Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Power of the Blog

I really liked this thought. My class focuses on creative expression, so I give my students a writing notebook assignment that lasts the entire semester. They write whatever they want. I take these up periodically to make sure that they are keeping up with the assignment, to check to see they are doing it corectly and to comment on their writing.

It has become a sort of conversation between the students and myself. The assignment surprised me. It has allowed them to "talk" or "vent" about things (which that they so need to do). It has allowed them to take creative risks with writing they may not otherwise take the time to try. It has allowed me to really get to know my students better.

But the most surprising thing about it was their response to it. I had no idea that they would care so much about my responses. The day after taking them up they would come back into class asking if I was done grading them. Several would ask me regularly if I had commented on them. If I had to say, "not yet," there were groans...!! They value feedback and validation in their work and their thoughts. How much more meaningful would it be to get that feedback with ideas they presented to their classmates?

It truly is a powerful thing to watch and be a part of.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Curriculum Framing Questions

My unit is a performance unit for the students. Prior to this they have learned the basics of several different styles of dance--jazz, ballet, and modern. Modern Dance is the last form we study. We learn that Modern dance is often performed to communicate an idea to its audience. Modern choreographers try to make audiences aware of situations, feelings, problems in society, or tell a story through their dances. In light of this, my students will brainstorm, research, and blog about a social issue they feel is relevant to teenagers. They will then choreograph a dance to communicate their ideas on the issue. These dances will be performed for an audience of teachers, parents and fellow students at the end of the semester.

The Essential Question is: What does it take to change the world?

The Unit Questions are:
  • How can choreographers and dancers bring about change within a culture?
  • How do artists make audiences aware of problems within society?
The Content Questions are:
  • What are the steps of the choreographic process?
  • Name a famous choreographer and describe his/her contributions to dance?
  • How does a dancer use the elements of dance to express complex ideas?
  • Identify a social ill in our society (what is a social ill? What is an example of a social ill found in our culture? What is an example of a common problem found amongst high school students?)
  • What is the importance of educating the public on issues that affect our society?
  • What are 10 facts you found on a social ill (common problem) while researching?
  • What steps are involved in preparing for a dance performance?
  • Who are all the people needed to carry out a dance performance and what do are their jobs?

...so far anyway...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Intel Class

This class feels useful.   As exhausting as 3 hour long classes after work make me, I feel like I leave the class having learned and accomplished something.   

I admit many times I have wondered why I became a teacher.  It has always seemed to me that when I plan lessons there are holes in the activities.   Making the connection between writing objectives and achieving those objectives has been challenging...sometimes whether or not students have actually learned what I wanted them to learn has been vague.  I had never learned about Essential Questions, but using them sounded like one way to address this personal challenge.  This past week really helped me with this.  Learning what Essential Questions are, the difference between EQ, UQ and CFQ helped me immensely.  I feel I understood and could begin using them as I plan units from this point on. 

Writing this unit one piece at a time gives me a chance to think through each step of the process, enough time to get what I want out of the process.  It also gives me an opportunity to learn new technology tools and how to use them in class.  Our students are rapidly surpassing us in their knowledge of technology.  I want to keep up.  I also want to find ways to engage them.  I think the Intel course helps.  The blogging is an example of how I can use a online tool the students are probably already familiar with to pull them in and get them writing about dance experiences or other topics related to dance class.

I look forward to seeing progress in my understanding of technology and teaching as a whole as the course moves forward.