Friday, October 5, 2012

Fishbones and Claims

Fishbone Diagram

Did you know that some people eat gorillas as a cheap protein source or even as a status symbol?  Neither did the sixth grade composition students, until this week.  After reading "Gorillas in Crisis" by Kathleen Donovan-Snavely, students learned this and a myriad of other reasons as to why central and West Africa gorillas may be in trouble.  Working individually and in small groups, their task was to determine the root cause of this trouble as well as its possible effects while using a fishbone diagram like the one above.  Finally, students drafted individual summaries employing the fishbone diagram as a way to keep their ideas organized.  Mastering the summary is beneficial because it requires students to write clearly and concisely without resorting to plagiarism.  In addition to their summaries, students met with their writing circles on Friday.  Each circle had picked a topic last week, and students shared their drafts for those topics with their group members.  Writing was only limited by the topic and class-wide pieces reflected a variety of genres.  Circle members provided positive feedback for each writer in the form of "One thing I liked about your piece was..." Each week the groups will learn and practice additional kinds of response, and eventually the writer will get to choose which type he or she desires.  I have to admit, it was a little nerve-racking for me as I had to share my writing with a circle as well!  My topic for next week - animals.

Many students finished The Outsiders this week.  While they will need to have the book read by Monday, some just couldn't help themselves.  And can you blame them?  The last few chapters have had all of us on edge and biting our fingernails!  In addition to learning a number of new vocabulary terms, students wrestled with some big questions this week.  Should Cherry have helped the greasers? Who's most at fault for what happened to Johnny? Is Darry setting a good example for Ponyboy and Sodapop by joining in the rumble? Should Two-Bit have given Dally his knife?  These questions framed a group project that required students to reach consensus on an issue and to use evidence from the text to support their stance.  Each group had to present their opinion to the class and then were open to further discussion and questioning.  By practicing how to strengthen assertions using textual evidence, students gained a more profound understanding of a character's motivations.

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