About shanecronin

I'm Shane; I teach 9th grade English in Jackson, MS. Aside from this I eat pasta for almost every dinner, relax in my ergonomic chair on my porch, enjoy the fine weather of the Deep South, read private detective novels and drive an Oldmobile.

Whole Group Reading Doesn’t Have to be a Drag

Kids bookshelf with German and American childr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the biggest problems I encountered as a first year English teacher was structuring a lesson around whole group reading. Although I learned and practiced strategies at Institute as to how best to do to this, for whatever reason, I lost my toolkit once at my placement school. I had no idea how to make my love for reading contagious nor had I the confidence to even attempt boisterous analytical discussion. I was at a total loss when it came to facilitating the understanding of key textual ideas. Therefore, I tended to just bulldoze through a text, forcing kids to read for 30 minute periods, and asked a few questions when we finished. As a result, students relegated reading to the mundane task that I made it out to be.

During second semester I was brave enough to read a novel with my kids. Even though it was a high-interest text (LeRoy and the Old Man) aimed at their reading level, reading for long stretches was still a drag. After 30 minutes of it, only those with the greatest stamina remained fully engaged.

By the time I taught my second novel The Contender, about a boy who learns to box, I found a few strategies to break up seemingly endless pages of text.Here is a quick reference list of tips to make reading more exciting in your classroom (with or without technology).

By |May 20th, 2013|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on Whole Group Reading Doesn’t Have to be a Drag|

Where’s the Joy? One Easy Way To Introduce the J-Factor

The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Up until Thanksgiving break I did my best to present myself in the classroom as a hard ass; I never smiled, permitted bathroom breaks, lent pencils or paper, supplied tissue or anything else. “This is high school. Bring your own materials, and pee between classes” I told students from day one.

I enforced these rules vigorously, in part, because I was told these were best practices when instructing students in challenging environments and largely because I was terrified of being walked all over. At the same time I made parent phone calls almost every day praising students, actively updated my shout out wall and offered extra help every afternoon.

Taking the advice of Julie Andrews, I was firm, but kind.

Around the middle of October I administered brief surveys to all my classes (a typical student survey response is pictured below). In response to the statement “Mr. Cronin cares about me” students overwhelmingly indicated “I don’t know.” This answer surprised me most of all because I absolutely care about every one of my students. However, almost three months into the school year few seemed to know it.

After some reflection, one thing I realized was definitely absent from my classroom was the “J Factor.”  There was little, if any, joy in my lessons. I attributed a lot of this to my nerves, which still weren’t comfortable with 20 something teenage faces glaring at me.  To effect change I began observing my colleagues and their classrooms for ideas. Here is one simple, concrete strategy I’ve implemented in my classroom to bring the “J Factor”.

By |February 26th, 2013|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on Where’s the Joy? One Easy Way To Introduce the J-Factor|

Say What? Dealing with Severe Disrepect

(Photo credit: David Goehring)

(Photo credit: David Goehring)

Shortly after I began teaching I was stunned at many of the things my kids said to each other right in front of me. And the words directed toward me were like a Jet Li punch in the head.

I have one student, let’s call him Steve, whom I had a lot of difficulty with in the beginning of the year. During the first week of school he stole a laptop from my classroom; I know this only because his father returned it to me the following day.

Within a few weeks Steve was goofing off all the time; he threw pens, pencils, and a plethora of unidentifiable flying objects across my classroom (hitting me in the head on occasion). He did almost no work and had become, frankly, a nuisance. I wanted him out of my room.

Just after the bell rang one day I noticed Steve was not sitting in his assigned seat. He was pushing the envelope with me in every way, and I was in no mood to go to the mat with any student about the seating chart so I curtly asked him to move. His response: “Man, fuck you!” It wasn’t one of those under-the-breath, I’ll-let-that-one-slide kind of “Fuck you’s.” Everybody heard it. So I buzzed the office, and he was suspended for a day or two.

When he returned, Steve’s attitude toward me didn’t change. It got to the point where any time I interacted with him was a negative experience. I completely blamed him for overreacting to directions such as “start your Do Now,” or “take out a sheet of paper and pencil.”

Finally, well into the second term, I asked myself what do I do with a student like Steve (not to mention the many others I have like him)?

By |December 7th, 2012|Teaching Tips|212 Comments|