Reinventing Room 121

A place for all our voices

Reinventing Room 121

Global Read Aloud 2014 has arrived!

October 6, 2014 · No Comments · ENG1D, ENG1P

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Why the Global Read Aloud?

Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part of something bigger than them. That the world needs to be protected and that we need to care for all people. You can show them pictures of kids in other countries but why not have them speak to each other? Then the caring can begin. –from GlobalReadAloud.com
The grade 9s at Wasse-Abin will be exploring the novel The Fault in our Stars with a few other schools this fall via GoodReads.com and The Fault in Our Stars Tackk.
Stay tuned for updates!

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This is me in grade 9 baby! This is me in grade 9!

September 21, 2014 · No Comments · ENG1D, ENG1P, Learning

 journal coverOne of the truly awesome things about keeping a journal or daybook is having the opportunity to look back at ourselves. We think we remember who we were in grade 9, say, but our memories are not always terribly accurate. Our writing captures our voice in the moment, and when we re-read that text years later, the freshness, energy, and passion flies across time and we remember.

You have been asked to maintain a daybook this year. Daybooks have many roles. They can house everything that happens in class. They provide a space for reflective thinking. They are a place for us to store our writing on the way to creating a final product. Daybooks can have all manner of writing: lists, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, multiple sentences. They can be messy and help push us past a sense of perfectionism that we have to find true learning.

My writing over the years has been mostly reflective; a long personal narrative that really only exists in paragraph form. This is not what you are being asked to do, but it is what I was asked to do and it is what I can share with you.

Here are my words from the week of September 8, 1976….word for word:

1st week.

Today is the 1st day I’m writing for Mr. R again, for the year. I hope we, Mr. R and I, get along better than we did today, in the future. I mean after today I can wait to go back to school, or English anyways. 

Besides English, my other classes went really well. (even French) I’m really looking forward to History, Geography and Science this year. The courses sound really interesting. French will be french, what can one say? The books for Lit sound really interesting also, and I really like the Prose and Poetry books. Comp started off on the wrong foot, but it always takes me awhile to adapt to changes* and get settled, so I’ll probably enjoy the course. Last but not least Math! All I can say is that it’ll probably be hard but somehow with Dr. J, we always have fun!

The weather was ROTTEN! today! Rainy, cold, and windy, even snow is better than that, eh? Anyways this weather is giving me pains, the flu, actually. I’m practically living on aspirins and vitamin C’s. 

Talking about “pains” I think I’ll have to put up with Eileen all weekend, out of town that is! We, “the Balens”, are going to the cottage this coming weekend and Eileen is coming. Really, it should be a riot!!

Well so much for my problems today! Like my mom says I should get a boyfriend, so I could worry about him and not the little petty things! ‘night!

*Quotations: 

Change

“There is nothing permanent except change.”   [Heraclitus]

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Welcome to Room 121!

September 1, 2014 · No Comments · ELS20, ENG1D, ENG1P

Classroom Rules2.jpg-largeI am terrifically excited to be teaching and learning with and from you! I do not mean this lightly. Learning, at its best, is a collaborative activity–that’s right! When we learn together, we will always learn more. At first, this learning together business is tough to figure out. What does it mean? What does it look like? Sound like? How is learning together different than me teaching and you learning? 

Here is a list for our consideration. Learning together is….

  • participatory
  • sharing our expertise
  • listening closely to each other
  • having our voice heard
  • communicating with each other beyond “class time”
  • providing feedback to each other on the work that we are creating
  • moving past the idea that the teacher ‘knows all’

If we can focus on learning, truly learning by taking risks, thinking big, putting forward effort, and never giving up, together, we will be ready for whatever the future holds for us. We will be “learning ready”.

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Feedback. Beyond the Mark.

May 20, 2014 · 2 Comments · ENG1P, ENG2D

Much of what we do in English class is about process: reading deeply and creating analytic notes, planning, organizing, drafting, editing, and publishing writing, viewing various texts and thinking through the stories they are telling. Before, during, and after the processes, we support our learning with feedback strategies. We develop success criteria, conference together, talk to one another, share our work, and provide written comments. We don’t often fail outright.

But last week, you wrote a test.

It wasn’t a test of memorization, of regurgitating names and dates. Rather, it was a test of skills and problem solving. Show  how well you can read and annotate a text. Show how you support your thinking with evidence. Show how you apply MLA rules. Show how you can apply the rules of grammar in editing. And because you could use any resource in the room to help you (other than a person…no phone a friend in this test, although that is a great strategy) –your binder, your hanging folder, the literacy tool kit, dictionaries, and Chromebooks – this test was also about demonstrating how you are able to solve challenges and overcome obstacles in your learning.

Tests can be failed.

What does that test result tell you about your learning? What feedback is it providing to you?

More than anything else this semester, we are learning to be learners. We have been learning about and practicing growth mindset all semester. We have set long-term goals and created a plan to help us reach those goals.

When you get your test back, take some time to think about what the feedback is. Remember that feedback is not about praise or blame, approval or disapproval. Feedback is neutral. It describes what you did and did not do (Wiggins). Then post your thoughts to your blog about that feedback.

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Are you kidding? National Poetry Month? There’s such a thing?

April 1, 2014 · 10 Comments · ENG2D

Oh ya.

There is such a thing, and it has begun.

 

Refrigerator Door Poem Stonehenge
Photo Credit: Jackie via Compfight

Unbeknownst to you, National Poetry Month started April 1st! Our remixing of poetry today was right on schedule. And what fun we are having creating ‘new’ poems from existing poetry and then extending the meaning of the poems through illustrations, fonts, spacing, and paper and colour choices.

