1st Day Reflections

As mentioned in my last blog, my goal is to write every day this year to reflect back on my experience.  Perhaps some of what I write tonight should have been written prior to the start of the first day of school, but if I didn’t take time to think about what I did, I couldn’t reflect, right?

This is my second year teaching both 7th and 8th grade language arts. I have to say I am completely amazed at the differences between the two grades.  There is a huge difference in maturity, both socially and academically.

Despite the differences, I felt both groups of students did fairly well today.  I am not sure what other teachers do on their first day of class, but I do not go over any classroom rules with my students.  Part of me believes that is what their expectation is from me and I like to keep my students guessing. Bwaaahaaahaaa! That was my evil, take over the world, laugh.  Instead of the rules, I jumped right in and had both my 7th and 8th grade students take a narrative reading pre-test.  The state of Michigan has required teachers and schools to measure student growth.  Our district has decided on a pre and post test as a way to measure student growth.  I was not about to give my students an eight page reading document and 36 questions for the reading portion.  Instead, I discussed with my principal how I have broken down my units into Narrative, Informational, and Argumentative.  This mirrors the Common Core Standards and three major areas of writing that the CCSS focuses on.  I do not however, teach just tree units, I teach six total units.  So, I have broken down my pre-tests and the students took a short seven question narrative reading pre-test.  This is only one part of the narrative pre-test.  I will be giving them a small grammar pre-test in the coming days over the grammar concepts we will cover during our narrative unit.  As a language arts department, the students will show growth through a writing portfolio throughout the year.  I know, it sounds confusing right?  If you haven’t already checked out Kevin Hodgson’s blog today, I encourage you to do so at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.  I think we all feel the way he has portrayed the teacher in his comic when it comes to juggling the Common Core.

I also addressed the homework policy for my classroom.  Now, as any middle school teacher knows, it is our job to prepare them for high school.  I am always amazed at the 7th graders response when we go over the homework policy.  Usually their mouths are wide open and they are disbelief.  This year I feel I am going hardcore my students.  To put in simply, they lose 50% for being one day late unless it is a major project where they will lose 30%.  If it is more than one day late, they get no credit. If you would like a copy of my homework policy just leave me a comment.  If my students bring it back signed by them and their parents tomorrow, I will give them extra credit.

I also took time with my students today setting up their writing notebooks or journals.  This is important because most days we start the hour by doing “writing into the hour”.  I set my notebook up very similar to how Jeff Anderson discusses journal writing in his book Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage and Style into Writer’s Workshop. My classroom is indeed a writer’s workshop and this book was read by our language arts department prior to the start of last year.  This year we are reading Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher.  “Writing into the hour” is basic.  I give students a topic to write about.  The students can choose to write about the given topic or they can write about what is on their mind that day.  In addition, I allow my students to even go back to a previous days entry and either continue or revise that piece of writing.  With having so many choices, the students have no excuse not to be writing.  I give my students 5-7 minutes to write and ask them to forget about the editor in their head and just write.

With those two activities, there wasn’t a lot of time left in class.  I did hand out reading textbooks to my 8th graders and I tried to become more acquainted with my 7th graders by playing 2 truths and a lie with them.  It isn’t the most thought-provoking activity, but it is fun and the students seem to enjoy it.

Now tomorrow and the rest of the week is going to bring in a whirlwind of technology to the students.  Tomorrow the students will set-up their Schoology account and I will demonstrate and walk them through the reason we will be using this digital tool.  Thursday the students will set-up their Twitter accounts and Friday we will do a recap and then move our way towards getting our Celly accounts ready.  It is a busy week, so I am off to bed and ready to start another adventure tomorrow.  Email or leave a comment with any questions

Cheers!


CRWP Middle School Writing Camp: Day #2

With our second day of middle school tech writing camp complete, I am no doubt more fired up about the campers and their writing, but I am also exhausted.  Today was a huge poetry day along with tying up some loose ends with our writing yesterday.

We started today with the students writing 25 word stories in their composition notebooks.  I showed the campers the examples on Kevin Hodgson’s Prezi.  The campers enjoyed the many stories that were in the Prezi.  We then proceeded to share our own 25 word stories out loud.  Participants did an amazing job!  We then quickly transitioned into our poet coming in and speaking to them about writing and what it means to be a poet/writer.  Robert Fanning was our poet and he did a super job with his presentation.  He had the students create this huge word wall on our whiteboard and then he read some poems to the kids.  He discussed the power that words have, something that students today need to hear again and again. At the end of his presentation, he took the campers down the hall and opened a box full of words on pieces of paper.  He then had the students throw them in the air and once they landed, the students needed to form lines of poetry. He instructed them to be silly and non-traditional and I was impressed with how our campers worked on this.  I was even more impressed by one young man who had some really powerful lines.  Below are some pictures of the activity and the lines individuals came up with:

            

When our poet departed today, the students wrote three different poems.  They wrote something called a diamond poem where they started with a topic like female and then end up at the complete opposite which would be male in this case.  In addition to their diamond poems, they wrote haiku poems and then collaboratively wrote a poem that rhymed.  You can see student work on youthvoice.net. Their work is under CRWP and writing poems.  I encourage you to check out some of their work.

Throughout the time the participants were working on their writing they used Ipads for the duration of the day.  Some campers had experience with using Ipads, others did not.  Students were actively engaged in writing using Google Doc/Drive and Youth Voices.  There were very few gliches and overall, the students did a plethora of writing today incorporated with the use of technology. They finished out their day responding to other camp participants work on Youth Voices and trying to polish their detective skills by solving some of the staged scenes that were posted on to the Youth Voices website.

With all of the writing the campers have done so far, our goal for this camp is to look at a way we can incorporate the three major areas of writing the Common Core State Standards focuses on: narrative, informational, argumentative.  Yesterday we asked our participants to be detectives and try and solve a murder which led them to writing a police report, a great lead into argumentative writing.  Today, we focused on poetry, part of the narrative world of writing.  Thursday we will look at research, a type of informational writing.  Our adventure continues tomorrow as we embark on our writing marathon and hear another guest speaker.

Cheers!