4th Period Class Magazine
6th Period Class MAgazine
We did it! Two class periods, TWO class magazines! Well done everybody!
At this time, there is not a way to print the magazine using blurb.com because of the formatting we used in BookCreator. I'll keep looking into it and post here if there are updates.
For the first year ever, our school district offered an Honors Writing Class for 6th grade. It was a dream for me to write units for this class and work with these kids. We started the year with narratives, and by the time we got around to third trimester, we'd done poetry, expository, and persuasive essays as well. For the last trimester, we created this class magazine. With plenty of practice under their belts and the support of the writing process and peer editors, they were ready for anything.
Each student wrote 3 poems, a narrative, a persuasive article, and an expository article. We voted on the top 3 in each category and created this class magazine with each students' personal best! Students got to pick their own topics, and we used a writing workshop model during class. The results are fantastic!
I put the magazine together using Blurb.com and it is now available for purchase! Check out this preview:
Mine came this week, and it's AMAZING!!!
My school district is 1:1, so all of my students come to class with an iPad. I LOVE utilizing technology in the classroom, but that doesn't mean I'm about to give up old fashioned paper and pencil. I require my students to take handwritten notes in notebooks, and it's not just to keep them from getting distracted by the constant pull of the internet.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development."
Additionally, "Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key.She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information. And one recent study of hers demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard."
NPR recently published the article, "Attention Students: Put Your Laptops Away," and while they too recognize the many benefits of typed and digital notes, they also agree with my old fashioned ways (and proved why they might be better). Here are the big takeaways:
Jake Weidmann, MAster Penman
Jake Weidmann is one of only a dozen or so Master Penmen in the world (and he's the youngest by a few decades). He brings up how we're "abdicating so much of what we're learning and retaining not to our own memories, but to the memories of our computers and other devices."
With a Psychology degree behind his more creative and artistic talents, he points out that by doing the tactile movements of creating each letter, and linking them together and putting them, as words, into a sentence, we're actually ingraining the information in our brains.
The following clip focusing not only on his skill, but also on his dedication to the need for handwriting. Consider this thought from his mentor: If we're not teaching and requiring this, thoughts our students develop when communicating through a computer will vanish as soon as they type them on the keyboard.
This second clip, a Ted Talk by Weidmann, is a bit lengthier, but worth it. He points out how handwriting literally develops the brain- during the tactile movements of handwriting, the brain is engaged in more areas and information is ingrained in the brain. This is NOT found in typing simply because it does not use the same inferential tactile movement
Furthermore, forming the individual letters helps with the recognition required for reading, spelling, and overall literacy. And cursive is even more beneficial to the brain! It is linked with higher-level reasoning.
So we shouldn't be putting technology and handwriting in opposition or teaching typing at the expense of handwriting.
What about using apps to handwrite on their iPads?
As previously mentioned, my students handwrite their notes using pen/pencil and paper. Could they use their iPads? Yes. Absolutely. We use Notability, so they could use a stylus to write their notes. I take advantage of this any time I would otherwise have to print out a graphic organizer or worksheet.
So maybe I'm old fashioned when it comes to requiring a notebook, but in my mind, there is something about the physical paper and turning of pages that aids in how I learn and retain information. I'm looking for research to back me up.
Current issues with using app and stylus include the fact that not all students are coming prepared with a stylus. For note taking, a finger is not even close to a good substitute. Even then, iPad handwriting, whether with a finger or stylus, is still much more sloppy and temperamental- I want students developing the real skill (and dare I say art)- again, not sacrificing the ability for the sake of technology. And of course, they're 6th graders- using a notebook is FAR less distracting.
So what does this look like in my classroom?
I have had multiple middle school students with illegible handwriting. That's not ok. iPads are convenient. Typing is incredibly efficient. Using an App saves paper (and money). But handwriting aids in literacy and memory! Imagining a world without it sounds like the premise of a YA dystopian novel.
And that's why I'm a tech savvy teacher in a tech savvy school district and my students are going to hand write their notes. Questions?
When I was looking for a job last year, I created an online teacher portfolio to showcase my work.
As we wrapped up 6th grade, I decided to use the same idea with my students. Going into 7th grade, I wanted them to have an online portfolio to demonstrate what they have accomplished this year.
We scheduled a block of time in the computer lab- this was far more involved than iPads. We used Weebly.com to create their websites. They were required to have a Home Page, a Letter of Introduction for their new teacher, and About Me section, their actual Portfolio, a Resume, and a list of References.
Home Page with Letter of Introduction
I am so impressed with how the websites turned out! They look so professional. The Letter of Introduction was addressed to their future teacher. It allowed them to briefly introduce themselves and explain the purpose of the portfolio.
