After experiencing great weather at Taft for three days, we came back to regroup. We wrote about Frederick Douglass and a moment from Taft, and then we read a bunch and had a book picnic so we could get to know the summer reading books! The next week, we read another article of the week - a satire about fidget spinners! We then wrapped up poetry with "Casey at the Bat," "The Highwayman," and "Nothing Gold Can Stay." This last one is the famous poem from The Outsiders, which is what we've been reading this week! Since it is the end of the year, students know how to annotate and work independently, and the book is fairly simple for 7th grade, we are reading this book Whole Novels style (Ariel Sacks). See our work on this page of the website. We will continue with this for one more week. No spoilers! ;)
Further Reading: Reporting Student Learning
We started out these two weeks looking at four different sources that explained the airline incident that happened in early April. After looking at different perspectives, students realized that they had never had the whole story. We also decided that we are still missing information, and the situation was never about the actual airline itself, but about federal regulations.
We then spent two weeks reading, discussing, and writing about The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass himself. I believe we have more questions about slavery than answers. One of the lessons we've learned is to keep reading from different sources to get different perspectives. There are always at least two sides to every story. We will be keeping this at the forefront, and it's my hope students realize this is true of most things they read or hear.
Taft is next week, so our next update will be May 26th. Woah... this year is going by faster than all the rest!
Further Reading: Sorry, Parents: Middle School Is Scientifically the Worst
Last week, we wrapped up our Study Sync pilot unit regarding challenges of human interaction. We are now shifting gears. We've read two very different poems about the horrors of war ("The Charge of the Light Brigade" & "Dulce et Decorum Est"), and we've actually read them about five times, looking through various lenses.
This week we started with MAP testing, read, discussed, and wrote about an article of the week, and then dug into deciphering the three paragraphs of The Gettysburg Address! It's interesting to see what students know from the text alone, as I try to not share background information as we look closely at the words Lincoln decided to use in 1863.
When students had time to write today, some wrote in response to the article of the week, some wrote in response to The Gettysburg Address, and some wrote narratives or continued with creative writing. We've got two larger pieces of writing this quarter with more requirements than in previous quarters, so many students are buckling down.
Further Reading: How Empathy Is Important for Parents and Teens When Things Get Stressful
The week before Spring Break and the week after... it's a wonder we got any work completed!
The week prior, we celebrated students' hobbies / talents / skills with "Teach Me Your Talent" presentations. It was great to see some students in their element, and others muster up the courage to teach to their peers in small groups! Here's a glimpse into our presentations:
This past week, we began poetry week, which includes a chance at getting student work shared and literally hung on our very own "poet tree" (which is really a branch Mr. Kirr brought in during parent conferences)! We won't make poetry a huge focus in 7th grade, as 6th and 8th grade take on that role. We will have fun with it, however! One poem we read and analyzed this week was "Oranges" by Gary Soto. We then continued with the Study Sync pilot and read point and counterpoint regarding social media use for preteens. This led to discussion and writing about what constitutes a strong argument, and then we were able to have a fishbowl discussion regarding the arguments and preteen use of social media. Social media and even simple phone usage (setting time limits and putting all phones on the kitchen table at bedtime) would be great discussions to have this weekend with your adolescent. Side note: What shocked me was that many students did not think it was wrong to lie about your age when signing up for something online...
For further reading this week, ask your child to open up his or her ConnectEd / Study Sync account and show you the point/counterpoint article we read this week! I tried to find the original online, but, sadly, could not. If your child isn't home this weekend, try this one on for size: The First Cell Phone: Rules for Responsibility
We survived three days of PARCC testing last week! We also read a bit, discussed a bit, and wrote a bit, as well. ;)
To celebrate (or maybe just because we haven't gotten around to it yet and it's NOT tested...) we have been working on speaking skills this week. As always, you and your children can check this part of our website for day-to-day plans (with links) if someone is absent or just wants to "see that video again," and also keep tabs on this page for your children's books they've shared with the class. Hopefully our speaking practice lessons will transfer to our book talks on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Next week, students in ELA class will be teaching their peers! It will be their chance to show what speaking skills they've learned, while sharing something they love (hopefully)! Your child was asked to come up with a talent, hobby, or skill that he/she would like to teach. It could be something simple or a part of something larger. Want to join in the experience? Come join us on Tuesday or Thursday to learn, provide feedback, and see the 7th graders in action.
Here are our days with approximate times, as we're starting class with independent reading and book talks:
Tuesday, March 21
per 2: 8:35-8:53 (Round 1)
per 4: 9:41-10:21 (Finish Round 1 & go on to Round 2)
per 5 & 6: 10:45-11:49 (Rounds 1 & 2)
per 8 & 9: 12:57-2:01 (Rounds 1 & 2)
Thursday, March 23
per 2: 9:00-9:20 (Round 3)
per 4: 10:05-10:42 (Round 4 & 5)
per 5 & 6: 11:00-12:03 (Rounds 3, 4, and 5)
per 8 & 9: 1:05-2:04 (Rounds 3, 4, and 5)
Chat with your child and ask what day and period he or she is presenting, or see if you can decipher our code on this spreadsheet. I hope you can join us for more messy learning!
