Students this week worked on sentence diagramming, focusing on how sentences are structured and what they think makes up a good sentence. We will be working on our second drafts of our stories next week, so it's important to think ot only about the big picture--plot, characters, and ideas--but also the building blocks that our stories are made of: good sentences and good words.
What does it mean to give good feedback?
This week we went back to our publishing stories. Students had the chance to read their first drafts out loud for feed feedback. The structure for our feedback sessions is to write notes in three sections:
1) One thing I liked...
2) One question I have...
3) One suggestion I have...
As part of this process, we talked about the tendancy to assume that the "real" student role is that of the writer and that you are in the role of the student when you are reading your story out loud and listening to feedback. However, I encouraged the kids to think of the peer listeners as just as much of an important role, if not even more so. Critical thinking and critical analysis are crucial student and life skills. Being able to find what is good about a piece of writing, being able to question a piece of writing, and being able to respectfully make suggestions are important student skills.
Here's how we talked about each of these tasks:
(1) We discussed how we all have different tastes and preferences in terms of what kind of writing we like, but there's always something we can relate to. Maybe you like how the story started or how it ended. Maybe you like a character or a plot twist. Maybe you appreciated a well-chosen word or an excellently composed sentence! There is always something to find to compliment and in addition to making the author feel good, it gives the author valuable feedback about what is working AND helps the listener develop critical thinking skills.
(2) When asking questions about a piece of writing, you are giving the author information about what is missing. If you don't understand why a character made a certain decision, maybe the author needs to lay more groundwork for that character's motivation. If you don't understand why the pigs are swimming when they were just in an airplane, maybe the author needs a segue scene where they land and head to the hotel. Questions are powerful, and asking them can be one of the most helpful ways to give someone feedback.
(3) When we give suggestions to each other, we turn a solo project into something that is collaborative. We allow each author to stand on the shoulders of our own community. I remind students that, as authors, they are not obligated to anyone's suggestion. They can hear it, think about how it would change their story and if it's in a way that fits with their own goals for the story, and then decide if they'd like to take their friend's advice or not. Or maybe that advice will inspire an entirely different thought!
Peer editing is hard, but it's such a great way for student authors to start thinking critically about their own work and the work of their classmates.
We finished reading THE CROSSOVER this week. Kids were slightly devasted by the ending, but also seemed to love the book and the story. We read many of the poems out loud and also talked about the character and his journey throughout the story. Students also worked on poems of their own. Throughout the book, there are several poems called Basketball Rules #1, Basketball Rules #2, etc. The poems are words the character's father shares with him and are generally advice for playing basketball that also translates for advice for living your life, such as trying hard and loving your family.
We brainstormed activities that we did as individuals (theatre, dance, programming, even creating or watching YouTube) and then brainstormed advice that we would like to give about life. We then talked about we could give advice about one thing while metaphorically talking about something bigger. Students then chose some of the Basketball Rules poems in the book to mimic with their own experiences and advice they might like to give to others.
On Friday, we read another book out loud, FOR EVERY ONE by Jason Reynolds. This is part of an all-middle-school read. The 7/8s also read the book as did the 3/4 class. We are meeting all together to discuss it. For now, in ELA in 5/6 we talked about the themes in the book (hope, hard work, dreams, taking risks), the messages the author was giving, and brainstormed some of our own goals and dreams for life.
New book this week!
The week might have begun with a snow day, but we wasted no time catching up! We are already well underway with our new books, THE CROSSOVER, by Kwame Alexander. Kids are reading the books independently during class time, and we are also listening to parts of the audiobook. The book is created of poems and the voice is so strong that I wanted to make sure they heard an authentic rendition of that voice. We are also starting to play with our own poetry, using the poems in THE CROSSOVER as a guide. I'm hoping the kids will let me publish some of theirs here soo. They are doing some really great poetry work!
For those students who love this story, who want to engage more with this kind of reading material, and/or who just want some more reading challenge and extra credit, I have 8 copies of Kwame Alexander's BOOKED they can check out from the classroom library.
On Monday, we will be back to working on our publishing stories, doing the peer and teacher comments for revisions that got a little off-track with the snow day apocalypse.
Check out the following interview with the author of our new book:
Here's another interview with Kwame Alexander that discusses BOOKED.
In ELA, we've been working on analyzing and talking about the last book we just finished up, HELLO, UNIVERSE. We've also gotten back to our writing journals, which we had put away for awhile, and everyone was excited to open them back up.
Our next book is CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander. It's a beautiful novel told in poetry about a 7th grade basketball star who struggles with middle school social dynamics when his twin brother becomes more interested in girls than in him, and with family dynamics when it becomes apparent that his father is ignoring health issues.
