Thursday, April 23, 2009

some ideas for the next unit

the next unit will be writing a memoir, as per the end of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. so, what shall we do? i mean, we have to do something interesting, right? it can't just be a plain old thing, right? right.

so, they'll be writing a memoir. i think what i'm going to do is have it done incrementally (well, you have to!) i think what i've got going will try and last me until the second week of june is this:

1. introduce what a memoir is by way of quick lecture and activity...possibly spending a day or two on it, showing the different possibilities of memoir, having them explore them and maybe figure out what a memoir is all about, and why people would want to write a memoir in the first place.

2. an intense grammar unit that will go along with their actual memoir writing...i'll be using The Power of Grammar by mary ehrenworth and vicki's a wonderful book and is incredibly helpful in planning an "inquiry-based" approach to teaching grammar--so not just doing direct instruction, rather having the kids figure out the Why Use Grammar question themselves (with proper modeling, etc).

3. write a memoir--this will be in tandem with the grammar instruction, because the writing itself will fuel the grammar practice and revision. i think this will take a good two weeks to do, and if it takes longer than i'm not so worried about it. i'll plan two weeks for it and leave room. anyways, this'll funnel into the other part of my whole plan, which is...

4. wrapping it up. in their exploration of different forms of memoir, i'm going to introduce them to comic book/graphic novel style memoir; storycorps (check out, it's really pretty awesome); comic book diaries; traditional memoir/memoir in verse; and i had another idea, but i forget what it was. so, the idea is that they'd take their memoir and wrap it up into a different format, finally: either a story, a comic book diary/graphic novel, or a traditional memoir (in that case, it'd be more of a refining process than anything else...i might wann' work the kinks out of that).

some reflections after visiting the district of columbia

i don't know how to start this post, so i guess i'll just preface it all with what i did the past few days: i went to DC! yes, my home away from home (since i went there for college) has popped into my mind several times, and i've figured out that that is where i want to be when i teach as a real-life, fully employed teacher.

so, since we have vacation now i thought i'd head to DC to see many people and visit a few schools. here are some impressions:

the first school i visited was off the benning road metro stop, not far away from it. if you look at the map, it means that it's across the anacostia river, which means that, most likely, no white person lives there, and the accent suddenly twangs intensely and it gets much more southern sounding. for a white person like me, although accustomed to a diverse (aka, not predominantly white) school, who's also a northerner, it seems that my skin suddenly whitens more and my little racisms that i'm terribly embarassed about pop up. i went to the office and sat around stewing in my own ridiculousness--blazer, etc.

getting past that, i saw some nice sixth grade classes--two english classes and a special ed class. i also saw an eighth grade class, but they had finished and were just kind of foolin 'round (everyone was preparing for DC-CAS, the standardized test apparently based off the MCAS, Mass's test). quite honestly, the classes looked pretty intense--like, probably, a class at CMS where some of my friends are doin' there teaching, too. i think it was the outside of the class stuff that rubbed me the wrong way: the way that kids were roaming, the way that one girl sang directly in my ear (i guess my nervousness played right into that, but still).

what i liked: professional development every day, and for different purposes, too. once a week, there was something called "classroom blitz," which has the teachers observing other teachers, which keeps them on their toes and all their requirements in order. i like that a lot. also that they have a "respect center," where the kids can chill out and reflect on why they shouldn't smack someone upside the head, or whatever may happen. that's very similar to our school, which is nice.

what i didn't like was that there weren't any paraprofessionals due to understaffing. and no technology, which sucks but if that's how it goes, that's how it goes.

i think, for the sake of length, i will keep it at this...tomorrow i'll post about the other school i went to.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

in the midst of ridiculousness, there is always the hilarious

today one of my sixth graders, C., said to me, "I like your plaid shirt."

Me: Thanks!
C.: Yeah, it tells the world "I really like plaid shirts and sweaters!"
Me: [laughing hysterically] You don't know how true that is!
C.: [realizing i only wear plaid shirts and sweaters] You have a point!

sometimes, in the midst of the ridiculous frustrations of daily stuff, there is always the hilarious.