As I look forward to tomorrow's Freshmen Orientation, I am struck by sooo many conflicting thoughts: Am I ready? and Will I be ready?

Am I ready? No I am not ready but I will be. Well, I will spend the next week getting ready. I have been patting myself on the back because I have my lesson plans done for the next 4 weeks and I do not have that much work to do to my wikisite.

Guess what? We aren't to study short stories as I thought; we will be completing a unit on nonfiction. So what now? As a professional, I can easily switch gears and prepare a lesson in an emergency situation. I will be spending the next week re-vamping my lessons. I am now in the process of collecting magazines, books and other reference materials to aid me in my unit.

Critical reading is critical reading. Whether they are reading Romeo and Juliet or a newspaper document they must take the following steps:
• Picture what is going on
• Make connections to what is read to what they know
• Keep notes on their readings
• Make predictions about what they will encounter
• Ask questions to further interact with the text

The district feels that because students will be reading nonfiction for the rest of their lives that they should be exposed from the beginning and as often as possible. I do agree (although I was not prepared to teach it for another 3-4 weeks but that's another story.) I have spent the summer learning new things that I intend to use in my classes. I pimped up my wiki, found a place for my podcasts, and learned about Google Earth. I have made podcasts, movies, and cards for Quiz-Quiz-Trade. PowerPoints, posters and Think-Pair-Share topics have been selected.

I know that it is essential to move away from boring mindless textbook assignments. I know that in this 2009-10 school year it is necessary for me to teach them and allow them the OPPORTUNITY to show me what they can accomplish. That means that along with going over the required vocabulary and reading skills crucial to successfully reading nonfiction that I must incorporate activities that will engage them. How are they going to learn the keys to reading papers and magazines if I can’t get them to participate in, focus on and perform the minilessons I have developed? I what them to read an article and decide:
• How and why does the author try to persuade you?
• Why were the photos in the article the ones chosen by author?
• Can you identify the facts? The opinions?
• How do statistics and data support the author's perspective?

Will I be ready? I feel encouraged because I know that I will be ready for them. I have enough tools and the wherewithal to be flexible. I do not NEED to stick to the plans that I have spent weeks preparing. I know how to change and adapt. How else can I teach if I do not have those capabilities? What do we do when a lesson falls through? If we are any good at instructing kids, we change. We change something, anything or in some cases everything. As of this moment, I have completed a week’s worth of nonfiction exposures.

I say exposures because that is what I want to do. Expose them to …. Everything. My plan is to read over several chapters of the school’s agenda in an effort to identify the keys to success. I have developed activities that require them to outline the chapter of each textbook. BORING. I know, but once we have done that, each student will record the name of a chapter onto a whiteboard and the class will try to guess the subject and some of the things discussed within the chapter. These interactions between each other are a means to facilitate conversations (sharing opportunities) and it allows them to preview their textbooks in advance. Hopefully not as boring but still necessary and enlightening.

We will make podcasts and vodcasts that will be collected for our mini news programs. Each student will research a person, place and event and then prepare a podcast giving the basic Who? did What? When? Where? Why? and How? These news programs will be uploaded onto the classes wikipage. I feel good about this assignment.
I have identified WOW design components:
CONTENT AND SUBSTANCE The ability to read and summarize material is a needed skill to have for success in school and in life.
ORGANIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE We will use a variety of methods to read, organize and report facts.
PRODUCT FOCUS Their summaries will be used to create a newscast for their group.
CLEAR AND COMPELLING PRODUCT STANDARDS I will model a variety of methods to read, organize and report facts so that they will know what their product should look/sound like.
NOVELTY AND VARIETY Instead of writing the same, old, boring notes they must produce a vodcast/podcast that will be uploaded onto their wikpage.
CHOICE They had no choice real choice about the assignment requirements but they do have a choice as to which piece they will highlight by creating a podcast. (Some choice is better than no choice.)
AUTHENTICITY They are to take information gathered from note taking to create a verbal summary.
PROTECTION FROM ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES OF INITIAL FAILURES Each student will get feedback from me about their choices of topics and they will get feedback from their group members about the quality of their work.
AFFIRMATION OF PERFORMANCE The group’s newscast will be featured on their wikipage.
AFFILIATION It is only through group participation that the complete newcast will be successful.

This year I will have the opportunity to complete many activities that will encourage, engage and involve my classes. I want meaningful dialogue to occur as we complete technology based activities. Hmmm. Will we be able to pull it off? I am ready. I have lessons plans and I am willing to change and adapt when necessary. I guess that the real question is: are they ready? and if they are ready: WHAT ARE THEY READY FOR? I will let you know after I meet them next week.

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