Saturday, December 17, 2011

Week Before Winter Break with work to be done

No doubt the fundamental thoughts of our students turn to the impending winter break. I can only wish them all the best for a well deserved time away from the rigors of Julian academic and social life. Yet, before this point is reached, there is one more week of work and focus is required to meet such an adversary:

7th Grade
Monday- All students will be submitting their writing tasks for Chapter 6 along with two sets of Chapter 6 questions. This collection will be worth 800 points and my hope is that students will be eagerly working towards meeting this deadline.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday- Students will be working nightly in completing reading and assigned questions from Chapter 7. This is extremely challenging reading because it sets up the Constitution. This unit is something that will require students to focus their energies both in these nights and carry that knowledge with them over after the break, as the Constitution will be our focus of study for January and February.
Friday- Start the process of assembling IT FITS Cards for Chapter 7.
I am confident that student focus will be harnessed in working this week, aided through the use of daily points rubrics.

8th Grade
In class work will be focused on completing Assessments on Howard Zinn. These assessments are due on Friday at the end of class. Each student will submit an assessment as well as a completed enrichment sheet on the Zinn Reading.

Next week, I hope to publish a post of all the things that students can do over break in terms of extra credit that can keep skills sharp over the break and help their grades in Social Studies at the same time.

All best.
Mr. Kannan

Thursday, December 8, 2011

To do for the week of 12.12- 12.16

Seventh Grade
Students need to be completing their Chapter 6 Writing Tasks. Final drafts are due on 12.19, along with two completed sets of Chapter 6 questions. Students should be working nightly on the completion of these writing tasks.

Eighth Grade
Students need to be working towards completing their Howard Zinn Assessments. The completed assessment and the Enrichment Sheet on the Zinn Article are both due on 12.23. Students should be working nightly on the completion of both items.

Happy Hunting and all best.
Mr. Kannan

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Arduous Path of Change

Attention all 7.3 Students- After grading the Chapter 6 Exams, I have decided that I will make the decision as to which Chapter 6 Writing Task to take for any student who has scored under an 80% on the Chapter 6 Exam. I will explain my rationale during class. If you have scored below an 80%, you will most probably wind up completing the Identifications and Pictures Task. Please check your grade online by Saturday night and then confirm by examining the Identifications and Picture Task.

With the icy air of December, a stinging reminder of the difficulty of change is upon us. The challenging nature of evolution and growth is something that is present in the natural ebb and flow of the seasons, but also with our own students. The work is becoming tougher, the demands more intense. Yet, somehow, as nature evolves to such change, so do our students. It is my hope that such evolution will be present this week, also.

7th Graders:
1) Exams returned back on Monday- Revisions of the exam are due on Friday, 12/9. A copy of the revisions policy can be found here.
2) Students will start their Chapter 6 Writing Tasks this week. Students should make their choice as to which task to complete no later than Monday evening. I would invite stakeholders to open this discussion with students in order to guarantee the best possible product and the least painful process in delivering said product. Questions to ask:
* "What did you get on the Chapter 6 Exam?" If the answer to this is any percentage that is below an 80%, the student will have to complete the identifications and pictures task. This rationale will be explained in class on Monday, 12.5.
* "Which task is the most appealing to you? Why do you think the way you do?"
* "Which task do you think you can realistically complete in a solid manner by the due date of the 19th?"
* "Which task do you absolutely know you cannot do?"
* "Which task is the easiest for you to complete with in class and at home time?"
Most of our students are great talkers. (So true.) They can articulate their thoughts in a verbal fashion quite eloquently, so I invite you to talk to them about their choices. Sometimes, when they have to explain why they do what they do, a moment of clarity is present. This might be the process with our students.
3) Students will work on their Chapter 6 Writing Tasks both in class and at home. Students must complete their work by Monday, 12/19. They must turn in a completed Chapter 6 Writing Sample as well as two completed sets of homework questions from Chapter 6.

8th Grade Students
The name of this week's game is Zinn. No doubt, the old historian has been opening up some really interesting discussion points. The concept of annotation has also been one that has seen some embrace on the part of our students. I think that this is a good step in preparing our students, our emerging scholars, for what they will face next year at the next level.
1) Students will finish their Zinn reading this week.
2) Students will start on the Zinn Enrichment sheet by Tuesday night.
3) Students will select their Zinn Project by Thursday night and have in class time and out of class time devoted to its completion. Students will have to complete one project on Howard Zinn's article and one enrichment sheet on Zinn by Friday, 12.23.

For thos who are completing the "IT FITS" Cards, this might help:

For all students, if down time is present, why not complete some extra credit on the blog on quotations. 20 to 25 points each quote could come in handy at the end of the trimester.

As we make the mad dash towards Winter Recess, I can only remind students and stakeholders that what we do now and in the next two weeks has relevance and meaning. Let us return from break rested and confident that we gave everything we had in the work leading up to it, and do not have to play a massive and futile game of "catch- up" when we return from it.

As always, if I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Continuing the journey

The next phase of our journey begins next week with the start of the second trimester. More commitment and focus will be needed and we begin right off the bat with challenge and arduous work for all of our students.
For the 7.3 students, the study is of the American Revolution. We are examining chapter 6 this week in terms of historical data on the American Revolution. An open note exam awaits students on Thursday. This will set up the Chapter 6 Writing Tasks which will enable students to showcase their writing talents on the material in a variety of forums. Students will choose one of the several tasks and compose their work by December 19. From this point on, the study of the Constitution and the Constitution Exam awaits.
For the 8th graders, I can only welcome them all with the deepest of humility and honor to the world of Howard Zinn. This link can help to establish some of the basic elements of Zinn's philosophy. Nightly reading in Zinn's "Robber Barons and Rebels" will be the only way through this challenge. Students will deal with open note quizzes on the reading the next day and annotating the article will be the best ways to help students navigate through the lengthy reading. I believe that this will be another challenge for our students as they emerge towards the realm of envisioning themselves as high school students.
In such challenges, the next phase of our journey awaits. Is this fun or what?
All best,
Mr. Kannan
Photo courtesy of
Journey's end. (Nathan Hayag) / CC BY 3.0

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quick Blog Entry for a Quick Week

This week will only feature a two day week. With the shortened week, it is my hope that students take advantage to reflect this weekend on what they need to do to continue their progress from First Trimester or take stock on what needs to be done in the Second Trimester.

