New Blog

My new classroom blog can be found here.

Commenting

I found this great post by a member of my network and thought it would be very helpful for us.  Please read before coming to class and we will discuss it in person. I hope it will help us become more effective communicators.

Tips for Leaving a Good Blog Comment:

The best blogs are truly interactive—with users listening and responding to one another. They are super interesting digital conversations! Highly accomplished commenters are constantly thinking while interacting with others who are leaving comments. They come to the conversation with an open mind, willing to reconsider their own positions—and willing to challenge the notions of others.

Blog commenting requires users to develop the skills that active thinkers bring to any learning experience. Some of the best tips about active thinking have been developed over time by teachers like Kelly Gallagher and Matt Copeland—who have each written books about reading and writing in middle and high schools. They’ve also been developed by an organization called Project CRISS—Creating Independence through Student Owned Strategies.

The following tips for blog commenters are adapted from the collective work of Gallagher, Copeland and Project CRISS:

To be an active blog commenter, start by carefully working your way through the comments that have been left by others. While viewing the comments that have been added by other users, you should:

Gather facts:  Jot down things that are interesting and new to you.

Make Connections:  Relate and compare things you are hearing to things you already know

Ask Questions:  What about the comments that have already been made is confusing to you?  What don’t you understand?  How will you find the answer?  Remember that there will ALWAYS be questions in an active thinker’s mind.

Give Opinions:  Make judgments about what you are viewing and hearing.  Do you agree?  Do you disagree?  Like?  Dislike?  Do you support or oppose anything that you have heard or seen?  Why?

Use the following sentence starters to shape your thoughts and comments while viewing or participating in blog conversations. Comments based on these kinds of statements make blog conversations interactive and engaging.

  • This reminds me of…
  • This is similar to…
  • I wonder…
  • I realized…
  • I noticed…
  • You can relate this to…
  • I’d like to know…
  • I’m surprised that…
  • If I were ________, I would ______________
  • If __________ then ___________
  • Although it seems…
  • I’m not sure that…

While commenting, try to respond directly to other readers. Begin by quoting some part of the comment that you are responding to help other listeners know what it is that has caught your attention. Then, explain your own thinking in a few short sentences. Elaboration is important when you’re trying to make a point. Finally, finish your comment with a question that other listeners can reply to.

Questions help to keep digital conversations going!

When responding to another reader, don’t be afraid to disagree with something that they have said. Challenging the thinking of another reader will help them to reconsider their own thinking—and will force you to explain yours! Just be sure to disagree agreeably—impolite people are rarely influential.

If your thinking gets challenged by another reader in a blog conversation, don’t be offended. Listen to your peers, consider their positions and decide whether or not you agree with them. You might discover that they’ve got good ideas you hadn’t thought about. Either way, be sure to respond—let your challengers know how their ideas have influenced you.

(This post is also a test of our RSS connectivity. If you received this post in your RSS feeder, please stop by and leave a quick note informing me that you have read the post.  I am curious how long it takes from the time I post to the time you read.) 

Someday It Will End

After a grueling twelve-kilometer trek on our first day on Week Without Walls, spirits were low as we sat for breakfast pondering the harsh reality of hiking another six kilometers into the jungle. Not only were we to carry our own food and clothes for a day, but we needed to cross four rivers and set up camp in the middle of nowhere.

I woke up that morning bright and earlier because the following words would not let me sleep. I am not sure how effective this poem was to inspire the eighth graders on that day, but perhaps it will inspire someone today…

someday it will end

life is a trek,
we start eager and full of vigor
everything is new, novel.
we progress quickly down a preplanned trail
oblivious of our surroundings.
we talk to hear our own voices
never asking questions
we have all of the answers.
perched in the core of our own worlds

walking passed spectacular splendor
the forest only a wall of green,
our eyes set on the ground so we don’t trip
we don’t trust our senses.
our ears only hear droning voices
rambling on and on about what makes us comfortable:
applebees, halo-three, coca cola, macdonalds… the future

it takes guts to live in the present
to be here and now
to enjoy this moment as it is
not what it could or should be.

life is a trek and someday it will end
if we are looking toward that end
we will miss the tiny globes of water hanging on each leaf

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entire universes waiting to evaporate
or flowers rising in the strangest places

