Students at my school began Wednesday, August 1st. The first day of school was typical: teaching procedures, going over the syllabus, explaining expectations--the usual housekeeping at the beginning of the year.

Yesterday, I had my students complete a Writing Interests Survey. Categories on the survey included things such as sports, personal, outdoors, and fantasy/supernatural. Sub-categories were Professional Sports, College Sports, High School Sports (sports); Losses, Relationships, Experiences (personal); Mythological Creatures, Dragons and Monsters, Vampires and Werewolves (fantasy/supernatural). The inspiration behind evaluating what students are intersted in writing is to inspire them to write more and to write often. Two days a week, students will write in thematic journals based on their writing surveys in order to inspire them to write and write often. This process will (hopefully) make it desirable for the individual student to try his or her best in writing. I will post the tallies of specific classes at a later date so you can see what students in rural West Virginia are interested in.

On our school's block days and Fridays, they will engage in Sustained Silent Reading: reading for pleasure for a designated part of the class period. The idea behind this design is to reinstate a desire to read in the "digital" student.

Regarding the NxG Standards: Today, students worked in their "quads" (desks grouped in fours) to evaluate the new WV NxG Reading Standards (though we could take class time to study the writing, speaking/listening, and language standards as well, the reasoning behind this activity was to expose them to the langauge. As an ELA teacher, you may decide to have your students evaluate ALL standards, but I will tell you this: it took approximately 30 minutes for my students to read through and dissect only the Reading standards and an additional 15 minutes to report to the large group. It is up to you how much class time you would want to take on this activity). Students were instructed to read the standards together and note the following things on a piece of paper folded into a trifold: what they noticed about the standards, what interested/excited them about the standards, and what worried them about the new standards. Though some of them gave humorous answers, here are some of the things my students came up with:

What students noticed:
1) Use of the word "analyze" in almost every standard
2) All of the standards have a code
3) The standards use a lot of "big words" (which I explained to them was mostly academic vocabulary, to be studied in our classroom
4) Many words are repeated, such as "determine", "evaluate", "cite", and "textual evidence"
5) We will be reading informational texts.

What students found interesting:
1) It looks like we'll be reading about characters and main ideas
2) We will be reading informational texts

What worries students:
1) It seems like all we will do is analyze.
2) We don't understand some of the language in the standards, so how will we "get" what to do?
3) There's a lot to learn

If you think about it, considering these were ninth and tenth grade students
(so, roughly ages 14 - 16), some of their responses were quite respectable.

Beginning Monday, my students will begin Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week (go to kellygallagher.org and explore his archives: it's a great resource for informational texts--all free and printable) and, if time permits, they will complete a Book Pass (to be explained in a later blog). The Book Pass will move to Tuesday if the AOW takes the full period on Monday.
 
 
Today we presented WV's NxG Standards to a small audience for county training. When we saw the numbers yesterday, we were discouraged: today, we only had two individuals attend training: one freshmen English teacher from our city school and one gifted instructor. Though slightly bothered by the low turn out, we still ended up having a very healthy discussionn regarding the standards during the workshop.

To begin, we had our participants try writing a six-word memoir as an introduction. The goal of this exercise is to, in six words or less, describe yourself. It's a strategy any ELA (or other content area) teacher could use as an ice breaker at the beginning of the school year or semester to get to know his or her students. And, approaching introductions in this manner causes students to really think about what words they could use: after all, they only can use six. Throughout the rest of the morning, we had our two participants examine each of the four standards (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language) independently and then reflect back to the larger group. After exploring standards both of our participants came of with questions my colleagues and I had come up with when we attended the state training for NxG/Common Core Standards a few weeks ago. The following two questions were asked:


  • If we implement these new standards in detail this year with the Smarter Balanced Assessment in mind, how will that affect our WESTEST 2 scores? Will we be preparing the students enough for this test?
  • With the shifts in recommended texts by grade level, what do we do if a text is taught in multiple grade levels?
Eventually I will publish an entry explaining the Smarter Balanced Assessement to be taken in the 2014-2015 school year, but the answer to this question really is quite simple: regardless of the depth in which you apply the new standards into the classroom, you will still be preparing the student for WESTEST 2. Though the new standards are, indeed, different, they cover much of the same material as the old CSOs but cover them instead in a much more in-depth, detailed approach. The other two presenters and I (as well as representatives from the state) are confident that if you are teaching based on the new standards, you will be preparing your students for WESTEST 2.

Many ELA teachers in WV have also noticed the shift in  recommended texts for grade levels. Macbeth, for example, before taught in 11th or 12th grade, has become a recommended text for 9th grade. Romeo and Juliet is another text that has "shifted": it is now recommended that Romeo and Juliet be taught in 8th grade instead of ninth. My colleagues and I really had two answers for this: 1) You could accept that some teachers will want to stick to teaching a certain text in the grade level "it has always been taught" and teach a work comparable to such. Alternatively, a teacher of 9th grade could 2) teach excerpts from the initial text rather than the whole text. The example I cam up with was to teach Macbeth's "dagger speech" and then link it to a supplementary text with a similar theme or purpose.

During afternoon session we introduced our participants to the Performance Tasks the mirror what the Smarter Balanced Assessment's Performance Task/Constructive Response questions will entail and, like us, the participants realized a shift in instruciton must occur for students to be successful when taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment in 2014-2015.

Tomorrow, my colleagues and I decided to give teachers time to plan and collaborate, since collaboration is a HUGE part of the new standards. We will first introduce them to model units on the WVDE state site (which I can link to in the next entry) and then the freshmen teachers from both schools (me, the other presenter, and our participant) will begin outlining a 3-6 week unit plan. The goal is that students at the rural school (where I work) and the city school (where the two of them teach) could be (potentially) teaching nearly the same thing at similar times.

Overall, it was a very successful first day of workshopping: I'm anxious to get together with our participants tomorrow and continue to "put our heads together"...











 
 
Because that's exactly what this is: an opportunity for you, as a fellow educator, to put my practices under the microscope, ask me questions, watch my journey with NxG and Common Core, and to help you understand that you're not the only teacher out there worried about her potential success (or failure) with "New Education." This is our opportunity as educators to discuss what works with one may not work with another or what works well in general. Why not create a such a resource? I'm excited to be that "url".

Later, I intend to post about the purpose (goal) of Common Core. Most of you out there have already been exposed to what exactly its intentions are, but I've always learned it's best to start from the beginning.

Topics to be discussed in the next entry:

  •  How the NxG/Common Core movement can help the West Virginia Student
  • The ability for this educational movement to empower
  • The role of the teacher with NxG/Common Core
  • States that have moved to Common Core
  • How this is changing education