Use the SOL frame question, even if it is crappy…

Today Captain Crablegs came to observe me and made a VERY good point (well, a few, but this one stuck out). While I am still following the SOL framework closely, I do not want be an SOL drill sergeant. I want the kids to enjoy class and want to learn the material, not just for the SOL. My hippie CT feels strongly about this. The SOL leaves out a lot of important information; for example, Westward Expansion does not include the Trail of Tears, the buffalo, railroads, immigrants, the Donner Party, etc. Those are pretty key components. When designing the text sets for the unit we were concerned about this and tried to include as much as possible in addition to the SOL curriculum.

However, sometimes I was so adamant and judgmental about the SOL that I underestimated the significance of their guiding questions and frame. The key question is what allows the students to tie together the material from the lesson and connect it to the overall unit. It allows them to put the lesson into perspective. Even if the question is garbage, use it. That doesn’t mean the lesson has to be garbage too!


Lost and Found BLOGS

The random/out of order BLOGS have been found on various hard drives and flash drives in Word Documents. They are being uploaded in the order of their discovery.

Student Technology Access

A number of my students do not have access to computers and internet at home. Because “benchmark testing” has been in full swing, we have limited to no access to the computer labs. One student in particular, who happens to be very bright, does not have a computer at home due to financial constraints. I asked him to bring me a note from his mom stating that he was allowed to create an email account here at school in order to access some of the online forums and collaboration sites we have established. He said he already had an email address and wrote it down for me. At the beginning of his address he included a http://www., i.e. This broke my heart; clearly this was not a mistake due to intelligence, but rather a lack of experience and access.

1992 Version of ‘The Oregon Trail’ Computer Game

Technology isn’t everything…It killed the Smartboard; but, the kids learned SO much!

We played ‘The Oregon Trail’ computer game that I played in elementary school. That was the best idea I ever had. The kids LOVED it and they learned so much. I didn’t expect it to be exactly a “learning lesson;” however, it was a wonderful surprise when it did become one. Making choices about what to buy, coming across drought, sickness, trading, crossing rivers, experiencing unplanned obstacles and challenges really put them in the pioneer frame of mind. I grew up playing this game ALL the time. Yes, it was the 1992 version. I insisted that we had to use the version I played; not a newer one. I’m loyal to it. It just about killed the computer and not compatible with the smart board. It worked, but you could only click using the computer. Thank goodness we have such wonderful aids who jump in and help us even though they don’t have to.

Dinosaur with Watermelon

Dinosaur with Watermelon

One of my students with special needs made this for me one day. It was touching because I had been working to connect with him in little ways. For example, when I read our Civil War novel to the class, I decided to start having “story-time” on the rug in the front of the room.” By having him sit next to me, he was both closer to the rest of the class and better able to concentrate on what I was reading. He knows the routine and comes running into the class straight for the front at the beginning of each Language Arts class! Every morning when I walk into the side door of the building he gives me a big smile and wave too.

Notebook Babysitting

Foreseeing the ridiculous amount of work over the next few weeks, I decided to have a “mini-notebook” check. The students turned in their notebooks after updating it according to the provided table of contents (theoretically). I went through each individual student’s notebook and placed notes where things were missing, incomplete, or incorrect. This was a boatload of work for me—according to some teachers, “over-grading.” It will make grading easier next week when they turn in their final notebooks (including additional material from the past few days).

Usually, the students turn their notebooks in on the day of the test. However, seeing as though the test also happens to be a day before the end of the grading period and two days before the conclusion of my student teaching, I feel that it is essential that I check to see that the students are on task and familiar with the material before it is too late. The last thing I want to do is leave my CT with irate parents and students who learned nothing during the unit. I will not have the opportunity to reteach and students (especially young middle school children) can easily slip through the cracks.

The students need to be accountable and independent; such extreme measures might be a bit overbearing according to some. I would argue that it holds students to a higher degree of accountability. The expectations are now VERY clear to them and they know that their notebooks are being thoroughly examined, not just glanced at (or only portions graded) Therefore, there is no debate regarding grades and a clear understanding that all in-class assignments and notes need to be completed thoroughly. Remaining on task and focused in class is essential (I rarely give homework other than completing assignments from class, study guides, and updating notebooks).

Some students didn’t feel as though it was important to complete all of the entries and were given “tentative failing grades” (and harassing, yet encouraging emails over the weekend). NINE students showed up before school for one of my extra help sessions last week; I’m interested to see how many show up tomorrow after getting their notebooks back today…A number of students are unable to get to school early due to transportation issues; I tend to give them a bit more leeway in terms of time frames (ex. Bobby-Joe will have until Wednesday to get everything fixed to change his “mini-notebook check” grade from failing to passing rather than tomorrow. He will also have the option of seeing me during lunch–*note: all students ALWAYS have this option).

IT Frustrations

There is nothing that makes my blood boil more than computers that don’t work and cell phones. My internet connection at my house will not allow me to upload my VLOGS; upload anything for that matter. I am an extremely patient person 99% of the time; but, I think I make up for it that last 1% when I get frustrated with uncooperative technology. Wow, I need to go for a run.

Is there some sort of IT class available free of charge anywhere? Voodoo doll? I am way too tired to drag all of my stuff elsewhere to do it; they will just come in groups and out of order with regards to when they were filmed. Until then, I’m typing my thoughts.