Students had free reign of the About Me section. My hope was that they'd share their passions and interests so their future teacher could keep them in mind when planning their lessons.
I also showed them how to embed book lists from their Goodreads.com account to show what they've been reading or what their favorite books are.
I am most excited about the portfolios. Since we did so much work online with our iPads, students were able to embed their work directly onto the website. They included a brief description of what each assignment entailed and included examples of their work.
The Resume was a little bit of stretch, but I wanted students to have some real world practice with this type of document. We brainstormed together what they might put on the Resume, and I think the kids got a lot out of the experience.
My favorite addition was the Reference page. It was a great opportunity for the students to get positive feedback from their teachers and adult leaders in their lives. It was also great practice for them to reach out to adults in their lives and know how to talk to them. I loved ending the year on this note.
I am actually going to send the links from their portfolios to their new teachers. I can absolutely see how that would be overwhelming for new teachers, but I hope it's helpful too.
I hope to include this practice throughout the school year this upcoming year. I'd like kids to be thinking about their work beyond the due date and thinking of what they're getting out of the assignment besides a grade.
Weebly was easy to use and the kids picked it up easily. I absolutely recommend it. It also has a blog function, so I'd like to see the kids use that too... We'll see :)
Possibly my favorite lesson- Poetry concepts through "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
First, students receive a copy of the poem and annotate it through multiple readings.
Reading #1: Read through the poem while listening to it being read by Bryan Cranston and attempt to figure out meaning.
1. Circle any unknown words
2. Star powerful words or meanings
3. Put question marks next to things that confuse you or that are hard to understand
We go through the words they didn't understand first and discuss what the poem might be about. Then we discuss what the poem is about, identifying point of view and multiple narrators.
As students infer using information from the text, I also give them some background info about the poem. For example, did you know that Percy Shelley and his friend Horace Smith both wrote poems about Ozymandias? At the time, a new exhibit at the British Museum inspired them to both write on the topic and see whose poem was more successful. Knowing the origins of the poem definitely added to student understanding.
Reading #2: For this reading, I want students to identify the tone of the poem AND how the author creates it.
1. Highlight words with strong connotation
2. Underline examples of figurative language
3. Note in margins the stylistic elements
Then we discuss what the tone of the poem is, using textual evidence to prove our claims.
Reading #3: Finally, we identify the theme of the poem and prove the theme using textual evidence. Students write a paragraph wherein they must use direct quotes from the poem to prove the theme they have discovered.
As the students go through the readings, they complete TPCASTT: Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude, Shift, Title, Theme.
To take "Ozymandias" a step further, we did a fair number of compare/contrast with various formats outside of poetry looking for various styles and similarities across genres.
Next up was "Viva la Vida" by Cold Play, which, again, plays on similar themes through a different format.
I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listened as the crowd would sing
Now the old king is dead long live the king
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand
I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world
It was a wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?
I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know St Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
And finally, we explored a nonfiction article with similar themes: "The Middle School Cool Kids are Not Alright" by Abby Phillip. This article explores a study that followed middle school "cool kids" into adulthood to determine how things turned out for them. This, probably more than anything, brought some higher level thinking to the table as we discussed why I might assign this with "Ozymandias."
And to bring it all home, a tri-venn diagram and then a couple paragraphs- Choose one other text besides "Ozymandias" and write two paragraphs showing a difference and similarity between the two using textual evidence to prove your claims.
The hardest part? Getting the students to use higher level thinking when identifying similarities and differences. Too many paragraphs proved that the difference between one text and another was that one was a poem and one wasn't. Sigh.
During our Wonder unit, I came across this article about Nikki Christou, an 11 year old who developed AVM or an Arteriovenous Malformation.
I was so inspired by her resilience and confidence. She has created a YouTube channel that now has over 50,000 followers. She raises money for AVM through Butterfly AVM Charity and has won a Well Child Award for The UK’S most Inspirational girl for her Bravery and Fundraising achievements (WHICH was presented to her by Prince Harry!). And she's the age of my students!
And so, I decided to go out on a limb and ask her if she'd be willing to talk with my students. She got back to me right away and was happy to help! Our classes did some research on AVM and explored Nikki's YouTube channel and her charity.
Then the kids came up with their own questions, and we made this little video for Nikki:
Here are her answers!
Nikki (If you're reading this)-
Thank you SO much for taking the time to answer our questions. My students and I are inspired by you and were thrilled that you reached out to us. I definitely think your example will help them be kinder to others and easier on themselves.
