Sunday, February 28, 2016

Week 25: The Great Water Debate and the Tell Tale Heart (week of 2/26/2016)

This week, we moved on from "The Outsiders" into our new unit, Tap versus Bottled water (you'll see our thoughts on tap water (left), bottled water (right, middle), and how schools should provide water for students (left, bottom)). This unit is an argumentative writing unit that tackles the question, which is better, tap or bottled water? Throughout this unit, students will be reading multiple nonfiction texts to determine whether tap or bottled water is better, and also figuring out what better means to them; is it better for your health? for the environment? This unit will also get students to take a side in the argument and build their case with cold, hard fact. We've already stated our opinions multiple times in the mere week we've been talking about water and many students have reasons that they believe one is better than the other. By the end of the unit, we'll have a sound argument backed with scholarly facts.

The end product for this unit is an argumentative essay. As before with "The Outsiders" character development essay or the expository (informative) essay with the bullying unit, we'll be working on this essay piece by piece. I like this process because it takes the pain out of writing. We'll be writing together in class under my guidance. Mrs. Schwoerer blessed us with our very own class set of Chromebooks that officially  resides in G6 so we're set to work whenever we want. Building the essay together makes it easy to catch mistakes or answer questions early so the process is smooth. Plus, it makes the need for a computer or internet access at home close to none, so it's a win-win for all of my amazing students.

I'd also like to touch on the current gradebook. I've been getting a lot of students asking me this week, "when are you going to grade [assignment that was turned in late]?" Rest assured, I'm working hard to get all of the work I've collected graded and in the gradebook. However, it should be noted that I am grading the on-time work first and the late/absent work when I'm done. I have one pile of the bulk, on time assignments that I'm currently digging through. That means that I may not get to late or absent work for another week or so. I apologize for the delay, but on-time work is my priority. Please rest assured that I'm working diligently to get all work graded and in the gradebook. I like to keep my gradebook as current as possible.

Speaking of moving on, we moved on from "The Raven" this week and started "The Tell Tale Heart". After such a fun unit on symbolism in "The Raven", my students were begging for another Poe classic. We began by listening to the audio of the short story on Monday. The students loved the chilling rendition that slowly transformed from eerie and quiet to sheer madness. The story itself begs the question, is the narrator a reliable narrator? Why or why not? We'll be looking at the narrator's reliability as well as the different types of irony (situational, verbal, and dramatic).

To start, we combed through the short story and pulled out the vocabulary that we didn't understand. I reminded my students to imagine I was giving them a quiz on the vocabulary and to choose words they'd think would be on the quiz. I, of course, was not giving them a quiz but I wanted to get them thinking about really digging into the meaning of words and truly asking themselves, do I know what this word means? We played Kahoot! on Thursday to study 20 of the words that are really important to understanding the short story.

Our week ended with my favorite board game, Pictionary. The class was split into two groups and they competed against each other in drawing a picture that accurately represented the word their groups would be trying to guess. They had a lot of fun working as a team and supporting each other to get the clues.

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-What are the pros and cons of tap water? What about bottled water?
-Has your opinion of which is better, bottled or tap, changed since last week? Why or why not?
-Why is it important to include facts, or concrete details, in your argument? What does it do to your argument?

Warmest wishes,

Kevin Laffin

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