I have a question for all the English teachers out there. What do you think constitutes best practices for teaching writing? I want to get your thoughts before sharing my own.
It looks like the plugin I use to enable visitors to subscribe to updates via e-mail is a bit buggy. It’s not supposed to send e-mails to user when I create Pages, the WordPress name for static pages as opposed to blog posts. It looks like it is sending them, however. I’ll let the author know; meanwhile, feel free to visit the pages or ignore as you see fit.
For those of you who didn’t see my previous post, I upgraded to WordPress 2.3 yesterday. Most of my previous upgrades have been seamless. This time, I had two problems, one of which is really puzzling to me.
The first, as I mentioned in my previous post, is that I can’t get tags to work with my theme. I have decided to continue using my plugin, SimpleTagsPlus, because it does what I want with a lot less fuss (at least for me).
The second is that for some reason, the image padding code I had in my stylesheet was suddenly ignored, and my images and text butted right up against one another. I fixed it by adding image code to the “Content” div layer, which means nothing to 99% you, I know, but it worked. However, this makes no sense to me because my stylesheet should not have been impacted by the upgrade in any way.
I have just upgraded to WordPress 2.3, and I am maily posting to check it out. I had to disable the feature that used to appear in my sidebar called “Most Popular Posts.” It was generated with a plugin called “Popularity Contest” that is broken for 2.3, and although the author has stated previously that it will no longer be supported, it looks like Alex plans to fix it, but it may be some time.
So far, I like some of the features. For instance, I receive notifications when plugins are updated right through my user interface, so I don’t have to check every once in a while to see if new versions are available. I also like the new implementation of tags. I am going to try to figure out how to import my SimpleTagsPlus tags so I don’t have to keep that plugin.
You can learn more about WordPress 2.3 at the development blog.
Update, 9:36: I’m having trouble getting the tagging to work. Hopefully, I can figure it out tomorrow.
Update, 8:29 on September 26: Well, I still can’t get it to work, so until the theme is either updated to integrate tags or someone is able to help me figure it out, I’m going to stick with SimpleTagsPlus. I am quickly becoming frustrating trying to guess where the line of code I’m supposed to add goes and which templates it goes in. Using the tagging feature saves me eleven keystrokes, so maybe it’s not worth the aggravation.
Two of the students mentioned in the article, Julian and Jonathan, were in my class that did the Brave New World projects. They haven’t presented their projects yet, but I know that their utopian society is eco-based. Julian’s mom sent me the article. Sometimes I think Julian would have been much happier if he had been a teenager in the 1960′s. They’re great kids!
First of all, I think it was a fun project. The students worked hard on it, for the most part, but I think I gave them too much time. I noticed they got most of the work done the last two days. I think I was afraid that learning how to use wikis would take them longer than it actually did. Next time, I think I’ll make it a week-long project and leave it at that. Also, I think in the future that I’ll require the students to create wikis. I gave them more options this time, but I really liked the wiki format for constructing this project.
The students gave me permission to share their wikis with you.
- Woman World — a society completely run by and for the benefit of women.
- Utopian Experiment 211 A — a vision of a future run by psychology.
Two more groups will present on Monday when our class meets again.
Image credit: LGagnon.
ADD permeates my life. My husband and daughter are both ADD, and I frequently teach students who also have ADD. I think I have a higher tolerance for ADD behavior than many people do; I have noticed, for instance, that others frequently seem to be irritated by a student’s behavior while I am scratching my head in wonder at their irritation. In fact, I feel awkward when things in my classroom are too focused or quiet. It has become glaringly obvious to me over the last few weeks just how little tolerance most teachers have for ADD behavior in their classrooms.
ADD, whatever its causes, is a reality of teaching school. How to deal with students who have ADD is the question.
I think perhaps this question is more difficult for elementary school teachers. I have my students for 90 minutes in a day at most. It can be exhausting when several display signs of ADD in just that short period of time, so I imagine it is difficult if the time is stretched out over a whole day. I’m sure its frustrating. I think it’s easy to forget that children with ADD truly have trouble controlling impulses, and it’s easy to blame them for behaviors that they have trouble controlling. And frankly, maybe it’s easy not to like them.
When you’ve worked with a child of your own, struggling because she just can’t seem to please no matter what she does or trying so hard to pay attention but failing, maybe you see things a little differently.
I have a little more patience than a lot of teachers I know, so some of the things that have worked for me might not work for others, but for what it’s worth, I have successfully used the following strategies in working with students who have ADD:
- I don’t punish for calling out, but sometimes I acknowledge that a certain person has his/her hand up, so I want to call on him/her first, then the child that calls out can have a chance to speak.
- If a student needs to get up and stand in the back of the room, go to the restroom, or get a drink of water, I let him/her.
- If a student needs something to play with — a squeezy ball or some other kind of fiddle toy — I let him/her. I do better myself when I have one.
- If a student is drawing in his or her notes, I don’t assume he/she isn’t paying attention. I doodle in my notes at meetings all the time. It actually helps me focus as I listen to details that I don’t need to write down. I have also been known to doodle while on the phone so I can focus on the conversation.
- I frequently use a child’s name in lecture or discussion in a non-punitive way. For example, “Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald had the last lines of The Great Gatsby engraved on his tomb. Isn’t that interesting, Carol?” or “I don’t now about you, Jake, but I think Mercutio is kind of smart.” The student whose attention is drifting is brought back into the conversation, but not in a way that puts him or her on the spot in a negative way. Most of the time when I do this, they smile at me.
