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!