Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Visit our library's blog

Our librarian has created a library blog to help us access Internet resources. Click here to visit it. If you click the "English" tab at the top of the page, it will take you to a list of To Kill a Mockingbird resources.

Monday, October 22, 2007

To Kill a Mockingbird Research Project Advice

While searching for information on your assigned topic, try doing a refined Google search.

Often the most reliable Internet sites for research projects have a URL that ends in .edu, .org, or .gov. The ending of a URL can tell you about a site's "domain." Click here to learn more about domain names.

The domain .edu means the site is produced by an educational institution like a college or university. The domain .org is used for a non-commercial, non-profit site. A .gov site is associated with the United States Government. These types of sites often have reliable information written by professionals, although there are, of course, exceptions.

To limit your Google search to either .edu, .org, or .gov click here. First enter the subject of your search at the top, then type .edu in the domain box. All sites listed should be limited to .edu. Do the same for .org and .gov.

Once Google provides you with the search results, use the right-click button to open links in new windows that you want to explore. This way you can keep the main search field open while easily checking out links that seem relevant to your topic.

Click here to learn about the correct way to cite sources using MLA format.

For an electronic copy of the To Kill a Mockingbird research project assignment sheet, click here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fifty blogging resources for teachers

A shout-out to Louann over at Multiliteracies for sharing The Four Eyed Technologist's annotated link list of 50 blogging resources for teachers.

About a month ago I gave a technology presentation at our school district's first mentor/protege meeting of the year. Ironically, I had to create a paper handout to accompany my lecture because the room I was presenting in wasn't equipped with a video projector.

One of my topics was blogs in the classroom. I hope this list of resources is helpful for teachers looking to use blogs to engage students and enhance their curriculum.

Pandora Radio

Ever dream of creating your own radio station that would play your favorite tunes and others like them?

Dream no longer. Click here to enter Pandora Radio, a creation of the Music Genome Project.

It's definitely the easiest way I've found to listen to music you love and didn't even know you loved... all for free.

Kudos to The Seashell Seller for turning me on to this totally tubular tune depot.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Information revolution

The Internet has permanently altered the way we store, access, and transmit information. This is another brilliant video by Michael Wesch, who also created The Machine is Using/Us.

Power and light

While out for a ride on my scooter this afternoon, I happened upon the above rainbow. As I sat in traffic waiting for the light to change, I took a moment to observe those around me. Many stood mesmerized by the natural light display. Some snapped photos with cellphones. It seemed that for the 60 seconds I waited at the light, all was well with the world.

My concerns - be they personal, professional, or worldly - ceased to exist. The apartment to clean, the essays to read, and student recommendation letters to write were forgotten. The heinous conflict in the Middle East and constant news reports about the destruction of the environment and the downward spiral of our country were temporarily out of mind.

Panning my head I saw happy couples sipping lattes at a local cafe and college students walking aimlessly down the sidewalk, all soaking in the colorful arc from above. I thought about civilizations that existed before science, and wondered what justification tribal leaders gave for such a brilliant phenomenon.

When the traffic light changed I pulled the throttle and accelerated through the intersection, another moment of my life gone, another experience relegated to memory.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Great moments in guidance counseling

Certainly I am biased as a high school teacher, but this has to be one of the funniest SNL skits in a few years. It features Lebron James.

General thoughts about blog comments

Comments are a great way to give feedback to those who have written in a blog. They let authors know their work is being read and the impact it's having.

Comments let the writer know he/she has an audience.

Comments encourage people to write more and better pieces.

Comments help people to think deeper about an issue.

Remember that a blog is not “live chat” or personal correspondence like a letter or e-mail. Make sure that you are appropriate with language, grammar, and punctuation, and that you are constructive in your comments.

A well-written comment…

… is always expressed using a positive tone.
… if critical, is both gentle and sandwiched between positive statements.
… is very specific when giving praise. This creates a sense of authenticity and believability in the comment.
… may be brief or lengthy but leaves the author of the blog post with the sense that the commenter is “on their side” and genuinely interested in their success.

Here are some comment starters to get you going:

This made me think about…….
I wonder why…….
Your writing made me form an opinion about…….
I saw in my mind…….
Your writing made me think that we should…….
I wish I understood why…….
This is important because…….
I think you write this to show…
I can relate to this…….
This makes me think of…….
I discovered…….
You seem to be saying that…
I was reminded that…….
I found myself wondering…….

Please read the specific comment instructions for the assignment you are responding to. Thank you!

The Oedipus inspired poem

I asked my seniors to follow these instructions and write a poem about how Oedipus must be feeling after everything he's been through. I too completed the assignment. The results are as follows...

Damn son I’ve been living a lie
I feel like
I wanna break down and die.
Slept with my mother
Made her my lover
Now I gotta go and
stab out my eyes.

Cursed I was, from my very birth
Taken away, met for a hearse
Shepard found me, brought me in
Gave me
life once again.

Yeah I solved
That riddle of the Sphinx
Whoda thunk, it was all just a jinx?

Doomed to rule, my own birthland
Cursed by gods with a foul plan
Don’t know what I did
To deserve this fate
It turns out
I’m the one that I hate.

There’s no happy ending, to this tale
Nothing I can do, to avail
The deeds that I’ve done
Shoulda been a nun
But that ain’t my story,
Real life is gory
And now my face looks
Like chicken cacciatore.

Value Essay Comment Instructions

I would like your Value Essay comments to answer the following four questions:

I - What does the author seem to be saying about what is valuable, and what he or she most strongly values?

II - Which of the two objects/priceless moments described in this essay did you find were most vividly and clearly described? Reference one specific part, anecdote, scene, or description that you thought was particularly well done.

III - In general, what is one of this essay's overall strengths? It could be its organization, word choice, writing style, introduction, conclusion, etc.

IV - What is one piece of advice that the author might consider for future writing assignments? This should be phrased constructively (try doing ------- next time, consider --------) or inquisitively (what do you think would happen if you -------------?)

Comments should be about two paragraphs (6 to 10 well-written, informative sentences). Your comments should appear below the story you are responding to. When asked to choose an identity, click "other," then sign your comment with your first name and last initial. Comments not posted according to these instructions will be deleted.

I would like you to respond to a minimum of two essays per class (6 total). The essays will be up by the end of school on Monday, Oct. 15th.

* Please bring a printed copy of your comments to class on Tuesday, Oct. 16th, as I will check them then. Your classmates and I thank you for your valuable feedback.
Six comments = a "check"
Nine comments = a "check plus"

For general information about posting blog comments, please click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

WAC & Writing Next

Over the summer I stumbled across the Writing Next report. Its chief findings regarding effective writing instruction are as follows:

The Recommendations -
Eleven Elements of Effective Adolescent Writing Instruction

1. Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their compositions

2. Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts

3. Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions

4. Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete

5. Word Processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for writing assignments

6. Sentence Combining, which involves teaching students to construct more complex, sophisticated sentences

7. Prewriting, which engages students in activities designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition

8. Inquiry Activities, which engages students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task

9. Process Writing Approach, which interweaves a number of writing instructional activities in a workshop environment that stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writing

10. Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing

11. Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material
My school is currently implementing a Writing Across the Curriculum initiative. When I was a reading and writing tutor at Plymouth State University's Reading and Writing Center during graduate school, I first learned about WAC. It was there that I had writing conferences with students from all disciplines - including math!

I am hopeful that as our school encourages writing in other content areas, and as our English Department works to shore up writing instruction across levels and grades, cutting edge research like that found in the Writing Next report will help to guide us in our quest to empower students to become stronger readers, writers, and thinkers.