September 15, 2009

I will be posting on from now on. Nothing is different except the URL. Eventually, I may delete this site but will leave it up for quite a while – but I will be updating and revising the new one! Please follow me there! 🙂


“The Short Version”

September 14, 2009


8/10/09 – Finish M.Ed coursework. Begin cleaning house and setting up classroom for surviving upcoming school year.

8/15/09  10:00 AM graduation service

12:30 PM Lunch with family. Drive directly to wedding. Put on uncomfortable bridesmaid’s dress. Have hair ripped out of head for vanity’s sake. Accept that there will be pictures of me wearing unflattering dress with a lovely bird’s nest resting atop my head. Wait around and feel useless for a few hours.

6:30 PM Wedding. Preacher informs bride she has a “love box” in which the husband must make deposits. He believes it is a beautiful metaphor. Ok.

11:00 PM Go to Steak N Shake. Yummy shake. Go home. Sleep.

8/17/09 Begin teacher inservice hours and frantically try to finish grading student’s first round of summer work. Try to figure out how to start the year. Wonder if I really will have a student teacher. Fret about everything.

8/19/09 11:00 PM Must be at school at 7 AM tomorrow. Start thinking about going to be “early” so it will be a good morning and I can start fresh. Hear a thud. Discover this. Realize that my husband’s car has also been struck. Realize some of my first day of school stuff was in there (but not much – thank heavens).

8/20/09 Drive to school in husband’s crappy backup car. He stays home to make calls and have pictures taken. Feel frazzled and a little off for the first couple of days.

8/21/09 Drop off my babies at preschool for the first time EVER. (They have been with us or grandparents their entire lives.) Feel proud that I didn’t cry. But I needed to…

8/22/09 Spend our entire weekend trying to find a new car for the cash we have on hand. Fail.

8/25/09 7:10 AM Arrive at school just before student council meeting begins. Discover that head of Dept is showing the new student teacher around. Had just given up on the idea yesterday. Huh.

7:55 AM Meet student teacher. She’s smart. I lucked out. Still taken aback since I had not expected this.

8:00 AM Bell rings. Turns out 5 minutes is not long enough to get aquainted. Once again feel distracted for the day. Good news? Get good vibes that upcoming semester will be exciting with a student teacher. Bad news: haven’t been very productive during prep periods since…

8/29/09 10:00 AM Set sail for Kansas City to shop for a car. Miraculously, a check has come in the mail unexpectedly early. Say a prayer in thanks.

10:10 AM Husband’s crappy truck that has been providing our transportation dies on the way. Transmission is shredding metal. He says it’s hopeless. Turn around and return home.

10:30 AM Head to local town to pick out cheap car in husband’s wrecked (but not dangerous) car. Get call from sis-in-law in KC. Says neighbor will sell us car. Go to KC. Buy car. Done.

8/31/09 Along with student teacher, we decide to read banned books leading up to Banned Book Week at the end of September. We choose 3 books I have not read. Begin reading around the clock (sort of).

9/4/09 Feel grateful for the 3.5 day weekend. Realize I was floundering. Start making progress on house and grading school work.

9/11/09 Pep rally. Football game. Party w/friends (and their kids) that goes until midnight. Wonder why husband’s friends want us to keep our kids up so late.

9/12 to 9/13 Completely veg out. Begin watching Lost from Season 1. Stupid Netflix online. Only have to click the arrow to watch next episode. Over and over.

9/14/09 Finish grading summer work. All grades uploaded to online gradebook. Nothing left to grade for now. HUGE burden lifted. Neighbor boys have finally cleaned up the enormous dead tree in our yard. Living room is clean. Laundry in machines. Feeling human again.

So… disaster averted. The energy deficit I began the year with has subsided. Sure, it is not likely that I will go back to the energy level I experienced as a first year teacher (just last year) but I am seeking sustainable balance. And I think I’m getting there. One day at a time.

My “Rules” Posters

August 17, 2009

Alright, here’s the first of two posted “rules” for my classroom. RESPECT (Printed on bright yellow paper.)

Here is the other “poster” (I’m SO gonna end up on that unnecessary quotations blog!): RESPONSIBILITY (printed on bright green paper.)

Additionally, the bulletin board contains our cell phone policy, school calendar, mission statement and prayer.



Now I’m off to clean up my syllabi! (Exciting, huh?)

Ning and 21st Century Literacy (NCTE)

August 15, 2009

This is a paper I wrote for my Master’s in Education. I’m afraid it isn’t terribly polished but I thought I would go aheaad and post it just in case in might help anyone.

