Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interavive Notebooks - Take 2

Research Update
Just to see how it would work out and because I had the spare time, I decided to do a second round of Interactive Notebooks with my students. So far, the results have been fairly similar to the first round though with a few less bumps and bruises along the way.

All in all, I think the experiment was a success in one way. These things are a really great way for me to assess who has been doing the work and getting. Before, I could never tell if the students were copying from each other or not. I knew that a lot of them were not really doing the work to the level where they understood it, or even recalled it.

With the Interactive Notebooks, we do two activities every day. These activities are great because I usually structure it that the first activity is something that introduces the material and the second one is where the students get to explore the concept creatively and more in depth. This is not something that is easy to copy or fake.

When the Interactive Notebooks are turned in, I can quickly peruse them and see which students have just done the first activity and given up on the second activity - which says to me that they didn't really understand it and were just copying from the book or another student.

All in all, a success.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Academic Probation - Version 2.0

Professional Update

In my transition to teaching program, I've apparently made some sort of "Bad Child" list. I now have two observers from my graduate program coming to watch me teach. The new observer seems very nice and our first meeting gave me a positive outlook on working with her.

However, I'm wary. My experience in this program so far has been one of ups and downs. Lately, there's been more downs that ups. What with the threat of getting expelled in the program in November for not having control of my classes and the added observer coming to watch me now, I can't help but worry.

The new observer was called a Transitional Coach by my superiors in my Transition to Teaching program two weeks ago when they said that I should seriously consider working with her for my benefit. I wonder if I ever had the opportunity to say no. At any rate, when this new observer came to see me last week and observe my classroom and teaching style, she called herself an "Intervention Coach." That, to me, has a very different meaning.

Le sigh. Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing anything right at all.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Another Grumpy Teaching Day

I couldn't sleep well last night. Therefore, today I am extremely out of sorts and very grumpy.

The kids are doing a review and make-up work day today. I haven't given them the usual 2 assignments to do but instead we're taking the time to have them catch up on some of their work for the week and review some concepts.

Yes, I'm aware that this the a weak way out of the fact that I'm tired and don't really want to teach today. Yes, sometimes this happens. I guess I'm mortal.

Also, really, really grumpy and headache-y. One of my students today told me to go to the doctor about all of "those headaches you get." I had to laugh at that one. Even my students are picking up on it. Ugh.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grumpy Teaching Days

I should not attempt to teach when extremely grumpy.

My S.O. just left to go out of town for a long weekend. This really should not affect my teaching as much as it is. I can't seem to concentrate today and I feel like I'm down in the dumps. I know that I'll be going home to an empty house and that there's nothing to take my mind off of the incessant litany of things that I need to be doing for my teaching/masters degree class/thesis/professional responsibilities...

When you're a teacher, it seems like there's no off button. I can't go home and turn my brain off so I can think about other things - like my life. I need the distraction or I start to go batty.

Either that or I'm just lonely and mopey. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Interactive Notebooks: Day 10

Interactive Notebooks: Day 10

I had the kids start the day with review and another creative activity today. It hasn't gone very well. I'm starting to wonder if my idea for interactive notebooks isn't really working.

My original hypothesis was that by keeping all of their materials together and forcing the students to look back at them by building on skills progressively in the notebooks that the students would - through creativity and repetition - retain the material better.

However, there was a serious flaw in my plan. Some of my students are not invested enough in the notebooks to do the activities. There is a lack of desire to do the little creative projects that I think up.

Also, there is a lot of confusion because my students don't review the material or do homework. This can hurt a lot when you need to remember a lot of complicated materials. The kids need to practice or they will not remember the material. However, they don't. Most of my students tell me that they haven't done homework in years - and they are in the 9th grade!

I don't know. I think I was perhaps a little overly optimistic about my students' desire to get good grades/learn/or otherwise be invested in school.

I'm glad it's a Friday.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interactive Notebooks: Day 9

Interactive Notebooks: Day 9

Things are starting to get better. And by better, I mean that my students are getting more familiarized with the pattern of the Interactive Notebooks (I.N.).

