Boys (Don’t) Read

Boy ReadingThe other day, one of my students made a special trip to my classroom to give me a folded newspaper clipping. He asked me if I had read the paper — and as I’m remembering it, I can’t recall the day he asked about — and I hadn’t, so he shyly handed me the article. If you have never been a teacher, you probably don’t realize how touching such a gesture is. It says that the student was thinking about me and thought something would interest me. It says also that it interested him, and he wanted me to know it. I can’t find the article at the AJC’s website, but I did find it here.

The gist of the article is nothing new to educators. Boys need to be enticed to read more than girls. If you are looking for good guy books, try Jon Scieszka’s site Guys Read. I told the boy who gave me the article that I think he will like our next novel — The Catcher in the Rye. A more quintessentially guy book would be hard to find. I think it will be fun to read with that class, which is predominantly male.

Image via BBC.

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Julius Caesar

A favorite resource of mine, the Folger Shakespeare Library, is somewhat skimpy on lesson plans for Julius Caesar. I have only taught this play once before, earlier in my career. I don’t remember that anything I did then was in any way spectacular, memorable, or brilliant, and I would really like my current students to have a different experience. If you know of resources or have ideas of your own, I would love to hear them.

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Blogs as Teaching Documents

I recently presented a session on using blogs and wikis in the classroom at the annual GISA conference. I focused on teacher and student-created and maintained blogs and wikis and didn’t touch very much on how we can learn from these tools. When I share my presentation with my own faculty in January, I would like to include this information. I probably won’t have to teach teachers how to figure out whether a blog poster has reliable credentials, but that would be necessary if I were sharing blogs with students. After all, I have a blog, and I can declare a recipe for cold fusion that really works, but no one should believe me if I do that — after all, my credentials as an English teacher are not exactly reliable compared to those of a nuclear physicist or even a science teacher.

Blogging history, literary and otherwise, seems to have developed into a major trend. I am very excited about this trend, as I think it makes history alive for students and makes the people they study seem like flesh and blood. I found several examples of such blogs.

Boston 1775 purports to be “a miscellany of information about New England just before, during, and after the Revolutionary War, and about how that history has been studied, taught, preserved, politicized, mythologized, lost, recovered, discussed, described, distorted, and now digitized.” It is maintained by J.L. Bell, a Massachusetts writer who specializes in Revolutionary War-era Boston and has written scholarly papers for children and adults and consulted in the show History Detectives.

The Blog of Henry David Thoreau makes Thoreau’s journals accessible to everyone with Internet access. It is maintained by Greg Perry, a poet who posts Thoreau’s journals on the corresponding date today. For example, on November 18, 2006, Greg Posted Thoreau’s journal entry from November 18, 1857.

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog is not so much a digitized version of a document produced by Chaucer as a vision of what a “blogge” by Chaucer might really look like; more than anything else, it’s just good satire. Reading this blog, one can get a feel for Middle English, a sense of the politics of the time, and most importantly, an appreciation for Chaucer. The site is maintained by an anonymous medievalist.

Pepys Diary is digitized presentation of the diary of Samuel Pepys, whose Restoration-era diary is an excellent primary source document of the period. It is maintainted by Phil Gyford, a UK website designer who bases his site on the 1893 edition of Pepys diary, which was edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

These are just a few that I know about. Please share your own discoveries in the comments section.

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Essential Edublogging: The Reflective Teacher

One of the things I like about the Reflective Teacher is that he posts frequently and honestly about his classroom — what works and what doesn’t. He shares his ideas. I think more than many education bloggers, he really treats the edublogosphere like a faculty lounge. Frankly, I think too many folks are in such desperate teaching circumstances that they need their education blog to vent and kvetch about their jobs. I don’t begrudge them that, and I often commiserate, having been in some not-so-pleasant teaching circumstances at other points in my career. However, it is refreshing to see Mr. Teacher’s enthusiasm, not to mention the fact that his site is really attractive and he makes really pretty handouts. He has an eye for document/web design.

In addition to his regular blog, Mr. Teacher also administrates Think, Pair, Share. This blog was orignally a compendium of lessons, but I think Mr. Teacher has had trouble getting submissions; that’s just the way it is in education — we are, for the most part, stretched too thin. It’s a shame because ideas like this are wonderful ways to learn new approaches to our curricula. He plans to continue contests for lesson plans and to update the site with links to relevant educational sites.

Which education blog do you have trouble doing without?

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What’s Your Learning Curve?

I obtained my first teaching certificate in 1997 upon my graduation from UGA. I taught for one year at Twiggs County Comprehensive High School and then for three years at Warner Robins High School in Middle Georgia. Upon relocating to North Georgia, I did not immediately find a teaching job. I did find a temporary teaching job as a daycare facility’s pre-K teacher, and though I was not certified to teach early childhood or primary school students, I believe I was the only certified teacher at the center. I worked for two years at Snellville Middle School following my pre-K job, after which I ended up back in high school (where I belong) at the Weber School. This is my third year at Weber.

I have a theory, and I am interested to see what any of you think of it. My theory is that it takes a teacher two years teaching at the same school, same subjects, in order to feel completely comfortable — like a competent veteran. I have noticed that each time I worked at a new school, I felt like a first-year teacher all over again. Each school as a different curriculum, culture, climate, and system of rules. It seems to take me two years to get all that down. After this point, working as a teacher seems easier. I already have, for example, handouts, quizzes, tests, and other materials already prepared, so it takes me less time to plan. I have already had time to teach material and learn what works well and what doesn’t. I get to know what my students will most likely already know or will already have done by the time they come to me. It’s a wonderful feeling. It really makes me feel more organized. I also feel like I get assignments graded more quickly — probably because creating materials takes less time.

For only the second time in a career in its tenth year, I feel that sense of comfort that comes with working at the same school for the third year in a row. What about you? How long do you think it takes you to feel comfortable and completely competent at a teaching post?

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Twenty Most Common Writing Errors

I presented my session on using blogs and wikis in the classroom at GISA’s conference last Monday.  I think it went OK, but it might have gone better.  I was glad it was in a computer lab.  I do think the materials I handed out were first rate, but I was feeling sick, so perhaps my actual presentation was off.  Who knows?  A few people were nice and thanked me.  I kept wishing I had some of you with me to talk about how you use blogs and wikis in your classroom, but I worked with what I had.  It was nice of the host school to put me in a computer lab so we could visit different blogs and wikis.

The session I attended in the afternoon was presented by Jim Stelljes from Marist School.  The subject was the twenty most common writing errors.  I thought it was great, and Jim encouraged us to share his handouts.  One handout was a double-sided list of all the errors with examples of both incorrect and correct versions, so students can identify and avoid the errors.  He also shared with us a Power Point presentation, which I recreated to share with my own students.  You can download the presentation here: On the Write Track.  I don’t have copies of the handouts available on disk.  They were fairly detailed, and I don’t plan to reproduce them on my own; however, if it sounds like something you want copies of, just use my contact form and give me an address to mail them to, and I’ll be happy to do so.

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