Thursday, August 30, 2007


I learned so much today. It was my first day teaching ESL at the ILC for "adults." Its interesting that I don't have to worry so much about engagement as I do meaningful!

They are intrinsically motivated and are hanging on my every-word. I didn't have to do anything to capture their attention, learning is already doing that!

However, I was careful to make what I taught them meaningful. They want to learn NOW and need things that will be useful for them.

I'm exhausted and can't possible comment on everything that happened, I was there for 4 hours.

However, I was surprised in the middle of my second class with 2 brand-new students. The second class is designed for intermediate students and I was working with "G" on comparatives. I quickly had to engage them into a quick phonics lesson. I did not have any resources or books, so I had to make it up as I went along. It was fantastic!

They were two 17 year old young men who work construction and, from what I gather, didn't have much high school because they were always in trouble. But they were so anxious to learn. I'm not kidding when I say that they were literally on the edge of their seats, hanging on every word. I felt like a real teacher.

I'm glad I had to walk home (Josh had a class tonight) I needed to expend the energy I felt after teaching the past four hours. Can you imagine teaching for four hours strait, and needed to "walk it off" and not go strait to bed?

I'm sure in a few weeks that trek will be long, but man its a great feeling when you've known that what you've done while "teaching" is to actually teach!

ho-hum day

I need to spend the afternoon planning for a sub. I have everything but the instructions typed for them. My computer turns off every time I put in a thumbdrive -- which is not helping!

In literacy today the students began our recipe project. They are to interview a family member about a special recipe and then write out the recipe and ingrediants with a little antecdote about why the recipe is so important to them. When they get finished next week, we'll bind them and have a parent pot-luck.

In history my students continued to do their webquest. They finished today. After talking to them and looking at what they've done, I really think they're at least getting the basic concept. Tomorrow I have them reading from a textbook and taking assisted notes. I also have a concept activity for my low ELL where they group the basic differences between the North and the South in a pictoral way. I will have all of them do a cloze activity with the main vocabulary.

Behavior was pretty okay today my third block had a lot of tardies and then they sat and talked. I had to raise my voice and get "angry" but they were really good for the rest of class. My 4th block has a ton of tardies and I held a few of them for most of thier lunch for it!

I'm exhaused and teaching at the ILC tonight!! Yipee ..... ESL I can't wait but at this point I'm so tired and sick I don't know how it will go!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reflection Day 2

Today we worked again on the sound "sh" and brainstormed all of the words that have that sound. Then, we put them into categories based on their spellings. We had sh, tion, ssion, and random ways to spell. I read again to them from The Jumping Tree and then they worked on their glossaries on powerpoint.

The students worked again on their webquest. They seemed fairly engaged and worked hard for most of the block. I've begun to do exit slips or daily quizzes to keep the accountable for their work. One of my tough guys refused to do it however and returned to the second half of class late. I had to talk with him and encourage him about being smart and not lazy and that my main goal was for him to think. He got to work and worked for about the last 10 minutes of class. They seemed really engaged with the webquest.
I heard them making comments when they learned something new. Their exit slip was to write something new they had learned. I'm thinking about presenting what they wrote to the whole class.


I didn't have major discipline or behavior issues today and enjoyed all of my classes...yes there are days when I don't enjoy my classes. By the time I got my second round of freshmen at the end of the day I wasn't really ready for their energy...but they were awesome.

My students are beginning to engage more on the blog, I hope that they get used to the process and it become a more meaningful means of engagement.

I've been sick for two days and am exhausted. Its hard to be on your feet all day when you don't feel well. But, the students are usually really good to me and play nice on those days. Usually during the year when I'm sick I can back off a little more because the kids know the routines and are really more self directed.

I planned a little this morning during my plan and I think I should be OK for tomorrow. I finally got textbooks so, I may use half of the history block tomorrow to brainstorm creative, functional, and useful ways to read a textbook. I have a few textbooks in Spanish, the head of the Social Studies department gave them to me, but I don't think that many of my Spanish speakers can read in Spanish either?! I'm going to do some more graphic and cloze activities with them tomorrow to make sure that they got what they were supposed to the past few days.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

well deserved lunch

While I'm digesting my delicious hummus and turkey sandwich I wanted to digest what happened so far today. I have had 1 literacy class and 1.5 American History classes.
I had 3 new students today in my History classes.

In literacy, first block I have few behavior problems. This week we worked on the sound "sh" and how that sound is said and spelled. I also read to them to work on fluency. They created vocabulary glossaries on powerpoint for the words in our current reading on Revolutions

My history classes are still daunting. I am trying to balance the fact that I have half ESL students with native speakers. I tried sheltering readings for them and that worked, but I fear I'm working my para overtime.

