Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Source!

To follow up with my ELL post, I would like to share this website I found that has tons of ideas for lesson plans, with an option to look at ELL lesson plans.  The link is: http://www.ellteacherpros.com/home/recommendations/english-language-arts/The ELL lesson plan link is: http://www.englishlearner.com/tests/

With all of the technology advances in classrooms I really like the idea of having sites dedicated to help English Language Learners.  I like to know that kids are searching online, building their knowledge with things that interest them.  Kids need to have some freedom and flexibility with what they learn, no matter what age they are.  I want to be the kind of teacher that gives that to them and encourages them to learn more about their passions.  English Language Learners have the right to this freedom too.  After all, they are students too, no matter what language they speak.

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ELL

One of my biggest fears of going into the teaching field is having English Language Learners in my classroom.  I guess I just feel intimidated by them because I know they are smart but can’t find a way to teach them the concepts that are easier to teach to fluent English speakers.  I’m afraid of having to alter my lesson plans to help teach these kids.  I want to, I’m just not familiar with it.  Coming from a small school, I never had ELL classmates, another possible reason for my fear.

I would like to become more familiar with teaching ELL because I think it could be fun.  I know that those kids are smart, I know that they have potential just like every other kid, I just have to learn how to teach them.  I think it would be cool to have a class dedicated to this concept, it would help prepare future teachers and maybe even help current teachers, giving advice and lesson plans to help teachers of all subjects teach English Language Learners.

The First Week

Pernille Ripp published an article online at Education Week Teacher titled, “A Kinder, Slower, More Receptive Approach to the Start of School”. In it she talks about how she had handled the first days of school at the beginning of her teaching career.  She said she started off school making sure that the kids know who’s boss and established rules.  She observed that although the year passed OK, she could have learned more about her students and developed those important relationships the kids need.  She says that these relationships are established at the beginning of the year and grow throughout the year.

As she was talking about her first few years of teaching I couldn’t help but be reminded of my Methods class last semester and how each one of us liked to be ‘the boss’.  Ripp feels the same way.  We like to have control.  However, kids like to have a classroom where they can explore, without  too many rules getting in their way.

I think that one of the most important lessons I learned from Ripp’s article is that you have to be yourself.  Kids can see through an act and anyway, an act is hard to keep up.  So just be yourself and the kids will learn to love you.  They like having a role model they can relate to, someone who shows them that it’s OK to be dorky in public, it’s OK to be different from everyone else.

Being Courageous

In J. Robinson’s blog post, “Being a Courageous Educator and School Leader in an Era of Foolish Education Policy”, Robinson is sure to include an important quote to help his argument.  Alfie Kohn says, “The kids are watching us, deciding how to live their lives in part by how we’ve chosen to live ours.”  I have thought about what schools are doing today to mold the citizens of tomorrow but not until I read this did it really stick to me.  Kids need a strong support system to help them on their way, and as educators we need to provide this backbone.

Robinson points out that although he doesn’t think that people should go so far as to put their job in jeopardy, he does say that educators need to be more courageous and put their ideas out there.  As educators, we should try to do what is best for the students, even if we have to fight hard.

Kids deserve a promising future.  Aren’t we responsible to provide that for them?

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned

            One of the most important things I’ve learned all semester from Methods in Teaching Language Arts is that no matter how much I love reading and writing, most of my future students are probably not going to have this same passion.  As much as this breaks my heart, I have to accept this.  I remember many of my high school classmates telling me that they hated English class, and even today as I meet new people and tell them that I’m an English major, I still find that many claim to hate English.  (Insert sound of heart breaking here!)

            I’ve learned that as a future English teacher it will not only be my job to teach kids proper grammar and how to read, but also to get them to read and write.  I remember many of my high school classmates dreading the narrative essay, or even refusing to do it.  My goal as a future teacher is to get my students to actually like reading, writing, or even both.  This is a lot of work on my plate, but I’m determined to get it all done.  I will get my students to read and write, I will ignite that interest or even passion in my students for the written art. 

            Janet Allen writes in her book It’s  Never Too Late that she went into teaching her first year with the idea that all of her students would be excited to read Shakespeare.  After the first day of almost no guidance, she created a calendar so she could count the days down until she could retire.  This breaks my heart too.  Although she ended up making it in her teaching career, she didn’t start off so great, just as Dr. Ellington has told us about her first year teaching.  This is not exactly encouraging, considering the fact that all of our education teachers tell us that we can do it, and that we’ll be great teachers.  The education professor’s may just be trying to lift our spirits, but this creates a sense of hope in future teachers like me that will be crushed our first year of teaching.  Dr. Ellington and Janet Allen are trying to prepare us for the absolute devastation of learning that kids don’t want to read or write, they want to rebel and live their life the way they think is right. 

