Saturday, September 25, 2010

From Where to Where We Have Moved: A Month's Worth of Progress

On some levels, it is not difficult to understand that we are approaching one month of our journey being completed. Yet, on some other levels, it is really quite amazing to consider that one month of our time has come to pass. With such a benchmark, I thought I would devote this blog entry to examining potential dialogues that stakeholders can have with their children to ensure that the progress that will be made in the remaining months is as impressive or even exceeds the progress already made.
7th Grade Stakeholders
Our major grades have been the Trace Fossil Paper and the Quiz on 5-1. If students wish to revise their Trace Fossil Papers, Monday is the deadline to submit all revisions with originals attached. If this is an area that need to be explored, I would suggest opening a dialogue about whether or not they are going to take advantage of revisions of this paper would be a good commencement point. The 5-1 quiz will be returned on Monday and revisions of this are due on Monday, 10/4. Additionally, Scholarly Sparknotes Visuals and work needs to be done or submitted on Wednesday. This will be worth quite a few points and discussing with students where they are and whether they will be able to successfully meet Wednesday's deadline would be another good talking point. After this, students will close out Chapter 5 and have an exam on Chapter 5 on the week of 10/11. It is important for all stakeholders to ensure that the patterns of success that have been demonstrated thus far are replicated as the work becomes more arduous in terms of focusing on American History. If these patterns have not been fully developed, I would open a dialogue with your student as to how these successful behaviors can be more present. Perhaps, this involves spending time with me at lunch, or seeking a teacher out in being a greater advocate for one's learning. Another level might be examining how in class focus can be harnessed in a more precise manner. These talking points are critical in ensuring that success is not something that is elusive, but real and demonstrated in a powerfully apparent manner.

8th Grade Stakeholders
I think that all discussions with our 8th graders should focus on the Constitution Exam that is set to take place on the 20th and 21st of October. As we approach to deadline, more details about the exam will follow. Yet, we have just finished our first quiz on the Constitution and this can be an excellent starting point for discussions. The grades represented a striking parity in both classes. 60% of our 8th Graders scored an 80% or above on the quiz. If your student is in this majority, I think that there can be some intense congrats delivered. This quiz and the ones that will follow each week are extremely difficult. Students who scored at this level have a good grasp of their memorization and studying technique. Obviously, some refining might be needed, but I think it's fair to say that they are on their way of finding success on the Constitution Exam. Perhaps, they might want to revise their score to earn back points or achieve a higher grade. I certainly think this is a good thing. We had a handful of students score a C on the quiz. For these students, I think that a good examination point might be to assess where they made their mistake on the quiz. Which part seemed to give more trouble? Were their mistakes on the Legislative Branch portion, the Executive Branch, or the Goals or Principles? Assessing where mistakes were made and what happened will prove to be so beneficial. For these students, a modification in studying might be a good step to take. Revising these scores would also be good to improve academic standing as well as content grasp. With this, we approach our last group of students. These students scored poorly on this first quiz. They scored lower than a 70%. I think that some strong reflection is going to be needed on this front. Something happened on this quiz. At the same time, something needs to be changed. Students who are in this condition have to reassess how they study and the time devoted to studying. The idea of developing flash cards, attending study sessions, and ensuring that nightly focus on reviewing concepts is present might be where these discussions should proceed. The fact is that students who did not fare well on this quiz need to be vigilant about improvement because this quiz and those that follow are a very good indication of the actual exam on the 21st and 22nd.

As we progress to the half way point of the first trimester and all the responsibilities that go with it, I think that parents/ guardians have to be a part of the developing formulas for success. We, as teachers, are limited when we don't have the dialogues we develop in class emphasized outside of it. I encourage all of you to reach out to your emerging scholars in the hopes of them receiving the same messages both in the classroom and outside of it. Please know that I will be happy to help out in any way possible. Please do not hesitate to contact me at school or at my home if I can help in the opening and development of these lines of communication that can enhance student success, and advancement into scholarship.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Moving Forward, Making Progress, Taking Few Prisoners

