Posted in Food for Thought, Regular Update

Updating and Pondering

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.

BB

Posted in Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

The Importance of Literary Analysis

In past posts I’ve written about young adult literature and literary classics. In this post I want to talk about literary analysis.

Analysis is one of those things in the world of English that I really struggle with. It’s not the same type of struggle that I face with reading the classics. That’s something I can grow into, learn to love. Analysis is a little bit different. I know that analysis is important. I know that analysis is kind of a big deal. But I struggle with it.

I think that part of the problem is that much of my reading is done for pleasure. I don’t want to analyze a text when I’m reading it for pleasure. I don’t want to be looking for figurative language or themes or anything like that. I want to embrace a story and let it absorb me when I’m reading for pleasure. I just want to love what I’m reading.

But as an English major and an almost English teacher, I have to embrace analyzing literature. I have to actually actively analyze literature. I have to teach students how to analyze literature.

And I will. Over the years I’ve developed tips, tricks, and techniques for analyzing literature. I have Post-Its and annotations and all sorts of other knowledge. And I know that analysis is important, so I’ll teach it as such.

But in the interest of full disclosure, when I’m reading for pleasure, I’m just going to let myself be absorbed by the story. Sometimes that really is the most important thing.

BB

Posted in Classroom Ideas, Food for Thought

The Importance of Reading the Classics

Last week I blogged about young adult literature. In that post I talked about the fact that reading the classics is important and is something that needs to be done. Really I wrote an entire paragraph on the importance of balanced reading. So this post is all about reading the classics and my thoughts on that.

Reading the classics has always been something I’ve struggled with. The classics aren’t something that’s ever truly and deeply interested me. I know that some people are really drawn towards the classics, but I’ve always been pulled more towards YAL. It’s where I felt I fit best; they’re the books that felt like home.

But as I’ve grown up and moved forward in life, and especially as I’ve moved closer to becoming an English teacher, I’ve realized I want to be more well read. I think it’s important for a couple of different reasons.

  1. I want to be well read so I can have educated conversations about literature. I majored in English, and I want to be able to sound like I did.
  2. I want to understand the texts I’ll teach my students. A lot of times these texts are classics. Therefore, I need a certain level of familiarity.
  3. The classics I have read, I’ve largely fallen in love with. To Kill A Mockingbird anyone?

These are all good reasons, but there’s one more I think is really important. I think it’s important to model good reading habits for my students. I think to model good reading habits I have to read a variety of books and texts and talk about them. I think we have to be honest about our likes and dislikes and explain why we feel the way we feel. This will allow students a solid example and foundation to build their own reading habits on. And ultimately, don’t we want our students to be readers?

BB

Posted in Teaching Techniques

Student Run Lessons

If you’ve gotten this far, it means that you’re reading my blog post. If the title of the post has freaked you out a little, please don’t run away from this post. Take a couple of minutes and actually read it. It’s probably not as scary as you might be imagining it to be.

I firmly believe that sometimes students learn better when their peers teach them. Sometimes they just need that jolt of something new, a fresh perspective, a more relatable teacher. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with this, and that we should be open to the idea of student taught lessons.

To be clear, I do not imagine this as a free for all, nor do I view it as a decision to simply not teach that particular day. In my head there are multiple and important steps to this process.

  1. I think it’s best to introduce this idea to students when they are starting a new book or unit. The introduction is important because you might have a group of students who really don’t want to do this. Please don’t force students to participate in student run lessons if they are truly resistant to the idea.
  2. Provide students with a guideline and/or template of what you want them to do. They’ve never taught a course before (presumably), and they need guidelines. And just as importantly, you need to maintain a level of control.
  3. Proof and review their lessons before they teach! This step is very important. Students might not have done the assignment correctly. They might need some guidance. You might want to collaborate with them. Don’t assume that they’re on track – check!
  4. On the days students are teaching, you should still be the one to start class. Let students know what the day holds for them. Introduce the student(s) who are teaching. Maintain a basic level of control so that things don’t get out of hand.

Try it out. See how a student run lesson might work for you. It could be pretty fabulous.

BB

Posted in Teaching Techniques

Word Walls

I envisioned having a more elegant title for this post, but I don’t.

Here’s the thing. I like words. I’ve always liked words. Words are powerful and beautiful and meaningful. Words and communication are what make the world go round. We as individuals needs to understand words to be a part of all that.

Sometimes words are easy to understand. We know them from the time we’re small. They have images associated with them. But then there are words which don’t fit into that category. They sound funny or are hard to say. We don’t picture what they mean. We’ve never heard them before.

That’s where a word wall comes in. Picture a wall covered in note cards. Each note card has two things written on it – a word and the word’s definition. The students have chosen these words, looked up the definitions, created the note cards. Students are directly creating vocabulary and classroom content.

Isn’t education just a little bit better when students get to play a role in what they’re learning?

BB

Posted in Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

More Thoughts on Close Reading

Lately I’ve written¬† about close reading. You can read my other post here. Since entering my internship close reading is something I’ve thought about a lot, and I have a lot of thoughts on the topic. That’s what happens when you really start to think about something – you realize just how many thoughts you have.

While my thoughts are varied and sometimes contradicting, I do believe that close reading is important. There’s a lot we can learn from close reading, and so long as we use close reading appropriately, it can be a valuable asset. But here’s my latest question on the topic.

Why do we call it close reading?

I ask because when I was thinking about it the other day, I realized that a better name might be active reading. We’re actively searching for information. We’re actively highlighting words and phrases that seem important to us. We’re actively asking questions. We’re actively thinking about what we’re reading and what it might mean.

So why not call it active reading?

I just think that if we did call it active reading, it might be a less intimidating concept, and a concept that’s more easily understood. Sometimes students get confused when we ask them to close read a passage because it’s a foreign concept and the name is a little abstract. I think that the title of active reading is more self explanatory for everyone involved.

Maybe it’s time to think about reconsidering what we call things. Maybe it’s OK to rename things if we think it might make more sense to our students. I think this is definitely something to really take some time and think about it.

Let me know what you think!

BB