Saturday, October 8, 2016

Week 7: The District Writing Assessment and How to be a Professional, Academic, and Scholarly Presenter (week of 10/07/16)

This week we started with the District Writing Assessment (DWA). First, we reviewed plot and characterization with a rousing game of Quizlet Live. Sadly, there wasn't enough time for Kahoot this week but the students really had great conversations about the vocabulary and story elements. We ended the day with a discussion of the prompt for the DWA and fifteen minutes of planning time. All that my students were expected to do was to think of a narrative, either pure fiction or personal narrative, and write down their story arc in any way they chose. Monday was solely dedicated to getting an idea on paper. Tuesday, students got the whole period to type their story on Google Drive. I stressed to the students that this was a timed, 54-minute assessment and we, as teachers, aren't looking for the world's greatest story. Students in middle school across the district are taking the same assessment in the same amount of time. Whatever was done at the end of the assessment period is what got done; no additional time is available for this assessment. The good news is that it's not worth a ton of points in the gradebook; we're just trying to get a gauge of how our students are learning.

Speaking of getting a gauge of how students are learning, our first "life test" is coming up next week. By "life test", I mean that I'm asking students to show what they know. Of course, I'm talking about the Independent Book Project. On Friday, students turned in a short author biography for the author of their book on Google Classroom. They also identified the theme of the book, supported themselves with three pieces of evidence (quotes or paraphrased information) and elaborated on those quotes. Beginning on Monday, October 10, 2016, students will be presenting this information to the class (both the author biography and first sentence of the theme statement paragraph) along with a selected passage from their book. To make sure we're up to speed on what makes a great presentation, I handed them the presentation rubric, talked about the finer points of the rubric, and had them grade me on three separate presentations. One thing I'm passionate about is helping my students be the best presenters they can be as well as providing them with tips and tricks to be less nervous/anxious about presenting. The biggest piece of advice I give them is to be prepared. Practice makes confidence and truly makes one look like a professional, scholarly, and academic presenter. Please note: Students chose their own presentation time slot and date. Students who come up to me stating that they're "not ready to present" will be offered two options: present and hope for the best OR don't present and earn a zero, no makeups. This project has been public knowledge for quite some time and we've discussed it at length in class so a lack of preparedness is unacceptable. Absent students will be issued a makeup but the project presentation must be made up before the end of quarter one for credit.

Lastly, I ended the week off campus. Mr. Taylor graciously took over my class Thursday and Friday while I was at an AVID training (Thursday) and in Monterey for the ASILOMAR English Teacher conference (Friday-Sunday). Both of these trainings/conferences are going to help me to continue to grow as an educator, so thank you for trusting me and my chosen guest teachers to take care of business. Griffin Taylor is an exceptional guest teacher and I'm glad that I've been able to "steal" him when I'm off campus. With Mr. Taylor, students practiced good presentation skills on Thursday and Friday. I also left the students a 55-word story where they were to write a story SHOWING a character's traits, not telling them (though they may not have gotten to this assignment because they were so busy rocking their presentation practice).

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What elements make up a good presentation? What do you think you'll need the most work on? Why do you need work? How can you help yourself get better in this area? Can I watch you practice your presentation and offer you some support?
2. What are this week's five academic vocabulary words? Use them correctly in a sentence.
3. In creating your Independent Book Project, what worked well for you? What didn't work well for you? Were any of these elements in your control? Which ones? How could you control them?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

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