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Sixth Graders Collective List: “Twenty Things People Should Do More”

The sixth graders blogged about things people should do (Or NOT do) more often. We will be working on filming these lists after the break (Kid President was our inspiration). In the meantime, I thought this list would bring some holiday cheer. Unedited & out of the mouths of babes….

1. Stop complaining (Or life will be ANNOYING)

2. Make magic real!

3. Give second chances

4. Play, enjoy life while you have it

5. Write a letter to Disney telling them that girls are not helpless

6. If you fall get back up, because if you don’t you’ll be on the ground for a long time

7. Tell the truth

8. Smile, it can make others happy

9. Listen to your parents! Give them a break!

10. Speak your heart out

11. Say nice things: you will make others feel better about themselves

12. BREATH 🙂

13. Donate to charities. No people should go hungry.

14. Don’t stress out. Stress is merely just a hurdle in your life, take a leap.

15. Start flash mobs 🙂

16. Make a cuddle island to cuddle in.

17. Read books as a family.

18. Try an armpit fart at the dinner table.

19. Listen to music. Dance if you want to, even if you’re not that good at dancing…

20. Laugh. But don’t laugh AT people. Laugh WITH them.

21. Smile at random people. You never know, it could be a person disguised as a friend.

22. Get Up and Do Something! Run around, kick a soccer ball, I dunno. Do whatever!

23. THINK ABOUT IT, think before you do.

24. Talk to people over the phone. Stop Texting.

25. Eat more BACON

26. Share your ideas

27. Be proud of who you are no matter what other people think of you, what matters is what you think of yourself.

28. Just scream and shout and let it all out. Mainly because it feels good.

29. Use more hashtags

30. Take a NAP!

31. Celebrate.-Who says you can only celebrate on special occasions, why not celebrate your A on a math quiz?

32. Tell a cheesy joke

33. Believe in yourself

Kid President Twenty Things People Should Say More Often

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Collaboration—Success is a Team Effort!

The longer I teach; the more I realize how much I rely on my colleagues to be successful in the classroom. Even the best teacher is better with a partner, because as trite as it sounds… two heads are better than one. In my ten years in the classroom, I learn as much from other teachers as my students learn from me. I’ve been lucky to have many types of collaborations… PLC (Professional Learning Communities), gifted resource, special education, and UVA student teachers, are just a few examples of partners I’ve worked with over the years. I am thankful for the strategies I’ve learned from working with others that have made me a better teacher.

Today, I had the fortune of following the lead of my collaborative partner, Brandon Isaiah. He suggested we create centers that were multi-sensory, utilizing computers, expo markers, and a game with dice. We reviewed the material covered so far this year in an engaging lesson that was enjoyable for the kids and adults. Students “counted off” to get a station, creating a situation that allowed everyone to partner with new classmates. Collaboratively students worked together, making learning pleasurable, and preparing them to get along in ways they will be expected to in their future fields.

Trying new things can be scary… especially when you are the one in front of a room full of people waiting to follow your lead. Taking risks is easier with a team. As I watched my classes giggle and laugh during today’s “quiz review,” I was thankful that Mr. Isaiah showed me new ways to work with students in the classroom. When I complimented his work, he sheepishly said, “I got it all from watching other people.” But that’s what great teachers do, observe, model, and make things their own. Together, we improve each other, making education better for all the children in our schools.


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Analyzing Text

Students worked in groups to disect the text “My Name,” an excerpt from A House on Mango Street by Latina author, Sandra Cisneros. They did T-Charts listing out positive and negative words the author wrote about her name, and then discussed how the author felt about her name based on their lists. The students enjoyed writing on desks using the Expo markers… making analyzing texts, FUN! 🙂

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Predictions, Connections, & Symbolism

Before reading, “My Name” by Sandra Cisneros, a Latina author, the students all predicted what the piece would be about based on the title. We discussed that predictions (like scientists with hypothesises) are educated guesses about what happens next based on clues we find. We read the piece underlining postive words about the name and circling negative words. Afterwards, students worked in small groups charting out their findings & discussing how the author feels about her name. Quick writes were are response to the text, as everyone made connections by journaling about their own names. I loved hearing from those that were brave enough to share with the class the stories of their names. We ended class talking about symbolism & creating crests that symbolized each student. I love how much we are learning & sharing!

