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