The 7th graders will have nightly homework this week in Social Studies, revolving around the reading of chapter 6, sections 2 and 3. This will set students up for the Chapter 6 Exam which will take place on Thursday, 12/1. Student extra credit reflection sheets are due at the start of Monday's class.

The 8th graders will have to finalize all of their Wiki Posts on Marx and Smith by Tuesday night at 6:00 PM. This will set students up for the reading of Howard Zinn's article, "Robber Barons and Rebels" when we return from break. Students should be prepared to be reading chunks of Zinn's writing on a nightly basis.

It is my hope that students can use the upcoming weekend to gear up strength and resolve for the arduous challenges in Social Studies that will lie ahead.

All best.
Mr. Kannan

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sunrise and Sunset: Different sides of the same coin

Attention 7th Graders: Computers will be available during Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday's classes for in class work.

With the upcoming week, much is at stake. This will be the last week for First Trimester week. I urge all stakeholders to encourage your emerging scholar to take advantage of one last sprint towards the end of the trimester. Some breath can be taken afterwards... with the understanding that second trimester is rapidly upon us.

For 7th Grade Parents/ Guardians: Please encourage your students to use this upcoming weekend to get much in way of work done in their Chapter 5 Writing Tasks. Some sample questions you might want to ask your student:
1) " Have you finished your two work samples for the task?" Some students will be writing a formal paper, an argument about a John Adams quote, a speech to the Colonists encouraging a particular course of action, or a collage/ some type of art sculpture about the events leading to the Revolution?
2) " Have you finished your defense piece for each? " Each student is required to compose a "defense piece" that explains why a particular work sample represents that specific learning style. For example, why does the collage represent an Intuitive Feeling student? Why does the speech represent the Sensory Feeling student? Students have received instruction as to how each work sample is to be composed and how each defense piece should look. If you need copies of these notes that were given to the students, click here and look for the Daily Notes for 11.7 and 11.8, as these were the dates I delivered specific learning style instruction.
3) "What is your plan for getting Mr. Kannan his work by the end of Wednesday's class?" It's real simple, in my mind. Each student will be submitting 2 completed work samples and 2 defense pieces on Wednesday. The question you want to ask your emerging scholar is how are they going to deliver on this promise. What is their plan? This becomes the central question.
After speaking with all of them in individual conferences, it is evident that this is the weekend that will "make or break" this writing task. I hope for the former. It is going to be with your help that this is accomplished. I certainly hope you can help me help your student become stronger, forged through the fires of intense work and deadline submission.

For 8th Grade Parents/ Guardians: Your discussions with your students are going to be a bit different. At this point, everyone knows where they stand. Grades are nearly finalized for the first trimester. Your talking points with your students will reflect this.
1) "Did you finish your homework due Monday?"- This is the last assignment of the trimester. It requires forming at least seven to eight thoughts/ sentences about the opening quote for the Industrialization Unit. Students have written this quote in their packets and they were to extrapolate connections to it based on our reading in the Industrialization Unit. Students made progress on this in Thursday's class and the finished assignment is collected at the start of Monday's class. It will be worth somewhere in the arena of 150- 200 points.
2) "Do you need to complete any of the extra credit tasks?"- I opened the door and invited students to walk through it. Students were introduced to the "Alternatives to Identifications" and the "Extra Credit Book Work" tasks in their packets. They do not need to do any of them. Yet, if they are examining their grades in the class and realize that they need to make up some ground, these items are open to them. These tasks will be due Monday and can ensure that student points can be enhanced. If you need to preview these tasks, click here and view the packet on Industrialization and Progressivism, pages 29-31.
3) "Are you satisfied with your grades in Social Studies?" This is a really nice reflective moment. We do a lot with driving kids to the next level, but we really could do more on the reflection piece. Ask your kids, honestly and with sobriety, about their own opinion with their performance in Social Studies. I recently sat in on a parent conference where the parent was so open and asked the child, "Who are you in this class? What do you see yourself as?" I liked this discussion because it forced the child to define themselves, their process of assembling work, and how they saw their final product. I liked this a great deal. Ask your child where they saw strengths and where they see need for improvement. I will be completely honest to say that second trimester is much more challenging than the first. Marx and Smith next week, Howard Zinn leading into Winter Recess, Progressivism when we return, World War I and its themes of disillusionment in late January, the 1920s in late February, and The Great Depression in March. This is not light and not for the faint of heart. Engaging in reflection might steady the structure for the intensity of intellectual challenge awaiting your students.

As one phase of our journeys end this week, another starts. I anticipate all of our students being able to rise to yet another bevy of challenges that confront and eagerly await them. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of and

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Sand Mandala and 7.8/3 Students

The Sand Mandala is a wonder. The monks spend countless hours honing and place each grain of sand in a design. By itself, the placement of the sand means nothing. Yet, when seen in a larger configuration, all the pieces fit together to create something that leaves an impression on the viewer.

In this, much can be gained in understanding our students.

