Friday, September 9, 2016

Week 3: Plot is "For the Birds" and Academic, Scholarly, and Professional Work (week of 9/9/16)

I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day; I went down to LA to visit my parents and hang out with my brother, Kris, who's just returned home from working on Shanghai Disney for three years. I was also absent Tuesday, as I was in Fresno with Miss Ahearn and Mr. Schalde (as well as Mr. Illig, Mr. Angel, and Mr. Jarvis from LOMS) at a follow-up WEB Coordinator training. I'm really excited for what's in store with WEB over the next year!!!

We continued our study of plot this week, pushing our knowledge from short term memory to long term memory. On Tuesday, Mr. Taylor led the students on a textbook scavenger hunt. Not only does this activity familiarize the students with the English textbook, but it also gets them using their critical thinking skills as they comb through both fiction and nonfiction texts. My students are used to me saying, "Solve your own problem" whenever they can't figure something out. What I mean, and they know I mean, is that they have the tools to be successful (their eyes and brain) right in front of them and should use those tools in conjunction with what's provided. If a student is genuinely struggling, I don't let them struggle for too long. I just like to get my students thinking of how they can solve a problem on their own before asking for help, which in turn helps them to become more responsible and autonomous.

I spoke with Mr. Taylor regarding my students' progress. It turned out that one class period wasn't enough to complete the scavenger hunt AND my students were working hard, so we spent Wednesday and part of Thursday working hard to finish the hunt. We all now have a better understanding of the textbook and our own knowledge and thinking.

On Thursday, we jumped back into plot by watching "For the Birds", another hilarious Pixar short. Armed with our PDP Cornell Notes and our knowledge from last week, we began filling out a plot diagram (what's referred to as "plot mountain" in my class). My classes are really on the ball with their knowledge and understanding of the elements of plot and should do amazing on their quiz next week! The quiz is scheduled for Tuesday and includes both a multiple choice section and a fill-in-the-plot-diagram section (using a third Pixar short). Students can study for the quiz using their notes or my Quizlet flashcard set online.

We rounded out our week by finishing the plot diagram and writing our first ever theme statement. We then spent the remainder of the period getting our persuasive letters into "final form". I provided each student with a checklist that they used to grade their work. They then traded with a neighbor and double-checked each other's work. "Final form" points are always worth 10 points. These points are "easy" points and are given in addition to (but separately from) the assignment's score.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What did you learn about your english textbook this week? What story are you looking forward to reading?
2. What are this week's five academic vocabulary words? Use them correctly in a sentence.
3. Which element of plot is the toughest for you to remember? Why do you think that is? Which one is the easiest?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

Class website: https://sites.google.com/a/slcusd.org/laffin/home

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