Well, time just totally got away from me at the end of the year. Preparing for Prom took over my life at the end of April and beginning of May and then we were in the home stretch of the end of the school year. Now I am on the other side and phew! I am so glad to say I have made it. I want to reflect on some amazing things that went on this year and my hopes for the next school year.
The 2011-2012 School Year
We went through A LOT of curriculum changes this year. I don’t think we had any idea exactly how many changes we were making until we were right in the thick of it. That made first trimester really hard. First, the research project was rough. I always knew research should be in all grades but I was kind of hiding in tenth grade saying there was no time for it. Well CCSS did not allow for that anymore! The projects and presentations I got that first trimester were a little…less than par. However, I learned a lot about teaching research and helping students not feel so overwhelmed with it. I also focused a little more on presentation skills. The projects second trimester were a little bit better. I am also pumped to go with a new twist on the project for next year that I will explain later.
The other big change was choice books and literature circles in the classroom. I was pumped to do this but I had no real idea exactly how hard it was going to be. You know, they make it seem so easy in those books and in my grad classes. However, again, first trimester was a learning expereince. I learned the students do not have to meet in groups every day and reading together every day is not the most productive outcome. Second trimester went a little smoother, more so in the B section than the A section. Then I really felt I had much more of a handle on it third trimester in the B section. I really focused on mini-lessons to build up the discussions groups were having. This showed better notes from the students and deeper conversations. I was really excited about the deep conversations groups were having over two paragraphs we read for a mini-lesson on follow up questions. Two paragraphs! There is still some improvements I can make but I am still proud of the way things turned out by the end of the year.
Writing has also seen changes in my classroom. We are not just doing persuasive essays! Yay! I loved reading my studnets’ work in the narrative unit and with doing more of the other genres of writing, voice started to show up more in persuasive essays and other formal writing pieces. And students can write a lot more in a short amount of time. The writing fluency is getting there and students are being more focused. I literally saw a number of students mature in their writing between the A class and B class and was able to tell them so.
Reading is also something I am very proud of. First of all, my classroom library has exploded! My first Donors Choose project was fufilled last summer which brought in almost 50 YA books for my students. We were also blessed through grant money $1,000 each to build up our personal libraries. I filled it in with many titles from a number of genres. I am continuing to see more and more students reading. Students who told me they hated to read were reading their first books since elementary school. One girl who also fought about reading chose to read on her own when she was done with a test. I saw more students showing habits of life-long readers by carrying books with them everywhere they went. Some students have friended me on Goodreads and actually use it. I am thrilled to be building a community of readers.
I also had some pretty amazing opportunities this year. Jeff Anderson came to our district for a special PD session with our teachers. I attended MRA in March and learned amazing things as well as hung out with some of the most amazing teachers from around the state and country. I also finished my Master’s program and am now a K-12 Literacy Specialist. All in all, a lot to be proud of.
Looking Toward 2012-2013
I am really excited for next year. I get to teach 10th grade classes again so I can really step up what I started this year. The research project will give students more choice in that they will choose a historical fiction novel to read and research that time period to analyze how well the novel portrays the period. I have started a new Donors Choose Project for this project:
I am also looking forward to seeing how the choice books evolve this next year. As students have more expereience, and I do as well, it can only get better. More changes will continue to come but I really believe they are for the good of our students.
This summer, I plan on a lot of professional reading as well as YA reading. I will share titles and insights here. I hope everyone has a great summer!