Due to the dire budget situation, our district added four furlough days to our four-day Memorial Day weekend, giving us a total of ten straight days off. And, here I am on the last day this furlough/vacation, trying to get myself ready to return to the final three weeks of school tomorrow. How did I spend my time? Well, I definitely enjoyed the unexpected time off to catch up at least a little on sleep, stuff around the house, and connecting with friends. I also, though, spent an awfully lot of it grading and worrying about those of my students whose grades are in danger. I started off the year so determined to engage every student and help each and every one succeed. It’s truly disheartening to realize that I haven’t been able to reach every student.
I am very much looking forward to the long summer break coming soon, and the opportunity to rekey for next year and think of more strategies to connect the reluctant students with a love of reading, writing, and learning. Other goals for the summer, along, of course, with doing lots of reading and exploring new tech tools, are improving my teaching of writing, finding ways to better embed the teaching of grammar into reading and writing, and figuring out how to fit in more time for reading and research in the curriculum. I also need to do a lot of thinking about the individual blogs my students have all been maintaining. I do want to continue that activity, but need to work on ways to convince students to use formal English and carefully edit their online work. Many of them have done great work. Others, though, don’t seem to get that the writing they are doing in their blogs needs the same careful attention as traditional writing assignments. I also suspect that some of my students who fail to complete blogging assignments somehow take online tasks less seriously than traditional work. I did just read an interesting article from The Independent in the UK that cites research demonstrating that blogging and social networking improve students’ attitudes about and confidence in writing. It's good to read about research confirming the value of something I am doing!
And, as much as I am feeling ready for the summer break, I am also looking forward to some of the remaining class activities. Tomorrow, we will be discussing the final chapters of Lois Lowry's wonderful book, The Giver. I will be interested to learn how they interpret the ambiguous ending. I believe that most of them found this book engaging and thought-provoking. I plan to do a lot of book talking during the remaining days of school to inspire them to read over the summer, and I will include a number of books on utopian/dystopian themes. Hunger Games and Catching Fire are already popular favorites among my students, and we are anxiously awaiting the release of Mockingjay, the third book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, on August 24. I am also looking forward to having them present projects they have been working on using two new fun Web 2.0 tools, dvolver.com and xtranormal.com. Working with a partner, they had to identify one of the community rules in The Giver and create a short film in which two characters debate the pros and cons of the rule.