It's been way too long. I'm not sure if many people read this, but for those of you who do, thank you for reading, and I am sorry for missing so many weeks in a row.
This last week was interesting. I found out a lot about who I am, the teacher I am, the teacher I want to be... The impact I want to have not only on my students in the classroom, but more so what they take with them beyond the class.
Yesterday, as I conferencing with students about their writing, seeing what they were changing, how the image of their writing was evolving, I took a step back and noticed something. I had only a few students left, and over half a class period to work with them. I scanned the room: silent, whispers, working. They were on it today, making that work happen. So, I asked the question:
"Who wants to go for a walk?"
Heads jerked up violently to see if I had been serious with my proposition. If the words that they were gazing at with such intention could have, they would have leapt from the screen and floated in front of them. They would have been so caught off guard that they would have forgotten how to be words on a screen, and would have latched onto their owner's stare well beyond what was natural.
So I had their attention. And everyone wanted to go for a walk. At this point, I was not sure where or for what reason we would be walking. Let's just go for a walk was my thinking, and everyone agreed with me. We lined up, went out the back door, and started walking.
We got to the blacktop, basketball court to be exact, before I started to think about what was next. A couple of moments of standing around and I noticed the circles on the court, four of them, all the same size and evenly spaced. I had students break up into even groups within these circles. And then... I still had no Idea what was next.
"I want you to be in these circles, and, for a moment, think about your writing."
I was buying time for the words to come to me.
"And... quiet down please," a couple of squirrelly students were challenging each other to jump and touch the net. Attempting to corral them bought me more time.
"And, I want you to think about the writing process. You over here," it finally came to me, I knew what I was going to say, and the words started flowing from me, "you are the prewriting stage of the writing process. You are a bit scattered but you are getting your ideas together."
I started to travel to each circle, explaining what moment in the writing process they represented. The next, rough drafts. They had accomplished something, they had created something, but they weren't done yet; they were a little rough. The next circle was the final draft. These students had taken what they started with and "finished" something. They used their knowledge and the knowledge of those around them to review their roughness, and build upon it. But they weren't done. The last circle represented publishing. They had taken their finished work, fine tuned it, crafted it carefully with a thoughtful eye, and put it out into the world.
Now what, I thought. I had to move them from step to step, to visualize the process and going through it. So I did.
"Brainstormers," I shouted as I walked back to their circle, "you have taking these ideas, and started creating from them. You have now created a rough draft from your original thoughts."
I had them start walking to the next circle as I addressed this next groups progress.
"You all are now getting the feedback you need, you are reviewing your accomplishment, organizing it, taking things apart, adding more details, and have now created a final draft."
And the next, " You took what you have and made sure it was perfect. You edited, proofread, and now you are publishing your work."
Now the last group. What do I do? What do I say?
And it came to me, "You all have accomplished something. You have sent your work out into the world. Now, the world has a piece of you, of who you are through your writing. But, that writing is still a part of who you are. You take what you have already built and you start again through the process, knowing what you know from your past experiences." And I had them move from their published circle to the brainstorm circle.
And so it went. I repeated the process with each group until they found themselves right where they started. I felt like I needed to say more. I needed closure on this impromptu activity. I needed that impact.
I had students come closer to me, sit down in a circle, and I invited them to be a part of this moment together.
"We have all gone through this process. We started out brainstorming, then drafting, taking feedback and reviewing our work to create a more finished draft, fine-tuning that draft so we could put it out into the world."
And then I said it.
"You all are going through this process. You came to me very scatter brained; you were still 6th graders. But you took that and became more organized. We started to build a community together, but it was a little rough. It wasn't always the best community, but we had potential. We took that community, built upon it, took feedback from each other, and made it something better. We are now more finished. You are now in the proofreading stages of your 7th grade year. You are taking everything that we have built, that you have made of yourself, and making it the best representation of who you are, so you can then put yourself out into the world."
I tried pausing for dramatic effect. I think it worked.
"And next year you start the process over again, but never from scratch. You are always building from who you once were, becoming something new, collaborating, finishing, fine-tuning, and putting yourself out into the world. You are the always in the process."
I didn't know how to end this, so I sat down with them, on the warming asphalt, and invited them to think. We sat there for some time, being in the moment, just listening to the world around us.
It wasn't long before we went back into the classroom, and we talked for a moment about what that excursion meant to us. I can't recall exactly what students had said, what they were reflecting on, but I do know, at least for some, that I had made some sort of impact. I made them think...
