Monday, September 30, 2013

New to me Classroom

The classroom into which I moved this year is very white.  There are three walls that have white paint, and a blue wall, all the way in the back of the room, which is painted navy blue.  White floor, white table tops....  So to say the classroom needed some color is quite an understatement.

I've been scouring the inexpensive stores for tchotchkes with little success, so was super happy to find this set on the clearance rack at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Not only does it bring some color (which happen to be among my favorites), but it is also pretty hefty and so takes up a good amount of space on a very large wall.

I placed it on the wall facing the door, alongside our "windows."

So, things are starting to come together.  A student volunteered to paint me a mural; hopefully that will come to fruition!  I also plan to pickup some posters a woman offered on freecycle, which should add even more color and fun to the room.

Suggestions to brighten this space welcomed and appreciated!!

Friday, September 27, 2013


This first month of school has been challenging--a new population of students (not just new students, but from different schools on campus so different expectations and experiences), changes to courses I've taught before (my Humanities class has switched from a semester to a full year, from seniors to sophomores), changing classroom space.  I'm down to three preps, but up to six sections (last year was four preps and five sections).

No grass has been able to grow under my feet.

All these challenges aside, I'm actually devoting the most energy to revamping my USI classes.  I last taught the course in 2009-10, and while I was pretty innovative then (or maybe just so I thought), I've underwent some serious changes in my philosophy and how I do things.  Most of the things I did then are not suitable for a flipped classroom mindset, let alone a wholly flipped classroom.

Resources that helped me so much when I flipped USII have disappeared--either from my browser's history and my bookmarks or from the internet altogether.  I keep searching for this huge list of US History essential questions I used then to help focus my units--gone.  It also seems that many teachers who flip have turned their classes to non-public sources like Edmodo, so it's been tough to find ideas for what will happen in class.

So, my classes have been working a lot with primary sources.  This is great for common core as well as trying to get to the meat of what's important with less of the textbook type processing and a different amount of specificity.  Of course, working with primary sources is a big part of the Common Core, which of course helpful too.

We're working on a project that will help them recognize the regional differences and reasons for the founding of each colony (a modification of my previous "Character of a Colony Project" to become a simulated Mystery Skype--shout out to Rachelle Lamoureaux for the Mystery Skype idea).

The changes are many:  first, we've changed textbooks to one that really doesn't fit what I tend to do in my classes, so gone are all the textbook/question homework assignments.  I have not yet given a Powerpoint or a lecture of any kind.  We've had a lot of conversations; we're trying to group and categorize in anticipation of DBQ writing; we're building relationships; we're learning about Google Drive and Chromebooks; we're collaborating.

Speaking of which, check out the new desks, which arrived yesterday morning!

My current struggle with USI is, of course, what the heck to do with them in class time.  The students who have been trained in the more traditional methods have already expressed that they WANT lectures and that they're getting sick of primary sources.  The Mystery Skype is a start, but I'm struggling to fill the day-to-day.  Building meaningful class activities is what makes the class time fun, memorable, and the point of getting the opportunity to spend one's days with high school students!