Here is a link to it in Google Docs. (Please let me know if this link is working! I’m still getting used to sharing!)

I’d also like to thank members of my PLN for being so helpful and even taking my survey!

The Notebook and The Ning

August 13, 2009

Here’s my current plan for using both concurrently. Hopefully there will be some good interplay between class discussions, Ning discussions, and writing in The Notebook,  that will work together to increase depth of comprehension and thinking skills. (PS This handout is almost completely stolen from Jim Burke at or – Thanks!!!)

The Notebook, The Ning, and The Portfolio (adapted from Jim Burke)

Now updated to include a brief note to students to make them aware that the 3 ring binder they are using for the Notebook will be turned into a portfolio that will follow them through high school! I’m also encouraging students to feel comfortable including writing works from other classes. (I am really excited by anything interdisciplinary!)

Almost done!

August 6, 2009

OK, so I took these pics w/my Blackberry cuz I still can’t find my camera! Sorry for the poor pic quality. Oh, and I haven’t actually done the bulletin boards yet, either. (BUT my cabinets are almost totally organized! Wahoo!) Too bad, I wanted to share anyway because I really enjoy this part. 🙂

From door:


(Bookshelf contains quaint “Classroom Library”; Wall of Fame will be area for sharing student work; Quotable quotes will either have miniposters I already have or note card quotes from stdnts – undecided!)








Bulletin Board to left will have “British Lit” in black letters and images related to 1984(Orwell). Beside it will be the Juniors’ daily menu: Objectives, Activities, Homework, Upcoming. Bookcase contains class set of dictionaries and tubs w/markers, colored pencils, glue, and scissors.






MY DESK area – Sophomore Menu on left, Welcome BB has desk size calender and will have school calender posted to right on BB. File folders hanging represent IN and OUT for paperwork that I receive. Still deciding if I will do anything specific with counter space that is finally freed up!






WRITING Conference table and chairs with rug! And yeah, that’s a Shakespeare bobble-head if you are looking close. 🙂 The black foam board will go up on the wall just a bit higher once I decide what to put on it. Editor’s marks? Proofreading checklist? Actual works in progress? Hmm…

Learning is Social

July 30, 2009

So if you are a teacher, you’ve already read all about Vygotsky and his belief that learning is social. What’s interesting is to consider this in light of the advancements of web 2.0 and how ever present the ability to learn socially is now.

As I have been sitting in my living room (gave up on the office and learned the hard way that doing too much work on your bed really does make it hard to sleep!) I’ve been reading research. Strike that. I’ve been trying to highlight and annotate my research for the big culminating paper of my Master’s degree. And you know what? It’s boring.

Here’s the weird part. It’s a topic that I am passionate about and intrigued by. I love learning. I love researching and writing. So why am I so bored? Why can’t I stay focused?

I am isolated.

I printed the work off so I could read more deeply (I’m old school like that) and highlight tangibly. (And so I could color code my highlights to make the writing process flow quickly.)

What I’ve come to realize it how accustomed I am to read online articles and blogs with ideas and research that I can then post the link and/or just a quote or idea about to twitter or to a Ning that I belong to. There, I can give my perspective and receive nearly instantaneous feedback. This helps me to think more clearly and to view the idea from other points of view while it is still FRESH in my mind -while I’m still effectively chewing on the thoughts and words.

For this paper, however, I am trying to gather ALL of the research and ALL of my thoughts all by myself and put them together. Then the resulting product will be large and dense and since I’m a no-name in the education field, it is not likely that it will receive any amount of feedback to provide opportunities for dialogue.

The dialogue that helps us see things more clearly. The very dialogue and feedback that make learning real and substantial.

HOW can I take this experience and show my students that what I know about research and how research is still important? How can I make the tasks I assign more authentic and social and collaborative without cheesy roles that are eventually ignored?

Structure for 09-10

July 28, 2009

Here are a few ideas I’m considering that will continue for the entire course of the year. This will leave me with 60 minutes of regular instruction each class. I may try to book the computer lab for Fridays (each class only meets every other on block), but that seems a bit selfish so I need a new schedule there!


*We are on block schedule, so I plan to have SSR Mon-Thurs (students may choose to read ahead in class novels or to work on their independent reading) for about 15 minutes at the beginning of class each day.

*To reduce the grading load, I am planning to prepare a reading quiz for every day, but it will be delivered randomly. This means that all students will be expecting the quiz, but only 1-2 classes each day will actually take it. It will likely eat into their SSR time. The purpose is to provide accountability without being so tedious.

