This is a two week update because I’ll be out of town next weekend!
We’ve finally started digging into our first big research project! In fact “dig into your research” was our class learning goal yesterday. I talked to the students about truly digging in and reading their research. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that many students have mastered the art of skim and scan for “good quotes” and, up until this point, they’ve been very successful with that method. For the type of writing they will do in this class, they need to use the skimming and scanning to choose their sources, but then they need to actually READ them!! One student said, “What if a source is like 50 pages??” My reply? “Buckle up and start reading.” The goal for Monday was to come to class having read two high quality sources. If you have time this weekend, ask your student how that’s going!!
This week and next will be spent working primarily on the independent portion of this project, the Individual Research Report. Students are researching one small area of their team’s problem or issue and will write an essay detailing their findings. We will have multiple writing conferences throughout the next two weeks, and students will have many opportunities to receive feedback on both their writing and research. If they are working steadily in class, you should see some work at home, but never more than 30 minutes in the evenings. If your student is working all night on this, it is highly likely that things were left to the last minute!! We’ve talked about making a plan for the research and writing process; please check in periodically over the next two weeks with your student and see how that process is going!! Students who are struggling to stay on track need to let me know.
Have a great weekend!
I’ll be out of town next weekend so this week I’m letting you know what’s happening for the next two weeks.
Students are doing well so far with monitoring their own work and spreading things out (I think). This would be a great weekend to have a little check-in chat with your student about how that is going. One thing to ask about would your student’s notebook. We are working on “filling out contextual pools”--deepening our knowledge of the world around us---by keeping track of current events or history that we learn. Another great thing to ask about would be your student’s independent novel! They all seemed to start strong with independent reading, and I hope to keep that momentum going.
Next week will be spent practicing for our first unit reading test. Students have been working on annotating texts to show they understand a writer’s choices. This is important for their critical reading because it helps them consider what an author is trying to make them think/do/believe with a text. It's also important as they think about their own choices as writers. Why am I writing this? How can I craft this to make others understand my purpose? This week we will do a number of practice annotations together to make sure everyone is confident with the skill, and then at the end of the week students will take a graded assessment. The more students practice and respond to feedback this week, the better prepared they will feel for the test!
The following week we will begin our next unit. This unit’s thematic focus is education: To what extent do our schools serve the purpose of a true education? The skill focus for the unit is research and synthesis writing. Students will use the critical reading skills we honed in unit one to read various perspectives on education and come to their own conclusion about a research question. By the end of that week (Oct. 6), they should be able to tell you the focus of their research question!
Have a great weekend!
We survived the first week!! It was touch and go there for awhile at my house (we have a new kindergartner!), but I think we all made it. I hope you’re enjoying this relaxing, warm weekend.
Students now have their blogs up and running. These will be a place to practice writing and research as well as a place to begin storing ideas for future research projects. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the students’ first entries and getting a glimpse of what they are interested in researching this year. I encourage you to ask your student if you can take a look! My hope is that students fully engage with their blogs. These will never be graded or edited; rather, they are places to practice writing and thinking. I’ll always give feedback, and they will grow tremendously if they write often! This is a great time for them to practice writing simply for the sake of learning rather than to earn points.
Assignments like blogging will be recorded in MiStar as “not graded” and will be given a score of 4=advanced, 3=proficient, 2=somewhat proficient, 1=not proficient, 0=not completed. All assignments that are factored into students’ course grades will be entered as out of 100. At this point in the year, you may see some low scores. Please don’t be alarmed!! We will repeat these tasks and the grades will be replaced as the students’ skills grow!
This week we will begin forming research teams for our first big research project. For the next three weeks students will be working both independently and with their teams to fully explore an issue or problem of their choosing. In the first week of October, they’ll present their findings to the class. Please ask your students about their research topics!! The more voices involved in the conversation, the better. My students last year discovered that their parents were actually excellent resources for helping them think of additional avenues to explore (Imagine that!! Parents are useful!)