I assigned a webquest today on the civil war but, with all the pictures and recordings, I fear it is still language heavy.

I did an exit slip today and it looks like, at least, most students are getting the basic causes of the civil war.

I began using a 4 point rubric for my objectives. I conferenced a little with students today, they seemed eager to try to get a 4. I told them that a 3 was all I expected and if they wanted a 4 they'd have to go a little farther. They stayed in the room when the bell rang working for a 4 on their exit slip. It was pretty amazing.

I know I'm expecting a lot out of my ELA students and I hope they're just frustrated enough to get moving...I hope I don't over power them! And I hope I don't lose my native speakers.

I observed one of my tough boys working with a para today and proudly giving me his completed If he had access, he really wants to learn. So we set up a folder in class for him because he didn't want to lose his work.

I spoke with another one of my tough guys about college and careers. He seemed a little more willing work harder.

I wonder though...did I start too early on group work? Should I have started the year with textbook and individual work? Did I give them too much group freedom all at once? I don't even have textbooks! My class has a structure, but they're already working on projects. And while the majority of them are on-task there seems to be a few that cannot handle it.

On a side note....I'm contemplating opening a cell phone store! I have acquired a lot of really nice ones the past few days!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Action Research

To complete my MAE I have to undergo a year-long research project. I love research. I'm a bit of a nerd I guess, but I love looking at what works, with which kids, and why. I'm particularly interested in the why! There is no magic formula in education to make all kids love learning and learn every day...but if we look at why we uncover a whole bunch of truths. Why brings us as close to that magic formula as we will ever get...for our own kids any way!
I need to pick a topic for my action research project. I've thought of a few topics:

  • the use of blogs to increase achievement for low-language students
  • phonemic awareness for adolescents
  • improving literacy for adolescent language learners
  • balancing a secondary classroom with both language learners and low language students
  • countering "mochismo" to create a learning environmet
My assignment requires me to journal for the next week and look for patterns in what I am noticing and annoyed by in my classroom. My subject can be either me or my classes. So, for the next two weeks I will blog ...of come up with the focus of my research.

So, please if you are reading this and you notice patterns or have ideas please leave me comments. I really want to do something that will be worthwhile for me, my students and my school. Hopefully, this can be something I use later on down the line when I go on for my doctorate degree.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

exhaustion sets in

Today felt felt like it all came together: the past two years, the ELA classes, my technology students were amazing!

I freaked a little this morning when I realized that I had 38 students on my roster. This posed a problem because number one, I had only 24 seats. However, that became trivial when I took into account who these students were. Many were ELA students who were all over the language continuum. Some were receiving special needs services and the rest just didn't get American History III the first time around.

But man were they awesome --- and eager ---. Aside from the normal 2 in every class that don't really ever give in...they were Rock Stars!!

We had an introduction on the Civil War today...we talked a little about what we already knew, covered the unit vocabulary and then created a list of questions we thought we needed to ask in order to better understand why the Civil War began. They all took part...Then we watched a few video clips trying to answer those questions.

I am very lucky!! They are ready to learn...I need to keep my fire burning now so I can keep them engaged...

They are so on top of things...every student met our class goals to day in some way or another!

they're making their mommas proud! -- don't worry I'm already in the process of sending home "good news" cards so they know.

I just hope that I don't let them down...they're excited about our blog and accessing the content...I hope I don't let things fall by the wayside!

Now for some rest...I've been working at break-neck speed all day -- in heels no less!
And now, to plan on how I will get the 2 that got away today!

This is the work that my block 4 did today

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

for the mommas

On my way to school this morning I saw several mothers walking their big high schoolers to the bus stop. It took my breath away. No matter how they act, they are still just kids.
they have mommas who woke them up this morning and dressed them with the best clothes they could. Their mommas gave them the best school supplies they could and walked them to the bus hoping their child would get the best education they can.

What pressure

These students, who try to push every button I have and try to appear like they don't care, have mommas at home hoping for the very best for their child...because these mommas have only ever given these children their very best. ... And thats all they can offer: hopes for the very best.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Don't Hold Your Breath

Its amazing how sweet and innocent Freshmen can be on the first day of school! They almost make you want to like them! I set up the smartboard and wowed them...and watched a "cheesy" video (please, don't tell Wes). We then talked about the idiom "Cheesy" and set some goals. Pretty laid back...we only had 20 minutes, it wasn't really meant as a full on class...

I overwhelmed was awesome. I already have them wondering how they will make arrangements to blog as homework. I can't believe freshman even said the word "homework." I guess I need to thank the teachers at KMS for instilling that expectation. It was the first time in three years that any of my students have asked that?!

This was also my first day with the title "ELA." All of my students were supposed to be LAU B...but the difference in the levels was amazing...I had students leading the class and a few that had no idea what was going on. I definitely found that I was talking way too fast. Poor mijos! I can't wait to see them grow.