*THEN, we’ll implement a few minutes of “Fun day Friday” as I was asked for this constantly last year. The first 15 minutes of class on Fridays will be allocated to a vocabulary activity. (Catch phrase/something with vocab flash cards/jeopardy? -still creating list)


*Since we will no longer be doing journaling at the beginning of class, this will be moved to the class Ning. Students will be responsible for responding to or creating discussions once a week on the Ning forums. These discussions can be in the form of a picture, quote, song, prompt (what would you do, etc), article, video, etc. External links are encouraged! Extra credit will be awarded to students with high quality posts.

*Going along with SSR and independent reading, students will also be using Ning for blogging responses which is three fold because it offers accountability, authentic audience, and a place to recommend books to peers.

Found tip for blog posts: “critically reflect back (past experiences), forward (future implications), inward (current feelings or emotions) & outward (other’s point of  view)  on the topic/text” – In detail at THIS SITE

*I will also encourage students to use the group features for lit circles or long term group work (like our Gatsby Meets the Press newspaper) to share sources, ideas and keep files. Additionally, I will introduce Google docs to assist with group work, so it will depend on student preferences.

*Side note: Next time we do online “lit circles” using Ning’s “Groups” feature, will keep groups small (4-6??) and consider having students log on as specific characters and solve problem?? using skills/character traits particular to each individual character.

Other Activities I like (or want to try!):

*Maintain portfolios – Ummm…. Tips??

*Conferencing – Similar to writer’s workshop, but not sure how often I’ll be able to follow through or how structured it will be. Some will be in class – do you recommend requiring/allowing before/after school sign up as well? How do you do run this?

*Socratic Seminars – Once a month at least. (“Circle discussions” in between- use ticket in the door for questions.)

*Building background information – Scaffold notetaking skills. (Create own webquests: King Arthur and The Crucible?)

*Gallery Walks – when we do any kind of visual projects, we should use this + student vote for fave ( a couple extra credit pts). Gives better purpose for projects.

*Using roles/using lit circles throughout the year. Must be effective. Create product/offer personal synopsis in writing?

*Debates: 1-2. Assign roles, give time to prepare.

*Mock trial. Shoot for 1 per year? (OMM; Beowulf ?)

*Diigo – we do lots of research based papers (with plenty of room for personal/opinionated voice). See if this tool can help students organized and improve my ability to check in on them.

*Think – Pair – Share activities where students are called on periodically to share their responses with the class to keep them accountable.

*Skits/Reader’s Theater – students create their own scripts (familiarity with text) sometimes making up new settings, sometimes staying true to text. Good for kinesthetic learners/kids who love drama.

Work in Progress – Reading and Writing

July 28, 2009

Alright, let me start by saying that this may only make sense to me. As I was reading through Writing Paragraphs and Essays by Wingersky, Boerner, and Holguin-Balogh I was starting to get a sense of how to try to present reading and writing simultaneously. So much of what I’ve read and experienced seem to really fragment the two into separate workshops, even more divorced when considering literature/content, that this was a relief to realize.

I’m sure there are fabulous works out there explaining how to accomplish this for real, but I haven’t found them yet. So here are my discombobulated notes. 🙂

Keep in mind, the plan is to use these WHILE doing the literature, discussions, background knowledge, etc activities that I would always do. I’m planning on sticking with my planned pieces and essential questions, and not reading irrelevant examples to get there. (In other words, if we’re looking for examples of persuasive writing, perhaps we’ll look to the authors we’re already planning to read in our Age of Reason unit.)

*Prior Knowledge:

*Reading – show students that we build/access background knowledge before reading so that we can make connections and better understand the text. (Predicting/hypothesizing may fit here.)

*Writing – Similarly, we brainstorm/free write what we know before writing in order to plan our papers. Skills are the same.


*Reading – it’s important to ask WHY the author wrote it or included something specific.

*Writing – we must ask ourselves why we are writing the paper or why we’ve chosen to include pieces.


*Reading – we have to ask ourselves if we are still focused and understanding – making meaning.

*Writing – we must ask ourselves if we are still on topic and focused or falling into tangential drivel.


*Reading – we ask “Is _____ what they mean? Do I agree with that? What do I know that follows that idea or disagrees with it?” Can go much farther with creative questions that are hopefully much deeper and do some synthesizing or point of view thinking.

*Writing –  we should question if we are saying what we mean in addition to considering what our audience might think as readers. [This also kind of encompasses revising meaning.]