Enjoy your weekend and please let me know if you have any questions.
Happy weekend! I hope you’re enjoying all this sunshine!
We had a great week starting writing workshop. The students adjusted well to the self-driven format and I have high hopes that we are off to a great start! I had writing conferences with about half of the class last week. During those conferences, students were practicing critical reading in a number of different ways. They will have two more days to work on that practice this coming week while I finish the conferences. Please encourage your students to use their time wisely in class. I want the time to be self-directed so they can practice that very difficult skill of staying focused, but I also don’t want anyone to flounder! If your student is struggling to accomplish tasks during workshop time, encourage him or her to speak to me about how to better manage time. You may also want to ask to see your student’s notebook. They should have a solid start on vocabulary building, contextual pool filling and writing practice. Hopefully, they can explain to you what they’re up to in their notebooks! These are great places for practicing and developing their skills.
There are a number of things in MiStar and students will be getting quite a few things back on Monday. All of these assignments have written feedback and a score; however, students do not have any grades yet in MiStar. As I explained at Curriculum Night, this can be very challenging for some students. When they realize things don’t “count”, it is harder for them to see the value in doing the work. Please help me help them understand the value of practice and feedback. Things will eventually “count” and when they do, I want students to be confident and prepared with skills that they have honed over time!! I don’t expect their work to be perfect at this point in the year and I don’t want to “ding them” in their grading when they’re still developing their skills.
I do, however, want parents to know what those numbers mean when things are marked as “not graded.” Most not graded work will be scored on a 4/3/2/1 scale. 4=advanced, 3=proficient, 2=somewhat proficient, 1=not proficient, 0= not completed. Students scoring consistently in the 1 and 0 range need to see me!! Occasionally, I will score work on a 1-9 scale. I know that it’s confusing, but the AP test essays are scored on a 9 point scale and it’s important that the students have a realistic idea of where they are on that scale throughout the year. The summer reading constructed response in MiStar right now is scored on that scale. Scores are exactly where I’d expect them to be at this point in the year (lots of 3s, 4s, and 5s).
Please ask your students to help you understand their work and their grades. I’m always happy to answer questions from parents, but I’m even happier when students can explain for themselves. The more we can do now to help them learn how to speak up and advocate for themselves, the better!
Enjoy your weekend!
We’ve had a great (busy!) first week in AP Language. Students have done some baseline assessments to give me an idea of their current level and those assessments will be in MiStar early next week. These scores are to show us where the students are right now. The goal is for them to go UP! Please encourage your student to see those scores as feedback only and to focus on what needs to happen to improve them. Often, students get caught up in scores and have a hard time remembering that it’s the beginning of the year. A student with a C right now can certainly have an A by the end of the semester--that’s the whole point of the class!! I want their skills to grow! Hard work is the way to do that.
If you’d like more information about the class as a whole and the AP exam we will prepare for, please take a look at the College Board’s overview site. You can also learn more at Curriculum Night on Wednesday. I’d love to meet all of you!
This week we will begin our work with rhetorical analysis and close reading to determine what an author is trying to accomplish with a piece of writing. What does the author want me to do or think or believe? How is the author accomplishing that purpose? Which words make me feel a certain way? How does the structure of the argument lead me to that feeling? This analysis is important for two reasons. First, it helps us think critically about our reading. People who don’t think when they read are often easily duped! Second, it helps us persuade others in our own writing. Later in the semester, after we’ve done this careful work with analysis, we will apply these rhetorical skills to our own writing and arguments.
Students will have their first opportunity to manage and balance their own time this week. On Tuesday I will give them a large chunk of practice work: two essays to analyze, some vocabulary acquisition work, and some writing practice. Students will have lots of time in class to tackle all that work while I conference with students individually about their summer writing that they submitted on the first day. Please talk to your students about how they’re using their time!! You’ll know how it went based on how much time they’re working next weekend. If they’re buried in homework for AP Lang, they need to rethink how they’re spending their time in class. If they have “no homework”--give them a high five!