I don't suggest winging it. Usually moments of spontaneity fall flat, because no one but you has the image of what could be in their minds, and it is so hard to translate that moment into words on the spot. But sometimes...
I remember my graduate school and one of my professors telling a story about having a snowball fight one year when it started to snow. Just because she could. The kids needed it. She needed it. She took charge of the moment and they were a stronger community because of it.
Sometimes, we need to embrace the snowball.
This week seemed to go by so fast! We have been working on getting ourselves prepared for our student led conferences, learning some techniques in incorporating quotes into our writing, and developing our analytical, persuasive, and explanatory skills.
"If I Were Mayor" essays need to be turned into me--finalized with an entry form--no later than Wednesday the 13th in order to be eligible for the contest. That is also when our final drafts are due. However, if we as a class are falling behind and need an extra week we can take it. We'll be starting state testing the week after conferences, and I would hope we can get our writing done before then. Clear minds make for good testing. But again, if it does take a bit longer to make the best writing we can, we will take that time.
After reading over the rough drafts I got in on Thursday, we need a little work on how to introduce and conclude our writing. So we will spend a short time on Monday and Tuesday working on some techniques for hooking our readers and wrapping up our essays in a meaningful and impactful way.
You all ready?! You Got This!
No jokes for you. No pranks. No trickery from me. Sorry. I'm not that into practical jokes and whatnot, and I already feel like I have spent way too much time on explaining this. So...
This week we have been building the groundwork for our expository essays. We have a few options for you to choose from, so pick what works best for you. Check out the google classroom for more information.
What makes research good? How do we do good research? What does "good" even really mean? We discussed this in class, what makes a source credible, and we are getting our thoughts together from these pieces of research. But what is "good" what makes an article online a "good" source? Seriously. How do we tell?
We have to have a critical mind, be always asking questions: what is the point of this article, who is the author, what is their agenda, what website is this, is it a reputable source; you need to be aware of everything about everything to make sure that what you are reading is telling you the truth. We are truth seekers here in language arts.
There is a saying that my mentor in Beaverton hung above his door. I'm not sure who originally stated it, but I think it holds true to our work these weeks.
Here it is :
History is written by the winners. Literature is written by the losers.
This explains to us that those with the power tell us how things happened during a time in history. But those of us, we who get caught in the moment, forgotten by history, we still have a voice. We create the literature of this world that tells the story of those moments in history, those moments where not everyone is being included--not every thought or perspective can be included--especially when those who write history don't want us heard.
We need to be heard, and even more so we need to be aware of what we are being told. Are the "facts" in this world being told because they are true? or, Are we being told what those "winners" want us to believe.
Sorry for the missed week, it has been a busy time for us moving towards Spring Break. So, this will be an update from last week, this week, and also some words on breaks and Spring and life and the world and... and... and...
Here we go:
We have finished our soliloquies! We have finished our presentations! And I am really excited about all the participation I got this go around when it came to presenting in front of the class instead of as a video on our iPads. Thanks for all the excellent performance. I am still in the process of grading these--like I said, it's been a busy couple of weeks for me--but those scores should be coming in soon. So far though, form what I have heard, I am really impressed with how well we responded to Shakespeare. He is of a difficult language of which to comprehend on the level that I have seen exhibited so far in all of my classes... Kind of like that last sentence. Anyway... Good job!
This week was a quick sprint through poetry. We read 13 poems in 4 days, and analyzed all of them. This culminated to the poster discussions from today. Check out the “class work” button from the home screen to see these. From there find the button that corresponds to your class’ discussion and open up the blog. Once on the blog page, find a few discussions to your liking, and add some comments. Remember that these conversations were inspired by the poetry we read, so it is imperative that you use evidence from the poems to support your thinking. Look and see what others have done to help you with this. You can add your responses below the each poster in the “comment” section.
Spring Break is here and I know not everyone is ready for it. It may be hard to believe, but some people are not so excited about having to be away from school for a whole week or more. Not because of missing the work, or because of missing their friends, but maybe because it is the best place for them to be. It is important to be aware of others, of their struggles, of those lives different from our own.
So, be happy and have fun,
that you are
a lucky one.
This week we finished up our work with The Tempest and we got a chance to see how Prospero has transformed. Can you believe he just forgave everyone!? All those people wronged him in some way, but he just let it go. If only we all could have that strength...
