Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Research Essay: Topics

Sorry I've been a little MIA recently. Last week was conferences, which was a crazy time and meant weird schedules and long days. Then I had 72 junior essays come in, so I spent the better part of the last 5 days grading feverishly. They are all finally finished and handed back!

Well, we are about to embark on our big essay for the semester: the research essay. We did not used to do a research essay at junior level until Common Core (we did argumentative writing with research, but not an expository research paper). Because we are starting Gatsby at the end of the month, I decided to tie in their possible research topics to that and the time period in which it's set.

This is one of my favorite novels, and I am so excited to start it! We have also done mainly non-fiction, so I'm happy to get any fiction at all in.

I decided to come up with possible topics myself and let two students per class period be on each topic associated with the 20s. We are drawing for topics tomorrow. Their assignment tonight was to do some basic research/Googling and see which three or four they may be interested in.

I thought I'd do a little series on the Research Essay and blog about different parts of the process. So I will continue to update you all. For now, here is the list of topics I came up with, in case you are interested in having your students do a similar essay or research project. Because their essays are 3-4 pages, they will need to narrow their chosen topic and have a more specific focus. For instance, they could focus on just one athletic figure of the 20s and his/her professional life.

Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Jazz Era
Harlem Renaissance
Fashion of the 20s
Sports or athletic figures
The Great Depression/Black Tuesday
"Roaring 20s"/economic prosperity
Technological progress of the 20s
Authors or books from the 20s
Women's Suffrage/voting rights
A President from the 20s

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Peek at my Week {Oct. 21-25}

Linking up with Mrs. Laffin for a Peek at my Week.

Before I look ahead at the upcoming week, I want to take a quick look back at my weekend. It was one of those weekends where we really didn't have definite plans but were able to be both productive, yet relax. We took Roxie out on the bike trail for a couple walks, and it was GORGEOUS out there. See below.

The weather was chilly, but sunny. We also hit up the apple orchard for more goodies (and I found a cute scarf there, go figure!) and went to a comedy club last night with a friend. All in all, a great, refreshing weekend, so I can gear up for this week.

So what's on tap for me?

1. Parent/teacher conferences W, Th, Fri. While this means I have to stay late both Wed. and Thurs and get home at like, 9:00, it also means I get to leave at 10 AM Friday and my husband happens to have Friday off too, yay! 

2. I have non-fiction analysis essays coming in Tuesday from my juniors. This will give me something to do while I wait in-between conferences. We just all are set up in the gym and conferences are walk-in, not scheduled, so you may be SUPER busy and have a line, or you may sit there for 2 hours with no one. It's a crapshoot.

3. We're going to be starting Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" this week, and after a little intro on the Great Awakening, we'll do a little activity with imagery and what they associate different images in his sermon with before reading it.

4. We'll end the week with a new activity I'm trying. I will probably write a post on it after the fact to let you know how it goes. We're going to make Top Ten lists a la Dave Letterman. The title of our list? "The Top Ten Reasons You Know You're From the Great Awakening." It'll be fun to see what they come up with.

What's on tap for your week?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Five for Fraturday!

This is the first time I am linking up with Five for Friday (or Fraturday for me).


And I have to confess a couple things. 1) I have no fun or cute pictures from this week, so my post might be boring. My high schoolers don't do cute crafty projects or find it particularly endearing for their teacher to snap their pictures working like younger students do. I also totally forget to even try. And 2) I am currently procrastinating grading 40 Senior lit. projects that came in yesterday.

#1 This week my junior post-tested, since this year we have to be able to show student growth somehow. So I did a pre- and post-test. We pre-tested week 1 of school and post-tested using the exact same test this week.

The GOOD NEWS is almost ALL my students showed growth, and for many, the growth was big! I still have to track down a couple absent students and make them take it in study hall. I had a few students not show much growth and a couple stayed the same, but I would say 95% of my students showed growth, and we only have to get 80%, so I'm good. Oh, and yeah, it's probably good that they are learning something ;)

#2 My juniors also started writing non-fiction analysis essays this week. It's the first year we're doing this because of Common Core. They are comparing/contrasting and analyzing two articles we read about the real first Thanksgiving, one that is from the History channel and has a serious tone, and one from Parade magazine that is humorous. They are struggling because it is totally new for them, but they are being champs and pushing through, for the most part. 

We started on Thurs. by finding textual evidence to use as support and organized those quotes on note cards. I played some "working music" while they worked. One day I played the Vitamin String Quarter channel on Pandora (love them!) and Friday, since they complained the other music had no words, I played the Mumford & Sons station. Just make sure if you play Pandora for your class, you go into your settings and click the box that says "Do not allow explicit content." 

Quick story: last year, I decided to play the Christmas station for a class in Dec. and figured, "There can't be any explicit content in Christmas songs!" Well, there's not, BUT it also played a commercial for the sex toy website Adam and Eve, so yeah. Make sure you click that button!

#3 My seniors finished up their projects on the book Nineteen Minutes (you know, the ones I'm putting off grading) and I had all but 3 students turn it in. That is a pretty good percentage, honestly. Those three who didn't get it turned in can get half credit Tuesday (no school Monday).

#4 My husband and I got addicted to the show Scandal this week.

We have been binge-watching it on Netflix. I love doing that.

#5 The mornings have finally been chilly and fall-like, so I picked up a new coffee for my Keurig: Green Mountain Pumpkin Spice. Paired with some vanilla creamer, it is delicious!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cell Phone Procedures

I think one thing we probably all have in common, regardless of the subject or age we teach, is cell phone problems in the classroom.