Both sets of students will be setting their minds to composing something long term in nightly increments. The seventh graders have their writing assessments on Chapter 5 due on 11.16. Students will have to compose two work samples as well as two defense pieces in final draft form. This cannot be done the night before. No matter how talented the student, no seventh grader can effectively complete work of this magnitude the night before it is due. No way. This is not to doubt the capacity of our students. Rather, it is a hopeful attempt to pivot towards to developing a life skill of recognizing that the most daunting of tasks can only be done with steady and consistent work on an incremental basis. The most amazing of construction tasks are ones where a plan of attack was followed and developed into a final product. Process and product are very closely related. It is here where students' are being tested. The idea of making progress each class period and each night in work is of vital importance. Students have a timetable of where they should be in their packets. The "chunking" of this assignment into smaller pieces is designed to help students recognize that a long term task can only be done with accomplishment of nightly benchmarks. Students have also been advised to recognize that the halfway point of the 9th should be where one final draft of a work sample and one defense piece should be completed. I will read rough drafts until the 9th or the 10th, so students can also take advantage of this in the completion of work. It is my hope that students recognize that there is little shame in devoting nightly work to each subject in order to reach a level of scholarship that can both bring pride to student work and to ensure that future success can be reached with the development of strong work habits.

In this vein, the 8th graders will be composing five identification paragraphs for submission on Thursday. Students will have to plan out how to write five paragraphs by Thursday. Perhaps, this means composing one in class and another at home, or some other arrangement. Students will need to compose the five identification paragraphs by the start of Thursday's class. For so many of our 8th graders, the need to plan out effectively in order to find success is something that is evident in our students. It is also something that can be continually harvested over time to reap even more benefits.

One final point is left to be made. As students wrestle with tasks over a long period of time, it is important to develop an incremental strategy as to how a formidable assignment can be "chunked" in order to make sure work is done and done well. Students can adopt a "backward design" mentality towards this. Essentially, students determine on what day the assignment is due and then work backwards from that due date to make sure a small amount is done each night to bring them closer to that elusive end. For example, if students have two writing tasks and two defense pieces due on the 16th of November, then that becomes the starting point and students "work backwards," figuring out if they will work on weekends and how much a night needs to be done. If eight sections of reading need to be completed, planning how this will look over a period of four days is essential. What will be done in class? What will be done at home? How much will be done at home? What will this look like? This is a life skill for students in being able to plan out and chart the course on getting work done. It will also avoid headaches for parents/ guardians dealing with stressed out students who waited until the last minute to get assignments done. At the same time, working backwards also helps students identify particularly challenging elements that need to be addressed in completing long term work. The ability to make a schedule, keep to it and make sure that they are following a designed plan teaches advocacy, responsibility, and allows them to be proactive in solving problems. This is a life skill and I hope it is one that will empower your emerging scholar. I hope that you will be able to help both of us in this process of learning.

In the end, our students might be no different than the monks who recognize that the beauty of the Sand Mandala can only be accomplished by carefully recognizing the need to identify accomplishment of specific sand placement, incrementally and carefully, in order to accomplish something magnificent and worthy of honor.

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.
Mr. Kannan

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Summits Seen, New Heights to be Climbed

With the challenges that await us in the upcoming week, it seems evident that as one significant hurdle is crossed, another awaits. This seems to be the basic template of this class and of my teaching, in general. I believe that students will be able to meet these challenges with the level of energy and focus that such challenges deserve.

On the seventh grade side, I hope to see students during 4th period lunch on Monday and Tuesday. These are the last opportunities to revise their exam on Chapter 5. This is the last opportunity to work on this exam. For students who need to make up this exam, this is it. We move on after Tuesday. After this, whatever grade is earned stands. Passes can be found in the team area. We conclude our study of learning styles this week. Students have really done nicely in diagnosing themselves, their colleagues, and their teachers with this methodology. I hope that some of you have been privy to these discussions. There is little more revivifying to me to hear that dinner discussion centered around ST or NF modes of thought. Great times, indeed. Starting from Tuesday, we will take what we have gained with our learning styles discussion and pivot towards the writing tasks on Chapter 5. Students will have to select two writing tasks from the selected four and compose two defense pieces in addition explaining how their work represents the specific learning style. These tasks are due at the end of class on November 10. Students who will be absent for the extended weekend should submit their work to me before they depart.
On the 8th grade side, Sally Bowles might have summed it up with her song on "Money." We study industrialization and wealth this week. Students have been assigned reading from Chapter 17 and 18 for an open note, take home quiz on the reading for Monday. After that, we begin with an assessment on Immigration via Powerpoint/ Googledocs. With this, we will wrap the week up with a study of the themes of the Industrialization unit along with a small taste of the Identification, the 8th graders' new friend. Students know when their deadline for submission of their revised exam will be and my hope is that they will adhere to these deadlines in a timely manner.
All students should know that the Extra Credit Quotation Section on the Blog is going to be closed this week Friday night at 6:00 PM. These extra credit opportunities will be open at the start of second trimester. If students wish to take advantage, they are advised to do so soon.
If I can be of any further assistance, I strongly advise students/ parents/ guardians/ stakeholders to contact me at school via email or at my home. Partnership works best in any circumstance when there is open discussion and transparency and where suffering in silence is averted.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of and

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lighting the lights of scholarship, thought, and complexity

