Week 16 – Honors

On Monday, we took our last test over To Kill a Mockingbird.

On Tuesday, I was absent. Students read a very short story called “The Lady or the Tiger” and wrote a brief essay about that story.

On Wednesday, I decided to show the To Kill a Mockingbird film. I do not generally show movies in their entirety, but I believe that this film is worth it due to the acting choices and gravitas brought about by the exceptional direction.

On Thursday we finished the movie, and I assigned students a project based on the novel. This <<Alternative Book Report>> is due no later than Friday, December 13. Each project will be presented to the class, but alternative means of presentation were discussed aloud. Please email me if you have any questions about this assignment, which is worth 100 points.

On Friday, we used Kahoot to review the entire novel. I wanted students to have some brainspace open to further consider their project.

Week 16 – Regular

On Monday, we finished reading Chapter 9 of Ender’s Game.

On Tuesday, I was absent. Students read a very short story called “The Lady or the Tiger” and wrote a brief essay about that story.

On Wednesday, students worked in small groups to create a 10-question test for Chapter 9 of Ender’s Game. I taught them how distractors were created for multiple-choice tests and required teams to submit 10 questions with four potential answers, one of which must be right and so indicated.

On Thursday, we reviewed Chapters 1-9 of Ender’s Game using Kahoot.

On Friday, I read aloud the essays that had been written for “The Lady or the Tiger” and we talked about effective writing strategies. [NOTE: The grade recorded in the gradebook is merely a reflection of how many words the student wrote for this essay. I allowed students to suggest what grade each essay deserved after reading them aloud, and that grade appears on the the papers themselves. For purposes of this assignment, however, I required 200 words and made the assignment were 20 points, so a score of 15 — for example — indicates the student wrote about 150 out of the 200 words I required.]

Rudolph Round-Up

We are so fortunate. And when I say “we’” I mean Mrs. Stanton and me … and YOU. Well, you and your family 🙂

As you know, my wife and I were foster parents before adopting our wonderful children, I’ve probably shown you pictures. Or ask me, and I will. During the time we fostered, one of the greatest things was Rudolph Round-Up. That’s a program whereby people with beautiful hearts — people like you — take upon themselves the responsibilities and rewards of buying Christmas presents for a foster child.

And this is no blind draw, no drop-random-gifts-into-a-box type thing. You will know the age, gender, and first name of your child; and the foster parents are allowed to provide a list of gifts their children would love most. And you go shopping for them and drop the presents off at the office they have for just that purpose — you don’t even need to wrap the presents — and that’s it.

And your kid — this child who is unable to be with his or her parents for whatever reason (almost certainly not the child’s fault) — gets something he or she really wants for Christmas. These children are unable to be with their parents, but they still get a chance at a happy Christmas.

Can you imagine being a little kid, maybe not even in kindergarten yet, and not being able to see your mom and dad, your grandparents, your family? And then Christmas comes, the “time of good cheer,” and you get … almost nothing? Can you?

Actually, I know some of you can. I know several of you were placed into foster care at same point, a few of you still are. That’s not your fault, and I hope your placements were/are loving. I know a couple of you were adopted, although I don’t know everyone’s individual story.

My wife and I, we would have gotten presents for our foster kids as it they were our kids anyhow. We had decided that. That’s just us. But there’s no guarantee when it comes to foster kids — the agency can decide to change placement on the spot if they deem it necessary. So, honestly, some foster parents don’t feel the need to buy much for these kids. Not out of meanness, just … practicality.

Because of the kind people who took on our children’s Christmas wish lists, they got some gifts we would not have been able to provide. I can’t thank those unknown people enough for their generosity.

If you’re still reading what has become a very long appeal, thank you. And yes, yes indeed, I am asking you to talk to your parents about the possibility of sponsoring a child’s Christmas this year. You all can do it. You can make a difference in this child’s life.

This appeal is not for everybody. But it is for everybody who can.

My wife and I, we sponsored two children last year, and we are sponsoring two this year as well. Christopher, a three-year-old boy who loves Paw Patrol. And Ava, a four-year-old girl who loves Frozen. We have actually told our kids that *they* are buying the gifts for these two kids, and we spent all day today having fun while shopping.

We aren’t rich — not by a long shot. But we know that these kids aren’t responsible for the situation their biological parents have put them in. And we know they deserve to be happy, especially on Christmas. And we are doing what we can do.

And now I’m asking you to do it too. There’s some kid out there who is going to have a much merrier Christmas because of your family’s kindness.

Please, let me know if I can provide any guidance if your family is willing to participate in this program.

Contact Vereuch Simmons

Email: rudolph@heartlandforchildren.org

Phone: 863-519-8900 ext. 214

Empowered

Several of my colleagues and I recently read and discussed a book called Empowered – What Happens When Students Own Their Learning. A significant portion of this book was devoted to the idea of allowing students to focus on research and presentation of their own areas of interest through the 20% Project or Genius Hour.

