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Showing posts from 2017

I Agree: Ditch that Homework

I have been on both ends of the homework equation, teacher and parent. As a teacher, I have assigned it countless times, but it never felt right. Most of the time I felt guilty for assigning it but felt I had to.  I mean, kids spend six hours a day in school. Shouldn't we be able to get our job done in that amount of time?  Shouldn't kids get to go home and spend time with their families, play sports, go to youth group,  play outside, surf, and relax? As a teacher, I've been irritated and frustrated when students did not complete it. I've heard some of the following:


I lost itI was sick last nightI fell asleepI forgot how to do itI had soccer practice until 9My grandma is in the hospitalI had too much math homeworkMy maid threw it awayI forgot itOur internet was downMy dog ate it (the student handed me paper with tooth marks)Unfortunately, sometimes my lesson for that day was dependent on students completing their homework. If they didn't have it, they couldn't …

What Do Teachers Do in the Summer?

Based on the memes I have seen over the past few months, most people seem to think that teachers spend their summers drinking wine like water and watching Netflix in their pajamas all day.  What do I love about summer?  Sleeping in past 5:30, working out when I want to, peeing when I want to, not needing a nap, staying up past 10, and catching up with friends.  I am not going to lie; it's been great!  However, I have spent several hours each day reading books about teaching writing, working on my website and blog, reading countless educational articles on Twitter, lesson planning for a new class I am teaching,  and learning new ways to incorporate technology in my classroom in meaningful ways. 
I use my summer to reflect on the past year and to set new goals for the upcoming year.  Here are my goals so far: 1) To make my classroom one that kids love to walk into. To connect with my students and get them fired up about learning.
2) To spend more time giving feedback WHILE students are…

How I Wrapped up the Year with Learning Maps

A few weeks ago I read an article about having students create an end of the year learning map.  I liked the idea of having students reflect on all that they'd learned but was a little irked that there were no pictures or clear instructions.  Fortunately, I had a picture in my mind and promised myself I'd publish my own pictures when my students finished.

I cut three large pieces of butcher paper and wrote the following in the middle:  writing, reading, and listening/speaking.  In the meantime, I gave students about forty minutes to review all of their work published to our class blog, all of the comments they received from me on turnitin, their English notebooks, and the grade book.  I told them to jot down notes about what they specifically learned this year as they reflected on their work.

Then, I placed the posters around the room and asked students to visit each one, writing down what they learned this year.  I told them to consider writing down the activity and what they l…

Moments that Matter

Of course, I love teaching The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and showing my students why Twain is a genius.  Of course, I love reading a spectacular student essay that we worked on for weeks.  Of course, I love listening to students have thoughtful, insightful discussions about things that matter.  Yet, what I love about teaching are the connections I make with students.  The moments that fill my heart with joy both when they are happening and sometimes years later.
Wednesday my students were working on creating a playlist for The Pearl.  They had to come up with a song that represented each chapter and write an explanation to support their choice.  It was the perfect assignment for the end of the year.  The kids could socialize and listen to music while working on the assignment.  The room was filled with happy chatter.  As I walked around checking in with and talking with students, I noticed one of my students sitting alone.  She was working on her project, but something seemed a little o…

Celebrating Ice and Ice Cream in Read 180

I supplement the Read 180 program with many of my own lessons and activities.  Two key components of my class are Newsela (which I've blogged about already) and Scholastic Action magazine.


 My students look forward to getting our monthly magazine and enjoy having a tangible copy to hold in their hands.  It's filled with high-interest, age-appropriate articles. Students also appreciate the colorful pictures, graphs, and charts.  Although the magazines could easily stand on their own, I often like to develop my own lessons to complement them.


This month's magazine features an article called ICY HISTORY and is followed by another called ICE CREAM FOR ALL.  I immediately knew I had a great excuse to bring in ice cream for my kiddos! Any excuse for ice cream!


I began my pre-teaching a few key words from the article.  I use  Kate Kinsella's  method for teaching vocabulary.  We then read the article using the cloze reading strategy--one of my favorites. The teacher reads the ar…

It's not all Unicorns and Rainbows

When I read through my past blogs, I realize that they are overwhelmingly positive. I make it sounds like everything always goes as planned and students follow directions. Let me assure you that things do not always go as planned and students rarely follow directions.  Yet, at this point in my career, I both embrace and accept this! Kids fall out of their chairs in the middle of deep discussions, kids get up to sharpen pencils (mine is electric) when I am in mid sentence, kids ask to use the bathroom in the middle of instruction... Heck! We've even had a bird fly in our classroom. You get the idea!  It's called teaching middle school.  

