Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Citizenship: Teaching AND Living it

I am the PAGE representative for my elementary school.  PAGE is The Professional Association of Georgia Educators.  For those in other states, it is not a union.  It is access to legislative news, legal representation, should the need arise, and professional development.

I receive their legislative updates as soon as our General Assembly legislation session starts.  Bill 717, written by Representative Holt from District 112 of Social Circle, GA, proposed that parental involvement be tracked and given a grade, A to F.  It also proposed that each child's parental involvement grade be used as a factor in our newest teacher evaluation system.  The new system is less than equitable, as it makes it next to impossible to earn "exemplary".  We have been told to expect "proficient" or "needs development".  It puts undue pressure on students to move in lock-step with their peers as opposed to just making progress on an individual basis.  Additionally, it creates an inordinate amount of work for principals and vice principals to observe, document, and conference that many times each year.  Long story, shorter;  I wrote all of the representatives in the house and received a handful of replies.  While it looks like this exciting new bill might already be dead, :( it led me to start taking a larger interest in actively tracking proposed bills.

I stumbled upon an app and website, Open States:  Discover Politics in Your State.  I downloaded the app.  It is very user-friendly, but I did discover that you need to use the left toolbar instead of swiping the screens to go back to the main page.  I can see who my house and state representatives are, and I can look up and track proposed bills.  A tracker that tells the legislative status of a bill is in beta.  Open States is a product of Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that uses the Internet to "catalyze greater openness and transparency" of our government.

Just as we teachers read great literature to encourage our students to read, so could we also take a greater interest in the workings of our government to teach greater citizenship by our students.  Our passions often become their passions, so look into this app as a tool to share a real-world experience in the classroom.  Great for 3rd and 4th grade Georgia government standards!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Encouraging Words

First, let me say that now that it is February, I have stumbled upon my new year's resolution.  Better late than never, as they say!  I am resolving to improve my blog and also write in it weekly instead of every other month, or every 9 months!

Found a link via #TLChat on Twitter tonight to "Seven Features of Highly Successful Picture Books" by Abby Connors.  Her bio states that she is a music and arts teacher of over 20 years.  I loved that even though the article is geared toward librarians or teachers, that I can use it to help my students write fiction stories that are not too complex.  Often, students try to write fiction that is as complex as the stories on their 4th, 5th, or 6th grade reading levels.  They get overwhelmed and bogged down in overly complicated dialogue and too many subplots.  Plus, they simply don't have the timeframe to flesh out and publish a full-length novel.

At the bottom of the article was a link to another of Abby Connors' articles, "The Pinocchio Effect:  12 Ways to Make Read-Aloud Stories Come Alive".  Even though I have read stories aloud for 12 years of teaching, I learned some new tips and tricks!  Again, I can also use this article to help my students prepare for a performance based assessment for their fluency scores.  :)

Thanks Teachers.Net Gazette!