Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What to expect in the new year

The new year being upon us, it might be a good time to forecast what is to lie ahead for the emerging scholars on 7.8/3. Prior to this, please note that all students' assessments have been graded and scores have been entered in the gradebook. Any student who wishes to revise their assignment will have until Monday the 11th to do so. I would advise them to meet with me as soon as possible to discuss where the revisions should focus. The results speak for themselves: Those who embraced the challenge of doing something worthwhile and treated it as such did extremely well. Yet, this is in the past and we are now looking at what lies ahead.
For the seventh grade students, they return to chapter 7 and the Constitutional Convention for a week and then we commence study of the Constitution. A 65 page packet will accompany this instruction. This will lead into the Final Exam, a comprehensive assessment that covers work from Chapters 5, 6, 7, and the Constitution. It is a formidable task (Any exam that is over 25 pages in length has a tendency to do that.) Students will have to begin the process of working well and taking extra steps to ensure that they are not caught from behind on it. Challenging as it is, I am going to start a new endeavor. "Extra Credit Fridays" will begin on 1/22. Essentially, students check in with me for five minutes at the start of lunch to receive an assignment that is due at the following class and is to be done over the weekend. These tasks are completely voluntary and will be worth quite a bit of extra credit. They will also serve as excellent review for the Constitution. Finally, it will start to develop the good and successful habit in students to not be afraid of extra work in order to solidify comprehension and receive extrs points in the process.
For the eighth grade students, their introduction to chapter 19 and Progressivism will consist of a two day brief thematic lecture followed by a computer based assessment on various tasks. Students will be able to collaborate, but the expectations will become heavier as their time in class will be devoted to completing this task, while outside of class time will be needed to work on the identifications for the Progressivism Unit. Following this, students will engage in a study of Imperialism through a variety of self chosen tasks that integrate primary and secondary sources.
In the final analysis, I would say that what lies ahead for our students in the next month will be much tougher than what has been done. I think that this will be another benchmark in our journey towards the pantheon of scholarship that many are ready to enter, but still require some last checks at the door.
As always, if I can be of any further assistance or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school via email or at my home.
All best for a safe and strong New Year!
Mr. Kannan

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A first: A short blog entry

I was told this week by a faculty member that my writing "is too lengthy." As I do with all colleagues' insight and comments, I reflected on it and ruminated upon it. I suppose I do write a bit, so this week's blog will be truncated, abridged, shortened, minimized, etc...
7th Grade- Each student will have to submit a completed chapter 6 writing task and two sets of notes or Check Your Progress Questions. Work will be submitted on Friday.
8th Grade- Each student will have to submit a complete Writing Assessment on Howard Zinn. Work will be submitted on Friday.

8th graders can gain extra credit for writing a response to the Interview with Howard Zinn (click on link and on left pane) and/ or on "The People Speak" special on the History Channel on Sunday night on 7:00.

Consider it done: I wrote something which was not "too lengthy." (Rest assured, this will not happen again.)
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How do I know what I know? How do I prove what I know?

At this point for our students, our emerging scholars, the challenge is not knowing the material. I think that all of them possess a competitive base of understanding where it is evident they understand the fundamental premises of what is happening. In a larger scope, the question is how do they display these findings in a manner that reflects what they know. Here is where debate and discussion emerge. A traditional paper, an ABC book, an ABC summary, pictures, some type of video presentation, or a poem, are just a few of the many options that stand in front of all 7.8/3 emerging Social Studies scholars. For both groups of students, final drafts/ final projects are due on Thursday, December 17, 2009. This gives them about ten days to make progress towards what has to be done.
Obviously, parents/ guardians play a role in this process. I would stress that some basic talking points about this process could help out in a tremendous manner:
* What have you decided to do?
* Where are you having the most amount of difficulty? (If they answer "nowhere," press them with the opposite: "Where are things going really well on this task?")
* Have you shown Mr. Kannan a rough draft? What did he say? Since his handwriting is really bad, were you able to understand what he was talking about?
* Did you answer all parts of the prompt?
* Have you gone over the rubric to see what he wants in the finished product?

Writing and the composition of any work product involves a level of discussion and discourse. If students can develop the habit of talking openly and honestly about their work, this is where the movement between "getting work done" and "getting work done well" happens. If we wish to develop our students into scholars, I think this would be an instrumental step in the process. If these questions/ talking points, entities that I incorporate in small group discussion in class, can be echoed outside of class as students work, success is almost a foregone conclusion.

