Well, our historical fiction and nonfiction book clubs are up and running.  Any given day there are things that excite me, amaze me, and shock me when it comes to my students, their reading lives, and their learning.  Today, I was shocked.

I had a sub yesterday so Megan bore the brunt of set up of the book clubs.  We thought for ease of sub plans (and sanity), our mini-lesson portion of the class would be activating student’s prior knowledge through the use of the trusty old K-W-L chart.  Students would talk through with their book clubs the things they knew about the time period of their books and things they’re hoping to learn.  This would be followed by independent reading and the reading response section of class would be spent discussing things learned.  Sounds easy, right? 

I’ve been teaching for 11 years.  All 11 years have been spent with 7th graders (with a few random years of 8th graders thrown in for good measure).  I COMPLETELY understand that middle school students tend to not remember things they were taught – like it’s erased from their memory with a wave of the wand and the “obliviate” charm.  However, when Megan told me that the vast majority of our students “claimed” they did not know what a K-W-L chart was and that they had seen nothing like it before, I was shocked.  Like, knock me on my hinder kind of shocked.  {insert sigh here}

Like I said, I understand the memory of a middle school student, so what they do and do not remember from past years doesn’t ruffle my feathers too much.  The K-W-L chart is just one of a few examples from this school year, and there’s part of me that is starting to wonder… are we focusing too intently on the “fun” and the “hands on” activities that we’ve forgotten about the foundations?  So, our mission (and we choose to accept it), is to be cognizant of the foundations, help our students activate as much prior (and future) knowledge as possible, and still make it “fun.”  🙂  Happy Tuesday!


The Best Laid Plans

Happy Friday!

During our planning-palooza last Friday, I was all excited – for several reasons. 1, we did a lot of work and accomplished a lot of great things. 2, we set a blogging schedule. Jenny will write Sundays, and I will write Wednesdays. 

See what day it is? Yeah. #bloggingfail

See, here’s the thing. Sometimes, even the plans that we spend time hashing out and laboring over and trashing and replanning don’t happen the way we thought. Story of the week this week. The only thing you can do is pick up your exploded brain-bits, stuff them back in your head, and modify. You have to be flexible. Like a rubber band.

With our two cold days (there was much shaking of my fist at Polar Vortex, Part II, trust me), we had to do some rearranging of the calendar we so carefully laid out last week. This meant shuffling things a bit in order to allow us to still start our book clubs on Monday.

Our choices for this round of clubs.

The story of our lives this week was reading. Jenny and I each had 6-7 books to read so we could book talk them to our kids before they filled out their ballots with their top choices. Now, I LOVE reading, don’t get me wrong, but even this had me figuring out where I could steal reading minutes to make this happen. 

My stack of books. Lucky for me, I’ve already read 2.

My life was consumed with reading. And I have to say, I read some AMAZING books this past week. I love history and historical fiction, so this round of clubs is right up my nerdy alley. I’m excited for our kids to dive into their choices this next week and start sampling some of the phenomenal options we have for them. Hopefully, it will open their reading tastes a bit to something new. Not many of my kids choose to read nonfiction, nor historical fiction (trust me, my heart cries at this). 

This week was also very exciting in another way.

From left: my principal, representative from the Meemic Foundation, superintendent, me, director of curriculum, and assistant principal.

Several months ago, I applied for a grant through the Meemic Foundation to help purchase more books for our classroom library. I found just before Christmas break that I won! It’s hard to say who is more excited – my students or me. 🙂 Yesterday, a representative from the foundation came to do a formal check presentation. It was very exciting to be handed that big check. This next week, we’ll be working on making our shopping list with the hopes of ordering our books by Valentine’s Day. Amazon, here we come!!

This weekend, Jenny and I have to make our book club groups and plan out our mini-lessons for this unit. We’re going to be focusing on independent reading skills (more on that later) and vocabulary skills. It’s going to be a great weekend!