I find myself writing this after finishing an entire day of conferences. This is probably not the best time to be writing a blog entry, but with Constitution Exams and Chapter 5 Exams being graded and inputted this weekend, as well as a wife on the phone with India, it might be as good of a time as any to write what is on tap for next week in Social Studies.
For the seventh grade, we will continue the study of metacognition. We will spend this week bracketing our discussion of historical concepts that led to the Revolution and examine why we learn the way we do. The learning styles lecture will start (or started, depending on when you read this) on Friday and shall continue on Monday and Tuesday. Students will examine their own style of learning as well as the styles of others and engage in a reflective process of where they are now and where they might be later on in the year. This will culminate in the Learning Styles Assessment on Chapter 5, where students will create different work samples on the ideas in Chapter 5 through different learning styles. This task will be completed on Tuesday, November 1. My hope is that students will be able to see themselves through different prisms and understand more about history and all disciplines by first being able to understand more about themselves. What a vision to behold where students and parents sit around a living room talking about the habits of particular learners! (It's late and I can dream.) Student grades will be updated this weekend and with it will be the revision policy that has to be followed in revising work on the Chapter 5 Exam.
For the eighth grade, the study of wealth and power begins with our in class exploration of Monopoly. After enduring a grueling two day and 2000 point exam, students will now play Monopoly in class. Students will have to finish an enrichment sheet about the experience and then begin the process of linking this to Chapters 17 and 18, detailing the growth of industry. Students will find that the grades on the Constitution Exams will be updated this weekend and it is my hope that students take advantage of the revision policy that will be detailed in the gradebook, if they wish to pursue it.
I will be absent from my classes on Wednesday. In celebrating Diwali, I do wish all of you the very best in lighting lights that acknowledge the pursuit of "the good, the true, and the beautiful." May the worldwide joy of this holiday be felt in your lives, as well.
All best.
Mr. Kannan
Photo courtesy of and at

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Exams all the way down...

This one is a quick entry. It's exams in Social Studies down the line.
7th Grade- Exam on Chapter 5 Starts Tuesday and continues on Wednesday. Students can use an index card for assistance.
8th Grade- The Constitution Exam is on Thursday and Friday. Students need a pen for Thursday and a pencil on Friday.
Best wishes to all.
I also hope to see many of you at conferences this week.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ascending through and to challenges

For Seventh Graders who need a link to do their homework on Wednesday night, please click here!
The upcoming week will pose much in way of challenge to our students. While they have faced challenges in Social Studies up to this point, I believe this week will be instrumental in setting up some of their most formidable hurdles up to this point.
Progress reports were sent home this week for students who are not performing to a satisfactory level or for students who are not demonstrating the most successful of habits. It is here where some level of articulation or discussion is needed. Perhaps, students need to open a dialogue with teachers as to how improvement can be achieved. Simply put, no student who received a progress report this week should be happy with where they are. It is our responsibility as educators and adults to help these students meet their own responsibility in being able to perform to the highest of their capacity and to demonstrate the habits of successful scholarship. If you know of a child who received a progress report, it might not be a bad idea to initiate this dialogue with students as to how they can initiate a discussion with their teachers about reaching their potential as emerging scholars. There is no room for "foolish pride." Rather, there are teachable moments and this could be one of them. For students who did not receive progress reports this week, I think a moment of affirmation can be given. Discussion of what is working would be wonderful and further articulation as to how this can continue would be even better. As we progress further in our journey, the work will become more arduous, the demands more intense, and the sacrifices required will increase. It is my hope that I can be of assistance into this transition period of heightened challenge.
For the seventh graders, this week will be spent discussing Chapter 5, in lieu of the upcoming chapter 5 exam. We will spend some time analyzing primary sources, reviewing content for the exam, and analyze how to approach test taking. What does it mean to study? This will be our focus this week. The exam will be difficult, but these are the same students who have read Arthur Miller. It will be and can be met. Students' revisions of their writing tasks on The Crucible are due on Wednesday of this week (10.12). Additionally, students will have writing extensions on Chapter 5 due on Tuesday of this week (10.11). It is my hope that students can continue the dialogue that has been started in terms of what the demands of scholarship entails.
The 8th graders have The Constitution on their minds... or at least they should. The exam is on the 20th and 21st. This week will feature more insight given as to this topic. At the same time, students will be working on their Constitutional Projects that will be due on Friday. Student grades will be updated by Monday with their quizzes and writing prompts included. Students can revise both items by Monday, 10.17. Nightly study for the Constitution Exam should be a must each night. Students have two pages in their packets that talk about test topics and can self monitor their progress with quizzing themselves on these concepts. These are on pages 2 and 3 of their packets. A great "family night" activity would be a "Constitution" night where students and parents/ guardians spend an evening familiarizing themselves with the Constitution. What a heartwarming vision: A family sitting around the kitchen table or the living room, talking about Senators and the Supreme Court. All one needs is hot chocolate and it's like a Norman Rockwell painting!! In any event, I hope students are able to initiate contact with me if they need further assistance or guidance in all that is due this week and all that lies ahead.
Conferences are scheduled for the week of the 17th. I hope that all of our students will be represented at these moments to discuss student greatness and opportunities to discuss how further achievement can be obtained.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of Michal Marcol, whose portfolio is:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Changing Seasons in Nature and Scholarship

With October presenting itself, there seems to be a sense of change in the air. Almost strikingly like clockwork, the leaves seemed to change colors overnight. It was almost as if the internal calendar of the natural world was impeccably set to the calendars in our kitchens, cubicles, and our studies. (Perhaps, it is the other way around.) In this light, it seems that change is present. It is part of our world and is something that presenting itself to us in an undeniable fashion.

It makes sense that this would be mirrored in our students, as well. With October, more challenges present themselves as our students seek to embrace the pursuit of scholarship that seems inevitably thrust upon their shoulders. This becomes so very true for our seventh graders, who leave the world of Salem and Arthur Miller’s “crucible” and enter the struggle for Colonial freedom. It is here where students will study what it means to be a colonist seeking freedom or what it means to find oneself poised between equally desirable ends of political or economic freedom. With discussion in and outside of the textbook, students will have to synthesize multiple points of view in understanding the exposition to the American Revolution. Students will find themselves having to integrate new means of vocabulary expression in to their own frames of reference. This will also feed into this week’s writing prompts, assigned on Thursday and due on Tuesday of next week. Students will receive their writing prompts on The Crucible this week and revisions of this writing task are due on Tuesday, 10.11. The changes in our students are becoming more evident.

