To my kids in the Class of 2020

Yes, you are MY kids. Once you are in my classroom, you’re my kid. FOR-EV-ER (I hope you just said that in the voice of the police chief from The Sandlot).

When a teacher looks back on former classes, there are some classes that simply outshine others. The relationships were tighter. The memories are warmer. The students have come back to visit over the years. Your class is one of those classes for me. So when I say I feel bad for the seniors in the midst of losing the spring of their senior year, I mean it like I would mean it for my own flesh-and-blood offspring.

This last weekend, I bumped (figuratively-we were adequately social distanced) into the mother of one of those seniors. She told me how devastated her daughter was. Could I reach out? If you aren’t a teacher, you don’t understand the significance of a parent asking you to reach out to a student you had seven years ago. Like I said, it was a special class. I did reach out, but then I thought, “Why not reach out to all of them?”

So here we are. I truly hate that you are missing out on all of the spring events of your senior year. I’m not going to list them. This isn’t about that. I just want you to know I hate it with you.

Instead, I want to beg you to excel during this time. I want you to embrace this opportunity to grow rather than endure this spring. Take advantage of this disguised blessing to spend time with your family. Many of you are going to leave very soon. You’ll be surprised how little time there will be with them as the next stage of your life begins. Also, remember that all of these events you are missing, they’re missing them too.

That year–We had the wall open all the time. The whole team worked together on so many different projects. Do you remember the owl pellets? You loved those. You were talented. Watching you do our Storyworks plays, it was easy to see that some of you were going to be great on the stage in high school.

You were so close to each other and developed or strengthened friendships that are still going today.

Another thing that I love about this class is how many of you come back to visit. Sometimes you come alone. Sometimes in pairs. Sometimes, you come back in packs. I love it. One of you brought me a pizza after school on my birthday and we sat and talked and ate. Special.

One of my fondest memories, and quite honestly, it makes my eyes water whenever I hear the song, happened after you were out of my class. I was blessed to be your 6th grade Outdoor Ed coordinator (how do you think you got those cool cabin assignments with all of your friends). On the night of the DJ/dance thing in the gym, the girls and boys were in there at different times. The girls were having a ton of fun with it. Lots of singing, dancing, laughing. Then, “Girl on Fire” was played. There’s a moment where the music pauses and then over 100 girls belted with Alicia Keys, “THIS GIRL IS ON FIRE!” It was one of those moments when time stands still, the goosebumps raise on your arms, and you get to look around and appreciate life. You were, and are, a powerful group of girls. You were great friends. You had each other’s backs.

I also have a memory that brings about mixed emotions for me. One of our students suffered a devastating loss over Christmas break that year. You took him under your wings. You lifted him up. You helped get him through that time. When his birthday came around, you stepped up and we had that surprise party for him. You were so selfless and empathetic.

Those of you who know me, or have ever sat with me on the last day of school while we read Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, realize that by this time, I’m having an issue with seeing my computer screen. So, I’ll wrap this up.

You showed me seven years ago, and every year since, that you were built for the challenge of the spring of your senior year. You are powerful. You are resilient. You will lift each other up. You will come out of the other side of this, together.

Finally Telling the Story: or How I Became a Teacher

Two decades ago I quit my job, threw my family into chaos, and began the journey to my purpose in life. I imagine there are others out there who aren’t happy in their jobs and know that they are supposed to be doing something else and are just afraid to do it. Maybe my story will help them.

This story has its roots in my childhood when my much older sister ignited a fire for history in me and then a horrible 5th grade teacher almost extinguished it. That’s right, I was ultimately inspired by my worst teacher ever, rather than one of the many wonderful teachers I’ve had.

Fast forward to my 20s. My wife and I had two sons under 10 who really didn’t do well in a Sunday evening church service, but there weren’t any children’s programs for them. So, we created one. We had a blast with our Sunday evening class until, for reasons never really explained to me, the pastor of the church decided he wanted those kids in the main service and ended the class.

Loosing that class left a void in my soul. It created a longing that I didn’t even realize at the time. However, combined with that was my brother-in-law. He was a teacher and would tell me all the time I should go back to school and become a teacher. He said it was the best job in the world. I already had a degree, so I would only need the teaching part of it. Also, add in my boss at the time. His wife was a substitute teacher and when he and I talked about this little tickle in the back of my brain, he always supported my pursuing it.

