Thursday, December 13, 2012

pass on some seasonal good will!


Looking forward to Christmas holidays - the part right after Christmas where I get to sit and relax a while.  I hope everyone out there is trying their best to do something positive for their fellow man.  Resist the urge to be rude when you are inconvenienced, respect others, hold a door open, let someone cut in line, donate to a worthy cause, even if it's just a little.  And smile.  Smiling will improve your overall mood.  I am trying it and it is making a difference.

Happy December Folks!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

So as of late I have been a little busier than normal, or maybe back to the normal busy after some pleasantly diverting time to relax, I can't tell.  What I do know is this, scheduling things and list making are super important to my productivity.

I think that making mega lists, what I used to do, has to come back.  A mega list is a list, sometimes in the form of a little notebook that I carry around in my bag, that has way more stuff than a mere mortal could accomplish in a day (perhaps a week even).   Mega lists are often so large that they have to be organized into more sensible categories - then usually I do the 'can't wait' things first.  The great part of a mega-list is that a person can jump around the list and accomplish things and check them off randomly.  As things get finished, it looks like utter chaos, but as I start to get close to the end of my gigantic to do list, there is an undeniable sense of fulfillment that  creeps across.  Eventually much more gets done, much less gets forgotten, and as I get to the last third or so of the to-do list, a funny thing happens, I often start adding more things that need to get done next.

That part is kind of a curse.

For you random chaotic thinkers out there, and if that is you, you already know who I mean, making the list is super important to your productivity, but it is a terrible thing to put the creative muse that lives inside you through.  Burning through a to-do list does not help the creative process normally.  For people that thrive in chaos (if this is you, people marvel at your calm, rationality as the world crashes in) the creative part happens when you're procrastinating, as long as you fill your procrastination time with ... some purposeful task.  If you thrive in chaos, you probably hate the mess, but hate being bored stiff while cleaning it up as well.  There is always a better use of your time.  How are you going to solve the world's problems if you're in the middle of cleaning up some unimportant pile of filing, am I right?

So don't make a mega-list every day, but do choose a couple days a week to create and burn through one.  People will think you're amazing and deadlines will no longer creep up on you.  Your surroundings will be cleaner and while you'll have stress, people will think you're pretty damn efficient - which is kind of nice too.

I think I'm going to go pick up a little notebook for my bag tomorrow, it's that kind of week ahead.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Adventure Stories

On the precipice of reading Into the Wild

Adventure stories have a certain allure that can't be denied.  A walk on the wild side is a treat when your average everyday ordinary life doesn't provide the adrenaline rushes that adventure and peril do.  Reading adventure stories or watching them in a movie or on T.V. are a vicarious experience that allows the audience to escape the ordinary for a little while.  So what's your favorite adventure story and Why? 

Share what you think!

Response to comment 1:
That is a great adventure story. That author (Michael Creighton) has another book called Eaters of the Dead that is based on a true story of a Muslim merchant/diplomat that is taken by Vikings while on a mission and his adventures (he kept a remarkable journal in real life). Thanks for the post! So true that connecting with history/imagination is exciting.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So you're working on a project? When does your project become meaningful?

There is a lot of talk these days in education on authenticity.  Authenticity means essentially being real, real life useful, or having a real audience.  So much of what we say in education as teachers pays lip service to the idea of authentic assessment, but often we don't carry through.  It does take extra effort to create a real forum for a student to showcase their work.  But is it worth it?  I think it really is.

So when I start thinking about these things, I try to self reflect by asking myself: when I have a real audience, does it help my final product?  Is it important to me?  Does it give what I do meaning?  The answer to all of those questions sure enough is yes, it does.  I want to give a couple of examples of what I mean:

Last week I made a website for my basketball club.  It took a while, maybe 7 or 8 hours in total, but I enjoyed the process because I knew at the end, I could make something that a lot of people who are looking for communication about Sonics basketball, camps and other things would be using it and getting something out of it.  When the first few people responded to my request for feedback on the site responded, I was secretly delighted.  It was authentic, it was valid, and therefore, it was a confirmation that I had done a good job.

Last year I completed many projects and papers in order to complete the diploma program I was enrolled in.  Out of the many assignments, I have to say that the ones where I worked the hardest were the most valuable and memorable learning experiences, even if I wasn't crazy about them at the time.  The ones I worked the hardest on corresponded with what I identified as being authentic:  One example was the paper about a friend of mine who's family came from another culture and another continent; it meant a lot to me because that person took a copy and shared it with their family.   So just to re-iterate, I wrote about them based on an interview with him and research I had done, and they read it and actually appreciated it.  It was totally nerve wracking, but it was totally worth it!  I got a great mark on it, but I know that is in part because I was so concerned with doing a good job so these people whom I respected would approve of my paper.

Other everyday examples:  
When you put more effort into cooking a great meal for company than for the everyday folks at home.
When you have to get up and present your project in front of the class.
When you perform what you've been working on.
When you change your clothes for a party 5 times because you know someone you care about (or care about what they think) will notice and maybe comment.

So what does this all mean?  Simple.  The best major projects have an authentic audience at the end.  I encouraged the students in my small afternoon class to seek out projects for their major group project that will be authentic.  I can't take all the credit, the curriculum encouraged the same.  I was delighted to know that they are looking for ways to conduct a real life project, with a real audience.  One group will be conducting a real fundraiser for a community cause.  Another group is going to find a way to publish their product so that their peers are exposed to it.  These projects have a couple things in common:

* They will be finished with a better product, they will complete it closer to meeting the deadline, and their projects will be more detailed than those of their peers that decided to do a more garden variety project.  The authentic nature of what they have chosen will ensure that.
* The other thing they have in common is that these students are pumped about their projects from the start.  They are enthused about doing something unique, something to be proud of, something that will be an accomplishment.

