Saturday, April 16, 2016

Week 31: Mailing our Letters and Visiting Stanford and UC Santa Cruz (week of 4/15/16)

This week, we officially finished the Tap versus Bottled Water unit. Starting Monday, we took our research, discussions, and understanding of the effects of tap and bottled water and used our knowledge to craft a persuasive letter that will be sent to the district office. The prompt for this letter was: The district office will be providing students on campus with water, how should they provide it? Choose from 1. drinking fountains with bottle fill stations using tap water, 2. water coolers in every classroom, or 3. daily water bottles provided for students.

Monday and Tuesday, we began gathering the facts we'd use as support from the articles we read as part of this unit. We then started the process of crafting our ideas into full, cohesive arguments and began working with counter-arguments. In seventh grade, students are expected to begin acknowledging counter-arguments as part of their overall argument. While it's a tough concept, my students did incredibly well incorporating the counter-argument into their letter and then using their support facts to prove their own argument. Wednesday and Thursday were dedicated to editing, critiquing, and refining our letters with most students printing, signing, and turning in their letters on Thursday. Students who didn't get a chance to finish Thursday will be given one more day in class to work, Monday, April18, 2016. After that point, it will be up to the student to complete the letter on their own time and turn it in for credit.

With the end of the water unit comes our final unit, The Giver. With this popular novel, we study the idea of utopias and dystopias and their failure or success (cause and effect). It's a really engaging novel because dystopian literature has become incredibly popular these days with series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner. We'll also be tying our 4th Quarter Independent Book Project to the novel and its ideas. I'll have more on The Giver in later blogs.

Before Spring Break, students checked out biographies or autobiographies on the person of their choice. In this case, I allowed and pushed for students to choose shorter books. Similarly to the 2nd quarter nonfiction book project, we'll be adding online research into this project to make up for the shorter books. The culmination of this project will ask students to apply for one of the jobs listed in The Giver as the person they read about. They'll be tasked with picking the perfect job for their person and then going through a job interview in front of the class, essentially arguing that their person is best for the job they've chosen to interview for. Because no job interview is complete without a resume, we'll also be creating a resume for our biographical figures using relevant, well-chosen facts from their life.

 On Friday, Mrs. Dellinger took our seventh and eighth-grade AVID trips on a tour of the Stanford University and University of California, Santa Cruz college campuses. The college trips are an annual tradition for the AVID classes and an integral part of our program. Students in the AVID program are students who will be the first-generation in their family to attend college. The AVID program not only fosters organization skills, study skills, and effective communication/questioning skills, but it also provides these students with the support they need to see the bright future in front of them and succeed.

 The AVID college campus tour does just that. It shows these bright, budding students that their hard work and dedication can lead to a bold future. At Laguna, the AVID students are driven, hard-working students who seek the best and hold themselves to a higher standard with their eye on the prize. The college trip is an opportunity to reward them for their hard work and to show them exactly where their hard work can lead them.

We were lucky enough to get to spend the morning touring the Stanford campus. The students were tasked with a "Selfie Scavenger Hunt" where they were asked to find three important campus buildings, locations, etc. with their group. They then needed to take a "selfie" with it and make note of the location's importance to the entire campus. We ended with lunch at the Tressider Union and a quick stop at the bookstore before getting back on the bus. At UC Santa Cruz, we took the students on a driving tour of the campus before parking. Once we got off the bus, we visited the Wellness Center, Upper East Field, and walked past the Cowell Apartments on the way to the McHenry Library. At the library, we got a personal tour led by two incredible student volunteers! The students were amazed to find out that the college library has a lot to offer, just like the LAMS library: computers for all students to use, couches, chairs, benches, and other places to sit and study, a yoga corner, study rooms where students meet and view movies for classes or study in a quiet location, and even an outdoor study porch. The students, although tired, really enjoyed the tour.

Mrs. Dellinger and I are incredibly impressed by the maturity and responsibility our students showed yesterday. They were on time to all meetings, their behavior was on-point (and noted by the students and staff on each campus), and they handled the disappointment of skipping the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with finesse. Although they were disappointed to miss the boardwalk, as Mrs. D and I were, they took it in stride as they reflected on what the trip was truly about; visiting colleges and looking towards our futures.

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-Now that you've written and mailed your letter to the District Office, what have you learned about effective arguments?
-Why is the editing process important to writing? How did your writing change this week as a result of the editing process?
-What are the strengths and weaknesses of the person whose biography you're reading?

Warmest wishes,

Kevin Laffin

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