I’m behind in my self-paced program — NC Teacher Action Research. The question for the of Sept 16th (see how far behind I am???) was:

If you could change/improve anything in your classroom, what would it be? Take a few minutes to reflect on your feelings about your own teaching.  Make a list of things that “nag” at you as you plan and teach.

  1. more reading; less complaining
  2. figuring out how to get kids to want to engage in the language arts (I love the term for this: agency)
  3. making language arts tie into other content areas
  4. finally figuring out how to balance writing and literature instruction!!
  5. making language arts more active — creative — visible (this is probably my makerspace)
  6. I’m always interested in the technology aspect
  7. I may be somewhat interested in teaching argument — but not enough to actually study it
  8. can I go gradeless? Nope!
  9. more inquiry in English!!
  10. showing student growth without teaching to the EOC

List the areas in your practice that you would like to change or improve

  1. I’m really interested in how to create a more active learning classroom. If the kids are more interested in their phones than what we are doing in class, then I’m doing something wrong.
  2. I stink at giving feedback, even though there is so much research showing its benefits — I think this might be a class management issue.


How can I create an active and agentative learning environment through the use of a makerspace while keeping students on task?

Reflection Questions

Self-reflection (theories): So, I’m definitely of the constructivist argument of education. I think we learn through interactions with each other and in conversations with peers.

Descriptive (describe problem): I don’t think my problem — engagement and agency — is new for the students I teach; however, I see that my students don’t leave their area, for the most part. They make their lives in an area that isn’t really growing in population, yet the ways they learn best –hands on–isn’t privileged in a “college and career ready” atmosphere.  During my time in education, I’ve become better at giving students more say in what we do in class and trying to get them more active, both mentally and physically. And, while I think I have been somewhat successful, I don’t see/hear kids talking about being in flow — where they are totally immersed in an activity/lesson/ process. Plus, I don’t just want a student to be compliant — to play at school. I want to see some passion in in their desire to go further in their learning, which is a difficult concept in a Language Arts class where we read the same texts that their parents (grandparents??) read!

Exploratory (why): This may be where my question breaks down. The “why” of makerspaces interests me — I see the intersections of literacy, writing, and making, but it may not be seen in similar ways by my administration who only cares about test scores. So far, I’ve been lucky in the testing arena — I’ve found myself in the “green” with regards to EVAAS scores, although it’s on the lower end of the standard deviation — and there has been minimal growth in my students’ scores. I need to find ways to gather data to show/prove that making and active lessons engages my students, but I also have to show growth.


So I happened upon this video the other day, and it prompted a writing idea…


Here’s my take: these babies are my sister and me. I posted the vid on Facebook the other day and asked her if she knew why these babies are us. She did the quick take, surfacy answer: “Because you’re always messing with me.” However that is not the reason.

Nope, these babies are us because I’m the one always trying to laugh and find the bright spots in life, while having to deal with her emo-ness. (Watch those babies again and tell me that you don’t think that dark headed baby is emo!). My little sister has always been so much more emotional than I am. I’m not saying that I’m the good-mood girl and she’s not — because she’s the “good time girl” — but the fact is, I’ve always felt like I had to help her stay happy. When she’s gotten mad at me, that madness lasts and lasts, and sometimes feels like it will never end. And, I have to laugh, pretending that the madness doesn’t hurt. I’ve become so good at it, that it’s second nature now; an unconscious act that I don’t even pay attention to.

Until this past week when she really hurt me, and I can’t find the “sunny,” bright side of the situation. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually, and I won’t hold it against her. But right now, I can’t. I love her more than life itself, and I’ve only ever wanted to take care of her. When we were little, I was her translator because no one could understand her speech. We got through our crazy-mama’s craziness together; we lost a brother together.

But through all this, I’ve always known that I had to be the “happy” one. If I was too sad about something, it made her sad, and I didn’t like it. (I still don’t). Back to the baby video, though….the dark-headed baby is fussing some, and the light-headed baby keeps laughing, totally ignoring the moaning his/her counterpart. The conversation probably goes something like:

Baby 1: Don’t leave me.

Baby 2: Haha…I love you. We are best friends forever.

Baby 1: I will always be afraid you don’t love me.

Baby 2: I will never stop loving you.