If I can be of any further assistance in the process, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Voices of the Dispossessed

Our study this week seems to be heading towards analyzing what it means to be dispossessed. I suppose this would be a natural conclusion, given the fact we are studying the American Revolution in one class and Howard Zinn and "Robber Barons and Rebels" in another one. I think that the idea here is that America's narrative cannot go very far without the discussion of who is on the bottom end of the power structure. The Colonists were on this side against the British and the workers against the Industrialists. As we progress in both domains, I cannot help but feel that this has much in the way of relevancy to our students and their experiences as individuals in the modern setting and in their own narratives.
Trimester I grades will be finalized this week. Seventh grade students will return from Thanksgiving Recess and begin the second trimester with an open note exam on Chapter 6. The exam will take about three days to complete, for while it is not long, it stresses that students attempt to earn credit on every possible question. One of the elements for which I am hoping on this exam is that students do not merely try to do well, but actually strive to correctly answer every question. In some respects, it is an age old adage, but I like the idea of seeking to establish a sense of perfection on an exam. It echoes of cumulative exams in Oxford or Cambridge, and might bear some relevancy for seventh grade students when we return from Thanksgiving Recess. The eighth graders will be wrestling with their own academic demons, specifically in the form of Howard Zinn and "Robber Barons and Rebels." The reading of this article should be done on the week we return from Thanksgiving Recess. Students will then have the opportunity to work on their Assessment on Howard Zinn which tentatively stands at 600 points.
In terms of what I would like to see from all stakeholders, I hope I can impose upon all of you to ensure that your student, your emerging scholar, is keeping pace with their nightly work. Sometimes in the course of a student's time at Julian, they might believe that simply because the homework is "reading" or "studying," they can afford to dismiss it. My hopes are that you will help me help your emerging scholar in stressing to them that nightly progress should be made every step of the way in their learning. If the assignment calls for students to annotate an article or review a section of the textbook in preparation for an exam, this is what should be done that evening. Many of our students are doing this consistently and quite thoroughly. Some students are not, and the hope is that all students will understand that success can only be realized through incremental and consistent devotion to that end.
As always, if I can be of any further assistance or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Understanding Rebellion

We approach a very unique time in both the seventh and eighth grade curriculum. The emergence of rebellion and articulation of dissent is a theme that both grade levels are experiencing right now. The seventh graders are grasping rebellion through the works of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. The idea of giving voice to rage and anger in its formation of America is an element that helps allow full comprehension of the American Revolution. Students have endured writing Primary Source Quotations from the "Halls of Justice" and have spent time analyzing the ideas which lie behind each. This week, we will examine how the ideas of rebellion put forth in the works of both thinkers lay behind the articulation of Colonial anger, fostering freedom. The eighth graders will be delving into the work of Howard Zinn this week. Students were given their packet of work on Friday and nightly reading should be undertaken with annotation and highlighting of essential concepts or ideas. Students should take about thirty or forty minutes, rough estimate, for each night's reading. This reading is intense, and warrants the utmost in focus. Part of the reason why it is so powerful lie in the author, himself. Zinn is very much animated with the spirit of articulating rebellion and how history is made when authority is questioned.
In terms of what lies on the horizon for our students, all students should know that Friday, November 20 marks the end of the trimester for work to be submitted in Social Studies. At the same time, seventh graders will take their exam on chapter six on November 30, and should be making preparations for this. The eighth graders will be focused on reading Zinn, keeping up with the nightly demands, and participating in class discussions/ exploration activities. This is something that should be expected. In terms of major writing for the 8th graders, I would suggest that they prepare themselves for writing assessments in the long term, but for the short term, the reading will be critical. In terms of any other items, I would like to suggest that students investigate the purchase of flash drives/ memory sticks. I know majority of our students possess them, but it makes for the process of uploading documents and saving work much more reliable. If nothing else, it stresses to all students the need to save work constantly and consistently. This is not a bad habit to acquire (Ask anyone who has lost 65 pages of research... not to name names, or anything!) As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home if you have any questions.
Hoping all is well and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Friday, November 6, 2009

