Monday, March 8, 2010

Middle School Internship: Day 1

(8 hours down, 32 to go)
(urban middle school, quite diverse population, weird to see no uniforms)

Um wow. I'm tired!

Tired in that trying-to-take-in-as-much-as-possible way. It was actually a pretty low-key day. The supervising intern, Ms. S. has been a media specialist for 20 years, and was a social studies teacher for 12 years before that, so I definitely have a lot to learn from her. She has never taught prep, but focuses on running the media center and often runs small discussion groups (there are kids in and out of the media center all day long), works with individual students, and will be in classrooms pretty much all of the 4th quarter teaching research skills in collaboration with the teacher. Previously she had to simply shut down the media center, but she is fortunate to have a full-time volunteer right now that keeps the circulation desk going so that kids can still check out books and work.

This week the school is hosting the Scholastic Book Fair. Ahh, the book fair. I have very fond memories of book fairs, and since I have not had the opportunity to host one so far, it is definitely a learning experience.  It's pretty cool, actually. Scholastic seems to be a good company to go through for book fairs. Unfortunately I'm not working in a school that has the chance to host a book fair, since there really isn't as much profit for it 1) in elementary schools and 2) there isn't anybody to run it since I'm teaching classes all day. Bummer.

So today was pretty mellow, however I was mistakenly assuming that because no actual classes were taught, that it would be a quiet day. Like I said, there were kids in all day long. Some in to take Accelerated Reader tests, some in with classes to check out the book fair, some were in to complete online assignments (it was frog dissecting day, so they were in to do an alternate assignment, worried about the dissecting).

I already have a cooperating teacher for my collaboration part of the internship. Ms. J, a language arts teacher came in to talk to me about a lesson she is planning on doing with her 7th grade class. She has one of the computer labs reserved for the time tomorrow. Students are going to be working on the concept of main idea, and supporting details using the website TweenTribune. Her class has already been introduced to this concept, so this is a lesson to support that learning. MCAs are also coming up, and I know that in my district the concept of main idea has been a weak link. This lesson will help support that aspect of the MCAs.

As I had never used this website before I took the chance later to become familiar with it. I think it will work perfectly for the lesson. TweenTribune contains short articles from around the world, many of them written by students. Ms. J's class will first create a username and password on TweenTribune, so that they have the option of commenting on the articles. Students will then be directed to different articles which they will read and decide on the topic, main idea, and also write two supporting sentences. Ms. J has already started a graphic organizer* to guide students along, which is perfect for the assignment as main idea can sometimes be a bit abstract to students, and a graphic organizer helps students see it a bit more concretely.

It is a pretty simple lesson, but I think it is a great 21st Century Skills lesson. The concept of main idea aside, students are learning to interact in a global community, which is a skill that will be more and more necessary as they progress through their lives. Students will be gaining perspectives from different areas throughout the world and possibly differing viewpoints when they also view the comments other students have made, and make their own. So much casual writing today is done in this type of arena. Local and national newspapers are now informing the public via websites, which most often have the option to leave comments. I get most of my news on StarTribune, and I get almost as much information from reading the comments other readers have left, as I do from the article itself, not to mention I see the obvious need to teach students how to interact in this type of online community. We will not have time to get into that type of lesson tomorrow, except maybe in passing.

I also had the opportunity to run two discussion groups (sent in from an AP language arts class) about the short story The Most Dangerous Game (I read it quickly while I had lunch, and fortunately was given some discussion ideas from the language arts teacher). We talked a lot about what was inferred in the story. It was really nice to have the chance right away to work with students (and they didn't seem at all shy to talk to me), especially in discussing a story. I really enjoyed it, but remember again how fast-paced some middle school students need things to be. Fortunately just as I was starting to worry about what else could be said (and after I'd impromptu had them draw a picture of what they thought the island in the story looked like), it was time for them to go back to class.

The truly exhausting thing, though, was resisting all the books! I'm not used to having so many books all around me that are more "grown up" (one gets tired of seeing only elementary library books). I kept having to resist the urge to grab a book and go hide in a corner to read it. It was seriously difficult. I even had the opportunity to read during my lunch time, but instead I worked on the 2010-2011 prep schedule. Which was relaxing in its own way, like a particularly difficult sudoku puzzle.

I know I'm going to learn a lot from this experience. Teachers hardly ever have time to see others at work, and its really the best way to learn.  Ms. S and I had the chance to chat a lot about what we do and although nothing in particular jumps out at me about our conversation, just talking about our perspectives on education and how the role of the media specialist has evolved so much over time was good.

*Graphic Organizer: used to be called a worksheet, but amped up a bit. It is a document that is used through a lesson to guide a student to the lesson objectives. In the case of the TweenTribune graphic organizer, we are going to have each article named (and where to find it), along with a place to write the topic, main idea, and two supporting sentences. Without this tool, using just lined paper for example, students are given more opportunity to misunderstand the objective.

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