On the 8th grade side of the equation, the word is "Constitution." More importantly, "Constitution Exam." Students will finish their quiz on Monday and should receive it back on Tuesday, the 11th. Students will be in the process of assembling their papers on the Constitution that are due at 9:00 AM on Thursday. Students can submit rough drafts until Tuesday evening. Once these are settled up, the next focus would be the Constitution Projects, due on Friday the 14th at 5:00 PM. Students should be engaging in nightly study for the Constitution Exam on the 20th and 21st. Students can use the study guide on pages two and three of their Constitution Packets. This would be an effective first step for streamlining their study for the exam. There will not be a study session this week, but will be present next week and often.

There is change evident in our students. Many of them are recognizing that embracing the path of scholarship is the only possible way to find success. Those that have not will do so . Change is what makes scholarship possible, and, like clockwork, it is at this point where we as stakeholders can only stand back and admire what is in front of us.

All best and happy hunting.

Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons at with rights for use reflected at

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Heroic angels soaring above a sea of construction

This week is going to be an intense one for students in Social Studies. It will be moments like these where the true nature of our students will be revealed. For it will be moments like these where valor and austerity will be needed. The ability to rise above challenges, hovering over that which might bring others down, is where the angelic and almost heroic nature of our students can emerge. Out of the ashes of construction, something great rises.

This would be the hope, at least.

For the seventh graders, our work in the textbook commences. Students were given an at home copy of the textbook on Friday, 9.23. (Please let me know if extenuating circumstances necessitate students having another book.) Additionally, students received their new packets for Chapter 5. Students will have nightly homework in the textbook this week. Chapter 5, section 1 will be on tap for Monday, with an open note quiz on Tuesday, along with a presentation being assembled this week to start next Monday. Indeed, it is the time for heroes now.
Oh, and by the way, I will be expecting written work on The Crucible to be submitted on Monday or by 9:00 AM on Tuesday. If I can be of any assistance in this, please do not hesitate to contact me.
And, then, there are the eighth graders. Monday will be a quiz on the Amendments. This is merely a prelude to Friday's large quiz. This quiz covers... well, everything:
* Goals
* Principles
* Preamble
* Legislative Branch
* Executive Branch
* Judicial Branch
* Amendments
This is an excellent primer or set up for the Constitution Exam on October 20 and 21. This will be real telling as to where our students are and where they need to be. I think that when we call to see whether the truly heroic nature of our students can emerge through adversity, this would be our discussion point. Indeed, it is a powerful quiz and I hope that student attendance at our study session on Wednesday will help to bring this into vision. For Friday's quiz, extended time will be granted into Monday and Tuesday during lunch, should students require it. Nightly preparation for this exam is critical, essential to student success. With this, I can only hope they are able to soar to the realm where only the most strong of intellectual "eagles dare to tread."

As always, I welcome the opportunity for students to revise work, initiate discussions with me when they are confused or when they need help, and to serve as active agents or advocates for their learning. I extend this to all our stakeholders, with contact being made through email or phone and appointments in the morning or at lunch.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Delving further into challenging terrain

It was wonderful to see so many of our stakeholders during Curriculum Night. One of my hopes was that I was able to clearly convey how much we have to do and how little time we have to do it. That certainly becomes the focus this week.
For the 8th grade, the focus of this week's Constitutional study goes towards the Judicial Branch. Within this lies "the greatest video of all time." It is a seminal moment for our students, who will enter the pantheon of greatness that so many others have entered rather unwillingly. This video is a moment in time for it represents one of the most intense analysis of the Judicial Branch offered. At the same time, it will help establish our study of the Supreme Court Cases that occupy so much importance on the Constitution Exam. Friday's quiz will be returned early in the week and revisions of this quiz will be due on Monday, 9/26. There will be a study session this week during lunch. My hope is that students will actively engage in dialogue with me and with their parents/ guardians on what they need in order to discover or sustain success in this unit of study.
For the 7th grade, their study of The Crucible in Social Studies ends this week. We will end our study of Miller's work with a writing assignment assigned on Wednesday and is due on Monday, 9.26. Students have really taken to reading a challenging work and the groundwork from this will assist students in their work from the textbook. Students will receive their at home copies of the textbook on Friday, along with their new packets on Chapter 5- the Road to Revolution. This chapter will focus on the idea of how the colonists struggled for freedom and the themes that guided this pursuit. Students will have to read and absorb at a quick clip. However, if students could follow Miller, Salem, betrayal, and loyalty with discipline and focus, then I would think that being able to read about the American Revolution could be done with the same diligence.
As always, if I can be of any help or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our own exploration of scholarship's true nature

It is at this point in the year where we start the recognize that the hue of the "honeymoon" period is over. I certainly can relate to this in my own life. There is a particular joy of any relationship in its early stages. Things are new, and this sense of eternal optimism guides all interactions.

And then, reality settles in and one starts recognizing the true nature of both people and situations.

