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Happy New Year with Higher Standards ~ Tricia Ebner

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Tricia Ebner serves as an intervention specialist teaching gifted and talented students in English language arts classes, grades 6-8, at Lake Middle School in Hartville, Ohio. After earning her bachelor’s degree from Miami University-Ohio, she taught English and reading at Woodland Jr.-Sr. High School in Woodburn, Indiana for three years, then moved to Ohio, where she continued her career. She has earned and subsequently renewed her National Board certification. In addition to classroom teaching, she participates in professional development opportunities in her district, county, state, and nationally as both an attendee and a presenter.
As I sit here with my morning cup of coffee and consider the calendar, it’s clear the new school year is right around the corner. It won’t be long, and my alarm will be going off earlier, my routines will be changing, and I’ll be easily reaching that 10,000-steps-a-day goal as I work with my students and colleagues. It’s a fresh start, and it’s exciting.

Part of what makes this new beginning so exciting is knowing that over this coming school year, I will get to see my students stretching, learning and growing. We will be delving into work based on the Common Core State Standards. I love how having the standards gives me a solid grounding and basis for work, and with that foundation, we can pursue all kinds of avenues of study. This gives me a great deal of freedom and allows me to be creative. I can tailor what we do to my students’ needs and strengths.

For example, one of my classes is going to begin the year by exploring the process the Wright Brothers used to design the machine which first took humankind into powered flight. Through this, I’ll get a good look at how my students work with a variety of texts at a variety of reading levels, as they read articles, excerpts from books, and use video as text to learn even more. They’ll write, discuss, and prepare presentations. I’ll be able to use their work and my observations to decide how best to approach our work for the next unit, so that I can address their weaker areas and keep pushing their stronger areas forward. It’s going to be a great springboard into the work we’ll do this year.

I have some go-to resources that help me in developing solid, standards-aligned lessons for my students. One of my favorites is www.achievethecore.org, which provides all kinds of tools. When I’m considering which vocabulary words are most critical in a piece of text, the Academic Word Finder tool is a great help. The mini-units and assessments found in within the Close Reading Lessons on the web site are a great checkpoint for us, too. Another resource I go to for ideas is Louisiana’s Department of Education website. The curriculum resources offered here are a great starting point when I need to develop a new unit to address student needs. Last year, for example, I saw that my sixth graders needed more work with fiction, so I utilized the Hatchet unit as my starting point. As this year’s students show me want they know and what they still need to work on, I will be making use of these two resources.

It truly is a happy new year. My students and I are going to delve deeply into our learning, using the Common Core State Standards as the foundation. I’m anticipating great discussions about the stories, books, and articles we read. I can hardly wait to read their writing and see how they bring their own voices and creativity to the work. There will be challenges and difficulties, and sometimes I’ll have to make adjustments. Through it all we’re going to learn and grow, and I know that next May, when we reflect on our journey, we’re going to see just how much we’ve accomplished.

It’s going to be a fantastic year.