Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. -Nelson Mandela
First, a simple update. I have finished grad school! My certification paperwork is in the works. I am moving into the next chapter of life, and I am very excited about all of that. I am currently substitute teaching and looking for jobs. I am also very excited about the holidays and everything the future holds.
Now to move onto the pondering. I have a journal where I keep notes for this blog, teaching ideas, teaching resources, professional development notes, and all sorts of other job related things. This journal goes to work with me every day. And sometimes when I’m at work I just sit and think. Today I started thinking about technology and the classroom and how the two relate and all sorts of other related things. And as I thought I came up with a list of questions. I thought that here would be a great place to share those questions and see what all of you thought.
- What are good ways to use cell phones in the classroom?
- What are good ways to bring technology into the classroom?
- How can technology be used for differentiation?
- How can social media connect to English class?
- How can students connect with English class?
- How can writing be made fun and accessible?
- What are ways students can connect with older/classic texts?
- What are students reading and how can that be brought into the classroom?
- How can grammar be fun?
- How can I get my students to read on their own and on a regular basis?
- How can I make a great class library?
- What are good ways to connect texts to today’s world?
- How can I make reading and writing relevant?
I’m sure that with time I’ll add more questions to the list. And please feel free to share your own questions with me or give me your thoughts on my questions.
If you weren’t aware, it’s almost time for the school year to start. I’m excited for the school year to start; I always am. I love taking new classes and buying new school supplies. I genuinely enjoy writing papers and making note cards and completing projects. Maybe that’s a little weird, but it’s genuinely me, and genuine is important.
This year is a little different. This year I’m on the other side of the desk. I’m finishing grad school and student teaching this fall. Then I’ll be a certified teacher and able to go get a big girl job. And that’s kind of a big deal.
I’m really excited for student teaching. I have seventh and eighth graders which is exciting. And I know for a fact that I’ll get to teach them narrative writing in October which is really exciting for me because I love writing.
I love reading when I get to be the reader. But I’m finding that I love both sides of writing. I love actually writing, and I love teaching writing. I think it’s great to get to teach students about writing and help them find their voice.
School starts next week in my neck of the woods, and I’m really looking forward to it. What about all of you?
Originally I meant to write this post at the beginning of the month, but then among other things I got distracted and didn’t. I haven’t written any posts this month because I’ve been finishing up all the classwork for my masters, and life has just been crazy. But I’m actually really glad I didn’t write this post sooner, because it will be a much better post now. Instead of writing about how I’m going to start a reading journal, I can write about how yesterday I did start my reading journal.
To be honest, I got the idea from a blog post I read last month and reposted to this blog. I want to be able to keep track of what I’m reading, and I find that I need a pen and paper method over a digital method. Digital is great, but I simply don’t spend enough time on my computer to keep up to date with such a method. I always have time for paper and pencil, and there’s no booting up required which is good when I’m short on time.
So, yesterday I grabbed a blank composition notebook and some colored pens. The composition notebook because I’m hoping to have many reading journals and I want them to be uniform in size. The colored pens because color coding is obviously important always. And with materials in hand I started writing.
I wrote about my relationship with reading and thoughts I have regarding reading first. Such writings are just done in black pen because that’s easy. Then I wrote about the books I’ve read this month. Books I read for personal enjoyment I wrote about in pink. Pink is a happy color. And books for student teaching I wrote about in green because that’s how I color code work in my planner.
I recorded the month and the year I read the book; no dates because honestly that’s getting too complicated. What if I don’t write about a book for a week, and I forget when exactly I read it? Then I wrote the title and the author of the book. And then I wrote some of the thoughts I had about the book. If I liked it, why I liked it, etc. This was I can talk about books with my students if I want to, and I know what I’m reading and how much I’m reading throughout the year.
I’m really looking forward to keeping up with this project and eventually sharing my reading with my students. What are your thoughts on reading journals?
I’ve written about annotation already. I think it’s a really important skill to have and to teach regardless of what the subject matter is. I think it’s an especially important skill to teach if you’re teaching English, because so much of English revolves around analyzing and talking about texts. And at the end of the day I like to consider myself a pretty decent annotator. I’ve had a lot of practice, and I’ve come up with techniques that definitely work for me. But there’s one pretty massive thing I struggle with. I don’t like writing in books.
As an English major and a future English teacher, this is kind of a big deal. In these areas of life we annotate our books to remember what we felt and what we thought so we can share it with others. And I don’t like to do that.
I have no problem with putting sticky notes in my books. Nor do I have any problems with writing on articles and print outs. But I have a really hard time actually writing in a book.
I think it stems from growing up an absolute book lover. Writing in books has always kind of seemed like defacing them. It’s always made me cringe and squirm.
I’m working on it. I have certain books I allow myself to annotate in. Maybe one day I’ll be a full fledged annotator.
What’s your stance on annotating?
Annotation is something tricky, and it’s something that everyone has to develop their own style for. We as teachers can provide different samples and guidelines of annotations for students to look at and use as they see fit, but students need to find a method that really works for them, or they won’t use it and the point of annotation will be defeated.
I think that annotation is an important skill, so students developing their own effective and understandable method is important. Annotation ties in closely with close reading, which I’ve written about here and here.) And I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be in any level English class and not know how to annotate. We are constantly asking students to talk about the text, relate to the text, cite the text, and for them to do that well they need to be able to refer back to the text and know what spoke to them. What made their hearts sing and what made them cringe? Annotation is important for this.
Because of all of this, here are some different annotation techniques. Feel free to share your techniques with me in the comments. I’m always looking for new and exciting tips and tricks to use in the classroom and share with my students!
- Highlighting key words and phrases. Be careful not to overhighlight though. Your page will end up covered in highlighter, and you’ll have no idea what you actually wanted to remember.
- Margin notes. This is one of my preferred annotation techniques. I like to write my thoughts and questions in the margins so I can remember them later and use them in discussions.
- Symbols. A lot of people come up with a system of symbols to show what they liked, didn’t like, found interesting, etc.
These are just a few options of what you can do with annotating. Teach your students, but also allow them to teach you and show you what works for them.
I love the idea of guided note taking. I’ve always been the type of student who wants to write everything in a presentation down; that’s just how I’m wired. And sometimes it’s hard to write down everything that’s on the board and listen to the professor and actually learn something. There are probably many ways to work around the dilemma, but I’m partial to the idea of guided note taking.
Here’s how it works. Make your presentation. Your PowerPoint or Google Slides or whatever it may be. Then make another copy. Take out the really important parts – key words, statistics, diagram labels. Whatever it is. Print out this copy – the one with the blanks. Give that copy to students. Allow them to fill in the important information, but don’t make them worry about the fluff. They’ll take better notes, pay more attention, and really learn the material because they aren’t panicking. (This is my theory at least.)
So give it a shot. See how it works for you. Maybe guided note taking isn’t the best fit. But I think it’s great to try something new, something a little different, and see if there’s a way to make it work. You certainly have nothing to lose.