Monday, March 27, 2017

Week 24: District Writing Assessment- Argumentative Writing (week of 3/24/2017)

This past week, we took a closer look at argumentative writing in preparation for our final District Writing Assessment. What we started with when we did the bullying unit was looked at more in depth with this latest study of argumentative writing. The assessment will take place Monday, March 27 through Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

I spent a couple of hours on campus Saturday providing feedback on my students' writing. Those who turned their practice paragraphs in on Google Classroom received feedback. Please take a moment this weekend to review the paragraph with your son or daughter regardless of if they received feedback from me or not. Your feedback and support will help them to prepare for the upcoming assessment.

I've noticed with this group of seventh graders that their skills in argumentative writing are pretty high. Not only are they able to take a topic and craft an argument, they're able to support it appropriately with evidence from outside sources (whether those sources are provided or not). Not only that, but they are also doing a great job identifying possible counter-arguments. With the Common Core State Standards, this is the first year students are expected to include counter-arguments in their writing. It's a tough concept because it's not necessarily black and white (for example, rarely will students find evidence that directly counters their argument). In each of my classes, students have been able to find evidence that provides another side to their argument, whether that argument is directly stated or inferred. Once students have identified a counter-argument and supported it well, they rebut it more information supporting their argument. The vocabulary in this final piece of evidence and elaboration needs to be strong to really prove the argument. My students had a great time using strong vocabulary in an effort to knock the counter-argument down. Overall, my students are well prepared for their final writing assessment.

I'll be back later this week with an update as well as a preview of where we're going.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What are the key elements of argumentative writing?
2. Why is a counter-argument important when you're writing your argument?
3. How can you cite your sources in your argumentative writing? Is there only one way or are there multiple ways?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

Class website: https://sites.google.com/a/slcusd.org/laffin/home

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week 23: Three Down, One to Go! New Opportunities Await... (week of 3/17/2017)

It's official! Third quarter is officially in the book. Quarter report cards should be arriving in two weeks. For your son or daughter's current progress, please check PowerSchool. Also, please note that grades for third quarter are finalized at this time. Any assignment with a zero, whether it's missing or late, will remain a zero in the gradebook. Now is a great time to have a conversation with your son or daughter about not only finishing strong, but also about all of the opportunities they'll be presented with this quarter in preparation for their eighth grade year. More on those opportunities later in the blog.

Up first, the Independent Book Project. This quarter, students experienced the trials and tribulations of working in a group. I really stressed the idea of "teamwork makes the dream work" to my students often throughout this unit. While there were some less-than-desirable outcomes for some groups, most fared really well. In their presentations, I saw that they'd really dug deep into their book and gotten to know their characters and settings well. The weekly book club meetings strengthened each individual students' understanding of the book in general as well as in relation to the various lenses we looked through (point of view, characterization, tone and purpose, etc.). I was really impressed with the book talks as well as the travelogues that were produced as a result. The two days we spent building the slideshows in class were impressive as I heard students in their books clubs compiling their knowledge to present the best information possible. In addition, my students really held themselves and their groups accountable for sticking to "final form" in an effort to present the most academic and scholarly slideshow possible. If you haven't gotten a chance yet, ask to see your son our daughter's handiwork. I think you'll be impressed!

As a reminder, any work that is not turned in when collected for whatever reason (late, absent) will be graded/updated in the gradebook when I have a chance to get to it. Please keep this in mind as we go into our final quarter as the last day of school is the deadline for ALL work. Please continue checking my homework website, Google Classroom, and PowerSchool to ensure that your son or daughter is as successful as they can be. It is up to the student to check my homework website, Google Classroom, PowerSchool, the "extras/absent box", and call their classmates for any work they may have missed. I do not offer any extra credit work in my class for any reason. Students should do their regular work and aim for the "above standard" category on every assignment that has a rubric. "Above standard" results in extra credit. The only other extra credit I offer is Kahoot and Quizlet Live; students must be on the leaderboard to receive extra credit. This can be done by diligently completing assignments and studying the provided Quizlet vocabulary sets on my homework website.

