Writing Time

I think this is my problem with teaching writing: I get bored of the assignments. I can teach in week long increments and then I’m ready to move on. To follow a written piece to its logical conclusion ideally takes longer than a week.

I’ve assigned this final writing project which is basically a free choice for the last weeks of school. So much of special education writing instruction is skill based. This is how you write this type of paragraph, etc. I wanted my students to experience what it’s like to really WRITE. Revise, conference, rework, for a long period of time.

My 8th grade is loving it, 7th grade not so much. I think they’re not ready maturity wise for such loose boundaries. This is the thing though-I have SILENT writing periods. No fires to put out, nothing. I was getting bored of sitting there watching students at their computers and I had an epiphany. I should be writing too. I grabbed an extra composition notebook out of my closet and so here I am coming up with ideas, queries, and blog posts and being an example to my students. How can I stress the importance of writing if I don’t do it myself?

This might be the best time for me to establish a good writing routine. This summer, I will be in mom mode-parks, popsicles, and road trips so I’m taking this time to make sure I don’t forget about my “writerly” self.

Positive Energy and Growing Up

I so need to be sending out positive energy right now. I’ve been sending out too many negative vibes. One is we’re trying to lay down the law with Z. I have a feeling that in my effort to pick my battles, I haven’t been picking enough of them. There are certain things he just needs to start doing starting with letting others do things for him like get up with him in the morning and put him to bed. This mama needs a break, you know? But battling involves firm words and negativity.

And we are so in the summer slide at school with the beautiful weather and hot days in unairconditioned old New England buildings. Have to keep the kids motivated and unfortunately I think that’s involved a little too many harsh words rather than positivity. Sometimes I just want to say, come on guys, it’s June! They’re going to be high schoolers so soon and as with most adolescents, especially middle school boys, they don’t really want to grow up and will fight it every step of the way.

I guess that’s the theme for this week: Helping kids grow up and become more independent when they’re ready and need to but don’t want to. Oy. Bring on the iced coffee!

 

Inbetween

I feel as if I’m at an inbetween sort of place right now. In my classes, we are finishing books but not quite at the end of the year. They are phasing out the program I teach in so I will be inbetween positions next year. Not sure what that will look like. The garden is sprouting but nothing is quite full grown yet. Z. is too old for daycare but won’t start preschool until the fall. See what I mean? Inbetween.

I finished a unit and it’s up on TPT if you want to download the free preview here. It’s a unit for Keesha’s House that I’m especially proud of because it includes many different types of comprehension tasks. Check it out.

I’m posting today also because I need book suggestions. Next year’s group of 8th graders (this year’s 7th graders) are VERY reluctant readers and mostly boys. The current 8th grade curriculum is not going to engage them and will be too hard. They’ll probably be reading at about a 6th grade level. Any book suggestions? This is a list of what I’ve read with them or what they’re read in their reading classes:

The Outsiders

The Giver

Hunger Games

Warriors Don’t Cry

I’m thinking Touching Spirit Bear and maybe The Golden Compass although that might be too hard. I’d love to hear some other options so please comment! Thanks!

Counting the Days

This weather just makes me feel like writing this Thursday morning. And drinking herbal tea which I’m slowly but surely trying to replace some of my many cups of coffee with. I’m excited and happy for many things. I think we’re going to get the okay to get paid to modify the 8th grade History curriculum this summer with new textbooks. Keesha’s House is going well, (but fast!) with the 8th graders. The Outsiders is still slow going. Both of these books are ones that the kids enjoy but I don’t love teaching. My 8th graders are quietly finishing Keesha’s House right now as I write this and adding to their thinking maps. More on those later. I marvel how they will be in high school in a few short months.

Home is well with a sprouting garden with all this rain. Z and I came home yesterday to a stocked fridge and pantry because of my dear working husband. A big bowl of watermelon awaited Z which stopped a fit of whining in its tracks. Bedtime was late because of a daycare nap but I did get to watch this Cyndi Lauper performance and my guilty pleasure show on my laptop. Looking forward to a trip to NH this weekend. So far, a languid, slow-paced, rainy week but counting the days until summer!

Mindful Writing Results

Last Friday I tried some Mindful freewriting exercises with mixed results.  I had some pictures of the writing the kids did but WordPress doesn’t seem to want me to use them.  Basically what I did was this:

I started off with the kids doing some “Right Now” writing exercises which is something I see on a few Monday blogs around the internet. They wrote sentences on what they were doing right now: thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, etc. You can see examples here, here, and here.

Then I gave them a big packet of journal prompts and story starters and told them just to WRITE. I didn’t care about grammar, spelling, how many prompts they did, how long they were, anything. They just had to write for the rest of the period.

So mixed results. The 8th graders loved it or at least did it and were pretty content. The 7th grade was another story. Half of them were fine and enjoyed it. Half of them sat and pouted and were kind of ridiculous. I mean, I was playing music, lights were off, few expectations, and they just couldn’t handle it. So I have to figure something else out for them, maybe a separation of sorts or two different activities. I would love to hear some ideas out there. How could I “structure” freewriting for these reluctant writers?