So, the perfect storm. I had a desire and people around me telling me to go for it. However, my wife is risk-averse. She likes stability. She likes to know where the money is coming from for mortages, food, and you know, necessities. Her biggest fear was that I would do it and then hate it. My biggest fear was being a 30+-year-old student teacher.We talked a bit about. I knew she was afraid of it. But something was pushing me. Looking back, I know it was God because of the way it all unfolded.

Notice the order here. I went into work and told John I was quitting to go back to school for my teaching degree. He said it was about time. THEN, I went home and told Amy what I had done. I contacted the Ohio University branch in Lancaster and the ball was rolling. Amy went back to work full-time. I started looking for 3rd shift jobs to support us while I went to school during the day.

This was all in late 1999. I found some work shuffling boxes around at a big shipping company. Didn’t exactly pay the bills. Then Amy said there was an announcement at her job (she worked for a BIG insurance company) that they were looking for extra 3rd shift security officers because of Y2K. Applied, hired, full-time, quickly promoted, making what I was making before I quit my sales job. Crazy.

Oh, did I mention they also paid 100% for school? I know, right? And did I mention that two years after I was done they stopped paying for classes that weren’t related to insurance or business?

So, for two years I worked third shift in locked buildings often with no one but me around. Studied all night, wrote lesson plans, watched the monitors, did my tours, and crushed it gradewise.

I couldn’t make our bedroom dark enough to sleep during the day so I made a bed in our walk-in closet. That was pretty much life. School during the day, coach my son’s baseball team in the evening, sleep in the closet whenever I had a couple hours, and then work 11p-7a. Repeat. God gave me strength to make it through.

Did I mention that I happened to start classes with a bunch of people my age on second careers? So, other 30-something student teachers. What a group of support we were for each other.

I happened to be placed in Pickerington at a new school for one of my field placements. I instantly wanted to work there. I stayed with the same teacher for my student teaching. I interviewed with the district. I really wanted to work there. To be safe, I applied to other districts. I had an offer from a district on the other side of Columbus. Great district, great school, great job. I called my HR contact at Pickerington. She said things were in motion, but there was no job offer yet. She couldn’t promise me anything. The other district wanted an answer.

So, I turned them down and trusted that Pickerington was going to come through. Finally, she called. “Kyle, I have a job for you.”

“I’ll take it.”

“I haven’t even told you which job yet.”

“I don’t care. I’ll take it.”

She told me it was in the school where I had done my student teaching and the principal was expecting me. I immediately went to see him and finally asked where I was being placed. Not only was I in the same school where I student taught, but I was in the SAME ROOM where I student taught. He had my name already on the door.

God had a plan and two decades after this journey started I’m still at the same school, loving my job, living the dream.

My wife deserves more credit than I could adequately give her in a blog. She sacrificed for me to follow this dream. She supported me unfailingly, even though the risk was enourmous.

The Joy of Eddie the Eagle

 

 

 

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I went to watch Joy this morning.  It is an inspiring story of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop and many other things.  She faced incredible adversity and fought through it.  She risked everything.  Everyone except a very few opposed her.  No one paved the way for her.

One of the previews before the movie was for Eddie the Eagle. This is the story of a British ski jumper.  From the previews it seems he was mercilessly bullied by peers and adults because of his lack of athleticism among other things.  It was obvious that the more he was bullied and told he couldn’t accomplish his dreams, the more he was driven to succeed.

Here’s what I see every day.  Zero tolerance bullying policies that go way beyond bullying. Bulldozer parents that pave the way and fix everything for their kids. Sports leagues where every kid is given a trophy and told they did a good job whether they did or not.

When I look back through history at some of the greatest stories, they are people who were failures and then picked themselves up.  Generals, presidents, inventors, artists…so many stories of adversity overcome.

Are they going to write books and movies about this generation if we continue not allowing them to fail?

 

School Shootings and School Prayer

Yet two more school shootings today.  On Dec. 24, 2012, I wrote the following on another blog that I write.  Thought I would dust it off.  If you happened to read it two years ago, my apologies for bringing you here to read it again.


After recent events, I’ve been thinking about this concept of prayer in schools.  I’m a bit irritated that taking prayer out of schools is one of the things being blamed for what happened.  I’m a teacher and I’m a Christian.  I will tell you up front that those are my only two qualifications to speak on this subject.

