NCTE 2011: Chicago

I have so much to share from my short, but super busy time in Chicago for the 2011 NCTE National Convention. Lots of buzz about Common Core [which I’m currently writing curriculum for as my school is going full CCGPS next semester] and “tools” [which if you’ve followed along with my thoughts, you’ll find I love tools but have a problem when it comes to focusing on tools (if that makes sense)].

Be on the look out for my reflections on the Convention AND for some thoughts on the semester this year. I know I haven’t posted as much as I should be [I need to work on getting my handwritten notes turned to posts on here], but my goal is to write much, much more! Also, I want to share with you some notes of thanks that my students gave to me before the Thanksgiving break. These notes were a reminder that the little things truly do matter the most.

Hope you all are refreshed after your breaks and ready to head into the homestretch of the semester!  Only 10 full days of school left for me! [read: where in the WORLD did this semester go?]

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School Spirit Banter

I am SO impressed by the creativity of two local area high schools and their students’ videos. As quoted in this Get Schooled post, these ARE examples of what the best “spirit cheers” look like today. You can check out the original video in this “battle” here and the response here.

For me, these videos show just how multiliterate our students are and all of the neat ways in which they are reading, writing, and engaging with the world around them. These videos use rhetorical strategies, rhymes, video angles, music — and this list only continues — all to help show their school spirit. And, I love the fact that they pull in lots of different members from their respective student bodies to be a part of the banter.

No matter which school wins the game, the main point is that these two videos have just under 400,000 hits (combined) in two weeks. Where these students’ voices heard? [I think so!]

Positive Footprints

As you all know, I feel very strongly about helping kids understand how to create and why to create positive digital footprints. I’ve thought about this topic a lot, and yet it’s something that is still weighing heavily on my mind. [Maybe it’s because the means in which we work digitally is constantly changing???]

Anyway, I’m seeing more and more kids not understanding what their digital footprint is all about and how it can/will affect them now and down the road. I know that I stress it a lot when I work with my students and try to emphasize it’s not about culling their creativity, but a way to push them to think critically and post information that is appropriate (and in a way that still gets their point across). So, I’m curious…how are others helping their students develop positive digital footprints? How can we keep kids motivated to produce and stress to them they can still “own” that digital space (without them not being “googled well”)?

Little things that make you smile

After a long day at school (it’s our benchmark testing week) and an even longer few hours at the gym (I’m just now realizing how incredibly out of shape I am…and I have a half marathon the first weekend of October, ha!), I came home to this note from a former student:

I just wanted to say thanks to you for helping me with my writing. I wasn’t aware of how much your class has helped me until I had to peer-edit essays for other students in my English class. The essays for these other students are horrible. They have problems ranging from multiple sentence fragments to not even having a thesis. I am super thankful for the education that you have given me to make me a better writer.

[Made my day.]

I SO can relate to that

Random question for everyone out there…

Have you ever read a book and had one particular character, quote, setting, etc. stick out to you? If so, what was it?

I can think of several times in which my students struggled with a text because they didn’t like it/the language was challenging/etc. until suddenly everything made sense with one quote that changed their entire perspective. These little gems are things I have tried to capitalize on when teaching various novels to help kids make connections by reading through a specific lens. [And, lets’ be honest here…there are TONS of lines/characters/places in TONS of books out there that anyone can relate to at one point or another!]

Though I can think of a lot of really moving pieces, my quote of the moment comes from Ian McEwan‘s novel Atonement.

“It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.” (p. 38)

I’m not sure why I find it so powerful, but it is for me. I think the idea of people being confused and misunderstood relates to a lot of issues we see in the world today, but that’s another story within itself 🙂 Anyway, please share your quotes! I’d love to see what you all think!

Digital Essays

I’ve been intrigued with the idea of a “digital essay” ever since Jim Burke posted an example of one awhile ago. When I asked him what his assignment sheet included, Burke said that he didn’t really have a “formal” one and just told the kids to create. I think the biggest reason I’m drawn to the idea of a “digital” essay and what that “format” might encompass (beside my love for rhetoric and comp!) is the fact that I see this format as one that would be more real-world applicable in many ways versus a traditional essay for English class.

When I tried it out with my students Continue reading

More ideas on grading essays

I’m always interested in how others handle the paper load that comes with being an English teacher. I’ve tried many different techniques myself ranging from jing videos to tablet pc mark-up options and Word commenting, as well as good old fashioned pen and paper (oh, how I LOVE my teal pens!). I also have had to learn to curb my copy editor mode and bite back the frustration of seeing a draft paper with all of my copious remarks land in the trash can 5 minutes after I hand the essays back.

As I think most teachers do, I strive to find new techniques to test out here and there especially if I think one might help with a particular assignment or even class. (I also like to get feedback from the kids on what Continue reading