It is here where we are with our students. Certainly, things are presenting themselves in this manner in Social Studies. For the seventh graders, the concept of finishing Arthur Miller's work, The Crucible, is upon us. Students will be starting the assessment phase of this intense project. The extended periods have proven to be so essential in being able to tackle complex literature. Having our students exposed to about two hours a day of Miller's work has allowed for greater comprehension of it. One of the most exciting elements about working in middle school (If that phrase can even be uttered without the response of deafening laughter) lies in the ability to flex out class periods and allocate more time to complex issues to ensure greater student comprehension of said ideas. To not be a slave to a bell is amazing. In a rapidly mechanized world of education, where thoughts and comprehension are limited to what can be crammed into a particular moment in time, the ability to hear more student insight into concepts like loyalty, honor, betrayal, and Regina George and her gaggle of "Mean Girls" is really insightful. It is only because of the extended periods that we have been able to effectively work with our seventh grade students in such an intense manner in such an intense course of study. Last Friday was a great example of this. Being able to read the work in two classes simultaneously for an hour and then discuss the implications of the work for another hour was awe- inspiring. It really allowed me to see what could be done with an extended period. It is this element that makes middle school such an exciting domain of teaching and learning. Students will be able to utilize the extended periods in the assessment phase of the unit, which starts this week as students end up learning what happens to Proctor, Elizabeth, Giles, and, of course, Abigail. In this light, I hope students are able to recognize that if they need more work in a particular domain on the work, they are free to make appointments to come into during lunch. I found it especially revealing when a seventh grader emailed me this week and started the process of establishing a standing lunch date with me each week to make sure that she "does not get lost." That shows advocacy of self, one of the benchmarks of scholarship. In this, true natures of students are revealed.
Lest we not forget discussing the true nature of students in our 8th graders. They started the quest towards the Constitution this past week with their first quiz, on which no one scored lower than a C. That is a good starting point. Students took active steps towards accomplishing their end goal of doing the best they possibly could on the Constitution Exam. This quest continues this week with the Legislative and Executive Branch discussion... and another quiz on Friday. With our first study session on Wednesday during lunch, it is my hope that another active step can be taken and another element of true nature can be revealed.
It is my hope to see as many of you as possible on Wednesday's Curriculum Night, starting at 6:40 in your child's advisory classroom. It is also the first opportunity to sign up for Fall conferences, a time where efficiency and timeliness translates to a greater chance of picking up the desired time slot. I also hope you are able to access the team website and team syllabus online. A link is featured on the left hand side of this blog. If I can be of any further assistance or help, please do not hesitate to contact me.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of with rights stipulated here

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not just a great song from Rodgers and Hammerstein, but a way of life!

Over the course of the year, one element that students come to identify in my blog is that they get to know more of me through my writing. This will be one of those seminal moments.

Standing upon the altar of confession, I make the open declaration that I am a fan of the musical, The Sound of Music.

It is not something that is concealed too openly. Two years ago with my 8th graders, we watched the film in connection with our study of the 1930s. This was a moment where I was able to have students blog about the film, and enjoy it simultaneously. While I was mocked mercilessly by my colleagues who kept on singing, "Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens" or "I Have Confidence," it was worth it.

My favorite part of the film, though, has to be when the Mother Abbess sings "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" to Maria. When we watched it in class, I remember pausing the film and then telling my rather talkative 8th graders that if anyone spoke during the song, I would never forgive them. They were taken aback, but even more surprised, and perhaps disturbed, when they saw me shed tears like a newborn baby as the song continued. I will stand on the altar of confession one more time in saying that I cry during The Sound of Music.

This is really embarrassing.

All this is to bring out the power of the song and how relevant it is to what we do. The idea of struggle as a part of being in the world is something that the song articulates. The need to "follow every rainbow until you find your dream" is something that I have always felt has personal and professional connection. There is struggle and a sense of pain and discomfort in what brings purpose to our lives. The song brings this out in a beautiful and lyrical manner.

I look to our students right now and see that like the Maria and the von Trapps, they, too, climb every mountain until they find their own dreams of scholarship. 8th graders took the first step on this journey, scaling the arduous heights of their own mountains and a fairly thick packet on the Constitution. Their journeys become more difficult with this course of study next week. Nightly progress must be made on memorizing the Preamble, grasping the concepts of the goals and principles that helped to form the document. There is no way of getting around this mountain as they take an active step towards their own dreams of scoring well on the Constitution Exam on October 20 and 21st.

For our seventh graders, they arm themselves on their own climbing of intellectual mountains with a green packet on The Crucible. No doubt this is a difficult mountain to climb, slippery and steep. Arthur Miller is not one to be taken for the faint of heart. This is going to be challenging and I can say that many of our students have really accepted this challenge. The grasping of difficult emotional and social valences has been very unique and interesting to see. Students are reminded to not fall behind on nightly homework, and if more assistance is needed on scaling this mountain, they are encouraged to speak with me during lunch. Setting up an appointment to go over difficult concepts or to even gain greater instruction can be very helpful in both the content grasping, but also in forging a bond with instructors to better understand what is being taught and how to receive it. This is a life skill, and one that can help in climbing the mountains that will be present for our students "every day of their lives, for as long as they shall live," to paraphrase the song.

I wish our students nothing but the best as they climb every mountain, follow every rainbow, until they find their dreams.

All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of with usage stipulated at

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The emergence of intellectual life

It seems that the emergence into the world of scholarship has begun. With signed course descriptions, open and honest personal inventories, it is evident that this struggle, this journey, and this process of embracing the life of scholarship has begun. Certainly, I will be there with our students as they take these critical and formative first steps.

On the 8th grade side of this path lies the world of divergent learning styles. Perception and judgment are being merged with intuition and sensation in order to understand more about ourselves and others. With this, students are embracing a model that will guide their work in Social Studies throughout the year. For the seventh graders, understanding the implications of "the black dot," the symbol of Tessie Hutchinson and friendships like Mrs. Delacroix are a part of this learning process. Students will take these lessons and apply them to the period of Salem in laying the historical groundwork for the study of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Please be on the lookout for notices about the upcoming Curriculum Night on the 14th, as well as the unveiling of the team website with electronic copies of the team overview and assignments. If I can be of any further assistance, please note that students received my email address and home number which should be written in their daily planners. Please don't hesitate to contact me at school or at home.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rising Sun: The start of a new year

At this point, with less than a week to go in summer, some level of thought has to be given to the next year. My hope is that you had a wonderful summer.
However, work is rapidly approaching.

I hope that you are ready to go on Wednesday, 8/24. 7th graders will meet their advisory teacher in the Gym, while the 8th graders will meet their advisory teacher in the Commons. It will be a full day of school on Wednesday, so bring a lunch, be prepared to go down the line, and don't let yourself be taken by surprise.

There are some items to investigate before you start might help you. Perhaps, you might need to become familiar with the school supply list for Team 7.8/3. If you need to read over the list, here is a link. Your Team Teachers' blogs are all hyperlinked on the left side of this blog, so feel free to click away. If you need to examine anything on the Julian website, this is the link.

