Court is Adjourned!
Guilty! Or was he? That has been the big question in my classroom for the past three weeks. As the last unit of the year, I like to hold a court trial in my 8th grade classroom that incorporates all of the LA standards of reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is such a fun way to end the year before sending them to high school.
The trial has to do with a boy being hazed in order to be part of a “gang.” As part of his initiation, he has to jump off an abandoned bridge into the water that is 60 feet below. Unfortunately, one of the boys doesn’t make it, and now the leader of the gang is on trial for manslaughter and hazing.
To start the unit, I tell the students about each of the parts; the beauty of this unit is that there is a part for everyone. You can be a lawyer, the judge, a witness, a reporter, a videographer, a newscaster, etc. They write down their top choices, and I put them in a part based on what I have observed all year. Then they receive their confidentiality sheet with some information on it, but for the most part, they have to make up most of their own story. The lawyers have the toughest job; they have to question all of the witnesses on their own before the trial. During this time, the witnesses are writing trial journals each day to help them think through their characters and storyline. I also teach them about hazing in real life; I want them to be prepared about how to handle a hazing situation if it ever happens to them. (Did you know that the third most popular time that hazing occurs is at church youth groups?)
Two weeks later, the trial starts! Parents and staff members come in for three days to be the jury members. Each period, the entire trial is run by the students, and they amaze me each and every time. There are students that I would seriously think about hiring as my lawyer right now. They write their own opening and closing statements, and wow, you should hear them object and argue! It’s also fun to see our students “dress up” for court for three days.
One of my colleagues, Ms. T, wrote an email to the rest of the staff after being a jury member; her email meant so much to me:
“I just want to say that I have had the pleasure this week of seeing 21st Century education at its finest! I was priveledged enough to serve on the jury for Judi Holst’s 6th period class. I will admit, I was a little hesitant as it meant giving up three plan periods this week. :-) (Lol) Can I just say this was such an amazing experience as an educator to see students take their learning beyond the classroom. EVERY SINGLE student was prepared, serious and honestly professional with the trial process. Nothing was scripted and the amount of critical thinking displayed was astounding!
If you ever get a chance to serve on Judi’s Jury :)…take the chance!!! “
Now that court is adjourned and it’s time to pack the gavel until next year, I always find myself a little sad. It means that it’s soon time to say good-bye, to pass my kids on to the next stage of their lives, and to wish them well. I always hope that they will look back on the court trial unit as one of their favorites because it is definitely one of mine.
Why I'm not attending my masters graduation
I’m supposed to graduate from Johns Hopkins this Thursday (does it count as my graduation even if I’m not going?). I’m not going. There are a number of reasons for this, though I kind of regret not registering. Yes, I am still getting my diploma from Hopkins with a 4.0 GPA and my graduate degree in Urban Education. But I’ve had serious issues with the entire masters process since I started my coursework. Essentially, I didn’t work that hard. Not as hard as I would’ve liked. School work, academia, and intellectual stimulation are some of the only things in my life that have really brought me joy and illumination throughout my entire life, and having known what it was like to graduate from a school that I LOVED, that meant everything to me, the idea of sitting through a ceremony at a school I didn’t even particularly like seemed hypocritical to me. Frankly, since most my friends in the program seemed to feel the same way about it, I was surprised to figure out that I seem to be the only one not going. The program didn’t mean that much while I was doing it—I’m not going to pretend it does now.
I delivered my class’s undergraduate commencement address. I walked across that stage in front of all the people who loved me in the world (almost) and the idea of stumbling along it in robes of an unfamiliar color after listening to an irrelevant address by someone else to get a sheet of a paper that, while prestigious, doesn’t mean anything compared to one I already have, seemed silly. I spoke to my undergraduate advisor about it a few days ago and he asked me if I thought I’d look back on this and regret the choice not go, and I said no, and we both laughed. Basically, the only thing I’ll miss is the requisite instagram picture of me in another robe.
