Friday, October 14, 2016

Week 6: Amazing Presentations and Saying Goodbye to Quarter 1 (week of 10/14/16)

This week, we wrapped up our first quarter Independent Book Project (IBP) by presenting our projects to our classmates. Every student was responsible for presenting a quick author biography, their theme statement sentence, and an exciting, interesting, or funny passage from their book. These presentations were quick and easy, running around 3-5 minutes a piece. During presentations, the students in the audience were responsible for making a note of something they liked about the presentation, something they learned from that presentation, and something that the presenter can improve on for next time. We shared the first two notes with our elbow partners, then with the presenter (leaving the "what can improve" conversation on paper). Grades for these presentations, as well as the written portion of this project, are up on PowerSchool.

I've got to say, the presentation skills in my classes are higher than I've ever seen before! I'm my five short years of teaching, I've never had a group of students whose skills were so high on their first presentation. Already, I've seen great eye contact that "sprinklers" across the audience. I've heard loud, scholarly voices with very few "filler words" (um, yeah, uh, so, like...). I've seen poise, confidence, and very little fidgeting. I'm very impressed with this first batch of presentations. I'm excited to see our skills develop throughout the semester. Between now and the end of the first semester, we have three more  presentations. One presentation is a quick and easy group presentation, another is a professional group presentation on bullying, and the final is a solo professional presentation for the second quarter book project.

Moving into next week, we'll be talking about theme a little deeper to prepare us for "The Outsiders". I'll talk a little more in-depth about the novel in a future blog, but I have a few things I can tell you now. Our focus for "The Outsiders" is mainly on characterization with some focus on theme and plot elements. The book will be read entirely in class, but many students will love the book so much they'll want their own copy. I don't require students to have their own copy (copies will be provided), but I absolutely support them having their own copy. I use my copy as a model for note-taking, deeper thinking, and questioning the text. I show students the quotes that stick out and mean something to me as well as the character notes I've made. They'll be able to take these notes on paper or online, but being able to write in a book is fun when it's allowed.

Speaking of the future, I'll be introducing the 2nd Quarter Independent Book Project next Thursday. Our focus this time around is non-fiction. I'm stressing to my students that they choose a topic they're interested in (not a person, though). In fact, their topic should fascinate them. I'm totally with them when they say non-fiction is dry and boring, but there's a way around it... pick something you're interested in! With their topic chosen, we'll spend Friday in the library checking out a book, compiling research, and beginning to build our infographic for the project. While the technology is easy once we get used to it, the project itself will be challenging. We'll be doing a lot of research to become the expert on our topic (five sources total, one book minimum). However, infographics don't have a ton of words (see my example on the left). As experts on our topic, we'll be presenting far more than what's on the infographic.
This project was a hit with my students last year and is bound to be fun this year. I love being able to cover the writing standards in a way that's real-world applicable. My students should absolutely be writing a lot, both by hand and on the computer, but I like to give them the real skill that will help them in high school, college, and beyond. The same ideas and information presented in a research essay can be presented in an infographic; the formatting is just different.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What are two things you know you did well on in your presentation this week? Why did you do those things well? What are two things you know you need to work on? How can you improve in those areas?
2. What are this week's five academic vocabulary words? Use them correctly in a sentence.
3. What interests you? Is there something you're interested in that you'd like to focus your research on?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

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