Last week, we spent one day brainstorming ideas for our Frederick Douglass writing (there were three options or others that students came up with), one day collecting evidence for our choice, and then we began writing. We finished this week, and papers are already getting back to students to revise and resubmit to improve their skills. The rest of this week, we focused on "fun" writing challenges, then used the last one to look at through a couple of perspectives, including stereotypes.
We've been really digging into The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The strategies we're using are annotating and paraphrasing in order to comprehend this complex text better, and the skill we're practicing is introducing quotes in our writing. Some students are listening to it being read aloud, and others are trying it on their own. This challenging text is bringing about great discussions - most generated by the students. We'll be writing a polished piece in response to our reading starting next week.
Welcome to fourth quarter!! The week prior to break, we finished our "Teach Me Your Talent" presentations and also had a visit from AHML's youth services department for book talks. Check out the video in the post below for sights and sounds from students sharing their talents and hobbies - what great speaking and listening practice, too!
This week we jumped into The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, one of my personal favorite units. We'll be reading, discussing, and writing about this until Taft comes along. This week our focus was only on the first chapter, and we continued to work on two reading strategies - annotating and paraphrasing. Seeing students learn from each other - while looking back into the text for evidence of their ideas - is something of which I'll never grow tired. Have you ever read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? Google the full text online and read it along with us!
After the hectic schedule that PARCC testing brought (along with two "Mystery Skype" sessions), we hit the "speaking" portion of ELA class pretty hard this past week. Taking tips from Erik Palmer's book, Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students, we prepared for our short demonstration speeches. See our notes in the PDF below for specific activities, and here's a brief explanation of our "Teach Me Your Talent" week:
Thank you to all the parents who came to help us this past week, and to those who will visit next week! It helps many students to step up their game if they have an authentic audience in addition to their peers! This was also a great week to get in the 1:1 conferences we needed to have in order to fairly and accurately determine your child's grade. Please reach out with any feedback you may have regarding this system. I know it's not perfect, but I believe the grades we came up with together are more accurate than having a computer average points. It takes a bit of class time, but Mrs. Rehberger and I love the valuable conversations we get to have with students while they reflect on their learning each quarter.
We finished our short story unit last week - and it culminated with students writing a newsletter or newspaper article about their stories. They had many choices - stories to read, activities to try, and writing options. What wit seventh graders demonstrate when given choice! This past week, we focused on analyzing poetry - see our "scholars' notes" for titles and authors. We read each poem about five or so times, looking for new information each time so we could truly understand the nuances of each. (We then practiced with PARCC-type questions, as well.) We ended the week with a student-selected topic for our article of the week - swimming dogs who help children who are disabled in some way.
We are immersed in our short story unit. Students have been choosing the stories they'd like to read (six out of twelve), and also the assignments they'd like to do alongside each story (one for each story). We're also starting our next writing - a newspaper article - where we have to provide sufficient evidence to back up our claims. For grammar, we've focused on complex sentences, and we added a "read aloud" element to our last two weeks. We started and finished Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Ask your child what the premise was, and then ask what happened next (or maybe - what SHOULD happen next)...
Soon we'll start some poetry and share our talents. Quick note: We will have a practice PARCC session on the Chromebooks to get familiar with the tools again, and yet we will not "study" for PARCC in March. All year, when asking comprehension questions, we've been "studying," so do not fret if your child does not come home with anything to study. Reading, reading, and MORE reading (and then writing about and/or discussing that reading!) will be what helps them improve from year to year.
Last week, we read two more short stories - "Thank You Ma'am" by Langston Hughes, and "The Miracle Worker" (Act 1) about Anne Sullivan. We briefly reviewed conflict, setting, characters, and reading "signposts." Then third quarter hit. It's time to do something different and give students more control...
Students this week were introduced to an independent study short story unit. They'll have a choice of six stories (from 12). They will then share their notes and understandings with Mrs. Rehberger or me before they choose an activity (out of 18) for each story. Students and teachers are learning what Schoology can do, as this time the classroom resources and assignments are directly connected to Schoology. All of our resources are on one document - check it out here! Below are our detailed notes from the past two weeks - along with further reading for you and your middle school child.
Thank you for reaching out when you have questions or concerns!
Welcome, 2018! The first two weeks of the year, we wrapped up our science fiction unit, but I won't be surprised if students continue reading this genre! They didn't all realize what "science fiction" meant, so they didn't even know they were reading it at times! We also dug into some science FACT this week, as first we took on various perspectives and then gathered evidence for roundtable discussions regarding autonomous vehicles. These discussions will change as they grow older and get ready to drive... the future should be interesting, for sure! These last two weeks of second quarter also included time for me and Mrs. Rehberger to meet one-on-one with students regarding their learning in ELA. These conversations are golden - they are so very valuable. Even if we were using "typical" grades, I'd love to have these conversations with your children. Be sure to check out the paperwork that comes home next week for the bigger picture. Check out our "scholars' notes" below for more specifics about our week, and enjoy the photos!
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:) Here are some reminders (again) as we head into 3rd quarter:
Letter regarding grading information: ELA Grading Information for Parents
Video describing why we’re using feedback in lieu of grades: Feedback in Lieu of Grading in ELA
Video describing how you can view your child’s progress: PowerSchool “How To” for Parents
We all made it to winter break! We finished our Schoolwide pilot for ELA, and now we're in the middle of our science fiction unit. We've been reading Ray Bradbury stories and have also read a script for a "Twilight Zone" episode. See all we're doing on our scholars' notes for weeks 15 & 16. Here's wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season surrounded by loved ones, full of laughter and new memories.
Further Reading: "10 Tips for Helping Your Child Cope with Holiday Stress"
Simply email me 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). We hope to see you in class this year!
Mrs. Joy Kirr