Friday, September 25, 2015

Week 5: Let the wild rumpus start! (Week of 9/25/2015)

Life in G-6 is heating up and we're buckling down into the nitty-gritty of the English and AVID curriculum.

My AVID class is getting ready for their first tutorial, slated for next Tuesday. This week, we learned about the Tutorial process and how to fill out a Tutorial Request Form (TRF) in preparation for the big day. We've talked our way through the notes we've taken, deepening our understanding of Tutorials and writing Tutorial Request Forms. Students also discussed the difference between good questions and not-so-good questions. This process is important so we're as successful as we can be for our first tutorial. Of course, it's our first go-round and we'll learn what else needs to be done for success, but taking that first step is important and we're all excited to be doing it.

In my English classes, we took our knowledge of nonfiction and continued to apply it to the Precis Paragraph (a means of summarizing non-fiction writing in a scholarly, concise way). We wrote our first paragraph together as a class and the students' final written piece sounded great! It's a long process at the beginning, but it'll help us to become better writers.

After we finished our Precis Paragraphs, we switched gears into studying plot and theme in preparation for our 1st Quarter Independent Book Project. We'll be returning to our study of nonfiction next week and looking at it through the lens of bullying (and how to solve the problem) but I figured we'd take a brain break to let the information solidify in our brains. When I teach plot in my classroom, we go over the plot diagram (what I'm calling "Plot Mountain") with definitions and then use a story to give concrete examples. I discovered a teacher online who teaches plot using the ever-so-popular Pixar Shorts and have followed suit. This week, we watched the hilarious "Presto" and identified the characters (and their changes), the various plot elements, and the turning point of the story where everything started to change. I like teaching plot with the Pixar shorts because they're short, entertaining, and easy to follow making for a fun and engaging lesson. Once we finished plot, we were free to move on to theme (lovingly referred to as "Theme Island").

Theme is a tough subject to master, but through an inventive way of teaching theme (that my mentor in Southern California came up with). Along with the Pixar shorts, I teach theme through picture books, like "The Three Little Pigs" and "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs". This week, we read Maurice Sendak's classic, "Where the Wild Things Are" and wrote our theme statements based on the book. Students worked with partners to turn the subjects of the book (what the story is about) into theme statements (what the book/author has to say about the subject). It's a tough concept to grasp, but my students are such deep thinkers this year that they rocked their first theme statements. I know we're going to go far this year!

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

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