Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekend Productivity--Sweet!

It's only 10.40 and I've already been very productive! I guess that happens when you're awake before eight on a Sunday.

I started by cleaning the bathtub, then finished marking the second noun quiz. The scores were worse in some cases! After we reviewed the first one together, piece by piece. Argh!

So then I input all the homework, quiz, and classwork grades to my grading program. Excellent! I printed out reports for everyone getting Ds and Fs. Those children will need to get them signed by parents. I'm planning on calling each of the parents to let them know it's coming, and to make sure the kids don't throw them away and/or feign ignorance.

The first book orders were collected on Friday, and yesterday I put all the orders together. I still need to submit the order after getting a clarification from one student. I'm gonna get a whole bunch of free books with the bonus points! Including the Harry Potter 6-book paperback box set, and the children's book version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. So excited! I love books! Squee!

Back before school started, I planned out a whole month. Obviously, I'm way, WAY behind. So what I've been doing is going back and correcting each day with what we actually did. This way I will have a record of an actual month of school, including homework assignments and quizzes.

My next assignment is to plan this week. Tuesday each class is going to the library, so I'll have to plan around that. I must make the kids finish their book letters, because it's been like a week already. We need to work on the vocabulary words for sure. Also genres.

I've got a bulletin board set, a paper bookcase. It's got each category, like fiction, non-fiction, fables, poetry/drama. Then there are matching-color smaller circles for each genre--fairy tales, fantasy, biography, etc. What I'm thinking is another pin-the-tail-on-the-whatever activity: post each category on a different wall, and give a pile of genre cards to each table. They must look around and figure out where each belongs, and then they will go put them on the correct category. Then we'll review definitions of each. There will be a pile of books on each of their table, a mix of genres. They will then work together as a table to classify each book as the correct genre.

It will probably take an entire class period to do this. If there's any time left, they can start reading one of the books on the table, or their own book.

On Thursday, I introduced the family crest/coat of arms project, talking about identity, community, what makes us unique. It seemed to go okay, but the homework assignment was totally off. The vast majority of the students did not do what was assigned. So that, plus the fact that I found a better, more specific template, means that I refined the project on Friday. On a shield shape divided into roughly four equal parts, the students first brainstormed notes to go in these categories: goals and dreams, things I'm proud of, things I like to do, people important to me. Along the bottom I asked them to put their name and what it means/why it's special.

They did that part well, and in two of the classes we began the next step. (Because I'm doing my best to be very clear and go slowly, step by step, with everything. These kids need that.) I had them turn to a fresh page and divide it into four parts. Then I wrote and narrated this in one square on the overhead:

One of my goals is to be an Olympic gymnast. I've been doing gymnastics since I was a toddler and I really love it. Plus it would be wonderful to compete and win a medal. Another dream is to act. Performing in front of people is a huge thrill for me--I don't even get nervous! How awesome would it be to act in a movie with my favorite stars? Talk about a dream come true!

I asked the students, "what did you see me do here?" A student answered, "You listed your goals and then expained why." "Yes! We are going to build this brainstorm into an essay. In each square, begin writing about what you chose and why you chose it, why it's important. Then later, these will become paragraphs and this will become an essay. Bam! Easy!"

They got to work, and it was good. As I walked around during these activities, I loved the fact that A) everyone was thinking and writing and really working, and B) I got to learn interesting stuff about the kids. One tiny girl loves karate. Another knows how to do all kinds of dance, including hip hop, salsa and Irish. One boy likes to hang out with his girlfriend and her friends while eating pizza, and also plays basketball at the park, where he meets and plays with another girl in the class. One girl has a strange/unique name, but on her paper she described how her name comes from parts of her mom's, dad's, and aunt's names. Another girl wants to be a forensic anthropologist just like Bones.

Seriously, really cool stuff! I loved it. I saw that they really needed to share with each other these interesting stories if we were going to build an atmosphere of respect and understanding of differences (we've got cultures from many countries and continents). They were very excited to talk to each other about themselves. I can't wait for the final projects; they'll get to present and maybe even demonstrate some of their skills. I've got a piece of a thought to turn it into a cultural festival show thing....but I don't know. Time is really tight. We'll see. it's 11.20 and I better get to work with all this stuff. Back to the grind!

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