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