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First Day

The first day is always full of lots of excitment! In language arts, we dove right into the curriculum. Learning about the prefix “bio” meaning life, we created Bio-Poems about our own lives. The challenging part is that we had to write the poem in third-person form, a new concept for the majority of the students. We ended with an Identity Circle Game to see what connections we shared with new classmates. Each person stepped into the circle when statements were true about them. We shared favorite subjects, sports teams, colors, birthdays, food preferences. I learned a lot about the kids, and I was pleased with a successful first day.

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Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Kids Matter… Their Thoughts, Their Feelings, Their Work

As a teacher, my job is to facilitate learning. I am there to help students discover new ideas and create work they are proud to show and inspired to share. My responsibility is to prepare them for the future AND to ensure they enjoy their present days.

 
Ideas, time, and space are needed for kids to feel like they can produce products that matter. After finishing literature circles, kids were given choice of final projects and partners. Mrs. K and I allowed our kids to collaborate with kids from other classes. Their projects spilled out into a mix of workspaces: our classrooms, the hallways, outdoors, the library, a spare room across the hall, and on one crazy day the cafeteria. The greatest joy of teaching: hearing kids excitedly coming together to create.
 
There is a saying teachers get asked more questions than any other job, and I think this might be true. The other day, I tried to see how many times I could answer in the affirmative.
 
Yes, you may work there.
Yes, you may use that.
Yes, that is a GREAT idea!
 
Each day it is important that we give students authentic learning opportunities. As a mom, I know, my daughter’s work I keep is the work she creates. As a teacher, I want my students to have as many chances to produce as possible. Kids matter… their thoughts, their feelings, their work. If as educators, we are only pushing through tedious tasks because we are “preparing children for the future,” we are missing the point of education. Education is meant to inspire, uplift, and empower us as a people. What lives are we preparing our students for if drudgery is the means to the end? Life is not in the future; it is NOW and nobody understands that better than children.
 
“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”
  ~Stacia Tauscher

  

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Based on the novel Double Dutch, these boys created a board game about how to survive on your own, like the character Randy did in the book.

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These students wrote, acted, and directed a script based on the book The Uglies.

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Two girls hard at work making a children's book based on the novel Romiette and Julio.

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A collage depicting the novel Romiette and Julio along with a paragraph explaining the text. Work is always more fun when you are creating with a friend.

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Kids had the option to create on-line projects or use the computer to facilitate their work. These girls were searching for on-line images that could help illustrate their collage.

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When Life Interupts Your Pacing Guide, It May Be a Moment to Remember

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Every teacher has something called “The Pacing Guide.” This is a document we design at the start of the year that outlines the curriculum and how we intend to cover it. When teachers get stressed, it sometimes has to do with the pressure of the pace. Snow days, picture days, sick days all throw off the efficiency of how fast we move through the curriculum.

Sometimes pacing guides are helpful because they keep us on track. For example, before we can take the kids to see a real Shakespeare play; we have to study the play, which means that the literature circles we are running must be wrapped up at a certain time. Other times they trap us, “WHAT!? There is a last minute school wide assembly!? I don’t care if the kids are going to love it, how am I supposed to finish my lesson on incorporating dialogue effectively!?” Silly yes, but all teachers have “those” moments when we hold so tightly to our curriculum that we lose the moment.

This is what I try to live by… the curriculum is NEVER as important as the child. But sometimes in the era of testing and teacher accountability, it is easy to get caught up in pace of the curriculum… teach, test, repeat. We all need to breathe and relax because the kids are just that… kids. They are going to forget pencils and homework; they are going to need to talk with a guidance counselor about a fight with a friend; they are going to want to go outside on the first pretty day of spring even if it isn’t scheduled on the “pacing guide.”