- I have tapped desks and written sticky notes — “Stop talking” — to students on occasion, too, but those moves are not in the top of my repertoire.
It can be really draining to be surrounded by ADD, but I have found that I like dealing with students who struggle with attention. I prefer working with students who have struggles in general. I guess I like a challenge, or maybe I just like the way it keeps things interesting.
How do you deal with ADD in your classroom?
Last week, my ninth graders started working on a project associated with their summer reading novel A Lesson Before Dying. One group in particular was really doing a good job, going beyond the links I had given them to find interesting ways in which racism subtly impacts our society. In fact, they learned some things I didn’t know, and I was really excited when they shared it with me. Because I was impressed with their work, I decided to send e-mails to their parents letting them know.
Unfortunately, the positive note home hasn’t been a regular part of my repertoire in some time, and I had forgotten its power. Think about it. Most of the time, the first communication parents receive from teachers is about a problem in class. How great would it be to be approached for the first time by a teacher with a pat on the back for your child? I don’t know about you, but if I ever got such a note from my children’s teachers, I would be on their side immediately. I would be so grateful they took the time to tell me good news that I would support them for the rest of the year. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but maybe it would work like that for other parents, too.
I decided that I need to bring positive notes into my schedule. It takes only a few minutes to send one, but its impact can return many times over. I want to write about two e-mails a week, and I hope that at some point in the year, I can send a positive note about each student.
Teachers don’t have to dig for reasons to send notes home. Every student does something deserving of praise at some point in the year. My only ulterior motive for doing this is that as a parent who frequently hears nothing but bad about my middle daughter, who is in the process for evaluation for ADHD, it would make a world of difference if I felt like her teacher did see she had some good qualities. It’s frustrating to have a bright, funny, loving child who struggles in school and conflicts with teachers. I guess now that I’ve been in those shoes, I know how I’d feel if I ever received a positive note, and I suppose I determined that I would follow the Golden Rule on this one. It isn’t that I expect to hear from my children’s teachers — I probably won’t. But it does make me feel pretty good that I’m trying to do something about my students’ notions that if their parents hear from a teacher, it’s always bad news.
Why don’t you think about making positive communication part of your repertoire, too?
Karl Fisch wrote a post Tuesday — “Is It Okay to Be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher?” — that really, really resonated with me. He was spurred to write it after reading Terry Freedman’s post “Oh, Sir, You are too Kind.“
I am in utter agreement with Karl and Terry. It’s time educators (and everyone else, for that matter) stopped displaying a bizarre sense of pride in their technological illiteracy. Not knowing how to do simple things in MS Word — such as moving between table cells and saving a document, in a scenario Terry describes, is inexcusable. In our society, dependent as it now is on technology, teachers who are incompetent with technology are jeopardizing their students’ success. I am not saying we all need to be at an expert level, but I’ll ask the same question Terry did. What message are teachers who can’t even create and edit a simple Word document sending their students?
It is especially frustrating to me when educators dismiss technology — “Oh, I just don’t know how to do any of that, ha ha!” To plagiarize the same argument Karl and Terry made — would you brag like that about not being able to read? Not being able to read as an adult in our society creates a sense of shame and embarrassment on the part of the non-reader, and a sense of outrage on the part of those who can read. It should not be acceptable in our society to be proud of not knowing something. I won’t go so far as to say that technologically illiterate teachers should feel shame and self-loathing, but they needn’t brag about their lack of knowledge either. There has to be a middle ground. A point at which, say, a teacher realizes his or her incompetence and decides something needs to be done about it — and not just running down the hall to the teacher who does know something about technology. As Karl said, teachers have to make the effort to learn. We accept nothing less from our students.
Teachers have to realize at some point that exhibiting ignorance with this sort of pride is not OK. It is OK not to know something and to try to fix that, and I would hope that most teachers would do so. I don’t know everything. That’s true. At the end of my life, I still won’t know everything. I would hope, however, that when I reach the end of my life, I will never have exhibited pride about being ignorant of anything.
I really need to go through my files and see what I can upload to the handouts page. I know I’ve come up with some things I haven’t added.
I have now gone to Curriculum Nights for three children and participated in my own, so perhaps my evenings will once again return to some semblance of normal. My middle daughter’s teacher has an interactive white board like I do, and it was interesting to see the parents’ reactions on both nights — so similar. Well, they are pretty cool. My students have been enjoying getting a turn correcting sentences with errors as a warm-up on the SMART Board, and when it gets out of alignment (which is an issue with my projector, not my SMART Board), they think it’s really fun to align it properly.
I’m really glad I started my classroom website a couple of years ago. I think the students and parents really like it, and even though it takes some time to maintain, I think it’s well worth it, especially when students are forgetful or absent, and I can remind them of the resources at their disposal at the website. Last week I made some improvements to it so that it’s even easier to find notes saved from the SMART Board and handouts I’ve uploaded. I have tried to engage students in activities designed to force them to explore the site. Those students who have explored it have told me it’s pretty easy to navigate.
I wrote two Shakespeare units last weekend, so I don’t think I’ll spend any of the remainder of this weekend planning. I am excited, however, at my students’ progress on their Brave New World projects. I am concerned about the progress of one group, but the others are all coming along nicely. I am ready to finish summer reading in all my classes, though. My comma unit went over really well with students, parents, and the faculty members I shared it with, too, so that’s encouraging.