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Keep, Change, Turn for the New School Year

reflective teachers


Teaching requires a lot of hard work but the most important thing it requires is a reflective practitioner. The peace and slow pace of summer is a great time to sit at the pool or at Starbucks and think about what went well, what didn't go so well and what didn't work at all. I've been thinking about my teaching practices a lot over the last few weeks since school has been out because I know there are things that I need to change, keep, and do a 180 turn for the upcoming year to improve upon what works in my classroom. 

This past school year was a learning curve for me since it was my first teaching middle school coming from a high school setting and I had been out of the classroom for some time as a literacy coach. To understand my thought process, I need to front load what my typical demographics include: students with and without out a learning disability reading from K-4 reading levels all in the same class with a scripted program that doesn’t satisfy their needs. I also work in an urban setting with students who have repeated one or more grades and it is affecting their motivation and thus their behavior. It is always good to have a context since we all teach in various demographics and classroom make-up varies. 

So here goes!

KEEP

100 percent, I need to improve upon my book challenge. I was gung-ho and decided to do the 40- book challenge last school year for the first time and I didn’t keep it at the forefront so it disappeared. This year I am going to be honest with myself and start smaller. So, I am revising and doing a 20 book challenge. In addition, I am going to incorporate coffee table book previews, have a set book talk schedule, and use a bulletin board to record the books that I am reading and books that are popular as a class. I hope to incorporate more of my graffiti wall and incorporate in a routine that my students can use to add to it throughout the year.
independent reading
Blank Graffiti Wall
I found this Book Recommendation free resource on Teachers Pay Teachers that I will be using to spark interest but in a subtle manner. #BookImmersion will be my goal for the 2017-2018 school year. Follow that hashtag on Instagram to see my progress. 

CHANGE

I feel like I should have my reading masters revoked for not doing more work with vocabulary. I know better therefore I should do better. Considering my students’ needs, vocabulary instruction has to be very systematic. The plan is to focus on derivational vocabulary and word parts. I would like to incorporate in a Boggle bulletin board which has been all over Pinterest as well as an interactive Word Wall but haven’t figured out how yet. DocCop Teaching wrote an awesome blog on the use of QR codes in Word Walls that seemed supercool and I think I am leaning towards her technique to integrate technology into my vocabulary routine. Vocabulary should be integral in any classroom but especially with struggling readers. By building their vocabulary helps them choose precise words and practice their decoding skills. 

TURN

What has definitely got to go from my classroom and school is the lack of community especially with my sixth graders. Unfortunately, my school is plagued with gangs and sometimes that will spill over into the classroom. But what happens more is silly “beef” or bullying and I am over it. Besides for my book immersion project which I will speak on more in another blog (check out the hashtag on IG), this will be my biggest goal: building a classroom community based on similarities and differences, and mutual respect for one another. Thanks to fellow teachers on social media I have crowd sourced ideas most built on books we will be studying together, but I am also going to give Classcraft a try.

I’ve heard others praise the program which is similar to ClassDojo but geared towards secondary students. The feature I am intrigued with is that not only can they earn and lose individual points, but there is a team feature that works the same as the individual. In addition, members of teams can help another member if their points run low. I want my students to understand that yes, they are responsible for themselves but they are also responsible for others and when they realize that all our lives are entangled and what you do to someone else will affect you in some way. These themes will also be examined through reading and writing units starting with a social activism unit based on The Hate You Give and ending with a unit on the role of Upstanders and Bystanders in the world.

Educators of today cannot be like the educators of the past that year after year pulled open the file cabinet and dusted out a folder and did the same lesson as years passed without ensuring that the lesson works for that group of students. Students are different every year. I teach seven periods and each individual and each group have different needs. Educators should use reflection to look back at what works and also reflect on how they can continuously improve.





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