Different Visions of Voyages

As the first trimester comes to a close in a short period of time, it might be essential to gauge where we are and where we need to be in our voyages. Both groups of students have been pushed to limits where frustration, happiness, agony, and some tears have resulted. There have been a preponderance of "teachable moments" that have emerged and brought forth the idea of sacrifice. At different points this trimester, I believe that each student has understood the need to give more and expect more out of both the content and themselves.
Now that we find ourselves almost a third of the way done with our journey, we have to examine how things will become more arduous in this next phase. Certainly, students will have to recognize that the commitment needed in the first trimester will be more so needed in the subsequent ones. The work will increase in magnitude and difficulty, and the room which will allow foreseeable errors will be decreased. Once again, students must prepare themselves for encountering more of those "teachable moments," which are hated in the initial phase, but provide the best fodder for teaching and understanding.
The seventh graders will receive their Chapter 5 Writing Tasks this Monday. Revisions and all extra credit tasks will be due Monday, 11/16. Upon the return of these items, the analysis of Chapter 6 will begin, where students will analyze the works of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. This will culminate in the Chapter 6 Exam as well as the Chapter 6 Writing Tasks. For eighth graders, identifications submitted on Tuesday will be matched with reading the challenging secondary source of Howard Zinn and his analysis of Industrialization. Students will be given a copy of his chapter on "Robber Barons and Rebels." It is a 35 page packet and students should not lose it. Additionally, students will be expected to annotate or create notes to accompany this reading. Our study of Zinn will allow us a greater understanding of the time period and will expose students to the need of reading history in a bit of a different light than reading other forms of literature.
Naturally, as work increases, so would the potential need to communicate. I can be reached through school email or at my home. All stakeholders are invited to initiate contact when communication is needed.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Defining Progress

At this point in our journey, progress is being made with each incremental step. 7th Graders are engaging in the fierce battle of defense pieces and writing tasks. Questions such as, "How do I know this is an example of Sensory Feeling?" or "Have I proved this enough?" are being coupled with "Do you have my rough draft" or "Can I come up during lunch to talk this out?" These are the types of questions that one would expect from emerging scholars. This is where we are. Final Drafts of the Chapter 5 Writing Tasks are due on Thursday, 11/5. Once this is done, we begin our next journey through the Revolution and the writings of Jefferson and Paine. With three weeks to go in the Trimester, more seventh graders are embracing the process of revisions and working through adversity. This is where we should be and as we make progress it is essential to ensure that no one is left behind in its wake.
The eighth graders are in a more precarious position. As the wake of Monopoly and the acquisition of wealth as well as the blessing or curse of Free Parking still looms large, students are being introduced to the world of thematic appropriation of content. I have always felt that the outlining of several themes at the outset of a unit and then the engagement of these ideas within the history makes for more vibrant discussions and more powerful work products. Students are introduced to that this week in the process of understanding chapters 17, 18, and 19. At the same time, students are also embarking on their introduction to the subversive world of Howard Zinn, who will play an essential role in helping us carve out our own conception of History. With only a few weeks to go in the Trimester, my hope is that students begin to understand how things progress and take advantage of all that is there in order to maximize and enhance student achievement.
As always, if I can be of any further assistance or help, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at home.
All best.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Gingerbread Man Breaketh

This past week was a significant week for our emerging scholars. The seventh grade students finished their first exam. They fought through it quite well. While the scores were solid, my guess is that we possess greater awareness of what will be asked on a multiple choice assessment. Revisions for this exam will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday during lunch. If students wish to revise the exam, they would have to explain why their original answer was incorrect, as opposed to why it was marked wrong. For example, a correct revision would be, "I put B, the treaty of France, but that is incorrect because the treaty's real name was the treaty of Paris. Therefore, the answer would be A) Treaty of Paris." Revisions that are done well and follow policy will receive half of the credit lost. For students who wish to revise any grade from an 80%, they will be given an alternate writing assignment on the material which will replenish half of what was lost. In addition to revisions, students should be working feverishly on their chapter 5 writing assessments, in which both work samples will require a defense piece for each as to why the work sample fits that particular learning style. Indeed, seventh graders will be working very hard this week on what needs to be done.
And then, there are the eighth graders.
A day after a two day Constitution Exam, there is little left to say. Over 95% of the team passed it. The average score was an 82% for the two day exam. There were many "A"'s and "B"'s. Some demonstrated austerity on one day and faltered on the other, while more displayed strength on both days. It was really quite an honor to watch all of them enter a testing atmosphere for two days and show strength and honor. The grades for the exam are posted online and will be returned on Monday, along with an updated progress report. Students can revise the writing exam by rewriting the essays with corrections featured and underlining the new elements that have been integrated. These revisions are due back on Monday, 11/2. It seems only fitting that we open the next unit with an equally intricate and time consuming endeavor:
We begin our unit on Industrialization with Monopoly over the next couple of days. We will also engage in some levels of variations, as we begin the unit on wealth and ownership.
It was wonderful to have met so many of you at Conferences last week. I certainly invite all of you to contact me either at school or at home if you have any questions or concerns that I can answer.
All best and happy hunting. Congrats to many of our emerging scholars for enduring the first two months in strong fashion.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, October 17, 2009

