Saturday, November 14, 2015

Week 12: The District Writing Assessment (Week of 11/13/2015)

The Anti-Bullying Projects were turned in a second time on Monday and I have been working to get them regraded and online. My goal is to finish with these projects by Sunday evening. Students who signed up for the regrade will receive a second rubric with their final grade on it. On PowerSchool, grades that have been changed will have a note stating so.

This week, we worked hard on the end-of-unit writing assessment for the nonfiction/bullying unit. On Monday, we worked together for one final day on our practice assessment. After reading the prompt, annotating the sources and our notes, and practicing the short answers, it was time to try our hand at the practice essay. I showed my students my thought process as we wrote the introductory paragraph and a body paragraph. All students went home Monday with the printed full version of the practice essay we wrote in class, which was annotated to show them each specific element of the essay.

Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday were spent diligently working on the writing assessment, this time on their own. I am impressed with the amount of thought my students put into their work. As I walked around the classroom to monitor progress, I saw many highlighters saving important facts and pens writing notes for the answers students would be writing later. Some of my students finished their work on Thursday but the bulk of them finishing on Friday. For students who didn't finish their tests, we'll be working on them before school, after school, and at lunch over the next week.

Finally, we're moving on to our next unit, "The Outsiders". We'll be looking at plot, theme, and characterization more in-depth as we follow the exploits of Ponyboy Curtis, Johnny Cade, and the rest of the greaser gang. Students will begin the unit by briefly researching a facet of the 1960s (as it pertains to "The Outsiders") to present to the class. As we read the novel, we'll watch the characters come to life before our eyes and trace their development as life throws everything it can at them. This unit's culminating writing assessment is historical fiction, which students really enjoyed last year. We'll be taking this writing assessment in January 2016.

All students will be provided with a copy of the book for in-class use. Students are not required to have their own, purchased copy but may want one for note-taking and rereading at home (a lot of students find that this is one of their favorite books). The copy that matches the version we're using in class can be purchased here.

In AVID, we had our first tutorial since returning to the drawing board last week. As I walked around the room, I heard my students' knowledge pouring out as they helped their classmates tackle the tough questions. Through our week revisiting Tutorial Request Forms, 30-second speeches, and AVID Questions (Costa's levels of questioning), the students were really able to make great use of their time and benefit from this process.

On Thursday and Friday, we switched gears and wrote 6-word memoirs. We started by reflecting on what makes us us and wrote freely on that topic. After a brief free writing period, I presented my students with the real work of the project: whittling down an entire story or feeling into six words. My AVID students truly impressed me with their ability to take what they'd written and pare it into six words, capturing both what makes them special as well as the emotion behind it. It's not an easy feat, but these brilliant students did a great job!

Friday was spent turning those six words into an eye-catching poster. After showing students some examples from my past classes (as well as my own, pictured below), I set them free to work. Friday was one of those days where creativity and freedom worked together to accomplish amazing products. As I walked around the classroom, students were working hard and talking very little, even though they had the freedom to talk, as they turned their not-so-simple task into art. On Monday, we'll be presenting our stories to each other in a gallery walk style presentation. I can't wait to hear all of these stories and see the finished products!

Conversation questions for the dinner table or the drive home:
1. What topic did you choose for your second quarter independent book project?
2. What resources have you found for your second quarter independent book project?
3. When is the second quarter independent book project due? What can you do to ensure you're using your time wisely?
4. How did you prepare for the district writing assessment (short answers and essay)?
5. What are you looking forward to over Thanksgiving break?

As always, questions, comments, and concerns are always welcome. Please feel free to contact me with anything.

Warmest regards,
Kevin Laffin

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