Friday, May 29, 2009

Annabel Lee

Our school's Poetry Out Loud winner advanced to the Massachusetts Semi-Final Poetry Out Loud Championship with her recitation of this classic Poe poem. Below is a creative interpretation of the work I found on YouTube. There's nice symmetry between the text and the video.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

End game strategy

As the year rambles to a close, it's worth noting one device I've employed that's allowed (at least thus far) for a relatively smooth finish - the distribution of end-of-year timelines in all three of my classes.

The week before April vacation I toiled as an alchemist, combining curriculum goals, the school calendar, and computer lab availability to create documents that detailed all the major activities I'd be doing with my seniors in World Literature, freshmen in Accelerated English, and juniors and seniors in Journalism. The guiding document wasn't too challenging to create for Journalism, as this is something I already do with each production schedule of our newspaper.

The 9th and 12th grade courses took a bit more planning, as I had to figure out the due dates for homework, a quiz and assessment schedule, and time for class discussions, mini-lessons, and group projects. My seniors (two days left!) finished the year with a research paper and Lord of the Flies. The 9th graders are ending with poetry, Romeo & Juliet, and a mini non-fiction unit that dovetails with R & J in the form of a "Verona Times" newspaper creation assignment.

Because I've taught the same classes for a couple of years, I am familiar with the curriculum, what I want my students to learn, how I want them to demonstrate what they've learned, and what they'll need from me to help them do it. I know the pitfalls. I know the potential snags. Of course there are always things I don't account for, but usually they're manageable, and don't impede our progress through the class itineraries.

Another thing that helps make these "unit syllabi" work is my administration's ability to minimize end-of-year class disruptions. I routinely read about other teachers whose classes are continuously disrupted by assemblies, events, and special gatherings that usually rear their heads with little - if any - advanced notice. My administrators aren't like that. They generally give ample notice of such events, and work to keep them at a minimum. The benefit of this cannot be understated.

To view my Romeo & Juliet schedule, click here.

This link will take you to the Lord of the Flies assignment and activity timeline.

The Journalism article & production schedule can be found here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Remix Culture: Fair Use is Your Friend

A decent primer on how to use copyrighted material in online videos. Click here to download the "Code of Best Practices" in PDF form.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A new netbook

A couple of weeks ago I bought my first netbook, the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE. It's light, powerful, plays videos better than my laptop, runs Windows XP (no Vista compatibility issues or unnecessary resource hogging), and, best of all, has an incredible battery life of more than 8 hours on one charge.

I scored it at a funky tech web retailer called for $349 thanks to a mail-in rebate. The Eee PC earned fantastic reviews on Amazon, and has so far lived up to the hype. I like it because I can bring it to any room in my house and surf the net or check up on my Yahoo Fantasy Baseball team, the Alliteration Animals (who are currently in second place). I recently used it to read essays students had posted to their class blogs from the comfort of my living room couch.

The Eee PC will even pick up an Internet signal from the porch outside, which makes it the perfect companion for reading the newspaper online along with a cup of coffee and a blueberry smoothy - a morning delicacy I reserve for the weekends. Given that the weather is finally getting nice, I wanted the ability to bring the web outdoors so I wouldn't feel guilty about sitting behind a computer screen inside my house on a pleasant day.

A couple of weeks ago I made a request for my school to use some of President Obama's federal stimulus money to purchase Eee PCs for the classroom. The laptop computers at our school can be tempermental, and rarely hold a charge for more than an hour and a half. The beauty of the Eee PC is that one charge will get it though an entire school day, which means it can be used consecutively class after class after class.

The size of the keyboard is 92 percent that of a standard typing pad, which takes a little getting used to, but is still quite managable. Programs run quickly, the display is sharp and bright, and the Eee PC has a fast Internet adapter that works with newer Wireless-N WiFi routers. No word yet on if my proposal has been approved by the administration, but it would sure be nifty to have these devices available for use next year at school. I think the students would dig the chic style and fast speed, and the smaller size would help them fit the Eee PC on their desks along with handouts, notebooks, and other materials.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Green savage poetry

I'm still here, just being consumed by the many end-of-year responsibilities that come with being a high school English teacher. My seniors have about two weeks left until they depart our fine educational establishment for good. I've been keeping them occupied with Lord of the Flies, which is an apt selection, as the urge to descend into savagery is strong at this time of year.

I'm wrapping up my poetry unit with the freshmen. Poetry anthologies are complete, we're currently doing our poetry recitations, and then we'll finish with a poetry slam before moving on to Romeo & Juliet.

My journalism kids recently pumped out our fourth issue of the year. Last week we won two awards at the New England Scholastic Press Association's annual conference at Boston University. The final issue will be produced by the junior year staffers. Next year I'm hoping to have us also create a web site with video, soundslides, Twitter updates, and other content that will make our news organization more timely and relevant.

The Celtics just beat the Magic. Awesome. I love the Celtics' heart. It's hard to say for sure if they'll advance. The key is Rajon Rondo. If he plays like he did tonight in Game 3, chalk up another W for the Green. It's fantastic to have the C's relevant again these last two years.