Further Reading: Emotional Agility as a Tool to Help Teens Manage Their Feelings
This post is coming two days early, as I'm presenting at the ICE Conference this year (Thursday and Friday) as a local "Spotlight Speaker."
We dove into the Study Sync pilot the past two weeks! We began the unit titled, "Getting Along" which included a selection from The Outsiders - way to get the kids excited about reading the entire book after Taft! We also read an autobiographical memoir by Nicholas Gage - "The Teacher Who Changed My Life." We used this as a springboard for more narrative writing this week. Thursday and Friday, we'll be reading and looking at irony and plot elements of "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O.Henry.
Students filled in a midterm survey to check in (as requested by them!), and we had short one-on-one conversations about their evidence. This seemed to be a positive addition to our system! Next week, we'll have PARCC testing, so we won't be working too hard during class time - we won't have class time for each class each day, either. We're hoping everyone gets plenty of sleep and a healthy breakfast each morning, so we can tackle these to the best of our ability.
Further Reading: Standardized Testing Tips for Parents
We packed in tiny morsels of different gems the last two weeks...
We read two poems about fathers, reading them again and again with different tasks so we can sift out the meaning. These close reading exercises led students to discuss the ambiguity of some writing, and how readers can make different meaning depending on our background. We've been adding "PARCC-type" questions to all we do the last two weeks, as well, so students get a feel for the types of questions on the tests come March.
We had 40 minutes of "book speed dating" in the LMC, book talks from students, and time to read. We've had time to write (choice or assigned writing), revise, and give feedback to peers. We've practiced finding clauses and punctuating compound sentences. And then, the last two days, we jumped into exploring the features of the pilot we'll be trying!
All of this, combined with teenage angst... We can DO this!!
Further reading - to help with organization at home! Eight Key Executive Functions
I am reaching out again for feedback from you as to how you think this quarter went regarding our focus on learning over grades. Please fill out this survey - your responses help us moving forward!
Happy Year of the Rooster!
On January 23rd, AHSD25 middle school ELA teachers were learning how to use new digital and print curriculum that is "closely tied to high stakes PARCC testing." We'll be piloting a unit shortly after our science fiction unit. Sharon Nelles sent home a note to this effect. I plan to keep the following in our curriculum: independent reading every day, sharing books at least once a week, choice in writing when possible, revision opportunities, keeping track of our own skills, and we'll continue to work toward our goals for each quarter. I will continue to provide video feedback when possible, and will update Edline whenever I have feedback to provide. Regarding PARCC, we do not focus on teaching to the test, but we do try "PARCC-type" questions throughout the year, and we will be taking a practice test (to help students become familiar with the tools on the computer) before we dive into the pilot curriculum. Students will be taking the PARCC tests in March.
We began the past two weeks with writing - some students chose to write creatively (their own science fiction), and some chose to write their opinions (supported with facts from articles, of course) about whether or not humans should begin to colonize Mars. (The characters in "Dark They Were and Golden Eyed" were originally colonists on Mars.) We then had a fishbowl discussion on this topic. All that joined had thought-provoking points brought to light by the articles they read!
This past week we read a "Twilight Zone" script - "Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." It was great to hear the different voices as we read. We watched part of the old version, then the newest version, bringing to life the "what if" questions students had. We also read "Zero Hour" by Ray Bradbury, and the writing and fishbowl discussions regarding who was "most to blame" were priceless. I hope this week students realized the importance of observing and asking questions before assuming or making judgments. One class actually stated that the different perspectives and the big picture matter, and that multiple characters were to blame at different parts of the story.
Further Reading: The Young and the Riskless
Our first week back, we wrapped up our neuroscience unit by writing an essay regarding how Phineas Gage is similar to adolescents. We spent four periods working on it in class, and students have already revised in order to improve their learning. This past week, we began our unit on science fiction. Here are all of our stories, and, as always here are our notes on what exactly we do each day with the stories.
Our one-on-one conferences regarding our learning for second quarter are going smoothly - some students are more reflective than others, as is the case with seventh graders. My main goal during these is PROGRESS. The goals students are making for themselves will take us further in our learning.
Further Reading: Harnessing the Incredible Learning Potential of the Adolescent Brain
Happy New Year! The week before school let out for Winter Break, we finished most of Phineas Gage's story, so this week we "studied" adolescent brains by reading "Demystifying the Adolescent Brain" by Laurence Steinberg. Parents and teachers of middle school students should ALL read this one, so we remember what's going on when they act the way they do. :)
We've been reading and writing like crazy - back in the swing of things! Next week, we'll be writing our final essay wrapping up our neuroscience unit. Remember, if your child is absent or you'd just like to check in, check out our notes on this page of our Weebly. Students will be providing evidence soon (during one-on-one conferences) for grades they believe they've earned - in reading, writing, and grammar - for second quarter already. Each year the semesters go by faster and faster!
Further Reading: "Demystifying the Adolescent Brain" by Laurence Steinberg
Sign up HERE to come into class in person or via Skype. We'd love to hear book talks (suggestions for good books) or picture books (read aloud by YOU). Just sign up on this site and we'll see you then!
Mrs. Joy Kirr