Sign me up….

I think having too many signs in a classroom is a mistake. Having said that, this year I am going to put up a bunch of signs. As teachers, we sometimes do the things we can find redundant or distasteful. I think a bunch of signs with Dos and Don’ts looks like Jail. Stay behind the yellow line! No touching! Pick up your visitation paperwork at window C.

My room is really horrible. I mean REALLY horrible. It has those 1970s moveable walls that no teacher has ever utilized. They are tan except for the dirt marks. My carpet. Yes carpet. Is horrifyingly grey and it took me about five seconds to dump a Venti coffee on it, never to remove the stain.

Kids are used to ugly institutional walls with informative signs. DMVs, Social Security Offices, Social Services, just a few of the places my kids see signs and drab walls. This year I need to dress things up, add visual interest and have visual information I can use as the bedrock of establishing my class as a semi orderly polite place to learn. 

Taking all this into consideration I have designed a few posters that I will use as my Anchor Charts for the school year. From my last post you can see I have many goals about building relationships but with my kids boundaries are important. I know from day one of undergrad you have your kids help you come up with rules for the classroom and set up expectations.

 

 I am down with this but what I discovered with my kids is that they show up with  established ideas about school.

 On many levels, they come to me with an idea that every class is an opportunity to push the limits. Students often arrive in my room with a negative view of school and have learned a pattern of behaviors designed to derail the class or teacher and in the end entertain themselves and others. It is often not even a conscious decision. My kids have come from ineffectual social situations, whether that is at home or school. They know what should be done but often live in situations where boundaries are not clear or enforced. They also have generally low expectations about what they should accomplish to be proficient or achieve mastery.

So now you’re thinking I am a bad teacher or bad at classroom management or racist, classist  or whatever. I will tell you I’m through the veil. I see my kids at face value. They are wonderful, lovable people in a broken system. So I am going to start with a sign. It outlines the class schedule. It tells them what part of the day they are in. It covers the acceptable actions and behaviors, and gives them a reference for what they should be doing.

This sign will be used in conjunction with a variety of strategies. Group behavior roles will be introduced the second day. These are not the class “rules” but they are established procedures for working together. Working together is another skill sorely lacking with my kiddos. 

 So this is how I built it. 

I tried Word. I looked at instructional videos, but quickly found my version didn’t match their version and any hack I tried wound up with error messages. Good ol Microsoft.

I went to Google Docs next. I created the whole thing using a combination of tables, clip art, bullet text, google drawings, and shapes. This was also a bust. You can’t really achieve a poster in this app.

I should have started with Google Drawings. Go to Drive, then click NEW, then select Drawing. 

I went to my district print shop page and found some of their established printing sizes. In Drawing, under File, find page set up and set your size. I did 24 x 36. Having accidentally done in it a doc format I actually had all the text and images I wanted. If you are ever doing ANYTHING multimedia, write the text, and gather images all in one place. A folder or a doc. 

Now drop text elements into individual text boxes. Drop all your images in randomly. It will end up being like an old school collage. From here you just drag and drop and move your elements around like you would cut outs from a magazine. It lets you overlap, place wherever want, bullet, center, change fonts, text sizes- all in the drawing program. 

So what’s in my sign?

Image result for PISCES

I fret over the first day. How much structure do they need? If i don’t lay down some rules, will I lose them right away? So I decided on the first day (among all the other get to know you stuff) I will show them the sign. It tells us what the intro task portion of class looks like, what instruction, independent work, and class wrap up look like. It will allude to other yet to be discussed procedures (That will have a sign!) 

The sign will also peek interest when they read about “class bloggers and photographers.” They will see a “PayDay” listed, and see that they will be able to have a place to get supplies in case they need it.

 

The sign is funny. I’m funny. Please don’t make me tell you again.

I’m very proud of my sign. It has problems, but then again, so do I…

Its middle school so bad funny is good funny. I chose Deadpool because it’s middle school. If there was ever a super hero for middle school it’s the Pool.

Be sure to check out the Educators Guide to Fair Use to make sure you are a comfortable with any images you may have used. I found that I can use fewer than 5 rom the same artist without getting in hot water.

