Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sometimes, it doesn't take much...

So, this isn't really exciting classroom news for anyone other than me, but since I started teaching in Prosser I have wanted a flat screen monitor for my computer rather than the bulky one that practically hit my in the face from my computer stand. Well today, Dean Smith, our amazing technology coordinator surprised me by sending over the fabulous high school tech kids with my very own new LCD monitor. It may not sound that exciting to most people, but in a small district like ours, getting new technology is pretty incredible and most likely the result of an individual's effort to write these long tedious grants to secure funds for the district, not an easy feat. So I just wanted to say THANK YOU to Dean, Alan and the rest of our tech staff, you guys work well beyond the classroom hours, and deal with an insurmountable amount of chaos on a daily basis-I don't know how you do it-but I'm grateful that you do!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Partner-Letter Essays

On October 31, student's must have completed their independent book. On the following Monday they will be given class time to complete the first draft of their partner-letter essay using the attached format. They will need to complete their final draft as homework and have their Letter-Essay ready to be turned in to their partner on:
Wednesday, November 5.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Students get their say...

Today if you look around the blog you'll notice a few more comments here and there. Ula Ula didn't get the chance to comment yet, but the other class links will show various student answers to a classroom prompt. It's a great way for parents (and myself) to view student reflections about the work we've done so far this year. Additionally, editing tools are not provided on the comment section, so our student comments are an excellent editing opportunity. The National Project found that student learn best how to edit when viewing real writing work done by themselves and their peers. We will be using these comments as a way to say, "Look at how great the content of what you're saying is, but what do you think people might focus on and say when they view your comment?"

One more week in the first quarter, great job students for all the hard work you've completed!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Everything's more fun with food!

The lesson above is a "snapshot" of what was used for our classroom lesson last Thursday. (Ula Ula won't be forgetting this one any time soon-18 Principals, Vice Principals, and Building Coaches standing around watching your every move tends to linger in the mind of the young--and the old for that matter!)
I call this lesson the Oreo cookie lesson since the hook is completed for me, just by placing a bag of Oreo cookies on the corner of my desk... Each child is first given a napkin and a cookie in an agonizingly slow procession where they must watch each of their classmates receive their treat, but then hear the instruction that they may only look at their tasty morsel, and not savor any of it's chocolaty goodness. We then take time to write about the procedural aspects of what has occurred in class so far, and take notice that this writing is very impersonal, very procedural--and somewhat dull!
Now that students have written and responded with those around them, we clarify the difference between critical thinking and analytical thinking. Those differences will be charted in a mini-lesson I will post tomorrow, but for tonight, it's all about the cookie lesson. After making sure we understand the basic differences between these two types of responses for reading, it is finally time to relish that cookie that has sat motionless and defeated on it's napkin throughout. It's amazing how slowly teenagers will eat when they are only given one cookie and have had to wait nearly 40 minutes before being allowed to taste it... For our finale, we then write a descriptive "show" writing paragraph full of our individual opinions of the activity, ripe with self-expression for our love of Oreo cookies!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Prosser students making headlines!

One of the difficult things about teaching is letting go when students move on to the next level. As teachers we are so fortunate to watch the kids of our community grow over the course of the year and if we are lucky, they stay in touch and let us know what happens after they leave our doors on that final day in June. One student who has made a major impact on my life both acadmically and through sports is Helen Petersen. Helen was in my 7th grade class my first year in Prosser. Her class was one of my all-time favorites, and coming off a few difficult years with another district, these kids renewed my faith in our future generation. Helen volunterered to help me coach the boy's soccer team and truly took on an Assistant Coach role where she was often much tougher on the boy's than I was! But amazingly, they respected her talent and wisdom and chose to learn from her, showing her strong leadership ability.

Helen is not only an amazing athlete, which I knew from the minute I watched her play soccer and basketball, but an awesome human being who has such an intense love and passion for her family that it rivals anyone I've ever known. Pretty amazing for a 15-year-old. Mr. and Mrs. Petersen, you've done an amazing job raising your kids and I'm so grateful that Helen and Charlie have a been a part of my teaching life! Today the Tri-City Herald posted this article about Helen and if you didn't get a chance to check it out please visit this link and do so!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Homophones-words that sound the same but are spelled differently!

Today the three classes engaged in a bit of a healthy competition for who could create the most homophone pairs of words. Ula Ula came up with 44, and after much debate it was settled that Mele Mele had reached the same number, but not one more as they so had hoped to do.

One of the competition rules was that the words had to be common words and no slang could be used. Mele Mele attempted to display bought and bot (as in robot.) I of course vetoed this response so they asked Mr. Heitschmidt for help in proving me wrong and found it in the dictionary; "bot-the botfly’s larva" I explained that although creative, this would be the tiebreaker and it simply wasn’t common language but I wasn’t counting on their response that every science teacher uses it! So I said, ok if you can get 1 science teacher to say it today—without giving them any hints or saying the word in anyway—or looking it up in a dictionary I will count it. Though our dedicated scientists had many synonyms for larva, not one was able to produce the word the students desired to hear. Mrs. Flores' dictionary didn’t even have the word so Evan came to get mine to prove to her it was really even in there! It was a fun competition and a great way that we "accidentally" combined subject area knowledge and learned something new along the way!

