Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Independent Reading Projects

Most English teachers spend a fair amount of time thinking of ways to encourage students to read independently. I am fortunate in that the vast majority of my students are eager readers, so it takes little convincing to get them engaged with a new novel. I start all of my English classes with 10 minutes of D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read), and this year introduced Independent Reading Projects as part of my curriculum.

To develop the assignment linked above, I first consulted with colleagues and poked around the internet looking for a variety of book projects my students could complete without too much adult assistance. I then focused on narrowing down the choices so that I had something that would appeal to everyone. I included traditional writing projects like imagining the sequel or crafting a poetry chapbook, visual and digital projects such as book trailers and comic strips, and a character monologue, which taps into both writing and performance skills.

My students were wary at first ("We're doing this all by ourselves? At home?") and we had many, many discussions about how they would manage their time. But soon, the initial anxiety gave way to excitement about working on a book project that they chose themselves. The final results were fantastic - clever, entertaining, and truly representative of my students' and their personal styles.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Setting a Default Font in Google Drive

Last week, in an effort to figure out a way to set a default font in Google Drive, I started pinging my PLN on Twitter. As a fan of serif fonts (I'm partial to Cambria), I found it frustrating to have to change every new document from the preset Ariel, and knew there had to be a better way. Cue Jonathan Rochelle and Alice Keeler, who immediately replied to my tweet with helpful advice. Indeed, there is a way to set a default font in Google Drive, and I direct you to Alice's excellent post for a tutorial on doing just that. At the risk of being dramatic, I find this new knowledge life changing!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

For Teachers, Doesn't New Year's Eve Come in September?

Every now and then I'm reminded that my entire life has run on a school calendar. Like most of my peers, I've spent the majority of my life as a student: After graduating high school I went straight to college, followed by graduate school. But unlike many others in my age group, when my tenure as a student ended, my life as a teacher began. Perhaps because of this, when I say "next year" I am almost always referring to the following September, when my school year begins anew. December 31st have never been the time for resolutions and goal setting, as these things happen for me in July and August, as I prepare to return to a new school year. If New Year's Eve reminds me of anything, it's that the start of January signals the end of winter break, the return to my classroom and my students. Of course, I am aware of my sense of time being skewed, as I live and socialize with many folks who are not in the teaching profession, for whom January 1st truly does feel like the start of something new. I wonder if other teachers share my perspective on this. Just how skewed is my sense of time?