We took a break from our normal class routine and welcomed one of our fabulous school counselors into our room today. Our students participated in a lesson about bullying, their experiences with it, and how to be the one person who is going to help those who are being bullied. I loved how Mrs. B talked to the kids about the misuse of the word "bullying." We hear it so often; kids and adults do misuse the word. People are mistreated all the time and it's important to know the difference between mistreatment and bullying. The picture shows a quick survey students took about if they'd been bullied or mistreated at school this year. My heart broke as their hands went up, wishing I could be in all of their lives to help fix the situations they've been in. As a parent, it scares me to death to think my son will experience mistreatment in his life.
No one deserves it.
The most powerful part of the lesson, for me, was when each student described one of their experiences being bullied or mistreated in any realm of life; they followed up with what they wish someone had done for them in that time of need. The counselor read their experiences aloud and kept them anonymous and I'm telling you - you could hear a pin drop in the room. Students described being left out of groups, girls staring at others mocking their clothes, boys who were hurt after their friends teased them and said, "We're just playin'."
Everyone on the face of the planet wants love and acceptance. Hearing these stories absolutely broke my heart and reminded me of my own experiences with mistreatment and bullying. The kids who mistreated me have no idea that their words and actions still affect me as an adult.
Thinking about my son again, I hope my husband and I can teach him the importance of standing up for kids who are mistreated. I know it's so difficult to do, but it's so extremely important.
I hope you had time this past weekend to soak in the absolutely gorgeous weather. I can't count the number of times I said to my husband, "Wow, it's gorgeous outside!" Like many people, fall is my absolute favorite season. I love cool mornings and warm afternoons, I love baking with pumpkin, football games, the leaves changing, and the perfect running weather. I love taking walks in the early evening with my family. The sunsets are to die for out in the country where we live. Since I've lived in Kentucky, I've learned that the smell of smoking tobacco barns (is that the right description?) is the number one giveaway fall is here. I absolutely LOVE this part of the year.
We began Unit 2 last week. The essential question guiding this unit is completely different from the last. Students are answering the question "Why is it important to be a smart consumer in the 21st century?" Of course, students are learning to master Common Core Standards in this unit. We're focusing on the informational writing standards in addition to reading standards asking students to identify theme and main idea and their development in a text, citing textual evidence to support inferential and explicit analysis, and the meaning and impact of words and phrases in a text. We are also focusing on Language Standards as we prepare for the EXPLORE test during this unit.
The text we're using all focus on the theme of consumerism and we're trying to get our students to think outside the box. They quickly identified food and advertisements as things we consume; we also had them to think about the lyrics in the music they sing and listen to and the news reports they listen to and watch, to name a few. We showed several advertisements from Dove's Beauty Campaign and as a woman, I loved watching my female students' mouths drop as they watched the face of a woman photoshopped for an advertisement. We had a great discussion about the unrealistic expectations both men and women have on the outside appearance of women and how it affects them as teenagers. This week's Article of the Week focuses on how food companies get around commercial limitations in children's programming. Several companies are creating online games and cell phone apps that "blur the lines between entertainment and advertising." I can't wait to see how they respond to the reflection question in the next few days.
The EXPLORE test will take place on Wednesday, September 25! This test is the a stepping stone for the ACT taken in 11th grade. 8th graders take the EXPLORE test, 10th graders take the PLAN test, and juniors take the ACT. The EXPLORE test results will give students a picture of where they stand on the ACT prep spectrum since both EXPLORE and PLAN are preparing students for the actual ACT. The ACT is an extremely important test that students need to prepare for. Getting into the college of their choice may depend on their score. We're excited for our students to have the opportunity to take this test. Parents, please talk to your child about th
My counterparts, Mrs. Barrett and Mrs. Burzynski, and I had a crazy idea this summer. In my experience as an educator, my craziest ideas illicit the most amazing results. Mrs. Barrett drove our Academic Team up to Indiana this summer to compete in the international Future Problem Solving competition. While she was there, we texted back and forth about an idea to do Future Problem Solving-like inquiry projects in our classes. This past week, we watched our little idea become a reality, and it was wonderful!