According to Meyer's-Briggs, I'm an INTJ and like to put theory into practical means...but I lack follow through. I feel like I understand the theory and the concepts, but don't have the experience in trying out my theories!

I can't wait. I'm very apprehensive though. I imagine though that the moment I'm not apprehensive, I should probably find a new profession

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Welcome back to school Video

I think I'm going to use this video on the first day of school! I love the cheese!

Friday, August 17, 2007

What If?

I've spent the last two days back at school. I'm so overwhelmed by everything. Not only did I get a new classroom, but I have new toys. The past two days I've been spending time setting up my projection cart and my SmartBoard. If you enter my classroom you will enter a room full of students have access to the world!!!

Watch out world...Ms. Johnson's class is online....and we have the world at a touch of a button.

I'm still overwhelmed with procedural routines. Like how I expect my students to reflect in a blog daily about what we are this too much time do I need to set aside...

I think this, like all things in education, will depend on my students...trial and error.

But I'm excited and ready and wondering ..."WHAT IF?"

Our speaker at the district Welcome Back rally said that we should be fueled by our "What ifs" greatness and great change is only attainable by those who question: "What if"....

Here we are on the brink...

What if I offer my low-level students technology that is usually reserved for upper-level courses?

What if I expect my students to learn in a global environment?

What if I offer my students experiences so rich they can't help but learn?

What if I believe they cannot fail?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Durff's Blog: Pesky Pre-conceived notions

Durff's Blog: Pesky Pre-conceived notions

This post serves 2 purposes:
  1. 1 I am still trying to figure out all of the really cool stuff that I can do in this amazing world of blogging. I have just linked to Durff's Blog. (which is pretty cool)
  2. this is an amazing thought on pre-conceived notions that I wanted to make sure gets shared!
As a literacy teacher, I use these preconceived notions as schema or background knowledge, I use them to help students connect to the text and make connections with what they are reading.

Marzano describes Piaget's work on schema theory as either assimilation where a learner "gradually integrate[s] new knowledge into a learner's existing knowledge base," or as accomodation, where "interaction with content must challenge existing perceptions. (2007, 59)

As a Social Studies teacher I find myself trying to challenge students' preconceived notions to trade one perspective or way of thinking for another!

The idea that "Preconceived notions are necessary. It is our capacity to relinquish and learn something new that is vital" is important for us to acknowledge as we push to reach a new understanding.

SmartBoard lessons

I am hoping that I can load class discussions and presentations on my class blogs throughout the year as a resource for students! So I'm testing it out here with a lesson that previews and provides background knowledge for The Lost Boys

Monday, August 13, 2007

getting started...again

I have new classes this year and new expectations surrounding how information is received and used (through technology). This is the first time I working with a team that needs to enforce the same rules and procedures. I'm bucking that a little :) I guess I'm used to (as all teacher do) doing things MY way!! Its not really that big of a deal though!
I need to begin thinking Social Studies again! I have been thinking content all summer, but I think the procedures part of a Social Studies class is different than those in literacy?! The classes will definitely be set up differently!
Maybe they are not as different as they seem?? I don't really know where to begin to make sure that my procedures are down -- especially if I want my students blogging, those things have to be set right a way...Atleast that's what I'm expecting!!
How will I set up the walls in my room for two different subjects? And my board?
Now I'm overwhelmed!

Friday, August 10, 2007

I make a difference!!

I need to watch this every morning!

slowing down to gear up

This was my final day in sessions with Darren. I am so inspired by watching amazing teachers do their thing. He finally brought everything full circle for me: connecting our content, pedagogy, and the technology. Seeing how he used technology to spark interest, to see the content in real life experiences and finally as a tool for students to present their learning!

It would be easy to get stuck in using technology for its surface level qualities. But, Darren has used to engage and motivate student learning.

This was an amazing experience for me and I am going to spend the weekend doing nothing with it! Hey-- we all have to have boundaries!! -- I need for this information to finish seeping in, and then on Monday or Tuesday I'm going to add to my Technology Personal Action Plan and find some way to make sure I'm not stuck at the surface level of all this!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Metacognative Experiences

I've just finished a work shop with Darren Kurpatowa. After reading the first two chapters of Marzano's new book: The Art and Science of Teaching, I've seen the merit and need for educational experiences or "chunks." Using technology to create those experiences has opened up new doors for me!

I would also like to explore making blogging with my students as a "metacognative" tool. I have reflections, but I would like to set up a process where each day there is an opportunity for them to summarize, reflect and add information to what we have covered in class. I am so scared about their immaturity though. However, based on my (little) experience if I give them opportunities to be mature and handle their education with maturity they usually amaze me!