Thing 4 Blog Posts

Task 1…Reflection on blog posts

    The question of homework has always been an ongoing struggle in the reading department at WA. All of the teachers in my department struggle with “how to or if ” we should give homework. The posting on homework gave some valid pros and cons , but as a middle school teacher, I sit on the fence. After taking a course on “How the Brain Works”, other inservice courses on adolescent behavior, and 21 yrs. at WA, I have my own theory.

In general, 7th graders will do homework more readily than 8th graders. The majority of     7th graders are more pliable/obviously more immature, need more repetition, and are more eager to learn. I do not give my 7th graders homework every night and I rotate the kind of homework I give. One assignment may be reading a story to discuss the next day, while another night may be surfing the web for info on a topic we are studying . Whatever I give is an extension from class…it is not busy work just to say they have homework and they are accountable the next day. Several nights of homework may be just STUDYING handouts from class. I like to give strategies for studying and give them opportunities at home to practice without penalizing them. Yes, it’s random and not really tangible, but in middle school, we are about letting them make choices….and learning how to manage time and grow up! This works at 7th grade level in my classes at WA because they begin to see we are putting the responsibility on them and they like mom and dad out of the equation!

8th graders are a whole new strain of humankind! Their brain has trouble working at school or away from school (for the most part)! This group is focused on the “MOMENT” so giving homework for the large majority is non-existent. I try to follow the strategy of the posting guru and make the most of my class time. I have more than enough plans to cover the timeframe and work them right up to the bell….then call it a day! That is not to say I don’t ever give homework in 8th grade, but the quality that comes back is not their best work. In my SAT PREP (9 week) class, they have one homework assignment all 9 weeks which is to make SAT note cards to turn in each week. They get the list at the first of the week and the cards are due the next Monday. Several times I have even let them use their cards for the vocabulary test. It is non-threatening and I discuss a variety of strategies for learning vocabulary and they share what is working for them. There are pros and cons about long-term assignments also…but the majority of the 8th graders are successful with this. Because I am constantly reminding them that the cards/materials will be used in 9th grade on the PSAT and later, it seems to mean more! Go figure!

The blog about 5th grader, Patrick, was very revealing about how important writing and listening can be for young people. Many teachers use journaling in their classes for a variety of lessons and even as a way to modify behaviors—let them write about it. But the big questions is…..who is reading it? Does my teacher even bother to read EVERYONE’S journal entry everyday. This blog idea gives a way to empower young people and motivate them to learn. They are connecting with others outside of their immediate class which helps them see themselves as part of something much bigger. All of the feedback for Patrick signaled HOPE for a young boy struggling with life in general.

I was very interested in the blog on Improving PowerPoints. All of my students have become very proficient at making slides, but they are not creative. They tend to put the exact information from their outline or note card on the power point slide which is very boring and unnecessary. Using pictures (and not clip art!) add meaning and require the student to connect with the audience….which is difficult for many young people. I’m using the ideas from this post for sure!

After reading many of the blogs listed on our task outline, believe it or not….the DUCK BLOG made one aspect of blogging very clear to me. (Is this saying that I need to be working in a lower level of education? 🙂 or what?) The entire blog dealt with the duck and what happened when the duck came to their schoolyard. It was one event, a few activities and pictures, but the blog focused on ONE THING. I guess I have always looked at blogs and wikis as something that continued on and on; something you kept adding to. I always thought you had to have a grand plan, a big idea with lessons that continued for an extended period of time. So, what I have learned is that when my class does a neat activity or project—maybe even a writing assignment, I can BLOG it (instead of and) in addition to putting it on the bulletin board or in the school newsletter. Wow!

Another blog worth mentioning is our 8th grade Independent Reading blog for the Carlos Library. Joanne and I decided this was an excellent way to preserve book talks so students could get help in finding a book of interest. Once the initial day of book talks are over, students seem to flounder when trying to find a book they would enjoy. This blog will be filled with podcasts about books on the list (by teachers and staff) and later students will be asked to participate in a podcast for the site. This is an ongoing project that we are beginning this spring semester in hopes of actually using it by the last 9 weeks.    Check it out!    

The two blogs that are on-going in our family are my two nieces who have a family blog. It’s a great way to share family stories, pictures of children and connect with everyone! I log in every other day to catch up on the family and enjoy hearing from them. So, blogging has just become something I better understand……I still struggle with getting the pictures up on a blog, but that is something I will continue to work on.

All of a sudden I feel like “Charlie Gordon” from Flowers for Algernon learning about punctuation.…..blogging is fun!

5 thoughts on “Thing 4 Blog Posts

  1. Hi Claudia! I love your blog. I really enjoyed your thoughts about all of those blogs. I’ve also tried to emulate you in my class (although I’ve been feeble in my attempts!) with the wiki sites and so forth. I agree with your thoughts on what I’m calling the GREAT HOMEWORK DEBATE. It’s interesting to hear both sides. I think my favorite anti-homework point is that the A and B students will do the homework anyway, while the C and D students won’t. BUT, I still can’t get it out of my head that I am remiss if I don’t give SOMETHING every night. Old habits die hard, I guess! I’m working on making sure it is “meaningful” and not just busy work. And after this class, I’d like to make more of it technologically-based in some way. Thanks!

  2. Wow – yes old habits die hard and I too feel guilty if I don’t assign homework, but I’m getting better about it (especially because as a mom I see how valuable and scarce family time can be.) I like your idea Claudia of the empowerment that the students feel from contributing to a blog. I will definitely consider that in the future.

  3. Hey Claudia, I am very impressed with your blog. And you sure did make lots of interesting points. I am on the fence too about homework. I do think it is important for subjects like math and science for repetition and practice. But I agree with Mr Meyer that most of the time the ones that need to do it don’t do it??? And then what about the times when the student sits down and works really ‘hard’ on their HW and does the entire assignment wrong?? They have practiced on how to do the problems incorrectly. So the teacher not only has to teach how to do the problems correctly but also get out of their head the wrong way they were working out the problems. I think as a middle school teacher the most important thing for us to help the students figure out is what is the best way they learn. Which strategies work best for them? A trial and error thing that if the result is not good they learn from that too. It is a hard thing for parents to grasp because all they care about is grades.
    Getting the kids ready for the Upper School by helping them figure out how and what they need to do to suceed and taking responsibilty for those things is key.

  4. WOW! I am just so impressed by your posts, Mrs. B! You are modeling exactly the kind of reader-response that makes blogging (both reading and writing) a really rich, engaged experience.

    I love your descriptions of the differences between 7th and 8th graders. I find both aged mind-boggling. I wonder if using these “larger audience” and techie tools would be more engaging for those addled 8th graders…

    I also like your comments about the single topic in the duck blog — yes, blogging and wikis can be ongoing, but they can also be effective containers for a finite project.

    I think your Book Talk blog is great — I am going to work with Joanne later this semester to set up a student book review blog where they can write about and discuss what they are reading electively.

  5. I really enjoyed your observations about the differences between the minds of your 7th and 8th grade students. I am only in my second year of teaching 8th grade math, so I appreciate the perspective that you offer. I am also regularly attempting to overcome the challenge of eighth graders being focused on the moment. It is very difficult to help them think about long-term goals and consequences.

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