December 9, 2013 — Fail, Failure, Language Arts, Learning, Reflection, Ruminations Tagged failure, language arts, learning, platteview, Reflection
I teach an Advanced Placement English class. It’s a challenging class. It’s hard. Really. There are times when it’s not fun. High school me would’ve struggled with it. Undergrad me probably would’ve struggled with it a bit. Shoot! Come to think of it, there are days when I would struggle with it now, if I were juggling what my students are juggling.
The students have to learn difficult vocabulary–words that show up frequently in classic literature–and they have to use said vocabulary in context. They have to learn how to identify AND write in sentence structures that I didn’t learn about until college or after. They have to read challenging, sometimes dense, sometimes archaic, sometimes confusing (but beautiful! controversial! poetic! lovely! wonderful! universally truthful), texts, rife with figurative language, dripping with irony, loaded with difficult-to-decipher symbols (but that have withstood the test of time). They are in charge of leading discussions. They are responsible for analyzing literature through writing.
I view this class as not just a way to prepare for the Advanced Placement test they will (hopefully) take (and DOMINATE) in the Spring, but to prepare them for college, and more importantly, to ready them for the cruel world after college. In it, they are exposed to rich content, but even more importantly–they practice and (usually) master transferable skills that they will use for the rest of their lives: effective writing in multiple modes, critical thinking, creativity, idea generation, collaboration, decision-making, time management …
They blog. They analyze. They interact face-to-face. They interact digitally. They do or do not hit deadlines (and there are consequences for both). They write. They speak. They think. They think. They think. They think and think and think!
They are currently synthesizing their skills in the form of a mimesis–an assignment that requires them to create an original short story that mimics (in more than one way) the work of a famous author, whom they have studied in depth. It is–to use one of their vocabulary words–arduous. It is hard work. It takes time. It takes tenacity. It’s not something most people can write in an hour and half (though I have a student who claims he did … !)
And, at the end of last week and today, nearly half of them brought me paperwork to drop my class at semester.
Herein lies my feeling of failure.
Some of the students have legitimate-sounding excuses for dropping the class. Some of them do not. However, underneath all these reasons–legit or not–is a nagging question: What did I do wrong?
I want this class to be rigorous. In fact, it’s required, by College Board standards to be rigorous. My district requires it to be rigorous. However, I don’t want to be so rigid as to drive away my students. They are, after all, some of my favorite people in the whole world! Don’t get me wrong: I realize that not every students is cut out for Advanced Placement English, and it is a typical event for some of them to drop at semester, but the sheer number of drops this time around has me in a bit of a stupor.
As a result of these drops, I’m not feeling like the greatest teacher. Not that I ever feel like I am THE greatest teacher, but today, I am feeling pretty down. It is my instinct to keep these feelings to myself or maybe to whine a little to one of my mentors, but I have decided to reflect here–”out loud”–because I don’t think we lament enough in public. It’s important to put our best selves forward to the world when we can, but it’s also okay to reveal the moments that are the most trying. This week has started out with a fizzle, but this anticipated mass exodus of students has deepened my resolve to continually improve myself as a teacher. But for today, I’m going to take some time to marinate in this feeling of disappointment and to labor over my aforementioned question, along with these:
- What can I do differently to retain more of my students?
- What can I do to impart–to students and their parents–that what you learn in a class is more important than the almighty grade?
- Is this class’s level of rigor befitting a entry-level college English literature and writing course or have I taken it too far?
- Are my expectation too high? (I don’t think so–but believe me–I will think about this.)
I’m holding onto the hope that tomorrow and the next day and the next day will be better days–as a result of reflection and time. I’m holding onto the hope that next semester, I’ll be a better teacher–as a result of this semester’s events and as a result of this public reflection on some very raw feelings.
December 9, 2013 — Language Arts, Student Blogging Tagged passion, platteview, student blogging
*Updated from my April 2013 post
My students, like many writers, crave feedback! Here is a LINK to a roster of their blogs: http://morgetron.edublogs.org/my-students-passion-blogs/ If you have the time and the *positive* energy to share, please visit one or more of them and leave them a little (or big) message. It will make their day!
