September 19th - 23rd
The students definitely started to settle down this week, especially during the mornings where the focus and transitions got better and better as the week went along. After lunch and recess the studebts have struggled more than during the morning despite the exercise-heavy recesses I'm trying to go for. Improving after lunch performance is one goal for this week. I'm moving things around to help with that (hopefully). Don't worry: one good aspect of being as experienced as I am is that if these changes fail, I have about a zillion other 'plan-b' options ready to roll out!
Thursday morning (when my brother visited the class) was the best morning of the week: not only were the students focused and managed to deal with my high-speed transitions like old pros, but they also sang like a choir of angels during our morning meeting. I think music might be a key to this group. Now all I have to do is to find the door!
I did not hit many of my academic targets for last week: the writing happened as planned but it was not possible for me to really start teaching yet - I needed to manage the group's attention and focus on the task. They did manage two uninterupted twenty -minute silent writing periods. The focus has been (and will continue to include) improving writing volume.
I still have not heard the students read to me: that's going to happen this week 'come Hell or high water', as they say.
The Math program did stick to the plan!
We also did LOTS of almost invisible but absolutely crucial work on social skills.
It was, in summary, a fun week for me. I've started to really get my mind around the challenges of working with this group, who I have lovingly and jokingly christened as my 'charming cat herd'. The students are bright, sharp-edged, witty and fun. We just need to keep the focus on weaving our social fabric and doing so with kindness and empathy.
Our focus in writing this week will be developing creativity: improving descriptions and expanding vocabulary choices, but we will not neglect core issues of writing volume - increasing output in set time periods of writing.
This week we will be asking the students to focus on creative descriptions based on sensory data and experiences and vocabulary expansion.
On Tuesday, the groups will really work hard on their Perfect World maps. On Wednesday, they will be working towards completing their Perfect World PowerPoints. I aim to get close to the 'finish flag' for this project by week's end!
As part of the new whole-school philosophy each class begins each day with a thirty-minute long class meeting.
The meeting is structured into four phases:
Message - morning work for the day, often with academic angle.
Sharing - short news items from members of the class
Activities - short, fun community building activities
This week's activities may include the game Categories, the game, Caught red-handed, Alibi and a math game called Pico-ferme-nada. Ask your child to explain the activities!
The messages this week will include sharing news with friends and learning another classic song to sit alongside Eleanor Rigby and Stand by me.
Our school is working with a social philosophy this year.
This approach, called the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching and learning, stresses the importance of building and maintaining a classroom climate of warmth and safety. Here are seven of the guiding principles of the approach:
The Social Curriculum is as important as the Academic Curriculum.
How children learn is as important as what they learn.
The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
Children need a set of social skills in order to be successful academically and socially.
Knowing the children we teach is as important as knowing the content we teach.
Knowing the parents of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children.
Teachers need to model the social and academic skills which they wish to teach to their students.
Along with a few colleagues, I've been trying to base my early encounters with students and colleagues around these ideas for a number of years; concepts and structures outlined in, for example, 'The First Six Weeks of School', by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete.
I'm excited that these ideas are now School-wide principles!
Many of the opening activities and games which will feature in the opening weeks of school are directly addressing these goals.
You break it, you fix it - how to deal with laughing at mistakes, name calling, excluding, ignoring, negative non-verbal communication, etc.
Turn Taking and keeping involved: Practice Activity: How to make top ten Laws for Future World. Be able to report back the opinions of team mates.
I have published a page of images we're going to use for launching creative writing. Some of the images included have been described as the 'Top Photographs from the Twentieth Century' according to Life and Time magazine. I've chucked in some others for good measure! We use these photos to work on our descriptive skills and to write descriptive poetry.
This week, the students will start a sequence of lessons on writing powerful descriptions. We will brainstorm vocabulary choices then write some free-form poetry based on observing specific photographs.
This week, our first attempt will be titled, The Beach. The focus will be generating adjectives to describe beautiful things. This will be followed on Thursday by, Haunted House. The focus will be generating adjectives for ugly/spooky/scary things. On Friday, the students will describe a photo of food which could be described variously as either delicious or repulsive!
On Thursday, we will continue to analyze the lyrics of Great Songs, as we learn the songs and sing them together. This week, we will sing, Eleanor Rigby and Stand by me, by Ben E. King. This week, we add another song to our repertoire: Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.
