My life in blog form


Oops. Can I just post once a week?

It has come to my attention that I am a total blog slacker and that people actually check this blog.  That being said, I sit here on a Tuesday night, exhausted from only two days in the classroom, and ready for a nice, long eight hour nap. 

 

But before I do that, I would like to dedicate this post to my new goal: integrating technology into my classroom.

Yes.  I have a smartboard.

Yes.  I use media from time to time.

No. I do not get it into the hands of the students enough.

So last week, I took the plunge.  I e-mailed the tech. department and asked for my own personal laptop cart.

And they responded with  a big, fat, hairy, “No.”

It doesn’t hurt to ask. 

So I’m back to fighting with my colleagues to reserve one of the three laptop carts that our high school shares.  Of course, no one wanted them the first week of school, which was great, because I planned on using technology that very first week.

For those who have yet to step into the classroom, the first few days are a whirlwind of students being added or dropped from your class roster.  Forget filling in your gradebook with names.  I didn’t even do that until yesteryday, and I’m sure I’ll have to cross off a name or two from those lists before the semester ends. 

So what does a teacher do when they have four days of school the first week, and they know that they might only see students one or two of those days?

Hint:  They don’t start their unit on Julius Caesar.

 Instead, they have their students do a bio-poem.  Yeah, that’s right.  I said it.  The most boring and mindless assignment on earth.  A monkey could fill out the information required for a bio-poem.  Oh, you’ve never heard of one?  Google it and commence gagging.

I am so over the bio-poem.  You want to use the bio-poem?  Make students create a bio-poem for a character from a novel.  That might actually require some thinking and result in some really clever writing.

Otherwise.  Toss it.

Unless you’re a teacher at my school.  I teach one section of AIS, and a brief look into the folders of my English students revealed that just about everyone was doing the ever-loving bio poem assignment with their students.  And boy were the bio poems insightful.  

Here is what I did:

I had students write the word “ANGRY” on a sheet of paper.  Then I gave them 30 seconds (I really timed them) to write as many “synonyms” as possible for the word.  Here a sample of the list we made:   upset, disappointed, cantankerous, pissed off, ticked off, unnerved, irritated, annoyed, unhappy, and so on.

Do all these words mean the same thing?  NO.  If a student told you that Ms. Jane walked into the room looking pissed off you would have a different image in your mind as opposed to saying Ms. Jane walked into the room looking disappointed.  Words are powerful.  Synonyms are many times not really synonyms, and the thesaurus isn’t always the best choice (did anyone see that episode of FRIENDS where Joey finds out about the thesaurus button?  I should totally show it in class). 

Of course, I used this to lead students into their technologically friendly assignment.  Create your own wordle.

Try it yourself.  You will soon become addicted.  The website is www.wordle.net, and it uses Java to create word clouds.  I’ve found myself addicted to creating different clouds for subjects like tone words, adjectives, and so on.  I’ll try and upload some of my masterpieces tomorrow.

Anyways, the assignment required students to design their own wordle in which they carefully chose words that best describe them.  Once they finished, they needed to organize their words into a personally designed graphic organizer by topic (family, friends, favorite things, adjectives, etc.)  There really were no rules.  I wanted to know about them, and I wanted them to know that they needed to choose their words carefully because “insane” is not always the best choice for describing oneself. 

The kids were 100% engaged.  They designed incredibly beautiful wordles, and they were invested in writing well developed reflexive essays.  Of course, some kids still wrote that they were “crazy,” and you’re always going to have that kid who spends more time on his/her wordle than his/her writing.  But the finished product opened up doorways to discussion about my expectations for everything  from presentation to reviewing the ever-dreaded run-on.  One student even mentioned in her writing that this assignment was much better than bio-poems.  What an ego booster!

I was a total hard-ass with my grading.  The students received their papers back today with a rubric (I pride myself both on explanation of the grades earned as well as getting those graded papers back ASAP – my max is usually one week for essays).  Students must make appropriate changes and hand in their revised draft on Friday.  To me, this is a great way to set an academic tone for the year.

The best part?

I laminated their wordles, and they’re going to decorate my classroom come open house night.  And I’m pretty sure they’ll be more eye-catching than the bio-poems down the hall.     😉