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Literature Circles

We are beginning literature circle groups in language arts. This is a coordinated effort with Mrs. Kauffman, Mr. Worozbyt, and me. The students chose books after hearing various book talks in class. The books are from a variety of genres: realistic fiction, romance, science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Please encourage your child to keep up with his / her book because of low book numbers, there may not be a school replacement for lost books. Also, we are going to give class time to work on reading, your child is responsible for bringing his / her book to class each day.

Literature circle groups are used for master readers. In the advanced / honors class, students are able to read and comprehend text independently. The teacher’s role is to facilitate a deeper look at the text through analyzing author’s word choice, figurative language, and imagery. Also, we will work on the skills of summarizing and questioning. Students will make connections from the text in various ways: text to text, text to self, and text to world. Once a week, students will meet in groups and discuss their role sheets as they analyze the text together.

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Stories From Room 21

The independent projects are coming to a close, and I am proud of what my students have created. While sometimes my room felt a bit chaotic, the work got done, and the kids were excited to come to class each day. Many of them chose to work on projects at home, not because it was necessary, but because they were excited about their products. I can’t help but compare it to my own passion, teaching. When I have to grade a pile of tests…. Ugh, I’m sleepy, and I want to put it off forever and a day. However, when I am creating a lesson that I know will motivate the kids and expose them to new ideas, I am energized, sometimes working late into the night to perfect my plans. Kids, like adults, want to be inspired to do their best, feel like their work matters, and made to feel physically and emotionally comfortable. We all have something to contribute to this world and a story to tell. Please click on the link to read / watch some of the stories from room 21.
If I Had a Story to Tell

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Creative Learning Spaces

Today Mrs. Kauffman, Mrs. Golas, and I presented to other teachers about creative learning spaces. We talked about how much happier our classes have been since making the switch. Some key points brought up:

1. A new space is more than new furniture, it is a shift in thinking about classroom management.

2. It is student centered and student focused.

3. It requires the teacher to be a classroom conductor of learning, not the sole source of knowledge.

 

We interviewed the kids prior to presenting to see what they wanted us to share. This is what the said:

1. “When I’m relaxed, I feel like I’m at home, and it is easier to get my thoughts out.”

2.”A person who doesn’t understand that kids don’t want to sit in one spot, has never been a kid before.”

3.”My story project is fun and actually makes me want to come to class.”

4. “There is more variety now which keeps it interesting. Like, you wouldn’t want to eat the same thing everyday because it would get boring.”

 

With no promises of a utopian classroom, I can say the kids have been more joyful, curious, and self-reliant since the “new classroom.” And apparently they aren’t the only ones. When asked by another teacher, “So how is Mrs. GW liking the new classroom space?” These were some of the responses:

1. “She seems happier.”

2. “It is a more pleasant atmosphere.”

3. “I like how the room just feels cheerful.”

(Yes, I am okay laughing at myself with these statements. I asked for feedback… right?)

Watching a student produce a play she wrote herself, hearing the giggles of two kids hard at work co-writing a creative story, talking with a student who worked for two hours at home on a project because he didn’t want to stop… NOT because I assigned homework, what teacher wouldn’t feel joy!?

 

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8th Grade AVID Mentors

It literally felt like the calvary had arrived! The 8th grade AVID class came to the rescue. With the creation of student web-sites, blogs, and creative story telling projects in the works, the 6th grade class was busy and in need of extra hands. The AVID kids at Walton took their roles as leaders seriously. They came down to room 21 and jumped right into work helping out sixth graders. As always with giving, it seemed small on the part of the givers but huge on the receiving end. Our kids got help posting work on their web-sites, creating blog pages, and rough drafts of projects started. It felt so nice to be part of such a helpful learning community! When we all come together, the work gets done and we have fun. The best sound to a teacher’s ears have been ringing in my room this week, “Class is over already!?”

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Student Comfort

Over the break, I went out and bought a few things for my classroom to make students more comfortable. The kids have choice seating with a few “cozier” alternatives to the hard, little desk chairs. The desks I kept, were arranged in clusters, and I added a large conference type table to the mix. The kids were excited and reported some of the following to me:
1. I actually felt comfortable.
2. I could focus more on learning.
(and my favorite….)
3. This doesn’t even feel like school.
(I guess school is supposed to feel uncomfortable.)

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If I Had a Story to Tell

Why do we teach English? Accessing information and relaying information are at the heart of what we teach. In many ways, we are teaching kids how to think (not to be mistaken with what to think). As we study various ways of story telling, students will have the opportunity to tell a story of their own choosing. We are going to talk about the many ways to access stories (not just reading) and to tell stories (not just writing). We want kids to feel free enough in this unit to explore, discover, and take risks without the fear of failure.
Today in class we looked at various forms of storytelling. We watched pieces of the New York Ballet, Niki Minaj’s video, Tom and Jerry Cartoon, and Egyptian Hieroglyphics. The students discussed in partners if each piece was or was not a story. They were given the directions that there were “no right answers.” As a class they discovered some powerful pieces of information: stories can be orally or visually told. Stories can be visually seen through pictures or symbols (letters / words). Oral stories can be spoken or sung. They also debated which stories were easier to understand and WHY. The conclusion was come to that stories were better understood with prior background knowledge. It was neat to watch the kids discover on their own.

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Freak the Mighty Glog

The students read a book entitled Freak the Mighty. In groups, they created on-line posters called Glogsters. Here is an example of one group’s work.

Freak the Mighty Glog

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Holiday Project

Check out what some of the students have created! Choosing a special picture, students were encouraged to write a short piece about a favorite holiday memory. With a focus on imagery and detail in storytelling, students wrote beautiful paragraphs. Using VoiceThread, students recorded their own pieces to share with others. While reading, students practiced oral fluency and expression. I’m posting a few for now with more to follow!

Puppy's Christmas
Lights of Thanksgiving
Cinderella
Christmas at Church

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One-Pagers

The students worked on One-Pagers for the various novels they read in language arts class. One-pagers focus on visualizations, author’s word choice, and meta-cognitive journals about connections to the text.

Where the Read Fern Grows Illustration

Freak the Mighty One-Pager

Maniac Magee One-Pager

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle One-Pager

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Plot Summary

In studying plot summary, my students created comics of the characters moving through conflict, climax, and resolution. Here is an example of one student’s work with the short story “La Bamba” by Gary Soto.

Plot Summary for “La Bamba”

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