Friday, September 11, 2015

Week 3: Things are Heating up in the Classroom (Week of 9/11/2015)

Both figuratively and literally speaking, things have heated up in G-6. The weather turned the normally comfortable classroom into a sauna-like atmosphere. Thankfully the heat wave appears to be over... for now.

My English classes continued work with nonfiction. On Tuesday, we completed our nonfiction quizzes from last week using our amazing three-day weekend to study and then finished our Elements of Nonfiction notes (the structure of nonfiction this time). Tuesday, we put our knowledge to work and applied it to the "real world". Using an article about the Johns Hopkins ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we read, annotated, summarized, and chunked the nonfiction piece. We used the "five steps to success" to get there: read once to understand (no note taking or highlighting), read a second time to discover important words, phrases, and statistics, read a third time with a partner, this time looking at the main idea of each paragraph.
After three readings, we jumped into "chunking" our article by main ideas. Students were able to see the structure of the piece once they identified main ideas. By chunking the piece, students have an easier time understanding the article because each chunk is summarized and responded to. Summarizing the article chunks gives students a deeper understanding of the whole piece, synthesizing the information and putting it in their own words. Responding to the article allows students to ask questions, make comments, or connect the article to their own lives to elicit discussion. On the whole, reading, chunking, summarizing, and responding to the article took two days and my students rocked it! The heat didn't make it easy, but they read and reread, and then read again with great energy and participated in "brain breaks" to give us, well, a brain break.

AVID's challenge this week was the handshaking and introduction challenge. Students were first taught about proper handshakes and introductions as well as the benefits and appropriate times for those handshakes. We did a "handshake train" to practice and helped each other to find success in introductions. At the same time, we read nonfiction articles on the history or ice cream and one woman's lifelong love of chocolate chip cookies and practiced our Cornell Note-taking strategies as well as the nonfiction strategies tackled in my English class.  As usual, the drive and energy of my AVID class is such a nice way to end my day. Even with the heat, we ended the day as a classroom community, laughing and learning. Ms. Ahearn invited us into her class on Thursday for an early "Fun Friday" activity dealing with speaking and listening.

Friday found me at the District Office with the entire middle school English team where we learned about writing and the Common Core. I've received a lot of great strategies from our presenter, Julie Adams, and my students will benefit immensely. With the guest teacher, my English classes took a look at "commonly confused words" and made posters to present to their classmates, helping everyone understand how to decide which word to use. My AVID class created posters to present as well, but their focus was the topics covered in AVID so far and the value of those topics.

Don't forget to be awesome!!!
Kevin Laffin

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