Lastly, the fourth quarter is here and so are the new opportunities that eighth graders get. Soon, we'll be presenting the elective options to our 7th graders in an assembly. Wheel electives now become semester electives, for the most part. Leadership is available to eighth graders who want to put on activities for our student body. There is a mandatory Leadership meeting at lunch on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 in H1 for all interested students. There will also be an application and interview process in preparation for next year's Leadership class. In addition, we're rolling into our second year with the WEB program. Ms. Ahearn and I, the WEB Program Coordinators, will begin taking applications for future WEB Leaders and will hold interviews soon. WEB is not an elective class at Laguna, but an extra-curricular leadership and volunteer program. Your son or daughter's elective choice will not be affected in any way by choosing to be a WEB Leader. That being said, there are some mandatory training and activity dates for all WEB Leaders. Information will be coming home soon. Please feel free to email me with any questions.

In addition to new elective opportunities, Accelerated Math and Accelerated English will also be offered to students who qualify. I'm told information has already gone home for both, but stay tuned if I'm mistaken. There will be multiple testing opportunities for both classes.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What did you learn about working with your friends in a group project? Did you get the grades you were expecting on the project? Why or why not?
2. The next time you're given the opportunity to choose a group to work with, what will you remember?
3. What opportunities are you looking forward to for your eighth grade year? How can you ensure that you finish the year strong and get those opportunities?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

Class website: https://sites.google.com/a/slcusd.org/laffin/home

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weeks 21 and 22: Incredible Presentations (Bullying), the IBP, and the End of the Quarter (weeks of 03/03 and 03/10/2017)

I'm sorry to say I skipped a week last week. What I've noticed is that it's really easy to skip weeks in the Spring semester. My apologies for leaving you out of the loop.

In an instant, we've reached the final week of the third quarter. Third quarter ends on Friday, March 17, 2017. Any and all missing work from the third quarter is due on Friday, March 17, 2017 for credit. After that date, the grade will remain a zero in the gradebook. Speaking of missing work, I'm furiously grading both on-time and late work. My intention is to have the gradebook solidified by Sunday, March 19th. I try to grade the work I collect in class in a timely manner (which works most of the time). In the case of late work, I grade late work when I can get to it. Please bear with me as I get everything squared away. I appreciate all who've checked in with me regarding late/missing work; thanks for keep me on top of things.

This week we spent Monday through Wednesday working on our Independent Book Project Travelogues in class. Monday started with a presentation, by me, of what the project presentation will look like and sound like. The remainder of Monday was spent working in small groups to create a game plan for Tuesday, Wednesday, and the rest of the days leading up to the presentations. My students worked diligently in class to get their information on their slides, to make sure that information was in "final form", and found pictures that were labeled for reuse (incredibly important for this project). Most groups are on track for success. Thursday and Friday, we had a "reality check" in class to remind students of their job, both in class and out. The crux of group projects is teamwork, or as we say in class, "teamwork makes the dream work". Please check in with you son or daughter on their progress in this project as well as the progress as others in their group. No more days in class will be spent working on this project. Presentations begin Tuesday, March 14, 2017. For a sample of the travelogue slides, please visit my website.

Lastly, the bullying project. It seems like every blog I write emphatically gushes over how amazing my students are and the bullying project is no different! It's always rough to watch a presentation, at any level, when it's chock full of messy, over-worded slides and presenters who haven't prepared for their presentation. While that's slightly typical for middle schoolers (and embarrassingly typical at the collegiate and professional level), I'm incredibly proud to say that none of my students were ill-prepared nor did they present disastrous slides! I've never had a collective class of students take to the "4 by 6" rule so easily. The "4 by 6" rules means that students can only have 4 main bullet points per slide with six words per bullet point. This rule, as well as the other "Final"Form" guidelines for slide shows, ensures that the presenter becomes the expert while not overloading the audience with text, pictures, or wild transitions. My students did a phenomenal job not only researching their type of bullying and presenting their arguments beautifully, but they also formatted their slide shows in professional and scholarly ways. I am very, very, VERY impressed with what I saw and their presentation grades certainly reflect their hard work.

Lastly, a Donors Choose update. We're getting closer to the finish line with $665 left! Thank you all for your support!!!


Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. How are you and your group doing on your travelogue presentation? How much more work is there to do before your presentation? How is that work going to get done?
2. What does it mean to have your slides be in "final form"? What is the "4 by 6" rule? Why is this formatting important to remember when building your slide show and presenting it?
3. How can you finish this quarter strong? How can you start and end fourth quarter strong? What are you looking forward to?

Warmest wishes,
Kevin Laffin

Class website: https://sites.google.com/a/slcusd.org/laffin/home

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