Friday, September 16, 2016

Week 4: Wrapping Up Plot, the Reading Inventory test, and Progress Reports (week of 9/14/16)

This week began with an exciting game of Quizlet Live and Kahoot, the two study games we'll be playing a lot throughout the school year. These games allow my students to have fun and study in an engaging way. We always begin with Quizlet Live, a game that takes the Quizlet notecard sets (available on my website) and turns them into a group race-to-the-finish. The game automatically puts students into groups of three or four, getting them up and moving around the classroom and interacting with different students. In their small groups, each student receives the same definition. However, each student will receive four different vocabulary words from that week's set and only one student will actually have the correct answer. Students then must talk and discuss their answers to ensure they click the correct answer and move forward on the scoreboard. I like to start with this game because it evens the playing field and bit because all students are talking over the vocabulary and its definition.

We follow up Quizlet Live with Kahoot. While Quizlet Live is a loud, interactive, exciting group game, Kahoot is a loud, interactive, exciting individual game (seeing a pattern here?). Students at this point have seen and heard the words and their definitions many times in the class period and have an advantage for when we move from the group Quizlet Live to the solo Kahoot. I've been playing Kahoot for a little over two years in my room, thanks to the heads up from Mr. Townsend a coupole years ago. This game is similar to Quizlet Live where students are given a question and a choice of four answers. Students must read the question and colored answers on the projector screen and match the color to the correct button on their own Chromebook screen. Sometimes it's a simple question and other times there's a picture component. These games help take simple vocabulary from hanging out in the short-term memory portion of the brain (what we call "recall", mainly used to cram for a test and forget) and pushes it into the long-term area of the brain so students can use the information throughout the year, and hopefully in future years. Both of these games mask studying with a lot of interaction and fun and my students really enjoy these study games!

This week, my students took three quizzes on plot. It sounds like a lot, but each quiz was quick and helped me gauge where we were going, as we're getting ready to move on from plot and into characterization with "The Outsiders". Tuesday's quiz was a vocabulary quiz that students took online. Wednesday's quiz was a "life test". "Life Tests" are where I ask my students to take their knowledge and apply it to something in their life; it's an atypical quiz (though I call it a "life test", it's really a quiz). For this particular quiz, we watched the Pixar short "Day and Night" three times in a row. During the six-minute short (18 minutes in total viewing time), students were responsible for writing down the specific elements of plot from the movie. The students may have struggled with this portion of the quiz, and that's fine. I explained to them Friday that we're still in the infancy stages of our study of plot and we'd be getting better at it as time went on. This quiz was just to measure what we knew and what we needed to focus on a bit more. Friday's quiz was a similar quiz to Wednesday's, but this time it was online and students matched answers instead of writing them. We also went through the movie and the specific elements of plot and took notes before the quiz, ensuring that my students got the information that they were being asked to know.
Speaking of quizzes and tests, this week was heavy with them. It's rare that there's ever more than one quiz or test in my class per week. First and foremost, I try to make my quizzes as low-stress as possible, so even though there were many knowledge measurements this week, I hope my students were comfortable and were able to see their growth as the week progressed. Thursday, we took the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) test; your son or daughter may have taken this test in elementary school as well. This test gives me and our reading specialist an idea of where our students' reading levels are. This test was not worth anything in my gradebook, but I stressed to students that it would really help me to be a better teacher if they took it seriously and showed me their true reading level. As a school, we're working towards getting our students into the classes they need to be successful sooner rather than later. The SRI will help us figure out who needs additional support and who doesn't. It's a pretty low-key reading test that measures a students' reading comprehension. At the end, they're given their Lexile score which is their reading level. Using this number, students can go to or and find a book that they'll understand and enjoy. For example, a student at a 920 Lexile level will have a 75% success rate at understanding a book that is labeled 920L. If a student is reading at their specific reading level, they'll be more successful and will grow, eventually meeting a higher reading level. We suggest not reading above a students' reading level because comprehension goes down and frustration goes up.

Finally, progress reports will be coming out soon. If you or your student have yet to visit PowerSchool, I suggest doing it now rather than later. Progress reports and report cards are usually a time of surprises, a la "I didn't know I was failing." Students and parents alike have access to student grades 24/7 at PowerSchool. Please check your child's grade and help them to get in the missing assignments they may have. I accept late work at a 10% deduction until the quarter ends.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. How did your understanding of the elements of plot change this week? Did it grow, shrink, or stay the same?
2. What are this week's five academic vocabulary words? Use them correctly in a sentence.
3. Look at your IBP book; what elements of plot have you come across so far? How do you know?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

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