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

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