Baby 1: Even if I do stuff to make you mad or hurt your feelings? Or if I make you feel left out of my life most of the time?

Baby 2: Yes, even then. I will never stop loving you. I might get mad at you sometimes.

Baby 1: You will get mad at me?

Baby 2: Yes, look how you’re eating my arm? I will get mad at you. But I will always love you.

Baby 1: Forever?

Baby 2: And ever!

Baby 1: heehee….

So, for my baby sister….here is some musical advice from me to you:

Keep on the sunny side!!

I won’t be breaking your heart!

I wish for you to know this about yourself and how much you mean to me:

But this is probably what she wants to say to me:

All in all….sisters fight over silly things sometimes. Our feelings get hurt, and it’s always the “last straw.” This tiff will pass and I’m sure we’ll learn something about ourselves, but the hurt I’m feeling right now is pretty strong. Maybe the songs are really for me and not for her. Maybe I’m trying to say that I’m still laughing, but look in my eyes — I’m just too stupid to cry.

“Let’s do something fuuuuuuuuunnn this year,” my colleague Jana whined.

We’re in my classroom, trying to do the beginning-of-year planning that is required by all departments. Both Jana and I feel we’re in some sort of weird holding pattern with our classes. Last year, we saw our freshmen and sophomore students’ faces blurred with boredom and apathy. Neither of us wanted that again, especially in light of the political upheavals and teacher bashing that has become commonplace.

The more we talked and brainstormed, the more I thought about this past Teacher Research Week at UNCC. During the week, we made with words, technology, and science. It felt that Jana and I had happened upon a STEM/maker train of thought that refreshed our outlook on teaching literature and writing.

Our first speed-bump was logistical:  “Is this appropriate instruction? What will other teachers and administrators say when our classes are loud and messy? How much money will it cost to ‘make’?” Thankfully, though, my administrators allow teachers to be independent thinkers and aren’t married to a pacing guide — we are extremely lucky in that regard.

Next, we began brainstorming all the different ways we could create “experiences” with our literature (This term comes from Dave Burgess’ book, Teach Like a Pirate). Our plans for sophomores include: experiencing the story “How Much Land Does a Man Need” by walking the cross country track and burying dead “bodies” (cutouts) at the end; having students dress up for book talks; writing marathons around the school campus and on field trips, and creating digital personas through the Voki website. My class today will make 6-word memoirs of Holocaust survivor stories, and then represent them with pictures.

Our first foray into making, though, came two weeks ago with freshmen and the story, “The Most Dangerous Game.” We wanted the classes to get the feel for the main character’s (Rainsford) stress as he hides in the woods, trying to trap and outwit his antagonist. They had one hour to use recyclable materials they had brought from home, and whatever outside material they could find, to create a trap that would stop an aggressor. Jana and I developed a rubric, not for a grade, but as a guide for their thinking. Each group had to reflect on the STEAM elements, as well as respond individually as to how their group worked together, design flaws and challenges, and whether they thought their trap worked as planned.

The day was nothing short of amazing! In the individual and whole group reflections in my class, I heard things like, “It showed us the stress Rainsford was in”;  “I don’t know if I would be able to think on my feet like he had to”; “Our trap didn’t work because our string was too thin. We should have added a small tree or bush limb”; “We had to listen to everybody’s idea and use pieces of each one”; “We should do this again because we can live the story.”

I am excited about this school year! Just like my students, I needed another person to bounce ideas off of to get a maker movement started, at least in my department. Jana is very good at imagining these kinds of ideas, and I’m very good at getting the curriculum targeted. It takes both levels of thinking to Make Space for Making, and I look forward to continuing these experiences.

For your viewing pleasure:

Run grammar 2On April 3rd, I was able to attend the UNCC Writing Project’s Spring Conference. The keynote speaker, Jeff Anderson, offered a way to use mentor sentences from published texts as a brain-friendly, researched-based from of grammar instruction. It was an amazing day of learning for me, as I hope I show through my Storify narrative.


I also began using mentor sentences in my daily instruction. The first two weeks of my lessons are below:




Storify: UNCC Writing Project Spring Conference, April 2014


Lesson Plan with 2 weeks of mentor sentences: Mrs. McCabe’s Daily Grammar


By the way…this is one of my pet peeves — problems with homonym/homophones !! haha..



