Wahoo and goodbye to Week 15! Only one more week until Winter Break – can you stand it? Everyone is so excited! We just have to keep it together for 5 MORE DAYS! Below are the highlights from Week 15:
1. Fakebook assignment – For the past couple of years, I have used this Fakebook Template I purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers as a 2nd Quarter Independent Reading project. The students read either a novel or a biography, and they create the Fakebook Page based on a main character or figure. They have to do quite a bit of reflecting and inferring – identifying the character’s friends, hobbies/interests, personality traits (WITH evidence!), important events, and finally explain a statement the character made and what they may have meant by that statement. Clearly, the students put a lot of work into this and enjoy it as well. We hang them up in the library to share and encourage others to read. They turned out so wonderful this year, I just had to share!
2. Midwest Weather – As you may have seen on the news, or experienced first hand if you live here, it’s been…. interesting weather in Wisconsin for the past week. I won’t even re-hash all the details, because High Five For Friday is about celebrating what’s going well! I will share with you this picture of the view from my ‘office’ (aka classroom). I know I am extremely blessed to have this job, and this view is just another cherry on the sundae. It’s easy for the students and myself to stare out the window and become lost in nature. I love it!
3. My Resilient Talented Niece – Resiliency is such a powerful skill that we must teach our children. I had the privilege of attending my niece’s figure skating competition this weekend. She took second place, and was disappointed, but I couldn’t have been more proud if she had taken first place. Let me tell you the strength of character that my niece demonstrated. During her routine, she tripped and fell flat on her stomach – a thud reverberated across the rink, and her parents, my husband and myself all caught our breath in our throats. “Oh dear! We must run to her, scoop her up, cuddle her and wipe away her tears!” NO. Not at all – we must resist this urge to intervene. Instead, I watched what happened next in wonder. My niece’s coach helped her up, dusted her off, gave her a 3-second pep talk and a few high-tens, and off she went, back on the ice to finish her routine. WOW! Would other children have given up and quit? What was it about my niece that got her back on the ice? Resiliency. What a powerful lesson she learned that day. And to be honest, I learned an important lesson, too – let our students fall and pick THEMSELVES back up. Such a proud aunt am I!
4. Prank Wars! Oh, it’s ON! So I have this student – a rare student you are blessed with only one in a while – who is quite the hilarious jokester. He has been pulling pranks on other students for a while, and I gotta admit – they’re pretty funny (and also harmless). I love students like this, because they keep class interesting (in a good-natured way) and keep me on my toes. Well, now it is my turn – I am the victim! On Tuesday, I was sitting at my desk grading papers during study hall, and the room was completely silent as my little cherubs were busy at work. Suddenly, I look up and see a fork dancing on the edge of my desk. How did he get there? Well my jokester had army crawled across the room and was lying on the floor in front my desk, puppeteering the goofy creation. Oh how I laughed! Then, the next day, the student hid a ‘dollar’ where he thought I wound find it and pick it up. A very tempting prank, indeed. The ‘dollar,’ however, is only 49% of a dollar – this student knows that the remaining 51% is actually still redeemable for value, while the 49% is essentially trash. So there the dollar sits, teasing all passersby who glance at my pencil sharpener. What a stinker this kid is! Well I need to get him back, and boy am I racking my brain to drum up a few ideas. Let me know in the comments below if you can think of anything!
5. 100 Followers – Wahoo, I can’t believe it! I reached 100 wonderful, awesome, amazing followers on Teachers Pay Teachers! It was an exciting milestone to reach, and I am proud of my little shop, and so very grateful for all of my wonderful followers and customers.
So… how was your week? Are you all set for the holiday break?
A real challenge in middle school is getting an increasingly large group of apathetic students excited about reading. I don’t mean to say ALL of my students – I definitely have some voracious readers – but there is always a hefty, vocal group that seems proud to proclaim indignantly, “I don’t read.” Well, harumpf. What’s a teacher to do with that kind of attitude? I understand that as an English Language Arts teacher, it is my job to get students excited about reading. Confetti, cartwheels, iPhone giveaways – whatever it takes! Okay not really. I’m not a performer, I’m not rich, and I don’t work miracles. I do my best to give students authentic, fun, motivating reasons to pick up a book (aaaaaand actually read/finish it). Of course I have to give a nod to my favorite teacher-author, Kelly Gallagher, who writes about just this topic in his book Reading Reasons. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it!