My time in TFA and at Hopkins has definitely solidified one idea for me—right along with our PK-12 education reform, we need higher ed reform just as badly. I hope to walk across a stage again in a number of years to get my ph.d, after faithfully working towards that goal.
My Final Formal Observation - Lesson Ideas
Okay, I’ve been planning my lesson and here’s what I’ve got. I will have about 45-60 mins of observation. The entire lesson will take longer than an hour, but admin will see enough to understand.
The lesson is for third grade, and we will be reading Diary of a Worm.
After reading the story and using Questioning the Author strategies throughout, students will work on a sequencing activity. At their group tables, they will be given an amount of sentence strips with the events of the stories written on them. They will need to put the strips in order. I don’t want to spend long on this, so I might make it a race amongst tables. I might scrap this part altogether.
Then, the students will begin working on their own unlikely diaries. We will discuss point of view, and review the parts of a letter. Students will have to create their own ten day diary from the point of view of an unlikely character. We will discuss how the author used facts about worms in her writing, so students will need to research facts about their creature of choice to put into their writing. I’m not sure if I will have pre-printed articles about various creatures OR if I can reserve the laptops for students to do research on. It will take extra planning for the pre-printed articles but will run smoother in class - however the laptops will give students more choices on the creature they want to research, though it will cause some “downtime” while handing out the laptops which my admin would probably comment on.
Thoughts, comments, suggestions?
I’m curious about your goals/objectives. If the sentence strips don’t fit your objective, I would definitely scrap it.
Edit - My Goals:To survive this lesson since it occurs in a TWO DAY week (Monday and Thursday are field trips, off on friday) and on tacky day. But - since my curriculum is done, I’m just reviewing things we’ve learned from the year. So, sequencing could fit in. The main focus is obviously point of view and parts of a letter for the journal aspect, with some science crossover with the research. I think I’ll have the sequence thing ready depending on how fast we get through reading the story.
Edit Edit: I’ve scrapped the sequencing, though I will have it available for early finishers. I need to create some templates (suggested by mrsjdr) for the diary for time’s sake. I’m scrapping the laptops and will have the information sheets available to students. I’ll need info on maybe 10 different creatures so students can pick. Does anyone know of kid friendly animal info sites that I could use?
I cried at prom last night
As much as these kids drive me completely crazy sometimes, I’m going to miss them. A lot. It’s finally set in I only have a month left with them.
I feel like it’s this weird parent-like instinct that’s taking over. Sure, most of them are only five years younger than I am, but they still feel like my babies. I’ve tried to explain this to my non-teacher friends and they don’t understand why I’m so upset about it. They don’t understand why I’m still giving all I have despite the fact my contract wasn’t renewed.
I could ramble on for ages about that, but ultimately, it boils down to this:
I go to school everyday with a smile and do the best I can (even though it hurts like hell) because of those kids. Right now, I don’t work for the administration. I work for my students. Period.
Google Docs Help
My students are collaboratively writing a play, and I thought to myself Google Docs would be great for this! Do you guys know of any way that students could use google docs even if they do not have an email? Isn’t there some type of loophole where you can make a class email but somehow still include the kid?
Developing Effective Study Habits
Below are some tips to help you develop the attitudes and habits which lead to success:
1. Take responsibility for yourself, and your failure or success.
2. Understand that you’ll need to priorities the way you use your time and your energy. Make your own decisions, and don’t let your friends dictate what’s important, and how much you should work.
3. Figure out when your most productive work times are, and the types of environments where you work best.
4. Try to understand the material well – don’t just memorize what the textbook says. If possible, try to explain it to a friend.
