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Series: Teacher Tombs (the great hoarding)

Capuchin Catacombs, Palermo, Italy, 1926

A colleague who’s new to the building is, above all, hilarious. I’m so glad he’s at our school and has the experience he does. We don’t get to chat as often as I’d like, as I’m teaching six out of six classes this year, and we don’t have common planning time. We do get to share ideas via social media, so before testing, I shared this image:

Hoarding #FTW!

Those purple things are repurposed CD vinyl holders; in my cupboards, nearly a full box of various colors waited patiently for CDs/DVDs that would never be made again. Our new laptops don’t have DVD players in them, and now the staff scrambles for the external CD player. (Technology is weird that way.) During testing, we’re not allowed to hold cell phones in a shoebox with sticky notes on them, as we’ve done in years past, due to the new admin’s rules. They don’t want to be liable for any cell phones that may be lost or damaged during testing. Makes sense, and just because losing or damaging a cell phone has never happened in our building doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t. Not a ‘hill I want to die on,” so to speak. But if students didn’t put their cell phones in their lockers, they must turn them off and place them face down on the desks/tables in front of them. Seeing how students’ addiction to their phones causes them subconscious touching and turning over of phones, I needed to have a means to thwart them just a bit more, hence the plastic sleeves.

He asked me if I felt some sense of grand vindication that my teacher-hoarding had paid off!?



All year I felt like I was standing on a treasure trove of accessible and important curriculum/instructional ideas that were just out of reach, this nagging feeling that the time and year were too fragmented or…something. I could never put my finger on it. (Maybe because I have mountains of data in Google Drives, OneDrives, Dropboxes, and external hard drives.) Where did the time go? Nailing down multiple approaches to student learning is like hanging an octopus on the wall. No one agrees where it should go, and doesn’t make the room look any better.

via GIPHY Power Points from the Past….

This year because of other instructional directions I didn’t spend as much time on thesis and argumentative writing as I should have. I needed help and support: help in terms of not how to teach it, but in terms of our whole PLC working on it.

But here are some links and goodies. They are based on information that is open to the public. Use if you want, change, alter, etc., feel free. Email me with questions. Right now I just need to focus on getting through the end of the year with students and make them feel like they’re reading for high school because I can tell many do not. I’m going to listen to my instincts about that one. I know how they’re feeling now: scared, anxious, excited, and ready to move on. What is in the past will only inform the future, but the present needs my focus.

Multiple-Source Essay Writing PowerPoint

Thesis Lesson: Brooklyn CUNY

Common Core Thesis Lesson link

How to Write a Good Thesis Statement



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You know nothing, Mrs. Love, Part II

Anchor Chart on One-Pagers from last year: time to bring this out again--still fits.
Anchor Chart on One-Pagers from last year: time to bring this out again–still fits.

Another thread on the Notice and Note site that spoke to me so strongly, ‘how do you tell other teachers some practices are out of date?’

And what if they’re not, and what if they just need to be polished?

How do you know when to reuse, recycle, or reduce our teaching stuff?

One thing I do know, is the good doctor, Sarah Donovan, PhD at Ethical ELA encapsulated what I’ve been attempting to do this year

This is what I’m trying to do with my Reading Road Trip, but we haven’t left the driveway yet:

I decided the best way to approach the quarter would be with the question of where stories come from, how authors craft stories for readers, and why we read and listen to stories. Framing our independent reading this way, meant that my job was to ask these questions every day and to set up experiences for students to explore these questions. Standards related to author’s craft, words in context, public speaking, and reading diverse, complex texts informed my instruction as I developed essentially five parts to our class, which I will explain below (independent reading, close reading, text structure, language lessons, and read alouds). Essentially, however, I organized our daily time this way:

  • Monday through Thursday: 7 minutes of language study,34 minutes of reading and conferring individually and in small groups; during the 34 minutes, I would either take a small group to a table to do a mini-lesson or I would meet with students individually to book talk  options and confer about what they were noticing about their books.

  • Fridays: readalouds

    . These days, students would read short pieces while their classmates/ audience would listen for and document textual evidence of sensory language, figurative language, tone, mood, word choice, character interaction, etc.

  • Daily Portfolio Development: Every day, students were responsible for documenting their reading experiences. They’d take pictures of books and sticky notes; they’d document reading responses on Google forms. We used these artifacts for an end-of-quarter portfolio to demonstrate learning and negotiate final grades.

Can I get this moving with a student teacher, other demands, PLC work, district demands, and general tomfoolery of a Title I school (everyone has an agenda, including me, on what works best)?

Someone mentioned the other day our scores have never been good.  I guess compared to the district’s numbers, that’s true. Not sure if I paraphrased that correctly, but that was the conclusion she drew.

But have they shown growth? Resoundingly yes.

So, for a few moments, I thought I would look over the scores on the OSPI School Report site, and they are a mixed bag of growth and famine.  Consider in the ten years we’ve had three state tests, and during the SBA(C) time the first year of a pilot year, we had no results or data to review. My continuing concern is that the SBA is not a transparent assessment, and we’ve been working mostly blind for years. The fact that my students scored 65-75% passing last year is a testament to them, not me. Overall, last year the 7th grade ELA PLC (of which I was a part) showed significant gains:

41% in 2015-2016
35% in 2014-2015

But herein lies the rub: whenever we make decisions about what’s best, how do we accurately gauge based on only two years’ worth of data? In other years my 7/8th-grade students grew from about 40% of passing reading to 60-65% on the WASL/MSP. Those years included as many best practices as I could muster, working as the Curriculum Leader in a collaborative way, and cross-content teams. It’s false to paint a picture that our students have never grown.

Here’s what I do know: if you focus on teaching it, students learn it. Clear and concise instruction that includes skills and strategies, with a hefty dose of student self-reflection, independence and choice make the most sense.

What data battles have you had to fight? Is it providing students with reading ideas based on solely their Lexile? Is the collective or group/team misinterpreting the data?

My biggest obstacle to instruction, however, isn’t from others, it’s from my students themselves. Those steeped in learned helplessness and confusion. Somehow along the way they have no idea what’s happening, and don’t try at all, and turn nothing in. And it is different for every student, and unpredictable (and thank goodness–this would limit my ability to truly get to know them).

So———-November. Nine weeks or so till the end of first semester. With my student teacher’s help, I think we can do this. Getting students to read, transfer those skills and strategies to bolster their reading confidence can only help. We’ve got this, right?