Friday, November 2, 2012

Pumpkins and Projects

Pumpkin Decorating - Click to view gallery
As a way to celebrate fall and take part in a community building exercise, advising students decorated pumpkins.  Starting last week, the kids formed teams and explored crafting websites that provided ideas for no-carve pumpkin designs.  Once they were inspired, teams worked to reach consensus on a design and then sketched their blueprints.  After finalizing a plan, material-gathering duties were assigned and teams prepared for this week's decorating festivities.  Thanks to the generosity of parents, classes were provided with pumpkins and students were able to enjoy cookies, pretzels, and apple juice while executing their design plans during advising class.  By the end of the period, we had two M&M pumpkins, a rainbow and cloud pumpkin, and one festooned with melted crayons - four great examples of student creativity!

Working on a book project - Click to view gallery
The Outsiders book project work was in full swing this week.  With these final assessments due on Wednesday, students were busily crafting detailed responses and presentations to S.E. Hinton's timeless story.  Could the novel 'unteach' prejudicial thinking?  Which ideas from the text remain relevant today? Are things 'rough all over' just like Cherry said? Some worked in groups while others worked on their own to uncover deeper meaning by connecting the text to their lives and the world around them.  Making these types of connections encourages students to draw on their prior knowledge and helps to improve critical thinking skills.  Final assessments are expected to be neatly done, logically organized, and grammatically correct.  Even more importantly, they need to provide a thoroughly elaborated response that includes multiple examples from the book as well as text-to-self and text-to-world connections. Not surprisingly, project types are running the gamut.  From skits to iMovies and posters to Prezis, students are embracing the task and developing many great ideas.  I look forward to viewing them next week.

In composition, students spent significant time drafting their definition essays and some have started to share their writing on Google Drive.  What may have seemed simple at first, proved to be more challenging as writers were faced with exposing the nuances of unexpectedly challenging terms.  Through multiple peer and teacher conferences, students began to develop organizational patterns for their ideas, and they started to look for examples from their own lives to help give substance to their writing.  At the same time, writing circle work is proving to be a much anticipated activity.  There is a definite buzz in the air when students arrive on Friday, drafts in hand and eager to share.  As both an observer and participant, I have watched students' response and feedback skills improve along with their writing.  In a few weeks, we will be switching to publishing circles and writers will be expected, with the guidance of their groups, to take a piece public.  It might be a little scary, but it will also prove to be a very rewarding experience.

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