(Hopefully) Celebrating (Hopeful) Triumphs

This blog entry is going to be a truncated one. Both grade levels go into exams this week. These assessments are going to be critical and, I suppose, all students will have to do their best in rising to the challenges placed in front of them. The seventh grade students have their exam on chapter 5 this week. They will be able to use both sides of an index card for assistance and will also have posted visuals in the hallway to help them. However, in the final analysis, they will have to make sure they have studied the material as the best guard to preempt any possible chance of not achieving their best on the exam. This is going to be a challenge for them. Yet, I have no reason to believe that they will not exceed all expectations and rise to the better academic "angels of their nature." This exam can be revised next week during lunch periods on Tuesday and Wednesday. The eighth grade takes their two day Constitution Exam this week. Thursday is the written portion, while Friday constitutes the multiple choice portion. There is little else to say about it. Blog entries have been dedicated to it, in class instruction has been guided by it, and students have been repeatedly reminded about it. In the final analysis, it will be on them to do their best. This will be one of the first moments that our 8th grade students will be asked to undertake something that will serve to commemorate a moment of their departure from Julian, as the Constitution Test represents an 8th grade benchmark. I wish them nothing but the best on this endeavors and those that will lie ahead.
I certainly hope to have the chance to see many of you at Conferences this week. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home. On this weekend where our students should spend time focusing on what needs to be done, I would like to wish all of you a Happy Diwali in the hopes that the lights of truth and justice shine on all of our emerging scholars.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, October 10, 2009

“Climb Ev’ry Mountain” or Guilt- Ridden Confessions

There are many aspects of my own sense of identity that I shield off from others when I teach. There are components of my preferences that I tend not to divulge. However, try as I might, there seems to be one that always comes out to all:
One of my favorite films of all time is The Sound of Music.

I have sought professional help, but to no avail. I have made peace with my predicament and my condition.

For all my bluster and intensity, I tear up each time I hear Captain Von Trapp sing “Edelweiss” as an elegy to a time and country that has long since passed him as the spectre of Fascism looms. I cannot help but get chills when I see the opening credits of the Alps and the majestic nature of Europe. Indeed, I have been noted on occasion, during basketball games that are not going well, or in the midst of a challenging moment in the classroom to begin humming “Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens/ Bright coppered kettles and warm woolen mittens.”

As I said, it is a condition that I no longer try to remedy, but one with which peace has been made.

Without a doubt, the part of the film that holds the most amount of endearment to me would be when Maria seeks the wise counsel of the Mother Abbess about how to rectify the challenge between her sense of duty and her feelings of desire. Mother Abbess, in her eternal sense of understanding, sings the song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” The way she belts out the song and the manner in which the song articulates how one should receive the issue of challenge has always remained with me. Over time, I have come to see my teaching as a pedagogical representation of this moment between Mother Abbess and Maria.

Over the next two weeks, all of the students on 7.8/3 will have to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Seventh graders are learning how to “ford every stream” as they navigate through the harrowing terrain of learning styles and differentiation of how one learns. At the same time, they are balancing the demands of preparing themselves for the first exam on chapter 5. It has been really quite enlightening to start to sense student examination of styles of learning and modes of recognition within themselves and others. I sense that students have been progressing quite well in attempting to distill how learning happens and how they, themselves, appropriate knowledge. We will have to start applying this in terms of our work in American History as we begin our first assessment in this mode, the Chapter 5 Task Rotation Assessment. This means that 7th grade students will be balancing three demands in the short term: Continuing their analysis in the domain of learning styles, understanding how this relates to chapter 5 in the Task Rotation Assessment, and ensuring that all has been understood in the chapter 5 multiple choice assessment (To take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, 10/20 and 10/21).

“’Till you find your dreams.”

