Friday, November 6, 2015

Week 11: Bringing out the Writer in all of US! (Week of 11/6/2015)

I hope everyone is enjoying their day off and has a restful three-day weekend.

As a reminder, ALL STUDENTS in my English classes are being offered a chance to have their Bullying Project products rescored (using the information on their returned rubrics to make the necessary changes). Students need to be signed up in class in order to let me know they'd like to be rescored. Students no on the list won't get their projects rescored. I will be rescoring on Monday, November 9, 2015.

English Milestones
This week was our first real week tackling writing. Sure, we've written quickwrites, note summaries, and Precis paragraphs a lot this year, but we have yet to tackle a longer piece of writing. Starting Monday, we looked at informational/expository writing (the terms are synonymous so I teach both). As part of our nonfiction/bullying unit, students are assessed on their knowledge of bullying through brief research. This research leads them into short answer questions and a longer essay. You may hear the term "district writing assessment" this weekend, and that's exactly what we've been practicing this week. Next week, my students will get the real thing and I know they're going to do very well.

On Monday, we learned briefly about informational/expository writing through PDP Cornell Notes. My students have a great knowledge of nonfiction and were able to apply it to this style of writing. Tuesday, we took a look at a sample assessment and began combing through it. This process, while long, gave students a chance to really look at the assessment style and to dissect the prompt to ensure they wrote everything they needed. As their guide, I walked them through the assessment and modeled my thought process as I "unpacked" the prompt (looked at exactly what it was asking for), took notes on the video component, and took notes on the provided articles.

On Thursday, we got a chance to put our knowledge to the test as we answered our two short answer questions together. My favorite part of the day was when students exclaimed, "This is easy! You were right, Mr. Laffin!!!" after working themselves into a frenzy earlier this week. The assessment looks and sounds like a lot, but it's really a simple process (read, annotate, and answer) that I know my students will do very well on. It wasn't until we walked through it, with my modeling and support, that the students realized that they were freaking out over nothing (a point I tried to make daily).

The assessment next week is timed. Students will have one day to annotate their sources (read their articles and watch the video) and answer the short-answer questions. The following two days will be dedicated to planning and writing their essays. It sounds like a lot, but if students paid attention to the process (which was slowed way down this week), they should have no trouble on the actual assessment.

AVID Milestones
In AVID this week, we really focussed on writing Tutorial Request Forms. I noticed last week during our Tutorials that things were starting to go awry. It didn't hit me until last Thursday's tutorial that we really needed to go back and really take a look at the process of filling out a Tutorial Request Form. Truthfully, this realization dawned on me as I showed one student the difference between a good TRF and a not-so-good TRF. My realization led me to create three sample TRFs to show the class. Together, we filled out a TRF for math, English, and science as I modeled my thought process (as a confused student). I feel like the students are starting to understand this difficult process a little better and I'm confident we'll be able to move on to bigger and better things. We also practiced turning our TRFs into 30-second speeches, which are integral to beginning each Tutorial. The 230-second speech is a speech where the "leader" presents their original question, process, and point of confusion to their group as a means of getting everyone on the same page. When everyone is one the same page, we're able to be better helpers and the Tutorial process flourishes.

This week was also sprinkled with our favorite game, "silent ball" and "extreme silent ball" (which isn't actually silent, as the name implies). Students have to pass a ball to another student in class and each student only gets to catch/throw the ball once. This is all done in complete silence. Every round is timed and students get quicker and quicker as we go. Rounds are over when someone talks or drops the ball. For "extreme" silent ball, everything is the same except for the fact that we get to talk. Actually, we have to talk. Before throwing the ball, one must say the student's name and one fact about them (I give them two minutes to talk to as many people in class as they can before the game starts). Overall, we had a great week and learned a lot

Conversation questions for the dinner table or the drive home:
1. What is informational/expository writing?
2. During the assessment, how can you assure you're making the best use of your time?
3. How does being aware of structure in your writing help make timed essays easier?
4. What is one thing you enjoyed about this week at Laguna?

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to send them my way.

Warmest regards,
Kevin Laffin

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