle with making meaning of poetry. With a lack of prior knowledge and limited analytical and critical thinking skills, poetry is a difficult concept. In keeping with the scaffolding of the gradual release model, I decided to break down the process and add one step with each chunk of the lesson.
1. Preview the text of the poem by looking at the title, picture, caption, or other text features. This is actually a school-wide strategy, but I really believe it has been helpful in reading prose, so why not give it a try?
2. Read the poem for literal language. Students will read the poem and then paraphrase every few lines to track the surface level meaning of the poem. Have students complete SOAPS on the text of the poem.
3. Read the poem for figurative meaning. Students reread the poem and look for possible figurative meaning including symbols, tone, and mood.
4. Annotate the poem while looking specifically for the figurative language. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the possible meaning of the vocabulary used.
5. Annotate the poem with a different color and look specifically at the sound devices. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the way it affects the poem.
6. Notice the form of the poem. What is it?
7. Review the title and your notes. What is likely to be the theme of the poem? How do you know?

Between each step, I will model and teach key vocabulary to help increase understanding. Also, by building on the steps of the lesson the students will be practicing each step regularly to help internalize the process.

So how did the first day go? With the first day, we were able to get through the preview of the text and both literal and figurative meanings of selected poems. This was done in more of a discussion manner with a few very general stems to get the students thinking. Without having to look for specific devices, students were able to get to a deeper meaning and justify their thoughts even if it was different from what I was looking for.

Next, we took notes over figurative language including simile, metaphor, paradox, apostrophe, personification, hyperbole, pun, and idiom. Not only did the students take notes of the definitions, we looked specifically at examples of each and tried to verbalize the function of the device and the impact it had on meaning. Assessing this on the exit ticket shows that students can find meaning and back it with other parts of the poem if they know what the device is. However, if given a line and asked to identify the figurative language, they look for “like” and “as” to mark simile and the very obvious elements, but they do not recognize more complex examples or examples which are not in direct proximity. We will have time to work on this.

For tomorrow, I’m going to reteach figurative language in the context of the poem and then move into sound devices. Right now, I’m looking to model with “Rose in Concrete” which I had them complete individually. This will be great to go over the figurative language but I can also use it to model finding sound devices and tracking the effect they have on the text as well.

Ideas? Love to hear them.

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Poetry: Teaching the Figurative Language

poetry trading 1Our goal here is to move from knowing to recognizing and identifying to analyzing. So I guess I have my work cut out for me.

What’s first?

Chunking the material is going to be vital to success, but I also need to figure out a way for students to memorize the vocabulary for the unit. For that, I will use the Poetry Trading Cards. Next, I want to divide the unit into teaching figurative language one day, sound devices another, and form on another. This will give time to focus on specific skills and, ideally, I will be able to use the same poems to link each set of vocabulary skills in order to reteach while adding in the new steps.

Making the material accessible is another problem. In teaching story elements, I realized students could identify plot elements when reading short stories by Walter D. Myers and Sharon Flake, but the skills were almost non-existent in looking at classical literature. I’m anticipating the same challenges in poetry, so I’m going to do it like I have before and use some of the edited versions of Billboard hits.

Room display is going to be the poetry word wall I created. After the introduction, I can have the students create posters for each of the elements.

So… off to pick poems and put together a new unit! Ideas? Suggestions? I’m waiting.

Files/Resources:
1. Poetry Word Wall can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Poetry-Informational-Posters-Basic-Skills-Fig-Lang-Form-Sound
2. Essential Vocabulary Trading Cards can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Essential-Vocabulary-Trading-Cards-Activity-Bundle-Poetry-Edition

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Expecting the Unexpected

This entry comes with a heavy heart as we have experienced something that happens everywhere. The first draft I saved because I needed to think on it before posting it. Then, at the close of the day, I decided to post a version of the original post.

We enjoyed the snow day, and I spent tons of time reworking the plans to make sure we could meet the objectives and district expectations of the essay without getting too far off pacing.

