Been back on twitter for the first time in ages. Besides amazing people online I found #ozenchat at paper.li. Interesting things to read within seconds and then clicked on “Figurative Language” discovering Jog the Web. What a cool tool for preparing lessons. Fast and fun and great with 1:1 laptops!
Paper.li is a site where you can create your own online newspapers. I wonder if it is blocked by DET? Could be fun to do as a class.
Another great read. I got my copy of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller this week and am about half way through. The author’s commitment to creating lifelong readers is reflected in her enthusiasm and ideas for taking our love of reading into the English classroom. It confirms my own belief in the value of a free choice reading programme and providing time for kids to read in class. I am planning a rebuilding of free choice reading in class in our faculty plans for this year and Miller is helping to shape how I might do that. Her description of the ‘underground reader’, a student who is already an avid reader and just wants to get on with the current book brought back memories of hiding a book in my desk in primary school and reading it in my lap when I had finished other work or while waiting for my turn to read the next section of ‘The School Magazine’ which we read aloud in class. I couldn’t help thinking back to last years Year 7 that definitely had a few underground readers. For some reason I didn’t get our reading off the ground until later in the year. How they must have suffered!
Miller sets a goal of 40 books a year for students and reading across a range of genres. The high expectation generated by this goal and the use of genre to support the work in key units are ideas I plan to take into my reading programmes this year.
I have just finished reading Awakening the Heart by poet Georgia Heard. I enjoyed it very much and I think she would be delighted that her book has re-awakened my joy in reading and writing poetry with students. Something I feel I haven’t done a lot of, over the last few years, and something I always loved as a young teacher. I think a love of poetry is what led me into teaching English.
Georgia’s book is about the importance of bringing kids to poetry in a positive way and for them to learn that poetry is ‘food for all’. She says, “One of the most important life lessons that writing and reading poetry can teach our students is to help them reach their well of feelings — their emotional lives– like no other form of writing can”. Right now, I think that is a really important and significant goal for our current students, and goes to the heart of the debates about subject English. There are many wonderful ideas and inspiring stories in her book that make you want to go into the class room right now and begin. A book to add to the very best books all English teachers should read.
One of my personal favourites from the book is the Living Anthology Project, where kids choose and place poems where people will read them, like waiting in line at the canteen or at the office, or for the bus. Inspired by the Poetry in Motion project, it made me think about the ways we traditionally teach poetryand how to turn our poetry teaching into project based learning. My idea is that this year we ask year 7 to create their own poetry project which might be a Living Anthlogy project or could take some other form.
English teachers tend to love books, and I am no exception. When it comes to buying school related books, most teachers seem to buy the books that they can use directly in the classroom. The textbook kind. I am not a great fan of these books and my clean up of my resources and shelves has led me back to books I have collected over the years that inspired me in all kinds of ways. The kinds of professional reading I like are the books that go to the heart of teaching, about how and why and invariably they are books that make me rethink what I do and lead me to some kind of creative innovation, taking me beyond the writer’s ideas into my own, like Teaching Literature: Nine to Fourteen (Benton and Fox) and If you’re trying to teach kids how to write, you’ve gotta have this book! (Marjorie Frank). These are books worth sharing with beginning English teachers, because these books will help them re frame their theories about what teachers do and what English teaching is all about. May be you have some other suggestions?
I discovered Edmodo last week and am in love with it already. What a great site! Perfect for working with 1:1 laptops and easy to join, for kids and teachers. I began by creating groups for my year 10 and year 11 classes and sent them a group email with the join codes. It doesn’t need kids to register with email addresses, you can keep it closed or make some posts public and is not blocked by DET!!!! I especially like the file sharing Library and that students can upload assignments. Another great feature is posting assignments and then as students upload their work it tells you how many have responded. Have you used it? Any advice for a first time user?
I had planned to ‘enrol’ kids in class time but as usual, a technical hitch. For some reason my IWB internet connection has gremlins. Very frustrating and after three service calls this week, no change. Despite this kids have been joining up – their wireless connection works fine!
We have a school Moodle but I think Edmodo is much easier to use – very simple to share files through the library and you don’t need to do a course to learn how to do it. I like to do a lot of my prep at home because I am too busy at school and get a bit tired of the amount of download I have to use to organise material with Moodle, not to mention how slow it is with satellite broadband.
One of my daughters is currently studying to be …. an English teacher. I have really enjoyed hearing her thoughts and ideas over the last few months and her questions have ‘tested’ my memory, assumptions and philosophies. Her questions about how I plan my lessons were a real test. After 30 years of teaching I don’t seem to write much down. I know I walk into the classroom prepared, knowing what I am going to teach and what I expect kids to get from the lesson and how I will do it – it just seems to be all in my head! I had offered her and some of her Uni friends some ‘work experience’ time, mainly because she had expressed her concerns about not knowing what to expect and not remembering much about the classroom because she is a ‘mature age student’!
Yesterday she and a friend visited our school for the day. I really enjoyed having them both in our staffroom and classrooms. They had some time in some classrooms, looked at resources, visited the Library to look at our new Senior Learning Centre and played with the IWB for a while. I made sure I ‘planned’ year 10’s lesson in a bit more detail than I usually do!
I think it is really valuable for potential teachers to ‘visit’ schools. I know they do a couple of pracs (professional experience and internships) but I think time spent ‘helping out’ in a school would be very useful and create a stronger teaching service in the future. They have so much insight and a different perspective and we older experienced teachers have much to ‘pass on’ that is lost when we retire. It’s like we keep reinventing the wheel. If you have a Uni nearby why not open your doors to some student teachers? Or maybe you are part of a programme already running?