One of the ways I try to motivate students to read is through my DVD Case / Movie Poster project. It is a project with reading, writing, language, expression, and art – a great way to hit multiple Common Core standards at once. This project has lots of elements that get kids excited: technology, critical thinking, creative writing, photography/images, and the critical elements of publication and display. Here is a glimpse of the final project, which is explained in more detail below:
You are looking at the display cases in the front lobby of our middle school. Each and every student got a chance to have their final DVD case (or movie poster) on display for the entire school. In addition, my students got some one-on-one time with 6th and 7th graders to share their project. They read their summary and review quotes on the back, explained the layout and image choices, and answered any questions their audience had – all in hopes of inspiring the student to go and read the book for themselves.
Here is a closer look at a DVD project:
And a collage of my students’ work:
Students begin by selecting an interesting book (can either be a novel or a biography) that is at their appropriate reading level. I introduce this project about 6-8 weeks ahead of time to get students enough warning to finish the book.
After reading the book, students will write what I call a ‘Review Quote’ (a book teaser summary that discusses the theme/message) to promote the book. To do this, we look at the backs of many books, even visit http://www.rottentomatoes.com and http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews to get a feel for the rich language of a teaser/review.
Next, the students will create either a DVD Case or a Movie Poster to promote the book through images as well as words. They really love this part, and I’m not just saying that. Rarely do I hit the money with a project where every single student is working, but this is it. And everyone is working at his/her own pace and area of expertise – artists, techies, writers; they all find their niche and even help one another.
On the day where I introduce the project, I bring in dozens of DVD covers and movie posters for students to view. We discuss similarities and conventions such as the size of the font, placement, purpose of images, etc.
After introducing the project, I wind up giving students 3-4 more days of in-class work time. Now that students have their own iPads, I may cut down this time and expect them to do more homework. On the 5th day, we do the printing and final touches, such as laminating the movie posters or putting the DVD covers in to the cases (I bought 100 from Amazon for about 25 cents each, totally worth it!). The 6th day is for presentations.
I am excited to do this project with the iPads this year, because students can actually go out and take their own photographs. Their goal is to match the mood of the book through color, layout, font, and images. They really do quite a bit of critical thinking with this project.
One of the only problems I have run into is that if their book has already been made into a movie, some students rely very heavily on the movie images. I had to make a rule outlawing this. The results were great, as this ultimately pushed students to be original and dig deeper into their own interpretation of the book.
Something that I learned last year, and will be repeating this year, is that some students like to make their own movie poster / DVD case from scratch, and others need a template to get started. Here is a template I created in Pages for the DVD Case. Students can ‘drag and drop’ their own images:
The final product can be displayed in your classroom, hallway displays, or as part of a gallery in which you promote the books to other students. The Library Media instructor at our school asked if she could display them in our Library, too!
If you want to purchase and download my DVD case / Movie Poster unit from TpT, the following items are included: * Common Core Standards for grades 8-12 including English Language Arts and Literacy in All Subjects * Suggestions for modifying and differentiating this lesson for students at all levels, from heavy support needed to extension ideas. * Essential Questions * Rubric * Project Description Student Handout * Sample Writing ‘Review Quotes’ with “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry * 2 Sample DVD Cases with “Peak” by Roland Smith, and “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore * 1 Sample Movie Poster * Word Spectrum – ‘interesting’ to ‘boring’ – 65 synonyms students can incorporate into their writing * 5 Pages of detailed lesson plans and teacher tips including guided writing, peer review, modeling, small and whole group discussion.
I loved teaching this unit and collaborating with our school’s Art and 21st Century teachers. We found that this unit hits on a LOT of Common Core Standards and curricular goals, which was a huge plus! By working together, we strengthened student learning and participation. Students have told me that this was their favorite project all year!