Because we were finishing reading Wonder by RJ Palacio, we were able to see how Nikki overcomes her AVM as a real world example of what Auggie must have been going through. We also read about Penny Loker and Jono Lancaster, two more individuals born with genetic disorders that affected their appearance. As students compared and contrasted Auggie's experience to those of real people, like Nikki, they were able to take themes from the story and see them in authentic situations.
If I teach Wonder again next year, I think I'd like for the kids to actually apply what they have learned in real life. I wish we would have raised money for Nikki's charity or for the Children's Craniofacial Association, which has campaigned with the "I am Auggie Pullman" to help those who read Wonder to be able to help children like Auggie, and encourage all people to be kind to those who are different from them. It would be a beautiful opportunity for Project Based Learning and real-world application.
I was so proud of what my students accomplished with this assignment! We were in desperate need of a parts of speech review- We'd thoroughly covered this the first trimester, so naturally everyone was feeling a bit clueless by the end of the third trimester.
SO, we reviewed the parts of speech and then put our knowledge to the test with Lewis Carroll's "Jabberywocky" from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. After a brief intro to the background of the text, I read it a couple of times to the student. We discussed how they understood the meaning even though the poem is mostly made of nonsense words because of their understanding of the parts of speech and sentence structure.
Still, they were pretty nervous about identifying the parts of speech of this ridiculous diction- they didn't know what they were capable of, and frankly, I was pretty nervous too. We did the first stanza together as a class, and then I let them have class time to work together on decoding the rest of the poem. So ultimately, when we went over it as a class, we were all pretty happy with ourselves. It was the perfect way to show me their understanding AND to show themselves.
Here is the Powerpoint we used. I forgot we had also talked about Shakespeare and his ability to create new words in his literature. I made sure to specifically point out "swagger" to really blow their minds :)
I use a lot of impressions when I teach, and I found myself slipping into my Seinfeld Jay Peterman voice whenever I read it- can't you just hear it? I did try to convince John O'Hurley to do a recording... I'm just happy he responded to my tweet :)
This is the stanza that we did together. I allowed the kids to take a picture and use it.
Here is a final student copy!
Can't wait to do this again next year!
Second year done!
Grades are in, and I've got a month off until Summer School.
Time to update the old blog and show what we've been up to for the last 10 months!
My students are reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling. We're studying theme, plot, setting, character, and figurative language as we read, which is a lot for my students to keep track of, so I've been trying to come up with activities that are engaging and educational to help them see these concepts throughout the text.
I was especially happy with how our Diagon Alley activity turned out. Students were divided into seven groups- one per shop Harry visits to get his school supplies for Hogwarts.
Here were the instructions for designing the foldable:
Front: Label with the store name, and draw what you would find in if you looked in the store front windows
Inside: Recreate the scene inside as described by the book.
Back: Write group member names
Laying Flat: List the textual evidence you used to create your foldable. Please write exact quotes and provide page numbers. This evidence should include descriptions of the setting AND what happened there. DO THIS FIRST
Foldables should be colored nicely and accurate given the information in the book.
And here is my example:
"...on a stack of cauldrons outside the nearest shop. Cauldrons - All Sizes - Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver - Self-stirring - Collapsible" said a sign hanging over them" (71).
"Hagrid wouldn't let Harry buy a solid gold cauldron, either ('It says pewter on yer list.')" (80).
The kids made theirs over two days, and we did a walking tour of Diagon Alley today. I hung up the buildings around the room, and the students went around the room recording textual evidence for each location. We talked about which ones really brought the words to life and how good imagery does that in our minds.
This isn't an art class, but I was so impressed with their attention to the details from the book. They did pretty well with their textual evidence and recreating their scenes inside the buildings. Next time, I'll have to help them manage their time better and make sure they've found all of their textual evidence BEFORE they start doing any of their drawings. But we loved it, and I was happy with what the kids produced!
As I start my second year of teaching, I feel like parent communication is where I can improve the most. I want to share more successes, not just student needs, I want to contact them instead of mainly having them contact me, and I think I one way I can do this better is through a weekly or biweekly newsletter. To make my life easier, I am doing one newsletter that encompasses all of my classes, and I am using an Outlook app called Sway.
Sway allows me to import Tweets, images, and links, and presents the information in a format that is user friendly and appealing. I can easily share the link or embed the entire page onto Schoology. It was incredibly easy to throw together, and I'm very happy with how it turned out!
I realize that it's still the first week of school, so I may not always be this on top of things (obviously). But at the very least, I'm glad I've set the precedent- I'm already doing better at communication than I was last year!
I started this blog to document my experience and share my ideas with other professionals.