In the prelude to the song of which I have nothing but the deepest of affinity, Maria approaches the Mother Abbess in a time of absolute need and in a sense of dire emotional connection. This is probably where many of our 8th graders are in terms of their Constitution Exam. Scheduled for 10/22 and 10/23, the exam is rapidly approaching. Students should begin the process of studying for the exam, if they not have already done so. A letter has been sent home explaining the format of the exam, what constitutes “passing” the exam, and how it will be calculated into the class grade. At the same time, study sessions are available Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as well as Wednesday during lunch. Students are also encouraged to meet with me individually for additional help. I hope that students are harnessing their energies in the production of their best work for this exam. The essay prompts are going to be sent home on Wednesday of this week so students can spend time preparing them in advance of the exam. Students will be working on additional writing for the Constitution this week during class with small group seminars being the norm. After six to seven weeks of preparation, students are being asked to shoulder the responsibility of this task on their broad shoulders. In the final analysis, when Mother Abbess tells Maria to progress on until “You find your dream,” she might have been speaking to our 8th grade students.

While both groups are at different points in their education and Julian careers, the time -tested truth of the Rodgers and Hammerstein metaphor is a powerful one. I hope that all of our students continue their quests and “follow every rainbow.” (Of course, this hints at another one of my favorite films, but that is for another discussion in another blog post.)
As always, if I can be of any further assistance or clarification in helping either you or your student, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home.

Happy hunting and all best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Climbing Summits

The month of October brings some new and varying levels of challenge to all of our students. Conferences always seems to bring with it a sense of urgency coupled with a sense of reflection. This dichotomy is unique and distinctive to the season, almost akin to the individuality of each falling leaf from the trees. For the seventh grade students, as the autumnal breeze increases its intensity, so too does the Social Studies curriculum. We will be concluding our journey through Colonial anger and frustration and will be examining how to represent such findings. Students will be taking an exam on Chapter 5 on October 21, and simultaneously will examine multiple learning styles and how this plays a formative role in facilitating deeper understanding of content. While this is ongoing, students will also be assigned their first Task Rotation Assessment which asks them to analyze Colonial Resistance through frames of reference. October brings with it a drop in temperature, but an increase in focus and work. This would certainly be an appropriate way to describe the 8th graders right now. The driving focus is the Constitution Exam. This week, students will be completing their Constitutional Inquiry Tasks. At their submission, students will be working on their Constitutional Writing Tasks. In the process, students are encouraged to spend nightly time studying for the exam. This might take different forms. For example, one night can be spent studying for the Amendments, being able to identify specific amendment numbers and the rights covered in them. The next night can be spent studying goals and principles within the Constitution. Then, an evening could be spent on studying different branches of the Government. This pattern can continue to the actual exam, which is scheduled for September 22 and 23 (Formal letters sent out this week.) Students are encouraged to speak with me for additional help, if needed, attend study sessions, post on Moodle, as well as take an active and proactive role in order to achieve success.
To all stakeholders, information about logging in to examine student grades has been passed on through school letter. Please begin the process of monitoring your child's academic performance, as Friday, October 9 represents the halfway point of the Trimester. In addition, students will be receiving conference confirmations within the week. I certainly hope that all students can hold portfolio conferences that highlight all of their pursuits of "the good, the true, and the beautiful." If I can be of any further assistance in any and all endeavors, please do not hesitate to contact me either at school or at my home.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The First Month Over: From where to where we have come

