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.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Take-Aways

Summer is over. Where did it go? What did I DO? I had to reflect on what I've learned in this summer of thinking about how I need to change my teaching even more... What ONE thing from each experience do I want to remember as we start the school year next week?

Professional Literature

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess
     --> Bring it. Be "all in." I need to remember to give my last class the VERY SAME enthusiasm I bring to my first two classes. Often times they don't get my very best, and they deserve it just as much as the rest of my students!!

Notice & Note by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst
     --> I read this book for our district summer committee. I will be using the six signposts as I read with my students.

ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes
     --> Grades. Ick. Why not give feedback, more feedback, and then more feedback, and then let students grade themselves?! I'm looking into giving feedback on Edline (our grading program) and any other way I can. I'll see what I can do about grades...!

Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers
     --> I'm going to use five of her lessons specifically for our Genius Hour lessons! Since this book is about teaching PEOPLE, and not curriculum, I was entranced...

Book Love by Penny Kittle
     --> One take-away?? Okay. Many many many book talks (including reading FROM the books) and "next" lists are a MUST! (Is that just one?) But what about the formula she uses on pages 27-28 that show how students create their goals? I put this book last, because I got the most out of this book this summer.
My "professional reads" this summer... See my shelf (to the right) for other books read this summer.

Meetings, Google Hang Outs, and Discussions Online

     --> It's so very sweet to have time to talk with passionate educators about what you love.
     --> Connecting with teachers from around the nation (and Canada!) has made me aware - again - that many of us have the same types of students, and yet I am so very fortunate to be working where I do. Although we have differences in our schools, our passion for teaching is at the same level.
     --> People WANT to help. People WANT to collaborate. I wish we had more time, but I did not waste mine this summer. I've soaked up every minute, enjoying books, people, and my family.

If you're reading this, you've probably learned a TON this summer as well, and it can be overwhelming. What is your one (hah!) take-away?

Side question... I've looked for the right way to spell "take-away," but cannot find it in this context. Do you know what the right way is?? Thank you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer "Break"

I've thought of my students each day of this summer break that is to end very soon. Most recently, my husband and I went on our vacation - 17 days with the F150 ("with EcoBoost," he adds) & travel trailer. Destination - Gettysburg. On our "way home" from Gettysburg, we were to visit friends in NW PA, then ride the best "roller coast" with friends at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, and finally play in the sand with the grandkids on the west coast of Michigan.

However, it was Gettysburg that taught me the most lessons. This was the biggest:

I couldn't believe all the fences in the broad expanse of fields in Gettysburg...
I wanted to see Gettysburg because my husband wanted to. His passion for history is infectious. Did I think I'd cry on the second day there as I tried to take it all in? Did I think I'd be in awe at the thousands of memorials all throughout the town? I thought it was going to be a field on which soldiers fought and died...

51,000 casualties (dead, wounded, missing) in this 3-day battle. In middle school, those were just numbers to me. All I remembered was that the North and South were fighting in the Civil War. At age 40, seeing this vast expanse of land, seeing the relics in the museum, and hearing the personal stories about the residents of the town of Gettysburg from the man leading the ghost tour, I have a tiny grasp of what those numbers mean. Seeing the new exhibit with articles from the GAR and the SCV put it into even better perspective.

I can't take my students to places in literature or nonfiction we read in class. They will (hopefully) some day experience these places on their own or with their families. How can I get close to giving them some experiences they'll remember? We'll start with Genius Hour the first day of every week. I hope that the choice they have during this time will help them stay invested and engaged and they'll remember what they've done during this precious time when they are older. I ask, though - How can I use the rest of the week and the curriculum I need to cover to make it memorable for my new students? I am not going to be the "sage on the stage," even if they might well remember a goofy production of mine. I'm going to give much of the conversations and discussions to the students.

What else can I do to make this year's lessons memorable? Please leave ideas...