Friday, February 22, 2013

Positive Response and Personal Symbols

The new writing circle groups shared their writing twice this week. On Tuesday, the students eased into peer feedback by employing the no response method. This gave writers a safe environment in which to share their work and to hear their pieces as they would sound in a reader's ears. They were also able to practice reading aloud at appropriate speed and volume.  Friday, students brought new drafts to their writing circles. After a short review of the forms of positive response learned last semester, authors were free to choose which type they wanted when they were finished reading – point out, say back, 'Just the Facts,' or sketch it.  In point out, students begin their response with the phrase, "One thing liked..." or "One thing I noticed..."  With say back, kids use their own words to tell what they think the writer was trying to say.  When using 'Just the Facts,' kids provide the writer with an objective response that signifies what they know to be true about the writing.  Finally, sketch it allows students to draw a quick response and explain it to the writer.  In my writing circle, most students chose point out, but to mix things up, I asked for say back when I read my piece about my buckteeth.

In addition to writing circles, composition students studied the way Mildred Taylor used symbolism in Papa’s description of the Logan and Granger families. By comparing each to a different tree, he helped to create a strong visual image in the minds of the readers. Papa explains, “You see that fig tree over yonder, Cassie? Them other trees all around...that oak and walnut, they’re a lot bigger and they take up more room and give so much shade they almost overshadow that little ole fig. But that fig tree’s got roots that run deep, and it belongs in the yard as much as that oak and walnut. It keeps on blooming, bearing good fruit year after year, knowing all the time it’ll never get as big as them other trees. Just keeps on growing and doing what it gotta do. It don’t give up. It give up, it’ll die” (206). Taking a cue from Papa’s description, students created personal symbols based on their beliefs, values, hobbies, interests, and ideas held dear.

Mr. Dunning's Personal Symbol

Literature students are close to finishing their Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry book presentations. I have been impressed with the range of ideas and the students’ creativity. While there is no doubt that the expectations of the assignment were challenging, many kids really stretched themselves and produced amazing results. Stay tuned for a full update and a photo gallery!

After examining the creation story in Greek mythology, students began to explore the Olympians. These twelve gods and goddesses ruled from Mt. Olympus after the defeat of the Titans. Because of the complexity of the Olympian family tree, we have utilized a variety of mind-mapping techniques to keep relationships straight. In particular, students have been working with Prezi to organize who is connected to whom. This Web 2.0 alternative to PowerPoint allows students to create visually stunning presentations. While it requires patience to learn, the results are amazing.

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