The HappyEdugator

The HappyEdugator
People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blogging...Making Time...and Implementing CCS

I have been trying my hand at blogging for a short while, but I think I have been missing the point. Sorry folks, but I haven't been posting every day. I have been reading some tips for beginning bloggers, and the number one tip says to POST DAILY. Wow! I haven't been doing that. So, I am going to try to post more often, and my goal will be to post daily. I will just have to start sharing with you my daily experiences in the classroom, and hope that you will find it entertaining, and perhaps, even useful.
So, I will back up a little to let you know how my year is going. The new common core curriculum is much more rigorous and more demanding of our students, but it is also very demanding on teachers as well. One thing we are finding very difficult is the new district requirement for us to all teach the same novel at the same time. Is everyone else having to do this, too? I have never had to do this in 17 years of teaching! Now we are teaching these novels as a grade level, which means the gifted teacher and the self-contained special education teacher are teaching the same book as well, and we are all supposed to be approximately in the same place!
Another challenge this year has been that the teachers at our school had to choose our novels before state units were released because of budget, and we had to make extremely quick decisions, too. We only had a window of a few days to choose our extended texts, so we really did not have time to read the books. We just had to choose hurriedly from lists of available books that had correct lexile levels.
Furthermore, we had to create units built around these books, including supplemental readings that included more focus on nonfiction. We could not use the state released units, but had to model our new units on the state units, and we are having to create everything with no extra time in the day.  We are trying to teach and develop new units all at once! Now, my colleagues and I are trying to write our next unit with limited time. Our district is writing mastery assessment tests for each unit, and we are evaluated on our student performance on these district tests. The problem is, like state tests, we don't know what will be on the assessment, only the standards it covers. Needless to say, it has all been overwhelming this year. I sometimes feel that I being asked to shoot the arrow at a target blindfolded, and if I don't make a bullseye, I am somehow a failure. Yet, I still go on. The children are what are really important, right?
So, 7th grade read The Cay by Theodore Taylor in our first unit this year.

The first unit was literature based, so we supplemented the unit with some poetry off the internet, and some short stories from the Prentice Hall Literature book, such as 7th Grade by Gary Soto and Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling. It went well, but I think the book really was too easy for the gifted class and too challenging for the special education students. However, all the students really seemed to enjoy this book!
Our second unit, the one we are in the middle of right now, is a nonfiction based unit, and our extended text for this unit is Red Scarf Girl by Jili Jiang. It is the true story of her life during the Cultural Revolution in China under Chairman Mao.
This book has been very challenging for all the students, and especially the children in the special education classes. The book has many Chinese names, along with large and confusing words. My students like the historical lessons in the book, and are very interested in what was happening during the Cultural Revolution, so most of them are pretty engaged. I have had to come up with little tricks to keep them on track. We all keep our notes in "little red books" modeled after the books Mao had everyone carry with his quotations in them. Our supplemental readings have included nonfiction articles and fiction stories, and poems like The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes and The Cremation of Sam Magee by Robert Service, which are both good ghost stories for Halloween. We are also reading the teleplay, The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, which was one of the first episodes of the Twilight Zone TV series. It is a fun way to teach about "mob mentality."
So, now we are up to date on what the 7th grade classes at my school have been reading. We have also been writing! My students just recently finished writing essays for the VFW Patriot's Pen Writing Contest. Every year, the VFW sponsors an essay contest, and the national winner gets a $10,000 savings bond, and there are great runner up prizes as well. They have to write an opinion essay, and every year the theme changes. This year, the theme was "What I Would Tell America's Founding Fathers..." http://www.vfw.org/Community/Patriot-s-Pen/
We also proudly display our county's winning essays on the cafeteria wall in a huge display for our Veteran's Day luncheon, when we invite military family members for lunch to thank them for their service. So, I have been really busy getting ready for our upcoming event! In 2010, we posted the essays in a display in the hall. Here are a few photographs -

 



 

 So, I will conclude tonight with a wish for all of you who are struggling with developng new units, and making adjustments to a new curriculum. I wish that you will remember that no matter how stressed out you get, the children are what really matters.
I am going to try to blog some more each day, but I can't guarantee it! :) If you don't hear from me, Happy Veteran's Day!

Here is a link to a fun Veteran's Day Scramble you can have your kiddos do if you have extra time to fill in. http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Veterans-Day-Word-Scramble



Peace. Out.
Deborah
aka HappyEdugator

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