This entire bookshelf of Black History and culture-related books, puzzles, posters, and teacher guides was donated by a former student's grandmother (the bookshelf itself, too!) A truly priceless collection that I cannot believe is now in my possession!
Every year, during our unit on the American Revolution, I screen The Patriot for students. Students always enjoy the film and are enthusiastic to see aspects of the war that we have discussed in class play out in the movie. I've yet to meet a student, however, who enjoyed the movie more than dear Anthony. From wanting to do extra credit projects to dressing up as Mel Gibson's character for Halloween to parading around school with his flag I found on Amazon, I've yet to meet a more die hard fan and it's made my job as a Social Studies teacher that much more enjoyable! :)
One more day before Winter break and we'll still working! We've been meticulously working on Cornell Notes, capturing main ideas and key details and including summaries at the end. To make this work, it's been absolutely imperative that I always have a teacher exemplar ready so that I 1) have a clear product to guide my monitoring of student work and 2) have easy reference points for students who need additional support and/or who are absent. It's amazing what we can push our students to do when we're extremely clear about what we want to see!
KIPP is known for its teaching of character strengths and it can sometimes be problematic in the sense that we are assuming our students sometimes don't already have these strengths in them, that they must be taught. But far more often than not, I'm reminded that our students come to us already strong, already in the habit of developing character, often in the simple feats they perform everyday. Enter Abdul. You want to know what grit is? Grit is coming to the United Stats from Yemen a few months ago, struggling with English, getting knocked down 10+ hours a day in rigorous classes, and still coming to school with a smile on your face each day. Grit is getting angry and crumpling papers and sometimes running away (literally) because you're confused, but throwing yourself back into it anyways because you want to get better (plus your teacher runs faster than you and always catches you). Grit is Abdul and I don't know if any demonstration of grit I've ever done in my lifetime has compared to the grit I see in him each day. And this evening I had the chance to sit down at his house, meet his family and talk over dinner about who he is and what he needs and I've never felt more grateful to do the work I do. I hope that as teachers we continue to recognize our students' strengths and help them to cultivate those instead of convincing ourselves they need explicit teaching. Developing but never deficient.
I am so incredibly excited about the new school year! Summer School kicked off two weeks ago and we are now in the full swing of things! This year, I am only teaching 5th Grade History, which I am beyond thrilled to do.
I'm sticking with a "time traveling through history" theme (hence the old suitcases, books, globes, etc.) and have re-created my awesome people (of color) wall and quotes. Added a few new figures to be truly inclusive of the population I'm teaching with and look forward to adding more figures they personally identify with.
I'm really interested in the ways in which I'll be able to incorporate critically conscious thinking, teaching and learning into the curriculum in ways that I hope will help students to more critically engage with the world around them. I'm in the process of reading and re-reading several texts so as to best frame how I want to approach my classroom this year (including Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Zinn's People's History of the United States and Ruchi Agarwal-Rangnath's Social Studies, Literacy and Social Justice) and am actively engaging in conversations with other peers and educators alike to provide the most meaningful experience possible for our students. As a History Department in whole, we've discussed a multitude of academic and non-academic goals we want to set for our students this year, including more History-related fieldtrips, research-based assignments and opportunities for students to engage with their communities. I'm excited to see how all of this will play out and am eager to learn, tweak, create and re-create more as the year progresses.
In terms of what we've actually been doing so far, our fifth grade focus right now has been on starting and organizing our Interactive Notebooks. I've done some experimenting with Interactive Notebooks in the past and to be honest, it hasn't always been successful. They're tedious and time-consuming and you have to have a very clear vision from the very beginning on how you want them to be set up and maintained otherwise student investment dies out pretty quick (as does yours!) So I spent some time this summer researching and pulling resources and though we're only two weeks in, so far we've been successful. I provided students with Guidelines, had them process the information creatively, and have been very hands on in terms of step-by-step instructions and modeling as we continue to add to it. I've positively framed the entire experience as 1. being an extremely creative means by which students can take and organize important notes in a way that makes sense for them and 2. as a piece of artwork to be proud of and to treat with extreme care. I've been really amazed with some of the work so far!
Our first unit focuses on Native American cultures pre-European Exploration. I look forward to adding more updates soon as we engage with rich traditional stories and primary sources!
So it's definitely been some time since my last post and now that the new school year is off to a great start, I wanted to take some time to update the site. I've played around with the template, updated some content and have made a solemn vow to myself to keep this site updated more frequently this year (lol - we'll see how that goes). It's my sincere hope that I'll not only continue to provide an inside look into my classroom space, but to also provide resources for other teachers. But before I can get into any of that, I must announce some pretty big news...
I've moved! Across the country!
Lucky for me, I'm still working within the KIPP network and teaching 5th grade at that so the transition hasn't been too tough teaching-wise. What has been difficult at times, however, is coming to terms with the fact that I'm no longer in the city I grew to love, working closely with the students and families I've developed such strong relationships with. Good thing for Skype and FaceTime and Instagram and the fact that my former 5th graders are dedicated in keeping in touch! Nonetheless, I wanted to share some personal photos from the past few years in Charlotte that contain some of my favorite memories. Enjoy!
Maquaye turned into Mr. Joseph for us this morning to model color-coded paragraphs for text-based evidence. We're been working on incorporating evidence into our writing after we assert an original claim and I've found that student voice (and writing) can be more impressionable than teacher voice!
As our 2nd Social Studies Benchmark indicated, students are still having trouble citing text-based evidence in open response questions. This issue also speaks to their ability to answer multiple-choice questions that require the same skill.
In order to correct this, we spent time today re-evaluating how we initially wrote about two sources that conveyed two different European opinions of Native Americans during early settlement. First, we performed a close-reading of each text, annotating in the margins about the general ideas each European perspective represented. Then, we reviewed the following three steps (MSE) students should keep in mind when citing evidence from the text:
Make your claim
1. Copy the sentence directly from the text
2. Put the sentence in quotation marks (" ")
3. Include the page/paragraph number in parentheses after the quote
4. Add a period after the parentheses
Explain how your evidence supports your claim
Below you'll find an example of the re-looping questions, as well as student work that demonstrates her ability to properly use the MSE method.
Achieve 3000 is a phenomenal online program that provides differentiated informational text articles and corresponding activities, multiple-choice questions, and open-response opportunities for students. It tracks their progress, readjusts articles based on progress they have made with their Lexile level, and provides a great opportunity for me to give feedback on students' writing.
In order to increase investment this semester and to allow students to take more ownership of their progress, we've assembled a bulletin board and individual student tracking folders. In each folder, students have a personal data tracker, a Criteria for Success that outlines how to complete the full 5-step Achieve 3000 process for each article, and a one-pager on the different sorts of badges the program gives out for great work. Students know that their goal is to complete at least 40 articles at 75% or above. For each article that they complete at this level, they are able to move their car down "The Road to 40", inching closer to their goal each day. They also updated their individual trackers accordingly and use stickers to acknowledge the various "badges" they collect on the program for exemplary work.
Should you have any questions about the program or should you be interested in any of the materials I have assembled for the bulletin board/individual trackers, feel free to leave me a comment!