*Point of View:

*Reading – WHO is telling this? WHY are they saying that? What motivations might the author/narrator have? What background information do we have on the speaker?

*Writing – Who will narrate my story? What motivations do I have to write this essay?

*Voice (include vocabulary instruction):

*Reading – Underline individual words that tell a lot (ex. walk tells nothing; saunter sounds cocky, tiptoe sounds sneaky, etc) Power of word choices.

*Writing – Consider how to pack more meaning and personality into sentences with fewer words. Try to incorporate vocabulary words for more powerful and succinct writing.

Purpose (include thesis statement):

*Reading – WHAT message is the author trying to portray? Can you identify the thesis statement?

*Writing – What message are you trying to deliver? What is the point of your essay or paragraph?I know this is not particularly innovative. I suspect it’s what teachers do intuitively all the time, teaching both at once. It’s just that I hadn’t really taken the time to break it down and see how they are connected. Sure, this is sloppy and there’s lots of overlap; but it’s a start for me. 🙂

I would love to know how you do this in your classroom or if there are big chunks I’m missing or mixing up. Thanks!

My Classroom

June 25, 2009

These pictures start before my first year (08-09).  A recent blog post from Elissa about her first classroom made me want to spend some time reflecting on my own choices my classroom and how I can make improvements in my second year…

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View from the back. At the front is my stool and podium. I love having the stool because I can still sit and discuss while being able to see all of my students. (It also helps me feel less desire to sit at my own desk.)

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To the right is my view from the podium.

Out of the whole year, I think I enjoyed this seating arrangement the most. They can see each other reasonably well, in addition to the front and back boards.

Each side is a row three desks deep, and those rows represent their groups for many of our projects. It’s easy for them to flips their desks around to accomplish this.

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I used a sage green fabric that is almost like a burlap texture.

It doesn’t fade or show holes like paper, plus texture adds warmth.

I trimmed all the bulletin boards with basic black for cohesiveness.

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To create an additional bulletin board, I bought a cheap foam presentation type poster board in black and using hot glue, I created a sage green ribbon border.

I used chalk to add “Quotable Quotes” and I periodically change the quote posters attached. (Thematic or by authors.)


This is the view on “my” side of the room.

I have storage cabinets for my own stuff.

Bookcases with dictionaries and personal favorites of mine.

Construction paper and posterboard.

And yellow baskets filled with markers, colored pencils, scissors, and glue for group projects.

005This is an important part of my workspace, though it sometimes gets cluttered with student projects.

The ugly cardboard sorting tower is a lifesaver. I keep the handouts for the day in the top slots (by class) and keep extras paper clipped together for students who need a copy later, whatever the reason.

At the bottom, I keep graded papers that need to be returned; once again by course and paper clipped by actual class times.

The black metal file folder sorter is where I keep the papers that I need to grade by class. It helps me see how far behind I am at any given time, and it’s easy to throw just 1-2 folders into my bag at night.


This is my *cluttered* computer area. I spend lots of time here!

Next year, the microwave will be in the far corner w/the lamp on it.

The milk crate holding folders will be on the floor under the counter.

Everything will be moved left and streamlined.

There are also more pics of my kids above this station! 🙂

Hope you enjoy classroom clutter!!!


The reality is that sometimes you have lots of projects at once.

I feel it would be wrong to only post favorites, so if they are individual, they can only use regular printer paper to keep them small.

In groups, we sometimes do full poster projects. The best thing I can come up with is to keep them lined up very geometrically to reduce the feeling of chaos.

002This bulletin board eluded me for an entire year. I HATE the stuff on top. THAT will never happen again.

This is my biggest problem area. I feel I should give a bulletin board space to my Creative Writing elective, but it’s so hard for me to put stuff up there. I think I may just let go of the idea of using it for that class next year and start fresh. ANY ideas would be welcome!

To end on a more positive note, the blue lines you see on the markerboard are wonderful! I used painters tape to make this semi permanent grid and have my website url at the top and our daily “menu” of in class activities, due dates, and homework assignments within their respective rectangle.

I also have one of these (painter’s tape grids) on my backboard that lists our daily objectives (you know, students will:) and sometimes add to the side of it a list of UPCOMING due dates to offer more long term reminders.

Oh! One more tip. Use hot glue for you “all year” laminated posters. As long as the paint is in good shape, it will not hurt it. Just a nice little drop, don’t go overboard or anything. At the end of the year, it pops right off the poster and the wall! WAY better than posters falling down constantly (like my student work does… stupid tape).

Anything you want to add that you do in your classroom?