I’m writing a two week post since next week is so short!
This past week ended up being a perfect example of the best laid plans going completely awry, but, luckily, the kids were flexible!! I lost my voice so the whole “one-on-one conferences” thing wasn’t a great option. We played catch-up with those conferences Friday and will continue to do so on Monday.
During conferences, I am looking for students to ask me specific questions about their reading and writing practice and what they’d like to improve. I’m keeping careful notes of our discussions so we can revisit the skills each week and look to see if improvement/growth is happening. So far, I’ve been really impressed with the quality of questions students are asking and the time they’re spending on their practice. Please encourage them to keep up the great work!
I’m hoping you’re seeing less time spent on homework. This shift toward a full reading/writing workshop is intended to have students practicing in class when I’m there to guide them. If they are using their time wisely, there is truly no reason they should ever be doing more than 30 minutes of homework for my class at home. Some nights they may have a short video lesson to view or a little work to finish up, but a time-savvy student could probably get away with only one or two nights of homework for my class. Please encourage your students to use their time wisely. You may want to ask them to show you their notebooks. These should include samples of their timed writing, multiple choice practice, and text analysis.
The other thing I’m hoping you will see in their notebook is vocabulary. Students should be hard at work finding words in their class texts and independent reading to add to their vocabulary lists. Many of them know a lot of words from SAT/ACT prep, but they don’t understand the nuances of the words’ meanings and thus use them incorrectly. For example, many struggled with the word “belligerent” on a recent multiple choice test. They looked it up and knew it meant “aggressive” but since many had never seen the word used in context, they didn’t understand just how aggressive it means...and that it usually means unreasonably aggressive.
Finally, this weekend students were asked to begin brainstorming topics for their one “process” piece of writing this card marking. The students have three types of writing from which they may choose and the topics are completely up to them. For some, this freedom is exciting! For others, the freedom to choose is overwhelming. Please touch base with your students about this piece and ask them what they’re thinking about using as a topic. Encourage them to come see me if they are stuck!
For our two day week next week, we’ll be doing our first graded, timed essay of the card marking--a synthesis essay. This is the essay type they practiced last week. Please encourage your students to talk to me about their synthesis practice essay during their conference this week. We’ll also be looking at sample synthesis essays this week as well to determine what makes a high-quality synthesis essay.
Have a great two weeks! I’ll update again after our break.
Mrs. Hattie Maguire