Sunday, August 28, 2016

Week 1: Welcome to Laguna, Where Everybody Belongs (week of 8/26/2015)

The first week of school was quite an active one. Not only were students moving from class to class, but they were up, moving, and talking to each other each day in my classroom. There are many reasons I try to keep my class active. One, it gets my students comfortable with talking to one another (which will come in handy as we do class presentations throughout the year). I expect my students to talk to their classmates on many different levels: think-pair-shares and elbow partners, small group collaboration and projects, and whole class presentations. I'll be teaching my students how to communicate more effectively throughout the school year and I'll also be helping them become comfortable classroom presenters. The second reason I get my students up and moving is something I'm sure we're all familiar with, "booty lock". Sitting for too long not only puts the booty to sleep, but the brain as well. If students turn-and-talk to their neighbors or get up, move around, and share with multiple students in the class, their blood gets pumping again. Not only that, but the knowledge is also being repeated multiple times, ensuring that students understand it more deeply. Lastly, listening to my students talk breaks up my day and shows me where they are in their knowledge and understanding of the concepts taught in class (are they getting it or not?). Whether they think I'm listening to them or not, my ears are all over the classroom. We'll be getting better at conversations throughout the year. I look forward to their academic and scholarly conversations.

On Friday, I gave my students their first major assignment in my class. I asked them to imagine that on Monday half of the seats in my classroom would be gone and they'd have to "fight" for their seat in the class by persuading me, via an introduction letter, to keep them in my class. I saw this assignment online and really liked it. Through this letter I'll get to see many things: their writing style, what level their persuasive writing skills are at, and, most importantly, I'll get to know a little bit more about the type of people my students are.
This assignment was assigned on Google Classroom. Each year, I challenge myself as an educator to try something new. Two years ago I challenged myself to forgo assigning homework. I give assignments in class with ample time to work. Any work in my class that makes it home is because class time wasn't used properly. I'm also more useful in person than I am via Remind or email. Last year, my goal was more student talking and better groupwork/projects. You'll see later this year that there's more structure when my students are working collaboratively, which then holds each student more accountable for their portion of the project. As there always is with group projects, there will be group grades and individual grades. However, the individual grade will be worth much more, so students who fail to complete their portion are more affected in their individual grade and the groups is only minorly affected.

This year's goal was to go paperless (enter Google Classroom). What I like about Google Classroom is that each students' Google Classroom account is directly linked to their Google Drive account (and mine as well). That means no worrying about saving documents; Google Drive does it automatically. I'll be able to receive, grade, and return assignments online. So much easier! I'm also going to try to not rely on printed documents as much this year, saving students time and the stress of waiting until the last minute to print and finding the library is mobbed by like-minded students. Students can access their Google Classroom account using their student email address and school password (provided on their schedules).
I understand that computers and internet are not available to all of my students. Please be aware that time is given in class to work. My classroom and computers are also available before and after school for work. Students who do not have tech access at home should make arrangements at school to complete their online work. These arrangements should be made prior to the assignment's due date. Waiting until the day is due to tell me that internet/computers weren't available will result in the assignment being late.

Lastly, we'll be spending Thursday and Friday of next week in the library with Mrs. Schwoerer. One thing I love about Laguna is that each English class takes students to the library for library orientation. Mrs. Schwoerer is an incredible asset to our campus and the students will see that first hand. On Thursday, we'll be getting a general library overview and checking out books for KBAR (kick back and read). This quarter, students will be reading fiction. Please check my KBAR page for more specifications. On Friday, we'll be getting a tech crash course and looking more in-depth at the Google Platform (Drive, Docs, Slides, etc. and Classroom), learning how to use our research databases, and looking at other digital resources that will make our lives much easier.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. Which one of Mr. Laffin's classroom policies surprised you? Why?
2. What will be the toughest element of your seventh grade year? How will you make sure you're ready to face this obstacle?
3. What are you looking forward to during your first year at Laguna? Why are you looking forward to it?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

Class website:

Join my Remind classes to receive reminders and updates. Text the following codes to 81010:
Period 1- @laffin1
Period 2- @laffin2
Period 3- @laffin3
Period 4- @laffin4
AVID (Period 6)- @avidlams

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Week 0: Welcome to Laguna, Where Everybody Belongs (week of 8/19/2015)

Hello parents and guardians (and any students who happen to be reading this). This blog is a weekly "what's happening" in my classroom. I'll be emailing out the link each Friday or Saturday to keep you in the loop. If you would rather not receive the weekly email, feel free to shoot me an email and let me know (I won't be offended, I promise).

Welcome to Laguna Middle School!
I hope that your final week of summer was relaxing and stress/anxiety free, especially for the students. On Monday, August 15, 2016, Miss Ahearn, myself, and 65 eighth-grade leaders hosted the inaugural WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) Orientation. You'll hear a lot about the WEB program this year so I'll explain the program and its purpose before we jump into the ins and outs of my class.

The WEB program (LINK at the high schools) is a transition and orientation program geared towards easing anxiety for our incoming seventh graders while creating a cohesive, inclusive campus environment for all students on campus. Monday's orientation started with a whole group assembly led by a crazy teacher with way too much energy (see: me). After some inspiring and enlightening activities disguised as fun and silly, the eighth-grade students took their seventh-grade group into the classrooms for some small group activities. Students got to know each other really quickly through teambuilding and get-to-know-you activities with the awkwardness subsiding as quickly as it started. After the small group activities, the eighth-grade leaders took their small groups on a "Stories of Laguna" campus tour. All seventh graders will receive another campus tour on the first day of school but that tour is more formal and rule oriented. The tour they went on Monday was focused on the school and its impact on our leaders who shared stories of their favorite classes, teachers, activities, clubs, and moments from their seventh-grade year. After tours, students met back in the gym for a closing assembly complete with free t-shirts, dance parties, and words of wisdom. I really enjoyed being able to share my love of Laguna with the incoming seventh graders. More importantly, I'm incredibly blessed to have a group of 65 student leaders who love this school as much as I do, who shared their love with the incoming class to ease their transition and show them that Laguna truly is Where Everybody Belongs.

*If your son or daughter was unable to attend orientation or didn't get a shirt for some reason, send them to G-6 (my classroom) to claim their shirt. EVERY seventh grader has a shirt waiting for them.*

As for my English class, we have a lot to look forward to this year! I'll be talking about my class a little more in depth next week, both in the blog and at Open House (Thursday, August 25, beginning at 6:30pm). In a nutshell, we'll be speaking and listening, reading and writing, changing and growing, and having a lot of fun in my class this year. If there's ever anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to ask.

Other things to be aware of:
-My class website can be accessed here
-Please join my Remind class (text @laffin#, replacing the # with the period number, to 81010). It's free and phone numbers are NEVER exchanged.
-Consider follwing my teacher account on Instagram, @thelaffinplace. You'll see what's going on inside and outside of class as well as the adventures of a certain, well-known amphibian who isn't having the easiest time being green.
My brother, Kris, and Kermit enjoying the Great Wall.

Questions for the drive home and dinner table:
-What are you looking forward to in middle school?
-Did the WEB orientation help ease your anxiety (if you had any) about going into middle school? What helped?
-What's one goal you have for yourself this year?

Warmest wishes,

Kevin Laffin