September 30, 2012

Grading Papers

Grading on the weekends? Why yes, that is my life as an English teacher. Not one day after the kids turned in their Animal Farm persuasive papers, did a student ask me if I was done grading them. Ummmm....yeah...I stayed up all night just to get your papers graded so you could look at the grade and not the comments I spent 20 minutes writing.

I am however trying to get them back within a week so that for those students who actually do read the comments, they can have time to adjust before the next paper. Since we're on an accelerated program, one week is like 2 or 3 in a year-long class.

One thing you'll notice from the picture below is that I use a very detailed rubric when grading papers. This gives the students a very clear picture of what they need to work on, and helps me to explain their grade. It's easy on me too because when a parent has a question about a grade, I can show them how detailed the rubric is and how it's NOT subjective.

So this was my weekend, and I'm still not done...but I needed a break so I thought I'd get back to the blog :)

Have a great week!
Ms. W

September 25, 2012

Holocaust Unit

The Holocaust unit has always been my favorite to teach. It's such a meaningful, sad, touching subject to discuss and learn about, and the students really get into it. My problem has always been that because it's such a serious topic, the class gets a little long and serious.

During other units, I'm cracking jokes, we play music, we have a good time while learning. I want that same feeling with the Holocaust unit, but it's not appropriate to have jokes going on during this time. So I was trying to think of another way to make the lessons engaging.

The other night I was watching the finale of So You Think You Can Dance [LOVE] and they replayed a dance routine that I had somehow missed during the season. The routine was entitled "Eli, Eli"-a contemporary number about the Holocaust. How PERFECT is that timing?!

I shared this idea of showing the video as an opener to the unit with my student teacher, and she loved it. But she took it to a whole other level! We/she's going to show either a clip or piece of art at the beginning of class everyday and have the students journal about that as our Journal Write for the day. I normally have fun, crazy prompts like: What would you do if you were a fish for a day? Or Persuade me why students should get free Starbucks [use Pathos, Ethos, or Logos].

I am so excited about this idea and can't wait to start the unit tomorrow! So here's the clip of the dance routine from So You Think You Can Dance.

Be moved,
Ms. W

September 22, 2012

Peer Revisioning

One of the best ways I know to improve a paper is to peer edit. I have always loved when people looked over my paper before I turned it in for a grade. Well now I do this with my high schoolers. At first, the peer editing process was helpful for some and not for others...and this made me think about how I could make it work for ALL the students.

I decided that my peer editing needed some updating. Now that our department is using the common language of the 6 Traits of Writing, I decided to update my peer editing using those traits. I also changed the name to Peer Revisioning [our department chair uses this with her freshmen] because it has a different meaning. We're not just editing for spelling and commas, we're creating a new 'vision' for our we're Revisioning!

I created 6 rounds for the peer revisioning, as seen in the picture below. You might notice that the sixth round is "Read Aloud" instead of convention. This is because I tell the students to do conventions with every round, especially if they've "finished" revisioning for that round and think they have nothing left to do :)
I have found that this new way to Peer Revise has worked really well and has been helpful for ALL students. I love when new ideas work!

How do you peer edit? I'd love some other ideas too!

Happy Revisioning,
Ms. W

September 17, 2012

Lunchbox fun!

Not that we ever have time to eat lunch as teachers, but I found a cool lunchbox for adults!
This website, has great lunchbox ideas for adults and kids! I ordered this version for a few reasons: It will fit in the mini fridge that three of us teachers share; It has three separate sections [main course, and two small sides] which will hopefully remind me to have a veggie and a fruit; They're dishwasher safe!!!!!!

So you can see from the picture that the options for packing a lunch are endless. Here's a few I came up with that I'm excited to try and maybe I'll pack healthy lunches now!:
1) A sandwich, carrots, and strawberries
2) Pita bread, meat, and hummus and/or veggies [which could be used with or without the pita]
3) A salad, side of meat, and a dessert :-)
4) Pasta, veggies, and a slice of garlic bread [get the carbs out of the way at lunch-more time to work them off]
5) Just throw some random stuff in spots that they fit into! LOL

Anyway, thought I'd share this great tip...packing your own lunch can save you money too since teachers are usually on a budget...if you're like me and spend your money on the kiddos :-)

Have a great week!!!
Ms. W

September 13, 2012

Dialectical Journals

Have you ever had to go back and look for quotations when writing a paper? It takes so much time and effort, and the kids eventually give up and just write a 'version' of what they think is a quote and throw a random page number on there.

That's why I have my students keep Dialectical Journals while we're reading. Dialectical Journals are great because they help the students keep track of quotations they could use in their final paper. Before we start keeping track of journals, we go through them together on the flipchart.
[Please forgive my awful handwriting!]

They put the quote on the left column with the page number afterward in proper MLA format. On the right side, we do a few sentences of analysis. The tricky part is to make sure they understand the difference between analysis and summary. Analysis always ties the quotation back to the thesis/prompt. I usually have them find 10 quotations that address the prompt throughout the novel, and then that gives them several to chose from when it comes time for the paper. This saves time having to look back through the novel later!

Hope this is a helpful tip for you!
Ms. W

September 10, 2012

Animal Farm Picture Book

I love throwing in some fun and creating activities for my 10th graders. There's a kindergartener inside us all, and sometimes it's fun to let him/her out :)

When teaching my Animal Farm [George Orwell] unit, we talk about a lot of heavy topics. So this picture book activity is a way to make the unit be a little more light-hearted. It's also a very good formative assessment tool for me too. The students create a picture book of Animal Farm, choosing two main ideas from each chapter, and represent them with a quotation. They also draw a picture for each event as well. So the finished product is a 20 page picture book that, if done correctly, will accurately represent the novel, and be a great study tool for them!

I provided the link to my TPT Store so you can download the FREE assignment!

Click Here to access my TPT store

Ms. W

September 8, 2012

Connecting Football with the Classroom!

While I do teach English and that occupies all my time, I somehow manage to coach cheer as well. While this post isn't totally classroom related, I have to share!!!

Our school won our first JV game yesterday, and our Varsity game tonight! My cheerleaders did great, proving that all our hard work and headaches must have paid off :)

*On a school related note, I have found that connecting with the football players and cheering at the games for them, and then analyzing the plays on Monday, has really helped me connect with them in the classroom. They're participating in class, they are asking questions, and trying their best. I think they like that I take an interest in what they do, and that I'm proud of their efforts.
And of course this is true with any extra curricular that we as teachers attend...the kids love to see us support them!!!!

Happy Weekend!!!
Ms. W

September 3, 2012

Common Core Benchmarks

This year our school is going through another WASC Accreditation and so we're focusing a lot on benchmark exams. We didn't have benchmarks in the past because we were such a small school, but now that we're increasing in numbers, we want to make sure that all our students are receiving the same level of instruction.

We also decided to make our benchmark exams align with the new Common Core standards. Since these standards will be coming into play in 2014-2015, we thought it'd be smart to create our benchmarks align with them now. This will give us a year or two to start incorporating the common core standards and become familiar with using them to guide our teaching.

Starting last school year our departments started creating the benchmark exams, and we finally finished! Even though I'm not the department chair, I love organizing and designing cute stuff, so I offered to put all the English benchmark tests for each grade in a binder. This will provide easy access for the WASC people when they want to see proof of our benchmarks!

Love my cute Common Core Benchmark binder!!

Comment Starter: Do you guys do benchmark assessments? Are yours Common Core aligned?

Have a great day back from your 3-day weekend!
Ms. W