Baby Step

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Today I am taking a step. Taking a risk. Today I am going to stop thinking about writing, and actually WRITE.

You see, I’ve been an imposter for the last 20 or so years as I pretended to be a writing teacher, except I didn’t really ever write. It was my job, a piece of the curriculum that I was required to teach to elementary or middle school students, but I was acting out a part, not really teaching. And that’s because I really didn’t know what it is to live a writer’s life.

So today, by joining in the Slice of Life Writing Challenge, I am taking the (giant) baby step of living the life of a writer, one who writes every day.

I hope becoming a writer will change my life.

Fun and learning

Chris and Andres are poised with a stack of game chips balanced on their elbows, anticipating the end of the countdown when they can attempt to catch them all in one swoop of a hand.

Who is the champion? We all are. My 5th graders are experiencing static inertia through an engaging lesson presented by a science group who brings the field trip to you.

It’s a exciting experiential lesson. I love watching the kids have fun while they learn.

This is my dream for my students…to love learning. But I notice that after 90 minutes of great hands-on experiences, the students haven’t written or talked about what they learned about force and motion.

The presenter has left, and I know when I ask for a written reflection in my students’ science notebooks I will hear disgruntled groans.

I am their everyday teacher, who turns great fun into boring WORK.

I know my students need to reflect, an  I know I need evidence of learning, so off we go to write about it. I’m stuck on how to make it ALL  engaging, worthwhile work that my students love.

The first wiki

I was not pleased with the products and attitude of my students with the career exploration project I tried. The first problem was that the Bureau of Labor Statistics website was to difficult for my 8th grade ESL students to access. It is text dense with high-level vocabulary.

 I did a search for careers on yahooligans, and found that the BLS has a site for kids 4-8 grades!

I didn’t think the students had a truly authentic reason for writing a letter to me describing what they learned about the career and if they still wanted to pursue it. The letters were not good at all. I also offered for a higher grade that the students create a brochure in MS Word that explains the career. Only a couple of students were interested in doing that. The info probably wouldn’t be that great because of the difficulty the kids had with the BLS website.

My idea is to have the students create a wiki. Each student (or pairs interested in the same career) create a page on the wiki.

I have gone to pbwiki.com and begun the creation of a wiki for us to use, but I am lost on how to really use this!

 I have posted onto the classroom 2.0 forum to see if I can get some help. I’m crossing my fingers that I get some help!!!

How to get started?

I followed a link today explaining web 2.0 technology being used in Australia. It looks great. I need training on how to take a unit of study and create web 2.0 activities to move the students through the unit. My 7th graders are reading Where the Red Fern Grows. What do I want them to bet from this book? Mostly I want them to engage in the story of Billy and his love for his dogs. I want them to relate to Billy.

We are reading this book together because it is above the independent reading abilities of my students; it is also part of my district’s 7th grade curriculum. There are maybe 2-3 of my students who could handle this text alone.

I could set up a page on my blog that outlines activities for the students to do. The primary one would be responding to the text in a forum, to engage in discussion that requires writing. Possibly personal response posts in their own blogs would work, with a requirement to respond to a specified number of blogs.

I would love to see examples of classroom applications of web 2.0 technologies on the web.

Career Exploration for 8th graders

Thoughts on this project so far:

1. The website is very difficult for my kids to understand. Find an easier one. Yahooligans, maybe?

2. Model notetaking step more clearly. Have a premade response page.

3. Emailing with someone actually in the field for information. Is it an option? Safety?

4. Creating brochure/powerpoint-model, show good/bad examples

MySpace/YouTube

I have been really upset about the recent actions of kids centered on MySpace and YouTube. Of course, the cheerleaders that beat up their peer were horrible and I hope they are prosecuted as adults for their actions. What makes me even more angry is watching the mom of the attacked girl. She made no reference to the fact that her daughter had any fault in the situation because of posts she made on MySpace that led up to the attack. The attack was wrong; no question, no matter what the girl wrote it was wrong. BUT to cry and act like her daughter was an INNOCENT victim and had no role in what happened galls me. When are parents going to teach their kids how to get along in this world, and take responsibilty for the consequences of their actions?

When does a parent sit down with a kid and say you messed up, too, what you did was wrong too (even if she LEGALLY had the right to post whatever she wants, MORALLY she was wrong.) Why aren’t parents teaching their kids how to be good citizens?

Second Life

I found myself at the ISTE website last night. They have a whole section about Second Life and a virtual classroom. I visited with a docent there and hope to attend some training in the virtual classroom. I know as I introduce these technologies to my kids, they are going to want to play, just as I have been wanting to. I have no real purpose YET but to figure out how much of this works. I do have a higher goal in mind, which is to have use the technologies to engage my 7th and 8th graders in high quality reading and writing explorations.

I am not there yet. I also know that my students will probably experience the same desire to play, but will have to be nudged (assigned??) by me to explore higher purposes.

Talk in the Classroom

I was waiting for my 16 yo daughter’s second volleyball game to start today, so I took out Adolescent Literacy (Beer, Probst, Rief, eds.) to read. I picked up in “Tom Sawyer, Teaching, and Talking” by Probst, and a few thoughts came to mind. I thought back to a quote that I remembered from Dancing With the Pen: “Writing floats on a sea of talk.” I don’t have that book with me here at home as I write, so I don’t know who to attribute that quote to.

I am guilty of not promoting quality talk in my classroom. And I am an ESL teacher! I suspect if I teach my students how to communicate better orally, then their writing will naturally become better. It is already Sunday here, so this afternoon I am going to rework my plans for Monday through Wednesday to work on discussion as we explore The Devil’s Arithmetic (8th grade) and Where the Red Fern Grows (7th grade).

I’ll be thinking of what I need to do to scaffold the conversation to be worthwhile. I’ll update here later with any ideas I have. I will finish reading from AL to see if I get some more insight!

Realizing how illiterate I am!

I have spent the last 3 hours surfing, beginning with the Edublogs home page and getting into Second Life and WikiEducator.

I am pretty overwhelmed! I do have lots of questions which I will record here, as I would ask my students to do the same when delving in to new information.

How do I get my voki into my sidebar?

What is up with RSS? I now have some RSS feeds in myyahoo, and some in explorer. I don’t understand why RSS feeds are different (interface?)

I can’t seem to log into SecondLife…I have had an account for over a year, just downloaded SL onto my laptop…wonder why I can’t play?

I want to follow and be followed on Twitter, but how do I get contacts??? And I have to be an edublags supporter to get Twitter on my blog, huh?

I want to create and avatar for my username and blog…the voki would be ok, but I can’t get it to work. Do I go to an avatar creation site?

 I don’t think my district will allow me to use student blogging.  I think, though, I can create pages with student writing published on it. Might be an option to get started, once I figure out how this all works.

It’s almost midnight and I’m pretty tired, but excited about what I am learning here.