Sunday, January 13, 2019

Creating, Thematically

This year, I have three preps.  One prep is for 11 students...another one is for five students.  Much work to create for just one class...but I do enjoy creating thematic units.

The texts for the English 11 class are two short works and the novel The Awakening...just have to have to say that of all the works that a junior could be exposed to...this would not be one of my choosing.  I am going to focus on the shorter works and grant a request of my class:  that we learn about mythology. 

I hesitated, for I already has an idea for a thematic unit.

Then, the two thematic topics collided.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Keep It Classy


This was my classroom...then, on a Wednesday morning, we all received an email that overhead lighting must now be used...due to research.  I have many thoughts and responses to this research, but out of respect to the position that presented this edit, I will refrain...and, instead, will focus on my students and peers and their responses and how my new theme came about, for honestly?  Drinking lemonade is not my favorite drink of choice in December, but lemonade we must make.

While on hall duty, a peer first noticed the email and it aloud.  Thankfully, I had already heard that this was going to occur, or looking back, I am not so sure how I might had reacted.

I chose to slip into the job mode...not this-is-my-passion mode.  I turned off the lamps and turned of the overhead lights and began to listen to the responses to "What is going on?"  "What?"  "This room is just sad, Mrs. Gillmore."  "I don't even want to be in here anymore."..and on...and on...slipping into a funk that just did not have to be.

For nearly a decade, we had "lived" in this room with lamps, a room where everyone, in all that time, had been so complimentary, except for two, regarding the culture I had created within those four walls (have I mentioned how much of my own money I had spent?!).

On the Friday morning, two days later, while perusing Facebook, I came across a friend's painting of an ornament with a old red truck inside it, and the idea was birthed:  we just had to keep on truckin'.  I shared this idea with my husband who before second hour had gone to town and purchased the first of a dozen or so trucks he would purchase for my new brightly lit classroom.

As I shared this idea with my classes, they listened intently, for none liked our current situation, and then the excitement began to grow as several offered to bring cars and to create artwork that could be displayed.  I concluded by explaining that sometimes life hands us lemons; then we have to choose to turn sour or to make lemonade.

That weekend, I painted this...and "trucked" it to class on Monday.  A young lady gave me my first Christmas present...a red truck.  The next morning, a young man was waiting at my door with a "loaner."  Another brought a ziplock full of matchbox cars that his class turned into ornaments and placed on the tree.  Later, I received a text from a teacher friend who lives across the state; she and her sons want to donate five trucks to our new theme.  As the season rolled along, I was gifted several objects with the red truck theme.  Love it!
No, I did not have time to re-make my classroom...nor the energy...nor the money...but...I also could not afford to not invest in my students and the culture within our classroom.  Nearly, all my classes are predominantly male, and many of the females (like myself) love the old red truck theme...so a win-win!

My favorite lemonade is strawberry lemonade...but...strawberries are out of season...but only for a few short months.  And...frozen strawberries are not bad, at all.

Therefore, in Cafe 16, we have chosen to keep on truckin' and to keep it classy...for I do appreciate the classics!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Literacy Conference x 46

For the past several months, the Conference Committee has spent numerous hours preparing for two days for the 46th Annual Arkansas Literacy Association's Literacy Conference...that flew by in the wink of an eye.

The long story?  This was to be the last literacy conference. Declining registrants. Exorbitant overhead costs.  Little (if any) profit.

The short story?  The people showed up.  Registrant numbers increased.  An energy exuded from all.  Not one negative comment. True!

The end result:  "This just can't be our last conference."  "These people love getting together face-to-face."  "Let's talk about how we can make this happen..again."

So chat we will!

Why did this change happen?

Penny Kittle was the General Session keynote.  They loved her.  Her love of literacy and books was just contagious.  Oh!  I do remember a complaint...they wished she had talked longer.   :)

I traveled to the conference with a bit of dread in my heart, knowing this would be the last.  Then, I heard the numbers and hope arose....and continued to rise.  Yay!

There's this thing about hope.  Hope keeps one going when all seems hopeless.

This thing called hope...feels good!

Looking forward to what the future holds for this conference...for what number 47 will entail.

On a sub-note...just a slight switch of topics:  If you are not involved in a professional organization, please consider doing so.  I listened to one of our board members chat and reminisce about how this group was the reason she became a literacy leader and how she had watched this organization develop such skills in other leaders, including our current president, who planned and organized, who stood and spoke, who has grown into a tremendous literacy leader.

This group of ladies inspire me, motivate me, challenge me, change me.

In all we do, we work as a team, empowering one another.  Just a precious thing.  Truly.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Gillmore Tech Tips in 30

This year, every student in grades 6-12 has his/her own Chromebook.  Just.  So. Sweet.    I am so enjoying how much time we are saving as they open up this tech tool, and we instantly go to work.  Yes!

