Thursday, October 11, 2007

how this info is still important in my classes now does my research or reflection still matter in my current classroom? well, i think it's still relevant because every year, the students i meet hate, hate, hate poetry and find it either too boring or too hard for them to understand....and forget, forget about writing it! no way jose! that stuff stinks and i have nothing to say and wouldn't say it that way, anyway...

it makes me sad but then excited to show them the coolness of poetry (and maybe some of my slight, but totally under-control obsession with it--totally normal--i know lots of people with poe and shakespeare action figures that TALK to them when no one is around...what?)

i think this question of mine about the skills kids getting poetry is important also because they never seem to realize how cool they think, that they think in such an out-of-order (but not wrong) way that some things come totally easy to them. when they say some things, they don't get why it's so awesome and i try to stop to tell them that. sometimes i tell white lies (but maybe they're not) about something being "advanced" or "high level". i don't think i'm lying, but i might not be exact or 100% accurate if, say, some educational theorist were to walk into my classroom (thank goodness i don't know any).

i guess what i'm saying is that this is important because kids are. i get new kids every year. i don't see them the year after i have them because they go to another building and i really can't know how they're doing unless they come to visit. i think a lot of kids need someone to tell them how smart they are, even if it looks different. i think i work with a lot of people who do this or who want to do this, but it's easy for me to remember to tell them since poetry is #1 on everyone's "i hate to write this stuff" list. i don't know.

why would it be important to someone in my session at the conference? maybe because some people who teach were like my kids and it's on their list of "i hate to teach this stuff" list. or maybe they were the types of student who fished for the right answer for everything. i like the idea of coming up with more questions with every guess made....i think it's hard for some folks to not have a right answer. i'm not sure. it's not like i don't "quiz" kids on lit terms and examples of things....i just never ask "what's the poem all about" on a quiz, really, unless it's a short answer type of thing....hmmm...i think i need more journaling on this or something...i don't seem to be getting anywhere with this week's focus for the deadline draft!

sorry for the "freewrite" here....any thoughts? what about the situation in your own schools? how do the kids respond to poetry? how about the skills kids? how do the teachers approach it? i realize i may be a little fanatical, but...some people i work with actually like teaching grammar and root words! yuck, i say! so, it seems to be the same...we all have our favorite things...hmmm....more later...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

what DID i do? gooooood question.

so. this week i'm supposed to tell you what i did in the hopes of furthering my question. well, i guess i've taken a closer look at what the heck i actually DO. this is what i have so far. tell me if there's something missing or if this is not at all what is helpful to someone at our conference.

for poetry in the 3rd quarter, i begin convincing the kids that they can do poetry during the first week of school with a little creative writing, most of which i have shamelessly stolen from hundreds of unsuspecting colleagues over the course of several years. nice. the kids do all sorts of writing about themselves and what they think about things for about 1-2 weeks. already, having no rules upsets many of them. when drawing something, they panic and blurt out random things like, "what does it have to look like? what color? which way should my paper go? can i color it in?" these are poetry questions pretending to be writing questions. a poetry question would sound like, "how many comments do you want me to make in the margins? how many metaphors should there be? does it have to rhyme? (gag)" and the ever dreaded, "what is this poem about?" YOU TELL ME! already so much panic all over the place. so i guess i start off with the kind of abstract thinking required 3-4 months down the road right off the bat. (it's also kind of fun to freak them out with no rules about to see their faces try to figure out what you secretly MEAN by that.....hahahahahahaha!). sorry. obviously, it's been a long day.

so throughout the year, we vote on answers as a class tries to agree on the climax of a story/movie, we debate about censorship, we write a lot of weirdo abstract daily pages and about art, we yell, we draw, sometimes we sit and take notes (yucky, but reality), we move around a bit here and there and eventually, magically, thinking happens. boundaries are formed (redirecting what is appropriate banter in a debate might sound like, "ok. no. you can't call him stupid an ugly and throw a pen at him just because he thinks censorship is a good idea. that's a no. try this......")

i don't know how it happens. i think i may have to really pour over some lesson plans (sticky notes and lists all over the place) to see what we're doing cognitively. this year, since we're kind of required to use curriculum maps, some of this is set for us, so i'm supposed to be covering certain things in preparation for poetry during 3rd quarter. maybe i'll look those maps over. maybe i'll just ask some kids....though it might be too late for the conference to direct my questions at poetry in isolation....maybe i'll just ask about the pace, set up, and expectations of the class in terms of the things we read and do and write about in here? interest poll?

not very detailed, i'm afraid. but, there is some direction in terms of reviewing past lessons, calendars, and notes i've taken over the last few years to see what exactly prepares some of the kids to think for themselves in poetry settings. overall, i try to brainwash them into believing they know a lot and ought to use it and use it often....i may have to think more about how that happens. it's just something i always do, i think. this is a good metacognition activity! (so, now it's been a long day AND i'm having a irreversible nerd moment. sorry.)

any suggestions? what would be helpful if YOU were sitting in my session (good luck there! ha!)....? what kinds of things are helpful? should i include all the crazy data, data, data i pour over to see where the kids are with reading and writing, etc., sort of? hmmmmmmm........