He is obscene, narcissistic, sarcastic, hormonal and the banality of his character speaks to the larger absurdity that is public school. He fights even when he gets his hands chopped off. He comes back for more after every beating. What better metaphor for teaching? Plus I use the Chibi version because, again, Irony +Sarcasm +Cuteness +  Grown Up= Middle School Kid.

So this is just one of many signs that will go up. This one provides procedures I can pattern everyday after. It will hold me to routines I desperately need, and provide a road map for other elements of classroom organization. Kids are also wicked rule followers. I don’t have to tell you how they like to bust us when we forget a rule or procedure. 🙂

Happy Teaching!

 

 

I never finished a blog I liked

back to school conceptual creativity cube
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you are catching me for the first time. ( I think I had 8 people looking at this blog before I abandoned it last year due to life) you will see from other posts I usually share a free idea or resource then say “This is how I would teach it.” So this post is just dipping my toe back into the blogosphere after being too overwhelmed to keep up. Please share if you can. More users always helps keep me going!

Its summer 2019. I don’t even know when I touched this blog last. I created it because I hate pay to play teacher sites. Making money off your teaching ideas, resources and approaches is for college professors and textbook companies. Teachers Pay Teachers is the saddest commentary on the state of our profession. We take the meager salaries we have, invest them in to produce propitiatory materials and then charge our friends their hard won money to do their jobs. Because its only five dollars here, two dollars there, it seems harmless but its sick. It also takes all of the thought, design, and intention needed to teach well then reduce it to a printable.

So I’m going to try and take up the mantle and run a post every month. That’s 12 months of posts. That should be doable. I will count this as August and then proceed on from there. I hope to share free resources and ideas to teachers everywhere instead of making them pay. We pay enough. We pay in our time, our hearts, and our souls, not to mention the thousands we spend out of pocket every year on kids. This month is a reflection on classroom climate

 

I am recovering from my first year back in middle school. I taught six class out of a six class day. I taught two honors classes in social studies and four core classes in the same subject. I am at a school that I would say is an amazing place. Its not all the way there yet. Its not yet, it may never be or it may blossom into the kind of place I want it to be tomorrow. The components are there.

I teach in the 5th largest district in the state of Washington. There are over 130 languages spoken in my district. My kids are from everywhere, with most new to America in the last four years.

My kids are by in large poor. They are mostly loved by their families but some have it bad. Like both parents in jail bad or living in the fourth place in six months bad, or not having your learning disability diagnosed because we assume its just because you speak English a a second language  bad.

There is a refugee center and other dynamics  that make this district one of the most diverse places in a seriously white state. For the school and surrounding community the  last twenty years has seen a sea change in community culture.  Where 15 years ago our school was the place to send your white suburban child,  now it has been gerrymandered  into a place where mostly poor kids of color whose family rent apartments go.

In public schools, like our world there are SO many problems to fix. Our school is saddled with all of them: language barriers, poverty, racial tension, crime, apathy, lack of resources, lack of commitment, low expectations,  toxic masculinity, violence, and sometimes forgetting we are teaching children.

So there were many challenges that were larger than just teaching but all year I had victories. My favorite classes and students were often the most challenging. I think I helped many to open their eyes to the larger world around them. I helped them talk to each other, find ways to express their opinions, and challenged them to think and draw conclusions. I pushed many to accept that they had the answers and that they did not need to get them from me. I developed relationships based on the investment I had in the strengths and individual talents and traits of my students. And once in a while my kids learned to work hard because it felt good to know they could do well.

I also failed with too many. I took things personal. Or I  didn’t get involved early enough. I let their words and attitudes confirm bias. I got angry they were misbehaving or acting socially outside my world view. I  rewarded mediocrity, and spent too much time lecturing about behavior.  I spent too many days feeling I was failing and wondering if it was worth it.

I think if I could have taught differently, consistently, I would have greater success and not let kids slip through the cracks. I think if I was always thinking about how the kids were going to experience what I had to offer, and found ways to make it about them, I would have not felt so much frustration.

So in true blog fashion I have come up with some pithy thoughts on how to make my classroom a better place for kids first, and thereby for me too. So next year, this is how I hope to Teach it:

They need to see you are not the enemy they are used to.

mean teacher

  • You are the color, the gender, the age, the something they have dealt with all their lives and built up feelings about, chances are not good ones. You have to show them you are more than their assumptions. They will behave in ways that will try to convince themselves and you of established bias. Don’t fall into making assumptions or reacting like a stereotype.

They need to have a purpose for being with you.

gears_teamwork_collaboration

  • Students have to be academically successful.  The minute they hit the wall without help the class and you become irrelevant and boring. This will require differentiation, interesting assignments, one on one instruction, alternate assignments and you bothering whomever you need to bother to get help for all of your students.

They want a safe place.

GLSEN Safe Space Stickers

  • Safe places are free from yelling and shaming. They are free from judgement or singling out students or student groups. They are also places they don’t have to acquiesce  to other students whose behaviors go beyond acceptable school norms

They can live with boundaries if we respect them as people first.

  • If conditions and consequences are similar for all,  if you react to student behaviors based on behavior and not the student, you will see respect for established norms. If you worry more about respect for the class than respect for you, then the boundaries in place are not there for you, they are there for everyone.

They want you to talk less.

  • Teach students the skills to talk to each other. Teach them how to discuss and not argue. Show them how to compromise and work together and require they do so. Then, give them the work where they are the main voices in the class. Let them present their work, their friends work. Discuss something everyday with someone new. Push their boundaries of who they will talk to to make class a place where talking happens. Focusing on giving them the communication tools they need will keep you more quiet and them louder!

So this is how I am going to teach it. Talking less, putting my nose in their business sooner, setting boundaries, and not making assumptions. Fingers crossed!

Opening Doors, Opening Hearts

Skipped a few weeks. Sorry to the throng that is my readership (Thanks Mom!) This week and the successive summer weeks will probably be rants and raves, and not lessons. This blog is supposed to be full of stuff for effective teaching, so I hope these upcoming post will serve as a chance for reflection and recharging .

Image result for the train trestle in pensacola rebel flag

Pensacola, Florida is known as the “city of five flags.” It was not until 2015 tht the city saw fit to remove the Confederate Flag from its government buildings and the gateway to the city, and replace it with the state flag.

 

I traveled home to North West Florida to see my mother and sisters for the first week of summer vacation. I grew up  there and have many strong feelings about the place. It is in the south. It is in the Bible Belt. It is in a red state. It is a military town. It is one of the poorest counties in America. And everything… is just fine…

As long as you are somewhere in there. As long as you belong to the correct denomination, live on he correct side of town, vote a certain way, salute when saluted etc.

Image result for the train trestle in pensacola rebel flag

Proud idiots pose in front of Pensacola’s Grafitti Bridge a few years ago. For a great response to this kind of attitude read this blog post.

In its own weird way, it also has the tiny patches of progressivism and liberalism. People protest wrongs. There is a billboard on a highway that accuses the NRA of terrorism.  Queer folks have been using our beaches, and downtown as a home and recreation for decades.We had an awesome punk rock scene in the eighties and still have a thriving music culture.

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Pensacola toutes its “sugar white sands.”

My mentors live and retire there. Linda who taught me everything I know about teaching goes to Marco Rubio ‘s office once a week and says to his staff :

“Mark has received 750,000,000 (ok I don’t remember the number but this is close)* from the IN ARE AYE. Now what is he gonna’ do about gun control?”  (Linda has a fantastically beautiful accent.)

So it is very much the south. A place of contradictions and conundrums. A place where smiling old ladies will fix you glasses of sweet tea and ask you matter of factly if you have let the Lord Jesus into your heart? (If you want more tea, or to ever date their granddaughter again, there is only one answer.)

A place where there is a literal train track where economics and color change. Where segregation is alive and well on the beaches, in the  parks and restaurants. A place where if you are poor you have been so for maybe one hundred years now. A Place that keeps you on your side. A place that can be physically so beautiful but so superficially polite, that when you are rejected and vilified for your difference, you feel somehow to blame.

And so I teach. I taught there for six years in a desegregation magnet. We used a gifted curriculum and applied its best practices to all children. Color, ethnicity, academics, all differences received the same high level of careful instruction. All were given opportunity to learn and care. But eventually, I had to leave.

So I am stuck with the conundrum that is the South, and these days America. Do we stay and slog out the good fight in places that turn their backs on us because our differences are more palatable than our similarities, or do I go and find a place where I am comfortable ?

A week ago I got the news that I will be moving on to a new job. A place that just might need allies, and fighters. A place where change has already started but ultimately the success of the students will be in response to if people will see the similarities and not the differences.

So I don’t know if I made all the right choices leaving one place for another. Fortunately there is always a place for people looking to do good, to open doors, and hearts.

Happy Teaching!

*I was way off.  Linda let me know it was only 3 million.

The State Pizza

 

Each year students across the United States learn about their states, and the governments that are responsible for managing the laws and safety of their people. Our governing bodies which in almost all states are  bicameral, except one. ( Whats up Nebraska?)  Most of us study government around the first of the year. Many legislatures convene then and are in session just after. This year because of scheduling, we didn’t tackle state government until the end of this year. So, this week I want to share a lesson that I originally snagged from the Washington State Legislature on the process of creating a Bill.  It is called  The Perfect Pizza, and is a wonderful way for students to experience major concepts of government. I pick up the lesson after having gone through the system of checks and balances and discussed creation of Bills and passage into law(School House Rock remains the  BEST way to teach this to students.)

This is how I would teach it:

Today we are going to explore the process for creating a Bill in our state.

Turn and talk to a partner about how you think a Bill becomes a law.

Ok great. Now grab a sticky note and write down one thing involved with Bills becoming a law.

While they do that I write the following on the board:

  • The People
  • Legislator
  • Senate
  • House
  • Debate
  • Negotiation
  • Compromise

Okay. Now place your stickies under the word you feel like it most relates to.

Based on what you have taught this far responses could be:

  • written by a citizen
  • introduced by senator/house member
  • sent to committee
  • never leaves committee
  • amendments are added
  • governor signs
  • governor vetoes
  • debate happens
  • Bill is read
  • Bill is debated
  • Bill is changed

etc…etc…

I then will help students remember the steps by posting them. Fortunately most state legislatures actually post these steps, or even provide graphics.

This is pretty representative of most state’s law making process.

After the review I place the students in small groups. At first they are going to simulate working on writing a law. They have been submitted a basic idea (by many different citizen groups) for a state pizza.   They will work in the group to create a single bill and will have criteria to do so.

Each group gets a summary card with a run down on all the requests from citizens for a state pizza.

a sample card could say:

ingredients requested:

Walla- Walla Onions, Salmon, Lavender oil, apples, strawberries, Geoduck, sausage, 

Crust type:

Thick, thin, hand tossed, gluten-free, whole wheat

Sliced in:

43 slices, 49 slices. In squares, in triangles.

Students are then given one of these handouts.

They are then tasked with, as a group, creating a law that best represents the wishes of the citizens.

In this process your students will argue and debate. I circulate and let them go for a while. Most groups have some trouble getting started and I ask:

Q: When we are in groups, what helps us stay organized and have good conversations?

A: We usually decide group roles including a facilitator.

Me: Exactly!

I let them arrange roles. I suggest they get a recorder, and a reader and they fall into their roles.  The handout provides a template bill that describes the pizza and mimics the language of a Bill.

The kids engage in the civic practices of:

  • discussing and debating ideas that apply to larger groups
  • considering other opinions other than yours
  • Tackling the idea of creating rules or laws that will affect many, even those that do not agree with it.

Take look at this student example

Students also have to come up with a statement with three supporting reasons to share with a mock legislature meeting. 

I have kids create posters to represent their proposed bill. I then let them present to the whole class. From here you can do many things:

  • Allow Bills to be amended.
  • Turn kids loose to try to get together and develop compromises with other groups to create pass their bills.
  • Create blocks to prevent passage of some pizzas.

But I would keep it simple: let the kids do a silent vote on the best pizza. It keeps from the real nastiness of politics being played out in the classroom. Not that you don’t want to teach them that as well, but that’s for another lesson!

This process is not so much mimicking the  exact progress of Bill to law. I am really looking for students just to appreciate the difficult task of being both a citizen and an elected official. It provides a lot of opportunity for discussion and reflection on the overall process. I didn’t even get into the veto process, which in our state, includes line items. But you can adapt it to a host of teaching points.

Happy Teaching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Some teachers hate teaching Social Studies or why I flunked Math (part 2) a

( Authors note) Missed last weeks publication. I know this disappointed literally no one as I have a total of like 5 readers and the rest are some scam with risqué usernames all from weird outlook.com adresses. But if you did miss it, or happen to like any of the posts, could you send it to one teacher friend?

Thanks

John

Just to clarify, I  covered why I flunked math in last weeks post. This week I want to look at why some teachers may not enjoy teaching social studies.  So with that, lets look at my premiss about social studies:

Some teachers don’t like it.

Some teachers like it.

But that wasn’t an entirely easy thesis to support. The data that quantifies this may be out there but I didn’t find it for free. BUT! I do get some anecdotal evidence.

Check out this blog post it’s from Angela Watson who apparently is the bedrock on which American Teaching has been built. This form her Blog THE CORNERSTONE for teachers : Practical ideas that make teaching more effective, efficient, and enjoyable.

Here are some of her highlights:

Many teachers have trouble making social studies interesting because they don’t understand or like the subject themselves.

Later asking the question:

Why is Social Studies so boring?

Answering

Didn’t you hate history class when you were in school, memorizing all those meaningless dates and names and places?  At the beginning of the school year, not one of my students typically names social studies as his/her favorite subject, and most kids don’t even understand what the subject is about.( Look at this last line! What does that even mean!?)

and

What if *I* hate Social Studies?

Answering:

Chances are, you hate social studies either because it’s boring to you and/or the kids (in which case, you’ll now have a ton of interesting activities to try) or you just don’t know anything about history and you’re uncomfortable teaching it.

Image result for So much room for activities!

(in which case, you’ll now have a ton of interesting activities to try)

Alison does tell us that:

Social studies instruction should challenge students to think about the events that have made our world the way it is: the lessons should be so engaging and interactive that no child could ever find it boring.  I tell my kids on the first day of school that by June, they will be describing themselves as ‘history buffs’…

She will achieve this through 15 interesting “activities” including flip up books, pop up books, history bags and other hands on favorites. It is a good start for kids “who don’t understand it” and teachers who “hate” the topic. I am just not sure this is really going to change the way they feel about the topic. More importantly I think they don’t feel it is important or relevant.

Now lets look at the people we serve: our students. There is actually an entire thread on Rddit detailing “Why did you Hate History in School?”

Answers included:

  • I never liked memorizing dates and locations and such. Real tedious.
  • The lack of variety. It was just WWII over and over again.
  • My teachers always took the “Take notes while I talk in front of you” approach to the class, which is a teaching method I can’t @#$%ing stand
  • I never hated history, but I hated the way it was presented/taught.
  • So who are these boring teachers ruining history and social studies for a generation of people

Then I came across a kind of rant by a guy named Steven Webber who identifies himself as a “Superintendent or Asst Super” of Fayetteville, AR

He writes

… if a word is dead to him [Stephen Colbert ] it means that it should never be used again in his presence.  In this article, I want to offer that thousands of students, teachers and principals could proclaim “Social Studies Is Dead to Me.

Here are a few lines:

  • Do fourth graders believe that social studies is a study of holidays (i.e., Constitution Day, Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, Christmas Around the World, MLK Day, Presidents Day, and other holidays)?
  • Does integrating social studies in the content areas mean squeezing it in when it is convenient?
  • Do students think that famous African-Americans are only important in February?
  • Do students know the difference between geography and economics?

I’m pretty sure this guy is expressing his frustration with the lack of this instruction but the page was a WTF moment for me.

Elementary Teachers Teaching History: A Tale of Two Teachers by James Juricas is a helpful no nonsense look at two highly qualified teachers and their approaches to teaching social studies.

