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
On Thursday of this past week I asked my 8th graders to reflect back on their writing they have done this year. Earlier in the week as I was developing my lesson plans I began to really think about the writing we have done this past year. As I do every other year, I began to feel guilty because I was thinking I didn’t assign enough writing for them to do throughout the year. So, when I described the reflection assignment for my students, we composed a list on the board. If I was thinking about it, I would have taken a picture of the list and just posted the picture, but instead I will have to compose the list again here. Below you will see all of the writing I have done this year with my 8th graders.
1. This I believe Essay – Posted to our classroom wiki.
3. 25 word story
4. Sentence in a day
5. Compare/Contrast Essay between characters in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
6. Glog or Book Cube for Christmas break book (See previous post I have written).
7.Celly writing – writing journal prompts and collaboration with cell phones
8. Journal Writing on various topics every day
9. Extended journal writings – Students went back through previous journal writings and found ways to make them more detailed and better.
10. 50 word stories
11. Paper Tweets – a two day lesson on Twitter and tweeting.
12. Biographies – Posted to our classroom wiki.
13. 8th Grade Reflection writing
14. Police Reports – Modeled after George Hillocks Argumentative Writing Book
15. Musical Chair Writing – Post a comment or send me an email if you want information about this activity.
16. Article of the Week – (Title does not reflect the fact I didn’t do this every week)
17. Science Fiction Stories
18. Ticket out the door writing responses.
Now for the sake of time and not boring my few readers, I will just say there are a few more writing activities that I have not posted. When I reflect back on the amount of writing my students did this year, I have nothing to feel guilty about. My students definitely did more writing than I did grading. Kelly Gallagher argues this in his books. We as teachers do not need to be grading everything our students do. There were many occasions my students turned in writing and it was graded on a formative scale rather than be a summative grade. What I really noticed is how much digital writing my students have done this year. My students wrote on Glogster, toondoo, used Celly phones in class, they used Google Docs/Drive and helped create a paperless classroom and used it regularly for collaboration.
The other thought I had was about academic rigor. The Common Core Standards essentially helps guide teachers to develop more rigor in our classroom. I still believe my students can do more writing and I will push my students to do more writing next year and the years to come. If you want any information on any of the listed writing above, feel free to email me or make a comment.