Perfect World Writing
The students will be writing about incidents from their 'Perfect World' (see project below for details). The students will finish this writing sample this week when they finish other required writing tasks.
Greatest day ever in Perfect World.
Describe what makes Perfect World so perfect!
Day in the life on perfect World
How Perfect World was found
Top 3 special items in Perfect World - and why they were chosen
I am reading a collection of short stories to the group written by Neal Shusterman, (www.storyman.com) using those stories as launch pads for various Journey's based lessons:
'Opabinia' - The students will conduct a Reader's Theater event using this story as a script. The students select a section of the story to perform that highlights their favorite part of the story.
The focus of Lesson 1 of the Journeys Reading program is making Story maps and analyzing character problems and their solutions in the story. I will use another story from the collection, Midnight Michaelangelo, for this lesson.
The Journeys focus lesson this week is on comparing and contrasting characters. Students use Venn diagrams to help analyze similarities and differences between characters.
We got started last week in Math with Unit 1 of the program as well as some introductory Math exercises.
The lessons for the week look like this:
Monday: Decimal Place Value Introduction to Place Value Relationships - continued from Friday.
Tuesday: lesson 1:6 - problem solving focus
Wednesday: End of Unit review
Thursday: End of Unit review
Friday: Unit 1 assessment
Next week: Unit 2 begins and Math Projects are introduced.
There will be daily practice worksheets for homework. Each worksheet will be due to be handed in the following day. The worksheet number will be posted in the Assignment book each day.
(The content of this section of the plan is likely to alter during the week after consultation with Ms. O'Donnell!)
My primary goal for the start of the year is to give the students plenty of opportunity for catching up with each other, as well as getting to know new people, as we all start to learn about each other.
Together we are going to build a kind, respectful, and empathic place for us all to live and work. I would like re-entry into school to continue be as gentle and stress-free as possible for us all!
I think the opening project will be an excellent vehicle for all of the above.
The opening project is called 'Perfect World?'
We will ask the question: 'What will our Perfect World be like?'
The students will work in collaborative teams of four or five for this project.
Their challenge will be to create a shared vision of a Perfect World that they would like to live in.
Slightly fantastic aspects will be encouraged.
- The students will design a specific wall space in the classroom with maps, drawings and other artwork representing their Perfect World.
- The students will write stories about events in their Perfect World.
- They will present their Perfect World to the whole group using Power Point, and they will explain and show what makes them great.
- The students design ten important 'laws' for their Perfect World.
- The students design and create a song/anthem for their vision of a Perfect World.
This week, the Perfect World artwork and displays will be moving towards the finishing line. The focuses this week are on finishing these maps and on designing, making and performing short Multi-media presentations about their Perfect World.
I have taught the students how to collect and organize material into folders on computers.
I have trained the students in how to build PowerPoint presentations with an emphasis on using the software in a creative way. The training job has involved finding and saving images of amazing cars, and finding images for their Perfect World. The students have learned about transitions and the main tools PowerPoint offers. This week:
The students will start to design their own PowerPoints to 'sell' their Perfect World to the group. The students also need to design group drama skits, dance, music and speeches to go along with their presentations.
The Final presentations should be three minutes long or less.
Each aspect of the project will be 'graded' using the rubric system.
I've published the main rubric on the Rubric Home Page.
The students will be provided with the rubric while they work.
There is an emphasis on points awarded for team-work, effort and team-spirit.
The project grades are not as important to me, however, as starting to find out how the students work with each other.
I'll be publishing their work to the site, so keep checking back to the ‘News' page for updates!
On the Rubric page also is the rubric I will use to ascertain teamwork scores for each individual in the group.
Tune back in here next Sunday for the next thrilling full plan!!
Homework will be continuing on this Friday, September 30th.
Students will usually receive their project homework jobs for the whole week each Friday.
Look for it in the student's backpack.
The students have included a plan in their assignment book for when they intend to complete each job. Please review this plan with your child and advise them on the practicality of their plan and make adjustments accordingly!
I will be doing a detailed introduction to the next project in school on Friday.
Each project will be up on the 'Homework' page here at the site each Friday evening.
See you back here next week!
This is the route to the 'Specialist Class' page.
This page is for the students and parents of Ms. O'Donnell to find out about what happens during the Science class!