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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Coming Up This Week in Room 755

Friday the 13th of August was our first day of school.  It was a 1/2 day.  And frankly, it was a little messy.  Oh well.  As long as students got my invitation letter to their class's Parent Night, I'll be happy...and if they have their supplies on Monday.

Here's what coming this week.

Monday - I'll be introducing the class and some procedures for class.  They will also set up their Composition Books for the year. 

I always do something to demonstrate how I run my class.  I am gong to introduce the clip below - "It's the hard that makes it great" from Tom Hanks's speech to Geena Davis in A League of Their Own.  Teaching 7th grade (for 15 years now) I am seeing how important it is for students to understand that it does get more difficult to do well (or it should) in school.  But it is the hard work, the struggle, that will separate my students from the crowd (not just in our building, but in our region, state, and country).  I do expect my students to be different and behave differently.  So here's Tom Hanks to help. 

Tuesday - We'll begin looking at our connecting themes for the year.  The first one, and the one I come back to nearly every day, is Conflict leads to Change.  And generally speaking, change is what starts the conflict, so it is a cycle.  I do introduce a bigger hook, that it is their world to make a difference.  My generation messed it up, and their generation will have to clean it up.  Odd thing: I think they will do it.  I think our young generation will see through the stupidity of my generation (consumerism, status, environmental disregard, and testing to determine value) and change it.  If they don't...

Today, I'll let Adam Sandler help me introduce the concept of conflict.

Wednesday - Our second theme is Culture; what it is, what difference it makes in society.  This is always fun for me, because our school has had students who were born in over 50 countries around the world.  Traditions, religion, customs, cuisine, and language is something our students naturally understand.  We have a good time comparing the beauty and weirdness of our cultures and families.

I use Fools Rush In and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to compare and contrast cultures.

http://dms7ss.pbworks.com/Culture+-+Video+of+Mexican+and+Greek+Culture

Thursday - Students have an assignment early in the week to find out as much as they can about where their family is from (heritage), why they live in Dalton, and what brought their families to the region.  Today we look at Human-Environment Interaction, Location, and Movement as themes for the year.  This introduces them to the idea that people live where they live for a reason, at least when they have the freedom of movement.  This becomes a great hook when we look at Darfur, apartheid, Mao's China, and other times of closed societies.  No videos today.  I introduce rules for class discussions and reflections today.

Friday - The concept today is Governance.  We look at the wording of the Declaration of Independence and discuss why governance is important in society.  We learn throughout the year that when there is no governance chaos ensues.  People create chaos because the see opportunities for power.  Eventually, the citizens get tired of the fighting, killing, and unrest and (in the countries we study) generally cave in to tyrants.

I'll draw something like I did in this video.

That should make for a busy and rewarding first week.

Posted via email from Room 755

Coming Up This Week in Room 755

Friday the 13th of August was our first day of school.  It was a 1/2 day.  And frankly, it was a little messy.  Oh well.  As long as students got my invitation letter to their class's Parent Night, I'll be happy...and if they have their supplies on Monday.

Here's what coming this week.

Monday - I'll be introducing the class and some procedures for class.  They will also set up their Composition Books for the year. 

I always do something to demonstrate how I run my class.  I am gong to introduce the clip below - "It's the hard that makes it great" from Tom Hanks's speech to Geena Davis in A League of Their Own.  Teaching 7th grade (for 15 years now) I am seeing how important it is for students to understand that it does get more difficult to do well (or it should) in school.  But it is the hard work, the struggle, that will separate my students from the crowd (not just in our building, but in our region, state, and country).  I do expect my students to be different and behave differently.  So here's Tom Hanks to help. 

Tuesday - We'll begin looking at our connecting themes for the year.  The first one, and the one I come back to nearly every day, is Conflict leads to Change.  And generally speaking, change is what starts the conflict, so it is a cycle.  I do introduce a bigger hook, that it is their world to make a difference.  My generation messed it up, and their generation will have to clean it up.  Odd thing: I think they will do it.  I think our young generation will see through the stupidity of my generation (consumerism, status, environmental disregard, and testing to determine value) and change it.  If they don't...

Today, I'll let Adam Sandler help me introduce the concept of conflict.

Wednesday - Our second theme is Culture; what it is, what difference it makes in society.  This is always fun for me, because our school has had students who were born in over 50 countries around the world.  Traditions, religion, customs, cuisine, and language is something our students naturally understand.  We have a good time comparing the beauty and weirdness of our cultures and families.

I use Fools Rush In and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to compare and contrast cultures.

http://dms7ss.pbworks.com/Culture+-+Video+of+Mexican+and+Greek+Culture

Thursday - Students have an assignment early in the week to find out as much as they can about where their family is from (heritage), why they live in Dalton, and what brought their families to the region.  Today we look at Human-Environment Interaction, Location, and Movement as themes for the year.  This introduces them to the idea that people live where they live for a reason, at least when they have the freedom of movement.  This becomes a great hook when we look at Darfur, apartheid, Mao's China, and other times of closed societies.  No videos today.  I introduce rules for class discussions and reflections today.

Friday - The concept today is Governance.  We look at the wording of the Declaration of Independence and discuss why governance is important in society.  We learn throughout the year that when there is no governance chaos ensues.  People create chaos because the see opportunities for power.  Eventually, the citizens get tired of the fighting, killing, and unrest and (in the countries we study) generally cave in to tyrants.

I'll draw something like I did in this video.