In one class's time, we may use Google Classroom, Forms (and the charts displaying their responses), Slides, Docs, Blogger, and our class website hosted on a Google Site.    No time to get bored!

Now, that routines are more established, beginning tomorrow, I am going to begin hosting Gillmore's Tuesday Tech Tips to share what I do know...and learn more along the way.  My concern remains that our teachers were not prepped enough for this 1-to-1 journey we are taking year, so I offered to host a 30-minute session for teachers after schools on Tuesday (just have to love the alliteration...Tuesday's Tech Tips...:).

Schedule of Topics
  • Week 1:  How to Drive Google Drive - Go...Slow Down...Stop!
  • Week 2:  How to Control Your Drive = Folders!  Adding to...deleting...taking away...moving around...
  • Week 3:  Google Forms...how to use that data attached...how to use as a formative assessment...and...
  • Week 4:  TBA! 
This share time begins tomorrow.  We shall see if the teachers are interested!

Now, to begin building a resource or two...:)


Friday, August 31, 2018

The "Write" Epiphany

Only 28 years later...and the idea struck...start with the writing jargon...and build from there.

This lesson was affirmed last year when midway through the year, I was STILL reviewing what they had NOT learned the first time around when I told them more instead of showed them.  This year, I began the year with a series of sample paragraphs from previously modeled assignments on which they have annotated...and annotated...and...yes, for four days, until light bulbs are turning on...and burning brighter!

This year, I stay up late...and wake up early...planning and preparing.  Love that excitement of pulling lessons together that just work.

Hummm...I am the only one in my department choosing to switch the order and teach and assess (formatives and summatives) the writing jargon and format before diving into the language skills.  Could I be wrong...after all these years? 

I don't think so.

Besides myself, epiphanies are occurring within the minds of those sitting around me within my classroom.  Soon I will know, for I will assess later next week.  Soon. 

What epiphanies are you having about the sequencing and scaffolding of skills?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sometimes, the Light Bulb Shines Brighter

"Mrs. Gillmore, why haven't we been taught to write like this before now?" asks a tenth grade male student, as we view teacher-modeled paragraphs and review this same format again.

"Maybe your teachers were not taught writing format this way?" I reply.

I was not, or I forgot.  What?!

This Gillmore-Style Writing Format came from two "programs" and personal epiphanies over my years of teaching many hundreds...several thousands...of students how to write paragraphs of any depth or breadth, from visuals and the use of colors and jargon that will remain consistent throughout this entire academic year.

I attribute Step up to Writing and the works of Jane Schaffer...and my merging their jargon with mine.  The result is just a method that clicks with students.  HINT...see first question above.

Also, I am continually evolving.  Last year, I taught and taught and taught...and failed to slow down and assess their knowledge of this writing jargon.  This year, this is a must, this slowing down, this mastering of the terminology within the first couple weeks of school, from which I am already witnessing results.  HINT...see first question above.

That tenth grade student validated, patted me on my professional back, when he asked me that question.

Today was a good day.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

The New...and My New Best Friend

New classes...new faces...new energies...and 2018-2019 is off to a great start!

This year, I will teach/lead four sections of English 10, one of English 11 (have not taught this level in several years), and one of Teacher Cadets.

NEW!  Each student has his/her own Chromebook.  Sweet that the bell rings...they open up the computer...and to work we go.  No removing computers from the cart, signing in...and so on. 

So far...in my room...bandwidth has been my friend.  This has been quite the problem as we placed all students and teachers (and their phones!) on at one time...approximately 2000 connections (hummm...with phones...probably many more).  Yes, life has been interesting!

My newest best tech tool friend is the app Hapara, which connects to my students screens via their connection with the teacher's Google Classroom.  So.  Powerful.  So helpful in combating a student's addictions to games.  How do you spell Fortnite?! 

AND...did I mention I have the capability/power to take a pic of the student's screen?   With this empowerment comes my complete support of a 1-to-1 environment.  My classroom has had computers for each student for nearly a decade...and this struggle to maintain control of their fingers switching screens before my body and eyes could view their screens before they shut down the not-needed site...has been real!  So very real.  BUT.  No more!  Yay!  Life is just so good!

Sidenote:  I have no problem with a student playing a game...now and then.  Just.  NOT.  During. My.  Class.  Seriously, I am paid to work their brains from bell to bell...we have much thinking and typing...and reading and thinking...to do in my 80 minutes with them!

Theory 1:  I have to repeat as much as I do because students' brains have been in the game world.  Just a thought.  Will gather data...and return with an update at some point!  :)

What is your favorite tech tool this year?  Please share!

My next adventure will be to utilize Flipgrid...more about that coming soon! 

Happy new school year!