Friday, January 13, 2017

Week 15: Infographic Presentations and Dealing with Loss (week of 1/13/17)

It's been a while since I've posted a blog. Time got away from me, and for that, I apologize. I hope your break was restful. Officially, the first semester is done and over with. I will have grades finalized on PowerSchool by Sunday evening; any assignments that are zeros online (missing OR late) will remain zeros. Speaking of zeros, all students start the new semester with a zero. That is, a clean slate. Just like the beginning of the school year, grades start fresh. Now (or when you have the official grades in hand) is a great time to start talking with your son or daughter about their successes and to help them set goals for the new semester. Now is the time where the WEB Program, Leadership Class, and Yearbook Class will begin the application and interview process for next year's classes. We'll also be talking about the other class and elective opportunities later in the school year, including Advanced English and Math. If your son or daughter is interested in any of those opportunities, now is a great time to help them get their eye on the prize.

Since I last wrote, we've done quite a bit. Students turned in their Independent Book Projects and taught their classmates about various topics via an infographic. I'm impressed by everyone's attention to detail and the sheer effort they put into their work. It paid off as students presented, truly becoming the experts and making their topics fun and interesting. I'm in the process of making webpages for each class' infographics; I'll let you know when all of the infographics are up for viewing. I think you'll really be impressed with the hard work and creativity my seventh graders put into their work. We took a not-so-exciting process like writing an informational/explanatory essay and flipped it on its head, turning the information into a sleek and artistic infographic. While we did end up writing a full informational/explanatory essay, our job was made much easier by starting with the infographic. Stay tuned for next quarter's Independent Book Project; it's a class favorite!

Not only is the Independent Book Project for second quarter done, but "The Outsiders" is as well. Mostly. We still have the movie to watch and some short writing activities to do, but the novel is done. With the end of the book comes the tough subject of loss. In the book (spoiler alert), three characters die. While one is from a rival gang, the other two are greasers who, by the time of their demise, have grown near and dear to the students. Tears are shed, hearts are broken, and it brings up the question, "Why do we care? Why do we care so much about these characters that their deaths make us genuinely sad?" The writing. The writing makes us care. S.E. Hinton writes these characters in such a way that we can't help but be crushed when the characters are lost. The end of the book brings us full circle and back to the Essential Question, how do the elements of a story work together to make a story? What makes it a good story? The love my students have for these characters keeps me teaching the book. Every year they remind me of its continued relevance through their love of reading the book as well as their attachment to its characters.

Speaking of the end of the book, it's time to watch the movie. I sent home permission slips this week to have them signed. Not only is it important that I have a signed permission slip from every student, it's also important that "do" or "do not" give permission is circled. I'm asking my students to have you circle the choice since it's you giving the permission (or not). Either way, I need a permission slip for students to view the movie. A missing permission slip is equivalent to not giving the student permission and thusly they will receive an alternate assignment. With the movie, we'll be taking a look at the transition from page to screen and the director's choices as well as his motivation for making those choices. We're also looking at the greasers and the Socs and their motivations as we write a Preamble to their own Constitution. We'll be taking a brief look at the US Constitution's Preamble, its meaning, and its purpose and then translating that into the world of "The Outsiders". This is always a fun activity that the students enjoy as they're introduced simultaneously to the idea of motivation and the founding of our country.

Lastly, some notes to grow on. I've got to say that I'm truly impressed by my students and their responsibility. The bulk of them check their grades weekly, if not daily, and talk to me if there are any discrepancies online. As parents, please commend your son or daughter for the hard work they've already put in and encourage them to continue checking. If it turns out that your son or daughter wasn't checking as often as they should, now is a good time to set up weekly checks. Sit down on a predetermined day and check the grades with them, that way there are no surprises (as there often are at the end of the quarter/semester). As a reminder, the following supports are in place for your son or daughter's success: Remind, my teacher website, my weekly blog, my email, and myself before and after school (or at lunch via appointment). If there's a support you feel I'm missing, please don't hesitate to let me know how I can improve. I am always happy to take suggestions if it supports my students and their success.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What was your biggest success this quarter? Why was it your biggest success? What did you do to make it a success?
2. Where can you improve next semester? How will you improve?
3. In "The Outsiders", was your favorite character static or dynamic? How do you know?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

Class website:

Join my Remind classes to receive reminders and updates. Text the following codes to 81010:
Period 1- @laffin1
Period 2- @laffin2
Period 3- @laffin3
Period 4- @laffin4
AVID (Period 6)- @avidlams

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