Thursday, August 23, 2007
School Dreams
I have been having first day of school dreams since school let out last May. Lots of dreams. Like every night. 80% of them go like this: I am standing in the front of my class talking to the students, getting to know them. I don't really know what we are doing other than that. Then the bell rings. And as they are walking out the door I suddenly remember about all that first day stuff that I DID NOT DO. So I yell at them, "I'll get you your syllabus and everything later" and the dream ends.

Then the other night I had another dream which goes much better. I do remember to hand out all the materials. But then I am reflecting about the day at the end of the day and it occurs to me that I skipped fifth period. I went to lunch and didn't ever make it back to class. Nice.

Here's hoping that the actual first day goes off flawlessly.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Grammar revelations
So I have read/skimmed the four books. The book that I found most useful, was the first one I read (perhaps because it was the first and I read it word for word?) Breaking the Rules, Liberating Writers Through Innovative Grammar Instruction. The thing that I liked about it was that it pointed out how some of our grammar rules that we teachers drill into the kids are not really being used by published, respected writers of today. Language evolves. This can be good or bad, but I want to spend my grammar time as efficiently as possible. So here are my goals for the year:

10th grade - Start off with them brainstorming why it is important that they learn correct grammar. What is the purpose of grammar as they know it in a high school English classroom? We will talk about that. Then I want to hit on the one concept that we didn't cover last year - appositives. Then I want to move into sentence combining, both with unrelated activities and in their own work. The goal of the year will be relevance. Emphasis on writing instead of identifying.

9th grade - Also start with brainstorming, just so they can have a little reflection on grammar in the classroom. Then I am not so sure. I suppose work a little on the concepts that we did last year in 9th grade. I want them to have some background. But just try to make it more meaningful. I am really less excited about this group than the 10th graders because I know exactly what the 10th graders already know (or don't know as the case probably will be).

I know what is good and what is bad in theory. Useful and not so useful. It is actually putting that into practice that is difficult. Because grammar (useful activities with grammar, anyway) are so related to writing, and I feel I have no idea how to teach writing. But the second book I read was very useful with that.

Other points from Breaking the Rules: 1. pre-testing in the introduction - I really like the idea of pretesting. I liked it when we talked about it in my week of GT training. It seems that a usage pretest might be harder to compile than an identification of parts of speech, phrases pretest. Not in the lay/lie/lain sort of way but in the creative, using varied sentence structure, more complex sentences way.

2. Language Acquisition. Chapter 1. Basically in order to speak correct English 98% of the time, students already know grammar. They might not be able to label it, but they can use it.

3. "Knowing a word, being able to use it, necessitates knowing its part of speech" (5). This made me think of when doing grammar instruction and thinking about all the clues of words (ending in -ing, -ion) that I recognized as MEANING SOMETHING and I am not sure that my students did. At least, not as explicitly.

4. The explanation of how the traditional grammar definitions are not good--they do not actually define the, aren't meaningful for students--was very sad to read. I like neat definitions. I understood what he was saying. A definition must be correct. But all along I always understood what the concept of a noun is despite any shortcomings of the definition. For example, I learned young that a noun was a person, place, or thing. Then somewhere, the definition was expanded to include "idea". That never confused me. I think of "thing" to include ideas. (Even persons and places.)

5. Cool preposition statistics - Of, To, and In are the 2nd, 5th, and 6th most commonly used words in the English language. Adding for, on, with, at, from, and by gives the list of the nine prepositions that make up 92.6% of all prepositional phrases. (pg35)

6. Love the appositives lesson.

7. Love the list of confused words (77). THIS might be good for a pretest. Or for focus activities. Might also be interesting to show students the Collins Cobuild corpus or the Kantz/Yates survey results. Oh! Or give them the survey first. Then look at how their answers are the same or different than the English professors' answers.

8. I love the analysis of REAL writing. And this sentence: "Our formulas--use topic sentences, never use passives, vary sentence openings--deny students the resources routinely used by good writers, and our concentration on correctness puts the emphasis on the least important aspect of good writing" (92).

9. Note to self: Don't focus on errors. Focus on the writing and big picture.

10. Nice concept: as writers try new things, they make mistakes. Just like a baby learning to walk.

11. On the discussion of first person. The author says that 82% of some example essays chosen (as models of first rate expository/persuasive prose) uses the first person. Fine. But I am guessing that the these essays were not literary analysis pieces. Those (to my knowledge) need to keep avoiding the first person,


*** this is not finished but I started it in July and figured I should publish. May finish it later.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Generation Gap?
Conversation between me and my sister while watching the opening credits of The Italian Job.