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when we look toward the finish line, the finish line is all we see.
when we only think of arriving not appreciating the journey

life is a trek and it will wear us down.
it will lose its charm and cause us pain.
it will break our bodies and test our wills.
it will force us to decide what type of men or women we want to be.
it will not always be fun, comfortable, or easy.
we will not always be young and carefree.

like a trek life is not meant to be a stroll
through a mall with fake people, buying fake goods, eating fake food,
sold to them by fake men in fake suits,
life is real
it is dirty.
it is the sensation of your body moving, sweating.
no matter what the commercials try to sell us
life will often stink.
life is the feel of mud on our shins and between our fingers.
it is uncombed hair and a cramp in our calf; it is eating what is there
and feeling blessed not to go hungry.

life is a trek.
each person must choose how to walk or to walk at all.
will you choose to walk with awe and curiosity?
will you understand that you are a mere spec of dust in a web that connects all life?
or will you trudge along, whining as if life is some sort of punishment or chore,
only seeing yourself, your needs, your wants?
or will you like millions of other people hypnotized by their own consumption and self worth,
glued to their video games, cell-phones, and televisions not walk at all.

it is a choice,
life is a trek
walk, and walk long.
one step after the next.

Reading Plants

I am not sure if I have shown everyone in my classes this video. If you want to read more about why we did this in our reading class, you can read here.
Download Video: Posted by Intrepidteacher at TeacherTube.com.

Please leave any thoughts or feedback you may have.

Labor Art

The Labor Art project was created after we finished reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. We wanted you to try using art, in this case poetry and songwriting to: raise awareness, inform the public, and inspire action on social issues. We want you to focus on the discrepancy between the haves and the have nots. We want you to take a close look at labor and class. Who builds the building we inhabit? Who profits? Who builds our goods? Who sews our clothes?

After doing research on global and local labor laws, rights and conditions you will write a song or poem addressing the information you discover. Although this appears to be a writing assignment, you are actually being assessed on your ability to use resources, sort information, and determine appropriateness of both sources and information.

The Benchmarks being assessed during the research phase are as follows:

• Use a variety of resource materials to gather information for a research topic
• Organize information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways
• Determine appropriateness of an information source for a research topic

1. Use the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy below to explain how you could show evidence that you can:

• Use a variety of resource materials to gather information for a research topic
• Organize information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways
• Determine appropriateness of an information source for a research topic

Knowledge: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, state.

Comprehension: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate,

Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.

Analysis: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test.

Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, set up, write.

Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.

See examples here at our wiki. We will also assess one writing and one presentation benchmark.
You will brainstorm essential you want to answer through your research. We will use Bloom’s Taxonomy to make sure you critically look at this entire process.

1. How effective are the questions you are trying to answer?

Take a look at the list of questions you have brainstormed.

• Put them in order of most important to you to least.
• Label the questions using labels like political, class, personal etc…
• Review your list and identify five questions you would like to answer
• Explain why you think the answers to these questions will make for good material for a poem.

We will now start our research and start thinking about our poems. We will continue to listen to a song or two, which deal with social issues. We have listened to Bob Dyaln, Bob Marley, and Rage Against the Machine so far.

Where The Red Fern Grows 21st Century “Illustrated” Citations

In order to help students better visualize and create mental images when they read, we decided to create short multi-sensory illustrations of passages from Where The Red Fern Grows.

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Eighth Grade Final Exam

Eighth Grade Final Exam

Topic: What Did You Learn In Eighth Grade English?

What To Do:

Write a five-paragraph essay, (Introduction, three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion) using any examples you like from the following three categories. The essay will be graded on three of the Six Traits: Ideas and Content, Voice and Word Choice. This is not to say that Organization, Sentence Fluency and Conventions are not important, but only the three mentioned will be graded. A rubric will be provided later this week.

I would like a personal, well thought out, account of what you have learned this year. Be honest, clear, and focused. (It’s okay to be emotional) Remember to give examples and details about the things you have identified. I encourage you to share your thoughts or feelings on the process of your learning.

How To Do It:

Your paper should have an introductory, thesis-like, statement that let’s the reader know what the paper will be about. Each paragraph should begin with a supporting topic sentence, and be followed by supporting details. There should also be a closing paragraph to wrap up your thoughts on this year. We will discuss this further in class throughtout the week. I don’t want to assign a length, but I can’t imagine you doing well if you write less than 750 words or about one and a half pages. Use only Times New Roman 12 point font and single space the document.

