I honestly believe I have the best job in the world. Whenever people look at me with their crazy eyes when I tell them I teach eighth grade, I almost feel thankful there's only a small group of us in the world who love to work with middle schoolers everyday. If everyone knew the hidden secret - middle schoolers are AMAZING - there would be too many people competing for my job!
This year, we're running Reading Workshop in our ELA classrooms and let me tell you, it's wonderful. I've read oodles of books on Reading Workshop, but never put it into play until this year. It's like having a box full of car keys and after searching for years, you finally find the one that fits. Each week, my students work towards their reading goals with books of their choosing, and we're adding in mini-lessons that fit the Common Core Standards. We want students to become lifelong readers and giving them choice is the key.
This is the Reading Goals Chart that made me sing today. This student is charting his reading goals by making a graph. Each of this quarter's 9 weeks is represented on the X-axis and page numbers in increments of 10 is on the Y-axis. Each week, students chart their reading goal for the week with a bar of one color and at the end of the week, they chart what they actually accomplished. You can see this student's goals in green and his accomplishments in red. The coolest thing about this is each week he's exceeded his goal and each week he's completely demolished that goal! As a reading teacher, I love seeing that he's pushing himself in the THIRD WEEK of workshop! Look at how his goals have increased each week! It's truly amazing and I am so proud of his work. So many other students have charts just like this. We're working on setting SMART goals and I know it's helping them progress.
The next picture I'm going to show you was something I wasn't planning on today. This summer, my colleague inspired us to give students an opportunity to do inquiry based projects with each unit. It's so neat to see how her idea has sparked a flame among us and our students. One of the best things about the 8th grade ELA staff is that we aren't scared to share ideas we may think are a little risky. We all come together and find a way to make them work.
This year, students are completing inquiry projects modeled after our Academic Team's Future Problem Solving Team. Each unit, we give students a blanket theme - our first one is called "Be The Difference." As we read Articles of the Week on the topic and grow as readers and writers, students form their own groups based on a problem they identify and want to solve under that big unit topic. Here's a few examples from this unit: one group found that our local animal shelter needs volunteers so they're figuring out how to get students involved; another group is going to find people in our community who have a hard time mowing their lawns and mow them for them; another group is creating a website all focused on improving self-confidence in teenage girls. All of these problems are identified and solved by the kids. They have to find their own resources and texts that support their project. At the end of each unit, they have to present their problem and plan to solve it creatively.
Today, I gave my classes 10 minutes to meet with their groups to discuss our upcoming "Genius Hour" on Thursday. Genius Hour is the time they have to meet in their groups and work on their projects. One of the groups in my last block class wants to make a difference in our school by painting and beautifying the 8th grade girls bathroom; it seriously needs some love. The girls asked if they could use my computer to work on their Power Point presentation and as they worked, I realized it was a perfect opportunity to show their work-in-progress. These ladies confidently shared their work, all completely done on their own, and I was and am so proud. I loved seeing their classmates look at what they accomplished in such a short amount of time. The initiative of our students is amazing. I'm telling you - give them some room to work, freedom to make decisions, encourage them and let them know they CAN make a difference, and they do. It's phenomenal and I love being there to watch it unfold. We really do underestimate our teenagers. The stereotypes we have that describe them are not accurate. They want to make a difference, and they can do it.
I hope you get a chance to see them present their plans sometime this year. Our first big Share Fair will be sometime next week. If you can make it to school, come on in and see their work. You'll be amazed, just as I am! Rock on, girls. YOU WILL make a difference. I know it :)