There are three sections of scripture I’d like to throw out there to start with:

John 9:31  Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

Matthew 6:5-7 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (7) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

So, what exactly are the spokesmen of the Religious Right asking for or complaining about when they clamor about prayer in schools?  Remember this, if you get prayer in school, you’re going to get all religions praying in school.  Are you ready for the principal to read a Christian prayer, followed by a Muslim prayer, then followed by a Wiccan prayer? I know I’m not ready for that.

But, I digress.  Let’s get back to my thoughts.  Considering the three scriptures above, what would be the point of an unsaved principal, or an unsaved teacher, beginning the school day by standing in front of the class repeating a prayer?  God doesn’t hear him.  How many times when a prayer is allowed by a chaplain or other figurehead does he end up reading it from something he prepared earlier? Sounds like vain repetition to me.

Let me shock you a bit.  There is prayer in my classroom.  No, not from me standing up in front of the class putting on a show.  But from me before school.  And during the day with a prayerful attitude. Occasionally at lunch.  And guess what else…I’ve seen 5th graders in my room bow their heads before a test or even during a hard test, close their eyes and silently offer up a prayer.  Funny that “taking prayer out of schools” didn’t stop them from doing it.

Let me boil this down for you.  This whole fight over prayer in schools is just another attempt to avoid responsibility.  It is an individual’s responsibility to take prayer into school. You want God in school?  Take him there in your heart.  Parents, you want God in school? Train your child in the way they should go and have them take God there in their hearts.  No one is stopping them from praying in school.  Yes, they aren’t allowed to make a big show of it, but Matthew 6 pretty much tells you not to do that anyway.


How to Grow Even the Highest Students

There is a lot of pressure to show growth in our students. (Value added is similar, but it uses a convoluted formula that no one really understands.) Last time I talked about merit pay and gave you the golf coach example.  That example was merit pay based on achievement.  Growth is totally different.  That same golf coach would never want Rory McIlroy.  Rory is the number one player in the world.  The ONLY way to show growth is if he is still number one next year.  He could win five tournaments, but slip to number two because someone won six tournaments.  In the education world, that coach didn’t grow him a year.

I teach ELA to a largely gifted group of students.  If I have a student who enters my class reading in the 99th percentile, he has to be reading in the 99th percentile at the end of the year.  Otherwise, he is considered to have not grown a full year. I’m often asked to explain how my students consistently show growth.

These are the things I can put my finger on.

Teach to the top 

Differentiation is a major buzzword BINGO term right now.  In my opinion, it’s a certain amount of hogwash.  I teach to the top of my class.  Find out what the highest student can handle and teach up there.  Use questioning techniques that make the highest students work to answer. The lower students will sweep along with the wake.  Certainly, it’s necessary to swing the boat around and pick them up once in awhile, but never teach the whole class with a lower throttle.

Be excited about your material and ENTERTAIN

Some of you are thinking, I shouldn’t have to entertain them.  They should want to learn. Really?  Been in a church service lately? Watched any TV aimed at adults lately? What was the last big blockbuster movie you went to that was black and white without any special effects?  If you, as an adult, have to be entertained to sit still for an hour, how can you expect a 10-year old to be any different?

If you don’t love what you’re teaching, the kids will know it.  If you can’t get excited about your material, which the kids will join you in that excitement, you better reevaluate your job.

Quick-write notebooks and Question/All-writes

In my entire master’s degree program, these were the two strategies that I learned and truly believe in.  You have to make kids THINK about the material you’re covering.  Quick-write notebooks are exactly what they say, a quick write after covering something.  For instance, after reading an article on 9/11, the kids did a quick write in their notebooks.  They have five options: a summary of the material, a connection to their life, a question they had while reading, an illustration about the reading, or an equation using numbers from the reading.  After a few moments of writing, they share with their table, and then a few share for the class.  Questions get explored and answers found. In this case, they made connections to stories their parents told them, drew pictures of the burning buildings, asked tough questions about why?, made equations from the casualties, and a few even summarized the events of that day.

