July 31, 2022

What I'm Reading & Planning in August

Summer is winding down, but I'm still focused on enjoying time with my family. I'm also reading and working on a change in my classroom routine.

I'm down to my final month of summer, but I'm not panicking just yet. Right now I'm on a long weekend trip to Arlington and Alexandria with my sister. Then my daughters have one more week of camp and school at home before we head back to the beach for another two weeks. They'll all do a week of camp there (my oldest one week and then my twins the next) and we'll have some family visit with us. Things are so go, go, go during the school year so I've been trying to really slow down and enjoy time with my daughters. They are getting to be an age where it is so much easier to do things with them. This summer has been a good mix of doing ordinary summer things (playground dates, library trips, swimming) with some special summer things (beach trips, a visit to Sesame Place, camps).

What I'm Reading

July was another slower month for me, but for good reasons. I've been exercising more, working through Stranger Things Season 4 with my husband, writing, and working on resources. All things I rarely have the energy for during the school year. I am hoping that I can keep up my exercise momentum during the school year by going for walk or walking on the treadmill with an audiobook when a fitness class isn't fitting in my schedule. Most of what I read in July were middle grade titles, and many of them are new adds to my classroom. That will likely be the same in August.

Summer is winding down, but I'm still focused on enjoying time with my family. I'm also reading and working on a change in my classroom routine.

Titles I'm hoping to read this month include:
1. Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist (middle grade fiction)
2. A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi (middle grade fiction)
3. Stamped (for Kids) by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (middle grade nonfiction)
4. The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (middle grade fiction)
5. Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh (middle grade fiction)
6. The Prettiest by Brigit Young (middle grade fiction)
7. Room to Dream by Kelly Yang (middle grade fiction)
8. Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul Jabbar (middle grade nonfiction)

Summer is winding down, but I'm still focused on enjoying time with my family. I'm also reading and working on a change in my classroom routine.

What I'm Planning

This past month I've spent some time reviewing and revising some of the major projects that I do throughout the year. Some of these I've only recently added into the mix and others I've done two or three times. However, the past three years have been such different experiences that each time I've had to adapt and do things differently. 

After using some of these projects repeatedly, I know where students struggle and added samples, models, organizers, and checklists to help students be successful from the start to the finish of a project. I also add or reworked modified versions fir students with IEPs or 504 plans. I also added opportunities for peer interaction, sometimes through group brainstorming at the start of an assignment and sometimes through showcasing final products. It is nice for students to get to see the result of each others' hard work and to receive feedback from their peers, not just their teacher. Finally, I reviewed the rubrics for each of the projects making sure the descriptors accurately conveyed what I was looking for as I graded. Sometimes it is difficult to get the wording right on a rubric until you've used it.

As we're in the throes of a project sometimes I think of these additional pieces that would be nice to have, but don't always have the time to create or implement it. As I was reviewing and revising, I thought about those moments and created those pieces that I had wished for. 

The end of novel projects I use at the end of my first whole class novel study of Pax by Sara Pennypacker didn't need much work because I had already added a brainstorming organizer during the school year that helped break the project into concrete steps for students to complete.

Next us was the infographic project that I use to make nonfiction connections with fiction as students wrap up literature circles. I created reflection questions to help students as they decide what tech tool to use to create their infographic as well as a self check checklist for students to use to make sure they have included all of the required elements of their final draft. We begin the project with a gallery walk of sample infographics, so I added a gallery walk for students to showcase their final product and vote on favorites. I also revised the rubric to make it clearer and applicable to the modified and unmodified versions of the assignment.

I've used a debate each year at different times of the year and with different units, both in person and online, so that needed the most work. I created an introductory lesson including an introduction to key terms, a student model, and an annotation activity to accompany that student model. I usually have students work individually on their parts of the debate and then come together as a team, but would like them to do some initial brainstorming together, so I created an organizer for that. Students often need examples of parts of the opening and closing argument so I created a presentation including those parts of the student model as well as additional examples. Finally, I revised to rubric so that it could be used for students with speaking roles and those who chose non-speaking roles.

The last project I worked one was the board game project I used at the end of this past school year for the first time. I added a template for the rules and directions of play for students to use to ensure that they did not leave out any of the necessary sections. This year students had time to play each others' games, but next year I'd like them to also review them, so I create print and digital review forms. Finally, I revised the rubric so that it more clearly reflects what I am looking for when I grade these projects.

The new project I've been working on this past month and will continue into August is a set of Do Nows to use to reinforce weak areas in my sixth grade ELA curriculum. After creating a new agenda slides layout to allow more room on the slides for a do now, I settled on daily "themes." 

Mondays are focused on vocabulary in context. Students will practice defining unknown vocabulary using a variety of strategies: context clues, synonyms, antonyms, and connotation. The vocabulary passages are pulled from children's literature.

Similarly, Fridays will be focused on word parts: prefixes, roots, and suffixes, as another way to build up students' vocabulary attack skills. I'm using a fifth grade list of word parts from the Words Their Way program because I know my sixth grade students have not had any recent word part instruction.

Wednesdays will be a spiral review of literary terms. I compiled a list of need to know terms from released items from our state's standardized test and then narrowed those down to the most important terms. As much as possible, I'll also be using passages from children's literature as students review these literary terms.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are not as defined yet, but will be focused on writing and grammar skills. Students will practice unscrambling, combining, and imitating sentences. They'll also work on grammar skills like subject verb agreement and pronoun antecedent agreement as I introduce those concepts throughout the year. 

I'll be back to school at the end of August, but I haven't started to plan out that first week back yet. I want to see what kind of schedule we'll be following that first day and then I'll reflect on activities from past first days/weeks to start planning for this year.

Summer is winding down, but I'm still focused on enjoying time with my family. I'm also reading and working on a change in my classroom routine.

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