Friday, December 9, 2011

December 5 - December 9

In addition to reading all the way to page 101 this week in their Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry books, the students spent a fair amount of time critically thinking about the historical context of the novel.  To begin, they listened to and discussed Toni Morrison's picture book, Remember - A Journey to School Integration.  It is a powerful story about the implications of 'separate but equal' and the resistance to complying with Brown v. Board of Education.  Additionally, students viewed A Girl Like Me by Kiri Davis.  In this short film shot in 2006, Davis, a high school senior, recreates the Dr. Kenneth Clark doll study with astonishing results.

Next week, we will discuss Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry to page 150, work on our personal spelling lists, and go grocery shopping for our Hope House families.  Library book talks will take place on Friday.  It's shaping up to be an exciting five days!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 21 - November 23

Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day

Welcome Mural created collaboratively by all sixth grade students.
A warm thank you to all grandparents and special friends who joined us on Wednesday.  It was a privilege to meet so many new people and share the morning.  We learned a little about each other as we created Random Autobiography poems together.  The poems explored deeper understandings of ourselves and provided an opportunity to draft, revise, edit, and publish a piece of writing in only twenty minutes!  Here is the template of the Random Autobiography:

Random Autobiography

Favorite number, color, astrological sign
I am told (memory)…
I love…
I held…
I have seen…
I lost…
I hear…
I used to…
I’ve learned …
Personal symbol

Looks like…

Seven, green, Cancer
I am told I crawled backwards.
I love Coca-Cola and Candy Raisins
I held my father’s hand.
I have seen childbirth.
I lost my grandparents.
I hear what I want to.
I used to have time.
I’ve learned to follow my heart.
Bass clef on a musical staff.

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 8 - November 18

It has been a long week, but ERB's are finished!  Congratulations to all of the dedication and focus demonstrated by the sixth graders this week.  Everyone put forth their best effort.

After completing four days of testing, students started to get back on track with their regular studies today.  We are building background knowledge for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor.  It promises to be an insightful look into the lives of African-American sharecroppers during the Great Depression.  Historical context plays a huge role in fully appreciating and understanding the novel, so we will be spending time exploring the Great Depression as well as Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, and sharecropping.  Students will be creating investigative research projects to help enhance their knowledge of these key ideas.  The projects will even contain QR codes as a way to make their work interactive.  We are very excited!

What is a QR code?  Scan this one with your smartphone to find out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October 24 - October 27

Students have been doing an amazing job generating terms for whole group study from The Outsiders.  This week their critical searches continued.  They responded to two surveys that I sent to their email accounts.  The surveys asked them to indicate the terms that they were unsure of or having difficulty understanding.  We took the results of those surveys and created word clouds using Tagxedo.  A word cloud emphasizes terms used most frequently.  After analyzing the clouds, students were easily able to determine the terms most in need of study.  You can find the whole list at SpellingCity - a great place to practice spelling and learning new words using games, flashcards, and tests.

Chapter 9 Vocabulary

Chapter 10 Vocabulary

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 17 - October 21

As keynote speakers at the teacher in-service day, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst presented many student-centered ideas regarding reading instruction.  Two of those ideas, student-generated discussion questions and student-generated vocabulary, resonated strongly within the context of my own practice.  As a result, students have been taught how to create thoughtful discussion questions as they read.  These questions can range from looking at big ideas to concepts that they are struggling to understand.  At the same time, students are indicating the terms from each chapter that they find the most challenging.  This week we used Lino, an online bulletin board to group terms together.  The most heavily populated groups indicated words that we would study as a group.

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 11 - October 14

Among many other things this week, we spent time reviewing for the vocabulary quiz.  This involved a more traditional worksheet as well as a number of interactive formats.  On Tuesday, we played charades and on Wednesday, we used an SMS voting site called Poll Everywhere.  When the site was working properly (yes, there were a few glitches), students were able to respond to questions on the SmartBoard using their cellphones, iPods, iPads, laptops or other Wi-Fi enabled devices.  Poll Everywhere displays live results, so students were able to watch as their responses tabulated on the screen.  It was amazing!  Here are two examples of the polls we used to review.  Feel free to try them out.

