Sunday, August 29, 2010

Progressing through the open door

With the first week of our journey done, the door is now open to what lies ahead. For seventh grade, this analysis will turn inward with the Trace Fossil Writing Task. Starting this week, the idea of being able to fully identify conditions and properties of trace fossils will occupy the time, vocabulary, and expression of our students. In a similar manner, the eighth grade students will investigate learning styles and how individual psychology impacts student learning. This will lead to the start of our unit on the Constitution.

Students generated a great deal of questions about the course. I thought I would take some time here to address the ones that were the most commonly asked. Obviously, for students who wish to have detailed answers to their individual questions, they are encouraged to ask during class or come in during lunch for a personalized response, if they wish. Before I start, I need to commend one of you out there for catching some of the deliberate typographical errors on the course description. As true to my word, you earned extra credit for it. You caught two mistakes, but there are more. Congrats!

Seventh Grade Commonly Asked Questions

1. Do you like poetry?
I was quite surprised with how many questions related to such a topic. I confess that I have a fondness for poetry, but I use it in my class as a way to reflect the idea that scholars can use different tools for different jobs. When Nietzsche argues that "Truth is a mobile army of metaphors," it means that we are able to find different concepts to help illuminate our ideas. Poetry is a part of this. For those of you who caught the extra credit of the poets used or paraphrased, nice work.

2. What "pain" in American History?
This was something that about five of you pointed out as a question to ask. There is much in way of pain in American History. Anytime one studies the history of a democracy, there is going to be moments where pain is evident because of heterogeneous beliefs and value systems that collide with one another. The pain of moments such as slavery, subjugation, negation of voice, as well as instances where fear and paranoia caused us to embrace "the lesser angels of our nature" represent this pain. Some might also assert that studying history, in general, can constitute pain. I'd be willing to live with either one.

3. Are we going to be mostly doing projects, tests, or homework?
Short answer: Yes. There were many questions that really sought to identify what we are going to be doing in terms of assessment. The only way I can answer this is to suggest that we strive to embrace as many assessment options and assessments as possible.

4. Contact information.
My email is , and as for my home number, I believe I gave this out in some classes and will make sure that all classes have it by Monday. With parental permission, students can email me or contact me at home if they have questions or are having challenges with an assignment.

5. Do you really make 500 mistakes a day?
Yes. I think it's your job to catch each one and call it out in order to earn more credit.

Eighth Grade Commonly Asked Questions
1. Why the Constitution?
This one appeared quite a bit. The Constitution and its exam are a state mandate. The idea is that before you walk out of Julian, you will have exposure to the Constitution and pass an assessment on it demonstrating competency in it. On a more personal level, I think that the Constitution is the structure by which we can use to analyze modern American History. It's almost as if the Constitution is an idyll and we are able to assess how America echoes or strays from it.

2. Do we lose points on any extra credit tasks if we get it wrong?
No. Extra credit is only meant to help, not hurt (If only the rest of life were like that!)

3. Do you hand out notes with your lectures?
For the most part, yes. I think that you should always be prepared to receive some supplement that you can use while a lecture is ongoing. You can also use the blog, with the links to the left, that can have hard copies of all of the notes and lectures delivered.

4. Do you give pop quizzes?
No, I am not an advocate of them. I will announce all assessment dates and deadlines in advance. If all is well, there should not be surprising or "Gotcha!" moments.

5. Can we revise anything?
Yes, you can. In the first trimester, anything can be revised. In the second trimester, anything except homework can be revised, while revisions disappear in the third trimester.

If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at home. I look forward to seeing you all at Curriculum Night on September 15.

All best.
Mr. Kannan

Monday, August 23, 2010

The calm before the storm

For those of you who might not be entirely aware, we start school tomorrow. At the time of writing this, it's almost 15 hours before the start of the new year. I think that this might be a good time to get a couple of reminders down:
* 7th graders are reporting to the Gym tomorrow morning, 8th graders to the Commons- Look for a 7.8/3 Teacher that has a sign indicating where to report. For example, Mr. Russell will be picking up my 8th graders as well as his 8th graders in the Commons. Find the 7.8/3 teacher representing your advisory and come on upstairs.
* Make sure you have all the needed school supplies- The school website has general school supplies needed. If you have not checked it, do so.
* Make sure you have any forms that need to be returned to the Main Office- Some of you might have forms that need to be submitted back to the office. Bring those with you and give them to your advisory teacher.

