Writing Learning Targets to Connect Learning

IMG_8697.JPGIntended lessons shouldn’t be a mystery.

Students should be aware of what the learning outcomes are and the ways through which they will be able to show what they know.

In addition to crafting good essential questions for unit long discussion, weekly and daily learning targets should be evident in the classroom. Students shouldn’t be in the dark about it.

Too often, students don’t understand why they are learning our content or skills. Too often the answer is because “it’s on the test.”

Instead, we need to make learning in our classrooms about mastery for life and not for an exam that hardly shows what students know and can do in a meaningful way. (more…)

Reading to Connect

recite-16362-329513383-1jresmx.pngThe pages turn hungrily and without realizing it, I’ve read clear into the middle of the night. I had to know how it ended. It was no longer a choice, but a longing, an aggressive desire to understand that compelled me to continue reading. The house is quiet and the tears are running down the side of my face.

This is what good literature does.

As cliche as it is, it transports us to another place and gets us to feel emotions for characters we grow to know in worlds that are different, yet similar to our own.

Great literature makes us think critically about the world around us, its connection with history and about ourselves. The way we connect and deeper reasons why the impact is great for some of us sometimes and not so other times.

As a teacher of literature, these qualities are the eye candy we use to develop a deeper understanding of writing. Teaching students how author’s achieve these amazing connections through their words, syntax and settings. It’s my job to learn enough about my students to know what is going to hook them, what will compel them through the discomfort of not knowing and motivate them to pursue their own truths of understanding. (more…)

Teaching Kids to Understand the Standards

recite-4636--424585776-1067tg0.pngIf I presented you with something in Latin and then told you its contents were the standards you must show proficiency in to level up, what would you do?

What if you didn’t know Latin?

Too often, we assume that students understand the language of the standards when we reference  them.

Whether they are afraid to admit they don’t get it or only have a cursory understanding, students have a right to know the basis by which they are being judged and we can’t take it for granted that they actually know. (more…)

Student Recommendation: The Mortal Instruments, City of Bones

IMG_8684.JPGKnowing my obsession with Harry Potter, a few of my students have insisted that I read Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instrument series.

After I didn’t run right out to buy it or borrow it, one of my students brought it to school so I could borrow hers…

and I’m glad she did.

As I reader, I found myself noticing similarities in the style of writing with Potter series as well as the Twilight series. Almost seems like the got married and had this baby.

From a strictly reader stand point, I found the novel to be engaging and entertaining. Clary, the protagonist was developed enough to hold my curiosity as was the world that was being developed before me. (more…)

Educator Recognition – It SHOULD happen more

IMG_8650.PNGWhen I got the email again this year that I was nominated for a Bammy Award, I was just as surprised and humbled as last year. I’ve been teaching for 13 years and up until a few years ago, no one recognized me for anything….

With the exception of the kids, of course.

But every time I do get recognized whether by the Dow Jones News Fund or Education Update or the Bammy Awards, I have a bevvy of conflicting emotions; I’m proud because I know I’m deserving, but then embarrassed for feeling proud because I’m not supposed to want to be recognized. (more…)

Don’t Hate the Standards, Hate The Test

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 9.19.21 PM.pngNever has the word “standard” been so hated.

Since the beginning of my relationship with the Common Core Standards, I have listened to respected colleagues, parents and students spew venom about them because of the saddest misguided entanglement they have to the new testing initiatives.

I will be the first person to say I don’t agree with testing: not on the national level, state level or even classroom level; there are just too many other ways to assess students’ learning that are far more effective. (But this is a matter for another conversation.)

That being said, testing and the standards are two separate entities.

Until the Common Core Standards came into the public’s vocabulary, every state had its own standards; they were broken into content area and they were used as a measure by which students were judged to show proficiency for graduation. And we were all okay with that, because we agree that there needs to be standards to determine the level of student achievement. We may not have liked the specific verbage of all of the standards, but we certainly agreed that it was appropriate for them to be in place. (more…)

It’s not about productivity, it’s about learning…

How-can-we-shift-the…and there is a difference.

This past week I’ve been conferring with students about their learning, asking them to assess themselves and equate their level of learning (approaching, proficient or mastery) to a traditional grade (I still have to provide those for the system I teach within).

One sad, but consistent thing I can notice, is that the first default for student is to talk about the amount of work they have completed or haven’t completed and/or when they were able to get the work in. (more…)