Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Magazine Mountain

If you put the word out, most folks are happy to route their used magazines to you for classroom use.   There's really no end to what you can do with them.  

Lean in close for a secret.   No matter what you are using the magazines for, children will find themselves reading the text now and then.   You're encouraging them to browse and scan text, and those are great skills for them to have in their tool bags.   Shhhhh.  

Freshen up your propaganda lessons.

Make cut and paste poetry kits.   As in cut and paste...literally.

Have students create collages.   (conflict, theme, character)

Let thought-provoking images become visual story starters.

Line your desk drawers with beautiful pictures.

Teach students how to make fun envelopes from scratch to jazz up a friendly letter lesson.

Add a visual component to a traditional book report.

Piece together pictures from several pages in a quilted fashion to make wrapping paper.   How about wrapping up a new book with a personalized bookplate to pay tribute to your amazing library staff?

Cut out perfect squares for origami paper.

Think about a lesson you already teach.   How could a magazine add to your lesson plan?  

For example, when I cover "Barbie-Q," by Sandra Cisneros, I have the class assemble dolls that they think should be marketed to children.   They also include accessories.   Students are encouraged to piece together their doll.   They may choose a soccer ball from one page, a head from another, a body from another, and so on.   Students are encouraged to be as creative as possible.   They also write a commercial script for their target audience.

I always preface magazine lessons with an explanation of what we should and should not expect of our custodial staff.   Since it can get a little messy, it's good to remind artists that custodians should not have to clean up every little scrap that we create.   Allowing the last 10 minutes of class for clean-up will usually be sufficient.   And, yes, even though you quickly flip through magazines to rip out age-inappropriate material in the mildest of women's magazines, you will miss something.   Address the issue and move forward.   You know your students best.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Summer Vacation

It's that time of year again!   Are you ready to go back to school?   We're not quite there yet.   I'll tell you about that later.

I thought I should let you in on what I did over the summer break.   The Virginia Department of Education hired me to serve on the Content Review Committee for the 8th grade reading SOL test.   They also paid me to work on the Range Finding Committee for the Virginia Substitute Evaluation Program.   Both groups were filled with dedicated educators with a single desire-- to ensure that we are assessing our children in fair and rigorous ways.  

Do you think that you would like to work for the DOE?   Check the state website every Friday afternoon for Superintendent's Memos.   This is a great information hub for the latest news in Virginia as it pertains to education.   It's not top secret; it's open to the public.
I also enjoyed being a teacher assistant for two weeks at William & Mary's Summer Enrichment Program for the Gifted.   Learning about engineering and chemistry was fun for this English major.   Did I mention that I was not responsible for lesson plans?   I may propose a unit to teach for the summer of 2012, but as for last summer, assisting was just right for me.   I had the good fortune of being paired with Mrs. Carolyn Kendall.   Her hands-on approach to some seriously sticky science was brave and inspiring.   It's always a bonus to see a master teacher at work.   Sure, the chances that I will ever teach chemistry are slim, especially if my high school chemistry teacher gets wind of the plot.   Great teaching is great teaching.   We can always learn lesson-design tips from our colleagues.

Not only is a passion for teaching contagious, so are summer colds.   And, boy, did I catch one.   It felt like the flu and clung to me like nothing I've ever experienced.   If you have stock in Kleenex, you're welcome.   That's all I need to say about that.

I also enjoyed taking on the role of guest teacher at William & Mary's 2011 Eastern Virginia Writing Project.   You didn't miss anything since my main focus was on resources and ideas I've already posted here.

Finally, my last week of freedom included some time with dear friends in the Outer Banks.   Ahhhhh.  

So, yes, I need to get back to work to take a vacation from my vacation.   I have a nice little corner trailer in our temporary modular units.   I have two windows and my own air conditioning unit with a thermostat.   I even have my own phone and extension.  

Although our office staff has worked tirelessly over the summer, they were unable to build over 400 student desks and such.   We are anticipating some NEW furniture by the end of this week.   To tide us over, we were able to scavenge through some items that were salvaged from our school.   I found a chair that students painted for me years ago.   I also eyed an old, old, old oak desk that I hope to get soon.   My pal Willie Thornton let me have one of his wooden bookshelves.   I picked up a few ancient wooden chairs, a wheeled metal cart and one of those cool book-holders librarians' use to exhibit dusty dictionaries in all of their glory.

So far this week has been a whole lot of time spent with cardboard boxes.   And then there was a whole lotta shakin'.   When that earthquake took hold of us yesterday, we were having our first faculty/staff meeting of the year in a teacher's classroom.   Yep, we were in a trailer up on cinder blocks.   It was one wonky ride!   Everyone's fine, but we're looking forward to Irene's departure a.s.a.p.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

All Children Can Learn

Here's a truth that we should carry with us wherever we go.   All children can learn.   It's true.   When we make the mistake of believing that a child cannot learn, for whatever reason, after spending September to June in our classroom, doesn't that say more about us than the child?   It's that simple.