Thursday, June 26, 2014

What do we need to be teaching our students?

As you may know by now, I am moving up to grades 7-8 next year. All teachers feel a bit overwhelmed when they make a change that essentially equates to starting over.  While I do feel overwhelmed, I am also excited. This is a new adventure and a new challenge.

I have been asking myself, "What is it that I really need to teach my students?" I don't find it hard to think of what to teach.  I sometimes find it impossible to figure out what NOT to teach.  Sometimes it all feels important. If you haven't figured it out already, I over-think and over-analyze everything.  It is my gift and my curse both.

What do we need to be teaching our students?

  1. Students need to be able to ask questions and find answers to those questions. 
  2. Students need to be able to form their own opinions about the information they find.
  3. Students need to be able to recognize how content relates to the real world. 
  4. Students need to be able to make connections between ideas and concepts. 
  5. Students need to develop their own worldview that shapes their ideas and choices they make. 
  6. Students need to be able to articulate their own ideas and point of view on concepts. 
  7. Students need to be able to persevere through the difficult, uncomfortable, and monotonous. 
  8. Students need to be able to make choices and live with the consequences. 
I am sure there are more things that really matter, but this list feels like a summation of the essentials.  Much of it boils down to developing the ability to THINK. 

Why do we need to teach our kids to think?

Source: Pinterest

We live in a world of instant information.  We can access at the click of a button an answer to any question.  How do we know if the information we get is accurate, reliable, helpful, logical...? We have to evaluate it and form opinions about we read. 

Kids have gotten used to schedules and tasks being handed to them and dictated for them.  You are beginning to see more articles on the importance of free play.  Kids no longer run down the street or call up and ask a friend to play. They get their mom to text their friend's mom to schedule a play date. 

Why do kids need to understand their own worldview and how it shapes their ideas?

In a postmodern world, we are led to believe there are no moral absolutes and anything goes.  However, more and more companies are implementing ethical training.  Kids do need some sense of how they measure right and wrong, how they decide what is the best way to treat people, how they want to be treated, and even what they want in life and out of their education.

Why do kids need to learn to persevere?

Sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes life is boring.  There is beauty in overcoming a challenge. There is no such thing as perfect. We learn...we grow...we keep going.

There are parts of most jobs that are dull or monotonous. Of course as a teacher, I want what I teach to be engaging.  However, I also want my students to be successful in the real world.  Not every aspect of every job is engaging.  That is life. Let's prepare kids for it. 

What do you really want to teach your students?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fiction Friday: Historical Fiction from World War II

I thought I would drop in this Friday night for a quick post. I am happy to link up with Amanda at The Teaching Thief for Fiction Friday.

You can read my post from Wednesday to see the 6 books I read over the last week and a half.  In case you haven't heard, I am switching from grades 4-5 to grades 7-8. So I am trying to get through a lot of books this summer as I choose my novel studies for next year.  I also want to be able to recommend books to my students.  I absolutely love young adult and teen fiction, so I am excited about the switch.  I ordered a ton of books on Amazon over the last week.

A couple of books I just started that are in my queue to read this week both happen to take place during World War II.  I didn't necessarily plan it that way, but both books sounded so interesting. So many of the books read around 8th and 9th grade surrounding WWII are specifically from a Jewish point of view (such as Diary of a Young Girl and Night) that I was interested in finding some additional books that look at some other aspects of the war. (Although, I have not yet read The Book Thief or Sarah's Key yet.  They both look really good, and I hoping to read those this summer as well.)

Code Talker  is the story of the Native American marines who fought against Japan in WWII.

They used the Navajo language as a way of coding messages. The book is written by Joseph Bruchac.  Bruchac is a wonderful writer and he has written almost every juvenile book on the Native Americans worth reading. There was the movie "Wind-talkers" several years ago about the same group of marines, which I believe is also an adult book.  I was excited to see there is a young adult book about the topic as well.  I think this book would open itself to such interesting discussions about points of view on historical events.

