I created this blog as a teenager to write reviews about books I enjoyed to recommend them for other teenagers. Now that I am an adult going to school to become a secondary art and english teacher, it seems fitting to continue using this blog except this time as an adult looking for adolescent appropriate fiction. For the next few months I will be posting about various texts I am reading for a class about teaching literature to adolescents.

Yours Truly,

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Learning Letter

This quarter I learned and completed a lot of work. While I knew logically, starting at the beginning of this quarter, that I would be completing a lot of work, but I didn’t realize I’d be churning out as much work as I did. I just turned in 98 pages worth of work yesterday. I spent so much time and effort working on completing the unit plan, and it kind of ended up surprising me. I’m not a particularly motivated person (I am passionate and motivated about teaching but schoolwork has become tedious to me) so whenever I manage to pull through and complete something that required that much work AND I’m proud of myself for the finished product I feel surprised and happy. The other thing the unit plan taught me is how to create a comprehensive, completed unit plan. I don’t think I would ever create a unit plan like this necessarily in practice, as I help my mentor teacher plan units, and she does not put them together that extensively. I know she considers all of the factors that went into putting the unit plan together, but the amount of work involved writing it down is labor and time intensive. However, I think I will actually create a unit plan similar to this one for an art class, as a way to show administrators what a unit would look like in my classroom.
I also appreciated the book talks. I have read many, many different young adult novels in my life. This project makes me think that I should create a document of all of the books that I think would be potentially viable as a classroom material. I’ll create two lists, one for just book suggestions for students, and ones that would be great to teach. I realized that this would be a great resource to have for my classroom, especially if I kept adding on to it as time passed.
Of the theories that I spent time learning this quarter, I think that the most valuable one was probable learning about standards based grading. That form of grading is the best way to share that students have actually met the standards. I  also believe it supports creating flexible curriculum that supports the learner the most. It provides the best system for differentiation for each student.
When I started this course I was unsure about my place as an ELA teacher. I didn’t feel very confident with my relationship with the content, and I certainly didn’t feel very passionate about teaching the subject, something I felt made me a poor choice for a teacher of the English Language Arts. After working on the course material I feel more confident about being certified as an ELA teacher. I realized while working on the unit plan how excited it made me. I loved the idea of teaching that unit, and thought it would be so much fun to teach and learn. It showed me I could be just as enthusiastic about teaching ELA as I am for art. When doing the book talks (and the literature readings for class!) I also remembered just how much I love reading. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the time to just read for fun and I forgot how much I missed it. Although the book talks made my readings technically not just for fun, the freedom to choose what I read and it being a YA novel made it feel like it was and I loved that.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Edgar Allen Poe

For today’s reading, I read four of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories, “The Black Cat”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Masque of the Red Death”, and “Eleonora”. I chose these particular four stories for a couple of reasons. I wanted to branch out into unknown Poe short stories and compare them to well-known stories, and see if there was any particular reason why certain ones were more famous. For the unknown stories, I picked them because the titles interested me, “The Black Cat” being very Halloweeny, and “Eleonora” being a pretty name that gave me “Annabelle Lee” vibes. I chose the two well-known Poe stories because I was curious and hadn’t read them before. The biggest difference I noticed from the unknown to the known stories, is that the known ones are packed with vivid language and linguistic devices, and altogether more dramatic than the unknown ones, making it fairly obvious to me why the famous ones are in fact, famous.
The main thing I noticed about reading Poe overall though, was how useful his stories are to teach all kinds of literature concepts, from theme, symbolism, to language use, and more. It would be very easy to also use Poe as a way to increase student vocabularies beyond just having them look up words in a dictionary as the way I had to learn vocab in school. I appreciate how even though Poe has very dense language and is generally difficult to understand from the start, his stories are fascinating and engaging. I think they’d be a great way to teach reluctant readers challenging text. That way, students could be intrigued by the horror/thriller themes while not put off by lots of complicated text (four pages of complex text is far better then 200). Reading Poe with the thought of using his stories in the classroom made it very clear to me why many many ELA teachers choose to include his works in their classrooms. I’m sure that I will absolutely be one of them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

I read it, but I don’t get it

Cris Tovani’s “I Read It, but I Don’t Get It” is an excellent resource for teachers trying to encourage reluctant readers, provide skills to less skilled readers, and in general is great for attempting to understand what really happens when we read. It’s the perfect book when considering students that don’t read the book and instead choose to look at spark notes or some equivalent. Tovani presents her teaching philosophy in a very easy to access way. It’s written through classroom conversations between herself and students, which helps the audience connect with her principles.
I found it particularly important how she discusses that in elementary school, students are primarily taught how to read, but not how to access the information within literature. In other words, we are taught how to sound out words in our head and fluency type skills, but not how to identify the deeper meaning of the text. Then, when students reach middle school they are expected to understand informational texts and analyze literature automatically, skills that students are not taught. I really resonated with this part because although I am very good at reading fiction and deriving meaning from it, I really struggle with effectively reading informational texts (like a textbook). Even to this day! This is because I was never taught. I had one AP EURO teacher that helped me figure out how to take notes, but not actually absorb the information in a useful manner. I think we are doing our students—and ourselves, as teachers—a disservice when we don’t take the time to teach our kiddos how to read. How can we expect them to learn the content if we don’t at first teach them how to read about it? Every teacher that assigns reading of some sort should be held responsible for teaching their students how to read that text.
Another thing I appreciated about Tovani’s book was that she actually goes in depth with reading strategies by both listing and describing them, but also by showing us what that looks like via anecdotes. Reading about how kids need to learn to read deeply, would not do me much good. I am an excellent reader, and I always have been. So to ask me, “what makes you a good reader?” would totally stump me. I couldn’t answer that question beyond “I just am”. Tovani actually breaks down what good readers do and how to teach your kids to do them. I ended up recognizing my thinking patterns while reading in the strategies she described.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Social Justice and how it relates to Education

Today the goal was to investigate social justice and what that looks like in the classroom. I read “What is social justice?” written by Janet Finn and Maxine Jacobsen. They discuss how the term social justice is rather elusive. The basic dictionary.com definition isn’t sufficient. In their investigation of the term, they discuss how “Each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all; and social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: First, they are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity, and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society (the difference principle).” I like this definition personally because it addresses the need for equal rights for all, and also that there needs to be equal opportunities available with special considerations for the disadvantaged. I believe this relates to education heavily because educated people have better opportunities, better access into the inaccessible, and it also helps elevate your voice. I believe a good education only serves to empower students for their futures. Unfortunately, this only works if the education is of high quality across the board. Students in more affluent areas have better access to instructional materials like new textbooks and technology, whereas areas with a low SES may not. Education can only elevate all members of society if it is always of quality. As a teacher, I want to ensure that I provide my students with a quality education that helps students find their voices and confidence. I want to make sure that I provide this to each of my students regardless of their race, religion, SES, sexuality, gender, etc. I will be reflective about which students I find difficult in the classroom and why. I intend on holding myself accountable for ensuring all of my students get an excellent education from me. I will listen when they express a perceived inequity in the classroom. I know this exists, I have seen it with my own two eyes. My old mentor teacher (I am at a new placement) treated her black students differently from her other students. It was very apparent to me. I did my best to counteract that inequity by spending more time with them and helping them as much as they needed. I treated all of her students with respect and care even if they were frustrating me. I will continue to do that with all of the students I work with.