If you want to read more about our student Action Plans, read my last blog post. You can also click on the "Resources" section of this website to get more information.
Wednesday, community members from all over Murray came to CCMS to talk with our students and assess their Action Plans. Our students talked with a professor from MSU, someone from the Circuit Court, two sheriffs, elementary and high school principals, parents, board members, school administrators, and many more. They presented their plans to "Make a Difference" in our school and community. Students presented plans to raise money for St. Jude's and the local animal shelter; others planned to start a food drive for our local Needline oranization; one group made plans to create a history of CCMS and display it in the hallways. I even had a group of girls plan to visit people in the local nursing home and the day before our presentations, they actually did! I loved their stories and their faces when they came to school the next day. They couldn't wait to tell me about their time there and I loved hearing about it. Below, you can see a few pictures of the groups doing some last minute preparations.
So, what do these Action Plans have to do with Language Arts? In eighth grade, the Common Core Standards (CCS) require students to conduct short research projects. It also requires students to do informational writing, which students are doing when they do their Action Plan write-up. Our first unit and this first Action Plan really just got the students' feet wet in the process. As we begin Unit 2 this week, they'll make new plans with new group members and I think the process will be much smoother for them. In addition to working towards mastering some of the CCS, students are learning how to problem solve, collaborate with others, manage their time, and present their ideas to an authentic audience. I believe all of these skills are crucial to their academic lives, but also their lives outside of the school walls.
One of my favorite things that I talked to my students about was why it's important to have a firm handshake. We talked about job interviews and first impressions; we discussed the benefits of a good handshake and eye contact. I was able to share some of my experiences interviewing for teaching jobs and how unsettling it can be. Our intention with these projects is to help our students master the CCS standards while learning life lessons in the process. We had to remind the kids that we're writing the PLANS. The execution of their plan is totally up to them. I was so proud to watch a group of girls start their project on their own time.
We would LOVE for you to come in and be a judge. If you're interested, please contact me at school! Our next Action Plan presentations will be on October 2. I loved when our visitors asked, "So, did you guys help them come up with these ideas?" Our students developed their own ideas and their own solutions. Watching them flourish was amazing and I loved other people could see it too. The coolest part happened the following day when one of the sheriff's scared me at my classroom door! Seeing a uniformed officer outside my door had me shaking in my boots until I realized he was there to meet with one of the groups of students he saw during our presentations. :)
We ended the week with our Unit 1 Post-Assessment. Students had an article and a poem (see them in the Resources section!) to read and annotate; then they had to write about how the two pieces connected, providing textual evidence to support their connections and analysis. We talked about pre-writing strategies and students had time to prepare for writing. I can't wait to read their final products on Monday. See the picture below!
My absolute favorite writing activity began on Friday. Each Friday, students write a "This Week" entry in their ThinkBook. This entry is not graded and is never seen by me. My hope is that students will realize that writing is a gift. I've kept a journal since middle school and it is the best thing I've done for myself; it's truly one of my greatest treasures. I have tubs full of torn notebooks filled with my heart poured out on them. I look back at entries I wrote in middle school and am quickly reminded what it's like to be in their shoes. I love re-reading entries about boys I liked, my crazy friends, and my wonderful family. I am so thankful I took a few minutes of my time to chronicle my life; I see how much I've grown and how much I have left to go as I reflect. Often, girls flourish with this type of writing; I loved being able to share the benefits of journaling from a blog called "The Art of Manliness." In it, a man discusses what he learned about his grandfather because he took time to journal. Every Friday, my students write about their lives and I pray they realize how amazing it is to flip back through the pages and see how much they've grown.
Phew! It's been a busy, but good week. I hope you find time to ask your kids about their reading and writing. I'm so proud of what they're doing and I know it will continue!