We will start it next week and students will read it independently during class time. We will also listen to significant portions of the audiobook. Students who enjoy the reading are welcome to also check out a copy of BOOKED, also by Kwame Alexander. I have 8 copies for students looking to stretch their reading any more.
We finished reading HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly. If you aren't familiar with this book, I definitely encourage you to read it. It won a Newbery last year and is a compelling, quick, and lively read about four kids whose fate intertwines in exciting ways. There is Virgil, shy, guinea-pig owner, who wants to talk to Valencia but can't. There's Valencia, brave, animal- and nature-lover, deaf, worried about being alone, who wants to get rid of a nightmare. There's Chet, bully and bullied by his dad, tormentor of Virgil, Valencia and tormented by a certain snake. There's Kaori, spiritual, mystical, psychic, believer-in-fate, who wants the universe to win. (Will it?)
We've also been practicing our summarizing (SOMEBODY WANTED BUT SO THEN) skills on each of these character's plots, as well as working on some ways to describe the characters themselves.
Soon we will start on our second drafts of our stories, as well as our next book!
Our first drafts are turned in and we are working on other ways of stretching our writing muscles. Here are photos from Write It, Build It, an exercise based on a Science Olympiad event where you build something complex out of random pieces, describe it as accurately as you can, and then see if someone else can build it using your directions.
Wizard of Oz!
Our kids were SOOOO great in the Wizard of Oz! I know those of you who were there already heard me say this, but I think that production was such a great example of how we do things at Summers-Knoll, so I wanted the chance to share that with you here. (If you just want to see the kids, skip to the links at the bottom of this post.) :)
In my ELA class, we focus on three things: books, writing, and the fundamentals like grammar and vocabulary. I say "books" instead of reading, because I like to interact with and access the books in a lot of different ways, listening to them, talking about them, learning how to ask questions about them, and in this case, acting out one of their stories! I had the idea to do the Wizard of Oz after reading a book review that compared our first ELA book, WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by the amazing Grace Lin, to the Wizard of Oz. There are some great parallels there and I realized how much fun it would be to read the Wizard of Oz script out loud as an added way to interact with our book.
I met with Mary Perrin, SK art teacher, over the summer to talk about ways to integrate with art, and because she is amazingly talented with masks and costuming, we realized this would be the perfect integration point. So now we had not only a script but hand made masks!
Once I passed the script around and heard their characterizations in the read-aloud, I knew we had to perform this on a stage somewhere. But even then, I still thought it would be more casual. However, the more we practiced, the more I realized the kids really wanted to spend some time doing this and get into the rehearsals and the characters. It meant pushing a few other ELA things to future months, but that's all good! We've got the whole rest of the year to do stuff! I am so so proud of them and how the play turned out.
A bigger production meant more people getting involved. I got to work with the amazing Josh Grekin who did the music for us. And emphasizing the true cooperating and collaborative nature at SK, Clara Ashwood who teaches preschool saw us practicing one day and offered to choreograph a few dances!
It was really fun to do, and I hope you can see that in their performances, which were expertly videotaped by our very own parent Dan Ayala. Thanks Dan!
Videos are also embedded, but here are links just in case:
Wizard of Oz Evening Performance
Wizard of Oz Matinee Performance
We are on our way to our first publications. Students have finished their four fiction planners and are starting on their first drafts. We will be continuing this work after break!
There's no place like ELA class!
ELA has been loud, busy, and very musical lately as we get on the home stretch toward our production! During some of the rehearsals, kids are working on finishing their crossword puzzles to practice their vocabulary words. Any kids who want to help make props are welcome to stay at school next Monday, December 10 from 3:30 - 5:00.
And don't forget to come watch us! Production times below:
Tuesday, December 18 at 9:00 AM
Thursday, December 20 at 6:30 PM
Run time is about an hour. Kids should plan on getting to school by 8:30 on the 18th and by 6:00 on the 20th. See you then!
We had a fun week in ELA! We finished A SINGLE SHARD, which is such a great book! And in celebration we headed to UMMA, the Universtiy of Michigan Museum of Art, where they have one of the biggest collections of Korean pottery in the country! Who knew? They also have a whole tour and activities planned around this book. It was really fun to see examples of the green-gray celadon pottery we've been reading so much about. The kids also go to be emissaries themselves as museum volunteers presented various types of Korean pottery and they got to choose one of them to award a commission, just like happened in A SINGLE SHARD.
In addition, we rehearsed our play and created our own crossword puzzles with the vocabulary words we chose! (Each student has chosen 20 words to study. The words came from three different lists, depending on the needs of the student. Many used a 5th grade list, others used a Middle School (6-8th grade) list, and a few grabbed some words off an SAT list for fun.