I hope you have a great weekend and I’m looking forward to meeting you all on Wednesday!
We had a great first week and did a lot of things to get us ready for the year ahead. If you’d like more information about the AP examination and performance tasks your students will be preparing for this year, check out this link to the College Board. You can also learn more by coming to see me at Curriculum Night on Wednesday! I’d love to meet all of you.
This week we will continue our conversation about Wealth and Poverty and the many questions students have raised. Here’s an example of the questions your students are coming up with:
I have a whole stack of questions from the students on my desk, but I wanted you to see an example of how they are already using their own interests to drive their research. This week we will start digging into research and practicing the skill of identifying a source’s argument. Students will read several different pieces with different perspectives and will practice identifying the text’s argument, articulating the line of reasoning, and evaluating the quality of evidence used in that reasoning.
Students are also beginning to blog this week. The goal of these blogs is to help the students collect information about the world around them as they go through their daily lives. Every week they’ll do at least one post about a news article they’ve read, something interesting they learned in another class, a political cartoon they saw that made them think--the possibilities are endless as long as they’re letting their curiosity lead them! This is also great practice for learning how to create a positive digital footprint. I’d encourage you to listen to this short NPR piece about how students can begin to think about their online identity and talk about it with your students. Hopefully in the next few weeks we will have some blogs to share with you.
Finally, students are beginning book clubs to deepen their thinking about wealth and poverty. They had the opportunity to choose their book on Friday and chose either Hillbilly Elegy, Nickel and Dimed, or Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Make sure you ask them to tell you about their books!
Have a great week and hopefully I’ll see you on Wednesday!
I hope you've all had a lovely, relaxing summer. I am excited to get to know all of my students and dig into our work for this year.
For the past two years I have maintained this blog as a way to keep in contact with parents and let everyone know what we are up to in class. I will email you a link to the blog every week (usually!), and it will give an overview of the week's work. I will give you a head's up about big assignments and an overview of the readings we are doing in class. My hope is that this helps you have conversations with your students about both our course content and how they can best manage their time! As these are Advanced Placement classes, my goal is to mimic a college course while still providing some supports that students need in high school. For example, work is often given in big chunks (no nightly reading assignments with study guides), but I will help students plan out how to tackle those big assignments in a way that makes the most sense for their personal schedules.
My goal for my students is that they learn how to take ownership of their work and plan carefully so that they do not become overwhelmed. A student who plans well and works consistently in my class should be able to keep homework to a maximum of 30 minutes a night. Sometimes students prefer to have "no homework" for several nights in a row and then pull an all-nighter to finish something. That practice concerns me, and I aim to help students avoid it as much as possible. The mental and physical health of my students is very important to me; I want to send them off to college with the skills necessary to balance a challenging course load.
This week in class, we will be working on the following:
AP SEMINAR: Today we started class by watching and discussing a Ted Talk called "The Danger of a Single Story." Our research will be built on the ability of students to think about others' perspectives and view issues through multiple lenses. It's a great TedTalk and I'm sure your student would love to chat about it with you! For the rest of the week, we will talk about the purpose of the course, the unique assessments that are part of the AP Capstone program, and our plans for the fall semester. Students will begin working on developing strong working relationships with their peers because there is a lot of group work in the Capstone program.
AP LANGUAGE: Today in class we watched a video called Learn Like a Jungle Tiger and talked about the importance of pushing and challenging ourselves this year. If you have 10 minutes, I'd encourage you to watch it and chat about it with your student. For the rest of the week, we will spend some time reviewing and working with our summer reading and writing assignments early in the week. By the end of the week we will dive into the study of rhetoric--how does a writer craft an argument and for what purpose?
Next week I'll have separate posts about each class, but for now, welcome! I can't wait to meet you all in person and hope to see you at curriculum night next week.
Mrs. Hattie Maguire