Sunday, November 29, 2009

The uncut version?

I just finished approving a bunch of my students' blog postings and faced the same dilemma I always come up against. Do I proofread their postings or not? I have no issues correcting simple mistakes in which words are skipped, repeated, etc. If they got a chance to read it again, they'd catch it. Those aren't mistakes kids tend to learn from. However, other mistakes--spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, phrasing--all of these things are mistakes from which kids can learn lessons for the next time around, and which they won't learn unless someone TELLS them they're wrong. Also, I hate to put my kids' writing out onto the great, big, public internet without looking perfect (because it makes BOTH of us look bad).

On the other hand, if I put it out there WITH the mistakes, maybe it's teaching them a lesson to proofread their own work closer before submitting it, and/or that they should have someone else read it before submission.

Teachers tend to have strong (and very opposite) opinions on this topic, so it's bit pointless to discuss this with them, unfortunately. This posting is an attempt to get some valuable outsider opinions about this topic :-) Let me know your thoughts. Now that I think about it, for an even broader perspective, I'm going to see what my kids think. I'll post this as a blog posting for them to respond to and we'll see if they can form some relevant opinions on the topic (and maybe even use the persuasive techniques we've been talking about).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Out of desks

It is Thanksgiving and my desks runneth over. I got student #31 on Tuesday, and I am now officially out of student desks. This one has a seat, but the next one won't. I told our curriculum specialist this and she responded, "No problem, we've got more desks in room 59." Dang it, that wasn't the point!

This last new student is a doozy though. He is about to be 14 and got moved to my 7th grade class from 6th grade. Yes, you read that correctly. He was held back twice for varying reasons, and they realized this year that if he completes 6th grade this year, goes into 7th grade next year, he'd be 16 while in 8th grade, and we're not legally allowed to have 16 year olds on our PreK-8 campus. Hence (or thus, as my students would say), he'd have to go straight to 9th grade after 7th. (Can you start to hear the splintering of the system going on here?) So, the new genius plan is to put him in 7th grade for the rest of this year (effectively skipping 6th grade), and then he'll be on track. However, he's already falling far behind 6th grade standards, so how in the world is he going to survive 7th grade standards, and jumping into them in the middle, to boot!

At lunch, I mentioned that I got this student, and the 5th and 6th grade teachers all got this slack-jawed look of fear in their eyes, and said, "You got HIM??? Good luck...." Then stories came pouring out explaining how terrible this kid is for every teacher he's with. Needless to say, a feeling of dread soaked through me at that point. After day 1, he did ok, but I don't know... On an acadmic level, I don't know how it will every work. On a behavioral level, if I can keep him scared stiff of the 7th graders (which he currently is), it might work. I know, I know, that's not a good strategy. I'm mainly just hoping that his behavior issues were a function of being stuck with age-inappropriate peers. Time will tell...

And thus...

Whew, it's been an adventurous week in the classroom! (And by that, I mean disastrous!) Due to my PREVIOUSLY excellently-behaved classroom, their horrible behavior this week was a shocker! I don't know if it's due to my sudden influx of new students or the holidays, but needless to say, it requires a bunch more work on my part.

Either way, (luckily) they still do not cease to be entertaining. As of late, we've been discussing the Civil War in History. Wars in history are completely unknown to these kids. As far as they knew, the Civil War involved someone handing out guns on both sides and people running around shooting anything that moved for four years straight, non-stop. So, we had to put that notion to bed. Needless to say, the fact that armies would line up, and then start running at each other with guns was a completely foreign concept (and quite distressing, as well!) After a discussion of the surprising violent Battle of Bull Run, one particularly innocent student looks up at me and says, "Mrs. Shetler, how come they didn't just use pillows instead of guns? It would have been so much safer!" Bless his heart...

Then, the next day as we were continuing this discussion about Civil War battles, a student asks me, "Mrs. Shetler, who were we?" As in, which side were we on? Another kid pipes up, "Yeah, did we win?" I was literally speechless. How does one answer this? Technically, Arizona wasn't a state (and wouldn't be for another 50 years) so the residents had no "side." I couldn't tell him that "we" (as in the US) won, because I'm sure that's not how Civil War history is taught in South. They're so used to it being "us against them" in all other wars in history, as well as in every video game they play. I ended up telling them some adaptation of what I described above, but this was just very difficult for them to understand :-) If nothing else, I just had to laugh at how much this question stumped me!

On an unrelated note, my students randomly get excited about using new words (even down to making up words just for the sake of using new words). A while ago, we were reading a poem that used the word "shall" and I mentioned in passing that it was a more formal, fancy way of saying "will." Next thing I knew, I had a girl who was telling me, "I shall try inverse operations, but I'm not sure about it..." Then this week, I had another student randomly start using the word Thus. So now, I had 13 year olds running around saying, "I lost my voice, and thus I shouldn't talk today." "...and thus, Arturo rode his bike over my foot." "Thus the water moves the sediment down the river," etc. It's hilarious :-) I tell them to keep using those words, because it'll guarantee them a great score on their state writing tests, because it is so unexpected!

The following video is basically unrelated, but a great excuse to combine Jack Black and school :-)