Tuesday is our first day and you will spend time in all of your classes and then be dismissed at noon. Don't be surprised if you have some homework to complete because the year is underway.

Girls' Basketball Tryouts start on Wednesday. 8th grade tryouts start at 6:45 AM on Wednesday, while 6/7 tryouts start at 3:30. All tryouts are in the main gym.

Final point: I know some of you have already done so, but feel free to investigate some of the work you are going to have to do this year in Social Studies. The links to the left side have the tasks posted for both grade levels. You can also get started on the work that is due next week.
Spend tonight reflecting about the questions posted in last week's post (see below) and preparing yourself for the start of the school year. It's closer than we both could imagine.

Best of luck to you all and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We are less then a week away! Is this fun or what?

In the end, difficult travel conditions, turbulence over the Atlantic, and really bad airline food could not keep me from doing what I was meant to do...

That puts things into a different perspective!

Nevertheless, it is great to be back and there is much to be done. At this point, allow me to extend a hearty "Welcome" to all of you. For those who are going to be in this class within a week, allow me to apologize for all of the work you will endure, all of the challenge you will persevere through, and for all the evolution towards scholarship you will undergo. In the 1980s, the United States Armed Forces had a slogan: "The toughest job you will ever love." Like so much in this glorious decade, the meaning was ahead of its time and can be perfectly applied to what you will be undertaking very soon.
Whether you are a 7th grader or 8th grader, if you are entering this classroom within a week, I think you might be best suited to do a couple of things before your tour of duty commences. You don't need to write anything on this, but merely reflect on them. If you wish to post some of your responses to these questions on this blog, feel free to do so. Don't use your name, but rather your first and last initials and class period (Let's start the year off in the right manner with following web etiquette.)

7th Grade Questions Upon Which to Ruminate:
* How do you define "history?"
* If you could identify one object in your life that would contain much of your "history," what would it be and why?
* When you examine the word "scholarship," what do you think it means to you?
* What are the elements in the world or in your life that help to define who you are and in what you believe?

8th Grade Questions Upon Which to Ruminate:
* You are standing on a rare threshold. You are about to enter your last year of Middle School and your last year before the vast unknown of high school awaits. What are your feelings about starting this process?
* How have you changed since your sixth grade year? You can define this in emotional, psychological, mental, and/ or academic terms.
* Thus far in your study of American History, what concept or idea has given you the most amount of difficulty? What concept or idea has been the most interesting for you?
* How do you think you learn? In other words, how do you know you "got" something?
* What are the elements in the world or in your life that help to define who you are and in what you believe?

These questions and their answers might help you obtain the right frame of mind in order to enter this classroom, this team, and this year. If you still have questions about how things will run in this classroom, don't forget to check out the class glog here! You can also check out the side links for handouts and syllabi for the first two weeks to get a feel of where we are going to start and what we will be doing. Feel free to click on these links, preview items, and download anything you wish.

We only have a couple of days left before the clock starts its interminable run. Enjoy what you can while you can.

All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Monday, August 2, 2010

Greetings from India!

I hope this message finds all of you well. Indeed, I am still in India and truly enjoying things. Like you, I think I am in a bit of daze about school starting, but indeed it is starting soon. This blog will be updated in the weeks (days?) leading to the start of the school year. The first two weeks' worth of syllabi have been uploaded and can be checked out by clicking on the links to the side. I will be adding more files to the handouts other links as we approach the start of the school year. We have only a couple weeks left, so please allow me to wish you all the best in the remaining time. Do enjoy yourself and see you soon.
For those of you who are new to things with me, you can Click here for a Glog about the class and what to expect!

Keep checking back here leading to the start of school for more information about the class and items that will assist you.
Happy hunting!
Mr. Kannan