The best types of comments are
A. questions that extend the conversation
Why do you believe the unicameral is such a positive thing?
Do you believe that this will change the way we do business in America?
B. observations about the content or style of the post
I noticed that you are very passionate about aliens!
I’d never thought about deer habitats from the perspective of a deer before I read your post.
C. counter-points to a position (done respectfully)
As someone who has experienced hunger first-hand, I disagree with your stance on welfare.
D. personal or observational connections you made to their post
This reminds me of the time I made my teacher laugh so hard, she cried.
Your writing reminds me of David Sedaris’s!
Wow! This is some dandy writing!
Keep writing! This is goooooood stuff!
In all honesty, though, I believe ANY comment–even brief ones–can encourage students to continue writing. Just knowing they have an audience will propel them.
Thank you for your time!
October 10, 2013 — Uncategorized
October 9, 2013 — Language Arts Tagged Chaucer, Vine
Here is an assignment I recently assigned my World Literature students:
Now that we’ve read “The Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales, “The Pardoner’s Tale” and the “Wife of Bath’s Tale”, you are going to (re)tell a tale yourself.
You and your partner(s) should choose from the tales posted on this Google doc and sign up by filling in your names under the tale of your choice.
-To creatively and accurately interpret a piece of classic text.
Follow these steps:
1. Choose a tale. (Skim the tales HERE, so you get a feel for what you’re signing up for.)
2. Read the tale (and the intro, prologue and/or epilogue, if applicable).
3. Write a summary of the tale and show the summary to Mrs. M for approval.
4. Plan out a retelling—> How do you want to present it? Who will play which character? What format will you use? When will you practice it?
5. Create a TEASER with the VINE app. Here’s an example of what that might look like.
6. Create a LIVE retelling of the story to present in class. You should present your tale in either a modern OR a medieval way (your choice) and you should bring the character(s) to life through VOICE, COSTUME, and BODY LANGUAGE. In some cases, this will mean that you will be playing more than one character. You might present it any way you wish though. For instance, you may go into “story time with <insert your name>” mode OR you might pretend to host a talk show about the tale of your choice. You will also be judged on the accuracy of your retelling.
This is the single-point rubric I’ll be using to grade your project: CTretellingRUB.
Here are some ideas from 2013′s first semester class.
The Reeve’s Tale: This pair presented their tale in the form of a newscast. One student was the news reporter and he interviewed the other student who was in character as The Reeve. The reporter asked The Reeve leading questions and The Reeve gave an accurate account of what happened to him from his point of view.
The Monk’s Tale: This student worked alone and she presented each of the mini-tales within The Monk’s Tale in the form of sing-songy poetry. It was a very clever way to summarize this overwhelming tale.
The Friar’s Tale: This pair presented their tale in the form of a kindergarten story hour, which was interesting, considering the dark topic. They asked for audience participation and assigned roles to their classmates as they told their tale. They also asked lots of questions and taught their peers the meaning of some of the more archaic terms and language. They also asked in which style the “children” would like the tale to be told, to which one of the “children” (me) asked them to do it in a Southern accent. This had nothing to do with the story, but it added an element of fun and it helped to engage the audience.
September 10, 2013 — Language Arts Tagged Beowulf, Creative Writing, Grendel, language arts, platteview, Social Problem
EPIC POEM BASICS
- The HERO is an nationally (or internationally) important (often legendary or historically significant) figure who is (usually) physically imposing and/or attractive.
- The SETTING is vast — it may span the nation, the world, even the universe (or in our case, it might be local — as in the school or Springfield.
- The QUEST consists of good deeds, bravery (sometimes at a supernatural level), supernatural powers and interference or assistance from forces beyond the realm of humanity (“the gods,” angels, or other heavenly–or otherwise–forces).
- The writing STYLE is one of grand simplicity and is told objectively.
