A Quick Review

Still trying to force myself to make time to post more regularly during my planning period. I think once I get into a routine during plan periods, it will help: update website, respond to parent emails, post, plan. Seems simple enough…

That said, here’s a quick summary of the first couple weeks of the 2008-2009 school year:

1. So far, we’ve read two stories: “The Most Dangerous Game,” by Richard Connell, and “Gaston,” by William Saroyan. The first story we read as a sort of warm-up in marking and annotating a text. “Gaston” we read with the end goal of having our first Shared Inquiry discussion (putting that summer training to use). After about a 20-25 minute discussion in each class, I was moderately pleased with the results. I felt like the discussions were pretty good, even with a couple of my very quiet classes. I really like being able to focus on a good story and draw out some ideas and themes that are applicable to students’ lives. The students generally seemed to like the discussions as well. Was it a life-changing experience? Not really, but it went better than any literature discussions we had last year. Next up: Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” and Sherman Alexie’s “Indian Education.”

2. Our current writing unit (I’ve been splitting our block periods in half to get more writing instruction into my classes), is borrowed directly from Write Beside Them – we’re using her “snapshot moment” assignment. To get students going quickly, I asked them to write about their scariest moment. Our main focus with this particular assignment is to work on getting a lot of detail and elaboration into the writing – hopefully leading to better elaboration in the narrative essays they’ll write next. So far so good – most students seem to like the assignment (as much as they like writing, anyway). As mentioned in the previous post, however, my biggest challenge is trying to keep students engaged in something purposeful while I’m conferencing with students. Suggestions for this are, as always, most welcome.

3. Our technology teacher leader team has been busy already. Many of us have been helping other teachers with their technology problems and have helped some teachers find new ways to use technology in the classroom. As a building, we are also moving forward, slowly moving away from the old desktop computers and overhead projectors and making sure we’re all using the tools (ELMOs and laptops) the taxpayers blessed us with. Obviously there are always user issues with that sort of change – learning how to use new technology and a fear of change only a couple of examples – but I’ve been impressed with the willingness of our teachers (and administrators) to see this change as a challenge and as an opportunity to continue learning.

4. Football is a time-consuming sport to coach. Along with daily practices and weekly games, we’ve spent some serious time discussing personnel, watching game film, putting together scouting reports and game plans, and scouting games for the varsity. And that’s just at the 9th grade level. But coaching football has already been an incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot, not only about football, but about coaching and teaching in general.

All in all, a nice start to the year. Now if only I could get posting about other stuff more regularly…

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