One of the most critical elements I can stress to students is that scholarship is a journey. Like all journeys, it is essential to examine from where to where we have come at certain points in this process. With our first month coming to a close, students have gained some valuable elements. One such element would be the understanding that each summit climbed is succeeded by another summit that awaits. Yet another critical element gained is the idea that process is critical to product; both are “hopelessly devoted to each other.” Indeed, both elements are “the word” as we leave our first month together and enter a tougher second.
For the seventh grade students, trace fossils conceptions will be supplemented with the analysis of the road to revolution. As we examine the steps that the Colonists took to freedom, we will end up analyzing how the revolution started. Terms like economic rights, political rights, as well as the ability to want to be free will be elements that shall be appropriated into our discussion. Our journey begins with Scholarly Sparknotes, student generated teaching aides that will be completed on Tuesday and presented on Wednesday of this week. Chapter 5 will be critical in helping to fortify our understanding of colonial discontent and the reclamation of power in the emergence of our nation.
Power is of vital importance to our 8th grade emerging scholars. The Constitution Exam is rapidly approaching. This Friday will mark three weeks until the exam. Tentatively scheduled for October 22 and 23, the exam will be a two day affair with the first day consisting of writing and the second day consisting of the multiple choice component. A letter will be forthcoming that will detail the critical elements of the exam format and content. Students are past the half way point of the unit. I ask all stakeholders to ensure that students are engaging in a nightly review of the concepts covered thus far. Naturally, there will be study sessions each week during Wednesday’s lunch period. We will also be adding study sessions to be held in the mornings, which will be announced very soon. Each week, students are taking checkpoint quizzes on the Constitution. A pattern is emerging which strongly depicts the disparity between those students who are actively engaging in effectively nightly study of the concepts covered and those who are not. To the former, I applaud your efforts and hope that they can continue. To the latter, I implore you to modify your approach and embrace “the fierce urgency of now.” Perhaps, opening up a dialogue with me in a private setting, or trying new and different approaches to your studying. I am fully aware that some of our students have endured the study of the Constitution in the past. I am cognizant of this and applaud it. However, the topic is so intricate and challenging, I would advise all stakeholders not to underestimate it and seize this particular moment as essential. With three weeks to go, good things can happen if the “fierce urgency of now” is understood. However, as we work towards a specific moment in time, I remind all stakeholders that when this moment approaches one has a choice of either grabbing it with tenacity or realizing that it will pass by without a care of what remains. I implore students and stakeholders to make the right choice in such a critical moment.
The school has sent home information with how parents/ guardians will be able to access their student’s grades and academic status through online means. If further clarification is needed, please do not hesitate to contact any of the core teachers or your child’s advisory teacher. Conference confirmations will also be forthcoming very soon and your vigilance is requested in ensuring that these arrive. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school via email or at my home.

All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unbounded Horizons

This particular entry will be a truncated one, as grading has been the focus of the weekend. Updated Social Studies progress reports will be given to all students on Monday. These will include all recent graded work. It is my hope that you will be able to review these particular items with your emerging scholar.
It was wonderful to see so many of you at Curriculum Night last Thursday night. Of the many impressions I imagine you absorbed, I hope you were able to take away the idea that our Social Studies experience is one of horizons and endless vistas of knowledge as we strive to take bold steps towards the pantheon of scholarship. This is certainly the focus for both grade levels this week. Seventh grade students will begin to take their first steps into the textbook and Chapter 5, as the Road to Revolution begins with Scholarly Sparknotes, an activity where students absorb a particular act of Colonial Resistance and explain its relevancy to their colleagues. Students will receive this task description on Monday, and begin the process of working on it all week. Trace Fossil papers will be submitted back on Monday. Revisions of these tasks are due on Friday, 9/25, and students will be expected to follow the policy of revisions for this task. Overall, the papers were quite strong. Over 90% of the team scored a B or above on the paper, and, with revisions, that number will move to 100%. Students who submitted rough draft after rough draft saw the reward of this process of redefinition in their final product. The bar was set high for all students, and my hope is that we can take this focus and intensity into our next foray of the steps that led to the American Revolution.
The focus and intensity that seventh graders are beginning to show have seen their residence amongst many of the eighth grade students in the past two weeks with our study of the Constitution. We continue this journey this week, with the study of the Judicial Branch and the legal system that the framers' envisioned. Students will receive their Checkpoint Quiz from last Wednesday, along with an updated progress report on Monday. Students are encourage to attend study sessions on Wednesday afternoons during lunch, as well as seek out additional help. More forums will be posted on Moodle this week and students can do much to begin the process of engagement in dialogue and discussion. This week's quiz on Wednesday will cover goals, principles, and structure of the Constitution, as well as Articles I and II. It will be tougher than last week quiz, so students are encouraged to continue their good work in this realm. The exam is rapidly approaching. We are within the 30 day mark until the exam, and as we approach this benchmark, students will be expected to raise their level of commitment in conquering this adversary as they pursue the scholarly notions of "the good, the true, and the beautiful."
As always, if I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home.
All best and happy hunting!
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The dawn of morning broken, excellent and fair

