Curriculum and Instruction

What I’m Reading This Summer: Education Edition

‘Tis the season for getting into some good education books. I’m not in grad school yet so it’s good to get into some more academic reading.

1. Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle


I have had this one since college, and it is always so inspiring to go back and get tips and ideas. Something I have always been struggling with is implementing a Writer’s Notebook like Kittle does. This year one of my goals is to be more intentional with it.

2. Productive Group Work by Frey, Fisher, and Everlove


This was given to me *cough* last year *cough* to read by my new teacher induction coordinator and I still haven’t gotten around to cracking it open. Group work isn’t something that I would say I really focus on managing in my classroom, which probably means I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. It will be good to be more knowledgable about it.



Socratic Seminars: How to Run One

If you have not read Socratic Seminars: How to Prepare–do it! It’s a precursor to this one.

So now that you have prepared your students for the S.S., what do you do? Get your hands dirty!

How to Run a Socratic Seminar

1. Talk about language. I used the Appropriate Language Handout from the Teaching Channel, and it accompanied students during the seminar.

2. Assume the Position.

Socratic Seminar Setup

No, that is not me, but I do like to point at things/people while I’m teaching. 


Socratic Seminars: How to Prepare

I posted last year about Socratic Seminars and how I was planning on using them in my classroom. Needless to say, I was apprehensive in doing this because of its somewhat complicated structure and my always-denied but apparent perfectionism and my struggle to avoid it. However, I attended an in-house Avid training by one of our district’s teachers about what the seminar is and how to use it, and I felt pretty comfortable trying it out.

This post is going to be a how-to on how to prepare yourself and your students for a Socratic Seminar! Woo!

Prepare yourself:

1. Decide your end-goal for the S.S. Is it a reflection? Project? In my case, the summative assessment was the actual Socratic Seminar due to time constraints. Students had to demonstrate their learning via participation, the notes they took, and the reflections they wrote. This came out of the graphic organizer that I modified from the Teaching Channel link below.


Coming back up for air so I can rant about “learning styles”

Hi all. As you can see, I haven’t posted on here for awhile.

This school year has been crazy, as I’m adjusting to a new teaching position. Though I definitely could have written more, I’ve chosen to spend it doing non-education related things, like enjoying all Colorado has to offer.

Today it’s raining, so it’s not offering me much. I’ve been meaning to blog for awhile (I even have a little reminder on my phone on Sundays to blog, which I’ve been directing my opposition defiance toward (“I won’t blog! You can’t make me!”) I’ve been on the edge of teacher burn-out lately, as most are these days, so I’ve left the blogging up to someone else.

But I’m back, maybe just for this post, maybe not! Who knows?

Awhile back, my students had to complete a survey imposed by the Colorado Department of Education as part of its ICAP program, which has something to do with preparing students for college and career success. The survey, although I cannot recall its exact name, was focused on determining a student’s learning style—whether it’s “kinesthetic,” “auditory,” “visual,” etc. It seemed to be based on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, appropriated into the “learning styles” pop psychology that had me schooled at some point into believing that it was true and valid.


Day 4: What do you love most about teaching?

Strangely enough, I don’t hear this question very often. I hear a lot of “oh, you’re a teacher? That’s awesome! (Awkward silence),” and “oh I could never do that, you are a special person…” Not sure what that says about the profession.

Responding to this question is difficult. It’s not because I don’t love teaching, but I think this says something about me as a person and a professional—I don’t celebrate what I “love” very much, and I don’t think about what I “love” concerning teaching very much. That’s not to say  I don’t come home and report back to my husband the good (and bad) things that happened during the day, but I have never pin-pointed what I love about teaching. Weird, right?

So instead of picking what I love most, I’m going to list what I do love:


Day 3: Evaluations

Day 3: Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation. 

I am not feeling inspired to write today, but I guess that’s what the “challenge” is all about. I am hitting some road blocks with some of my classes, and the end to our first session (and their Writing Proficiency assessment) is approaching in a couple weeks, with some other district-wide testing and culture building days eating up instructional time in the middle. Needless to say, I’m learning a different pace of instruction through trial-by-fire. It’s all good, though. 

An observation area I would like to improve on is definitely getting my students to drive the lesson instead of the teacher. In Colorado, moving from “Proficient” to “Accomplished” is all in what they students are doing, instead of what the teacher is doing. I know this is a hard thing to do, but I am interested in getting there. A place I plan to start is with the Socratic Seminar. I’ve been researching it, and am excited to try it out. I hope to do that during our next session, as I am teaching Night by Elie Weisel. I think it will be a good piece of writing to get into, as I’ve never taught it before. 

What are your eval improvement goals, teachers?


Day 2: Technology

Here’s Day 2 of the TeachThought Challenge: Write about one piece of technology you would like to try out this year, and why.  