I can honestly say that one of my favorite films is David Lean's masterpiece, "Lawrence of Arabia." Even writing such words seems like a cliche. My wife detests it. She thinks of it as nothing more than male glorification of empire expansion. Even part of my own psyche is repulsed by the idea that a British soldier is the only one who is meant to bring "order" to a world of supposed disorder. At the same time, there is something fundamentally wrong with a film that shows people from the Middle East region of the world speaking only flawless English, with British accents no less, and those who don't speak English cannot speak. As someone committed to historical accuracy and exploring hidden agendas, I struggle with why I love this film.
My answer lies in one scene: "No Prisoners!"
There is a moment in the film that exposes Lawrence at his very greatest and his most tragic as he yells, almost shrieks, "No Prisoners." Each time I see it and hear his battle cry, I get chills- literally, goosebumps. I have always seen myself as seeking to represent the focus, commitment, and drive in this moment. While I deplore his actions, the singular commitment shown in no more then fifteen seconds is simply breathtaking.
I call upon Lawrence right now as I think about what has to be done this week.
For the 7th graders, Trace Fossil Papers will be returned on Monday. Any grade can be revised and all revisions are due on Monday, 9.27. There is a quiz on 5.1 on Monday and we begin our study of the Road to Revolution afterwards. Scholarly Sparknotes will assist us as we put together our visuals this week in class. For the 8th graders, it's all about the Constitution. The Constitution continues this week with exploring the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch. At the same time, the first Checkpoint Quiz will be administered this week, worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 points. Additionally, there will be a study session this Wednesday during lunch. We had a good turnout at the first one last week, and I hope we exceed that attendance total this week.
Grades have been updated and will continue to be amended this week, so I strongly encourage you to check your emerging scholar's progress online. It was a pleasure to see so many new and old faces at Curriculum Night. I hope I was able to convey to you that I will do everything in my power to ensure that your child will progress farther down the path of scholarship this year. I pledge myself to this end and hope you feel comfortable reaching out to me if there is anything further you need from me in such a process.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Yo! Paulie D- It's the Social Studies Situation" or Team Snooki Battles the Constitution and Trace Fossils

I have found that there are specific moments that happen in the classroom that end up meaning a great deal, but are not understood as defining moments. Then, there are those moments that happen and you just know that somehow, they will become the ongoing reference point for a while to come.
I had one of those moments in my seventh period on Friday. Somehow, "Jersey Shore" found its way into a discussion of the Constitution and the goals of the Framers. At that moment, I found a level of relief and stress. A frame of reference had been established. However, what does it say when that frame involves "Snooki," or "Mike D," or the constant calls of "Guido."
Heavens... Heavens.
Hence, while the characters of "Jersey Shore" struggle with working in a T- Shirt store or with their hair, I can only hope that our students struggle with what is on tap for this week. On the seventh grade side, we are heading down the "boardwalk" to submit their Final Drafts of papers this Friday. Rough drafts will be accepted on Friday, and that is "the situation" and all students need to know it. Once we finish with Trace Fossils, then we start our study in Chapter 5 and the Road to the American Revolution.
On the 8th grade side of the Social Studies house, the Constitution is where our focus lies. Principles, Goals, and the specific branches of government will be started this week. There will be a study session on Wednesday during lunch and this should become a habit for students to develop. Students should expect homework each night with their first Checkpoint quiz next week.
I guess "Jersey Shore" said it best, "Everybody knows about the situation. Everybody know what has to be done because of the situation." Let's hope our students spend more time on their nightly studies than the "Jersey Shore" characters spend on their hair... but not too much more!

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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Making Progress on a journey

The path has been set and this week will see progress being made upon it. For the seventh graders, this will resemble working through their trace fossil writing tasks, consisting of multiple rough drafts, struggling with issues of symbolic meaning, leads, and how to define culture. A strong student this week will be one who is pouring over writing, thinking things through about how to classify a trace fossil, and reading over my comments on their drafts. A strong student this week will be one who faces a high level of challenge and struggle in attempting to articulate individual thoughts, ideas that reside in the mind and yearning to be put on the page. Final Drafts of all trace fossil papers are due at the end of class on September 17.
For their one year older counterparts, the path will be through that long and arduous road called the Constitution. It begins this week with an overall discussion of the Constitution and, in more specific terms, the Preamble. Weekly study sessions will start next week as well as weekly quizzes on content covered. The Constitution Exam is tentatively scheduled for 35 school days from now. All of our eighth graders are on the clock, both literally and figuratively. It is my hope that we, all of the stakeholders who wish for nothing but the best, can be vigilant of what they need in order for them to do the best in this unit, on this test, and along the first step of a long journey towards scholarship.
I hope to see all of you on Wednesday, September 15 for Curriculum Night, a great moment to meet your child's teachers as well as sign up for Fall Conferences. 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 to all.
Mr. Kannan