One of the most exciting elements of the school year is the rush of adrenaline at the start of the year. The students, teachers, and all stakeholders hold a great deal of zeal and enthusiasm. Everyone believes in their authenticity of their own convictions and their own state of successful being in the world. It is a wonderful time to absorb the classroom setting.
Until after Labor Day, when the reality of the daily grind hits everyone akin to a freight train coming down a mountain.
This is where we are now. The hue of the start of the year has been worn off, the dawn of the day has broken to reveal a sight that is "excellent and fair." This is where we are with both groups of students in 7.8/3 Social Studies. For the seventh grade students, trace fossil final drafts encompass and envelop. Students should be striving towards successful completion of their final drafts that are due on Friday, 9/18. It is a challenging time as there should be constant revision and a sense of anxiety about whether or not the work presented represents "the very best to offer." A little anxiousness might not be a bad thing for it displays students' drive "to strive, to seek to find, and not to yield." These Tennysonian creatures will also be receiving their copies of the textbook this Friday that can be kept at home. We begin our foray into American History with the Road to Revolution on Monday.
For the 8th grade students, a different kind of road awaits. On one hand, students who are working well on the Constitution in class, posting on Moodle, engaging in Constitutional discussions, and keeping up with the work will find themselves successfully progressing to the Constitution Exam, to be administered in about a month's time. At the same time, those who are not engaging in a process of representing the very best of student scholarship might find themselves on a different kind of road, one where pain and discomfort await. This road to Constitutional perdition can be alleviated if students begin the process of appealing to the better academic angels of their nature. Nightly completion of work might be a proper step in the right direction, and attending study sessions to be held each Wednesday in B405 during lunch can be another one. It is essential that students recognize from an early point that failing to prepare can result in preparing to fail. This exam will be a challenge, but not for the proactive student who understands and values the importance of ensuring their best effort has been made against an arduous and challenging adversary: Me.
It is my hope that I see as many of you as possible at Thursday's Curriculum Night, which starts at 6:45 in your child's advisory classroom. It is a great opportunity to walk through your child's schedule and sense what a day in their life is like. It might actually explain some things, as well. Signing up for Fall Conferences is one of but many advantages of such an evening.
If can be of any help in anything that relates to Social Studies or school in general for your emerging scholar, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home. The time for greatness is upon us and I believe our students, your emerging scholars, are beginning to sense that the hour for their emergence into the pantheon of thought is rapidly approaching.
Happy hunting and all best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cracking the Code, Solving the Matrix, and defeating “the desert of the real:” Welcoming Students to Social Studies Life on 7.8/3

The upcoming week will see a great deal of challenge hoisted upon the shoulders of emerging History scholars of 7.8/3. For the seventh grade students, I have but two words: Trace Fossil. Have there ever been two other words that have caused so much discussion, debate, consternation, and fear? Students should be making progress in their papers. They should be actively constructing a paper about an object they have identified and explain how this particular object holds meaning to both their own senses of self and its cultural implications. As they engage in a literal description of it, students should ponder what will be deduced if it is placed in a time capsule and discovered hundreds of years from now. Students will find that there will be moments where this paper flows easily, and others where an “intellectual drought” might be experienced. Like all moments that represent potential wastelands, these are temporary, giving way to a natural flourishing and replenishment. Students must observe their own demeanor in these moments and not succumb to it. All students can converse with me through personalized writing conferences in class, and can make individual appointments at lunch or before school. The more active role students take towards success in this venue, the better the chance the patterns for success will be laid.
If I were to find two words that could inspire an equal magnitude of emotion in the 8th grade students, it would be “The Constitution.” Our 8th graders take their first steps in leaving the hallowed halls of learning that we euphemistically call “Julian” with their study of the Constitution. This week, we will be engaging in the basic elements of both the document, the situations that surrounded its origin, as well as its fundamental goals and principles. Students should be working on something related to the Constitution each night. If you are sitting around the dinner table, sensing that your emerging scholar is eager to discuss their schooling with you, yet feeling a sense of impotence about how to initiate such a discussion, open with a brief question such as, “So, what do you think the most important goal of the Constitution is?” Maybe you will be taking an evening walk with your emerging scholar and there is a natural lull in the conversation. This can be broken with another topic such as, “Why do you think Article I is the longest article in the Constitution?” Finally, you might see your scholar immersed in watching television. They are really involved in watching a particular episode of “CNN Presents” or very driven to understand a particular stock report on Bloomberg News. I encourage you to distract them momentarily with a question like, “Which branch of government is the most important in your mind?” Since we all know these are the daily situations in which all of our children live, I encourage all stakeholders to make the Constitution come alive with such topics for discussion. If you think these discussions might be better suited in the classroom setting, “ask” your emerging scholar to attend lunchtime study sessions on Wednesdays with Mr. Kannan, starting from September 16. While this unit is very challenging, I believe that if students can focus on what needs to be emphasized and gives the effort which I believe lies within all of them, success will not only be achieved, but will be literally owned.
Indeed, both groups of students are immersed in the navigation of the Matrix of learning within the confines of B405. Being a casual observer of “The Matrix,” myself, I can relate to how students fight, persevere, and seek to define new ways of breaking through this particular design in order to see things as they are: “Truly infinite.” It is my hope that while I offer them the matrix and ask them to find themselves within it, I strive to develop the tools within them that will allow them to break through it.

