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Archive for March, 2011

 

Yuyuan Garden, "The Garden of Contentment" - Shanghai, 2009

In the middle of the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s largest cities is the Yuyuan Garden.  Here you can find a fairly quiet bench to sit and contemplate, while taking in the garden and watching the koi glide through the water.  When you are ready, you can go back out into the metropolis and continue on your way.  I feel like I’m at that point right now.  I am in the middle of ever-busy Shanghai again, only this time it’s the life of a teacher and a new parent.  Writing about my progress is a chance for me to sit on that bench again, take stock, and make my way back out into the city.

Using this photo is also my way of celebrating the acceptance of my elective world history course proposals for next year.  I am very excited that I will get to teach two of my favorite classes again: Asian Studies and African Studies.  I already have enough student interest to have at least one section of each class.  Being an educator is that much better when you get to share what you are passionate about with your students.

I have been making steady progress on some of my revamped goals for the 3rd Quarter.

Assessment – I will work to deliberately define for students what they are expected to learn.

Progress: I feel I had some good improvement in this area.  I used the unit outline created by U.S. History PLC team for our Civil Rights Unit.  I felt that it not only helped to inform students, but helped to keep me focused and on track with my lessons.  It was also helpful to have the test written before planning the activities of the unit.  I enjoyed using the outline so much that I used the same format to create a unit outline for my Vietnam unit.  I will use this outline the same way we used the Civil Rights outline to write the assessment for Vietnam.  Going through this process has helped me to fine tune what I want students to learn and it has helped me to have a better focus.

Revamp: I will work to deliberately define for students what they are expected to learn. I will be keeping this goal as is and focus on making it a habit in my planning process.  I hope to create unit outlines for each of my remaining areas of study in U.S. History.  I will give those outlines to students at the outset of a new unit and refer to them frequently in my planning and with students in my teaching.  In the future, these could be a good basis for creating my historical content standards in my move towards more Standards Based Grading practices.

Feedback – I will provide students with more informative, specific and timely feedback.

Progress: Who would have thought that changing one word in your vocabulary and thought process could be so challenging?  Going from the concept of grading to feedback seems like it should be easy, but it hasn’t been.  I’ve come to realize how entrenched the concept of grading really is for me.  However, I have begun to focus more on formative assessment and reminding myself that feedback doesn’t have to mean a letter grade.  As for the timely aspect of things, I still need lots of work here.  The times I had set aside to grade didn’t really work out as I had hoped.  The baby had her own schedule in mind and it was different than the one I had so neatly planned out!  Ha!  I did use our grading program, Infinite Campus, more this semester.

Revamp: I will provide students with more informative, specific and timely feedback. I am going to continue to work on shifting my mindset from grading to feedback.  To help with this and to get at the more timely aspect of this goal, I am working on incorporating more formative assessment opportunities into my lessons.  Both my students and I need to have a better grasp of what they are learning and what needs to be retaught.  I will be going through my resources and working with an Instructional Facilitator to incorporate this more regularly into the teaching and learning that happens in my classroom.

Parental Communication – I will communicate more regularly with parents by calling all of my World History parents at least once this quarter.

Progress: I didn’t get to everyone.  My plan was to call about 2 parents each day after school.  Someone pointed out to me the idea that the urgent (what someone needs right now) can often take away from the important (what I value and am striving to achieve).  After school became more of a time to complete the urgent things, rather than the important things.  This meant that fewer calls were made than I would have liked.

Revamp:   I will communicate more regularly with parents by calling or communicating by email with a minimum of 20% this quarter.  I know I need to remain specific with this goal.  I decided to move from focusing on just one class to an overall number.  I also decided to include email because some parents prefer this type of communication and I have had some good conversations this way.

Efficiency - I will become more efficient with my planning time, feedback, and various other responsibilities while maintaining quality standards.

Progress: While there is always room for improvement, I do feel like I am starting to find a rhythm with how I’m using my time.  The use of the class calendar in FirstClass to post make-up work has saved me a lot of time.  I need to be better about making sure students know how to use it well, since the user interface isn’t the most intuitive.  There were also a few times I didn’t get things put in right away, but I am working on making this a consistent habit (urgent vs. important).  My time with Instructional Facilitators has been helpful and I feel I am good at telling them exactly what I’m looking for.

Revamp: I will be tweaking the way I use the class calendar to try and make it easier for students to use.  I will continue to work on carving out time to provide detailed feedback and to use our Instructional Facilitators as a resource.

