Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"This is fun"

Kids are actually saying this! In class!

We did the genre activity that I mentioned the other day. It took a long time, but I didn't care. The kids took a few minutes to get that yes, they were supposed to get up and match the genre with the category. I suppose it would have looked chaotic, but strangely, I didn't care. Usually noise for any reason bugs me, but I was calm because I saw that everyone was involved in figuring out where the correct thing was and then getting there. Awesome!

During the definition part, which was definitely the longest, I couldn't help myself. I showed them a bit of parsing and root work. After they had gotten 'biography' and 'autobiography' as terms, I asked what the terms had in common. Then I wrote this word: "Biology. What does this mean?" When I put a slash after bio-, they knew that meant life, and then -ology meant study of. Then I wrote 'graphite.' "What is that? Hint: most of you are holding it in your hands right now." A pencil (point)! "What do you do with graphite?" "Write!" "What is an automobile?" "A car." "What's a car?" That one took them a bit. They got that it was transportation, that it moved. "-Mobile--what's that? Movement. Now how does a car move?" "Fuel, engine, energy..." Here I gently tugged a nearby student's arm. "I can supply the energy or force to move him from there to here. How else can he get from there to here?" "Walking, feet, etc." "Where is the energy coming from? Who is supplying the force?" "He is, his own self!" "Yes! 'auto-' means self. A car, an automobile, moves itself."

I gave a bit of my "words as legos" speech. One kid said several times, "This is cool!" I agreed with him.

Blah blah, eventually we finished the definitions and they had to classify the pile of books on their table. One table had a perfect conversation that I had them re-enact for the class:
A boy picked up a book called "Michelangelo" and said, "I think this book is a biography." Another boy at the table: "How do you know it's not an autobiography?" First boy: "It says the author is Barbara something, and the book's about Michelangelo, and she's not Michelangelo." Second boy: "Ah, okay."

So cool!

Let's see. So this took a really long time, but it was totally worth it, and the kids seemed to get it and enjoy it. Sweet!

We had like twenty minutes, or less in two cases, to review some of the vocabulary words. Last night they had to write a sentence for each word, and today they switched papers to evaluate. Then we went over them together and I tried to correct misusages. Things like, "I said veto to my sister" or "I rashed on my math test". Yeah, I don't know either. Quiz tomorrow!

Also tomorrow, I swear to god that I am really going to begin independent reading. The genre activity was actually my first official reading workshop, and tomorrow I'll have them build a rubric for independent, which really shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes. Then they can just read for a bit, no questions or anything yet.

For writing, we'll pick up from where we left off yesterday. Yesterday we moved our lists of crest squares into a new set of squares, except it was real writing this time. Actually, I posted about that part already. So tomorrow we will take the rough square paragraphs and start a clean draft of a real essay, and also add more interesting details. I rewrote my paragraph about gymnastics and acting, adding some more interesting pieces. Like how "I like the balance beam, but floor is my favorite. When the music starts, the world melts away and I'm not even breathing as I dance and tumble across the mat."

So far it's working well to actually have them do the bulk of writing in class, if only because I know everyone is actually doing it. And by golly, even the ones who don't do much, or who don't always pay attention, they're all studiously writing and drawing! Because it's about themselves, which they're experts at. And with this new format that I used, they can do more than one thing in each square, and it becomes much more individualized. And this is why the kids are saying, "This is fun!"

Friday we'll do our first revision/editing of the year, and they'll exchange papers looking for mistakes or places to add more/cut out unnecessary stuff. Over the weekend they'll do a final draft of the essay and do a final draft of the crest itself. All that will go on the bulletin board! My principal chided me a little for slacking on this month's bulletin board, because I didn't put up a rubric or comments. But it was a poem about 9/11 and there really weren't any guidelines. Bad on me. But this crest stuff is going to be great. I just wrote the rubric, in fact.

Let's see. It's Wednesday, I think. Some nice tv on in a bit. I should get in the shower so I can get some more sleep.


Nancy said...

Yay for middle school! Boy, I wish I could come observe you in your classroom. I bet I would learn sooooo much, because a lot of what you do is similar to what we do with 9th graders in Ramp-up. Good on ya!

Mark said...

Your class sounds like fun. I wish I had had a teacher like you.

Schoolgal said...

Last year when my kids wrote poems for the victims of Katrina and Memorial Day, I also did not rate them with a rubric. It just seemed wrong to put a grade on such emotional pieces.

Anonymous said...

What a terrific lesson. word legos. Excellent.