Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Teaching Research in a WikiWorld

One of the things that has frustrated me as a teacher at every level has been getting students to understand what are and are not reliable resources.  Now, The Common Core, has explicitly put into its standards the expectations that students know how to evaluate their sources for reliability and for their usefulness for a given task.

I've been addressing this in my college courses this year by assigning annotated bibliographies.  This allows students to learn a new type of writing- annotate bibliographies, practice proper citation formatting (either APA or MLA), and evaluate sources on multiple levels.

 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and over-reliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation (

To this end I have created an assignment sheet, rubrics, and sample annotations in the MLA style for teachers in high school and college.  This may also be appropriate in the middle school classroom.

How do you help your students address these standards?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Teaching Funnies

The year was 2010.  I was teaching at an alternative high school.  My students had spent the year trying to figure out "what" I was.  You see, I'm somewhat racially ambiguous.  The majority of the students had come to understand that I am more than one race but I'd refused to let them know what the mix was.

Cut to the last period of the day.  I'm standing at my doorway with my students waiting to release them.  One of my students, a delightful girl, though she always came across like a valley girl, says to me, "Ms. F you're tan."  I agreed, yes, I am.  "Where do you go tanning?" she asked me.

"I don't, it's my ethnic make up," I responded.

"Where do you buy that?" she asked.  I promptly doubled over in laughter.

Her friend, another great student, slaps her on the shoulder and states, "You can't buy it.  She means it has to do with her race!"

I couldn't make these things up if I tried.  I love teaching.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Teaching Writing- The Paper Proposal

Teaching research and writing at the college level has been interesting.  I am having to learn to switch from my mode of writing about literature to writing purely research based papers about other academic disciplines.  I am enjoying what I'm doing but I will admit, I miss teaching literature.  I'm trying to figure out how, in the future, I can incorporate some literature into my courses.

As I go I'm creating my own resources to facilitate the learning process for my students.  I've started to post some of these resources on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  If you're a high school teacher preparing your students for college and teaching them how to conduct academic resources these should be very useful to you.  They are also of course great for first year writing programs at the college level.

Stay tuned for MLA and APA versions of all sheets!

Monday, September 2, 2013

A New Challenge

I'm switching from teaching middle school to... drum roll please...

teaching COLLEGE!

This summer I applied to middle and high school teaching jobs.  But, a lot of schools in my area are not hiring teachers with their master's degrees due to their higher pay rate.  And, since I finally have my MA as of Saturday I fall into that weird position of having too much experience and education.  However, for years people have been telling me I'd make a great college teacher so I applied to a few local schools to be an adjunct English professor.  

Wouldn't you know, I was hired!  At first I was offered 2 classes, then 3, and now I'm up to 4 classes!  I'm really excited to try something new.  The four classes are three different courses which is providing me with experience at several levels!  I hope that I get as much joy out of teaching adults as I do kids.  

So, for this year, as I post, (hopefully more than last year) a lot of my information will be aimed towards advanced high school, remedial college, and basic college English courses.  

Wish me luck!  Classes start September 11th!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tech in the Classroom: Twitter- Bulletin Board Style

One of the struggles facing teachers today is getting students to buy in.  A coworker of mine had planned on having a "Twitter" board in their room using chart paper where their students could write down "tweets" about what they were doing in class. She never really got it off the ground but the idea stuck with me.  So, when I started doing Romeo and Juliet with my class I thought it'd be a great opportunity to try my own version of a Twitter bulletin board.

Step 1 involved setting up my board.  As you can see I printed out and cut out the word "Twitter" and (it's hard to see) the little bird as well.  I then bought dry erase sentence strips and figured out that on my board I could fit three columns.  Because of this I knew it'd be impossible to have a "feed" for every character so I created one for Romeo, one for Juliet, and one for Trending Topics which would allow other characters to post.  I printed out pictures from the 1960s version of R&J to be used as their user pics.  Here's the picture- pretty good huh?

As soon as my students saw it the next day they were very excited to see it and to find out how they were going to interact with it!  

Here's how I used it- and I'll include my other pieces of advice that I've come up with from trying this out.

I had my students come up with account names for Juliet and Romeo.  We'd already done a fifteen minute version of the play and completed a KWL chart so they had a loose understanding of the play.  We put the best ones on the board and I kept track of all three of my classes suggestions.  Then the next day we voted on the top ones.  Students who wanted to go above and beyond started coming up with ideas for other characters that they knew would show up in the play.

After reading Act 1 Scene 1 I had students start creating tweets for Romeo (Juliet isn't in the scene) that would reflect his feelings at the end of the scene, and show that they understood the most important aspects of the scene in 140 characters or less.  Essentially an activity to find the main idea.  They were also welcome to come up with hashtags that were relevant.  Again by voting we came up with the best one and put it on the board.  In small writing below the tweet on the same strip I included "Posted Act 1  Scene 1" to help keep the timeline in place.

For a full version of the lesson plan and the template for the letters and handouts that can be used with the students check out my download at TPT.   I think is well worth the investment.  

I truly think this activity can be used for any topic/book or even other subjects of class with success.  

How do you  integrate technology/student interests into your classroom?

PS Sorry for no picture of the complete board with tweets- it got taken down without my knowledge before I had a chance to photograph it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Will You Please Just Read A Book? Encouraging Reluctant Readers

One of the challenges I have been facing this year is getting all of my students to read for fun.  Or, frankly, to read at all.  The school I work for spent tens of thousands of dollars creating classroom libraries for every classroom and initiated the Accelerated Reader program.  Yet, some of my students STILL haven't earned a single point and we're half way through the year.  I suggest books, I give them silent reading time.  I do everything I can, but it's still not working.  So a few weeks ago I started listening centers in my classroom.  It's definitely a work in progress but a lot of my students really enjoy listening to books on tape.

The school provided me with four books on tape and I purchased four more on my own from Half Price Books! (They were super cheap- got all four, two magnetic poetry kits, a small novelty book, and a headphone splitter for under $50!)  In my classroom I was also provided with one standard listening center that can have up to six students listening at one time.  I then purchased a cheap personal CD player and two more headphone sets and set up a smaller station across the room.  In a perfect world I can have up to 8 people listening at one time!  But typically I have about 4-5 at a time.  It helps with the volume level while I'm workshopping with my other students, and gives my struggling readers access to texts they wouldn't be able to read on their own.

I have specific expectations for the students at the center.  They are to be silent, they must read along, and they must clean up.  I also put together really basic packet that can be filled out for any book that they are to work on each time they go to the listening center.  I also ask that they listen to only one chapter at a time so that they can all have turns.

I think next time I might just pick three books at a time- managing seven is a little crazy.  I'm also working on fine tuning a tracking sheet to keep tabs on who has read how far in what book. Generally though, I'm happy with how things are running.  I'm hoping that each student will finish at least one book that they can then take a test on and earn AR points.  In addition hopefully they are exposed to something new and different and learn to enjoy reading a little bit more.

How do you inspire your students to read?