The trick is to make sure that the creative activities where the students go into more depth with the material are not above the students' heads. That was where I was running into trouble in the beginning. I was writing the creative activities so that I would have fun with them and forgetting that the average 14 to 15 year old doesn't learn at the same pace as someone that has a Master's degree in Biology does. Whoops.

I need to keep things simple and reinforce the material in a creative way instead of just focusing on projects that I think are awesome. I'm sure I'll get to awesome, but not right away. I need to give myself time to get into the swing of feeling out how well my students have absorbed the material before I give them complicated, higher-thinking tasks.

Also, I need to stop using the book quite so much for introducing materials and instead for reinforcing it. My students this year have a lot of trouble with understanding the book due to it's literacy level being too high for them. I need to focus on the big picture at first and then differentiate into more complicated minutiae.

In the words of my students' vernacular: "it's all good."

Thoughts from today: Consistency is next to godliness. Seriously. If I consistently use a set of rules then I don't have to fight my students anymore. I just hold up my hand and signal to the phone. A student walks over there and calls because they know the procedure. Oh, how I love it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Interactive Notebooks Day 8

Interactive Notebooks: Day 8

I'm having a lot of trouble getting the students to figure out what "does" and "doesn't" go in the Interactive Notebooks. They seem to think that some things are "too big" to fit in there and therefore should be done on a separate piece of paper. I think that's one thing about this project that is difficult for them to understand since previously I had them do their work on whatever paper they chose and then turn it in. Now, I have format requirements that they need to accomodate. It's a difficult transition.

Also, being sick yesterday threw off the rhythm.

Speaking of being sick... I went to the doctor today on my lunch break since my pain was worse than it had been in a number of months. This would not normally be relevant except for the fact that my doctor has been giving me a treatment for my disease that should have supposedly lessened the pain or reduced my symptoms somewhat. This is not good news. When I went to my doctor, I found out some bad news.

I'm going to need surgery in the next few months. I was hoping to push this off until the summer or (better yet) to never, but the luck isn't with me right now.

I hope that I can get the research done and written up before I have to have the surgery or I'm going to be screwed on getting my degree.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Interactive Notebooks: Day 7

Interactive Notebooks: Day 7

Observations from students today included:
  • Trouble understanding what should and should not go in the notebook
  • Arguements over books
  • Lack of desire to do the work
  • Literacy issues with reading the book and finding the answers to questions (though at least these kids were working)
  • A small percentage of kids that like to keep organized didn't like my format and argued with me to keep using their own (which wouldn't be an issue if I'd started this at the beginning of school)

All in all, there is a lot of thinking about these notebooks that I need to do. Essentially, I'm forcing my students to turn in their work to me in a format that I like. There is nothing wrong with that, because frequently in life they will have to format things in a way that doesn't suit them. This is especially true if they attend any form of higher education.

However, I ask the question of myself - what is this doing for them? I need to survey them at the end and find out if any of them use the Interactive Notebooks for studying and if they find them helpful at all. I'm going to quiz the students and let them use their Interactive Notebooks, but I find myself asking what that will really show? A quiz is supposed to be a small form of an assessment where I determine who is having trouble and if I need to re-teach any material. If they are using their Interactive Notebooks to take the quiz, then I'm testing their reading abilities and not their knowledge. I'm so frustrated.

In short... I think I've brought up more questions than answers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Interactive Notebooks: Day 6

Interactive Notebooks: Day 6

The kids were squirrelly today.

That's teacher-talk for "almost but not quite out of control." I had glue poured on people, students up out of their seats constantly, shouting across the room. Basically, another day where I had to make an insane amount of phone calls after school. Yay. And, this is where it gets good, this was the one day out of the past 2 weeks where my college adviser comes in to watch me teach. She stayed for 2 periods to see that I was, in fact, teaching well. I can actually feel the egg on my face.

Today's interactive notebook activities included thinking a bit too abstractly for my students. They are still having difficultly because they lack the background knowledge and I'm trying to do creative activities. I need to modify the activities that we do to reinforce the basics or this whole plan is going to be shot.

However, these are excellent ways to assess the students. When they don't understand a given topic, it's so easy to see that because they don't fill out the creative activity. Interesting point to be made. I could use these as a form of assessment on my students' comprehension.