Friday, May 26, 2017

Week 32: Roasting the Staff with Limericks (week of 5/26/2017)

This week was a very poetic week! We started with personification and moved into limericks, acrostic poetry, and finally couplets.

We started the week by sharing our personifications out to the class. I heard a variety of different qualities, feelings, and traits personified from anger and joy to sadness and betrayal to adrenaline and love. Hearing my students take these traits and turn them into "people" was really inspiring. What usually starts as "this is really hard" turns out to be amazing writing. If your son or daughter hasn't shared their personification with you yet, beg them to share it with you. You will be impressed!!!

We tried our hands at haikus for two days. I like haikus because they're short, sweet, and to the point. Plus, they don't rhyme which makes them easier to write. I also like the fact that they're focused on nature and its beauty. For me, they're a lot of fun. We then moved onto a sillier poetry project, the limerick. I reminded my students of what limericks are, showed them some samples, and then gave them their guidelines. Mr. Calandro and I had been talking in the office before school that day and came up with the idea: have the students honor or "roast" the teachers and staff on campus in their limerick. The students loved the idea and immediately started to find ways to honor and make fun of their favorite teachers. I let my classes know that they had to be nice, as I'd be compiling their work and sharing it with their teachers. The limericks were hilarious and well done!

We ended the week by taking a look at couplets. Couplets are poems where the stanzas are broken into two lines with rhymes at the end. My students are writing couplets about something they enjoy and are tasked with writing four stanzas (for a total of eight lines). While couplets are a little sing-songy, they're not annoying enough for me to avoid. I avoid other, more annoying types of poetry but couplets are easy and fun!

Lastly, my Donor's Choose project is coming to a close shortly. On Wednesday, June 7th, the project will close and we'll either be fully funded and receive our materials or the money will be returned to the donator who then gets to decide where the money goes (to another project on the website, back to the teacher as a DonorsChoose.org gift card, etc.). That's the bad news. However, there's A LOT of good news!!! Since the last time I posted we've received a lot of donations. We're officially $247 away from a fully funded project!!! Thank you all who have donated and spread the word for our amazing students. I'm floored by everyone's generosity and support. THANK YOU!!!

If you still would like to donate or know someone who does, please send them to my class page on Donor's Choose: https://www.donorschoose.org/project/stand-up-for-education/2444004/?rf=link-siteshare-2017-05-teacher-teacher_1779689&challengeid=283838

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What has been your favorite type of poetry so far? Why did you enjoy writing it?
2. How does figurative language enhance poetry? Which part of figurative language does the best job at enhancing writing? Why do you think that?
3. What is one thing you've done this year that you're especially proud of? What makes you proud of it?

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Week 31: SBAC Testing and Looking for Next Year's WEB Leaders (week of 5/19/2017)

This week there's not a ton to report on. You son or daughter took the SBAC test in both their English and math classes. If they didn't get to finish, no worries. Make-ups will take place during the school day next week. I got two assignments graded during testing so check PowerSchool for some updates.

The focus of this week's blog is the WEB ("Where Everybody Belongs") program, an orientation and transition program I co-coordinate with Miss Ahearn, our Leadership teacher. WEB Leaders help run the orientation program before school starts by leading the incoming class through small group team building and get-to-know-you activities. Throughout the year, they reconnect with their group on a personal basis at school and at after-school WEB activities. These activities are all designed to make the middle school years less scary and more fun while building meaningful relationships with upperclassmen and peers. Your son or daughter is invited and encouraged to apply if they see themselves as any type of leader. Applications went out yesterday based on teacher recommendations.

Whether your son or daughter received the invitation or not, they are welcome to apply. We first take teacher recommendations for student leaders because the staff knows what the program entails and what type of leader we're looking for. What we're truly looking for is a nice cross-section of Laguna. We want leaders from every background, every club, every elective, and every level of leadership ability so that the connection between our 8th-grade leaders and incoming 7th-grade class is strong. Please encourage your son or daughter to apply and become a part of Laguna's legacy for years to come. Applications are available in Student Services, room E8 (Miss Ahearn's room), and room G6 (my room). They are due to Student Services by Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

 Please review the following dates, as some are mandatory for students who wish to be WEB Leaders:

• *Spring Play Day: Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm;
• *WEB Leader training: Thursday, August 10, 2017, 8:30 am – 1:30 pm
 and Friday, August 11, 2017, 8:30 am – 1:30 pm;
• *7th Grade Orientation: Monday, August 14th, 2017, 7:00 am – 12:30 pm
7th Grade Registration Day (Optional): Tuesday, August 15, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
First day of school: Monday, August 21st; wear your WEB leader shirt
 and help seventh graders with directions and questions;
First WEB Leader meeting: Wednesday, August 30, at lunch in H-1;
Attend the “Back to School Dance”: Friday, September 15th; call your team
 and invite them to attend the dance with you!
Be available for Follow Up activities, such as WEB Homebase Takeovers, throughout the year.
*These events are MANDATORY to be a WEB leader!







If your son or daughter is interested in becoming a WEB Leader, please encourage them to apply. If they're interested but can't make the mandatory dates, they can still participate in the WEB program as an A-team member. A-team members help run the WEB program but aren't assigned to a group of 7th-graders. Our A-team is welcome at any and all WEB activities and helps with set-up and take-down of the activity, running the activity, and helping with the small WEB groups as needed. Being part of the WEB program is a great way to give back to your school in a meaningful way!