In terms of Social Studies, the left side of this blog features links to the syllabus for the next two weeks, as well as other items. If you scroll down, there is an extra credit option for quotes that you might want to start reflecting upon now so that when you start seeing the material, you can go ahead and earn some points with some writing. If you need a general introduction to the course, click here.

As always, if I can be of any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to starting up the year... although battling jet lag is a considerable challenge, it will be secondary to guiding all of you through the wilderness of American History.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Photo courtesy of mehul.antani with rights stipulated at at

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The calendar is turning to August... You know what that means, right?

Given some of the weather I have been hearing about back in Oak Park, maybe India's not so bad.

I hope your summer has been great. India has been awe- inspiring. There has been much here I have gained and learned. As the calendar turns, I hope that your attention is focused on returning and having as much of an "awe- inspiring" experience in class as I have had here... Ok, it's a stretch, but one that's worth it.

With time elapsing in both of our summers, here is a list of things that can be done on your own and with parental permission to make your time more meaningful:
1) Go to the Art Institute and absorb the art.
2) Check out a book at the library of something that you know you need to read, but haven't had the time. If possible, check out the closing sale at Borders',also.
3) Pay some attention to the debt debate that is going on, right now, at this moment in Washington, D.C. Trust me when I say it impacts you more than it does me.
4) Take some time to think about last year. Think about where you did well and where you need improvement. Questions: How are you going to continue and enhance your successes and how are you going to make active improvement?
5) Take a long walk with someone in your family. Talk with them on your walk and listen. I mean, really listen. Try to hear them and pay attention to what they say. (It's not as easy as it sounds.)
6) If you have access to a computer or can gain access to a computer, try listening to music from a different genre, or category, that you have not heard before. My suggestions: Jazz, International/ World, Classical, Classic Rock and Roll. See if you can find a new artist in that genre whose music you really like.
7) With parental permission, go to a mall and "people watch." What are people at the mall like? What do you see around you? Where are you in all of this?
8) Start becoming familiar with next year's Social Studies curriculum! For those going to seventh or eighth grade, the Constitution is a good starting point. Become familiar with it. For those going into high school, might I suggest that you start becoming familiar with the works of Homer or other "greats" of Western Thought.
9) Take some time to really enjoy what is left of your summer... on your own.
10) Make sure your school fees are paid so that you can get your schedule in the next two weeks and find out what is in store for you.

To all of you, do enjoy what is left. I look forward to hearing from you soon enough.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Picture property of flickrPrince with rights stipulated here

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Time to say goodbye

With this, my last blog entry of the year, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the 7.8/3 students for their scholarship and their diligent work this year. It has been my privilege to guide them through American History.
So much is left to be written. For those who are moving on to high school, I wish you all my best as you recognize in the most direct of terms that "the fight goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." I hope you are able to take chances with your identities in the future in embracing opportunities that will open new doors to you. I hope you continue with your scholarship and recognize that the idea of being able to be a true scholar and a good person are two of the most difficult challenges all individuals face. I hope that you are able recognize our paradigm offered by Dorothy's quest, in that all of us there are elements we need to find in order to recognize that "there's no place like home."
For those who will be returning for their last year at Julian, I wish you a restful summer. I also hope that you reflect on both the successes this year as well as the mistakes made. It is my hope that when you return you will be able to maximize the former and minimize the latter, or at least avoiding making some of the same errors the last time around. If our paths cross again, I will apologize for all of the work you will do for me. If our path do not cross again, I will apologize for all of the work you had to do for me. In either case, I wish you nothing but the best as I hope to see you in August on that first day, which for all of you will mark the beginning of the end of your Julian experience.
Best wishes to all of you. Thank you all for being you.
Mr. Kannan
Photo courtesy of: and

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thoughts from a day off...

If you know anything, it must take a great deal to keep me from school. This was the case Friday, as I was sick. I figured that this week's blog entry might be represented by what I gained from my day not in my room.
1. Daytime television can get quite boring, quite quickly.
6. I actually did more than just watch television. There is a bird's nest right outside my front door. The eggs look real peaceful and the mother bird is keeping watch over things.
7. When children are in school, the block is really quiet. Imagine that.
8. If we ran the technology right, I am sure that we could conduct learning virtually. I am keeping up with students emailing their work with me, , and keeping tabs on things at school, while sitting on my living room couch.
9. It's been a while since I watched the clouds move. It's kind of cool and very hypnotic.
10. The eggs hatched. They are loud. They've been in the world for no more than a minute and their lungs are so powerful. The process of life is amazing.
11. The internet contains some really weird stuff and weird people on it. I know there is a theory that the longer a "Comments" section goes the weirder it gets. I buy it completely.
12. .
13. Local news can be quite depressing.
15. This is cliche, but so true:
16. I find that I cannot stop staring at this bird's nest. I am not trying to be like Miss Brill watching other people immersed in life, while I am seeing, but not seen and all, but it is really fascinating.
17. While I use a great deal of paper in my teaching, there is something awesome about paperless assignments and students emailing work. Comments are easier for students to read... mainly because my handwriting is no longer an obstacle.
19. I just came up with a great assignment

There you have it. The 20 things that summarize my day away from my classroom. I am not sure if it was a day well spent, but I know one thing:

In terms of what to keep in mind this week:
7th grade- This week's work on the Gettysburg Address, Chapter 16, and "The Lottery" are all good to the ten points for participation which will be decided on Friday. All Social Studies Textbooks need to be submitted as soon as possible.
8th grade- Short stories all week. We hope to cover Jackson, Gordimer, Hemingway, Chopin, and Kurieshi this week. Ambitious. The application assignment for Jackson could be done by Monday's class or turned in by Wednesday.

All best and steer clear from the
Mr. Kannan

Friday, May 13, 2011

I promise that John and the Speak Sisters will get a detailed blog entry... starting next week.