Create your own sms poll at Poll Everywhere

Additionally, students performed their response poems with their partners this week.  It was a great opportunity to practice public speaking as well as being a respectful audience member.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 3 - October 7

This week, students continued reading The Outsiders paying particular attention to S.E. Hinton's use of Robert Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay".  As a group we constructed the significance of the poem as it relates to its placement in the plot, its speaker, and its listener.  Once we came to a consensus regarding the theme – the inevitability of change – students constructed their own “Nothing Gold Can Stay” response poems drawing on experiences from their own lives.  Small groups used a Change Organizer to map out their ideas regarding cycles and change.  Then, we looked carefully at Frost’s use of figurative language and sound so that our poems emulated his style and format.  Check out the photos link to see what we created.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Field Day - September 26

Sixth grade participated in a field day today and rotated through a variety activities designed to encourage community.  In my room we played Scattergories in teams.  Everyone had a great time thinking of creative and original words for each category.  Even the rain couldn't keep us from enjoying ourselves and learning a little something in the process!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 19 - September 23

It was a busy week as the sixth graders wrapped their minds around whether or not Johnny Cade should be guilty of murder or manslaughter in the death of Bob Sheldon.  One thing was for sure, it was not a clear-cut case.  Solid arguments and rationalizations were made on either side.

Nonetheless, reaching an individual decision has allowed the students to practice their persuasive writing skills.  They worked on organizing their thoughts in an attempt to convince an audience to believe what they believe.  Students analyzed effective hooks and organizational patterns and began to experiment with building their case.  Next week, they will critique various types of conclusions and participate in a peer review with their own pieces.  Whatever the verdict, students will be expected to defend it with the text.  Good luck, Johnny!

Last, but certainly not least, the sixth graders began their monthly book talks with the middle school librarian, Mrs. Eppelsheimer.  They were presented with six current and intriguing novels - all great choices for our ORB.  I know that I am excited to read a few myself!

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 12- September 16

This week we read one of the most exciting chapters of The Outsiders and we are really beginning to think critically about the actions and motives of the characters.  At the same time, we started to analyze the various themes that are surfacing in the story and used passages from the text to support our ideas.

Additionally, we took a much closer look at active literacy and practiced the skills we learned in earnest.  I have included the presentation below.  Feel free to view and discuss its content with your children.

Finally, we rounded out the week with our first vocabulary quiz.  We focused on the terms the we studied from the first two chapters of the book and demonstrated our understandings on Friday.  Due to the quiz, there will be no homework this weekend!  Enjoy.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 6 - September 9

What an exciting week in sixth grade!  In the lead-up to the big homecoming game, students enthusiastically participated in Spirit Week.  From Crazy Hat Day to Jersey Day, we really enjoyed the opportunity to display our creativity.  Without a doubt, the best day was 60's Day on Friday.  Many of the sixth graders chose to dress like their favorite Greaser or Soc and brought The Outsiders to life.

Speaking of The Outsiders, we spent time creating personality profiles for the six main characters of the book.  Each character was labeled and accompanied by a paragraph illustrating how that label fit.  Additionally, students created alternate settings for the novel.  For example, instead of the urban 60's, what would the novel be like if it were taking placing in the future, the Wild West, or even during the Renaissance?  One thing we noted was that no matter how much some things would have changed, others would have stayed exactly the same.

We really dug our heels into the text this week.  We did a deep reading of Chapter 2 and examined the many layers of a well-written text.  After many class discussions, a PowerPoint, and even some YouTube videos we feel we are ready for Chapter 3.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

August 29 - September 2

After getting into the swing of things during the initial days of school, we spent our first full week building the background knowledge necessary for our study of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  In addition to learning about the author, we discussed and wrote about our essential questions for the year: 
  • What does it mean to 'fit in'?
  • Is it important to 'fit in'?  Why or why not?
  • What is normal?
  • What does it mean to be an outsider?
We quickly realized that there are no easy answers to these questions, and the consensus we reach today will surely be different tomorrow.

On a lighter note, the students enjoyed a read aloud of The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss.  We discussed its relevance to what was discussed thus far and predicted how it might connect with The Outsiders.  It's amazing how a seemingly simple book can explore such complex themes!

We also began to study important terms from the first chapter.  Students utilized Marzano's strategies and context clues to help develop long-term relationships with the words.