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How I became interested in my topic

I became interested in my topic years ago when I figured out middle school kids somehow got into poetry when I gave them some. I think I also got really interested when the kids I gave it to years ago moaned and groaned, etc. and said, "Poetry is stupid. It's only for the smart kids. I hate it. I don't get it. It's crazy writing no one understands. Don't even get me started on Shakespeare!" I was so sad to hear this, considering my totally harmless but nonetheless unhealthy obsession with some specific poets (Poe, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Hughes, Dickinson, Whitman).

I thought maybe if I showed them what I liked about the poets, they could develop the same if not even more unsettling obsession with them, too! I thought, like many others, that music and poetry were the same, one with, one without music behind it. That alone seemed like my easy way in---hook them with stuff they already do and slip in the stuff I do, which they would totally enjoy if they'd just relax about it for a second. (This could easily be said of the entire USA though.)

In regards to the "skills" population of kids, I became super interested in what they had to say because though I may have already taught the same poem 2, 3, or 4 times in the same day, when those guys read it, I had to reread and pause during our discussions several more times than in my other classes. This is SO not to say that my other classes didn't think critically or in an outstanding way with the poetry---they often did. But, more times than not, the class that sent me for a complete loop was the team-taught, "skills" class.

When a kid asked me to rotate a piece of Picasso's art on the overhead 90 degrees, "just to see what happens", I became over-interested in researching what all these ocurrances had to do with one another: what's up with the lower-level reading kids making crazy brilliant statements, observations, and guesses (or..."inferences"...or whatever the professional term may be) at poetry I thought I really had a handle on. One year, I had a kid explicate a poem for me that I had to do for a grad school assignment (He knew way more about the black death and the song "ring around the rosie" was in the poem a few times---he had to teach me what they had to do with one another and I took notes!). I totally got an A on the assignment (yes, I told the teacher and handed in my OWN work...don't freak out!). But I did get an A and I think the kid's help is the reason.

So...I love poetry. I love to teach. I love to teach the "skills" kids who think so far out of the box, they wouldn't know what to do with the box if it knocked them over (ahem...CSAP---hello!?) with a hammer....and I love to learn from my kids (selfishly, but, hey) I am finally wondering how that happens, I's that for short and to the point!? Ha! (I think of the blog as a place to the heck do I put this in some sort of professional, concise manner??? Ha!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

my question

so....we figured out that if we broke down (not HAVE a breakdown) the conference's deadline draft into parts, blogging once a week on each part would take us to the next meeting! thanks stacey for figuring that out! what an easy way to force me to a.) blog and b.) get this deadline draft underway.....very cool.

my question is: why do the "skills" kids excel at reading when reading poetry when these are the kids labelled "poor readers"?

what i think i'll do with this is make it the core of my presentation, but not really answer it exactly. (tell me what you think...?) i think it will be my motivation and ultimately what causes me to reflect and review what steps i take at school to prepare the kids for the third quarter poetry unit. i do the same prep with all my classes, but i think i may do more "coaching" or motivating with my "skills" kids in my team-taught class.

i need to review what lessons i have used in the past. i need to review the interview i emailed my teaching partner for the class in question. i need to maybe think about things i tell my classes about the ways they learn and think that may be motivating them somehow.

i have a hunch that by telling the kids what i see them doing, i connect with them because i get the feeling that they're saying "hey, she gets it...she gets me" somehow? sounds a little cheesy at this stage....i'll keep working on it though.....

so, even though i still have pretty much the same question i had in the summer, i think i will be taking a different path towards answering it---i think using research is good, but i think i will use the things i do already to attempt an answer....hmmmm.....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

No. I wasn't kidnapped---just busy!!!

so far, i've just been spending my time reading and getting to know my own students. i am ready to focus on data collection right about now, though, according to my timeline, i should be pretty much done with that now. woops. ha!

i have to admit i am just loving my students this year. i have laughed so much already. i've laughed to the point where i am hunched over and have to take a pause. selfishly, this has been my complete focus so far this year. i used to have that a lot, and last year, i got that maybe once or twice, but not often. i am adjusting to my district's new curriculum maps, our school's crazy pace in first quarter, and my getting up with an alarm again.