So your project, essay, website, whatever, becomes meaningful the moment you are able to share it with people who's opinion you care about.  It's a simple idea, but it is awesomely powerful for creating learning moments that will stick with you in a positive way.  :)


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Great Feature Articles Have Something Important To Say

I read an article this morning that shows some of the different expert opinions on the effects of exposure to "web 2.0" on the development of your brain. There is a lot of research on how the digital connections we make and how the brain wires itself as a result. I am linking to an article here about it and hoping you'll read it and share your opinion on the subject.



The main reason I post this though is to show you that good feature articles try to make some kind of impact on the reader. They try to be deep, not shallow. Think about that in your own writing.

Learning 2.0: How digital networks are changing the rules

By Mélanie L. Sisley

March 8, 2011

Link to the article and check it out and get back to me and tell me...

 what do you think?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Catchy Titles/ Headlines/ Charlie Sheen!

Ok, so this is kind of a technical topic, but one that is important.  What's in a name?  You know how when your parents name you it generally doesn't predict the kind of person that you are going to turn out to be? (although I'm sure there are exceptions -- like Johnny Cash's song Boy Named Sue explains), sometimes the name itself generates interest, is memorable, and makes people take notice.  Give a person a name like, oh, I don't know - Barrack, and perhaps one day that person's name recognition will be key to their success.

When you create a piece of writing, a song, a poem, a story, an essay, or create a piece of art like a movie, a play, a sculpture, or create a scientific or technical masterpiece, like the telephone, or like Angry Birds, the name can be a great predictor of success.  Here's the thing - there are usually several usable good choices, you just need something that captures the readers attention (put Charlie Sheen in the title and your story or whatever else should go global overnight), but the catch is it should have a certain tie-in to what it is introducing.   Imagine the toughest looking guy you can.  Now think of the wimpiest name you can, now imagine them put together.  Funny right?  But not effective.  Some English tools that help to generate great titles are:

parallel phrasing
taking a memorable line from the piece and using that
a play on words if appropriate

Anyway, post a list of the best (or worst) titles you can think of and say why they're so good (or bad).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feature Article Discussion

      So today in class we talked about the longevity study as found in O magazine.  I always find it interesting when there is such a huge departure from what we think is common wisdom on a subject, especially on a study that was conducted for such a long period of time (you'd think it would have a great deal of credibility considering that it has taken place over a long period of time).  I think this is a good example of a feature article that is interesting and informative; not necessarily earth shattering but entertaining.

     Another thing I read yesterday was about how a certain class of Vancouver grade 12 kids felt about school.  Specifically what they remembered from their grade 6 school year and what they thought was important to them(not one thing they listed when asked was academic) .  They also voiced their opinion on the infusion of technology into their learning.  Their answers were somewhat surprising to me about that, and in a way weren't surprising at all.  Read on by linking to the blog here:   http://cultureofyes.ca/2011/02/23/kids-report-school-is-just-fine-sort-of/

Become part of the discussion by answering one, some or all of the questions below:

What do you remember about grade 6?
What is your opinion about changes to the way you learn / I teach?
What is your take on what these students have to say?


Monday, February 28, 2011

Public Speaking

So as you grade 12  kids know I am trying to get you some public speaking experience (as I am/ will be with my other classes as well.  The list we looked at for top ten personal fears got a few laughs today.  Here is another one with similar results but the same message, people fear public speaking more than death!  As I said in class, one can usually recover from a bad public speaking experience, death not so much.

Top 10 Fears Image

Corresponding to this are the top three things that students in grade eleven and twelve identify as the things they hope to improve on in English class (in order of most frequently identified):
1. grammar
2. public speaking
3. essay writing

Therefore we will be looking at and looking for tips on how to improve on these things throughout the semester.  If you have found a site, a you tube video or another resource to help with these, please let me know / post them here so we can see about using them to help my students to get better!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Metacognitive mumbo jumbo

     So, you came to check out the blog?  Thanks.  I was a little lonely out here in cyberspace. I wanted to comment on a couple of things.   First, I went to a conference called Byte 2011 in Portage La Prairie which was really good for a couple of reasons.  One, I got to hear a message about 21st century learners that made sense.  I'd heard the message recently at another conference, but since the depth of these thoughts and the large shift in thinking that they conveyed was new to me the first time, it was a lot to byte off (sad pun intended).  This time, I got to think a lot more about what I can do in my classroom to take what I've learned and create a better learning environment for my students.
     Therefore be forewarned, if you are my students you will be my guinea pig for the next little while as I try to incorporate those things that are important to know and learn and be, and blend it in with the English curriculum and all of its glorious outcomes.  Oh, and I'll be around all week this week (yay or boo at your own discretion!)
Mrs. H.

p.s.- don't be scared, this means lessons are more about you and what you need to know today, and less about what someone thought you needed to know way back then.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Opening thoughts

Hi all,
Since the program that comes with my website only allows me to blog with myself... I thought I would create and link up to this one. I want to start posting discussion points for my various classes and get your point of view as things come up in class. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions, just remember, clearly identify yourself (no full last names though please so that your privacy is respected. Please put your student # instead with your first name and last initial when responding to the blog. If your student # is not there, I will delete your post since I can't be sure it is you.