But last night, someone did something dumb – made a dumb choice – and we suffered a tragedy. I assure you when the unexpected happens, your best-planned lessons go out the window.

You see, teachers are more than teachers. We are teachers by our paperwork, but in reality our job description is limitless.
We are the instructors, giving your child a chance at competing in a global society.
We are the police officers, redirecting those who go astray when you aren’t there.
We are counselors, pointing out the importance of today on tomorrow’s successes.
We are the nurses, handing out simple things like band-aids, cough drops, hugs, and kind words.
We are the mothers, modeling compassion and all those social skills you have to have to live a productive life.
We are people, fighting each day to show how much we sincerely care.
And in our classroom, we are family. A family in mourning.

So what of instruction today? How does one implement Common Core in light of tragedy? Can it be done? I didn’t think so. I had to lead class the way it went – as close to structure as possible with open heart and open head and open box of tissues. You can’t plan for this and, God knows, no one should have to fluff through it. So, dealing with tragedy in a close-knit high school classroom is today’s thought.

I can’t tell you what the right thing to do is because an exceptional teacher does what he or she believes to be best for the students. When this catches you off guard, you gotta think on your feet. But here’s what we did…

I began class with the grammar, bell ringer, and vocab as normal. It was dreadfully quiet with secret tear and sniffles presiding. No one wanted to share the answers, and using our talking sticks was pointless because how can you call on a kid knowing words won’t come out when choking back strong emotion? Painfully, we made it through a normally 15 minute game-like activity in nearly thirty minutes.

I could tell we needed a brain break, and we transitioned with, “Well, guys, here’s what we were going to do. This sucks, huh?” I heard muffled agreement and an, “Amen to that.” We moved into, “You’re not feeling this crappy mood essay, are ya? What’s on your mind.” Mostly, they just wanted to make sure I knew. I said I did and that it sucked and that I didn’t know what to say or do to make any of it any better on anyone except to be there if I was needed. A few spoke up and one asked if they could “just write” for a minute. I agreed and walked around and talked to a few of the students one-on-one. One called me out from across the room for looking like I was going to cry. Amazingly, as close as I know we will be at the end of the semester, they could not believe I would cry over a student. In all, maybe thirty minutes of mostly silent sniffles and blank stares passed before one of the students made an announcement to break the silence: “So it’s like when Raspberry found her mom with a pole to her heard because of the neighborhood bully, huh?” And with that, we used the text and talking through the mood of the plot to process all that had occurred and to address the fear of what might happen next. When this happens, you expect some behavior problems. The kid’s not being mad or bad – I don’t believe in bad kids – they are dealing with emotions even adults struggle to put to words.

At the end of the block, we did not have a written essay. Pacing got a little off. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

And today, that’s all I have for you.

My assessment of Common Core Implementation today:
Speaking and Listening – All standards addressed.
Writing –
9-10.W.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Transitioned.
9-10.W.1 – Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
9-10.W.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
A – Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings) to aid comprehension.
B РDevelop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

Will we revisit these concepts? Yeah.

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A note on pacing…

With the first week and the first snow days behind us, we will return to school knowing the honeymoon period at the start of all semesters is officially over.

Students have had nearly two weeks to get used to the course, and expectations have been taught, prompted, and rewarded. We have used brain breaks regularly, and behavior has not been a real issue – until they all received the text messages about the early release. We gained four new students this week, which has made the continuum of skills assessments challenging as one lesson has built on the previous lesson.

Academically, I must admit I’m relieved to have the snow day combined with the MLK holiday to revamp my planning and pacing. I learned the students struggle with basic literary elements vocabulary, the desire to complete homework is lower than I have even seen before, and writing is… just as excited as teaching and assessing writing.

Based on my assessments and student surveys, next week marks moving on to Writing Basics. This unit has been designed to teach students writing while working on logic and communication. By teaching rhetoric and reasoning early, it is my hope to be able to readdress these skills as we move through the remainder of the semester. My estimate here is about three weeks, give or take a snow day. And, thinking about pacing is the point of today’s entry.

