Yesterday was the kind of day that makes weekend nights hunched over a stack of essays worth it. I had a great time celebrating reading with your kids; if they had one quarter the amount of fun I had, we’ll consider it a big success.
It wasn’t just meaningless fun, though. As I told the kids, the day was intended to be a party with a purpose. My main purpose was to have every kid identify a reading goal or resolution for next semester. As the day went on, I discovered that most resolutions were falling into three categories:
I took pictures of all of the kids with their reading resolutions--we added some festive costumes to keep it fun. I am going to print and post all of those pictures in the classroom to help us keep those resolutions in mind as we move into second semester. There are a few pictures at the bottom of this post to give you an idea of what we were up to.
What can you do to help support these awesome resolutions?
Ask your students about the resolutions they made and then help them figure out how they’ll begin tackling it! Maybe they need to come ask me for recommendations or perhaps they can check with Mrs. Bratney, our high school librarian, for some help.
Explore some titles with your students! I like to imagine that my kids (ages 3 and 6) will want me to read to them every night until they go to college. Your kids assure me that that’s not going to happen. BUT...it might be cool to read the same book and chat about it. Maybe you could make a reading resolution of your own!
Here are a few lists of great suggestions:
Happy Reading and Happy New Year!
Happy Hanukkah to all of you that celebrate it! I’m trying to keep homework to a minimum this week for those that have family celebrations going on.
Our big excitement this week is the DIA field trip. Thanks in advance to all of the parents who have agreed to chaperone. For those of you not attending, I’ll take pictures and post them here next week. While students are there, they’ll be working on preparing to write an informational/research based essay about one of the pieces they see. Here is the assignment we worked on to prepare for the trip and the assignment for the paper they’ll be starting on Wednesday when they return.
As we begin the writing process on Wednesday, encourage your students to tell you about their art and their research at home. We’ve been talking a lot about “reading” visual texts. What kind of messages are writers or artists sending when they create a specific image? How does the context of the piece (when it was created, what was going on in history, etc) impact the message of the piece? This ability to read messages in different types of texts is vitally important for students developing their critical thinking skills.
The essays will be due Friday, December 18. We will work on the essays extensively for the next two weeks in class, so students should have no problem completing the essays prior to break. By the end of the week, your student should be able to show you a complete rough draft of his or her paper.
Students will also be getting their informational text reading assessments back this week Wednesday. We did a lot of practice prior to the test; you can see two of the practice assignments that were scored (but didn’t “count” toward students’ grades) in MiStar. I scored those and gave the students feedback about them prior to the test. 4=advanced, 3=proficient, 2= almost proficient, 1= not proficient. Some students chose to not take advantage of that practice and received 0s. Those zeroes aren’t impacting their grades, but I’m nervous that the lack of practice will impact their ability to do well on the info text assessment. If that proves true, students will be able to come see me before school to make up that practice and then take a second stab at the assessment to improve their scores.
Last thing: The students are getting excited about our New Year’s Eve-themed Reading Resolutions party on December 16. Well, I’m excited and I’m pretty sure they’re humoring me :) If you’d be willing to send in some snacks or drinks, please sign up here. And, if you’re interested in helping me craft a few decorations (I’m working on a photo booth and ball to drop!), shoot me an email!
Many of you mentioned grammar/punctuation/spelling/conventions as areas of concern at conferences. I wanted you know that I heard you!! Trust me-- it's a concern of mine as well. Students don't know the "rules" of grammar, and it shows in their writing. Unfortunately, teaching them the rules is usually completely ineffective because even if they memorize the rules, they fail to adequately apply them to their own writing. Research shows time and time again that the only truly effective way for students to improve their grammar is to see more good writing. They need to READ!
A recent experience with a neighbor inspired me to rethink my grammar instruction, and I blogged about my plan for the Oakland Schools Literacy website. You can read my post here if you're interested. I've got some ideas for targeted grammar instruction coming in the month of December. Keep your eyes peeled for more details as the month goes on.
