Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thoughts on the CUWP


I have enjoyed this group so much. It is invigorating and inspiring to be with a bunch of people who all love to write and want to learn more about writing. The freewrite responses every morning have been fantastic. Today was the first time we had a chance to share our writing with our immediate writing group. We each had a very different style of writing that we brought to review. Mine was very personal in nature, Janette's was humorous, Serena had employed a unique point of view, and Eric, our resident mathematician, had an informative piece that proved both challenging and interesting to review. We also had our first demonstration lesson (dl) today. Amy did a great job at teaching us some of the pre-writing strategies she used with Pride and Prejudice this year. Our only regret as a group was that she didn't have any of us write. We were all ready to go after hearing her activities. After listening to the response of the group, I think that everyone wants to write as part of the dl. Chris, one of our facilitators said something like we can't really own a piece and know how we would use it until we write it ourselves. Anyway, even though we didn't get to write I came away with some good ideas. She used some sensory experiences and had us rate them as good or bad. Then she talked about why some of us loved cinnamon bears, and some of us hated them. This led into talk about prejudices. It was especially nice that it opens up the full realm of prejudices and goes beyond just racial ones. She also had an interesting writing prompt where she asked her students to compare a tootsie roll pop to a character in P&P. I immediately thought of how I could use that with Gatsby this year. What a fun (and exhausting) week!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Conventions and Conferences

Next week I will be attending the CUWP. I am still finishing up my lesson idea that I am supposed to present. I think I have a pretty good idea - I just need to get the ideas down on paper. My goal is to blog about my experience every night (or at least every other night), so I will remember what I learned and thought about.

Speaking of thinking and learning, earlier this week I attended the Utah Charter School Convention. I actually enjoyed most of the classes that I attended - they seemed to be a lot more helpful this year than in years past. The first class I went to talked about effective class room management. Probably the biggest idea I came away with from that session was the need to recommit to bellwork as a way to get my students minds focused and ready for English.

Ideas for getting class off to a good start:
Have the class set up and ready to go (Hard for my since I am a floater; I'll have to adapt)
Personally greet as many students as I can as they come in
Ask about how the student is doing - create rapor and commonality
Call students by their names
Be at the door
Give assignment immediately - bellwork
Give instructions for those who finish early (when the whispering starts)
Three Point Preventative Structure for Classroom Management
1. Entry Activity (bellwork)
2. Diversity of Instructional Techniques
3. Procedural Consistency

Either you are in my classroom ready to start - or you are not.

Strategies for Designing Entry Activities:

  1. Every entry activity should have two main objectives: FOCUS student attention to your subject and provide a positive experience wherein the student can SUCCEED at the beginning of class.

  2. The entry activity should be posted somewhere where all students can see it IMMEDIATELY upon entering into the classroom.

  3. Be wary of allowing students to talk during this activity-it will result in loss of focus for the students. The purpose of an entry activity is to promote this focus.

  4. All entry activites should have simple instructions that can be read or implied by the students.


  6. Start instructions on minute or two before the bell rings; since students are trained you won't need to repeat them, but those who have arrived will already be on task by the time the bell rings.

  7. If you intend to split students into groups, assign them as they enter or have a pre-existing procedure that students may invoke themselves.

  8. Remember that you must train your students to respond to these activities. Students are creatures of habit, so teach them the habits you want them to perform!

Sample Entry Activity Ideas:
* Always alternate the type of activity or your students will become bored.
  • Open ended question leading into today's subject matter

  • Open ended question reviewing previous subject matter

  • Discovery activity leading into the lesson

  • Simple knowledge questions (1-5)

  • Code switching activity (changing text from one mode (formal, etc.) to another (cell text, twitter, etc.)
  • Prior knowledge/preassessment questions

  • SAT Vocabulary to define and form sentences about

  • Prompts from standardized tests (BSCT, CRT, or ACT)

  • Ask for assessment of previous activities

  • Have students self assess how they are doing in class

  • Analize a poem, picture, music, short video clip

  • Correct homework and have student re-do two problems that they missed

  • Post a short reading assignment from a text, novel, or free reading book

  • Listing and brainstorming

  • Respond to current events

  • Have students review and respond to yesterday's notes

  • Have students think of questions they have (Stump the Teacher)

  • Use ideas from Why We Must Run With Scissors

  • Editing practice (from Everyday Editing)
Modes of Instruction:
Direct Instruction
Guided Discussion
Manipulatives (Magnetic Poetry, Found Poetry, Word Strips)
Socratic Seminar
Discovery (Inquiry) Activity
List and Categorize
Group Activities
Concept Development
Concept Attainment
Cause and Effect
Vocabulary Acquisition
Resolution of Conflict
Values Development
Cooperative Learning
Entertainment as Education (media, music, TV, Etc.)
Expert Groups
Code Switching
Alternate Genre