Friday, February 17, 2012

Crossword Puzzles: Evil Incarnate?

Almost got this one first time through...

Yes, the NY Times one right next to it is is completely blank, but I'll take my victories where I can get 'em.

My sons have all brought home crossword puzzles in their homework packets, and as a Sub I've seen plenty of them left for me to copy and pass out. I have never understood how those were supposed to be educational since 99% of the kids just filled in one word, listed for them at the top of the page, then looked over at their neighbors' papers to fill in the rest.

I haven't worked one into a lesson yet but I see them as building and reinforcing the vocab while also sneaking in some new words. Plus there is the THINK factor, reading the clue for context and understanding -- why did the puzzle author choose that word? -- and having to actually try a word then erase and try again. Or in my case write over the error with a black pen and hope you don't notice.

Have you used word puzzles that actually challenge your students? When, how, etc?


and while I'm here, I love my desk. Just sayin'.

notes, notes, everywhere...

...nor any thought to think?*

I'm always taking notes, most of which I never find/see/understand after the ink is dry. But just as I was wondering why in the world I bother to scribble all that, and after a week of checking blank or doodle-filled, hence useless, notebooks, something I had written weeks ago (and could not find for you now even if you offered cash) popped into my head. I realized that whether the student actually goes back and re-reads his/her notes or not, the very act of putting pencil (leaky pen, fluorescent highlighter, crayon crumb, whatever) to paper somehow reinforces the fact or idea in those growing, connection-building brains.
At least, I hope it does.

So how do I get the students to take better notes?
Pretty colored pens and post-it notes? Copying my example to the letter? Grade them hard if they do not take quality notes? Any suggestions?

*my apologies, Mr. Coleridge.

Mr. Nauton's Wildcats

Don't shut me down, Blogger, but I went over to edublogs for the classroom website, just seemed a little more appropriate and less apt to get me in trouble when the students start clicking "Next Blog"...

Any suggestions, besides change the darn ugly colors? Do students get anything out blogging? I'm thinking publishing, editing, commenting, internet safety, as well as a place I can post links of interest for them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Can't Drive 55

..but they sure can average a 55 on the test!

Ug. First big test of my career: Social Studies, 2 review sessions before the test, test questions taken from quiz and tests they had already taken, open book with students sharing page numbers as they found answers...

*sigh* I had such high hopes.  What can I learn from this? What do I take away from it? (Besides taking away the trash can I dumped the tests in, pee-yew it stinks!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Learning is Messy

Great blog, this guy seems like just what I want to be when I grow up. His students are skyping, blogging, publishing, etc. Watch the Digital Learning post video -- very inspiring!

Learning is Messy

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Taking Notes is Boooor-ing

I've always planned on note-taking as part of my classroom, and my new school follows the AVID ideas and that's a big part so I thought cool, they will all know how to take notes! Then I did a notebook check. Oy vey. Let's just say that if my first paycheck (still to come) was based on the quality of these notebooks, I'd have to eat them for every meal for the next month. How do blank pages taste with ketchup? Which wine goes with scribbling and doodles?

What to do instead of listening and taking notes: Draw a Stickman!

I encourage drawings, arrows, the liberal use of color and highlighters, but with most of my students there is nothing on the page to draw an arrow to or highlight over.  The teacher's Math notes before me looked copied straight out of the book, a habit I wasn't going to continue, but if I don't write it they don't write it?  How do I get them to process the info into own words, own connections? I do need to remember they need TIME for notes, time to process the info and make some sense of it. I'm going to make a sign for myself: Time to Think, Time to Write. brb

(Four hours later...)*

How about this: well, nevermind, couldn't get the image here. It's a giant hourglass with the words
"Time to Think, Time to Write" big and bold so I don't forget to let them contemplate, ponder, put thoughts to paper...

I also heard mention at the AVID class something called foldables -- no, not a fruit snack or pre-packaged lunch treat, but things you do with paper so kids will get creative with their notes and reports. Here are a few sites with examples:    and   and

*no, it didn't take me 4 hours to make that. There were the inevitable distractions, i.e. my children, facebook, the Chris Van Ellsberg websites, and a huge carne asada burrito.