So I’ve been thinking about this a bit and got to wondering: What would my students do if offered this opportunity? To have 20% of our class time — either 10 minutes a day or one complete day per week — to pursue their own areas of interest?

I have my own ideas, but I am interested in hearing about your ideas as well. Think about it.

You would need to be engaged in some meaningful project, something that you are honestly interested in learning more about. I would never want to waste your time, so be thoughtful.

You would need to actively participate in this self-study program.

You would need to create some sort of presentation to show the results of your study and research. This presentation allows for a variety of forms, so start with the end in mind.

If I were offered such an opportunity, I might commit myself to

  • learning Esperanto using Duolingo, seeking a proficiency level of 3 or better in at least twenty sections. I could present my learning through a brief speech explaining what Esperanto is as well as sharing a letter written in Esperanto to an accomplished speaker as well as his or her response;
  • learning ten new poetic forms (sonnet, villanelle, terza rima, etc.) and creating a chapbook of my works on a common theme demonstrating those forms;
  • spending a week using three different diet plans (Weight Watchers, Whole 30, Keto) each and maintaining a vlog about my experiences.

Notice that these three projects are related to my own personal interests, not to classroom matters. The idea here is to allow me to grow beyond the classroom into the sort of person I wish to become.

So … who do you wish to become? What are you sincerely interested in knowing more about?

And that’s the question; that’s what I’d like you to consider. Write me a proposal about your idea, why it’s worth pursuing, what you would need to accomplish in your research, how you would present your learning to the class, and what effect this project would have for you.

Week 15 – Honors

On Monday, students took a test over chapters 17 – 23 of To Kill a Mockingbird. The last test over this novel – covering chapters 24-31 – will be given on December 2, the day we return from break.

On Tuesday, students were given the Performance Task #2 writing task (as required by the district). This assignment is meant to be completed in two days – one day for reading/highlighting/planning and another for writing and revising. I provided extra time on Friday for students who were unable to finish on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Wednesday, we concluded the administration of Performance Task #2.

On Thursday, students worked their way individually through the videos and slide show for the county’s required Internet Safety Training. There was a test students needed to take when they finished.

On Friday, students had the opportunity to finish the Internet Safety Training, to finish up anything they still needed to do on Performance Task #2, or to make up any assignments for which they had been absent this quarter (as part of my Grade Recovery Plan, as required by the county). They were also given an Extra Credit opportunity worth 100 points, which is due no later than December 6. (Click HERE for a link to the extra credit.)

Week Fifteen – Regular

On Monday, students were given the Performance Task #2 writing task (as required by the district). This assignment is meant to be completed in two days – one day for reading/highlighting/planning and another for writing and revising – but I reserved the computers for three days in order to accommodate students with IEP and 504 plans, students who were absent one of those days, and computer shenanigans (of which there were several).

On Tuesday, we continued Performance Task #2.

On Wednesday, we concluded the administration of Performance Task #2.

On Thursday, students worked their way individually through the videos and slide show for the county’s required Internet Safety Training. There was a test students needed to take when they finished.

On Friday, students had the opportunity to finish the Internet Safety Training, to finish up anything they still needed to do on Performance Task #2, or to make up any assignments for which they had been absent this quarter (as part of my Grade Recovery Plan, as required by the county). They were also given an Extra Credit opportunity worth 100 points, which is due no later than December 6. (Click HERE for a link to the extra credit.)

Week 14 – Honors

There was no school Monday for Veterans Day.

I had to take Tuesday off, so I had a substitute teacher that day. Students were asked to read an article about the Great Depression (to accompany our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird) and answer several questions – a few were multiple-choice, and a few required short written answers.

On Wednesday, students took the test over chapters 12-16 of To Kill a Mockingbird. Once everyone had finished, I made a decision that I do not usually make – I decided that I would show the movie for To Kill a Mockingbird, at least as far as students were to have read thus far. My reason for this is that I have quite a few students who are scoring poorly on these fairly simple tests, and I thought that watching the movie might energize their minds enough to inspire them to begin reading the rest of the book. It is unfortunate when an Honors student makes a decision not to do the work that he or she has been assigned. I also made sure that I contacted the parent for students who were failing my class and/or not doing well on these simple tests. My thanks to parents who responded in a timely fashion to these emails and/or text messages.

On Thursday, we continued watching the movie.

On Friday, I provided students a double-sided handout about Persuasive Writing taken from the Reading Kit provided by the Pearson company. This is to prepare them for the Performance Task writing that we will do next week – a county-mandated quarterly essay to determine how students are developing their skills for the upcoming FSA Writing.

Next week, students will take a test over chapters 17-23 of To Kill a Mockingbird on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, students will be writing the Performance Task essay, and I will score these over Thanksgiving break in order to make decisions about how best to go forward with writing instruction. Essentially, the better students are able to do, the less writing they will have to do. The less capable they seem, the more writing we will have to do. It is important that all students pass this test, so students must show understanding and growth on these sample writings.