You know those students.  You’ve just asked a brilliant, probing, thought-provoking question and they just sit there.  They have no intention of thinking that hard.  They’ve learned from years past that they have a 1 in 28 chance of being called to answer.  If they are called, they know that an “I don’t know” and some uncomfortable silence will get the teacher to move on to someone else.  Enter the Question/All-write.  Ask that probing question and then be quiet.  Once the kids learn that you aren’t moving on till everyone writes an answer, you know you have everyone working on an answer.  Cruise the room, verify that everyone is giving quality thought, THEN call on someone, or have them share answers with their table before you have someone answer aloud to the class.

Build rapport

This is a huge time and personal investment, but it pays incredible dividends.  This comes from my days in school.  If I liked a teacher, I would walk through a wall to do well in his class.  If I didn’t like a teacher, you couldn’t get me to do anything in that class.  Also, a kid who wants to come to school every day is there for more of your instruction than the kid who fakes stomachaches to stay home from school.

It takes a lot of work to grow your students a full year, especially the ones at the top of the percentiles.  However, if you’re willing to work, to be tired at the end of the day, to not mail it in, you can grow any student.

Quick Thoughts on Merit Pay

First of all, I can’t imagine going on strike as a teacher.  It goes against EVERY reason I went into teaching.  That being said, Reynoldsburg teachers voted to strike last night.  They are fighting an agenda being pushed by Gov. Kasich’s cronies.  Besides class size and health benefits, one of the central issues is merit pay.

Let me break merit pay down for you.  Name one other profession that has merit pay AND it is based on how someone else performs.  When I think of merit pay in other professions, I think of pro golfers.  But, they get paid on how they perform.  Think about a golf coach.  What if he was paid on merit?  He would probably love that if his only pupil was Rory McIlroy.  What if you sent him players who wouldn’t practice?  He’d probably argue against merit pay.  What if you sent him players with one arm?  He’d probably argue against merit pay.  What if you sent him players with broken golf clubs and no spikes?  He’d probably argue against merit pay.  Would he still teach them to the best of his ability?  Yes.  Are they ever going to perform at the highest level? No.

That’s why Reynoldsburg is fighting for all of the other teachers in Ohio.  They are a big district and which ever way this domino falls will have lasting impact for all districts in Ohio.

Face it…you aren’t allowed to have a bad day

In many other jobs, if you’re having a bad day, there’s usually somewhere you can hide.  Turn off the phones for a bit.  Take a long break.  Shoot, go sit in the bathroom for awhile.  You really don’t have that option as a fifth-grade teacher.

I have a very small amount of time to capture my kids’ imaginations.  Part of that is the old adage that they don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  So here you are on your A-game for the first part of the year while you’re energized, investing in the kids, making them want to be at school, and building respect and rapport.  You’re getting notes and emails from parents amazed that for the first time ever their child wants to come to school in the morning. That fragile child who has never opened up to anyone, sees you as that adult they finally trust.

And then you’re having a bad day.  And that kid who trusts you, but also hasn’t put his name on a paper all year, doesn’t have his name on his paper AGAIN!  Your day has been junk and your patience is limited.  And out of your mouth comes that comment that expresses your annoyance with his behavior, and you immediately undo ALL the progress you’ve made with him.  You realize instantly and pull him aside.  You try to explain you were having a bad day.  You’re sorry.

You have now become another adult he can’t trust.

Face it…you aren’t allowed to have a bad day.  But, regardless of our superhero powers, we do have bad days.  So, what do we do about them.

Tell them up front.  Kids are amazingly forgiving if they know ahead of time that you aren’t yourself that day.  Be honest and tell them, “I’m having a bad day.  Please be patient with me today if I mess up.”  Not only will they forgive you easier if you slip, your honesty, if you’ve developed respect and rapport, will most likely buy you a calmer class than normal. I know this flies in the face of many of the “experts.”  They say your students should have no idea of your mood because you should have a game face on.  Yeah, right.  That advice is written by “educators” who haven’t been in a classroom for years.  Be honest with your students.  They know when you’re lying anyway.

Elvis In the House

This may seem disjointed at first, but hang with me.

1) I’ve been an Elvis fan as long as I can remember.  My mom was an Elvis fan.  It was the most natural thing in the world to also be an Elvis fan.  Fortunately, my best friend was also an Elvis fan.  We would put on concerts in his play room.  Stereo blasting, he would be belting out Elvis and I was singing the part of back up J.D. Sumner. Well, belting the bass parts as well as an 8-year old can.  It never left me as I got older.  My brother-in-law gave me a life-size stand up of Elvis in his gold lame suit.  It now greets my students at the door.

