Friday, January 29, 2016

Week 21: Do it for Johnny! (Week of 1/29/2016)

Well, we're at the point in "The Outsiders" where we've not only lost Johnny Cade, but Dally Winston also. It's the hardest point to teach because we've spent so long with these characters and love them so much, watching them die brings shock, sadness, and even some tears (even I still get choked up). I love teaching this novel because the students, year after year, get so invested in these characters that it's devastating when they die. How wonderful is it that there are characters so well written that their loss is so incredibly real? (hello, Harry Potter series, I'm talking to you).
Today in class was the definitive proof of this novel's value and why I still continue to teach it. Are there novels out there that are just as engaging but more "modern"? I'm sure there are. Do I want to teach them? It'll take a lot of convincing. When I teach "The Outsiders", I not only "do it for Johnny", but I do it for the sheer love of literature my students develop.

Spend some time talking with your son or daughter this weekend about this part of the book: why did the death of these characters hit us so hard?

Keith Hawkins is coming!!!
At 6:30 on the evening of Thursday, February 4, 2016, Laguna Middle School is welcoming back the inspiring speaker, Keith Hawkins. He was here at Laguna two years ago and was a smashing success. This year, he's back again twofold. On Thursday night, he'll be hosting a parent night here at Laguna for students and parents alike. If you're able to, please make plans to join us for what will be an incredible evening. On Friday, all students at Laguna will get a chance to see Keith Hawkins in a school-wide assembly.

On Monday and Wednesday of this week, I discussed the project guidelines for this quarter's Independent Book Project with my classes. All students received a green packet of guidelines, a blue calendar, and a pink packet of rubrics (I'll be adding another rubric soon). We went over these guidelines and important dates in depth and took a quiz on them on Thursday. Please discuss the guidelines with your son and daughter. Extra copies of the guidelines, rubrics, and calendar are available on my website on the KBAR/IBP tab.

Here are some important notes to be mindful of:
-The first book club meeting is Friday, February 5. Students must have their fiction books by that date and 1/5 of it should be read for the book club meeting.
-Book club meetings will take place on five Fridays: 2/5, 2/12, 2/19, 2/26, and 3/4.
     -A computer lab takeover will be held from 3-4pm 3/7-3/11
     -Presentations will be held 3/14-3/17.
     -Prior to each meeting, students must type (or nicely hand-write) one paragraph on that week's topic. These paragraphs are due in class on book club meeting days. Prompts will be handed out on Monday in class.
     -Topics of discussion will include: story elements (plot, setting), characterization, point of view, tone and purpose, and theme.
     -Students will be responsible for turning a reflection on their group's discussion and progress prior to leaving class on book club meeting days.

And one more thing, the infographics that the students created for their second quarter Independent Book Project are now officially live on my website!!! Click here or paste this link into your browser and explore all of their hard work (

We deepened our knowledge of Edgar Allan Poe this week with an article on tuberculosis, the deadly disease that spread rapidly in Poe's time. Through the article, we learned how the disease effects the human body, the symptoms of the disease, and how easily (or not easily) it's spread. We then took our knowledge and inferred how it effected Edgar Allan Poe, noting that the medical advances we have weren't around when he was alive, causing the disease to spread rapidly without much to stop it. With the world dying around Poe, it became obvious to us why his writing was so dark.

On a similar note, I want to shout-out my AVID class. I got a text from my sub on Tuesday and she was absolutely floored with how awesome my students were! Not only were they respectful and mature, but they had an amazing conversation about Edgar Allan Poe and tuberculosis. They really impressed her so we celebrated on Friday with a movie and snack day. Way to rock it, AVID!!!

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-What character do you most connect with in "The Outsiders"? Why do you connect with them?
-What do you like about your book club book so far?
-How would you describe the main character of your book? What challenges are they facing so far? Do you think they'll overcome those challenges?

Warmest wishes,

Kevin Laffin

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