Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Classroom Update

A quick check-in before I get to my evening work of lesson plans and quiz writing...

As you know, I'm not a fan of Common Core primarily because I don't think the federal government has any place in education.  There are some other issues too, but that's for another time.  That said, it is the law of the land, as they say, and I'm going to give it a fair shot.  I'm all for anything that helps my kids be more successful in school.

Today we did a close reading activity in the English II class and they really surprised me with their participation and their effort at deeper thinking.  I can see where this could be a good thing.

Even better, I had at least two of my sophomores tell me they have already finished their novel!  We JUST checked it out last week!  I love that!

And still better?  I now have enough copies of Twelve Angry Men that I can do that one next!

Even better!?  With the cash donations I've bought enough copies of Mississippi Solo that now my Creative Writing class can check out that memoir and read some really beautiful writing.

So, things are going swimmingly so far in year 18 of teaching.  There's still a little settling in to do and routines to establish, but as of now, we are doing fine and a lot of that is thanks to you folks.

And now to writing lesson plans.

Regular blogging (as opposed to teacher-blogging) will resume soon.

Twelve Angry Men -

Well, 15 of them! Thank you, "Anonymous!"

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

Great things are happening in my classroom thanks to all of you who donated and sent things for my students.

When I posted that original plea for help I just had no idea I'd get the kind of response that I did.  Every day this week when I've gone to my mailbox I still continue to get one or two books.  We are up to almost 40 copies of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time now, which is wonderful.

Someone even sent me a lovely first edition hard cover of the novel!  Wow!  I'm going to keep that one safe and unmarked!  I have no idea who it was.

I took my class to the library today and everyone checked out a copy of the novel.  When we returned to class we talked about the book and I gave them a little introduction to the novel.  Then they broke into groups to research autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Savant syndrome, Temple Grandin, and other famous people on that autism spectrum.

(The narrator of the novel is a fifteen year old autistic boy who lives in England with his father.)

What a cool thing it was to see every student engaged in learning about this, asking questions, looking through research, and then presenting their group's findings to the rest of the class!  When we finished, everyone was anxious to begin reading the novel.

It wouldn't have happened without you donors.

My Creative Writing class has been enthralled with their Smash Book journals.  They're writing in them, they're doodling, they're recording inspirational incidents and thoughts.  I have been taking them to the computer lab where I set up a private group for our class on  They are writing some incredible stuff - I mean, really incredible.

Another thing they are doing that is super cool is giving feedback to each other on Figment.  We discussed giving constructive, specific feedback in class and then went to the lab and everyone left feedback for their classmates work.  I was thrilled to see that the remarks they left for each other generated more feedback and discussion and the comments were genuinely helpful.  Nobody just said, "Oh this is great, I love it," which is nice but not always particularly helpful.

My seniors are working on Senior Project and are busy completing forms and conducting research for their research papers.  Senior Project is so stressful for them, but it's a very rewarding experience.  The flash drives I've received will help them carry their work with them from one computer to another, from home to school and back again.  They are coming up with some brilliant and original ideas to work on!

So really, I just wanted to tell you how much your kindness has been appreciated and how we are using the things you have contributed.

I'm working now on getting enough copies of Twelve Angry Men to read when we finish our Dog book.  Now that To Kill a Mockingbird has been wrenched from my loving embrace and given to the ninth graders, I can cover some of the same topics and themes through Twelve Angry Men which is now on my tenth grade reading list.

If you'd like to help us collect new or gently used copies of this work, you can send a book to me at Bossier High School, 777 Bearkat Drive, Bossier City, LA, 71111.  Send it to my attention: Mrs Becker.

Again, I thank you all sincerely for what you've done.  I've been trying to thank everyone who has sent something but so many have come in that are anonymous that this is the only way I can say thanks.

Y'all ROCK!

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Big Thank You

What a week!  Three days of inservice, two days with kids, and precious school supply donations rolling in every day!  I'm so grateful to you all.  I've already distributed a few pens and pencils, one spiral notebook, I've placed some 65 novels in the library for my class to check out, and when a senior asked me today how he was going to be able to transfer his work from one computer to another, I could give him a flash drive.

Monday my Creative Writing kids will get Smash Books.

I'm still working to complete a class set of Twelve Angry Men, but really, I feel very thankful for what we have been able to do here for these kids.

Now, it's Friday night and I was in my pajamas at 6:33, exhausted!  Next week will be better; it takes a little time to get back into the routine.  It seems to take a little longer the older I get!

Again, thanks for all your donations!

Happy weekend.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Magic Number is Twenty-Five!

Okay, y'all, one last plea and an update on the school supplies issue.

I've had some requests for updates on quantities needed.  I am good on paper, pens, and pencils right now.  These supplies will be used to help kids in need - those who simply can't afford their own supplies.  So far I've received a dozen composition books, a couple dozen spiral notebooks, two dozen packages of notebook paper, and today I got a huge box of retractable pens and three packages of "Parts of Speech" bookmarks.

I've also been notified of orders of one each of the books requested below, and several flash drives;  and my SmashBook request for the Creative Writing kids was filled right away!

I've been overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of everyone who has responded!

What I still need is a minimum of 25 of each of the books.  That's one class set of each.  Next semester I'll have two sections of English II but I'm hoping by then to have received grant money or departmental funding for a second class set.

All of this is because of the new Common Core curriculum which we must implement this year; all our English II novels have changed!

I don't care if they're new or if they're gently used.  I just need books!  As I've said before, we are a small school in an economically depressed area and there are a large number of kids in my school who simply cannot afford to go to Barnes and Noble for a $10 paperback.  I can't stress enough the hardships some of these kids face.  And believe me, they DO appreciate knowing that someone cares enough about them to help them.  These are really sweet kids.

If you can help the address is Bossier High School, Attn:  Mrs. Becker, 777 Bearkat Drive, Bossier City, LA  71111.

So here's the list, once again.  Twenty five of each.  And if you can't help financially (hey, we're all in hard times), please share this post and pass it around.  I believe in the power of social media!  We can do this!

Update:  Thank you SO MUCH to Bob for his generous donation!  I was able to purchase fifteen copies of The Curious Incident... for my students via Amazon Marketplace!  Hooray!

Pens and Bookmarks!

Another donation! Thank you Kim!