Here are the three categories to choose from. Remember, you can pick any arrangement you feel comfortable with. For example: you can pick one bullet from each category, or three bullets from one category, or any other random configuration. The three categories are:

• Themes and Essential Questions
• Academic Topics and Standards
• Your growth in the ESLRs

Here is an explanation of these bullets:

1. Themes and Essential Questions:
We have discussed some pretty “heavy” topics this year; I want to know what you walked away with. Here are some thematic and big picture topics:

• The role of the individual vs. conformity
• The power of writing and literature
• The power of control and masses
• The affects of fear on individuals
• Mercy vs. Revenge
• The role of Ambition and Power
• How do writers express conflicts, both internal and external, with psychological and physical needs?
• What is meant by the term ‘poetic language’?
• Why is reading and writing poetry important?
• You can also discuss any personal growth you felt this year as a result of the work you did in this class

(Use the books we have read as examples, but please do not summarize the plots. I want to know what you learned from reading the texts, not a simple recap of the plots.)

2. Academic Topics and Standards:
Give examples of what you learned about. You have seen these before here:

General skills and strategies of the writing process
• Aspects of writing to communicate to different audiences for a variety of purposes
• Grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions
• Gathers and uses information for research purposes.
• General skills and strategies of the reading process.
• Reading skills and strategies to understand, interpret, and appreciate in a variety of literary texts
• Reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
• Listening and speaking strategies for different audiences and purposes.
• Viewing skills and strategies to understand, interpret, and appreciate media
• Characteristics and components of the media

3. Your growth in the ESLRs

I don’t think I need to list these, but you can find them here or I have also attached a word document with all this information. Please print this document and bring it to the next class. You can also use it on the final itself.

eighth-grade-final-exam.doc

Reflective Journal For the Poetry Unit

Hello everyone,

Please start by listening to this podcast about what you need to do for this journal. Remember to let the whole file load before you start listening.
Reflective Journal Podcast

Here are the instructions written out, in case you need clarification:

Now that we have finished Poetry Unit and your part of the Teenlife project, let’s take a look at what we learned and how we learned it. You guessed it! We have reached the crossroads of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the ESLRs. AGAIN! Yeah!

You will be writing a journal entry for out third unit. This entry will be worth 100 points and 25% of your grade. That is equal to the projects you have just completed. It must be 1000 words minimum, typed, single-spaced, and 12-point font.

Due Dates:
Rough draft will be due
April 18th for Block H,
April 17th for Block C and D.

Final Draft will be due
Soon after…
Here is what you must do:

Write a thousand word journal entry that explains your Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation of the ESLRs after having the Poetry Unit.

Knowledge:
List, Define, Identify which ESLRs you used to help you write your book, participate in Poetry Night, and complete the Teenlife Project.
Level One- Factual Knowledge—————C- to B-

Comprehension:
Summarize, Describe, Discuss, and Differentiate which ESLRs you used to help you write your book, participate in Poetry Night, and complete the Teenlife Project.
Level Two- Comprehension——————-C to B

Application:
Examine, Discover, and Show how you used the ESLRS to help you write your book, participate in Poetry Night, and complete the Teenlife Project.
Level Three- Application———————-C+ to B+

Analysis:
Analyze, Explain, and Compare the ESLRS you used to help you write your book, participate in Poetry Night, and complete the Teenlife Project.
Level Five- Synthesis————————– B- to B+

Synthesis:
Modify, Rearrange, Plan, and Ask What If you would have done things differently next time to help you write your book, participate in Poetry Night, and complete the Teenlife Project.
Level Four- Analysis————————— B to A

Evaluation:
Asses, Grade, Judge, Conclude, and Decide which ESLRs used were the best to help you write your book, participate in Poetry Night, and complete the Teenlife Project.
Level Six- Evaluation————————–B+ to A+

Remember this journal entry is not just for your book. It may include everything we have done in class since we started the Poetry Unit. (In class discussions, reading poems, use of technology for your projects, written poems both in and out of class, photography, and anything else you may have done that match the ESLRs)

If you have any questions please leave them here in the comments section, and I will try and get to the soon.

People Are Watching

Hey everyone!