            I’ve learned that I need to accept the fact that my students will hate my class, but that I have to find a way to make them love it.  I just might be everyone’s least favorite teacher at the beginning of the year, but by the end I will strive to be their favorite.  

Book List

            I recently received a catalog from NCTE of books that help English teachers.  I was ecstatic to see so many professional development books!  So here is a list of all the books that I want to order (and hopefully interest my peers):

-Reading Shakespeare Film First- Mary Ellen Dakin

-Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults-Mary Ellen Dakin

-Critical Encounters in High School English- Deborah Appleman

-The Great Gatsby in the Classroom- Louel C. Gibbons

-Investigating Texts- Bronwyn Mellor and Annette Patterson

-Reading in the Dark- John Golden

-Wordplaygrounds- John S. O’Conner

-Poetry of Place- Terry Hermsen

-Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels- James Bucky Carter, editor

-Catching Tigers in Red Weather- Judith Rowe Michaels

-Humor Writing- Bruce A. Goebel

-(Didn’t realize how long my list was…)

-Genre Theory- Deborah Dean

-What is “College-Level” Writing- Patrick Sullivan and Howard Tinberg, editors

-Writing at the Threshold- Larry Weinstein

-Teaching Literacy for Love and Wisdom- Jeffrey D. Wilhelm and Bruce Novak

-(I’m gonna need a bigger bookshelf, heck a whole library!)

-“You Gotta BE the Book”-Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

-Both Art and Craft- Diana Mitchell and Leila Christenbury

-Looking Closely and Listening Carefully- Heidi Mills, Timothy O’Keefe, and Louise B. Jennings (Maggie and Kelsi!)

– “But Will it Work with Real Students?”- Janet Alsup and Jonathon Bush

-“What Do I Teach for 90 Minutes?”-Carol Porter

-Reshaping High School English- Bruce Pirie

-Language Learners in the English Classroom- Douglas Fisher, Carol Rothenburg, and Nancy Frey

-More Ways to Handle the Paper Load- Jeffrey N. Golub, editor

The Beginning of a Long Story

I have been working on this piece for several years now, but I seem to have no time to work on it now.  Also, I have reached a block in the road that hinders my progress to continue on with the story.  However, I want to finish it, and I want people to read it.  So here is the first part for my classmates and Professor to read and critique as much as they like.

Snow fell softly to the forest floor, blanketing the world in white.  The elves breath could be seen as they ran through the woods.  The nocturnal animals scurried to safety as the couple passed by swiftly, with just a whisper of sound.  They ran gracefully, with dignity and inhuman speed.  Large snowflakes gathered on their dark cloaks and stuck to the ferns of the forest floor.  The elves did not follow a path or road; rather they made their own, following the moon.

They soon came to a halt at a running river that cut through the silence of the night.  The male elf slowly made his way to the water, holding his hand out to help his female companion. She took his hand without hesitation, but did not step into the freezing water like the male.

“Jasobin, what do you think she will be like?” she asked softly.  Jasobin smiled and returned to her side.  He took her hands in his and brought them to his lips.

“If she is anything like Xelandon prophesized, she will be absolutely amazing.  No worries, Nomi, she will be perfect. Come, we must get there before he does.”

Nomi shivered and then nodded, gripping Jasobin’s hand tightly.  Together they forded the river, cold water rushing over their black leather boots.  They did not have to worry about swimming, for the water was low at that time of year and only came up to their ankles.  The stones at the bottom gave the elves a bit of trouble while crossing, slipping under their light weight.  Jasobin kept a tight hold on Nomi, helping her less matured self across the rapidly rolling water.  They reached the other side in another two minutes, and then continued in a quick pace to their destination.

The forest seemed to shiver as the couple ascended a large hill and a chilly breeze surrounded their bodies in a gentle but firm grip.  Their cloaks billowed behind them in the wind, and Nomi’s silky black hair was whipped around her face.  The spruce trees became less crowded as the couple climbed.  She and Jasobin reached the top of the hill, and before them lay the peaceful town of Cresding, covered in snow.  The houses were dark, grey smoke entering the air in wispy ribbons from the thatched roofs of the small homes, keeping the inhabitants warm in the cold night air.

“She’s here, I can feel it,” Jasobin whispered.  Nomi nodded as they flew over the hill on their swift feet and reached the wall of the town.  They adopted a human paced walk and approached the front gate.  Two guards jumped to their posts as they saw the newcomers.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” said a very irritated guard to the couple.

“It’s bloody midnight!” said the other guard, glaring at the elves.  Jasobin lowered his hood so the humans would be able to see.  Their faces fell as they recognized Jasobin for who he was.  His short bronze hair, his glowing silver eyes, his pointed ears, and his fascinating handsome features gave him away.  His beautiful face was not the only clue.  A silver crown rested on his head, diamonds glinting in the moonlight.  The guards gawped at him for several seconds before bowing their heads.