Sometimes my lessons don't go as planned either.  Last week is a perfect example!  We had just read "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury.  Written in 1951, Bradbury envisions a futuristic society where television has taken over the world.   Walter Meade, the protagonist,  refuses to embrace this kind of world and ends up getting arrest…

Getting students to RESEE their writing

When students are asked to write, they often want to "get it done" and turn it in as quickly as possible.  I often ask them to look over their writing and look for places they can improve. Sometimes I even have them read each other's work and provide feedback.  Yet, even after I do these things I receive papers riddled with errors and flat out bad writing.  For years I have provided students with feedback (I try to offer as much positive feedback as I can).  I tell them, "Good verb choice. Great imagery. Fantastic argument. Wonderful hook."  However, I am frequently frustrated that  I am also continuously making comments like  "Sentence fragment.  Run-on.  Verbs aren't consistent."  You get the idea!  What's even more frustrating is that even though I make these comments telling students what they did incorrectly, the make the same errors on future assignments!

So, two weekends ago, I dedicated some time to researching add-ons available on Goog…

UPDATE-Using Favorite Authors to Inspire Student Writing

In my last blog, I promised an update on the lesson I was going to teach, and I finally had a few minutes, so here it is! It was a hit! I loved it, and they loved it even more. I won't bore you with the details, but I will say that I am SO glad that I had two examples that I already written ahead of time. I won't even share those because my students' examples are even better!
After the assignment, I gave them a few days to work on revising, focusing on figurative language, specific nouns, and powerful verbs. Then they published the work to our blog and read and commented on each others.
Finally, I created a Google Form to provide feedback on the assignment. One suggestion was that I ask them to find a longer passage from their book. Other than that, they loved the opportunity to be creative. Here are a few of the questions and answers: Did Mrs. Karney explain the assignment clearly? Give suggestions or compliments. * Yes, the sentence seeds assignment we did before w…

Using Favorite Authors to Inspire Student Writing

It's rare that I post about something before I've tried it, but I couldn't resist. It's also rare that I can claim an idea as  100% mine, but this is all mine (maybe I should wait until I try it before I claim it as my idea)!   Currently, my students are participating in book clubs.  This provides an excellent opportunity to weave in some fun activities like mentor sentences, punctuation, and narrative writing.  My son, who also happens to be in my class, is currently reading Unstoppable by Tim Green.  He's not a big reader, but he loves this book.  The other night while sitting on the couch reading his book, he starting laughing.  "Mom, listen to this!"  He then  began to read a long, descriptive passage from the book that describes an angry coach.  Green  uses sensory language, vivid verbs, and figurative language to create a vivid portrait of this man. My son stated   that the way Tim Green writes is one of the main reasons he is enjoying the book so m…

Sidewalk Chalk to "Get the Wiggles Out"

Wow!  Can't believe the semester is over!  We finished The Outsiders, wrote an essay about whether or not it should be considered a classic, and I  needed something light and fun to wind up the semester.  My honors classes conduced mock trials instead of the essay. Anyhow,  I decided to revisit the six-word memoir.  My students wrote one about themselves at the beginning of the year.  It's a great way to teach students the importance of word choice.  It's also not as easy as it sounds.  As Mark Twain once said,“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” We had a nice discussion about this quote!  Students had to select a character from the novel and write a six-word memoir as that character.  After publishing them to our classroom blog, I grabbed a bucked of colored chalk and took them outside to the quad where they were asked to write their memoirs.  Of course, I made sure to spell out the expectations beforehand.  If you teach middle …

Another Great Semester in Read 180

Some days in Read 180 can be pretty monotonous, especially the software. When Read 180 first came out over ten years ago, kids were thrilled to use it! For most of them, it was the only computer they used all day. However, as computers and cell phones have become ubiquitous on our campus, the novelty of the program has definitely waned! Therefore, I have had to look for ways to not only help my students improve their reading but to also keep them engaged! I have written about a variety of these activities in my previous posts.

Yet, it is all worth it when students take the SRI test at the end of the semester. HALF of my students met the requirements to exit the class. TWO of them are now reading at ADVANCED and are even talking about taking English Honors next year. I had my students write a reflection about the semester (I provided them specific questions and an example).


Here are a few:





I started Read 180 at the beginning of the school year. My first lexile score began at 669…

Grades: Something Else Matters

When I first started teaching, I didn't even have a computer.  Grades were recorded in a mysterious, teacher-owned blue book.  I used a point system, so every six weeks when progress reports were due, I'd grab my trusty calculator and begin the tedious task of tallying each student's points.  As a kid, I remember bringing my report card home to my mom in a sealed envelope and eagerly waiting for her to open it and share my grades with me.  It was a big deal and there was always a little mystery as to what my grades would be.
Fast forward to the digital age, where students and parents are privy to grades twenty-four hours a day.  At first I thought this was a good thing!  For one, I wouldn't have to spend countless hours adding up points on my calculator.  Now I am not so sure.  Students have become obsessed with points.  Some check their grades several times a day.  In fact, there is now an app that many of my students use which allows them to create a "mock" …