YOUR story MUST have
- a HERO (like Beowulf) and
- a SOCIAL PROBLEM, as represented metaphorically by the MONSTER (like Grendel and his representation of the Devil or anything that worked against Biblical teachings).
- Your HERO must accept a QUEST and
- some sort of supernatural interference or powers must be present somewhere in the story.
- Your STYLE may be presented objectively, or you can approach it in a more contemporary narrative style.
- It is okay to exaggerate the social problem for the sake of increasing your story’s excitement.
The paper should be TYPED, and DOUBLE-SPACED.
“The New Guy.” Florida Center for Instructional Technology. Educational Technology Clearinghouse. <http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/ 86500/86537/86537_the-new-guy.htm>. September 10, 2013.
August 13, 2013 — 1:1 iPad, Language Arts, Social Media, Twitter Tagged communication, hashtag, learn, nebedchat, nebedu, platteview, student, teach, teacher, Twitter
If you’re getting ready to participate in a Twitter chat for the first time, this little post may be helpful to you.
I’ll be using #nebedchat as an example because my colleague Amanda Dickey (@sra_dickey) and I have invited some students to join in on the conversation we’ll be having about educational blogging on Wednesday, August 14 at 8PM CST.
The first thing to remember is always use the chat’s hashtag in all of the tweets you send in response to the chat. In this case, the hashtag is #nebedchat. Make sure that you leave enough space in your tweet for that hashtag because it counts against your 140 character count.
When you use a hashtag like #nebedchat, it creates a backchannel. A backchannel is just a place where ALL of the tweets that include the hashtag show up. You’ll notice a variety of tweets below. I captured this series of tweets whilst in the #nebedchat backchannel. Notice that all of the tweets include the #nebedchat hashtag.
NOTE: Click on the images in this entry to get a larger, clearer view of the screen captures I posted.
Some people use an app like Hootsuite to keep an eye on multiple hashtags, but when I am participating in a chat, here is what I do. I use Firefox, if I’m using my Macbook Air, and Safari, if I’m using my iPad, so that I can open multiple tabs simultaneously. I like to keep the backchannel for the chat AND my Twitter interactions tab open at the same time. That way I can see EVERY tweet posted in the backchannel as well as all tweets directed specifically to me.
(Any time someone posts something with my Twitter handle -@morgetron- it shows up in my interactions feed.) I toggle between these two tabs throughout the chat.
When you first arrive to a chat, it is usual practice to introduce yourself briefly–usually your name and occupation will do, but sometimes a moderator will ask for additional information.
In the tweet below, last week’s #nebedchat moderator, Chris (@chrisstogdill) asked everyone to introduce him/herself by tweeting his/her name, the school where he/she works or is associated with, his/her current position in said school and he briefly explained the preferred format for that night’s chat.
Many time there will be someone else designated as chat greeter too, so don’t be surprised if after you introduce yourself, someone other than the moderator welcomes you to the chat (though sometimes the moderator does double as a greeter as well). During busy chats, this practice is sometimes dropped, but #nebedchat-ters are notoriously friendly and odds are someone will pipe in with a warm welcome.
During a chat, the moderator typically uses a specific format which he/she generally will explain at the beginning of the chat (but not always). The most common format is this: the moderator poses a question, using the Q1, Q2, Q3 format. Like this:
Chris was the moderator and posed Question #2, by indicating Q2.
Then, when you answer a particular question, you use the corresponding A1, A2, A3, etc.
Cynthia (@cynthiastogdill) responded to Chris’s Q2 by indicating A2 (Answer 2).
I like Lenessa’s (@lenessakeehn) explanation for this practice as well:
During a chat you can respond to the questions posed by the moderator OR you can respond to what other people are saying. For example, you will notice that Laura (@mandery) responded to one of Chris’s questions. Then TJ Meyer (@tjmeyer12) responded to Laura’s tweet and included Kid President’s handle, (@iamkidpresident) since Laura mentioned him in her tweet. Laura tweeted back at TJ and then Daisy (@DaisyDyerDuerr) responded to Laura, TJ, and Kid President.