The rebellion has started. The voices have started on critiquing the abbreviated version of the blog. Indeed, their voices will be heard, validated, and authenticated... next week.

Click here for this week's assignments and deadlines.

All best.
Mr. Kannan

For 8th Graders: Click here for information regarding abducted youth, the topic of Oates' short story.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three in a Row! There is someting about word economy...

Why stop a good thing? It seems like the less I write, the more attention things receive. Interesting...
Click here for the homework assignments in the upcoming week.
Of particular note:
8th Graders- Assessment on the Holocaust Wednesday. IF YOU WANT TO DOWNLOAD A COPY AND WORK ON IT NOW TO SUBMIT ON FRIDAY, CLICK HERE!
7th Graders- Civil War Quiz on Monday/ Completed Rubrics submitted and Final Assessments distributed on Monday and work on them commences. All Final Assessments are due on May 20th or before.

Best wishes in all of your endeavors.
Mr. Kannan

Friday, April 29, 2011

Brevity is the spice to life... or at least to this blog.

I received much in way of positive feedback about the brief and concise nature of last week's blog. In the spirit of giving the public what it wants, here's another one.

For this week's nightly work and assignments in 7/8.3 Social Studies, please click here!

All best.
Mr. Kannan

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Week of 4/25- 4/29

If you are interested in what will be due this week and what must be done for this week, please click here!

All best.
Mr. Kannan

All grades have been updated as of today, 4/24.

Any eighth grader interested in examining the prosecution of Nazi officials for war crimes can click here.

For seventh graders, if you need additional copies of the Chapter 14 work given out this week, please click here.
Once chapter 15 is done, the Final Assessment for seventh graders will await. This will be uploaded late next week, if students want to develop a head start on working on this series of tasks.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Short week with a short entry

With this week being a shortened week, I thought I would keep it the same with this week's blog entry:
7th Grade
Monday- Students will take their assessment on Chapter 13. Students should read Chapter 14, section 1 and complete the Check Your Progress Questions for Homework.
Tuesday and Wednesday- Students will be watching a bag of websites introducing the Civil War. Students will be required to keep running notes and email these off to me at the end of Wednesday's class.

8th Grade
Monday- Students will be submitting their World War II and Casablanca essays before 9:00 on Monday morning. Monday's night homework will be to reflect on who is to blame for Hitler's rise to power.
Tuesday- After reading a speech from Elie Wiesel in class, students will have to link much of what he says to current events or life at Julian.
Wednesday- Students will have to come up with multiple ways to represent Hitler's ascendancy to power.

Hoping all is well.
Mr. Kannan

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Advancement Through the Fires of Struggle


The role of fire has always been something that has fascinated me from an intellectual standpoint. From being something that was coveted by the Gods, to something that was given out of noble sacrifice, to the spirit of divinity that must accompany all sacred ceremonies, to the life force that lights millions of people's lives across the world, to the destructive end that ends life, fire has been something that has represented so much in my mind. This week, both sets of students will be examining how progress was advanced through the fires that represent what it means to be human.

7th Grade Social Studies
The focus this week is Chapter 13, which will be pursued through Outcome Sentences. Section 1 will commence our journey Monday, followed by each subsequent section each night. Students must keep up with their composition of Outcome Sentences each night. These will pile up immensely if left unattended. When students receive their packets on Monday, there will be a suggested checklist of where each student needs to be at each night. Following this progression will increase the chances of academic success. The hope would be that by next Monday, students will be able to develop over 75 ways to express their understanding of Western Expansion.

8th Grade Social Studies
It's real simple: Multiple essays on World War II and Casablanca. Students will receive their take home exam on Monday. By Friday, they will need to submit their essays. All essays are due to me by Friday at 5:00 PM. There will be many to do because the topic demands it. Like the seventh graders, nightly completion of these essays in the manner outlined is going to be critical. We start the Holocaust on Thursday.

I can only hope that the fires of scholarship intensity fuel the attempts of our students.
All best.
Mr. Kannan

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Renegades of Change into a Postmodern World

This is always an interesting time of year. I mean this from a curriculum standpoint. The seventh graders are exploring the Age of Reform, a time in American History where change was almost taken as the only absolute. The eighth graders are exploring World War II and the ethical and philosophical implications of the Holocaust, a time in World History where nothing was absolute. In both, students will find themselves forced to reexamine elements of their world that might not have been previously examined. As they, "Look life in the face," there will be teachable moments within teachable moments. While change is all around students, what better vehicle than to internalize this element of change in their own lives.

7th Graders- All grades are updated.
Chapter 12 starts this week. Students will have nightly work to complete which includes a packet of work on the Renegades of Change in Chapter 12, as well as a technological assessment that is due by Saturday night at 6:00. Student packets are due at the end of Friday's class. Students and stakeholders should examine this packet as all nightly assignments are compacted to ensure students create and follow a nightly plan for success. This chart indicates where students need to be each night and where they should be by the next class period in making sure that this chapter, worth 17% of students' overall grade, is maximized for both student success and learning.
For those interesting in glogging, check out this link to a slide show that will help you get started on what a glog is and understanding its use.

8th Graders- All grades are updated.
Casablanca will be our focus on Monday and Tuesday. Waiver letters were sent home with students on Thursday, April 24.
Students will be asked to read chapter 24, sections 1 and 2 Monday night and finish the section on Tuesday night. There will be an enrichment sheet for the film that students will complete Wednesday night. Students need to ensure that this sheet is completed, as their assessment on World War II will consist of completing multiple short essays on the film as well as World War II. Our study of the Holocaust will start next Wednesday.

As we progress towards the half way point of the trimester, students are reminded that our journey is far from done. How one concludes a journey of this magnitude is more important than how it was started.

Best wishes in closing out strong.
Mr. Kannan

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