I had a great resolution to use this blog as a regular journal on how my classroom teaching is going. So far, I have been doing a terrible job keeping up and contributing regularly. I am finding that doing my prep for each day and trying to keep on top of all the grading is all-consuming. And, my time outside of school is also filled to the brim with planning for CSLA’s Annual Conference November 19-22 and year-round planning for CSLA’s Southern Section. Please don’t miss the CSLA Conference! We have a wonderful line-up of presentations and special events. It’s not too late to register. Visit the CSLA site for registration information and our wiki for all the latest information. CSLA Southern Section also is making some terrific plans this year, including a Webinar with Joyce Valenza on January 23.
While I have been overwhelmed with prepping and grading for my classes, my students and I have been involved in a number of engaging activities. I am heartened to see how much they enjoy the reading that we do in class together, both the stories we have been studying and analyzing and those I have read aloud to them purely for pleasure.
Here’s a quick summary of some of what we’ve been up to. I started off the year with plans to read a story or book outside of our curriculum studies for a few minutes at the end of each period. It seems that I never have enough time for all the things we need to do, and I let that quickly drop off the list unintentionally. This week, I was determined to build that back in. My students were really excited when I got out Richard Peck’s Present Tense, Past Perfect to start another story. I’m really impressed about how good their attention is when I do read aloud to them; I’m going to do all I can to restore these read alouds as a regular activity.
As part of my technology-integration planning for the year, I started students off doing some assignments in our Moodle course. There clearly has been a learning curve for a number of them logging in and uploading files. Some of them have also experienced challenges using their flash drives and converting file formats from their home computers to .doc files that can be read on our school computers. I think that almost everyone is now up to speed on all these skills. A lesson in this for me, though, was that I couldn’t expect everyone to master all the procedures through just one assignment; a good percentage of the students needed several walk throughs to get it down.
The second technology tool I introduced the students to was blogging. My intention was to have a blog for each class period as well as an individual blog for each student. The period blogs are a place where students take turns being the guest blogger/reporter of the day, giving an account of what we do and learn. The students will use the individual blogs to respond to writing prompts, reflect on their reading, and add optional additional journal entries. I thought that starting with the period blogs would give them the experience of creating postings before we embarked on the individual blogs. I have, frankly, been disappointed in the period blogs so far. Some of the students have written lively, well-constructed postings, but a number have failed to check their work for good grammar, spelling, etc. Some have simply failed to post on the day they signed up for. I did keep getting questions from students about when we would start the promised individual blogs. I realized that I couldn’t wait until everyone did a good posting on the period blogs before starting the individual blogs. It took me a good chunk of time to get everyone’s screen name/blog name requests and generate all the blogs, but I did get that done last week. I used edublogs.org to create all the blogs, and set myself as a second administrator on each blog. I spent two class periods helping the students access their blogs, customize them, discuss what makes a good posting, and create a first posting about creativity. I am in the process of reading these postings. So far I am very pleased with their work and the variety of their responses to the questions about creativity. My next task is to link each of the individual blogs to the period blogs so the students can visit each others’ blogs and comment on them. I plan to do a lesson next week on what constitutes a good, constructive comment. Perhaps next I will backtrack and re-teach what constitutes a good “reporter” posting for the period blogs.