All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The First Week Done, the Rest Undertaken Without Stun

The first week is always one fraught with "newness" and a sense of transition. Part of this reflects the developmental state of the students, and part of it is inevitable. I was impressed with how quickly students took to what had to be done, undertaking what lay in front of them with "the fierce urgency of now." It is this sense of urgency and intensity which will become cornerstones of where we are and where we need to be.
For both groups, their first significant milestone in their time in this classroom will start to unfold. The Seventh Graders began their introduction to the world of trace fossils. This included studying the likes of Derek Jeter and the glory of the New York Yankees, analyzing basketballs in class, or studying American Girl dolls that were taken for means of extortion and adolescent humor. They also understood that a previous student had a talent for art... and rendering a likeness of me with a receding hairline. The idea of history as being one not found in textbooks, but rather as a collection of evidence that reflects human behavior became the basis for the exploration of trace fossils throughout the classroom. We will start the process this week of both internalizing the external and externalizing the internal with the composition of the Trace Fossil Writing Task which will be officially assigned mid week. Students will be given a thorough task description, as well as projected benchmarked timeline for completion. I highly encourage all of them to work ahead, and work well, seeking advice and counsel from both parents/ guardians as well as their teacher.
The Eighth Graders this past week began a similar exploration of self. Whereas the seventh graders explored the notion of self and meaning, the eighth graders examined the idea of learning and self. Carl Jung, psychological experiences forming the basis of learning, and the axis without origin became elements introduced this week. We will be continuing this with how students learn, how they learn, and how meaning in our education is constructed based on both objective reality as well as personal metacognition. This will lay the foundation for our units of study all year, beginning with the Constitution this Friday. As we progress through an intense regimen of what to know, it becomes critical that students begin the process of examining how they come to know what they need to know. Both elements create for both stronger students, and emerging scholars, the end goal to which both they and I have committed ourselves... or for which we might simply be committed!
In terms of overall news, I strongly encourage all students to submit their signed pages of their Daily Planners to their Advisory Teachers as soon as possible. 8th grade students will begin the process of engaging in the online learning environment of Moodle very soon. The technology page must be submitted in order to begin this process, one that will both enhance student thinking as well as their grade. Additionally, students should be aware that the signed Social Studies Syllabus extra credit can also be gained from obtaining a signature on the weekly Team 7/8.3 overview. I will continue to publish my syllabi on my blog, and students can print it out and obtain signatures for that, but a signature on the weekly Team Overview will serve as sufficient for extra credit for Social Studies. They will be due on Friday of each week, or when I specify. Finally, we look forward to seeing you at Curriculum Night on Thursday, September 17 starting at 6:45 in your emerging scholar's Advisory Teacher's classroom. It is an excellent opportunity to experience what your child does at Julian and sign up for conferences. Perhaps, it might not be that exciting, but a "splendid time is guaranteed for all."
As always, if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home number.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Monday, August 17, 2009

Standing on the Threshold

There's a week left in your summers. I would be naive to sense that you would be thoroughly exuding excitement about your upcoming schooling experience. It would border on delusion to imagine the prospective 7.8/3 students staying awake at night imagining all the intellectual possibilities which will emerge. It would be far fetched to imagine students will be immersed in a state of wonderment about how many papers they will write, how much they will read, and how much they will learn.
A guy can dream, can't he?
More likely, prospective students are confronting the reality that in 7 days, they will be a part of history. They will enter a new academic experience that will mark the greatest level of intellectual growth, craftsmanship, as well as determination they have ever achieved in their intellectual careers. Students should take the time that remains to rest well and mentally prepare themselves for entering an academic experience that will reap amazingly powerful rewards while it will push all students to their maximum capacity. For those who are interested in what Social Studies will be like, I encourage you to examine the links on the side of this blog and examine the glog for 7/8.3 Social Studies. I look forward to seeing you all in a week.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Dawn of a New Blog

The countdown is on, and while we revel in the fact that the Cubs might be up or down by a half game in the NL Central, we also cling true to the fact that school is about the start. As you receive your schedules, check back here before the start of school for any and all pertinent information should you be accompanying me on our journey through American History. It sees you, even if you think that you cannot see it.
It is what it is!
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan