Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm in a new group this year called the Curriculum Resource Teachers (formerly Technology Resource Teacher), and our role is to support professional development and best practices. We have a new physical space for all kinds of work and collaboration. Although we're figuring it out as we go, it's clear that we want to re-define how a group of teachers works together. A colleague and I were given the job of assigning some homework for the group that in some way gets us working and thinking differently. He suggested this new talk by Dan Pink. So we're pretending that every time Dan says "business" what he really means is "school." And we're asking our fellow CRTs to think about what his case has to do with schools? What does it have to do with how we think about professional development and supporting teachers and students?

If there's time to watch the 18:00 talk, here is an article for juxtaposition on the power of free-choice reading programs.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Starting Fresh Again

I haven't posted to this blog for a long time for good reasons: the birth of my first child and a master's program and project. But the master's is done, and we have a babysitter during the school day. So here I am.

If you've ever seen this blog before, you might have noticed that all the sidebar items are gone, the links, the bookmarks, the pictures, and whatever other clutter I had there. I no longer have a twitter account; I came keystrokes away from deleting my facebook account; and I don't look at my google reader feeds anymore.

Instead, I'm holding myself accountable to a clear vision and focused minimalism. I'll be writing about my classroom and the work of creating a professional learning community at my school.

So today is the first day of school, and I used the same simplified approach to planning my sophomore English curriculum as to reviving this blog. With every move and activity I planned, I demanded to know whether it was necessary in accomplishing my goal for the class. Everything else had to go. There are some basic moves that good readers, writers, thinkers, and speakers make. These moves can be practiced in infinite combination. That's what I want to do.

My goal for today's English class is simple: students start thinking about the responsibilities of being a learner and start practicing one of the habits of mind of a good learner, asking questions. To warm-up, I'm asking students to define "learner" in their own words. What are they bringing to the table? What are their assumptions? Then, for both fun and substance, I'm showing this clip, followed by discussion of the concept of process, practice, and finding meaning.
And to introduce questioning, I'm using an activity called "7 Minute Interviews." It's simple. One student asks questions to keep the other student talking for 7 minutes, then switch roles. After the 14 minutes, students write together about the process. Where did they start? Where did they end up? What observations can they make about the questions and answers and process? Their homework is to carry around a sheet of paper to write down all the questions they think about for the next four days (until our next class).