That should make for a busy and rewarding first week.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Saturday, August 07, 2010

My New Three Rs

When I put together my lessons, I try to put myself in the students' chair.  So a couple years ago I approached each lesson with the following flow:
  1. What's Up? - What is the issue, situation, circumstance about which we are learning?
  2. Who Cares? - Finding articles, pictures, information resources that will capture, keep, or expand the attention of a 13-year-old.
  3. So What? - What difference does it make that I now have this information as part of who I am?
  4. Now What? - What, in your life will be changed because of what you now know?  If it doesn't change a life, why teach it?
I will continue to use these Guiding Questions, because they work - when I do it right.

I have been working for over two years, though, to create an approach for ELL students to cover their needed Read/Write/Listen/Speak opportunities (which I also think are necessary for most students.  I have categorized reading and listening as Input and writing and speaking as Output

This year, I am concentrating on making a transition from a focus Teaching Practice to a focus Learning Practices. I have developed my personal Three Rs for my students.  Learning, as I see it for an adolescent student, is based on Daniel Willingham's research that says (in effect):

  1. The brain is not designed to think, it is designed to remember
  2. Learning Styles may account for 2% of differing brain preferences, but 98% of all brains learn in the same manner.
  3. The material (not the student) should determine the method the teacher uses to provide Input opportunities (my words) for students.
My Three Rs - with activities to bolster the learning process:
  1. Reception - Reading, Listening, Watching, Observing
  2. Reflection - Thinking, Diagramming, Doodling, Discussing, Questioning
  3. Response - Writing, Speaking, Drawing, Publishing, Creating, Building, Modeling
My personal process of learning includes these activities.  For me, and many of the edubloggers I have read for years, this sums up their process as well.  I spend the majority of my time in the Reflection phase.  For a middle school student (not exclusively) I believe Reception, the building-up of knowledge and experience is needed most

Response is something most people never do.  I would like to think this will change, because it is easy to make happen now with blogs, YouTube, Facebook.  People obviously want a "voice" but too often they have nothing really important to contribute. 

So, in text format, I see the following process for learning:

Input = Reception
Churning = Reflection
Output = Response

Over the past two years, I have learned our new curriculum and standards.  I have tested my teaching practice.  This year, the focus will be on helping students develop their voice about things in life that matter.  Students will Receive much of the same information, in the same or similar ways as in the past two years, only more concentrated.  Students will have more time in class to Reflect.  Homework will be time for Reflection as well; I used to call it ThinkWork (and still might).  Homework and classwork will include much more time for Response than in the previous two years.

Any thoughts?  Please share.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Thursday, August 05, 2010

My Biggest Post Ever - Why Teachers Should Friend Students on Facebook

On January 18, 2010 I posted Why Teachers Should 'Friend' Students on Facebook.

It has had over 10,000 visits, counting my Posterous and two Blogspot blogs.  It started (or continued) a conversation about the relationships between teachers and students.

Yesterday, was the third anniversary of John's untimely death.  His friends, and yes me too, miss him.  When I saw some of his friends (my son was one of them) post remembrances on the Facebook status, I had to take a break, a deep breath, wipe away a tear, and say a prayer for his mom and dad as well as his sister and brother (both of whom I taught).

As I prepare for the new school year, I have asked former students to help me as I am doing something for the first time.  I am having Parent Nights for each of my five classes; kind of a private open house.  I will need translators to communicate with many of the parents.  I went to Facebook, asked for help in my status update, then sent Private Messages to a few former students.  The response is overwhelming.  Remember, I teach middle school, so there are a few years that separate my time with the ones I have asked. So, I wasn't sure anyone would be willing to help a teacher they haven't seen in 5-10 years.

Students who have graduated college are coming to help me.  Students are helping before they go back to college.  Students are willing to drive from over an hour away to help me too.  Then I had two high school seniors who asked what they could do to help.

When we as teachers see that our students are people who will contribute now, and stop with the "they have potential" sentiment, then we will make the differences we hope to see in our schools.  Thanks Facebook, for helping me (daily) recall that education is about relationships, not just curriculum.

Posted via email from Room 755

My Biggest Post Ever - Why Teachers Should Friend Students on Facebook

On January 18, 2010 I posted Why Teachers Should 'Friend' Students on Facebook.

It has had over 10,000 visits, counting my Posterous and two Blogspot blogs.  It started (or continued) a conversation about the relationships between teachers and students.

Yesterday, was the third anniversary of John's untimely death.  His friends, and yes me too, miss him.  When I saw some of his friends (my son was one of them) post remembrances on the Facebook status, I had to take a break, a deep breath, wipe away a tear, and say a prayer for his mom and dad as well as his sister and brother (both of whom I taught).

As I prepare for the new school year, I have asked former students to help me as I am doing something for the first time.  I am having Parent Nights for each of my five classes; kind of a private open house.  I will need translators to communicate with many of the parents.  I went to Facebook, asked for help in my status update, then sent Private Messages to a few former students.  The response is overwhelming.  Remember, I teach middle school, so there are a few years that separate my time with the ones I have asked. So, I wasn't sure anyone would be willing to help a teacher they haven't seen in 5-10 years.

Students who have graduated college are coming to help me.  Students are helping before they go back to college.  Students are willing to drive from over an hour away to help me too.  Then I had two high school seniors who asked what they could do to help.

When we as teachers see that our students are people who will contribute now, and stop with the "they have potential" sentiment, then we will make the differences we hope to see in our schools.  Thanks Facebook, for helping me (daily) recall that education is about relationships, not just curriculum.

Posted via email from Murry's World

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

test-to class page