So, I wonder….what are some grammar rants you have? How do you handle them in the classroom or in a business setting?


Picture credits: http://tinyurl.com/mjjdcmn       http://tinyurl.com/k44y4v2

sols_6I haven’t posted in TWT in a while, and I miss this community. I’m especially glad to be writing today, as I’m having existential angst with my writing instruction. My sophomores and juniors are so apathetic right now that I’m finding it difficult not to scream every day and pull my hair out!! Sounds drastic, right?

It does until my 2nd grader brings home her work from last week, and in the packet is a story she wrote about a girl named Alex who feels like other girls at school are bullying her because she doesn’t have the right kind of clothes. I have no clue what the assignment was, but the only feedback she had on the paper was a minuscule check mark at the top of the page. When I ask her about it, she says she just wrote something down because she “doesn’t have any stories in my head.”

After this exchange, all I want to do is cry. My high school students feel like my Lily. For so long, their voices haven’t mattered, except for a check mark that they did something. I see them just want to get an assignment finished — not write for an authentic audience or get feedback from me or share with classmates. Writing is something to hide — and to whisper in my ear or on a post-it note that they used to like to write, but now they don’t because there are “no stories in my head.”

My angst comes because the more I try to be mad at the apathetic teenagers sitting in front of me more concerned with their cell phones than my grand lesson plans, the more I see a room filled with tall Lilies….begging me to bring their stories out no matter how much they whine and complain and pretend that they have nothing worth saying.

Why can’t I just be mad?????

CS Lewis quote

nerdlutiont555I’m struggling again to create a literature unit plan for my high school students. We MUST read The Great Gatsby. I WANT my students to read The Great Gatsby. But they will take too much time, I won’t be able to incorporate writing or test-prep, and they will just tell me that they don’t understand this book. How do I know these things? Because this is how they roll!

I’ve worked all day trying to figure out strategies they can use to read and understand this book. I’m drawing/sketching, using Notice & Note language, and writing in the margins of the book. I’m learning more about the book — this  is only the 2nd time I’ve taught the book — but this process is so labor intensive that I really don’t think my 17 y/olds will persist with me. And if we have to read this whole thing out loud, they will DEFINITELY bolt!

So, I’m stuck. Everything is so slow with this group, and I don’t feel like I’m being very structured in my lessons. Stopping the whining now and getting back to reading and notetaking…

Wish me luck

#nerdlution #2

nerdlutiont555I’ve been very addicted to Twitter lately — it’s almost all I do except read very important books!! 😉  The other day, I creeped into a conversation where some important people wanted to re-commit to personal goals. There’s a hashtag, round of blog posts, and a picture to make this all “official”! Here is one blog I read that explains #Nerdlution better than I ever could: Sharpread

I’m making a commitment that for the next 50 days, I’ll do a few things I’ve been neglecting. Here’s the short list:

1…blog each day. It can be here or maybe in my daybook, but writing is a must!

2… SOME sort of exercise. The best way to do this is to follow that blasted Fast Metabolism book!! Just do it, please!

3…have Game Night with Lily once a week. Wednesdays sound good (and with Jake when he’s home).


That’s probably all the resolutions I need to make. Hell, I’m already behind on the first day’s…it’s after midnight. Maybe Dec 1 will be the start date…now if I can just do the math to see when the 50 days are up! haha…

Good news is I’ve read 2 1/2 books this week: One Night That Changed Everything; a skeery book from the WL library (that I can’t remember the name of, nor can I find it!); and half finished with The Sea of Tranquility, a creepy book that Donna told me to read.

I also started another website to house my teaching “stuff” — I’m being horrible by keeping resources in a million other places, so today, I tried to put websites and ideas and documents in one spot. We’ll see how long that lasts! For now, though, I have 4 pages…but the Home page is my favorite. I’m really struggling with staying with teaching, so I added a cute WeeMe avatar (where I’m holding my old Blackberryand a Starbucks coffee),3 videos that inspire me, a poem, a quote by Ghandi (for when I’ve feeling really bad) and, a Spotify

Avatar Me2playlist of 13 songs that should definitely inspire me (or, at least, define how I feel about teaching — when I love it, not now when I’m pissed).

    I know…cute, huh??

That about does it for today’s episode!