Monday, January 23, 2006

It's a whole new ballgame now

Today I let down my hair, literally and symbolically. To show that it's a new season, so to speak. I certainly didn't go party with my students or anything. (Eek, can you imagine?)

Anyway, so today we began the very beginning of our @uthor st#dy of K*ther!ne P*terson. First we are doing a rese*rch project on her. Today's lesson (that lasted WAY longer than it was supposed to) was kind of cool, I think: I taught my kids how to 'read' Google results pages. I made transparencies of several pages and showed them the three parts of each hit: title, excerpt, and URL. I showed them how to look at those pieces to figure out if it's worth their time to click. For example, I did a page on 'seat belt statistics,' and the first hit sounded really good, until you looked at the URL and saw the .nz code, rendering it useless for our imaginary purposes.

It's not a terribly exciting lesson, or even hands-on, since I laugh in the face of technology in the classroom. But every one of them has used Google already and knows it to be an excellent resource. So they were actually interested in what I showed them, and I feel good about that. This kind of discerning 'reading' is absolutely applicable to real life!

For this rese*rch project, they must complete three things: a biography, an a*thor resume, and a group art project. I introduced their choices for the latter (illustrated timeline, collage, mobile, cere*l box bio, or comic book), and told them that on Thursday they will present their work to the class. Two classes had five minutes or less to discuss their choices, but I'll give them as much time as possible the next two days. They excitedly immediately began their discussion of which to choose. Yay! I like having the option to assign artistic projects like this.

My grade department colleagues and I decided that although we have three books for this @uthor st#dy, doing all three at once will be too confusing and difficult for us and the students. So it was decided (to all our relief) that first, the entire class will do the first book--Br!dge to T#r*b!thia (heretofore BtT). Then, as groups (who will be grouped heterogeneously) finish that one, they can begin one of the other books (J!p and L!dd!e) on their own.

Like I said, this is a big relief. I had everything planned for only one book, since we already had a good number of BtT resources from last year. As you may or may not know and remember, this unit was a complete disaster last year. There are so many pieces, namely l!ter*ture c!rcles, and the structure of that within the workshop model, and the TIME issue--as in, there's totally not nearly enough--completely overwhelmed me. Eventually we had to abandon the stupid book in late May, because it was never gonna end.

I'm nervous about this, but especially now with the one-book-first plan, I'm confident that the kids will work with me to get this done right. Also, we are not doing a separate writing product, just projects related to the books. Which means it will be totally fine to go over the time of only one period for reading stuff. Plus the kids will get to do some more research, creative writing, and artistic stuff!

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