Sister: Does this have Matt Damon in it?
Me: No but it has Mark Wahlberg.
Sister: Who is that?
Me: Marky Mark?
Sister: Oh the guy who plants trees.
Me: What?
Sister: In Clueless, she says that he is going to come and plant a tree.
Me: Well maybe he was, but not because he planted trees. He was a rapper. Marky Mark and and the funky bunch?
Sister: The Brady Bunch!
Monday, June 25, 2007
When I am not watching TV or thinking about painting the other bedroom I am waging a constant grammar debate in my head. What the value is. What I taught last year. How that needs to change this year. What the purpose of learning a predicate adjective is.

I got two books from the library. Grammar in Context by Constance Weaver and Understanding Written Grammar by Jane Walpole. Then I bought Breaking the Rules: Liberating Writers Through Innovative Grammar Instruction, which I am currently reading. I have also bought but have not yet received Crafting Expository Argument: Practical Approaches to the Writing Process for Students and Teachers Fourth Edition.

That is keeping me busy for now. Perhaps more posts to come as I think everything through.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
April Gone
April was a busy month. After spring break was over the days at school started flying by. I started looking at buying a house. And then I found one. And then I bought it. I went from no house to closed on a house in a matter of weeks. Crazy. Buying a house not in the summer is not something I would recommend to a teacher. Taking days off is a pain. I now have to get the gas turned on so I can have hot water. And Centerpoint only makes all day appointments. And I don't have all day. Grrr.

But the house is lovely and I am really looking forward to moving in and getting everything all set up this summer.

Wish I had some leftover money to buy this cute shirt though.

I have my teaching assignment for next year. As of now I stay in the same school and the same room and teach 4 classes PreAP 9th and 2 classes PreAP 10th. I am very excited about that.

Tomorrow I have a meeting about the curriculum.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Through someone on my network, I discovered It is a college level (although it doesn't have to be) notes collection social networking thing. It will be interesting to see where this goes. It does cool things like easily links to wikipedia and google and facebook. I don't know if it would have been that useful to me, though, because typing out notes or taking notes WAS how I studied them. The act of getting it out on paper was enough usually that I didn't spend that much time reading over it. They have a blog too ( which hasn't been updated in 41 days. (Why did they have to take a cool name like

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
End of year teaching and reflections on my love of research
We have 10 weeks of school left, counting this week and the last week of school. The last week will be finals. This week is already almost half over. Then one week will have a math taks test. One week has a holiday for Good Friday. One week has the freshman picnic. So that's like 6 weeks?

I am loving the end of the year. I am going to miss my student so so much. But I am finally at the point of the year where everything else is nothing new. No firsts. I have read everything that we will be doing for the rest of the year, so I don't have to feel anxious about barely keeping one step ahead of the students. And I love research.

Research (and my 11th grade research paper process) is one of the reasons that I majored in English (not literature, not creative writing, but the technical writing track) and certainly one of the reasons I love libraries. I love finding other people's words and putting them together. Seeing how they mesh. I love looking up articles and seeing where I can fit what. I love looking for a specific fact and finding something that will work perfectly.

I love the MLA handbook and I love that every question has an answer. Oh how I love rules. English rules!

I love my paper. It is excellent and I got a 93. I love the binder it sits in. I love the weight of the papers behind it and the dividers that organize everything. It is really a shame that my research paper was on breastfeeding. We chose our own topics --basically anything. My teacher thought it was funny that we had both breastfeeding and Hugh Hefner as topics in our class. And as weird as it might seem to choose that as a topic as a 17 year old, it made a great paper. Scientific fact plus controversy. But quite awkward to share that with my students today.
Delicious and Teaching
A few weeks ago we had a professional development day at school where we went to three sessions. I learned to make a jeopardy powerpoint game (super useful), created a video with windows movie maker (fun but possibly not that useful) and learned more about podcasting. The podcasting one was rather frustrating because of the restrictions that the district I am in puts on using the internet and technology. One thing that I found so interesting in the session was that the teacher showed us the her links that she has collected. She introduced the idea to other teachers and it was awesome. I told her about the tutorial that I made for my master's thesis. I felt a certain propriety over the whole issue of in my human world (as opposed to the virtual internet world, where I see the blogs, feeds, and links of "famous" people whom I have never met). It was different being TAUGHT by someone who knew less in an area than I.

Tonight I was organizing my links. (I am really into organizing these days. The files. The desk drawers. The spice cabinet. Now onto less tangible items) I really like the new tag description idea. Although I don't know if anyone cares what some of my acronyms stand for, it makes me feel better to explain what OMAM, OAMC, and TKAM stand for. After writing my English acronyms on the board over and over again, the acronym looks more familiar to me than the actual title. But it is not that way for everyone.

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