2) Last year was easily the worst year of my career. Too many changes.  Too much flowing from upstream that I had absolutely no control over.  I pursued teaching in my thirties.  I felt called.  It was an irresistible call.  And then last year actually made me question if I was still supposed to be teaching.  It was that bad.  Just when I needed it last year, former students dropped by to see me.  One brought the most incredible framed photos of us when she was in 5th grade and one of us when she was a senior at her soccer teacher appreciation night. Those visits began to push aside the horrible year I was having.

3) On our first teacher day this year, our new vice principal had us write down our favorite memory of when we were in school.  Then he challenged us to figure out what it was about that memory that made it so special.  For me, it was Mr. Clark’s class.  It was special because of the relationship we had.  We examined this some more and made the connection that the relationships are what I strive for with my students.  Some teachers strive to present challenges.  Some strive for perfect lesson plans.  For me though, it’s relationships.  I want my kids to want to come to school, to enjoy every minute there, even when they struggle.

So, imagine the confirmation when I checked my email this morning and found an email from a former student in her first year of education classes in college.  She had an assignment to write about a former teacher.  She thought I would like to see the essay.

Forgive me the indulgence of putting this out there.  But this is why I teach.  This is affirmation of what I do.

Elvis Presley was My Fifth Grade Teacher:
The Teacher Who is My Inspiration
(Name removed)
Miami University

Abstract
Fifth grade was a difficult concept to grasp. I was leaving my beloved elementary school that I could easily walk to for a large middle school with strange teachers and even more students. My parents said I had nothing to worry about but I knew within my gut that fifth grade would be an abhorrent experience. That was until I switched to my language arts and social studies class where I entered a room of books that filled two whole book cases, maps placed all around the white boards at the front of the room, and a tiny window draped with Elvis Presley curtains. Wait, Elvis Presley? “Who is that,” asked my unenlightened fifth grade brain. As my brain continued to wonder, Mr. Kesselring introduced himself and changed the way I thought about school for the rest of my life. Mr. K and Elvis helped me to define my passions as a student, to never be afraid to demonstrate those passions, and to keep one goal in mind: to inspire.
Mr. K was an amazing teacher in every way (and still is). He genuinely cared about the wellbeing and needs of his students. He used many examples, some of them Elvis related, and told lots of stories that helped explain topics we were going over in class. This helped me to better comprehend the subjects and eased my anxiety of not being able to keep up with the class. One of my favorite moments in Mr. K’s class was during our social studies part of class and we must have been going over the voyage of Lewis and Clark because Mr. K had sent one of the students in my class on a bogus journey across the white boards. I don’t remember all of the details but I remember how much I enjoyed that particular lesson and how hard my class and I laughed. Mr. K was also an excellent reader. I already had a deep love for reading but Mr. K was the first teacher I had that expressed emotion as they read a story aloud. We read a terribly sad book about a dog and Mr. K had started crying. His emotions helped me to realize that stories are just more than words on a page—they are there for any one person to completely delve in and comprehend the author’s true message. Just the way Mr. K taught or spoke sometimes resonated deep within me how passionate one person could be about anything! He truly opened my mind to a world of wonder and possibilities.
Now how did I come to call Mr. Kesselring Elvis? Most know that Elvis Presley was a truly amazing artist and inspired many to follow their own passions in the music industry. Well, Mr. K is my Elvis Presley. He is the true reason as to why I am becoming a teacher. He helped me to realize that fifth graders have so much potential and how much more impressionable they are than other grades, thus being the reason why I want to teach fifth graders. And now that I am in college and I reflect back upon my earlier teachers, Mr. K fully embodies the ideal teacher: someone who listens, respects, understands, and most importantly, cares about each student and what they embody at such a young age. I want to be that exact same teacher. Finally, Mr. K gave me one central goal to focus on as a teacher: to simply inspire. To inspire all of or at least one young mind that I encounter in years to come to encompass that they are someone who can change the world or the world around them. Thank you Mr. Kesselring, for everything.

If you’re a teacher and read my blog, go out and inspire your kids.  And if they’re only your students and not your kids…start right there.

Peace,

Kyle

Bubblegum and lockdowns

2014-08-27 10.01.09What a crazy day today!  In the midst of teaching theme, we had a lockdown that basically lasted from 11:30 till 3:00. Police escorting the buses at dismissal.  Pretty sure we made the national news. Craziness.

