Saturday, June 23, 2012

Midsouth Reading & Writing Institute - Part 1

Thursday and Friday, June 21 and 22, I attended the Midsouth Reading & Writing Conference in Birmingham, Al. Thursday was done in what I think of as "traditional" conference style, with a Keynote speaker and four breakout sessions. The conference is geared more towards elementary school, so I only attended three sessions, as there was no option for a middle school teacher for session 4. However, the three sessions I did attend were great! Tonya Perry, a professor at UAB, held a session on Common Core. As I have been a stay-at-home mom while most of that was happening, I don't know a lot about it. Tonya was very knowledgeable and gave us some great information. We talked about the shifts and changes Common Core would produce in middle school ELA classrooms. She gave us index-card-sized color-coded papers with the different standards and we grouped them based on "do it," "do some of it," and "don't do it." That was a very telling experience as we were able to see patterns based on the color-coding.

The second session I attended was with Rick Shelton. If you teach writing at ANY grade level, you should take any opportunity you get to hear him speak. He's amazing!  He's a huge proponent of "you have to write to learn to write." He also believes that grammar is useless when taught in isolated lessons. For it to have any meaning it has to connect directly to the students' writing. Makes sense to me! I've been reading about writing workshops for a few years now, but it didn't REALLY click until yesterday!

The third session I attended was with Kathy Champeau and was about RtI and how Wisconsin handles it. It was also informative considering I'm not familiar with the actual wording of the law, just what was disseminated by administrators at the school I worked in during the 2010-2011 school year.

The most interesting part of the conference, though, was the second day. We spent the whole day listening to Peter Johnston. Most of his presentation came form his book Opening Minds and is about the use and effect of language in the classroom. He has some very intriguing ideas, but I'll save that for the next post!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Dull Days

I've been looking for different quotes and sayings to post in my classroom, and while I was walking through a Hallmark store, I found a notepad of various Dr. Seuss sayings. This one in particular caught my eye, and I think I'll make it into a sign to hang in my room!

We could have a dull day and just sit, sit, sit... but that isn't likely! Not one little bit!

Teaching history I had a GREAT mentor who loved to get the kids up and moving and involved. We had great hands-on activities almost every week. We put tape maps down on the floor and battled for land in Greece, we excavated tombs in ancient China, we took a riverboat cruise down the Nile, we re-enacted battles, we spent a day pretending to be medieval monks... it was honestly the most fun I've ever had teaching!

Returning to the classroom this year I'm going back to teaching English. I have some mixed feelings about it based SOLELY on the awesome experience I had teaching history. My previous English teacher mentors were seriously old-school. They were all about grammar drill and practice, worksheets, quizzes... you know the type. I was even told by one of them that I was "an English teacher, not a drama teacher" and I needed to "calm down and stop getting so excited." So I'm sure you can see my dilemma here. English is what I have to work with now. So the question is, can I infuse my English class with the excitement I felt teaching history? The sign mentioned above is more a reminder for me than anything. I don't want to fall back into those old patterns of dull sitting and lecturing and quizzing. That sucks. It sucks for the kids, and it sucks for me, and I don't like it, not one little bit! So now my challenge is to figure out to translate that history experience into some rockin' good English lessons!

If you have any ideas, send 'em my way!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Riding the Middle School Wave

Greetings! Welcome to the beginnings of my teacher blog. I have been blog-stalking lots of great teachers lately, and decided to take the plunge and start my own! Plans for the blog are sharing experiences and opinions about teaching middle school, cool internet finds, conferences, lessons, classroom decorations, organization ideas, professional and YA book reviews, and anything else that comes up that relates to teaching middle school. 

About me: I have been teaching for seven years. I've taught high school a time or two, but I MUCH prefer middle school! I've taught English, reading, journalism, and history. I took the past year off to stay home with my babies, Monkey (3 1/2 years) and Sis (18 months), but I'm ready to jump back in! My new school is a 40-minute interstate drive away, and it's significantly smaller than anywhere I've taught before. I also facilitate online professional development courses. I'm also a DIY-er and crafter. Anything that has to do with paint, mod podge, or wreaths is right up my alley. For this reason, I am totally addicted to Pinterest!

I'm a serious Type A personality. If you're familiar with the color personality test (gold/orange/blue/green), I maxed out the gold scale. I'm all about following the rules, being organized, having a plan and a back-up plan (honestly, if that's all I have I feel woefully under-prepared!), and whatever it is we are "supposed to" be doing. I'm not naturally one to question authority, and I believe rules are made to be followed, not broken! I have to be able to see the bottom of my email inbox at all times, and I'm a compulsive list maker. I seriously stress if I don't know exactly what is happening or what I'm supposed to be doing. (Example - I'm already stressing about taking my class to lunch the first day of school because I don't know exactly how they do it.) I have every unit I have ever taught in a binder. That binder contains one hard copy of every single thing to recreate that unit. When unpacking things in my classroom yesterday (yes, I know it's mid-June and school doesn't start for another two months. I just can't leave it for later!) I made sure that some of those (particular ones I knew I'd be using first semester) were on an open shelf where I can see them... because they calm me! Yes, I'm that crazy! :) HOWEVER... my co-workers know they can always come to me to ask for a handout we got at a faculty meeting seven months ago and I can put my hands on it in under thirty seconds. They may lovingly poke fun, but they know they benefit from it too!

I decided to name my blog "Riding the Middle School Wave" for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that middle school is all about change. You have to just go with the flow, or "ride the waves."  Flexibility is key! The second reason is that my new school mascot is the Green Wave! I haven't been to orientation yet, so I'm not 100% sure what that's all about, but it makes a nice coincidence. 

Anyway, I am glad you came to visit, and I hope you enjoy "Riding the Middle School Wave" with me!