Friday, June 15, 2012

My New Storytelling Unit: Deconstructing Peter Pan

I have been very open about my nervousness about teaching writing. I am not an expert at writing and I am well aware that my ability to teach it is extremely limited. That is why I am spending time this summer trying to get a handle on it.

My plan is to incorporate the Writing Workshop method into the classroom. I love the idea of students writing about what they want how they want. I also want my students to think more about the value of storytelling in their lives. I decided I would create a storytelling unit that was writing intensive as well.

I was inspired by the Skrillex video Bangarang and decided to use this as the starting point for a unit on Peter Pan and how over the past century his story has been re-interpreted. The first thing I did was read about him on Wikipedia. Then I chose specific items I wanted my students to examine including the original story, an early silent movie, and several movies created lately. Then I created the time line (since I often need a visual representation.)

Next I needed to choose a tool to hold my information. I chose Google Sites. I could have just as easily gone with a wiki, but I haven't used Sites before and thought I should give it a try. So far I have been pleasantly surprised.

I created pages for each thing the students will deconstruct. I also added pages with the Common Core Standards and NETs so that I can keep track of them. My next goal is to identify possible activities for my students to complete as we go through the unit.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The House of Dies Drear: Day 4 Reflection

Yesterday was a pretty rough day for my last class before lunch. We are running a 45 minute morning rotation with five rotations before lunch. As you might expect, the class before lunch is pretty rough. I also happen to have "that class" at that time. They are extremely restless, unfocused, and chattie.

After struggling through the morning class I decided something needed to change. That afternoon (30 minute rotations with the same schedule as the morning) I talked to the class about ways we could improve their attention. I floated an idea, I asked them if they would like to take a 20 minute outside break at the beginning of the morning class and finish the morning lesson in the afternoon. We would skip the afternoon elective class. They decided to try it out.

Today, after the 20 minute break the students came in and were more focused than they had been so far. Obviously we have a long row to hoe still, but I am very encouraged by the results so far. We will continue this until it quits working or we end the summer school period.

On a personal note, I am really hating the rotation. The main reason I chose to move from jr high to 6th grade was so that I could spend more class time with one set of students. While I am appreciative for the ability to teach reading, which I haven't been able to do for years, I wish I had a self-contained classroom now. I am happy that I am able to use my money from summer school to buy some things for my class, I just need a bit more patience.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The House of Dies Drear: Day 2 Reflection

Friday we read chapters two and three of The House of Dies Drear. Although I had a lot of great ideas given to me from the last post, I decided to stay the course. The students really had no time to do much of anything other than sit down and read, the timing was very tight.

One thing I did change seemed to make a real difference though. My second class, after the trip down the hallway and getting prepared to read didn't have enough time to finish the third chapter. They were about five minutes short of finishing. Because I was using my iPhone with the Audible app to play the book aloud, I used a handy tweak to the reading. The app allows for books to be sped up so I chose for it to read the story at 1.5 times the normal speed. Fortunately it doesn't make the reader sound like The Chipmunks :)

Interestingly enough it seems that by speeding up the reading of the story, the students were better able to maintain their attention. I guess that since they weren't having to decode the words as they read, they could follow along faster than they normally would if they were reading it themselves. Whatever the reason, I was pleasantly surprised by how they reacted. I think we are through the slowest parts of the book and am looking forward to seeing how they continue to respond to reading the story.

That doesn't mean I won't keep the advice in mind, there is still a about two weeks worth of reading ahead.