Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Observations & Reflections on Today...

First, some logistical notes...
-After discussions with my first block, it was noted that students were not blogging for a few reasons - 1. It's new, and they're not used to keeping up with it. 2. It's not important to them. 3. It's due on Friday night, and many of them wait until Friday to do it, and then Friday comes and goes and they've forgotten to do it. SO.... we moved the weekly blog due date to Sunday night - they loved that idea! Another idea my first block had was to turn in the assignment on paper. Mrs. Smith and I discussed this, and suggested to these students that they use a notebook if they are going to turn it in on paper. This way it's more of a journal, as is a blog, and they can reflect on what they've read and written, which we thought was important.
-As for commenting, they, again, did not consider it important, and it is not graded, so there's no motivation. I tried explaining how it makes people feel to get a comment, but it seems right now we're in the "all about me" phase. I will not push this for this year, but I think it is important enough to stress next year.

Opinions shared by students today...
-One student does not want to read at all - "it's not important, and I won't need to read more than I already know how to read."
-One student just wants to do a book project. (Probably more than one in this case...)
-Many of them don't see a point to the blog except to get a grade.
-Students can just read a paragraph a week and blog about it and get points.
-Students won't present unless they have to.

My opinions shared today with students...
-Reasons for doing independent reading in this fashion - anyone can read the book jacket or summary on Amazon and do a book project - I wanted students who don't read READING MORE.
-Even students who are reading a paragraph a week may be those students who usually don't read at all. I'm okay with that - at least they're reading SOMEthing now. The students who already read will continue reading, no matter what the grade is for.
-Students who want to share what they've learned will share - and we will benefit from it!

Presentations...
-Jamie presented on computer animation - the history of it - and included many visuals and manipulatives, even for us to see and enjoy. This made us understand what he was telling us! His last one - with the video of the Rubik's Cube - was the most appreciated, and Jamie had created that one himself! This was in block 3/4.
-Sarah presented on what we need to know about cancer. She addressed many aspects of cancer, such as who is at risk, what we can do to lessen our chances, how do cancer patients deal with it, and how it affects the family. Wow. So many students had questions, and that showed their interest. This was in block 5/6.
-We still did not have a presentation in 8/9 - this class is different, and during our one-on-one conferences, many did not want to present. This option will not be an option next year. Mrs. Smith reminded me about what Ewan said at our Design Thinking meeting, and it makes total sense - one of the big steps in learning is SHARING your learning. We tossed around the idea of setting parameters (every 4-8 weeks??) for next year. It is a MUST that they present throughout the year.

Other notes...
Rachael helped Sarah show her Prezi. Sarah helped Rachel develop her Prezi (on Justin Bieber). Paul helped Jamie by showing one of the examples of older animation. The audience was very receptive to Jamie and Sarah, and it seemed that more students in these classes are motivated to present now. Jillian has decided to NOT read about "Dance Moms," and has changed her topic of research to the Holocaust! John has gone back to his Star Wars books because he's finished with the Hunger Games series (the one I practically forced him to read). He was upset because I had stopped reading the first chapter of books on Fridays. I think this stopped in November when we had the four-week iPad pilot. It made me sad to hear he missed it, but also made me wonder if I can re-instate it at this point in the year. I digress - I was so very excited to have Mr. Goldstein and Mrs. Smith in class - they can talk to the students in different ways and make relationships that work and get the kids reading!! Also, I need to give students at least one period a week for this "Genius Hour" (which we haven't called it, but I am calling it this next year!) - I decided today to make it Wednesdays, after work we "have" to do. More reflections later, I'm sure...

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