Saturday, September 3, 2016

Week 2: Climbing Plot Mountain and Making Noise in the LAMS Library (week of 9/02/2016)

This week, we studied the elements of plot and how they interact to create a good story. To do this, I always start by showing a Pixar short, this time it was "Presto". We then dove into our Plot PDP Cornell Notes to discover each part of an effective plot. PDP, or pre-during-post, Cornell notes are an effective note-taking strategy aimed at having students solidify the information they're learning. To do this, we begin with a prediction by answering the essential question. This prediction gets the students thinking about the concept without having the fear of being wrong, as it doesn't matter if they are right or wrong. This is the "pre" portion of the notes. The "during" is the actual note-taking process when we write definitions and look at those elements in the Pixar short. The "post" portion of the notes is a summary. Students have to summarize their entire notes packet using five vocabulary words, which I have chosen for them. This week, my students asked if they could challenge themselves to include the school-wide academic vocabulary in their summaries in addition to the five words I chose. I was floored by the students' great idea and offered one point of extra credit for each of the five academic vocabulary word they used correctly. I got some amazing summaries!

I also introduced my classes to their IBP, or the Independent Book Project. Each quarter, students will be completing a book project to show that they have mastered the concepts taught in class. These projects allow students to self-select a book and allows them to read it on their own timeline; I also go over a sample timeline for students who need support figuring out how much to read each night in order to be successful on the project. This quarter's book project is on fiction and the book must be: one they've never read before and over 150 pages. The book cannot be "The Outsiders" or "The Giver", as we'll be reading those in class.
The written portion of this project is due Friday, October 7, 2016.
The presentations for this project are Monday, October 10- Friday, October 14, 2016.
***Project guidelines and rubrics were sent home this week***

The written portion will focus on a short author biography and a theme statement, complete with evidence from a credible, online source. The presentation will be a book talk: a brief, five-minute-or-less presentation with short author bio, book background information, and a short passage read from the book they chose.

I'd also like to spend a moment talking about PowerSchool. This week, parent usernames and passwords were sent home for PowerSchool. I'm asking my students to be diligent and check once each week and I'd suggest the same for parents. No one likes a surprise at the end of the quarter and middle school teachers, especially myself, don't check in or send home progress reports nearly as much as parents would like. There are only a few grades in my gradebook at the moment so every point carries a higher value. Missing assignments are automatic zeros until they are turned in, regardless of if the student was absent or not. You'll notice that the zero drops the student's grade considerably, which is exactly why it's a zero instead of a blank space in the gradebook. Assignments can be turned in until the end of the quarter they were assigned in. Late assignements receive 10% off of the points earned; absent work is given one day for each absent day to be turned in before late credit is assigned. For more grading policies and PowerSchool support, please visit my website (PowerSchool Support, Grading Policies).

Lastly, we spent Thursday and Friday in the library with Mrs. Schwoerer for library and tech orientation. I really enjoy spending time in the library because it is such a cool space. Mrs. Schwoerer showed us the ins and outs of the library and checking out books, talked to us about all of the fun, interactive activities the library has throughout the year, and helped us check out books for our Independent Book Project. We also explored the Gale Database and ETC Portal, two academic search engines. I walked my students through how to get their work in "final form" using their persuasive letters. It was a great week in G-6 and the library!

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. Why is it important to have your typed work in final form? What does "final form" even mean?
2. What are this week's five academic vocabulary words? Use them correctly in a sentence.
3. What book are you reading for your independent book project? Why did you choose it? What do you like about your book so far?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

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