Ever since I got my interactive whiteboard (it was like Christmas came, seriously) I have been 100% down for using technology to improve instruction. While the teaching methods do not change, the delivery and efficiency does. 

I have already written about my excitements and woes about the one-to-one iPad initiative in my current district, but I really am getting more excited about this being rolled out in January. We are moving to a new school building that can support iPad use in the classroom. We’ve had trainings to help get us rolling, but of course most of this will be trial and error. 

I believe the shift in my instruction will be concentrated around workflow. Very few paper documents will be needed, because students can (theoretically) take notes with their iPads. Their readings will (theoretically) be done on iPads. Typing essays will (theoretically, cringe) be done on iPads. While we are not required to do everything on tablets, many district-purchased resources (like books) will be available for iPad only. 

Most importantly, students will be given a tool to engage with one another in a current and relevant way: discussion boards, comments, emails. I hope to start a blog where students are engaged via discussion boards on our “essential question.” Teaching them how to engage in logical discourse is important, and so much of it happens online every day. 

IPads will give me a tool to create and administer quick entrance/exit slips, as well as surveys. This will make formative assessment less hectic (too many times has a student turned in a rushed exit slip on my desk, only to be lost forever).

All in all, the content and process will be the same, but the tools will not.

What about you, teachers? What’s a piece of technology you are excited to incorporate?


(P.S., day two of the challenge is pretty rough…teaching for 8 hours and a few more of work to go…)  

A New Year, New Kids, New Goals

For those of you curious about my new position and my career/life updates, this one’s for you.


This school year started off strangely—my biggest behavioral issue has been my dog.

Normally, I would be making plans about how to manage new behaviors in the classroom, because my previous position required it. Honestly, I didn’t mind it too much.

Then I found out my dog barks when my husband and I leave, and actually has some pretty severe separation anxiety.

So my biggest stressor so far this school year have been: figuring out how to handle the dog during the day, deciding if we should even keep her, and how we are going to pay for all of it.

Although I have worked out some of those problems (and we are keeping her 🙂 ), I still have to figure out how to train her when both of us work 10-14 hour days.

So learning a whole new position is not so bad, compared to the dog issues.

Anyway, back to school.

What’s this school about?

When I tell people I teach at an “alternative” school, obviously that word doesn’t get very far, so I have to clarify:


Guerilla Poetry: Subversiveness in (and out) of the Classroom

Everyone loves Banksy. And if you don’t know about Banksy yet, crawl out from under your corporate junk filled lives!!! Just kidding. I think I first learned of the guerilla artist through the Colbert report, so…I’m not sure what that says about me.
























These evocative images obviously speak for themselves, and have a certain element of sadness that most social-activism, in any form, seeps.

Anyway, everyone’s caught up on Banksy because this is technically “vandalism,” just as graffiti is. And he sneaks in during the night and leaves something a bit more profound than a cracked wall. And he’s pretty baller at it, too.

There is a certain aspect of space and place that is necessary for his art to “work.” Would it mean the same hanging in a swank gallery downtown? Would it mean the same reproduced and hung in a coffee shop?

And what does this have to do with a language arts class? For teenagers?

I came across ‘guerilla poetry’ somewhere on the internet awhile back. I said to myself, “that’s cool, but I am not cool enough to teach that.” Keep in mind that gorillas are not involved, but this is not stopping me from thinking about wearing a gorilla suit to introduce the unit.

I have since stopped trying to be cool, because when I try I end up being way less cool than I began. So what the hell! Guerilla poetry it is.

I would say I am a “student” of the art form, meaning I don’t know a whole lot and am relying on the internet to figure this out, because it’s not exactly something I learned how to do in college.

This article from the Guardian was a good place for me to start. It is a pretty honest and practical way to carry out the form in the classroom.

Just like with Banksy’s art, this brings writing into a different space and place, and adds an element of excitement and subversiveness that most teenagers can get behind.


And most importantly, it shows them they are writers always–in any place, on any surface.


And here are some examples that I found that I’ll be showing my students:

geurilla poetry3 don't_let_poetry_die guerilla4



























Now obviously we will not be spray painting walls. I think it would be wonderful and exhilarating, but we must all tow lines of appropriateness in the workplace. We’ll see 🙂 Maybe we will pretend with chalk.

Have any of you tried/taught guerilla poetry? What works? What doesn’t? I need ideas!



Engaging students through the Socratic Seminar

The Socratic Seminar is something I have yet to master, much less even try in the classroom. It takes time, patience, and lots of practice. I’ve been spending some time looking at how other educators do this in their classrooms, and found some good ideas. Since I do not specifically know my students yet, it’s hard to tell what behavioral/mental maturity they have, but my plan is to give it a go. I think probably any student can, at some level, engage in student-to-student discussion and recognize metacognition.  You just have to scaffold it. I am teaching a writing skills class that focuses on the persuasive essay, which I’ve taught before but definitely flopped. I think this is because my students did not know how to identify and make claims and support them.