The study compares two teachers. One loves the topic, one lacks confidence. One has a personal connection and resources at her disposal. The other utilizes exclusively a textbook, answering chapter questions and testing. The other creates simulations and goes so far as to dress in historical garb. ( I think this is a white whale. Everyone thinks there going to do this one day, but I have yet tp see it!)

The conclusions were:

This study confirms the findings of earlier studies that teachers with more historical
background knowledge and that have a vision of history, make better teachers of history.

While passion or enthusiasm for a subject maybe difficult to quantify it
appears that because history is something that Ms. Grant enjoys she is able to pass along someof that enthusiasm to her students.

Ms. Becker on the other hand, who in the eyes of her principal is an above average teacher, lacks not only resources but confidence in teaching history so she relies on the textbook. Her lack of confidence translates into a lack of passion or enthusiasm for the subject matter and thus her students report that history is boring.

So in a nutshell, teachers and students have a combined lack of understanding of our history and of social studies in general. There is a cyclical problem of students having bad teachers, and teachers teaching badly.

But I have to wonder what else is out there? Is it that in social studies we look at hard topics? That we ask all of ourselves to discover the ugly truths, along with the affirmations of life?

Well, that is for another post. I really don’t want to denigrate teachers who  don’t embrace a topic just because I think its important or they have had bad experiences. We really need to work with our colleagues and show them the seemless and intuitive ways that social studies can be integrated and used in a variety of content areas.

Happy Teaching!

Why Some teachers hate teaching Social Studies or why I flunked Math (part 1)

This post is half rant half research article review. This week I set the stage with an epiphany about why some teachers love teaching social studies, while others do not. Next week, will be more serious research and less punk rock.

Image result for sex pistols

Atlantic Journal

I write this blog because I feel like I am a good teacher. I actually feel I am a damn fine teacher, but I’m pretty sure I should keep that to myself. People find overconfidence annoying.

Other things that annoy teachers are things they don’t understand but are expected to teach, or worse yet, maybe they are things they HATE from their personal life that they are forced to, or simply decide not to teach.

I am always cognizant of one of my first experience observing a teacher for my undergrad. Our job was to go in and see the methodologies the teacher employed to teach in our core areas of focus, mine being social studies.

Mrs Petuna told me straight up she didn’t like teaching social studies. She talked about how she did it, but more or less begruguingly. She liked math and science. She also was very good at both.

I was amazed at the ease and dexterity she could employ while instructing her students in both. Her love of the subject and depth of content knowledge allowed her to easily extend the learning of some kids, while supporting others who were struggling. The question I had, was, how could someone so smart and talented not be interested in a subject that is clearly so essential to our students learning? How was she not moved by the stories, the objects, the places, the wars, the struggles for freedom,and the facinating cultures that roam our planet? How could a smart person not like something I ( a futurte damn fine teacher) liked? Simple: she just dosen’t like it.  Or that was how she felt.

It has taken a long time but I think I finally get it. In the past, I myself hated math. I had two math teachers in high school. Neither was as attractive or fun to talk to as the red head who sat behind me. They almost never talked about the Sex Pistols, or how much a jerk Regan was. They were always correcting my behavior and giving me bad grades. I hated math!

Now I don’t know who was Mr. Grant for Mrs. Petuna but I am guessing there was a pretty good reason why her Mrs Nesbit instilled in her, at best an ambivelance for history and social studies, or her own preferences got in the way with her connecting with the subject matter. (See redhead above)

The point is there are many reasons that people don’t connect with a certain subject, grade, or level of education. I have been trying to understand from a research perspective why teachers either don’t like teaching social studies, or what gets in the way of us teaching it well. I will happily say that what I am seeing is that many of the reasons are not maliscious, but sometimes really good people do stupid things. (myself included!)

So next week we will look a little deeper into why people don’t like, feel frightened, or just overwhelmed by how to teach social studies.

Happy Teaching!

What would Lucy Calkins do?

An example anchor chart from our friends in Portland

Are you one of those teachers who asks yourself WWLCD? (What would Lucy Calkins do?) Or are you one of those teachers who feels if Lucy said run out of a burning building, you would run back in? Or are you just afraid she is somewhere in her cloud fortress, knitting, drinking tea, and looking down omnipitantly , silently judging you?

