Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

2012-2013 Year In Review

I have 57 notes in my "2012-2013" Evernote notebook. FIFTY-SEVEN! I need to process all we did this school year that has been different from any other school year I've had. Granted, this was only my fourth year in an LA classroom, but it was my 18th year of teaching. I've learned so much in this past year from educators around the world, books about learning and children, and trial & error. Bear with me as I use my "train of thought" writing and just make a list of the top 30 or so!

* On Opening Day, I presented Twitter to cohorts... Some of them did decide to jump in to the constant waterfall of new ideas!
* I was selected to mentor our two new teachers to the 7th grade LA department.
* I came in to get room 239 (a new room for me) ready, and found my wish of wheels on the tables fulfilled. I started planning different designs for the room based on possible activites, and printed these out for students to see and use.
* The back bulletin board was left a blank slate for students to decide how to decorate.
* We had five yoga balls, three milk crates with pillows, and two rocking chairs for students to use. Students were allowed their choice of seating.
* I read Wonder (by R.J. Palacio) aloud, and it turned out to be one of the most popular books of the year.
* We had 1-on-1 conferences regarding our independent reading, and students graded themselves based on achievement of goals we set together.
* Student photographers taught me a bit about the photography apps we had on the iPads.
* We celebrated International Dot Day (how will YOU make your mark?) in September with The Dot by Peter Reynolds, and students created representations of how they will make their mark.
* Library books were on the tables throughout most of the year, and were read periodically by students (just because they were right in front of them??).
* We tried paper blogging before we blogged online - a big success when students shared what they love to do.
* One student's blog post about Wonder was noticed when they were all tweeted out.

* We joined in Caine's Cardboard Challenge in October.
* We joined in the Global Read Aloud, reading The One and Only Ivan (which, coincidentally, happened to win the Newbery award this year). Joining the GRA meant we Skyped with other classes to talk about it, and discussed certain questions on a Weebly with classes from British Columbia and Ontario, Canada.
* When we had the technology available, students were always welcome to turn in classwork via technology or regular pencil/paper format. Choice was HUGE this year in our LA class.
* I put in for - and received - a grant for Idea Paint for our tables for next year - we'll be writing on our tables with dry erase markers soon!
* After creating a Google Document of Authors on Twitter, I was able to connect my students' book reviews to the authors, and some authors commented on reviews!
* When I turned 40, two lovely friends of mine snuck into our classroom and put FORTY BOOKS on the tables! Each had a bow and the students and I were so very excited to add them to our collection.
* I created the Genius Hour LiveBinder so I could have all my resources in one place, and they were then accessible to anyone else who wanted to read more about it. I hope to use this for P.R. next year for parents.
* I won an author Skype visit from Lynda Mullaly Hunt! Ten of my students read One for the Murphys, and then we "had lunch" with the author in April!
* In the car to and from work, I practiced for the district variety show to raise money for grants for teachers (one of which I received this year).
* WEXperts met fairly often to hone our craft of helping coach other LA teachers in the art of giving feedback to students on their writing.
* Interested students were able to participate in a Google Hangout in class with two other classes - one in Florida and one in Iowa. What did they talk about? BOOKS!
* I attended EdCamp Madison in Wisconsin and the ICE conference in St. Charles, IL in February.
* I attended EdCamp Chicago in April, and led a session about Genius Hour - and shared our LiveBinder bookmarks we received from Tina and Barbara!
* Denise Krebs, Gallit Zvi, Hugh McDonald and I were asked to speak with Vicki Davis about Genius Hour in a short podcast. The next week, Paul Solarz, Denise Krebs, and then I had a Google Hangout with Chris Kesler. Just after that, Denise, Gallit, Hugh and I were asked to host a webinar for Classroom 2.0 Live.
* I attended EdCamp Milwaukee in May, and led a session about issues with Genius Hour.
* Students gave us a week of presentations, sharing what they've learned the last quarter during their Genius Hour time (and/or time spent at home). This was my favorite week of the school year.
* Oh my.  All of this, and reading and writing as well, of course!! We read and wrote about many short stories, parts of novels, poems, and books:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Phineas Gage by John Fleischman, two chapters of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, written by himself.
Here is just one of the close-reading activities I actually recorded (still an amateur)...

And, of course, we had a full year of Genius Hour... That reflection warrants a separate post, as I'm still reflecting on it, and figuring out changes for next year.

Thank you for reading this and being a part of all the learning that has gone on in our ELA classes this year. Please share your post of your reflections in the comments section so we can celebrate together!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your creative, wonderful, extraordinary year! I am honored to have shared a part of it! You have made your mark as a teacher - and as a class. The ripples will last for decades.