Saturday, January 29, 2011

a week

What a crazy week but then they all have their moments. First, I had a cold. Secondly, I had to give an after school workshop. And then of course I had to teach...

I haven't given any workshops since I went back to the classroom a year and a half ago. I think I know why. It's a lot of work, especially when you don't get to do any of the preparation during work time. Monday, although I had thought my cold was better, I was exhausted at the end of the day (hmm just teaching grade seven can do that to you) so I came home early and went to work on the preparation of a power point to go with my workshop. I thought that would help organize things. That took all evening.

The next day after school my junior girls had a basketball game, then I had to organize and run off the handouts, and of course prepare my own class teaching. I don't think I got home until 7:00. Wednesday I got to give the workshop at my school after school (I also provided the snacks and tea and juice) and then again I had to prepare for my own class so that I made it home again at 7. It was a real relief on Thursday to get to go to yoga after work.

In fact Thursday was a relief to just teach. I don't think I will be doing too many more workshops although it was good to get my thoughts organized re using formative assessment, strategic teaching, and developing a good independent reading to get kids to become better readers.

A great event at school Thursday organized by our incredible teacher-librarian, Alanna, was a Reading Cafe where parents were invited to come along with their children to our library to read and sip hot chocolate. (Note my pictures!)

The Egypt projects are humming along. Needless to say mummies are being created and pyramids being built as well as slide shows, power points, on-line posters through Glogster etc.. All groups finished their first Egyptian novel in literature circles and will be moving onto the next plus their other reading. We had impressive visual journals based on their study.

In science we are studying plate movement and earthquakes and had a lot of fun using sponges as models of divergent and convergent plates and faults. I tell you teaching grade seven gives you a total education. Notice how slowly my science program goes-I keep telling myself we are being thorough!

The Learning Curve-technology and me

This week I learned to twitter. I felt like I was taking a plunge into a new world once again. But I must admit I found some interesting links along the way and had a certain thrill when I started acquiring followers. I have a certain fascination and yet a wariness about technology. I have noted before how I really felt pressure (self-induced) to use technology so much more when I went back to teaching after being a consultant for four years.

Our local high school has an emphasis on technology and when one of my students in her first year in the mini-school told me she was the only Grade Eight student who was familiar with moodle, which they use all the time in the mini-school, I had a certain pride. I feel fortunate that we have a nice computer lab with easy access. I am sure my class makes the most use of it in the school. A wireless drop in my room would be nice as perhaps, a smartboard, if I had any space to put one. One constant frustration is many of our students have better technology at home than we have at school.

Friday I was amazed to learn that one student had written a very good story using his ipod touch to type it. I can't imagine. I still don't have an ipad, or an iphone or ipad touch, but I do consider the possibility. A new computer and a new digital camera in the last two months is perhaps enough for me to handle.

My students are trying out using e-readers from the library. So now in my classroom chances are 24 are reading books and three are reading books on a Kobo or a Kindle. I have a Kindle application on my computer but I still love turning pages and my current lack of travel isn't making me feel the necessity of a kindle.

I guess what I kind of love about the internet is it reminds me of the excitement of when my parents bought the Encylopedia Britannica (that I still have) and I would look up something for my homework and then wander off into whole new directions. That happens to me on the internet all the time and I often take 29 students with me. Currently my students are preparing ads on museums around the world. They each found a museum or art gallery of interest and are preparing an ad in some form. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

I am of the belief the internet is here and we might as well learn how to use it wisely. And with technology there is no comparison with what students are able to do now as opposed to a few years ago.

But there is very much a place for reading and a love of books. I want tech savvy kids and ones who know the sheer joy of reading a good book. And no worries it's actually easy to have happen...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Maze Runner

Kidsbooks had its annual sale this week and I went to pick up World's End but needless to say I couldn't resist a few other choices. It doesn't help when you run into your favorite teacher librarians recommending books.

Linda from Maple Grove School always has great recommendations and she recommended The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and I thought that this would be a book that would appeal to my students. I really enjoyed it, it kept me reading this weekend! Again this is a book that is for your better seventh grade readers and also good for high school readers. Thomas finds himself literally thrust into a world where he nor anyone else has much memory of what happened before they arrived in The Glade, a community surrounded by a maze with no apparent way out.

This is the first in a series and one almost feels as if you are in a level of a computer game (not that I have played many of those) except of course most of us don't actually want to be a pawn in such a game. It reminded me also a bit of the classic Lord of the Flies but with nicer people generally. Well of course there are villains but again there is an external enemy so that helps a bit with internal politics plus we learn that these boys have been specially selected. Today I learned how to embed video and you can view a bit of a preview.

Ancient Egypt

Well as I think I have indicated it's been all about Egypt lately in my classroom. The kids are all doing projects about Ancient Egypt. They are all reading literature circle books about some aspect of Ancient Egypt. The groups just meet once a week but the kids are enjoying reading what others are reading. The groups give everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts about the books. Most of the kids are also reading other books at the same time as well.

Last year my grade sevens begged for lit circles and the grade sixes at the time were doing a novel study with our resource teacher so I decided that lit circles could be a grade seven activity. Our teacher librarian and I were able to find sufficient books on an Egypt theme in the school so that there are a couple of extra copies if kids finish early but this time they seem happy to set their reading goals and stay together as groups. I think all the novels will be finished Friday so we can do a switch then. I may later have more lit circles not on any particular theme.

The kids do agree that the novels are giving them another look in a different way about what they are studying. I think lit circles are also good in that forces kids into books they might not normally read. And for the most part they are enjoying all the books. Some of them at first appeared a bit old and perhaps a little dated (for instance, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder), but the kids are enjoying them regardless. It's also interesting because my kids weren't familiar with the story of Moses that is the basis of another book, The Pharoah's Daughter. This book is not an easy read so that it is good I have some rather good readers.

A real bonus for the research was a website I literally stumbled upon when I was doing research for my french unit. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has an online Mysteries of Egypt Exhibit with great additional web resources.

Neither Alanna nor myself had yet done a close scrutiny of their notes for their projects so I decided Thursday to get them to write Ten Amazing Facts about whatever they were studying e.g. pyramids, Gods and Goddesses, ancient Egyptian geography etc. For the most part it seems like they have learned quite a bit. They are going to change these into mini books and they can be part of their multimedia presentations. Needless to say poster board and plasticine have been secured as well. My grade sixes last year were incredibly creative so that I am curious to see what they and their other classmates are going to come up with this time. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

World's End

I am beginning to have a terrible habit of talking about books that I haven't yetread. Yes, I did read The Red Pyramid (I finally grabbed it during the Christmas holidays) and I loved it. I haven't read the sequel to Dormia yet but I am planning to do so once I make a trip down to Kidsbooks. I just have been listening to an interview on National Public Radio with World's End authors, Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski about the process of writing these books. If you follow this blog you may remember the wonderful visit that intermediate students at my school had with Peter and his musician wife, Nancy (also known as Celia Rose) in September, 2009.
I am thinking I should go back to shorter blogs as they are more apt to get posted regularly! I just have to include this image from Dormia of Uncle Hill arriving and surprising his nephew, Alfonso, who doesn't know of his unique powers.