Students at my school began Wednesday, August 1st. The first day of school was typical: teaching procedures, going over the syllabus, explaining expectations--the usual housekeeping at the beginning of the year.

Yesterday, I had my students complete a Writing Interests Survey. Categories on the survey included things such as sports, personal, outdoors, and fantasy/supernatural. Sub-categories were Professional Sports, College Sports, High School Sports (sports); Losses, Relationships, Experiences (personal); Mythological Creatures, Dragons and Monsters, Vampires and Werewolves (fantasy/supernatural). The inspiration behind evaluating what students are intersted in writing is to inspire them to write more and to write often. Two days a week, students will write in thematic journals based on their writing surveys in order to inspire them to write and write often. This process will (hopefully) make it desirable for the individual student to try his or her best in writing. I will post the tallies of specific classes at a later date so you can see what students in rural West Virginia are interested in.

On our school's block days and Fridays, they will engage in Sustained Silent Reading: reading for pleasure for a designated part of the class period. The idea behind this design is to reinstate a desire to read in the "digital" student.

Regarding the NxG Standards: Today, students worked in their "quads" (desks grouped in fours) to evaluate the new WV NxG Reading Standards (though we could take class time to study the writing, speaking/listening, and language standards as well, the reasoning behind this activity was to expose them to the langauge. As an ELA teacher, you may decide to have your students evaluate ALL standards, but I will tell you this: it took approximately 30 minutes for my students to read through and dissect only the Reading standards and an additional 15 minutes to report to the large group. It is up to you how much class time you would want to take on this activity). Students were instructed to read the standards together and note the following things on a piece of paper folded into a trifold: what they noticed about the standards, what interested/excited them about the standards, and what worried them about the new standards. Though some of them gave humorous answers, here are some of the things my students came up with:

What students noticed:
1) Use of the word "analyze" in almost every standard
2) All of the standards have a code
3) The standards use a lot of "big words" (which I explained to them was mostly academic vocabulary, to be studied in our classroom
4) Many words are repeated, such as "determine", "evaluate", "cite", and "textual evidence"
5) We will be reading informational texts.

What students found interesting:
1) It looks like we'll be reading about characters and main ideas
2) We will be reading informational texts

What worries students:
1) It seems like all we will do is analyze.
2) We don't understand some of the language in the standards, so how will we "get" what to do?
3) There's a lot to learn

If you think about it, considering these were ninth and tenth grade students
(so, roughly ages 14 - 16), some of their responses were quite respectable.

Beginning Monday, my students will begin Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week (go to kellygallagher.org and explore his archives: it's a great resource for informational texts--all free and printable) and, if time permits, they will complete a Book Pass (to be explained in a later blog). The Book Pass will move to Tuesday if the AOW takes the full period on Monday.
 


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