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Thinking Ahead

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There are fourteen days of school remaining.

Not that I’m counting or anything.

But one really great thing about teaching is that I get to start fresh every year.  If I tried something this year and it didn’t work, I can do it differently next year!  And there are several things I want to do differently next year.

I had ordered and purchased some vocabulary books for my 7th and 8th graders this year, and it started out okay.  We did a chapter a week, doing a pre-test before we began to see what the students knew, and I tailored the homework to their pre-test results.  There was a quiz weekly at the end of the chapter, and a unit test every four weeks.  But it got to feel like way too much testing and grading, and I had some students who got great grades on the tests and some who got poor grades on the tests and even adjusting the lessons didn’t seem to help.  So then I had the more advanced students doing projects and the other kids doing the workbook, but then the advanced kids got lazy and didn’t put much effort into the projects and the other kids still weren’t doing much better on the tests.  Plus, I didn’t love the tests that the book provided (it was all multiple choice — matching definitions and such — and no requiring the students to actually use the words in context or use their brains to figure things out.  It was just memorization).  Plus, some of the definitions were a little off, in my opinion.  So I chucked it.  With 8th grade I started introducing Greek and Latin roots instead, and with 7th grade we’re just looking at the vocabulary in the fiction we’re reading.

Plus, I have a high school etymology class that I’ve taught for the last two years.  I was thrown into it last year since I was hired after school had already been in session for a month, and I just used the vocabulary workbook I had used in high school.  It worked okay last year, but it’s been pretty miserable this year.  Again, it’s a ton of memorization rather than figuring out and using words.  Not only that, but the SAT is changing, so memorizing a bunch of obscure words won’t be as helpful in the future as it was in the past.  Another curriculum was recommended to me — one that focuses on Greek and Latin roots.  So next year I’m switching to that instead.

The photo above shows a variety of books I have found (our school library often gives away teacher resources) and that I plan to use next year.  I’m going with Word Roots by The Critical Thinking Company for my etymology class.  I’ll use ideas and exercises from Red Hot Root Words for my middle schoolers, and for all levels I’m hoping to get some ideas from Bringing Words to Life.  The other book pictured, The Kids’ Stuff Book of Reading and Language Arts for the Middle Grades has ideas on vocabulary, grammar and usage, reading, writing, and study skills.

Not only am I brainstorming vocabulary instruction, but I’m rethinking note taking skills for my students.  I’d like to have them write more and give more speeches, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time.

So, yes, the school year is almost over, and I’m doing my best to finish the year well.  But my brain is already in next year.


About Karen Koch

I like the old-fashioned lifestyle. All this new-fangled stuff baffles me sometimes. I cherish living out in the country, raising chickens and rabbits, planting fruit trees, and enjoying a slow life filled with beautiful words and ideas. I don't always achieve a slow life. I teach middle school English and manage a little burgeoning farm with my husband, and somewhere in the midst of that, I try to find time for writing, running, knitting, reading, and playing the ukulele. And sometimes, I actually succeed.

3 responses »

  1. There is nothing wrong with thinking ahead. 🙂

    I read “Bringing Words to Life” a few years ago. I found some useful stuff in there. I’m sure you will like it.

  2. This kind of thinking helps keep you excited & fresh each year – so good job!


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