Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bulletin board project

Wow, I spent almost the entire evening putting my bulletin boards together! If I had known how long it would take, I probably would have done something easier. The first picture is of my Beowulf bulletin board. I actually put this one together last weekend before I started teaching the poem. In the center is a section of Beowulf in Old English. My students thought it was cool that I could read the OE (thank you, Dr. Martin!). The modern English translation is to the left. My students are working on their final projects for the poem--dramas based on the poem or a newspaper front page based on the work. I'm looking forward to seeing the final projects next week. The "Poetic Gems" board features poems the seniors turned in on Thursday. I am very impressed with their work. The last bulletin board displays some of the best essays from my Research and Writing class with my comments in the thought bubbles. I'm hoping that seeing some examples of good thesis statements and paragraphs filled with support for the topic sentences will inspire the other students to do the same in their papers. My room looks a lot more cheerful now with the blank spaces filled in with colorful displays of my students's work.

Hurrah for Graduate Students!

A new Robert Frost poem was found by a graduate student, Robert Stilling, at University of Virginia. It sounds like his job cataloguing books and manuscripts is rather boring, but it had a big payoff in this case. I'm excited to read the poem when it is published next week.

Ah, the joys of being a second year teacher!

Today I laminated bulletin board borders and letters--something I only dreamed of doing last year. I am so glad to be able to put forward a little more of a professional look. Last year I mostly put up student work on my bulletin boards, but this year I have been able to be a little more creative. Pictures of my most recent bulletin boards will be forthcoming.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Students on Center Stage

During a recent "Professional Development Emphasis" teachers meeting, we discussed an article by Max Fischer titled "Learning to Cope With Larger Classes." Fischer encourages teachers not to resort to only lecturing when the class size is large but to modify group or whole class activities to accommodate the larger classes. The key to effective group activities is the teacher's preparation and instructions. The teacher needs to break down each part of the activity and clearly explain each step of the process (it will feel like over-simplification but the students need the structure). When the students understand what is expected of them, the results will amaze you. Last year my junior class had about 17-19 students (the enrollment changed several times during the year) and I felt very comfortable incorporating both large or small group activities. This year's class size is 25 in Research and Writing and 30 in junior English. I have shied away from some interactive activities because it was difficult to organize and manage that many students. Today, however, I had a successful group activity in my Research class. I am extremely pleased with the focus of the students and the learning that took place today. On Tuesday I asked each student to bring in two letters to the editor published in either a magazine or newspaper and three articles they were interested in responding to in their own letter to the editor. I split the class into groups pairing strong students with weak or ESL students. I gave the entire class instructions and then talked with the group leaders about how to help the ESL students in their groups. I was really proud of the leadership some of my students took. I observed them analyzing the articles, underlining topic sentences, explaining the definitions of terms, and summarizing the articles. At the end of the letter/article analysis, a spokesman summarized the organization and good/bad points of the article. One group leader had each person (including the brand-new ESL student) in her group explain one part of the evaluation. Another spokesman presented an articulate critique and summary. My faith in group work has been restored. With proper planning and guidance, the experience of working with classmates toward a clear objective is profitable and valuable.


One of my students confessed today that she used to think "Anonymous" was a person's name. What is the difference between "Anonymous" and "Unknown"? I tried to explain to my senior British literature class that the author of Beowulf is unknown because we just don't know who wrote the poem but not anonymous because he wasn't trying to keep his identity hidden. Was I right? I was probably splitting hairs about the definition like I usually do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

ESL moment

One of my ESL students left this charming comment on my chalkboard before I had a chance to write the day's writing prompt: "No school today . . . Go sleepy!" I still chuckle every time I think of it.

Monday, September 18, 2006


I decided to test my literary wings on my own blog. I just hope my wings don't melt and I plunge into the ocean, which really isn't too far from where I live. I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while, especially since I moved to the other side of the world. I hope this will help me stay connected with my friends Stateside and give me a place to share what I am learning here in Guam. My best friend wants to hear more about my experiences teaching in Guam, so I hope to accomodate her on this blog. I'm sure you caught the obvious allusion in my blog title and description--most of my friends should have no difficulty with that one--but I'd like to elaborate a little on the description. I am a teacher; I teach 11th and 12th grade English and Yearbook at Harvest Christian Academy in Barrigada, Guam. I would like to share with you some of the stories, experiences, and lessons I learn while teaching at this wonderful school. I love to teach, but I also love to learn. I frequently think about what correspondence course or degree I could work on next (my mom is probably cringing right now because she knows my track record with correspondence courses). I love to read! I always have a book on my nightstand and lately I've been staying up late to finish the good books I've found (Black Hawk Down, Papa's Wife, and My Antonia are the most recent to spend a few days on the nightstand). I am also attempting to be a student of God's Word. I'd like to use this space to share some of the lessons God is teaching me. And I am an "islander." I moved to Guam 14 months ago and I love it here! I enjoy the relaxed way of life (though life is NOT slow at Harvest) and the fantastic scenery. The island people are wonderful and I am learning more about the culture every week. I'll probably share with you some of the oddities and neat things about living in a melting pot of cultures like I do. There is no place like Guam; I say that with fondness--but with a touch of frustration at times! Well, I've got to get back to being a teacher and finish grading a stack of papers!