Sunday, May 22, 2016

Week 36: SBAC Testing and the 4th Quarter Independent Book Project (week of 5/20/16)

This week in English and Math, students took the SBAC test. State testing has been one of the most stressful weeks for students in my young career, and even before when I took the CTBS version as a student. For most students, it's all over now. My students buckled down and put their noses to the grindstone to get through the testing in my class. Everyone used the time given to them and answered the questions as best they could. I'm very proud of my students for how they handled the testing this week. If any student didn't finish the test, makeups will be held on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. The good thing about SBAC testing is that it's done when the student finishes, not when the in-class testing window closes. Everyone will have the opportunity to finish their test with as much time as they need.

Students who finished their tests before the window closed received the Job Interview Prep Sheet (not pictured) for their fourth, and final, Independent Book Project. This handout is available on my website, as is the Guidelines Sheet that many students seem to have misplaced (as with all handouts in my class this year, I ask that my students hold onto them until the end of the school year just in case). We will be skipping the resume portion of this project due to time constraints.

In order to complete this project correctly, students need to have their person researched completely. We started the quarter by picking out a biography (which I stressed needed to be short and succinct so students weren't bogged down with the reading). When students finished, they were instructed to move into individual research using the method they were most comfortable with (more books, the ETC Portal/GALE database, documentaries, etc.). The students, having a full understanding of the person they read about, then took the IBP Guidelines sheet and chose a job from the Community in the Giver for their person to apply for; the list is on the back of the Guidelines sheet. They're applying for a job from the Community in The Giver as the person they read about in their biography. This project pairs their nonfiction reading with the fiction novel we're reading. The Job Interview Prep Sheet presents the students with the five interview questions they'll be asked June 1-4, 2016. Students need to answer in the present as if they are the person they read about (whether that person is alive or dead, they're speaking in present tense). I also provided hints and tips on how to answer those questions (on the same handout). Please go over the answers with your son or daughter and, if possible, hold some practice mock interviews at home. Students will not be able to use their answer scripts when they interview.

Lastly on the interview, there is an extra credit opportunity (the rubric is available on my website). For four points of extra credit, students can dress to impress for their interview. I'm not asking my students to dress up as their person, I'm asking students to dress professionally. I'm bringing the point up for two reasons: dressing up as the person will be distracting from the interview as a whole and I want to avoid silliness/distractions. Second, I've had dress clothing donated to my classroom for this project. If your son or daughter doesn't have professional clothing, I do not want you to go out and buy it just for this project. I have the clothes and I am more than happy to provide them for the day of your son/daughter's interview. Everyone now has the opportunity to earn the four points of extra credit for dressing up. Note: the "school appropriate clothing" point value is incorrect on the rubric. Coming to school in school dress code is worth three points, not two as specified on the rubric.


It was a quick week in AVID this week due to the testing block schedule. On Monday, we took our knowledge of Poe's works (The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Cask of Amontillado) and completed a triple Venn diagram, comparing and contrasting all three stories at once. I had students start by working independently for a couple minutes. Then, I had each student give one of their answers to the class (I wrote their answers on the whiteboard) before they were allowed to get into groups to complete the Venn diagram. As they worked in their small groups, I walked around and talked to the students to hear their answers. Every group came up with at least one answer I really liked, so I encouraged the students to write their own answers on the board for the rest of the class. I am, as always, incredibly impressed with how deeply my students thought about each of these stories. They looked at the big, obvious details as well as the minute, seemingly unimportant details.

On Friday, we had an extra long class period. Tuesday-Friday, all classes were one hour and forty-eight minutes long. As you know by now, Fridays are "Fun Fridays" in AVID. I really had my work cut out for me this week. Usually, we play a couple rounds of silent ball or "psst psst" before moving into Pictionary or Guesstures, but I had almost twice the time to fill. What were we going to do for almost two hours!? I didn't want to do the same-old same-old for our only long Fun Friday, so I got to thinking. On Thursday, the idea hit me: we'd do a marathon of teambuilding exercises from the WEB program. These exercises are fillers; that is, they're not something the WEB Leaders will see on Spring Play Day or in their Orientation Trainings (or even Orientation). I got to work and put together six activities we'd do together: Six Letters, Tear it Up, Quick Quiz, Do What I Do/ Do What I Did, Matchface, and Robot Commander. Ms. Ahearn and Ms. Adler joined in on the fun, too! The students had a lot of fun completing these activities and learning the real lesson behind it. Ask your son or daughter what we did and what we learned. I presented the activities to my class, telling them that they're now AVID leaders for next year's seventh graders. Some of my AVID students will be moving on to the Leadership class next year and others are participating in the WEB program, but all will be leaders on campus in some way. We had a lot of fun this week!

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-Practice the job interview process with your son/daughter. Ask the questions and critique their answers, please.
-What problems do you already see arising in "The Giver"?
-Look back to the beginning of the school year: how have things changed for you? What's been your biggest accomplishment this year?

Warmest wishes,

Kevin Laffin

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