If you’re responding to what someone else says, you can just click on the REPLY link in the tweet to which you’re responding which should automatically format your tweet with that person’s (or like in Daisy’s case, people’s Twitter handles). You should still include the chat’s hashtag in your response though so that others involved in the chat can read your responses. Below, I included a screen capture of what it looks like when I clicked on the “reply” function on Daisy’s tweet. It automatically formatted my tweet to include Daisy’s, Laura’s, TJ’s, and Kid President’s Twitter handles. If I wanted to just reply to Daisy, I would remove the others’ names.
The main thing about Twitter chats is this–> You’ll be sharing in learning by communicating with people from all over. (You’ll notice that many people who participate in #nebedchat are educators from Nebraska, but others will be from elsewhere. For example, Daisy is from Arkansas. We have people joining us from all over the U.S. and from other countries as well.) View it as a friendly conversation–like people gathering at a coffee shop to discuss common topic of interest. It’s really low-pressure and you will be able to both give and receive helpful information.
If you are new to Twitter or new to Twitter chats or just a nervous lurker with a desire to break free from lurker status into active Tweep, #nebedchat is an excellent place to start. I would argue it is one of the friendliest chats out there. As long as you are there in the spirit of learning, everyone will deliver a warm welcome to you.
Are you still unsure about this? It’s okay to try things of which you are unsure. If you are really nervous though, tweet me (@morgetron) or send me an email and I will answer any questions you have: email@example.com.
For bonus points, here’s the preview-show for the upcoming #nebedchat. I hope you can join us.
June 27, 2013 — Language Arts Tagged learn, literacy, literature, read, reading, relationship, summer, teach
One of my students, who graduated this year, asked me to come up with a summer reading list for her. Keep in mind that this list is for a student whom I know well, (and I know her family well also), and who is heading off to college next year. This list probably wouldn’t work for every student. There’s some pretty edgy titles here, but I thought I would share, in case you’re looking for that sort of list. Click on the link to travel to the SMORE where I’m housing this list.
April 19, 2013 — 1:1 iPad, Language Arts Tagged Macbeth, platteview, Shakespeare, Student Videos
Shakespeare’s work is a tricky thing to teach to high school students. The main barrier is the difficult language. If you can get them past that, or used to that, or to understand that, or to accept that–you’ve made quite an accomplishment.
When I was in high school, Shakespeare really wasn’t even on my radar (for the aforementioned reasons paired with my inherently distracted nature). In college, I TRIED to understand Shakespeare and had moments of clarity, but still … not much sank in for me. In my younger years of teaching *I* didn’t even *LIKE* Shakespeare’s work, which made it really hard to teach effectively. After nearly a decade and a half of teaching Shakespeare’s plays (Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth) I have grown to LOVE his work — FOR the LANGUAGE, no less (!!!), for the genius characterization, for the uncanny (and timeless) portrayal of human nature and universal themes, and for its amazing relevance TODAY. Right here. Right now.
But the language …
… it’s sooooooo harrrrrd.
We make baby steps. If you can get the kids to playyyy with the language, they begin to build confidence in it. If you can show them that it–STILL, to this very day, after 14 years of teaching, two college degrees and the purchase of your very own bust of Shakespeare, YOU have trouble with it sometimes, YOU have to look up the meaning of a word or stare blankly into the abyss sometimes, or ponder the word order of a sentence sometimes–they feel less fear towards it. If you give them access to silly wigs and costumes and beg them to use zany accents (relevant OR irrelevant OR reverent OR irreverent to the original play itself) they can have fun (even just a little … they MIGHT even admit to said fun–GASP!) with the universality of it all.
