Sunday, October 20, 2013

The New School Year is in Full Out Swing...and We Are Swinging!

Every school year is unique. Every class period has it's own unique beat, rhythm and energy.  I love the energy of each class period. Finding the rhythm and interests of each group is like a treasure hunt for me. I give my students a Welcome Survey and ask them to fill it out. It gives me insight into who they are. I can learn so much from this survey. Here is the survey link: Welcome Student Survey

We began the year with an exploration of a textbook. We discussed text  features and how they differed from novels. Both were on the table, and we discussed the differences and similarities. I also discussed the challenges of the textbook and any informational text or article. They are designed to offer a great deal of information is a small amount of space. They are 'dense' with information making textbook reading and informational reading somewhat harder at  times. Students compared both the novels and the texts. Then I released them and they began their Textbook Scavenger Hunt.Students worked in teams to scavenge for the text details and components. This hunt would  teach them actively and engage them, as well as build their collaboration and technology skills. It was a fun activity, but did take longer than I had planned. It was time well spent as the post test, proved they understood their social studies textbook better than prior to the activity.

Students have chosen their novels and are working  in  their reading groups. They have ownership in their novels because they all had a hand in choosing it.As a result, students have much more of a "buy in" and high levels of engagement to read, discuss literary concepts of character, setting, themes, conflicts, and resolutions. Additionally, I connect the mini lessons of literary devices: Alliteration, Metaphor, their novels and students add their noted examples of these literary devices right in the pages of their novels on the ipads. Connecting these literary concepts that can be seen as quite abstract and difficult to recall. By connecting the concepts initially to images I take when out and about and walking my dog, and using it in my  mini lesson instruction, students connect at a higher level.Then, I have them write a metaphor or simile or the like, in their novels relating to: characters, setting, plot, etc. This transfers the abstract into concrete for them as they take the ownership of the concept through their own application of it! I know the spelling isn't perfect but I am focused on the application of the concept!
 Here is a visual image of the concept mini lesson in my Haiku opener each  day. Images are from my walk-concepts are connected to my images...

Students have also been responding to  prompts I post on a Google + page which I  have secured and locked  down for safety.  They find their novel's front cover image and the prompt, then they post their response. Knowing that their audience will be their peers, they can choose to share or not, however having an authentic audience ups the challenge and importance a bit. The prompt is at the top and the students post under the image of  their novel. They use their initials only to identify their posting.

Each new day brings new opportunities  for me to structure and devise lessons that engage these incredible learners.They don't even know how incredible they are. I am hoping my class helps them find their academic voice and academic power. It's always nice to come back to my room and the lingering student who I  was  trying to rush out, left behind a very important message for me. Unsolicited, and so very  powerful....these  are the moments that will warm any teacher's heart!