To Be or Not To Be – Teaching the Standards

This is the first year in teaching middle school that I have had to focus on a full schedule of ELA standards (and there are hundreds of them.) I began the year by teaching reading strategies and the craft of writing but when the first Benchmark Test scores arrives I got caught up in the teaching standards rather than application of reading and writing. I quickly discovered how to bore the children and myself and you know what? They did not get any better. After retesting some of the skills the scores actually dropped.

At that time I pulled off of the book shelf a title I had bought two years ago and began to read, “Write Beside Them” by Penny Kittle and realized that I had to resort to Oprah’s mantra – “What I Know For Sure” and that is students learn to read and write by actually participating in the activities and not by isolated skill lessons. Adults do too! I spent the Thanksgiving weekend revising my schedule and added “Quick Writes,” “SSR” and a block of time for targeting writing rather than trying to cram into the ninety minutes block two standards-based lessons. Now I focus on only one standard, looking for ways to embed it into the quick write, SSR, or targeted writing.

It’s a start. I am in no way where I want to be but I feel as if I have taken steps onto the right path on a long journey. The second benchmark scores arrived and they were a bit better (still nothing to brag about) so I believe that I have not “harmed” my children with my beliefs. Thank you to the Penny Kittle’s out there who share their classrooms and talents not realizing where or who they may influence to begin again.

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