“Your Majesty,” they said, sarcasm dripping off their tongues.

“Please, I ask admittance to the wonderful Cresding.  Please allow my partner and I to pass,” Jasobin said elegantly.  Though he radiated kindness, the men glared up at him.  It was clear that they did not enjoy an elf’s company.  They looked suspiciously at Nomi, who had lowered her hood and flashed her gold eyes at them.

“Who is she then?” asked one of the guards.

“A companion,” Jasobin said simply.  The guard nodded.

“I suppose you will be allowed in.  How long will you be staying? I don’t want the trade for this town to be spoiled by your appearance.”

“We will be here just for tonight.  I swear that we will be gone before sunrise.”

The guards nodded and allowed the pair to pass through the wooden gate.  Jasobin grabbed Nomi’s hand once again as they entered the filthy town.  No human was out roaming the streets.  Only the elves’ footprints in the snow and smoke rising from the chimneys marked life.

“I wish I could just use a little magic to shut those guards’ mouths,” Nomi grumbled.  Jasobin turned to look her in the eye.

“Nomi, it does no good to dwell on the things you can’t change.  They will come around to respect us.  If only Xelandon wasn’t terrorizing all corners of this world.”

Nomi sighed and they continued down the road.  They traveled through the snow covered streets, passing many houses.  The windows were all dark, the town silent.  They stopped at a small wooden house.  Jasobin peaked into the window, then closed his eyes and sniffed.

“She’s here, just here.  Come on, let’s see her,” he said, keeping a firm grasp on Nomi’s hand.  They crept through the front door, not making a sound as they closed it behind them.  Snores coming from the corner told them that two adults were sleeping soundly.  Jasobin closed his eyes, letting his instinct guide him.  He climbed a set of stairs, all the while Nomi holding tightly onto his hand, and they entered a small loft where two children slept on one hay bed.  A cradle was placed next to the wall.  The elves closed in on it.  They knelt beside it and gazed down at the baby girl.

“She’s beautiful,” Nomi said, stroking the infant’s snow white face and surprisingly long black hair.  The baby opened her eyes sleepily and gazed at the intruders. Nomi pulled her hand back and gasped.

“Jasobin her eyes!” she whispered.

“He got to her first! Xelandon!” he answered.

“What are we to do?”

Jasobin thought for a moment.  “We must meet with the Council.  My father and the Elders will know what to do.”

“Jasobin, she can’t stay here in this human town.  She’ll be accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake!”

“I know, dear, I know.”

They stood and left the child in her crib.  She stared at them with her mismatched eyes, coal black and electric blue, as they left.  Nomi and Jasobin hurried to the town square, stopping at the frozen pond.

“Nomi, I must use magic in order to meet with the Council immediately.  Follow right after me,” he said before closing his eyes and becoming very still.  Nomi watched the pond’s surface.  The ice cracked, leaving an opening just large enough for one person.  The water rippled and took an image very familiar to Nomi.  It was the inside of the Palace, the throne room.  Jasobin stepped into the water and disappeared in a flash of blue.  Nomi took a deep breathe than followed suit.  After a second of unstoppable spinning, she felt her feet hit the hardwood floor.  Looking around she found herself standing next to Jasobin in the Throne Room, King Orleinden and Lady Ellex sitting in their thrones in front of them.   The Council of Elders sat around the room, surrounding the couple.

“Jasobin! My dear child what brings you here at this hour? We were in the middle of a meeting of some importance,” the king said, question in his silver eyes.  His wife slid her hand into his, her soft brown eyes gazing at the couple in front of her.  Nomi and Jasobin dove into deep bows before answering the king.  Despite the king’s young appearance, power and an ancient knowledge radiated from him, surrounding the room in comfortable safety.

“Please, forgive us Father,” Jasobin answered as he rose from his bow.  “Nomi and I just returned from seeing the baby.”

“Yes, of course, but I don’t understand why you must interrupt a meeting in the middle of the night to tell me this.  Explain, please.”

“Father, as we looked upon the child, it became apparent that Xelandon has reached her first.  She opened her eyes and they were different colors.  Why Xelandon left the baby in her crib to live with the humans remains a mystery to me, but Nomi and I both agree that the child is not safe to live in Cresding.  She must be protected!”

King Orleinden frowned, his bronze eyebrows furrowing as he contemplated this new discovery.  Lady Ellex’s eyes were opened wide with shock and fear.  The Council members were muttering to each other and shifting restlessly in their seats.  After a moment of the king’s deliberation, he cleared his throat and looked into his son’s eyes.

“I also agree that the child must not stay there.  However, suggesting that we take her in ourselves is questionable.  How do we know that she will not pose a threat to the kingdom and citizens?  Xelandon’s unforgivable potion may prove to turn the child into something life threatening.”