5. Try something else if revision doesn’t help. Don’t just keep reading the same things again.
6. Then, if you still don’t understand then ask for some help. It’s not going to magically fall into place.
7. Study with a friend, and share ideas, and test each other on what you’re meant to know.
8. Keep working and revising throughout the term so the material stays fresh and is easy to retrieve.
Elementary Reading Instruction
I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching reading. My school uses Houghton Mifflin readers (big textbook of random “samples” of books, all whole-class instruction), which I honestly think is pretty terrible. Luckily, we’re given some freedom in how we implement it.
In the last few weeks of school, I haven’t been using the curriculum and have been experimenting with rotation “centers” and reading groups instead. Each reading group is reading a non-fiction text about California Missions, since that’s our Social Studies/Project Based Learning unit. My kids are SO MUCH more into reading/writing/word-work this way. I want to do something similar from the start next year, but don’t know much about rotations. Does anyone have any recommendations or resources? I’ve read Daily 5 and was thinking of doing a modified version of that…anyone tried it before?
So Close to the Wire
At my district, seniors were done with exams on May 10 and the graduation ceremony is tomorrow, the 19th. The days in between are either a vacation or a last-ditch effort to finish credits and retake exams so that graduating really happens. The deadline for proving completion is the Wednesday before The Big Day.
But this year, there was a senior pulled into the counseling office on May 6 and shown that he was still a whole credit shy. There would be no way to complete two entire courses in the days remaining, so although it was tough to break the news to the boy, the counselor told him the awful truth. Understandably, he cried.
Earlier in the year, this student with a profound learning disability had known he was 2 credits shy, so he had worked steadfastly in the afterschool program all year to complete two classes beyond his normal course load. Either he misunderstood or nobody explained to him that 2 credits is not the same thing as 2 courses—they are half a credit each. He was devastated to learn his walking in the ceremony would not happen.
The counselor defended her ruling. She had informed him early in the year and had sent letters home throughout, letting them know about the deficit. The thing is, it turns out, the boy is homeless and couch surfing, so the letters disappeared into the ether and never made it to the boy or his family.
His SpEd caseworker stepped in and got administration to extend the deadline for him so he could at least try to finish two more classes before graduation day. He did some of one class in the afterschool program but that wasn’t turning out to be enough. I came in to work two hours early each day for a week and we worked 8 or 9 hours a day learning basic consumer ed. When he reached 70% completed by Thursday night, I agreed to come in on my day off Friday to teach him the rest and it was the bright spot of my week to witness his passing the final exam at the end of the day, demonstrating a depth of understanding about economic principles that most adults aren’t expected to understand as they sign mortgage agreements or decide whether to buy or lease that BMW.
His caseworker took on the task of guiding him through the other half-credit he needed and I understand they finished that one as well. She sent me an email this morning to thank me for doing more than I needed to so that the boy could walk with his class.
I suspect she did more than she needed to as well. When I checked the reports of his online progress and graded his assignments for the other class, I could see that he was logged on and working in the class at some of the same times he was sitting in my office, with me, learning about interest rates and insurance premiums. Talented boy, breaking the laws of physics and all, being in two places at once.
"You can't get so attached to your students every year."
I had a (non-teacher) friend say that to me a few weeks ago. It’s been sitting in my mind, teeming, festering, and growing.
I’ve seen a few different ideas on this and perhaps it changes depending on your teaching style and the grades that you teach but I can’t imagine teaching without getting attached to my students. Nor can I imagine a reason why I shouldn’t get so attached to my students. Sure it sucks to leave them (but after student teaching, it’s a more natural conclusion at the end of the year). It’s definitely sad and it feels like a piece of your heart is going off with them. I think that’s the point though! I’m sending my students off with a piece of me (the things I’ve taught them about English, literature, and life) to grow with, to grow into, to spread, and to share. That’s my goal.
If I’m not attached to my students, I feel like I’m doing it wrong. It’s like that post I’ve seen around about how many teachers call their students their “kids.” In the way that these students become such an integral part of my day, life, and heart that they will forever be “my kids.”
I don’t think that’s wrong. Do you?