At my school, the students are not supposed to have phones out in the hall or in class, unless approved by a teacher. They are supposed to be completely out of sight. Students can only use them at lunch.

I have a policy in my room of "first time's a warning, second time's a referral" for things like texting, a phone ringing/vibrating, or using phones for non-approved purposes like getting on FB.

I DO allow students to use phones in a couple circumstances. One is to use an online dictionary to look up unknown words in pieces of writing. Honestly, it has never been an issue because if we're not doing vocab., they shouldn't have them out. When we are, I roam the aisles and can tell if they are actually using them to look up words or not. Once we're done, they go away.

I also will allow them to listen to music through earbuds when writing papers in the lab, as I know that helps some students. I tell them they need to pick a playlist and stick with it and the phone goes in the pocket--they can't keep looking for songs every two seconds or they lose the privilege.

I know even in college this is a problem--I had a college professor who would dock you an entire letter grade if your phone rang in class.

I don't think there's a best or worst way to handle it, but I'm always looking for ideas, because even with my policy and even with allowing usage for classroom things, I still have students trying to text or "going to the bathroom" to use their phone.

So I think next semester, I am starting a new policy that another teacher in my school uses and that I have heard of working elsewhere. I'm going to require students to place phones upside down on the corner of their desk while in my room. That way, they have control over it and it's not out of their possession (some teachers collect phones and give them back at the end of the hour), but it's obvious to me when a phone is being used. They also can't go spend five min. in the bathroom just texting under the pretense of having to use the restroom--I will see if they grab their phone when getting up from their desk.

The teacher who uses this says it's works wonderfully and she has no texting issues anymore. Because it's right there and upside down, the students don't feel the need to compulsively check it and/or they know they will easily get caught. I am so tired of kids trying to text through their pockets, in their hoodie pouches, in their pencil bags, or at their sides and playing the game of catching them in the act. I don't think cell phones are altogether a bad thing in the classroom, which is why I approve usage at times. But there's no reason students can't learn to go 50 min. without checking FB or their text messages!

So what do you think? What's your cell phone policy and does it work? Do you use phones for educational purposes in the classroom?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Peek at my Week {Oct. 7-13}

I'm linking up with Mrs. Laffin for the Peek at my Week Linky Party.

I decided to just focus on 5 things I'm excited for/not dreading about this upcoming week:

1) Fall weather, and therefore, wearing fall outfits to work. I have already picked out my outfit for school tomorrow (which is a huge improvement over scrambling around and randomly picking something out right before I have to leave for work).  I am wearing this blazer with some trouser jeans. I'll probably wear it buttoned with a lace cami underneath.


2) My senior lit. students are working on their capstone projects for the book Nineteen Minutes that we finished. I let them pick whether they want to write a traditional literary analysis paper, do a creative writing option and continue writing a sequel to the novel where it ends, or whether they want to plan out a movie adaptation of the novel. I conference with them tomorrow to see their progress on their projects. (Unfortunately, projects are due Friday, which means I'll be grading all the live long day on my long weekend).

3) Tomorrow after school, I'm attending a SmartBoard advanced workshop to learn some more advanced tips and tools for how to incorporate my SmartBoard into the classroom. I'm excited to learn some new ways to use it.

4) My juniors are going to start a non-fiction analysis essay later this week. I'm a little nervous about it because it will be challenging, but CC wants them reading and analyzing a lot of non-fiction. We've been reading tons of it, but now we're going to try to apply all of that in the form of an essay. I think we'll have a little celebration on the day their papers are due, and to celebrate all their hard work and writing, I'll bring in some treats and we'll have an Essay Party (I'm sure it won't sound super exciting to them lol).

5) Next weekend, my husband and I are volunteering for Bark in the Park. It's a day of dog festivities to raise money for the Humane Society of our city. Roxie is a rescue from a no-kill shelter here, and getting dogs into their loving forever homes is a cause near and dear to my heart. Roxie is a little too reactive to other dogs to participate in the festivities herself, at least for this year, so she is staying home, but we are going to go and help out for a few hours. They have a walk, a doggie beauty contest, a talent show, doggie paw printing, and lots more. I'm excited to help out a great cause and get to play with lots of puppies. 

And of course, we have a 3-day weekend for Columbus Day, which I am so thrilled about! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October Currently

Linking up with Farley for October currently (my favorite month of the year!)

Sorry the top got cropped off.

1. Listening to the show Hostages on our DVR. Pretty good so far, interested to see where they can take it.

2. Loving cooler fall weather (though today was 85. Boo hiss). It's going to be in the 60s later this week. Can't wait for chili, cider, pumpkin things, and another trip to the orchard.

3. Thinking about...what can I say? I am a die hard Breaking Bad fan. If you haven't watched the show, you should. It's not just about meth. Or drugs. Or chemistry. It's about so much more, and I can't even explain it. But this show is genius and has had a profound effect on so many people. I have never gotten so emotionally invested in a show before. The finale on Sunday was so perfect, I am still thinking about it. I can't wait to buy the 5 season set when it comes out (in a METH barrel, no less) and watch all 55 hours of additional footage. {I feel like I need to put a disclaimer in here that I have never, nor will ever, get involved in the meth business lol}

4. rain this weekend. My parents are visiting to help us lay sod in some areas of our yard where we tore out old landscaping, and right now, there's a 60% chance of showers Saturday.

5. Needing...when don't I need money? We want to get windows replaced, get landscaping put in, get the house painted on the outside, Christmas is coming up, etc. etc. And I'm poor.

6. Treat! I love treats. Especially Reese's peanut butter cups, but I only like eating them when they have them in egg shapes. I don't know why, but they taste better that way!