I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 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 my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Notes after day of conferences on 3/16...
I wasn't here this day, and thought a great sub plan would be to send the kids to the LMC to read, research, blog, or participate in a one-on-one conference with either Mr. Hillmer, Mr. Goldstein, Mrs. Smith, or Miss DeTogne! What great resources! And they took notes in the Google Doc!

Email received from Mr. Goldstein afterwards...
"Loved conferencing with your kids 3/4 and 5/6. With Todd, Cessie and me, we hit every kid. Notes are updated on the Google form. Really enjoyed it! I'd be happy to help do it again."

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Today... I decided to show some of the TED videos I had wanted to. First I showed Natalie Warne (being young and making an impact - she wanted to help child soldiers), then I showed Birke Baehr (what's wrong with our food), then Arianna Huffington (sleep = success), and last, the child prodigy Adora Svitak (what adults can learn from kids). I wanted to get them interested in... In being INTERESTED in something. I wanted to revisit the purpose for this project - for kids to research their interests. The topics and books being read are so varied right now, I wanted to give them more guidance about the goal.

I also showed them the rubric Briana and I came up with for presenting to the class. She shared her research on bullying with my 5/6 class. They were wowed! She read off the screen, but her statistics about those bullied, those who bully, and bystanders were engrossing to the kids. So much so that they wanted her to tell the whole 7th grade at lunch! She accepted, and so I got the ball rolling by emailing admin about it. My other classes, hearing about this, got excited to also present something meaningful. Jillian finally decided she couldn't research Dance Moms! And Rachael now wants to research child abuse, and Yin was wondering if the government is doing enough to prevent global warming. (Side note: I gave John The Hunger Games and he likes it! Stopped reading Star Wars for one book!!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Comment

Brought up the "how to comment" website today at the end of our WEX lesson.
I did it in this order... (bottom, then top of web page)

Steps to Follow for Commenting

Follow these instructions to write quality comments. Initially, this will feel formulaic and may seem that way to a reader, but over time your commenting skills should evolve so that this is second-nature and your writing will flow easily.

1. Carefully and Thoughtfully read the blog post.

2. Reflect - what do you think of the post, and about the topic?

3. Begin your comment with a greeting: ex. "Hi Jimmy, …", "Thank you Bill, …", "Dear Jane, …", etc.

4. Compliment the author in some way - what did you like about the post?

5. Ask a question, or add meaningful information/content.

6. Close with your name: ex. “Sincerely, Mike.”, “Best wishes, Mike”, “Keep up the good blogging, Mike.”

7. Proofread your comment - you should have used good language/grammar. Ask yourself if the tone is correct, so the comment is understood in the way you meant it.

8. Ensure your comment does not reveal personal information.

9. Click submit!

Author Replies

Once you have authored an original blog post, it is important you return to / monitor the post for comments. Commenters deserve “author replies”.

When a person comments on your blog it is a compliment to you, because you have written a post someone found interesting and engaging! Moreover, understand the value of a quality comment: it will require you to think more deeply about what you’ve written and perhaps validate your positions or change your mind.

It is important for authors to “reply” to comments, if for no other reason than to thank readers. Most of the time though, it will be important to tell the reader more about the subject in response to his/her question, or to counter an argument the commenter has made.

As you did in your original post, keep the tone familiar and stay in the 'voice' that you used in your post. Try not to be confrontational, even if you’re feeling a little defensive about what has been written as a comment.

Being a good blogger is much more than just writing posts. Because blogging is a public medium that invites comments, authors are also beginners of, and contributors to ongoing public conversation.

Good comments

  1. are always related to the content of the post;
  2. consider the author and the purpose of the post;
  3. are complimentary in some way;
  4. ask or answer a question;
  5. add meaningful information to the content topic;
  6. are constructively critical, and never hurtful;
  7. include personal connections to what the author wrote;
  8. follow the writing process.
  9. in the end, these too are a published piece of writing.

NOT a Good Comment: “I like your blog!”, “Johnny (author) rocks!”, “History classes suck.”

Quality Comments are the Goal

You should write “quality comments” - both excellent feedback to the author about his/her writing, while also opening a conversation.

Article about the six elements of effective reading instruction, from Educational Leadership:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Genius hour on Twitter

Caught up on my Twitter account tonight... Mrs. Denise Krebbs (in Iowa) set up a discussion on the Genius Hour. Sounds a lot like our independent reading project! See her blog at: http://mrsdkrebs.edublogs.org/2011/12/02/geniushour-blog-post-index/ I have to remember to look at it all this summer, for sure!
Found another blog... http://messyprofessional.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/genius-hour/
See the article on it here:
Okay, okay... Denise Krebs put it all on one Wiki: http://geniushour.wikispaces.com/

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First posts notes

Read the posts this weekend... Some are excellent! It was great to read the various subjects! Computer animation, Bigfoot, the fourth dimension... And then some of the comments were helpful, too! Jamie put a link to a tesseract in Kris' blog post about the fourth dimension! Some comments were just "awesome" or "cool," but then I saw this on Twitter... I need to use it with students!
How to comment: