Sunday, February 28, 2016

One School, One World, One Teacher's Reflection #1S1W

Earlier this week I had a conversation about #1S1W with my 8th grade language arts students.

I was inspired by Pernille Ripp's post HERE  after she reflected on the day with her students. I also adapted the discussion questions (and used the classrooms around the world and Detriot, MI article links) from Ms. Korver HERE.

First we looked through the pictures from the Twitter feed. Many students expressed disappointment in what these classrooms have that we don't. I asked students to write about what similarities and differences they noticed between the classrooms we were seeing and ours, and if they noticed any "voices" missing from the conversation. I explained that this project was designed to be a snapshot of classrooms across the country and around the world. Did it seem like that is what happened?

We then looked at some photos from classrooms around the world (from the link shared by Ms. Korver above) and some of the pictures from the Detriot school's suit. I asked them to think about why more schools like this weren't part of the #1S1W project on Twitter.

They had lots of valuable things to say, but a few things have remained with me now that we are a few days away from the conversation.

1. They recognized that people choose to share parts of their school that they were proud of on the #1S1W Twitter feed. They suggested letting students and/or parents choose what to photograph to maybe get a different view of the school.

2. As we were looking at the Twitter feed, one student said, "Where are the black kids?" 8th graders aren't known for their tact; however, that student was right. For a nation that's quickly becoming a majority minority, there wasn't a whole lot of diversity in the photographs we saw.

3. They were very astute in recognizing that teachers could get in trouble for posting pictures of their school if it were seen in a negative light. I'm not sure that I realized so many of them would understand this.

And finally, this is the one that is staying with me most of all...

4. One of the students, in the best way, (I so wish I could remember the words used exactly) explained that perhaps this is making kids who are in schools that are less that desirable feel bad. "Isn't it like we're bragging? or just putting them down to make ourselves look good?"

And so, this is where I am today. I feel so grateful to teach in a school that is safe where we have the things we need. As we talked about this week, do we have everything we want to have? No. But, we have a lot to be thankful for. I want to help my students recognize this fact. I want to continually remind myself of this fact. But how can you look at everything you have, without seeing what others do not have? And how can you look at what others are so lucky to have, without feeling badly that you do not have those things?

Now, I am looking for ways to continue this conversation - to keep thinking and learning from the wisdom of 8th graders.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Literature Circles - Updated for Middle School

For our January novel study, I wanted to test out a new type of literature circle activity. For 8th graders, the "jobs" version of literature circles never worked quite as well as I would have liked it to. Plus, it's a lot of work to set up, and the kids never seemed to know what they were supposed to do when.

After hearing Kelly Gallagher speak this summer, I tested out a new version of literature circles. I think that this would work well with all ages of middle school and up through high school. I don't have much experience with elementary, but I don't see why it wouldn't work for them too.

To begin, I sorted through the books available to me through my school's library. I selected eight that had themes loosely around the topic of prejudice.

After finding this super valuable resource from Daniels and Stieneke on literature circle mini-lessons, I used the "Book Pass" activity to have students select the books they were interested in. Essentially, they read all 8 options for 2 minutes, then selected the two or three books they would like to continue reading. There were no first or second choices, only choices they would read.

I then sifted through the options grouping students according to their selections, my understanding of their reading levels and group dynamics. We ended up with six different novel choices.

Students then got together to divide their book and decide which pages they would read for each meeting. Kelly Gallagher suggested that students should be able to read a book over the course of four weeks, but in retrospect, I should have gone with five or six for my students.

Students then completed "reading notebook" activities for each meeting. Based loosely off of this handout from Kelly Gallagher, students were supposed to track their thinking over time. With the goal of getting to the author's big idea(s). I assessed each reading notebook on five criteria:
1. They used one of the three "track your thinking" stems
2. They included their thinking about the book.
3. They included how their thinking had changed over time.
4. They included a "lit circle moment" that they wanted to share at the meeting. Something that was funny, interesting, confusing etc.
5. They included details in a way that showed they read the assigned pages.

I didn't require any specific amount of writing, and students completed their journals in a variety of ways. I had some students included sketches, but mot students wrote in sentences.

When the students met in their lit circle groups, they shared their "moments" as well as analyzed the character development through their novel.

In the last few meetings, they also used the "Save the Last Word for Me" strategy from the Daniels and Stieneke book. That was really successful in ensuring they had an actual conversation about the moments and didn't just take turns reading from their notebooks. Check it out if your students are struggling with this part of literary discussions!

In the end, students did a theme analysis activity for their novels. They analyzed the central conflicts to determine any possible messages the author might be trying to get across, and selected one that they could support its development throughout their novel with text evidence. They then had to create a symbolic representation of this theme to take the message beyond the pages of their novel. Students gave short presentations to share their themes with the class.

These presentations enabled students to see the shared themes between the novels. Many of the books had similar theme statements in the end, and we'll be able to come back to these during our Holocaust unit study later this year. I would have liked to have students record the themes of their classmates, then decide if this theme could also apply to their novel, but I didn't get that part off the ground. There's always next year!

All in all, it was a successful implementation of literature circles.

Next time, I will have students practice the reading notebook technique with a short story before we begin the lit circles.

In the end, I did have several students tell me they really enjoyed their books - so that in itself is a success!

The books we read were
A Wrinkle in Time
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Across Five Aprils
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Please share any ideas or questions you have about literature circles!