What a fantastic week!

After a relaxing Friday evening (a warm Petaluma evening for a change) and two early am soccer games, I’m taking a moment to let the week wash over me.  It was fantastic!  I put into practice some thing I’ve been planning to since day 1 and some things I just got clarification on at the GATE Certification training Monday and Tuesday.

First, my goal for sixth graders this year is authentic writing through blogging.  We’ve tried a Blog of the Day to generically practice the process, but I’ve fallen apart in that and the inconsistency has been frustrating.  I found a great site (probably through Twitter) that teaches blogging through a Paper Blog.  I know, weird.  But IT WORKED!  Here’s the link to McTeach’s original/borrowed lesson.  Day 1, we all wrote on a topic that would keep our attention all day long.  What could you be doing in the morning that would so consume your focus that dinner would arrive and you wouldn’t notice the time?  They stapled that page to a large sheet of construction paper and decorated it if they wished to.  The next day we discussed commenting.  We used McTeach’s recommendation for The Art and Aspirations of a Commenter (also borrowed).  First, how can you not love the title of that post–elegant, respectful, serious.  My students ate it up!  I reiterated again and again how blogging is a conversation.  It’s not texting, it’s not interjecting your unconnected ideas and opinions, and it’s not agreeing just to have something to say.  It’s a conversation.  So then we swapped blogs and used a post-it to comment.  We swapped again and use a post-it to comment on the blog, or comment on the comment.  After four or five swaps, students (and me–I did one too) read what others had to say and we reflected on the process.

Their feedback:

  • I don’t think people really read my blog
  • Should you write u for you?
  • Some people didn’t ask a question so I can’t say anything back to them
  • There’s a comment that isn’t signed
  • This comment doesn’t make any sense
  • Someone doesn’t agree with me, but they said it in a nice way

Perfect.  So next week, we launch our real Kidblogs.  I’m super excited for this new, authentic writing experience for my students.

Then I jumped into the Icons of Depth & Complexity.  After a CAG conference and multiple team meetings on the Icons, I’ve used them with mixed opinion and results.  After two days with John DeLandtsheer, I was rejuvenated and ready to jump back in.  I like the way he boils down the Icons to a clearer focus (for me and the students).

We had just read the Amelia Earhart story in Houghton Mifflin.  The Icons I chose were Multiple Perspective, Big Idea, Details and Unanswered Questions.  John describe the Big Idea as a single word.  At first this seemed impossible, but if it’s truly a Big Idea, it must be a big, juicy word.  He described Unanswered Questions as an “I wonder…” and even a question that you might not be able to answer.  Details was the biggest shift for me from what I had understood before.  John described Details as a direct quote from text that backs up an idea or question.  I like that.  Rather than a rather mindless list of details from a text or on a subject, his interpretation of Details requires a closer look at the text.

So we went through these four in a frame after reading Amelia Earhart.  We further discussed Multiple Perspectives in this way: Which pair of people would agree with one another’s point of view?  Amelia’s husband and the President both wanted to find her–they would agree.  Who would have the biggest argument?  All students agreed that, had they survived, Fred Noonan and Amelia would have had a huge argument.  Yep, I agree.

Big Idea was great–risk, adventure, bravery, accomplishment, dream

So the next day, we did the same four Icons after reading about Bessie Coleman (an african-american pilot who performed in barnstorming aerial shows).  They totally get it!  And (since it’s a GATE thing after all) my gifted and higher-level thinkers could pull out all the stops with their Big Idea words, really let it out with “I was wondering…” and find those obscure quotes that they always notice but never have an opportunity to discuss.  I could feel the dendrites growing.  🙂

Now I can relax, rejuvenate, reflect and get ready for another amazing week of learning.  I love my job!

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