“Father, please, she’s just an infant.  If she was taught our ways, our pure and honest ways, perhaps she can be saved,” Jasobin answered.  Several of the Council members nodded their heads in agreement.  King Orleinden looked at the members in turn, trying to read their emotionless faces.

“What does the Council say, Stephawgn?” he asked.  The Council members looked to the Speaker, a tall dark man with long, silky black hair and smooth features.  The Speaker cocked his head and the rest of the Council nodded their heads in synchronization.

“The Council agrees with Prince Jasobin, my lord,” Stephawgn answered in his deep ringing voice.  The king nodded and turned to his son.

“Jasobin, return to Cresding at once and retrieve the child.  Bring her back to the throne room immediately so we may see her.”

“Yes, Father,” Jasobin said.  Grabbing Nomi’s hand, he used the same portal magic he had in the human town and together they stepped into the pool of water on the floor.  Their feet hit the snow packed road near the well of Cresding and they sprinted to the house of the infant.  Without making a sound, they entered the house, crept up the stairs and came to a sudden stop.  A dark cloaked figure stood over the crib, holding the infant in his slender arms.

“Isn’t she wonderful,” crooned the male elf, turning to face Jasobin and Nomi.  He was cuddling the child close to his chest; a light that had never been seen before in the elf’s life glowed in his mismatched eyes.

“Xelandon, give her to me at once,” growled Jasobin, holding out his arms.  Xelandon chuckled softly and turned his silver and red eyes to the girl’s face.  He stroked her hair and begun singing her a lullaby that was commonly heard in the elven capitol, Elor.  Nomi stamped her feet impatiently.  Xelandon clicked his tongue.

“Now, now, Nomi, patience is the key to everything,” Xelandon said softly, once again looking up to meet the couple’s eyes.  “I see living in Elor for the past one hundred years hasn’t taught you very much.”

Nomi hissed and stepped forward only to be held back by Jasobin.  “You’ll hurt the child,” he whispered to her.  She glared at Xelandon, giving up her attempt to attack him.

“What do you want?” Nomi said through gritted teeth.

“I wish for nothing but the safety of this child,” answered Xelandon in his sickly sweet voice.  Nomi made a disbelieving sound.  “You do not believe me, and for good reason I’m sure, but please, know that I only wish for young Araina to be well cared for…oh and trained for the destruction of the king’s rule.”

“I knew it! That’s why you changed her!” Jasobin whispered loudly.

“Of course, dear prince, why else would I do such a thing?” exclaimed Xelandon as if he couldn’t believe that it took the prince so long to understand.

“Give her to us, Xelandon, or I swear that I will do everything in my power to destroy you!” Jasobin growled.  He raised his right hand, a whitish glow emanating from it.  Xelandon looked at it scornfully before setting down the baby in her crib.

“Please, Jasobin, I do not wish to fight on such a glorious night.  But if you insist, I suppose we must,” sighed Xelandon, raising his left hand.  Before Xelandon had the chance to summon magic, Jasobin flicked his wrist and sent Xelandon silently crashing to the wood floor, wrists and ankles bound, mouth gagged.

“Hurry, Nomi, get the baby!”

Nomi swiped the child from her crib and rushed to Jasobin.  Together they silently sprinted down the rickety stairs and out of the house.  They dashed to the town square, but before they could perform the portal magic, Xelandon came bounding down the road like a mountain lion, a cruel and ugly grimace on his scarred face.

“Give her to me, she’s mine!” screamed Xelandon.  He reached for Jasobin but Nomi pulled the prince to her and together they spun through the portal Nomi had just made and landed safely in the throne room of the elven capitol, Elor.  The Council of Elders, the king, and Lady Ellex all jumped by the sudden appearance of the prince and his companion.  Jasobin and Nomi stood panting as the surprise in the room faded away to let in curiosity.

My Reading Life

I have been known to read the Harry Potter series every summer since fifth grade.  While this may make me very knowledgeable in the world of Harry Potter, I have recently become bored with it.  There is only so much I can get out of reading the same books over and over.  So I broadened my horizons a little and opened my mind to knew texts, both old and new.  Last semester I read Dracula for my FYI class and loved it.  I’m reading the Scarlet Letter for my American Literature class and, although I was skeptical at first because I heard several of my classmates groan when it was announced that we would be reading it, I love it as well.

As a future teacher I want to encourage my students to reach into genres that they might not expect to like.  I want them to explore different texts and discover what treasures can be found in the dusty section of the library.  I realize that many students are probably not going to be very excited to read, but I want to spark that interest for them.  I want them to WANT to read.  I know that student choice plays a very big factor in this desire, but what if it’s not enough?  Am I just going to have to push some students ‘off the deep end’ and hope that they don’t drown?  How do I get them to read, even if they have the freedom to choose what they read but don’t have the motivation?