This week a young man in my class got gum stuck in his hair. As a teacher, I could have made him feel badly by scolding him from detracting from the lesson on essay writing, or I could have said that tried and true teacher statement, “See, this is why we don’t chew gum in school.” Instead, pausing the lesson,  I sent students out on missions for peanut butter and a fine tooth comb. It took about 15 minutes, but we got it all out. As the young man smiled and thanked me for helping him, I thought this will be one thing he will remember about 6th grade language arts. Because gum getting stuck in your hair, a teacher willing to help, and classmates laughing at a pause in learning, trumps writing an essay.

As we move through the school year, it is important to cover the curriculum, but I think it is more important to value and honor childhood. When my students leave me, I know I will have taught them intro phrases, comma placement, and dialogue rules. I will expose them to the writings of Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. My students will study a Shakespeare play and my all time favorite middle school novel Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Before they leave me, they will know many Latin and Greek roots, and they will write creative stories, letters, essays, and poetry. However, twenty years from now, I don’t know if it will be remembered that all that learning took place. The pacing guide will be covered, and for the most part, kids will retain the information, but I don’t think it will necessarily be linked to me or my class. Instead, it is going to be the moments they remember: a fierce kickball game, a joke we shared, a time I helped with a personal problem.

Yep, I’m convinced, gum in the hair will be the memory of 6th grade for my one young student, and it wasn’t even on my pacing guide.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou

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Self-Reflection and Final Grades

When teachers feed kids all the “right answers,” we rob them the joy of discovery. When teachers give kids strict outlines of what an “A” looks like, we make them fearful to risk trying something a new way. And when teachers make grades the sole reason for work, we steal from students the internal motivation to create.

After our last set of class projects, I let the kids grade their own work with little help from me. Each student had to self-reflect on their assignment and then defend their grade. In general, students gave themselves fair assessments. A few kids were overly critical of their own work, which led to discussions about mistakes being okay when creating. In fact, true learning often comes from failure to do something right the first time. On the flip side, a few kids were too ready to give themselves an A, without reasons to support the grade. For those students, we had talks about how to look at your own work with fresh eyes. Overall, I felt students were accurate in their self-assessments, and I valued the thoughts they recorded about their work.  With rare exception, students received the grade they requested for themselves.

Self-reflection is a powerful skill. As a teacher, I constantly think about how things can be better for the next group. I don’t wait for somebody else to tell me how to improve my lessons; I do it for myself. As teachers work to make kids more independent thinkers, we need to give them the tools to self-evaluate. Helping students share their thoughts about their work is important. Educators need to equip students to be self-reliant learners and risk-takers, because they deserve chances to create and reflect about the things they produce without fear of the final grade.

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Writing Instruction

Our writing instruction this year is from a mixed bag of various adolescent writing experts.
Atwell / mini-lessons applied in student’s own work
Gould / rubrics tailored specifically to strand
Being a Writer / emulated pieces (study a piece of published work and copy the style)

After working with Ira Socol, I’ve branched out on our last class project. The kids were allowed to create a rough draft of a story, but the final product could be a film, Voicethread, Go Animate!, Prezi, or written story (whatever the students chose). They learned that writing was needed as a way of communication regardless of the final medium used to tell the story.

Pieces we’ve done this year….
Bio-Poem
Where I’m From (poem)
Hyperbole Story (creative piece)
My Future (5X5 essay)
If I Had a Story to Tell… (project)
Free Choice Writing Piece (currently working….)
I also have the kids writing blogs on their own web-sites and creating reading response journals twice a week.

Skills we’ve covered…
organization
prewrite, paragraph structure, essay format (thesis statement, topic statements, supporting details, conclusions)

sentence variety
comma conjunction rule, intro phrases, creative intro / conclusions sentences (no death sentences), dialogue

word choice
stong diction, figurative language

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