Finally, Oma Oma, the smallest of the 3 classes, was able to create the largest list with 49 pairs of homophones. They did so with the help of one all-star named Gerry who had 3 pairs that no other child had thought of during the entire day! Way to go guys!

So tonight, be sure to ask your child to explain to you what a homophone is, and to give you some examples of common homophones in the English language!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekly Classroom Agenda now posted!

I am constantly looking for ideas how to make the classroom blog more useful for students and parents. I thought it might help if you were able to view the class agenda for the week at home. That way, if your child was absent, or if you notice they do not have their agenda filled out, you will have access to what should be written. On each class site I have posted their agenda for this week. I will do my best to post the new agenda each week to the classroom sites. Just click on the image and it will appear larger on your screen.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Awesome Job Parents!

This morning I had kids from all 3 groups coming into my classroom, so excited to turn in their Literature-Responses that they didn't want to wait until their actual class period! I was thrilled to see kids so proud of their work that they were comparing what they'd written with their classmates.

Some comments I heard were;
"This is the longest, best essay I've EVER written, I was so proud when I finished it last night!"
"Are you gonna put my paper on the blog if it's really good, I really tried to make it really good!"
"My mom printed out the checklist from your blog and she drilled me on it! But... I'm glad she did, I think I did a really good job!"
"My mom wanted to see my paper the minute I got home, but I told her, Mom I already finished it in study release, I didn't want to have homework!"
"It felt so good when I got done with my final draft, I couldn't believe I had written that paper, it's awesome!"

Parents, thank you for supporting your children in this assignment! It is a lofty, extended paper, but it is very important to me that my students are held to high expectations and realize their potential right from the start of the year. Now that we have completed these first two responses, our next response will be a bit different. This next response will be a letter to a classmate to share the world of their book with them. They need to begin preparing for this assignment by reading 20 minutes every night and preparing to have their book finished by OCTOBER 27 The point will be to "sell" their book to their classmate and I think something they'll enjoy will be that this will be a MUCH shorter assignment. Stay tuned for details on their next response which will be due on October 30!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Walker's Worskshop Vocabulary!

L.A.= Language Arts. Traditionally, this means writing class.
Lit.= Literature. This refers to Reading class.
Workshop day= This is a day where students have the class period to work on major assignments such as essays or projects. I am available to students to meet and discuss their work with.
Meeting Area= This is the area of our room where the couches are located. The point of the meeting area is to create a comfortable place where our class meets daily to read and discuss books.
R.A.= Read Aloud. This is when I read to the students in our meeting area.
Booktalk= This is where students will recommend a book to their classmates by giving a brief summary of the book and explaining why they enjoyed it. Students are required to complete one booktalk this quarter.
I.R.= Independent Student Reading.
Literature Book Response-Essay= Every 3 weeks students complete this assignment about their Independent Book. This is a thorough response generated after students complete their reading so that they can think critically and analytically about what they've read.
H.o.T= The Hierarchy of Talk. This is a discussion framework our class uses to assess our conversational level in class.
Elaboration=Tell me More! Every time I say this word in class students are to scream "Tell me more!" so that they will remember the #1 key to success in writing is to give the reader enough information.
Show writing or Show vs. Tell= Show writing is a style of descritive writing where the author uses emotion and imagery through use of the 5 senses. We are currently working on using show writing every day in out writer's workshop.
Author's Analysis= Learning to think critically about the writing of an author, discussing and writing why they wrote a book the way that they did.
Document camera= This is a projector where the teacher can place a paper under the lamp and project the image onto a screen for students to see. This is used in nearly every classroom at HMS.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2nd Reading Response Essay due Thursday!

The following is a checklist I provided to your child today in class. This is checklist to be used after the 1st draft of their Reading Response is written. This will ensure that they covered all of the area that I specifically target for our standards-based grading. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Reading Response Essay
(Check off what you have completed in your essay and in what paragraph it appears)

Story Elements
_____ Plot summary

_____ Character Analysis

_____ Discussion of setting

_____ Genre of the story

Author’s Analysis

_____ My opinions of the author

_____ Description of the author’s style

_____ Comparison of author’s

_____ Author’s detail, descriptions


_____ Questions for the author

_____ Explanation of why you have these ?’s

_____ ?’s about the plot

_____ Predictions of what would happen next

Essential Question

_____ Answer to “Making sense of the world?”

_____ What I learned

_____ Why the author wrote it

_____ Author’s message

_____ Did I share my personal opinions about my book?

That which I am thankful for...

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