We are not done with making poetry…not yet.

In the meantime, you might want to check out some pretty cool poetry sites. First up is actually a how-to on formatting your poetry in your blog. I love these pointers.

Another great site to check out is The Teen Writers and Artists Project. The first poem posted is a really poignant, and to the point.

Check it out and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

MAKE GOOD ART!

 

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Reflection #2

March 25, 2014 · 6 Comments · ENG2D

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The Transformative Power of Reading and Talking Literature

March 16, 2014 · 1 Comment · ENG2D

031/365 - The Reader
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Antoine Robiez via Compfight

Why stories?

If we ever need to be reminded about the importance of stories in our lives, the month of March does the job with World Read Aloud Day on the 5th, World Storytelling Day on the 20th, and Canada Reads 2014 from March 3 – 6.

And we do need reminding.

Take Stephen Lewis, Canadian philanthropist and activist, who acknowledges during Canada Reads 2014 that he has not been a reader of fiction, but through his participation in Canada Reads he claims “I am determined to start serious reading…[the conversation about books] engages you in the literature.” (7:00 mark)

I needed reminding too.

For too long, I have been reading professional education texts by the likes of Dweck, Hattie, Katz, Kittle, Boushey and Moser, Routman, Allington-you get the idea.  As a new literacy coach, the gaps in my knowledge about K-6 literacy, in particular, were unavoidable; I was after all a high school English teacher. But one needs to respond to challenges, right? One way I cope with the queasiness that high levels of risk creates in me is to work really hard.

Head down and go.

The thing about learning is that it is all-absorbing. It’s not  that I didn’t have time for literature (both fiction and creative non-fiction); it’s that I only had time for reading that supported my learning. It’s a matter of perceived value.

Don’t get me wrong, I did read–there were all the incredible primary stories that reminded me of the absolute joy that illustrators offer, Giraffe and Bird  (what attitude expressed on the page!!) being one of my favourites . And the middle school stories that grab your heart and punch & hug & hold onto you like Wonder does.  And the YA stories that push the dark corners of possibility closer to the centre of our consciousness-magic, fantasy, science fiction, crime, war, and love-there’s wonder here, but there’s pain too: The Fault in Our Stars, The  Hunger Games, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, The Maze Runner, Little Brother, For the Win, Into the Wild. And lastly, I did read the odd adult story like State of Wonder and Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. 

But, with my return to the classroom and to reading with and along side my students, I am once again immersed in those conversations about life that emerge from the perspective of literature. This is so satisfying. Stories, after all, are the lens through which I have grappled with all of life’s complexities, and helping my students create that lens for themselves is a goal to be sure. So, the students of Room 121 have begun thinking about stories or ways of knowing. We are reading biographies or autobiographies of one sort or another at the moment. Our list of titles includes The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, A Beautiful Mind, Metallica, J.K. Rowling, Into Thin Air, Amelia Earhart, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Steve Jobs: The Man who Thought Different, Her Last Death: A Memoir, Six Months in Sudan, Steven Tyler,  A Long Way Gone.

I love the diversity of these titles and I love that in each case the reader can think about the story as a legitimate way to understand his or her life.

But, but, but…..what titles can you suggest for us?

And, and, and…..check back to see what we are thinking about our reading.

Thanks.

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Learning to be learners.

February 15, 2014 · 15 Comments · ENG2D, ENG2P, Growth Mindset, Learning

We have spent two weeks exploring what researchers have discovered about the brain and about what Prof. Carol Dweck has theorized about how we can grow our intelligence and realize our potential. And although every one of us can agree to growth mindset statements like “You can always substantially change how intelligent you are”,  I wonder if we can walk that talk.  I mean, to substantially change how intelligent I am, I have to do something, right?

And Professor Dweck makes it crystal clear that the thing I have to do is work hard and face setbacks head on.

Translation: Work hard means practicing and practicing means doing the work in class and independently; i.e. homework.

Translation: Facing setbacks means understanding that not getting it right away, revising, and redoing are all part of overcoming obstacles in our learning.

In the Mindset Survey we did in class, we all agreed that ” The harder you work at something, the better you will be at it.”

Let’s right now recognize that learning is hard. Maybe learning to learn is even harder. We need to do this together, because together we are better.

Here are some ways we might be able to support each other:

  1. Be leaners. Go ahead and help out the person beside you. And go ahead and accept help when it comes your way.
  2. Be a homework buddy.
  3. Use email to ask questions.
  4. Comment on each other’s blogs–often.
  5. Bring our passions into the classroom.

Now it’s your turn. In the space below, add your responses, ideas, questions, suggestions:

How do we learn to be learners?

 

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Thinking about our thinking.

February 8, 2014 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

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Rise up, rise up.

February 5, 2014 · 1 Comment · Technology

Technology integration is on the rise at Wasse-Abin High School this semester. Mr. Baumgarten’s TGJ3M class has a new blog that will feature their work in digital photography. Ms. Black’s ENG2L class has a class blog. You can check it out here. Of course, ENG2D and 2P, have this class blog, but we also have our individual blogs, and we are using Twitter and other web 2.0 tools in our learning. And Wasse-Abin has a new school blog that is almost ready for launch. I am looking for bloggers and editors to help flesh out the site, so if you are interested, please speak to me or use the Contact Us page or Tweet me @msbalen. It’s time we all become more savvy with our use of technology, especially in our learning!

 This is where I am headed…

image by Bill Ferriter @plugusin

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