Saturday, January 9, 2016

Week 18: Happy New Year! (Week of 1/8/2016)

It's been a while since my last update. I hope everyone had a restful and fun winter break with family, friends, and some well-deserved rest.

We hit the ground running on Monday buy jumping right back into "The Outsiders". We're cruising along on the book and it's obvious to me that the students are truly enjoying this novel. Along with listening to the audio of the book and reading along this week found us Speed Dating again, this time with a review of chapters 5 and 6. We also took a look at the different types of conflict that make a story so interesting.

A necessary part of any good story, conflict is a problem between two or more opposing forces that drives a story. Of the five types of conflict, we're learning about four: character vs. self, character vs. character, character vs. society, and character vs. nature. The fifth, character vs. technology (any tool created for a purpose), will be added when we read "The Giver". As we identified the type of conflicts and who/what is involved, we looked deeper to infer the effect those conflict may have on the characters of the book. I saw many "a-ha/lightbulb" moments this week as one of our essential questions, "how are people/characters shaped by their environment/surroundings?", stepped to the forefront and answers became obvious. As with the refugee project in Mr. Townsend, Ms. Knuttila, and Mr. Benitez's classes, students are seeing that environment plays an important world in how people, and their character traits, are shaped.

Through our review game (Speed Dating), it's obvious to me that my students aren't simply reading the book. They're digesting it, digging deeper, and living this story alongside the characters. They're thinking deeply about how the conflicts these characters goes through shape the plot and the lives of the characters. They were so excited to answer the questions and share their knowledge and opinions with their partners. We're at the point in the book where some characters are changing because of their circumstances and my students are noticing, putting themselves in the shoes of their favorite character and wondering "what if?". Soon, we'll be continuing our character development essay armed with the knowledge of who's static and who's dynamic in "The Outsiders". I predict great success for my students on this essay.

Some upcoming events:
-Independent Book Project Presentations (week of January 11-14)
-the end of the quarter (Thursday, January 14)
-the second District Writing Assessment (take home; historical narrative; week of January 17-21).
Please check in with your student regarding their progress on their independent book project as well as how they're doing in all of their classes. I am incredibly proud of the large number of students who made a mature and responsible decision to hang out and work after school for this week's "G-2 library lab takeover". Three of the four days, I had 20+ students all working hard! The infographics look great; I can't wait to see everyone's presentations and learn about the topic they chose to research for their nonfiction project.

This week, we dug deeper into Edgar Allan Poe's, "The Raven". After a brief review, students were each assigned one stanza of the poem. They then were given the challenge of "translating" the stanza into "2016 language" (something anyone from any class on campus could understand). Up to this point, we've read the poem seven times, defined vocabulary words, and discussed the poem on the surface level through comprehension questions. After doing all that, my students showed me they were confident to continue on to the next step and they amazed me with their "translations"! While this process is a slow one, it's important to slow down and take our time to get a deeper understanding of the poem and to find meaning that just can be found by reading the poem once. I am impressed by my students' attention to detail as we comb through the poem. This process will be all the more meaningful when we jump into rhyme scheme, symbolism, and irony later in the month.

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-How are your grades in all of your classes looking for the end of the semester?
-What did you learn about the topic you chose for your independent book project?
-Did making goals and checking-in with Mr. Laffin benefit you this quarter? Why or why not?
-Which characters in "The Outsiders" are starting to change dynamically? How do you know that they're changing dynamically?
-What do you think you'll do well on in your presentation next week? Where do you think you'll struggle and how can you get help in that area?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

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