Code Name Verity is a book that showed up on my Amazon recommended list.

It just sounded too interesting to pass up on. Historical fiction always has and probably always will be my favorite genre. A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France.  Two girls are caught and only can survive.  The surviver is given the choice between revealing her mission or facing execution.  I haven't started this book just yet, but it sounds like a page-turner.  I hope it lives up to its description.  I will let you know.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Working on It Wednesday: Buried in Books

There are lots of great summer linkies going on.  I always enjoy all the blog reading in the summer.  I am going to link up with Kinder Gals' Workin' On It Wednesday and Surfin' Through Second's Workin' It Wednesday.

I know I have been absent for too long.  You think when summer starts you will have so much more time to get caught up on things.  Well, right out of the gate of summer I got a cold.  I concentrated on using lots of vitamins and essential oils and getting rest to keep from getting really sick.  It helped, but I didn't have much energy.  I have also been teaching summer school, so my days are still pretty busy.  I don't go into work until 9am though instead of 7:30am, so I have been trying to walk the dogs more in the morning and do more morning workouts.  You can follow me on instagram at to see more about my workouts.  There are so many great teachers on instagram trying to get healthy. You also can follow my personal blog Balancing the Backpack to read about my workouts and what I am eating.  I am hoping this summer to finally get in a more regular blogging routine on both blogs. Here is a picture of me yesterday when I got done with a 6am hot pilates class.

I just finished up my sixth year of teaching,  primarily at the 4th and 5th grade level.  This next year I am moving to 7th and 8th grade.  So I am trying to purge files, piles of #whoknowswhat and sell books.  I have to make room for new books!  If I had known I was moving to middle school, I would have been buying young adult books in paperbacks instead of all on my Kindle.  Oh, well.  Here are a few of the 300 or so books I am trying to sell, along with classroom stuff on Craigslist.  (I kept about 150 of my books.) Anyone have any other good ideas of where to sell used teacher stuff?

I am finding my biggest challenge right now is choosing novels for 7th and 8th grade.  I really want to have them read from a variety of genres, and it all feels important!  I am trying to shorten my list to have realistic goals, but it is so hard.  I have read about 6 books in the last week.  I have about 20 more I want to read in the next couple weeks.  I have packages arriving from Amazon every day.  At least I have an excuse to buy books though!  I have been getting a lot of the library though, too.

This last week I read all three books in the Ruby Red Trilogy.  These were my fun reads.  It was so entertaining!  I really enjoyed it.  It is a trilogy I plan on having in my classroom library.  The main character finds out she is a time traveler.  It has history, romance, mystery, some supernatural elements, and intrigue, so it is a fun mix of genres. I highly recommend them for a fun summer read.

I want to do a mystery unit with my middle schoolers, so I wanted to read some Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.  I read And Then There Were None on Sunday.  I found it much easier to read than I expected, so I look forward to reading it with my 8th graders.  It is supposed to be one of her more famous mysteries and one that is often read in 8th grade. Ten people are brought to an island for a holiday and accused of crimes.  Then, they all start dying.  I now want to read some more Agatha Christie, since I never had read any of her books.

I also read the Mysterious Benedict Society since we have a set of them at school.  I thought it was a cute book, but much more appropriate for grades 4-6 than grades 7 or 8.  A group of gifted kids have to solve a mystery and save the world from being brainwashed. If I had known about the book before, I would have been using it with my 4th and 5th graders.  I love The Westing Game, but this is a much easier read so it would have been a great choice for a lower reading group.

I also want to do a drama unit with my middle schoolers.  My 7th graders will read A Christmas Carol. With 8th grade, I want to do a Shakespeare. I am thinking maybe The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, or Romeo and Juliet.  I reread The Taming of the Shrew this week and now I need to read The Tempest.  The Taming of the Shrew really is so witty.  It is an easy way to introduce kids to Shakespeare.

That is what I have been working on.  How is your summer going?

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