luckily, i team teach with a brilliant special ed professional who is always an advocate for the kids. i am learning a lot from her this year, like i used to be able to do, since the kids enjoy being there and are not a problem, rather a partner in class. my team teacher for our skills class is also a part time "instructional coach" for our building, which is another crazy district-mandated, (though not clearly defined), position where she can share her research and experience with the rest of the staff. basically, it frees up some of her day to help the rest of us improve our own teaching, since we rarely are able to do so alone.

so, this week, she taught my first two sections, modeling a new way of reading text as a group. for my last two sections of the day, i tried it and she watched me. every class loved it! i was also free to watch our team-taught class try it and scribe the events of that section. so i hope this is useful info/data for my research, too. i am pretty sure it is. i just need to go through it and maybe categorize it or match it to some of the things i am reading about special ed kids and reading/poetry/self-efficacy, etc....i think the more organic model of team-teaching will help me with my research, too. we are modifying the other district-mandated way of teaching our classes and visiting with the computerized reading program less this year, only to use it as a starting point, supporting it with what we know works with our kids.

so, i am having a killer year so far and am refreshed by that. i laugh every day, which is something i missed so dearly last year (kids last year were largely neglected, mistreated, misbehaved, missing skills, and lost....sad, sad, sad). i am excited to include research and data collection into my classes this year. the kids this year have positive intentions and will try in earnest, i think, to aide my research.

so, inquiry group, i think i just maybe need to bounce ideas off of you and, again, just hear what you would do as far as data collection---maybe brainstorm some more so that i can try all sorts of new, crazy things in my classroom!!! i think i lost momentum and your ideas and energy should push me right back into research mode! i look forward to hearing what you're up to and telling you what i find out. oh---one concern i have is that our poetry unit (isolated unit, though i throw poetry in class all year long) won't start this year until third quarter, which does NOT cooperate with the CSUWP conference, so i may need your ideas about THAT! thanks ahead of time! :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

morning page 7/3

7/3/07 Morning Page
Think of your future demo (CSUWP conference) from the perspective of an audience member…thoughts, impressions, disappointments, questions….

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while since I’ve started researching. I wonder if someone in special ed would think, “Does she think she’s just discovered something totally new? We’ve known that for years. Who does she think she is?” I wonder if someone who teaches middle school English would think, “No way am I teaching that! The kids don’t need that poetry! I hated poetry and I skip teaching it every year. I’d rather teach something else that I’m passionate about. Who does she think she is?”

I’d want to know of other areas or subjects where this research was applicable. Does my research easily translate into the art classroom? Science? How would this maybe help a History teacher?

Ideally, I’d like an audience member to say, “Wow! This is interesting brain research or research about the ways our students think. I bet that would help me with ___________ in my class! This presenter should be Miss America. I will do my part to vote for her.” But I’m just not sure my demo will have quite that affect.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Morning Page/Research Chair Questions 7/2/07

7/2/07 Morning Pages/Plea for help with Researcher’s Chair
At this point in your research, how could you most benefit from the people in AI during the last 3 days together?

The thing I guess I could use the most would be more questions from the group. As teachers or as researchers (or both!), how could I make my research more relevant or worthy of your reading time? I wonder if there is an element to my question that could be used in the classrooms of everyone here. Most of us are English teachers, but not all of us. And not all of us teach the same population of kids. So I wonder if I can provide even the smallest bit of new information for those included here.

If you could imagine yourselves reading my research, what do you think you’d write in the margins as you read? What would be redundant or unnecessary to know? What background would you want to know? What research findings would you want to know more about? Would a reference list at the end suffice or would you want me to expand on something in the actual article?

Also, I wonder what you would consider unreliable information or sources. What kinds of data would you want to see in an article like mine? Would you want to hear from the kids themselves? Would you want to know a lot about my school and principal and staff? As the author and teacher, what information about myself can I provide (there isn’t much!)?

Most of all, from the people in AI, I would need to know what experience you have with my subject and any information you can give me, almost as a resource in and of itself. What do you already know about this that would bore you if you read it again in my finished piece? What can you tell me about what’s happened in your own classrooms with poetry and/or special ed kids? Do you have any background on brain research or the thinking of special ed vs. regular ed kids? Maybe you could write it for me and I could owe you! I could maybe mow your lawns or watch your kids and you could whip up a little article of some sort and submit it for me. That’d be most helpful! Ha!

Other Ideas from discussion:
Define some terms (w/in scope of TMS???)
Clarify ideas!!!! Be succinct! Cut words!
What is my finished product? Article? Demo? Other options?
What data to get??? Method of collection?
Permission slips? (At beginning of year?)
Deadline drafts? Dates?
“God grant that I desire more than I can achieve.” Michelangelo
Primary v. secondary data? (Specific examples? Types? Organization?)
Too contextual? Anecdotal to my class & experience?
Critical thinking & pushing someone beyond one’s comfort level? (definition??)
Issues of culture, race, gender? Include?