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On the Shoulders of Giants

Ariel Sacks

May 30, 2014

Masters of Our Own Ships

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In my previous post, I wrote about a valuable practice in reading intruction: reading alongside the students during independent reading.  Often an in-the-moment decision, reading alongside students can be used when the mood in the classroom is just perfect and joining in the reading makes more sense than disturbing students' reading, and other times when the mood is frenetic, and modelling silent reading is more helpful to students than any other measure. 

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Ariel Sacks

May 28, 2014

Under-Rated Teaching Strategy: Read Next To Them!

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It was fifth period, sometime last week (it's late May), and students should have been reading quietly.  Generally, I would be using this time to have conversations with individual students about their reading, check over their reading notes and give some quick feedback, or read aloud with a small group.  But on that day, I hadn't gotten into a groove with any of this. That was because at one table, a group of students had gotten themselves into their own groove of striking up a conversation every time I didn't have my eyes on them.

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Ariel Sacks

May 20, 2014

Expanding Definitions and Opportunities for Mentorship

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Earlier this month I shared advice on the power of mentoring that comes from my own experience with an amazing advisor. Find a mentor and keep in touch, I wrote, and that will help keep you stay connected to your purpose for teaching. The comments I received in response to this were very interesting, and expanded my thinking on the range of mentoring experiences from which teachers benefit. It's clear that most of us have found people to learn from in this profession, but the nature of these relationships and our needs vary. 

Here are some ideas that came out of the comments:

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Ariel Sacks

May 12, 2014

What Teachers Want--Or So Say Students!

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Teacher Appreciation Week is a time of mixed emotions. I can't lie-I thoroughly enjoy the perks; but ironically, the very existence of Teacher Appreciation Week seems to prove that we are more often not as appreciated as we should be. This week, as I found myself unexpectedly covering a silent study hall, I pondered what I might write to recognize the particular tension of TAW. As the period came to a close, I decided to see what my students might say about it, with no idea what I'd hear.    

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Ariel Sacks

May 1, 2014

Why Mentorship Matters

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It's spring: I feel alternately exhausted from the year that's moving quickly to a close, and a sense of renewal that takes its cue from the seasonal weather and the end of winter.  It was a perfect time to visit my mentor, Madeleine Ray, who advised me during and beyond my time as a graduate student at Bank Street College. Seeing her teach, and being reminded of her values and sensibilities, always feels a bit like going home.

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Ariel Sacks

April 28, 2014

Product Placement on State ELA Test?

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While teachers might not be able to review and discuss the tests, it's near impossible to stop adolescents from criticizing something when they have a strong reaction. Remember when the students blew the whistle on the ridiculous use of the Pineapple story, posting on social media about it, to the point that the press and the state responded? Well, this year, my students shared with me their concerns over another unsettling, though less absurd matter: product placement in the reading passages.

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Ariel Sacks

April 23, 2014

Mindmap of Teaching & Learning Forces

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In 2010, before speaking on teacherpreneurship at the Big Ideas Fest, I drew what I was imagining in a mindmap in my notebook.

Sometimes, you just have to draw it out. Tonight, I drew my second ever mindmap. This map is really a follow-up to a post I wrote in 2012 about the competing forces in education: professionalization and standardization. It's raw, and I expect to have forgotten some things and to have oversimplified others. Please comment!

[You might need to zoom in your View to comfortably read it.]

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Ariel Sacks

April 1, 2014

Testing Eve

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I almost didn't write about testing this year at all.  In fact, two reporters from prominent NYC news publications contacted me in the last week to talk about how I'm preparing for the NY State ELA test, which will take place over the next three days.  I didn't respond.  That wasn't because I don't respect the journalists or their need to cover standardized testing as news; I didn't respond because I felt I didn't have anything I wanted to say.  I don't mind tests in general, but I'm sick of this yearly game.

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Ariel Sacks

March 23, 2014

Chancellor Fariña on the Best ELA Test Prep

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On Friday, NYC School Chancellor Carmen Fariña sent out a message to principals, which a friend shared with me. In it, she recognizes the pressure principals and teachers (not to mention students) are feeling about the upcoming state tests, but urges principals to keep the tests in perspective. She reminds readers that engaging project, trips to historical sites, oral presentations, are what "make students enthusiastic about coming to school" and are still remembered decades later.

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Ariel Sacks

March 17, 2014

Who Gets To Write Fiction? A Response to Walter Dean Myers & Chris Myers

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This morning I was among many Americans who read word for word, side by side, the beautiful and searing pieces by two of my lit-heroes, author Walter Dean Myers and his son, author-illustrator, Chris Myers. Respectively titled, Where Are the People of Color In Children's Books? and The Apartheid of Children's Literature, both pieces speak to the lack of color in the characters children meet in the vast majority of the literature available to them.  

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