ANYWAY.  So the subject was theme today.  On my side I gave direct instruction with guided notes about theme. I started with a humorous hook of fables and their morals.  Humorous, you ask.  In a room full of fifth graders, it gets rather giggly when you are reading about the Donkey and the Lion’s Skin.  Just remember, when Aesop was writing, they didn’t call them donkeys.

After the right side notes, I gave them some cutouts from Grade 5 Reading Notebook by Nicole Shelby.  They were a gumball machine and five gumballs.  The gumball machine has the definition of theme formed as a question on it.  The idea is that just as blowing too big of a gumball can create a sticky situation, theme is what sticks with you after you read.  That idea gets carried through to the gumballs.

On their side, the processing side, they had to look back over their notes and pick the five things that needed to stick with them from the information.  This forces them to prioritize the notes.  To do that, they really need to think them through.

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Today’s hiccup…Apparently there isn’t a whole lot of new material in the 5th grade version compared to the 4th grade version.  A portion of the kids who all had the same 4th grade teacher said they had these same cutouts last year.  I thought maybe the teacher had been challenging her students with the 5th grade book.  But alas, she told me she has the 4th grade version.  I’m hoping it doesn’t all repeat.

 

Interactive Student Notebooks

Last year I started researching interactive student notebooks.  I have always used a quick-write notebook, but this strategy takes that a bit farther.  I teach 5th grade ELA.  This blog will be an attempt to chronicle our notebooks’ successes and mistakes.  Hopefully someone out there will read this and have some input.

One thing that is necessary is a sturdy notebook.  Many sites recommended the small, old-style composition books.  I considered those, but the drawback was everything I copied for the kids would have to be cut down.  One site recommended Mead 5-Star notebooks.  I looked at those and decided to go with them.  My preference is the 3-subject, college ruled with the plastic sleeve cover.  It has multiple pockets inside.  I purposely went with the college ruled to rein in some of my sloppier kids.  That spacing is new to them and forces them to concentrate on bringing their writing under control to fit the lines.

 

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The plastic sleeve on the front is great because I have the kids personalize their notebooks with a custom cover.  Rather than tape it on the front where it can get snagged on the edges, they simply slide it in the sleeve.  After personalizing the cover, the last page of the book becomes the author page.  I shared several different versions of an author page for examples.  My favorite is Casey at the Bat, a Caldecott Honor Book illustrated by Christopher Bing.  He adds personal touches and an illustration of himself.

I gave the kids three table of contents sheets to glue into the first three pages. More on the glue in a moment.  The contents pages had three columns: Skill, Standard, and Page Number.  After the contents, they began numbering their pages, starting with 1 on the left side.

Glue.  Elmer’s.  Don’t mess with glue sticks.  Elmer’s is made for this.  I showed the kids a die and explained that the pips on it were exactly the amount of glue needed to stick each corner into their notebook.  You DON’T want them to cover the page like they’re putting ketchup on a hamburger.  It’s unnecessary and makes the the paper gooey, causing it to rip when they try to write on it.

 

The right side of the notebook is for whatever I present in class to them.  The left side is where they do their work. Where they digest and transform the material.  I require them to use 2 colors on my side and 5 colors on their side.  Deciding how best to use the color makes them think about the material more in depth.

 

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The first thing we added to our notebooks was close reading.  It is central to Common Core and much of what we’ll do all year will center around it.  In the photo above, I gave them our annotating marks on the right side (Mr. K’s side).  We then did some practice with close reading on a handout.  The next step was to complete the left side of the notebook (their side).  I gave them a simple t-chart with “what it’s like” on one side and “what it isn’t like” on the other.  The left side is a great place for Marzano strategies.  Finding similarities and differences is the one that shows the most gain, and I plan to use variations of it all year long.  After finding five of each, they then had to illustrate one of the items from the chart in the space below.

So far I love the notebooks.  They are a slow process to get started, however.  Just like any procedure you want the kids to do all year, it is worth the time at the beginning of the year to teach them to do this the way you want it.

Thanks for stopping by.  Please, if you have experience with interactive student notebooks, join in the conversation.  This blog will be all things middle school, but will have a lot of my experiences with the notebooks.

Peace,

Mr. K