Overall – I feel that I am finally “getting my groove back” in the classroom.  I have begun to feel more comfortable, which helps me to better adapt to my students’ needs.  I am starting to pull the small things back into my teaching that I found effective in the past and I find my students are finally getting comfortable with my teaching style.  They have had a lot of inconsistency this past year with three different teachers and three sets of expectations.  And the biggest change for me is that I’ve started to enjoy teaching again.  I was very stressed (and sleep deprived!) the first few months, but things are becoming more consistent.  Having a job you love makes things so much easier.

My "Favorite Student" & Gratuitous Baby Picture: From bouncing to sleeping in 4.1 seconds!

Do you have any feedback or advice on these goals?  What are your goals?

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Awhile ago, I had the opportunity to read Marc Valentine’s blog post, Top 5 Cheap Videos for AP World on APWorldGuru@blogspot.  While I use iTunes regularly at home, for some reason I hadn’t thought to look there for films to use in the classroom.  So after playing around a little bit, I thought I would post a U.S. History version of Marc’s blog.  I tend to show clips from films rather than the whole thing, but it’s always nice to own your own copy even if you’re just using part of the film.  I would recommend reading Marc’s post on his ideas on using film effectively in the classroom.

Criteria for the list:
1. Inexpensive (so that if you don’t like the video, you only pay less than 5 dollars)
2. Entertaining (so that your students do not fight with the sandman during your class)
3. Educational (because if you are going to use valuable classroom time, it better be worth it!)

1. American Experience (PBS)
I’ve gotten good student responses from this series.  You have the choice of a free streaming version or prices that range from $1.99 – $3.99 on iTunes.  You can stream many of the full episodes or clips for free at the American Experience website.  If you want to purchase the videos to avoid issues that can arise with streaming, iTunes has many episodes available.  Certain episodes are also available on Netflix Instant Streaming.  The episode that my students have repeatedly found riveting is Surviving the Dust Bowl.  (Note: there is at least one potentially disturbing animal scene.)  Another bonus of this series that all of the specific episodes I have looked up on the PBS website provide lesson plans.
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2. The West Wing (NBC)
I have shown clips and full episodes from this series on the White House in my classroom.  In particular, I show an episode from season 3 called Isaac and Ishmael when studying 9/11 or the War on Terror.  Written and filmed within 2 weeks as a response to 9/11, you can read more about this specific episode here.  Episodes of this series are $1.99 on iTunes.
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3. Iconoclasts (The Sundance Channel)
This is a show where famous individuals interview each other.  I have used the episode Dave Chapelle + Maya Angelou when teaching the Civil Rights movement.  While I do not show the episode in its entirety (there is some content that I feel is inappropriate for my students), there is a segment I like to show where they discuss Malcolm X.  Chapelle also asks Maya about the multiple assassinations of the ’60s, which is something my students often ask about.  Dr. Angelou gives an interesting answer that can lead to some great discussion.  The segment I use is found at 16:07 – 20:48.  I am currently watching the available episodes on Netflix instant streaming for more possibilities. If you teach about Hurricain Katrina, there is an episode with Cameron Diaz + Cameron Sinclair that discusses rebuilding in the aftermath years later.  If you teach World History, Archbishop Desmond Tutu + Sir Richard Branson has some good things on South Africa. Episodes of this series are $1.99 on iTunes.  You can also currently find Iconoclasts: Season 4 on Netflix Instant Streaming.  This includes Diaz + Sinclair and Tutu + Branson.
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4. Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (Travel Channel)
I would love to teach a history through food class.  If you’re looking for a little bit of a different take on things, No Reservations is a way to incorporate this revealing part of American daily life into your class.  There are episodes on Cleveland, Puerto Rico, the Mexico-U.S. Boarder, the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles,  New York, Disappearing ManhattanInto the Fire NY, Husdon Vally, NYSouth Carolina, New Orleans, Hawaii, Washington D.C., Chicago, Maine, the Heartland, the Rustbelt, San FranciscoMontana, and more.  You can find the North American episodes listed on the No Reservations website.  Bourdain mixes food, history and culture to create unconventional portraits of the area he’s visiting.  You need to be aware that his topics of conversation may not always be appropriate for your students, so preview carefully.  Two colleagues of mine suggested Vietnam: The Central Highlands when studying the Vietnam conflict.  Episodes of this series are $1.99 on iTunes and you can also find many episodes on Netflix Instant Streaming.
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5. Frontline (PBS)
The news series is good for understanding current events.  There are a myriad of topics including Hurricane Katrina, U.S. – Iran relations, health care, the economic crisis, presidents and their decisions, current wars, and much more.  There are also some great options for World  History.  Episodes of this series are $1.99 on iTunes and you can also view many of them on Netflix Instant Streaming or for free at the Frontline website.  Some of the episodes will also have teacher guides.

Please feel free to share your video discoveries in the comments section.  Thanks to Marc for the great World History list and for the inspiration for this post.

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