Thursday, January 26, 2017

Week 16-17: A New Semester and a New Independent Book Project (weeks of 1/20 and 1/ 27/2017)

It looks like I'm forgetting to blog weekly! It tends to happen around this time of year, and for that I apologize. We're off to a fresh start which means there's a lot of new opportunities.
This week was the first week of the new semester. As a reminder, all students started back at zero as far as their grades are concerned. There are already three grades in my gradebook and missing assignments are causing some students to already be failing my class. Please check in on PowerSchool and talk to your son or daughter about any missing work they may have or to celebrate their success to make sure we start the semester off on the right foot. To echo what Mr. Calandro has been saying in the Lancer Lines and on the announcements, it's easier to start with a good grade and maintain it than it is to try and catch up at the end of the quarter/semester. Another reminder, I don't offer extra credit in my class outside of what's included in some assignments or on vocabulary study games and quizzes. Students should check PowerSchool to ensure that they're on top of their grades; they should also be asking for help as needed and putting their best effort into their work.

The week of January 20th was relatively easy; we spent the week in the library watching "The Outsiders" and comparing the movie to the book. Legally, I can't simply show a movie in my class and have my students passively watch it. That, and when I've seen it done in the past, the students tend to get chatty and off-task, annoying everyone around them. Luckily for me, the Common Core State Standards include a standard that has students compare the performed version of a story to the text version, inferring why the director made the choice to make any differences he/she made. We first wrote notes on a Venn diagram, noting the big differences as well as the little differences. We also took a look at how the two are similar. We then wrapped up the week and the activity by writing a scholarly/academic paragraph noting a difference and inferring why the director made that choice, elaborating with detail. Personally, I think the movie is incredibly well done. Adding to it the fact that we watched the extended Director's cut, the movie is very similar to the book. However, students had fun digging into the details and noting large and small differences between the two stories. I'm sad to be ending the unit, as I usually am, but I'm happy that my students got so much out of it and enjoyed the book with me.

Moving on to the week of January 27... It's a new quarter and new Independent Book Project. "Independent" is a slight misnomer this time around, as this project is actually book club. As a group, students will be discussing the book their group chose weekly as well as building a travelogue of their adventure (imagining they've toured the setting of their book). Individually, students will be responsible for weekly written preparation paragraphs as well as an in-class book club reflection. At the end of the project, students will be individually responsible for turning in their typed script which they'll be using for their Google Slides presentation. This is the second year I've tried this project and I'm really looking forward to all of the great conversations I'll be hearing each week. If last year's book clubs and presentations are any indication of how this year's will go, I'm excited to see my students work hard and have it pay of in an amazing presentation. On Thursday 1/26, the guidelines and a calendar were sent home. I'll also be sending home rubrics, weekly writing prompts, slideshow outlines, and other information. All will be available on Google Classroom as well.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. Who are you planning on working with for the Independent Book Project? Will this be a good choice for you or a bad choice? Why or why not?
2. How can you ensure that your assignments for the Independent Book Project are completed and turned in on time? How can you help yourself find success in being a good group member for this project?
3. What are you looking forward to the most this semester?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

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