Monday, August 29, 2016

SubLog: A Tale of Two Classes

I love subbing half days, and I love subbing in my own subject areas, so I was thrilled when I was notified of a half day in English at F. High School.

I waited for Ms. C.’s kids to leave the class and introduced myself. I found out that the next period was her plan bell, followed by lunch, so I would only have two classes. Woo hoo! This was going to be a piece of cake. Or so I thought…

6th bell. The students wandered in after lunch and I greeted them. Some asked what we were going to do, and I pointed to the agenda displayed on the Smartboard. When the bell rang, I got everyone’s attention, introduced myself, and explained that their teacher had gone home early. I said they would be reading and annotating an article, then answering some questions on it.

As the students were coming in and reading the agenda, I had heard a few kids asking, “What’s annotating?” so I asked the class to explain annotating, and a few students gave examples. I thought we were ready to go, so I said, “Okay, get started with the reading, and when you’ve finished, you can come up and get the worksheet.”

During my introductory spiel, a few kids had been horsing around and chatting, but I thought that would calm down when it was time to get down to work. It didn’t. Kids were just blatantly talking across the room. I shushed. They got quiet for a few seconds, then started up again. I grabbed the clipboard with the roster on it and I started walking up and down the rows, looking for names on papers and binders. After a few more “shushes” and “back to works,” I started making marks by the names of the noisy kids. One girl noticed.

“Why’d you make a mark by my name?”
“Because I’ve asked you more than once to get to work.”

The class exploded. “Did you mark my name?” “Did you mark my name?” Most often my reply was “not yet.”

Eventually things calmed down again for a few minutes, but never longer than that. I continued walking around, but every time I bent down next to a student’s desk to answer a question, the rest of the class grew noisy. All that I felt I could do was continue walking around urging each student to stop talking and get back to work, with the threat of a mark if they didn’t.

Ugh. Another class of this?

7th bell. In addition to the introduction I used with the previous class, I had a student read the quote at the beginning of the article, which was the basis for the first question. This had given the last class trouble, and I figured it would help to discuss it together. But things really turned around when a student asked, “Can we read the whole article together?”

I hesitated. I know some kids don’t understand what they read when they are reading out loud. Other kids will tune out. Some students don’t read out loud well. But it couldn’t be any worse than what had happened sixth period, could it?

“Okay, who wants to read the article out loud?” About two-thirds of the class raised their hands. I read the title of the article, and pointed out the author’s name, which I know from experience that some students tend to skip over. Then I called for a volunteer for the first paragraph.

We read the whole article together. I called for volunteers; when no one volunteered, I invited a particular student to read, and allowed them to decline if they wished. By the end of the class, everyone had read, even kids who had passed before. One fellow seemed particularly antsy, and I gave him the option to stand at a bookcase at the back of the room and work there. He gratefully accepted. I had two students pass out the questions, and everyone got to work.

Everyone got to work. And they worked until they were done. I walked around helping, answering questions, and made not one tally mark.

What was the difference? Was it just the kids? Maybe. But I think it was reading together. The students and I worked together, and in just that fifteen or twenty minutes, we had created a bond. Not a strong one, but we set a tone: we have work to do, and we can do it together. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

VocabLady: Pique, peek, and peak

Bonjour! I think I've found a niche for my VocabLady posts: English words borrowed from French (like niche, hee hee). So let's get started with a little troublemaker that I see frequently abused on the Interwebs, pique.

Piquer in French means to sting. You can hear the word clearly here in this French music video from 1988 for a song called "Mosquito," sung by child star and model, Vanessa Paradis. No comments on the quality of the video, please. It was the 80s. We didn't have smartphones or the Internet. We shushed our little brothers when our favorite song came on the radio and recorded it on a tape recorder. It was like living in caveman days. 

But back to English, we use the past participle, piqué, to describe a textured fabric that has little holes and bumps -- that looks like it's been stung or poked. 

We also use the verb, to pique, to mean to stimulate, to arouse an emotion, like interest or anger. 

Example: The stranger's casually arrogant statement that he could beat anyone in the room at Scrabble piqued the VocabLady's interest, as well as her pride.

That would be magnifique, but English already has two other words that sound exactly the same (homophones), peek and peak.

So here are three mnemonics to help you remember this troublesome trio:

1. Peek: The word peek means to peep, to look furtively

You can remember it because the two matching e's are like two matching eyes, as in this precious graphic from (even cuter animation on their site).


2. Peak means top or height, like a mountain summit, when it's a noun, and to reach the fullest height, as a verb. 

Example: VocabLady's Scrabble game peaked when she spelled "pique" with the Q on the triple-letter square.

You can remember this because the letter A in peak has a peak at the top

The Oatmeal has done a fantastic post on sneak peek vs. sneak peak. 

3. Pique means sting, poke at, or otherwise arouse emotion. 

You can remember it because the Q's tail looks like a stinger

Can you remember the difference? If you can, with no peeking, you are at the peak of your homophone game, and you will pique others' envy by going forth and using these three words correctly!


A little more history, in case you are interested:

peek, late 14th century, origin unknown (Online Etymology Dictionary)

peak, mid 16th century, perhaps from picked, meaning pointed (Google); or, a variant of pike, a sharp point (Online Etymology Dictionary), both of which ultimately go back to French pique

pique, also mid 16th century, borrowed French word

Friday, August 19, 2016

SubLog and VocabLady!

Hi! As you may know, I've created a separate blog for my jaquitos, named, appropriately enough, So I'm going to use this blog for all my other methodical madness.

My husband and I are planning to move to Denver as soon as one of us gets a job, so I didn't sign a teaching contract this year. Instead, I'm going to be a Substitute Teacher! I'm going to use this opportunity to work on my skills at connecting with students, since I won't be able to focus on the academics so much when I'm on my one-day missions to Save the Day. I'll blog about my experiences here in a sub-blog called SubLog.

I'll also be using this space to start posting about my new dream job: VocabLady. When I was an English teacher, I (and many of my colleagues) had the following problems: first, when students use rote memorization to cram vocabulary words for quizzes, without really learning why the words mean what they do, they usually don't retain much.

Second, English teachers are overworked. In addition to teaching their content areas (literature and vocabulary), they are also constantly working on the fundamental skills of writing and grammar -- because when kids write poorly, other teachers blame us. In addition, English teachers tend to have more and longer essays to grade than other teachers, and we have to grade them both for content and for mechanics (grammar, spelling, etc.).

So, how to get students to retain more vocabulary, and give English teachers a little relief? By hiring me, VocabLady! I will come into English classrooms on a regular schedule (once a week, every other week, once a quarter...) and teach kids the analytical foundations of grammar: classical roots. I was told in an AP English professional development seminar that that the second-best way for kids to learn vocabulary is through Greek and Latin roots (the best way, of course, being to read a lot). The teacher can give me a list of words, or she can have me choose them. I teach the kids how to break down the words and figure them out. I can provide assessments, and I can grade those too, if the teacher desires.

I basically take over one aspect of the English teacher's work load, and give the kids tools they can use in any subject area to learn more words.

So please follow me here to learn how a sub can save the day, and to expand your vocabulary with VocabLady!