What would it look like if we could forgive those who have done us harm? No matter the crime we would allow for time to heal our wounds, and not resolve to punishment or revenge.
An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind... I think Prospero knew this, or at least Ariel helped lead him to this understanding. Either way he has changed and everyone is safe because of it. He had the power, but he gave it up for the betterment of all those around him. He was rewarded for his selflessness.
Through reflection of ourselves, we can see how our actions can affect others. So... talk to thy self. Reflect on the wishes not of your own. Be not afraid of perspectives beyond the mirror. To yourself be true, and, following fast, so will the rest fall into place.
Ummm... Not sure what I was saying there. I tried to be all Shakespearean for a moment. But basically... Think! Ask questions of yourself and of others! and, Be the world you wish you had!
This week has been quite a surprise for me. I am thoroughly impressed with how much you all are understanding--and sometimes even enjoying-- The Tempest by William Shakespeare. It is a difficult language to follow, but we are holding on and actually are getting quite a bit out of the play beyond just plot and character. We are starting to dive head first into theme, taking those topics and developing them into those statement on humanity, on human nature, and how we live life in this world.
I want to take this time to also thank all of you for being good role models during the assembly by being polite and respectful. You all rock!
Thank you for joining me here at the Café Ruth to enjoy some tea, cookies, cocoa, and stories. We all had a lot of fun working together, sharing, listening, and discussing our work.
I must say that I am exceptionally proud of all the hard work from all of you. You were respectful, strong listeners, clean --and willing to clean when we weren't so clean-- and I truly hope everyone had as much fun as I had today.
A special thanks goes out to the parents who were able to make it to see your children in their element, sharing their stories, being the goofs that they are, and really pulling it all together when it counted the most.
Did I say how proud I was of you all? I'm going to say it again... Good job!
Sorry about missing out on the update from last week, we just got so busy with our rough drafts that I couldn't take the time to post. So, here are the past two weeks in review:
Last week we spent a good amount of time creating ideas and developing our rough drafts into a memoir. These are stories from our own lives that we are retelling for a wider audience. Most of them were inspired by moments we have had with nature.
I am happy to announce that I received all but 10 essays in on time! In one class we had 100% participation! Now some of you were absent, or new, and are still working on rough drafts. That is fine. Hopefully the revision work we are doing in class will help in your drafting.
This week we have been responding, sharing, revising, sharing some more, revising some more, and creating our final drafts. These are officially due next Wednesday (2/17). We have learned what mentor texts are, and what they can do for our writing. We have learned how to use dialogue in our writing, and how to best format our thoughts.
Remember! Paragraphs are broken up by our thoughts. Each new thought should be a new paragraph. So, when you feel yourself transitioning into a new thought or idea, it is probably time to push enter and hit tab.
I am excited for next week.
We are officially done
with semester one.
You have only one
week left to be done
with your late or
Due by the 4th.
So get caught up
and please find out
what you need to do.
I am here to help...
I tried that poem out real quick, but who knows what you'll think of it. Not too worried though, because we are meant to take risks and try to make sense of the things in front of us. With that disclaimer, get that late or missing work turned in! I'm here if you need me.
How did that just happen? Seriously. All of the sudden we are here at the last day of the first semester. Does that mean we are halfway done? Halfway done with what? School, I guess. But are we ever really half way done with anything in this life? We can be finished with a thing, moving on from one project to the next, but are we never allowed to revisit those moments? Are they ever truly finished? Is our work ever really done?
We've figured this out this week for sure. We had our rough drafts finished and we spent all week creating final drafts using feedback and our own thoughts on our writing. And now they are finished... Right? I alluded to this last week, talking about how we can always attempt to "fix" something that doesn't necessarily need to be fixed, and I want to affirm that we are always going to see the flaws in what we are oh so proud of.
Can we finish the work? Are we halfway done with thinking critically, in challenging the world around us, our own thoughts and perspectives? No. This is a lifetime commitment. Evolving, changing, altering, fixing, changing some more, and making it sound just right, just in time for you to scrap the whole thing and start over.
We will never be halfway done, not until we are completely finished.
This is where you can check and see a brief overview of what we have done as a class each week. My intention is to keep this up to date with happenings, assignments, trends, previews of the following week, and anything else that needs to be shared with my students and their families. I may not always get something written each week, but I will do my best to be disciplined in keeping you informed.