Mindful Writing

Yesterday I read an article with my students about S.E. Hinton in preparation for starting The Outsiders. In the article she mainly talks about her process of writing. (The article is an old hard copy and I have no idea where I got it.) At the end of the article, she says that the way for students to learn paragraph and sentence structure is to read a lot so it becomes more a part of the subconscious. She also talks about how teachers can get students to enjoy writing, mainly by not grading so harshly and having students fix their mistakes because this is what an editor would do.

Now that MCAS is over for this year, I realized that I have a little time to get my students to enjoy writing, maybe by letting them write what they want to write instead of an “assignment”. I’ve also really enjoyed reading Soulemama’s and Earthmama’s “Right Now” posts. I did one yesterday for my own blog and I would love to incorporate that with my students. A more steam of consciousness, creative, fun approach to writing because they hate it and no graphic organizer is going to fix that.

Are there other ideas out there for teaching writing in a more enjoyable, less structured way? I kind of have free rein right now as we head into the end of the year. I was thinking of making Friday a kind of “Mindful Writing” day. What do you guys think?

Right Now…

Right now I’m

thinking I really need to figure out how wordpress works because I’m having the worst time inserting pictures.

savoring my memories of a week of vacation with beautiful weather.

taking pride in our growing urban garden.

watching the much needed rain splash on the roof outside my classroom window.

relishing the silence in the school building before the rush of students.

planning what to do with those students on a rainy monday. Perhaps some right now posts of their own?

missing my little boy but knowing he will have fun with papa today.

looking forward to the coming summer and realizing how lucky I am to have that time.

wishing you a wonderful week!

Don’t Let It Get You Down…

Warning: This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just like it.

 

I’m having one of those teaching years. You know, when it feels like all of the parents of your students are unhappy with you and are almost trying to catch you making mistakes.  It happens every few years. In reality, it’s just a couple of parents but it’s easy to get caught up in the emails and innuendos. I’m having one of those years.

I’m trying not to get caught up in it, to realize it’s just a few parents out of many, but it’s hard not to take it personally. I’ve had a crisis of confidence lately which isn’t helped by my little boy really wanting me to stay home.

Oh April break. You can’t come soon enough! Recoup and rejuvenate!

Weekend Highlights

-I got published! It’s here if you want to read it. Probably everyone gets published on Yahoo! Voices and it’s an old blog post but it was the one highlight to a really sucky week.

-The last two weeks were awful. MCAS, another stomach virus, eye-deep in politics at work. 8th grade girls crying, the works. My nerves were frayed by Friday morning and I spent much of Friday afternoon crying in the bedroom in between taking care of Z. and making dinner. My husband was wrecked from night shifts back-to-back with morning shifts. I was asleep by 8:30 which caused a whole new outlook on life Saturday morning.

-I’ve realized that Z. is a very physical child like all little boys I guess. He loves to wrestle and climb on us and I think Z hitting me is a part of that. I think the problem is that I’m not a very physical person. I have a bad back, a c-section scar, and a generally wimpy tolerance to pain. So I’m trying to figure out how to set those boundaries with him with my body but still respect his need for that physicality. (Is that a word?)

-Hoping this week will be smoother. It’s a four day week and then one more week until vacation. No more MCAS and just regular teaching. May your week be smooth as well!

A Public School Teacher’s thoughts on Homeschooling

Some close family members have diecided to homeschool their eldest child who would be starting first grade in the fall. My sister is very upset about this. She feels it’s arrogant. I’m kind of in the middle.

I keep hearing from many family members that this child “isn’t right for public school”. To me, he doesn’t seem THAT different from typical kis his age. He’s been Waldorf educated up until now. The Waldorf-y private school they would send him to would be expensive and his mom would have to work almost full-time. She doesn’t want to work outside of the home at all. She wants to be home and have another baby.

My sister feelst that his mom’s desire not to work outside of the home must have offended me. I guess this is because right now, I have to work full-time financially. It didn’t really, I replied, if I had the choice, I wouldn’t work full-time either.

I’m more bothered about their sweeping generalizations about public shcool. They live in a pretty good school district but they seem to feel that the public schools can’t “handle” their child and that it’s all testing and phonics. That burns me a little and I think that is a little arrogant. Teachers are able to handle all kinds of learners, they have to. It’s a necessary part of their job.

On the other hand, I get it. I think the concept of homeschooling, especially unschooling, is really cool if done well. And I’m sure they will do it well. There are all different ways to learn, this is just one more. I think both ways of education, public and homeschooling, have benefits and drawbacks. School teaches you about doing things as a means to an end and working within a system which sometimes you need to be able to do. But I also think it’s really cool how with the internet, people are designing their own careers, their own lives, instead of working 9 to 5 and I’m jealous of that.

I don’t think one way of education needs to be slammed to make way for another one. We can all be respectful of one another’s choices.