Week 14 – Regular

There was no school Monday for Veterans Day.

I had to take Tuesday off, so I had a substitute teacher that day. Students were asked to read a famous poem called “Casey at the Bat” and answer several questions – a few were multiple-choice, and a few required short written answers.

On Wednesday, we discussed the upcoming Performance Task, which is a county-mandated writing sample (collected each quarter to see how students are progressing towards mastering the skills needed to pass the FSA Writing test). In order to prepare them for the next writing sample (which is next week), I reviewed the previous Performance Task writing that students had done in the second week of school. We discussed the prompt and I read the articles provided for that assessment. As I read, I highlighted the text on the screen and I suggested that students take whatever notes they felt would be helpful. (Unbeknownst to them, I awarded extra credit points to students who took notes and turned them in the next day.)

On Thursday, we resumed our discussion of the Performance Task. Since we had read the articles on Wednesday, on this day I outlined the essay, wrote a well-crafted body paragraph using correct citation modes, and discussed introduction and conclusion strategies. At the end of class, I had students to a 3-2-1 activity, where they identified three things they learned, two questions they had, and one thing they could have added to the conversation.

On Friday, I provided students a double-sided handout about Persuasive Writing taken from the Reading Kit provided by the Pearson company. Students were allowed to work at their own pace and were encouraged to complete any makeup work they might have once they finished.

Next week, students will be writing the Performance Task essay, and I will score these over Thanksgiving break in order to make decisions about how best to go forward with writing instruction. Essentially, the better students are able to do, the less writing they will have to do. The less capable they seem, the more writing we will have to do. It is important that all students pass this test, so students must show understanding and growth on these sample writings.

Week 13 – Honors

This week, we started the next session of The House on Mango Street, which I am reading aloud at the beginning of each class. I stepped up the questions a little bit, adding more questions that required inference as well as a discussion of Tone for each vignette.

Also, I made sure to remind students every day that their Complex Character Analysis essays would be due November 13. I opened myself up to meeting with students after school to workshop their essays and made myself available to answer questions during class while students were working on their small group projects.

On Monday, we took the test over chapters 7-11 of To Kill a Mockingbird. I was surprised to see so many students do poorly on this test. The test was really just a reading check quiz, mostly multiple-choice. It seems that several students are choosing not to do the required outside reading for this honors class – each test is worth 100 points, so I hope they understand what doing poorly on these tests will do to their grades. I invited them to work on their Complex Character Analysis essays with whatever time they had remaining – looking up quotes, checking for information on my website, asking me questions, etc.

On Tuesday, I allowed students to choose their own groups and distributed a copy of Jim Crow Laws that once existed in our country’s history. Students were asked to review these laws, discuss them with teammates, and begin to categorize them in whatever way they deemed appropriate.

On Wednesday – a half-day – we had a FLEX DAY where students were able to make up work that they were absent for and/or complete/redo assignments for which they were eligible. This is part of my Grade Recovery Plan, as required by the county. After this date, all Z-grades turn to zeros; students who were absent for those assignments will need to schedule time after school to make up the work they missed.

On Thursday, I provided more time for students to finish categorizing the Jim Crow Laws and to begin making their posters. They were directed to prepare to present their findings on Friday.

On Friday, students gave their presentations of the Jim Crow Laws in front of an audience of their peers.

 

STANTON’S REFLECTION: Everyone knows that I’m not the biggest fan of small-group interactive activities. I feel that quite often time is misspent during these activities as students choose to socialize rather than apply themselves. However, in this instance, I do feel that students made a good effort at what I asked them to do. Presentations on Friday went as well as expected – the assignment was given to me with very little framework, and I invited students to present their information in whatever form seemed most appropriate. I am trying to open up Student Choice in some activities to provide more of a sense of ownership. This is based on a book study several educators in our school are doing on a book called Empowered: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning.

I appreciated having the opportunity to talk with several students about their essays as they began crafting them. I’m looking forward to reading these Complex Character Analysis essays on Wednesday, and I think I will give students the option of having their work graded either holistically or by having them marked up the way I would for college students. (I will only be able to mark up typed essays, however.) The grade will not change, just the amount of effort I put forth for the students who want the more stringent grading. Unfortunately, I know that this sort of grading sometimes make students feel bad when confronted with their writing errors – at the same time, the only way we know what to improve is to find out what were not doing well. I will give students a choice, and put forth extra effort on my time to help those who would most appreciate it.

I am concerned, as I said earlier, about the number of students who are choosing not to read the out-of-class novel this quarter. I wanted to allow students to purchase digital copies of the book – Kindle, Nook, etc. – instead of forcing them to have physical copies (as other English teachers do, and as I did first nine weeks), but this means no open-book tests for this. I am just giving reading check quizzes, and it is sadly evident who is and is not reading the book.