Pacing is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of designing instruction. When I attended Maryville College, Dr. Simpson, Dr. Lucas, and Dr. Orren all touted the brilliance of over-planning a lesson. After all, chaos ensues when structure is lost and students have nothing to do. Starting out in education nearly ten years ago, this was acceptable. What wasn’t finished one day fluidly became the next day. When we finished early (as rare as that was/is), I extended the learning with an enrichment activity. Here we are, however, eight years and the teaching profession under more scrutiny than even before and pacing seems key to student achievement and teacher evaluations.

The first thing I have learned about pacing is that a solid teacher will teach bell to bell with all lessons starting moments before the bell. I addressed this in my Ten Minutes post, so I won’t go much further on that right now.
Next, I learned that pacing needs to move quickly through the lesson in order to address attention spans. For example, some research suggests students maintain focus for about fifteen minutes. To keep attention, try to plan you lesson in a manner where pacing is broken up between direct instruction (notes), guided practice, and individual task work. I aim for a shift in activity every fifteen to twenty minutes even if it is something as simple as a partnered shoulder discussion to process what we just went over or check a task we just completed. Try to have a coherent structure that is somewhat predictable overall but will keep students guessing about what you will have them do next.
If you are addressing attention spans appropriately, you are going to have to worry about differentiation for individual students who progress at different rates. One easy method for that is a “challenge” question or task an early-finisher can work on while the rest of the class works. This technique will also help with monitoring behavior, but you will have to find a way to keep students motivated to complete the challenge. Most students are not going to fall for the “This IS your job” or “You win by getting an education” argument. You’ll have to do better than that. One technique I have used to address that is by adding required independent reading in the class. Students are required to do SSR three days a week, and when they finish early they can work on that. During our grammar component, I copy a back side to the daily skill. Students who finish early can complete extra practice for one extra point a piece if the answer is correct. This may sound like a lot of extra points, but daily grammar practice is only 10% of the total student grade. A third idea I have used with early finishers is to assign a skill reinforcement packet based on the student’s individual weaknesses (from some data source to get parent and student support). Track this in your grade book as an extra grade opportunity, not extra credit.
While those ideas will help you with students finishing early, there are, inevitably, those who will work at a much slower pace than anticipated. This part was harder to learn to manage than dealing with the early finishers. Part of it was my fault because I was so desperate to see student mastery before moving on. Well, some of my students were in another class bragging about how they could intentionally fail a quiz or act like they did not know answers and I would go back over the same thing over and over, thereby decreasing the work they actually had to do. Hearing this was an eye-opener because it was true. When your students progress slowly, you really have to find out why to help them. For example, is he/she just a perfectionist? Is it a sick/sleepy child? Can he/she really do it? If not, where, exactly, is the dilemma happening? Rotating around the room can help you assess the situation better, but the bottom line is you have to figure out the problem and help the student reach mastery. Extending the deadline and talking with the student and parent both are good strategies.
Finally, pacing must be adaptable for the students within the class block. I can’t put to words how important this is because I am still working to master it. I’m much better at the end of the semester when I have better knowledge of my students, but the start of the semester is much like a guessing game because I need to be well-planned enough to scale back and reteach or skip ahead and move on at a second’s glance. To accommodate this need, start by breaking down the steps of any skill you plan to teach for the day. When I taught plot, I created slides for every single step – plot, character types, setting, components of various settings. Then, when I see students know setting, I just blow through it and tell them how smart they are as I pass through the slides. Typically, I am able to do this on drama and some persuasive devices as well. If the students know it, don’t be the teacher who reteaches it just because that is what was on the lesson plan.

So, pacing is tremendously important. So much so that I am still trying to work it out in my own class. Hopefully these ideas will be helpful to you or you can make additional suggestions for my classroom.

Now… back to reevaluating my pacing and planning my instructional delivery. The EOC is coming May 7.

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