Very recently, I was turned on to an app called Vine, which is a simple iPhone video capturing service (which links and embeds nicely with Twitter) that also is compatible with the iPad. It features a “hold and shoot” style video camera that maxes out at seven seconds, which (obviously) limits what you can fit into a clip. When you are trying to build students’ confidence in Shakespeare, this is a welcome limitation. If you ask a student who is hesitant to read Shakespeare to make a five-minute video portraying an scene, that might overwhelm him or her. Methinks pretty much anyone can handle 7 seconds of Shakespeare. The “hold and shoot” feature also allows for easy “special effects”. It’s hard to explain, but you will see what I mean when I show you a handful of example videos.
The assignment was as follows.
1. Pick your favorite character from Macbeth thus far. (We had read through Act III at the time of the assignment.)
2. Pick your favorite line that character has delivered thus far.
3. Think of how that character would deliver that line.
4. Try to “become” that character. (Costumes were available in the classroom. I am the drama teacher, after all.)
5. Using Vine, have a classmate capture you delivering that line.
6. Tweet me your vine, including my Twitter handle (@morgetron), the class hashtag (#phsWORlit), the character you chose, and let everyone know it’s from Macbeth. If you don’t tweet, send me the video via email and I will tweet it on your behalf. If you don’t want your video posted on the web, say so in your email. (I HAVE to respect my students’ desires to stay off the web and some parents are not crazy about their kids online either, which is understandable.)
Now those were the instructions I gave, but, as most plans do, these plans changed, particularly when we got to numbers 5 and 6. Number 5 became an issue for students who either didn’t want to or couldn’t download another app on their machine for whatever reason or students. Vine crashed on 2 of the 23 students involved during the process. This issue was easily solved by reverting to the built-in iPad camera and then students just emailed me their videos. The only challenge with that was that the students had to make sure that they remained under 7 seconds.
Once students realized that in order to tweet me their vine link, their video would be showing up in their own Twitter feeds, some were reluctant to tweet. This is where we hit the first snag with number 6. One student even said, “If I send this to you, YOU can post it, but I don’t want to post it to my followers.” In response, I offered the email option to ALL students, even Vine users. (If you allow Vine access to your photos, it will store all of your Vine videos in your iPad’s camera roll.) A secondary snag for number 6 came into play when I realized I could no longer embed the students’ videos into a tweet as a vine, so I had to upload the emailed vines to another video sharing service. (It would be nice if Vine added an email option.) I chose Vimeo.
Once the videos processed, I tweeted the links to them, tagging each tweet with our classroom hashtag. (This makes it easier when I send information to parents who want to see what’s going on in class.) The problem with this, I found out after I had posted a handful of tweets with Vimeo links is that even though they appear to embed within the tweet, unless you are a paid Vimeo Plus member, they do not embed. This is annoying because, as I previously mentioned, they APPEARED to embed and they showed up on my profile with a thumbnail view of each video, but when one clicks on the tweet itself, a message appears stating, “Sorry. The creator of this video has not given you permission to embed it on this domain. This is a Vimeo Plus feature.” If I had known this prior to going through the process of uploading a slew of videos to Vimeo, I would’ve gone the Youtube route. LESSON LEARNED. This was only a minor annoyance though. People who find themselves staring at my tweets promoting my students’ work can still click on the link itself and will be redirected to the Vimeo site where they can watch the video hassle-free. No bigs.
Since Vine was a new app to most of the students, some of our time was spent exploring Vine’s offerings, which includes looking through the videos housed in Vine’s collection. (It is a video sharing service, so there are countless videos available for perusal. Some redirecting was necessary. The “hold and shoot” feature is different than the usual “click and record” function of the iPad camera, so this took some getting used to as well. To some, this might feel like time wasted, but I view it as “frontloading”. What I mean by that is, it’s time spent wearing the newness off the app in addition to learning how to use it. In the long run, it’ll actually save us time because I won’t have to deal with (as much) covert video-watching, or (as much) explanation of the app’s features.
The resulting videos were overall fun and demonstrated a playful attitude towards Shakespeare’s difficult language. What follows are a couple of examples.
This one is posted on Vine, while the other ones are posted on Vimeo.
Kyle as Multiple Witches from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.
Michelle as a Weird Sister from Macbeth from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.