Yeah, me too.

Many of my  co-workers  got to be whisked off  to the Big Apple to get the training right from Mecca. They returned enlightended, inspired, and with a bright new outlook on writing.

By the time I showed up at our school, they figured out this was way too expensive. They hired consultants and forced us to stay two weeks after school ended to learn the curriculum. As a side note this is the worst approach a school can take. It was the end of the year. People had no nerves left. They were raw, and cagey. It was a little bit like uping the torture on a prisioner of war. We sat motionless, taking our training in dutifully, and wondered if all of this was real?

Eventually we were released and as fall came, it was true: we would be teaching like Lucy would do….

And its been good. I had been out of teaching since the mid 2000s.  I started working in fourth grade; a younger age than I was used to. There was so much to learn. I had been teaching middle school, and the developmental differences are deceptively huge . Lucy gave me the tools to talk about writing. I got time limits on what I could say.  I got scripted teaching points, and mentor texts picked out for me. Best of all I could make, (or my school could buy from the massive LC merch machine) nifty gospels called Anchor Charts that summed up what good writers/readers do.

But,  I have more than once been in fear that I have strayed from the path. That I have imposed an idea about a subject and basicaly told my kids what and how to write.  Lucy sayeth:

In a writing workshop, a lot of actual writing happens in the classroom and right then and there, teachers give feedback and kids give each other feedback, too. Revision often begins before a draft is completed. There’s more of an emphasis on teaching in the midst of writing. (Calkins 2016)

I feel I have been doing this for sure.  My kids write after the mini lesson. They sign up on a parking lot. They come see me. I ask what their questions areor concerns are. I take that moment to do some teaching/suggesting.

But sometimes, when deadlines are approaching., when the most appauling thing a child can find about Japaenese Incarceration was “they had to share bathrooms with other famalies,” I lose it a little.

I write all over their papers. I highlight parts of their research for them and ask them to read it aloud, and then explain it for me. I give them sentence starters like” Harvey Milk’s agenda included…” I take them back to their original research even when the due date is tomorrow and find out when and why the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed . 

I have them look at passages and write the main ideas, causes and effects, then ask them to explain it back, often leading them to a point or idea. I think I have done what Lucy wouldn’t do. I worry that the gods on Mount Columbia College may be vengeful!

Mary Ehrenworth, Deputy D of TCPWP , hath  warned not to turn to a path where:

“kids are supposed to be compliant writers, and all they’re doing is flipping through the pages of a text looking for evidence of the teacher’s idea.”

So I worry I have sinned. That I have strayed into old ways of just correcting and not teaching. I see posts like this and run for the shadows in shame!

But  besides craft, sometimes I need kids to learn to learn about what they are writing. I need to teach them about people, places, and events. I need to put in their hands the things that will help them learn indisputable facts, and tell them  GOOD WRITERS WOULD INCLUDE THIS IN THEIR PAPER!

The kid who was missing  the horrors of the incarceration of Japanese Americans figured out on his own that he needed to talk about the bombing of Pearl Harbor first. He also knew he had to talk about American misconceptions about Japanese Americans and Order 9066.

But what his writing lacked was the evidence. He knew the bombing was bad, but he didn’t know he needed to site numbers of ships sunk and deaths associated with the fifteen minute attack.  He listed a few facts about the  conditions in Japanese Icarseration camps, but had to learn that he needed to support it with fining out there were 120,000 people wrongly imprisoned.

I taught him about Fred Karimatsu, discussed seeing his daughter speak and hearing her story about finding out from a textbook in middle school that her father had defied 9066 and taken it to the Supreme Court. I found a bio on his foundation’s website and walked my student through some of the harder bits to tweak out the importance of Fred as a Civil Rights hero.

So, I am left wondering ” Am I not letting my kids grow as writers? Am I screwing up my ten minute mini lessons? Are my metor texts not mentoring enough?”

I may never know the answer to these questions but now Max knows who Fred Karimatzu is.