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What qualities do you have that make you a leader?
2. How has the WEB program helped you this year?
3. What is your favorite thing about Laguna Middle School?

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


Friday, May 12, 2017

Week 30: Enhancing Writing with Figurative Language (week of 5/12/2017)

First of all, THANK YOU to all of you who came to visit at open house. It was nice to finally put some faces with the names and great to see you again.

This week, we dove deeper into figurative language and really studied its effect on writing. After completing our notes, we practice our new skills by analyzing song lyrics and a poem. It was clear to me in these two assignments that my students were ready to move onto bigger and better things (because they did so well), so we ended our week really focussing in on personification. Personification is giving any non-human thing human-like qualities. Disney does an amazing job at personifying animals ("Finding Nemo", "The Lion King", Mickey, Minnie, etc.), objects (Lumiere, Cogsworth, Plumette, and basically all the characters inside the castle in "Beauty and the Beast", feelings or ideas (Fear, Anger, Disgust, Joy, and Sadness from the absolutely brilliant "Inside Out"), and even plants and weather in "Fantasia" and "Fantasia 2000" (as well as the animated shorts created throughout the year).

After taking a look at personified qualities and character traits in
J. Ruth Gendler's "The Book of Qualities", I had students practice writing personifying "betrayal" with me. We looked at what betrayal actually is and then assigned actions, looks, smells, tastes, colors, feelings, and sounds to it. After brainstorming, we took a look at a sample from one of my former students. When we'd gotten a really good look at the assignment, I set my students free to brainstorm. They chose ANY character trait, quality, or feeling they wanted and began the process. I've seen a lot of amazing, and deep, ideas so far. I'm really excited to see the final product and have it shared with my classes.

We'll be concluding our year with figurative language and creative writing in a poetry unit. I've incorporated some of my favorite forms of poetry and hope that my students really enjoy where we take our writing.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What is personification? How will I be able to tell if something has been personified? What are some examples of personification from popular books or movies?
2. Which character trait or quality did you personify? How did you make it come to life in your writing?
3. What is one thing you've done this year that you're especially proud of? What makes you proud of it?

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


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Weeks 25-29: Real World Argumentative Writing and the Final Unit

...and we're back! It's been a while since I've checked in. Between friends from LA coming up for Spring Break, two field trips (the AVID college trip and the SLOHS Choir trip), and Spring having most definitely sprung, it's been a little nuts over here. The good news is that we've been working hard on our argumentative writing since the last blog so there's not a lot to update on.

The week of March 31 we completed the District Writing Assessment on argumentative writing. Students had three days to read the prompt and provided sources, outline and form an argument, and physically write that argument. I've completed the grading of the assessment and I must say that must students are really getting it. Not only are they writing full, complete arguments but they're also upping their game and writing in an academic, scholarly, and professional way. I'm really proud of my students and their amazing writing!

Moving on, we started and finished our final argumentative writing unit, Tap versus Bottled Water. Last year, I was trained in the Cal State University's program, "Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum" (or ERWC). One of their argumentative units pits tap water versus bottled water. We've  taken a look at multiple sources written in different nonfiction styles. We've also taken a look at the vocabulary of each piece and discussed our evolving opinions on which type of water is better. What, to me, seems like a boring topic turns out to be engaging and exciting every year. The students are able to craft excellent arguments as we work towards argumentative writing in the real world: an argumentative letter. Their final products look amazing and I'm so proud of the hard work and dedication my students have shown!

Looking forward, I've made a few adjustments to our schedule. The big changes are that I'm no longer assigning an Independent Book Project for the 4th quarter and we'll also not be reading "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. I took a look at our calendar and with essentially four teachable weeks left in the school year (not including state testing and the last week of school; we're still about six weeks from the end of the year), time was not on my side. My students are still required to read for 20 minutes each night, Monday-Thursday, but can now choose the novel that they want to read. In lieu of "The Giver", we'll be diving back into creative writing with our poetry unit. It's always a fun unit to end the year on and I know my students will really enjoy it.

Lastly, the WEB program. It's the time of year where we say goodbye to this year's WEB leaders and gear up for next year's. All 7th graders are encouraged to apply to be a WEB leader. As the coordinator and teacher to ~120 of them, I see a lot of AMAZING leaders on our campus (and especially in my classes). If your son or daughter is interested in a leadership opportunity on campus that won't take over their elective class, WEB is the program for them. Please be advised that all WEB leaders will be required to participate in a 2-day training in August just before school starts as well as the orientation day. Since your son or daughter is part of Laguna's first 7th grade class to go through the WEB program, I know they'll be excellent leaders next year. We're looking for leaders from all different backgrounds and leadership experiences to join the crew. If you think your son or daughter would benefit from this experience, please encourage them to apply in the next coming weeks when it's announced.

Question for the dinner table/drive home:
1. What elective are you looking forward to next year?
2. How is argumentative writing different in a letter than it is in an essay?
3. Do you see yourself as a leader? Why or why not? What leadership qualities do you already have?

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