Payton as Macduff AND Lady Macbeth from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.
Emily as Lady Macbeth from Jodie Morgenson on Vimeo.
April 15, 2013 — Ruminations Tagged balance, Library, modern, morgetron, old fashioned, Ruminations, Thoughts
For as much as I believe in technology integration, changing with the times, and embracing new ideas, I still love doing things the old-fashioned way.
This post was mainly inspired by this:
This is the library of a college near my home. I took some students to a workshop there last week and one of the students took us on a tour of the campus. It was a lovely workshop for the most part, and the campus was delightful overall, but walking past a library without a (traditional) book in sight (I’m certain there were e-readers present) stirred a sadness in me.
One of my students even said, “This is a total turnoff. I will not consider this college nor any college that has a library with no books.” Of the students who gave me (unsolicited) feedback, none of them were happy about the bookless library. Three of them said it made them sad. One seemed more angry than anything … maybe even outraged.
I am guilty of getting overly wrapped up in technology. I have become concerned that I’m more interested in documenting my life and my children’s lives that I’m not living it as fully as I could be if I (more frequently) were to set the iPad down or unplug from my (slow and cumbersome at-home) wifi connection and go outside. It’s not that I never set foot outside or spend time with my children. I just have realized how much of my time is involved in social media, reading the latest articles, networking with peers outside of my school, and … yes … I must admit … dinking a round on games and mindless surfing. (Do people still “surf the web”? I just realized I haven’t used that phrase for ages. Hmmm.) But there are still things that I like to kick old style. Reading a book is one of them.
Other things I still like to do the old-fashioned way:
- write letters (but I love personal emails too)
- visit places in person (though if I never make it to Paris, some of the cyber tours I’ve taken are pretty slick)
- look at pictures (I realized this when I was going through the scads of photos I have of my youngest daughter as I was putting together a slideshow for her graduation party, which we are in the throws of planning as I type. *sighhhh*)
- hang out with friends (though hanging out with distant friends/loved ones via Skype or Google Hangout is a decent substitute)
It has been assumed by some that because I am a tweetaholic, or because I work in a 1:1 iPad school, or because I sign up for PD at every turn that I’m ONLY into technology, but that’s not true.
I love the simple things in life–a good book, a cup of tea, receiving a letter from an old friend, taking a walk with my daughters and husband, petting my dogs. However, I also love social media, streaming entire television series on my computer, and iMessage AND what technology has done for the classroom.
I suppose it’s a balance between modern and “old” that I crave.
April 5, 2013 — 1:1 iPad, gratitude, Ruminations Tagged 1to1, learn, platteview, teach
This blog was originally concocted in an effort to document my experience as a teacher in the first year of a 1:1 iPad school. I certainly haven’t blogged as often as I originally intended, but I’ve noticed that most of my posts are not centered around iPads at all. My first post set that up though –> I wasn’t expecting our iPads to transform our school into some sort of megaplex of learning (anymore than it already is), but I was hopeful at the chance for all of my students to have equal access (or closer to equal access) to resources that were, at best spotty, in previous years. Closing that gap between HAVE and HAVE NOTS was what I appreciated most about the prospect of going 1:1. I believe our 1:1 initiative has done just that.
However, what this blog turned out to be more than anything was a place to share things that work for me (so that others may benefit) and to promote my students’ work and experience. Some of these things, work, and experiences involve iPads as a “star,” but most do not. In other words, though having iPads at our fingertips has been (mostly) wonderful, it hasn’t changed what I do in the classroom very much. It’s given me different ways to do it, but I’m still striving for the same outcomes, rolling with the same punches, and having similar successes and failures that I’ve had in years past.
When it comes down to it, most teachers I know have a knack for finding what works for their individual students regardless of the resources provided to them. I am grateful that my job and my students lives are easier because of the incredible educational instruments we as a school community have close at hand every day, but bottom line –> good teaching is good teaching AND, more importantly good learning is good learning. Both can transcend the devices we have at our disposal.