Please read this article about our friend Mr.Fisher and the work that he, sorry, we are doing. I told you! You are on the cutting edge. People are watching. I can’t wait to see the final product of this project. I am so proud of you guys.

In the meantime, I would love to read some of your comments about this article and the project as a whole. I have listed a few powerful quotes from the article; after you have read the whole thing, please leave a comment or two about your thoughts on- what it said, the TeenLife Project, or the idea of technology as a tool for giving everyone a voice.

These are examples of a new approach to collaborative learning adopted by a handful of teachers in an attempt to bring education into the 21st century.

His combined Grade 7 and 8 class uses a blog to build a personal learning network (PLN) with three other schools in Cartagena, Columbia, rural Virginia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Online tools help the students to share ideas, send stories and images and even take part in videoconferencing. “The idea was to get kids in each country to look at the concerns of youth and teenagers in other countries,” he explained.

“It’s about getting a kid’s voice out there and giving them an audience. If you write an essay and I’m the only one reading it, nothing grows from that. Over time the ideas die.”

“When you hook kids onto a learning network you get wonderful things you never planned.”

“We Are…” Poem and Video by Block C

The following slideshow may take some time to load, so please wait till it has fully loaded before viewing. Please note that the author of each poem has created the image that goes with their stanza and no images were taken from the Internet. Click here for a full explanation of this project.


We are the morning sun,
Glorious, bright,
As the weary farmer awakens for us,
As the light slowly crawls over the silent hills,
and slumbering mountains,
All scenery comes to life,

We are lamps lacking of fire dwelled at dust,
The dark overcome the light as
The cold breeze lanced the lamps
This second, the next
No clue when we will beak apart.
A warm, pleasant, untainted flame that will not barge in
Death seems an easier path
These lamps, however, will not liberate a glance into the dark
We will survive this night
We will survive the next.

We are pieces of paper, floating in the air,
Where the wind blows, there we will go.
We have purpose, goals, lives.
We want great things written upon us.
To be proud of what we are.
Not to hide in shame,
To radiate accomplishments.
But we sit there,
Waiting,
For what seems like and eternity.

We are small but sharp knives waiting to unleash our wrath on someone who makes us explode,
We may be small but we have a knack of snapping back,
The opposite of all evil sides are the good sides,
We can be your helping hand when you feel weak or when you are unable to walk,
We can be your trusted friend that will stand by your no mater what,
Don’t order us around too much or treat us like we’re your servants and we will remain with you,
But when the time comes,
We know when to stop.

We are green paper lanterns,
Illuminating this pathway,
You see our waning glow,
But not us,
We see the whole of you,
We feel your warm presence,
Slowly drawing nearer,
Filling our vision,
With a silver sparkle,
Shadowing us from the past,
And showing us a future.

We are lone stars in a murky night sky
Waiting anxiously for our time to shimmer
Lives fade away, yet indistinct are we in the hours of darkness
Years trundle by till we show a sparkling sign
We shine on those who have gone astray We are washed out street signs at busy intersections
Lost, unseen, ignored in a great gathering of motorists big and small
Left
Right
Straight they go in the directions of their lives
We’re the same yet different

We are the angels of our nightmares
From whom we run and hide
Swelling shadows
Behind dysphoric eyes
Misty pearls
Telling our own stories
Abandoned like empty chairs
Lost but always waiting

We are gloves,
Grasping cheerful thoughts in minds flooded with hatred,
Cushioning them till we can surmount the sorrow
And prevail, we will,
Always,
Like pack of dogs, starving for integrity,
Integrity, in a field,
A field that is burned, torn, and spoiled with death and pain.
But calm and modest,
We, the gloves,
We await, amongst the roots that link our friendship,
The roots of amity

We are the point of a sword, sharp and fearless
The grip of a hammer, coarse but unyielding
Raw anger drives us
Not passion, nor love
We need a lulling touch, a calming mind
So that we may aim true and wound the evil inside of us
That will never be still

We are the pale moon—roaming the skies,
Sunlight sifting through branches,
The semblance of tranquility—before thunder strikes,
The churning waters of an ocean
The morning dew on a blade of grass
Mist tearing at a mountain,
The roaring waterfall—ever swirling,
Corrupting chains of though
A giant of hope,
Of fear—of pain,
Of destruction—of anger
We can but follow the path ahead—
Whence it shall take us? None may know.