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving with your families! We spent a lot of time with both sides of our family, but I still managed to squeeze in grading the Unit 3 Reading Tests that students took the day before break. I’m so glad I did because the improvement was exciting to see. On the Unit 2 Reading Test, the average score was a 23.7/30. On the Unit 3 Reading Test, the average score was a 27/30!!! WOW!! Hard work and practice are paying off in AP Language. That said, there were a few students who didn’t improve or didn’t improve as much as I would have liked. If your student is one of those, now is the time to come see me. There is one more test that can replace this score in January. Students need to see me before school or during AA so we can start to figure out how to improve their skills.
This week begins our Unit 4 study of Gender. We will read a number of essays that explore our expectations for each gender. Which roles does society expect men and women to fulfill? How have those changed over time and how do they continue to change? The readings for this unit often spark some very lively discussions. I encourage you to ask your students about the class readings this week.
Three important notes for this week:
Have a great week and enjoy the rest of this chilly Sunday. I’m off to Kensington for a hike with the cub scouts :)
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a great week at the Maguire house. Lots of family, food and fun times with the kiddos.
In ELA 10 this week, we are wrapping up our work with the literature circle books (hopefully your students finished these over the long weekend!). Students will do a final reading constructed response and another discussion with their small groups about the book.
While those discussions are going on, I’ll be reviewing the informational text reading skills we worked with prior to break in small groups with the students. Students will review objective summarizing, citing with MLA, choosing and embedding quotes, finding biased language, and assessing the validity of an argument. On Wednesday, students will take the final assessment of those skills by reading a new pair of articles and applying what they’ve learned to them. I had hoped to do this assessment prior to break, but
On Thursday and Friday, we’ll turn our attention to preparing for our trip to the DIA. We will begin examining how the context of a piece (written, visual, or spoken) impacts the author’s message. We will begin working on researching a writer’s or artist’s background and time period to better understand his or her purpose. All of this work is preparation for our next big writing assignment: a research based essay about a piece of art the students see at the DIA on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Three important notes for this week:
Have a great week and enjoy the rest of this chilly Sunday. I’m off to Kensington for a hike with the cub scouts :)
One of the things I’m most thankful for is the short week this week!! We have been working really hard in AP Language for the past two weeks, and we are all ready for a break. But, before that break, we have two important tasks.
Monday: Last writing workshop day for Argument Essays. As of last Friday, students have had multiple opportunities to ask me questions, conference with each other, and look at sample essays. Many of your students have risen to the water buffalo challenge quite nicely and have excellent essays. Monday will be their final day to ask specific questions, edit for one another, and discuss the quality of the arguments they’re making. Encourage them to let you read their essays! Essays are due when we return from break.
Tuesday: Unit 3 Reading Test . I debated the wisdom of giving a test the day before a break, but the majority of the students agreed they’d rather have it out of the way. After Friday’s review of the practice test, I’m confident that students are ready to show me their growth with these skills. Some students are still struggling with some of the skills; if your student is one of those, remind him or her that there is still more time! This is the second of three chances to show mastery. If they continue to struggle on this test, we’ll do more practice and try again in early January.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to a long weekend and lots of family time. I hope you’ll have the same!
This week we will focus on two main things.
2. Informational Reading skills: We read several articles last week about abuses of power or perceived abuses of power. We will continue to read more current events articles and work on five distinct skills while reading those types of texts:
Students practiced those skills last week and received a formative (not “counted”) grade in MiStar to give them an idea of their current skill level with each skill. As we continue to practice, I’ll update that score in MiStar. By the end of the unit, students will demonstrate their mastery of those five informational reading skills on a summative unit assessment
Students will also receive the permission slip and information sheet for the Detroit Institute of Art field trip on Monday. I will be sending home a plea for more chaperones as well. We need at least six adults (not including me!) to go on the field trip. I currently have three. If you can spare the time, we’d love to have you join us.
Finally, students are being given the opportunity to retake the Unit 1 Reading Assessment if they did not score well the first time around. Rather than just "try again", though, students need to come in to AA and work with me prior to taking the retake. I want to make sure we can close the skill gaps before the students take the second test. Please encourage your students to take advantage of this opportunity if they did not score well on the Unit 1 test. The retake is December 9, so students have two AAs prior to that to come in for help.
Let me know if you have any questions about our work this week. I look forward to seeing you at conferences!
As I warned you last week, we will be knee deep in the muck and mud of writing this week. I’ve told the students that they need to channel their inner water buffalos (see last week’s post if this makes no sense to you) and dig into making their essays great.
There are two main goals for this essay.
For many students, #2 is the biggest challenge. For me, it’s the most important one. #2 is all about academic maturity. It will prepare them for the type of academic mindset they will need in college. If you can help me out by encouraging them to keep at their essays next week, I’d really appreciate it.
Monday through Thursday will be dedicated to Writing Workshop. Each day the students will have a new focus--quality examples, transitions, voice, meta-commentary--and will use their They Say/I Say texts to help guide their revision. I will be available all of those days to give specific feedback and guidance to students who ask for it. Encourage your students to be prepared self-advocates. If they are ready with a rough draft on Monday, they will be in great shape.
These essays will be due the Monday we return from Thanksgiving break (November 30), but I am encouraging the students to have them completed prior to break. They’re even welcome to turn them in prior to leaving if they would like have them off their plates completely.
Along with essays, students will continue their work with close reading. There are no new unit texts to read this week; rather, students will be preparing for the next unit reading assessment. They will have a practice test that we will work on throughout the week to give them chances to prepare.
Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to meeting you at conferences!
Last week The New York Times published an article called Everything You Need To Know About the New SAT. In it, several test prep companies are quoted talking about the challenges in preparing for the new test. One comment was particularly striking. The education director for a company called PrepMatters said, “If you don’t read well and happily, this test isn’t going to be your friend.”
Four years ago, Novi High School’s English Department committed to changing the culture around reading at our school. We have added dedicated time for independent reading in all of our courses, we have committed to spending more time helping students find books they enjoy, and we have built classroom reading libraries that appeal to the interests and abilities of our students. We have not finished the job, but we are well on our way to providing an environment where students can read well and happily.
When the juniors took the PSAT this year--the first look at this new test--my juniors were overwhelmingly positive about the English section. Many said it felt easy, and that’s a great sign. Novi’s English Department has been revising and rewriting our curriculum to fit the Common Core Standards over the past seven years. The new test certainly isn’t easy, but it feels “easy” to many of our students because it’s assessing the skills they’ve been learning and practicing ever since they started high school. This test aligns with the Common Core and will hopefully be as accurate of a measure of their learning as a standardized test can be.
We will have to wait and see about how the scores correlate with the students’ feelings about the test, but in the meantime, I’m hopeful that our students are well prepared for this brand new test. Parents often ask what their students can do to prepare for standardized tests, and this year I will ask you to do exactly what the test prep companies are suggesting. Help your students develop as readers.Encourage reading for pleasure at home. Help your students find books that they’re interested in reading. There’s always a temptation to go out and buy the latest test prep materials and encourage your student to do practice test upon practice test. While those things can be helpful, this new test values students who are real readers. The more you can do to help your students genuinely enjoy reading, the better off they’ll be.
The other night, after I finally sat down to relax after wrangling my six and three year olds through baths, books, bedtime, a notification popped up on my phone. A new blog post from my son Charlie's teacher. I smiled, pulled up the link on my phone and was surprised to see a picture of my son sitting in the big teacher chair, grinning and reading a book to the class. He was reader of the day, and he hadn't even told me!! He never tells me anything.
"How was your day, Buddy?"
"What was the best part?"
I bet some of you have Charlies of your own who never tell you anything. And just because they're in high school doesn't mean you're not interested in what's going on in their classes.
I'm going to try to do a better job of giving you a picture of what we're up to in AP English Language and ELA 10. I'll post a blog entry each week and shoot you an email when it has been updated. I'll let you know when big stuff is coming up, but I'll also try to share some of the fun things, too. Let me know if you have specific concerns or questions you'd like me to address in blog posts, and I'll do my best to cover those as well.
Hopefully, this will give us all another way to keep in contact about what your students are learning.
Mrs. Hattie Maguire