new year

New Year, New Reading Goals

Students returned to school this past Monday, and our first day was all about goal setting with reading.  We will tackle writing goals in February since our focus will be extended writing pieces in February and March.

Quarterly Reading Goals

Our first layer of goal setting was to think about reading goals for the third quarter.  Students were asked to identify:

  • Reflect on how many books you read 2nd quarter (students enter their completed AND abandoned books on a Google Form housed in our Canvas course LMS); I downloaded the spreadsheet to Excel and then ran a “pretty” printout using the mail merge wizard in Word.  I printed these on yellow paper for the students to have and keep and to tally their reading).
  • Identify book titles, genres, or authors they’d like to read.
  • The total number of books they hope to read between now and March 11 (end of the 3rd quarter grading period).
  • How many books do you want to read in your moderate Lexile zone?
  • How many books do you want to read in your demanding Lexile zone?
  • What resources might you use to help you choose books and accomplish your reading goals?

Our students took a 2nd Lexile measure with the Scholastic SRI tool in December, and we can generate all kinds of reports for those assessments.  I created a report that showed each student’s current Lexile and their easy, moderate, and demanding Lexile bands.  I cut these into strips and gave them to the students on Monday to help them think about goals.  We then put the goal setting sheet and Lexile strip into a sheet protector (provided by me) and into their notebooks, which we cleaned, refreshed, and re-organized after we completed our goal setting.

Current Book Reading Bookmark Goal

Using the same reading goal bookmark template I blogged about last semester, I modified it and printed new ones for Quarter 3 on yellow paper.  Students then set a goal to finish their current independent read and how many pages to read per day.  Like last semester, I keep a basket of bookmarks, current quarter calendars, and calculators.

Current Read Book Ticket

I’m not quite sure where I will put them just yet, but students are completing “Current Read” book tickets this semester.  I just wanted an easy and colorful way to make our current reads visible and public.  I have some ideas for using the wall outside my room, but I’m still mulling my options.

January Calendar

I always have a big picture map in my mind of how a month of instruction will look, but because of our nonfiction book clubs, I felt I really needed to pin down what we’re doing day by day for the remainder of January so that students can stay on point with their literary nonfiction/memoir book club work and for us to finish the primary club work by January 31.  I tend to improvise instruction based on how students are responding, so it is often hard for me to stick to an exact planned instructional calendar, but I feel like we’ll be able to adhere to the calendar as is.  We reviewed these on Tuesday earlier this week and placed in sheet protectors in the front of our course binders.

Your Thoughts

How do you like to kick off the beginning of a new semester?

New Year, New Semester: The One Word Project as Our Compass

Many teachers like to begin the school year or a new semester with a One Word reflection and/or art project to help students choose a focal point for their academic and personal lives.  I decided to kick off the new semester and new year earlier this month with our own variation on a One Word project.

We began with this reflection tool; students warmed up their thinking by responding to the first three questions.  We then talked about how reflection can hep us think about where we’ve been and where we want to go as learners and as individuals.

Next, we watched this short video to frame the “One Word” concept:

I then asked students to think about what might be one word that would represent the kind of learner and person they aspired to be in their school and home lives.  In our Canvas learning management system, I posted this list of words to help students who might be struggling to think of word choices.  Students used the second half of the reflection tool to brainstorm ten words; once students had generated ten words, they selected their top choice.

Once students selected their one word, they began writing a paragraph reflection using the guidelines, model paragraph, and writing checklist I posted in the assignment section of Canvas.  Students composed in Google Docs and then submitted their written reflection in Canvas.

We worked on thinking piece and composing our paragraphs for about three days in the computer lab and with our classroom Chromebooks.

I was impressed by the thought and depth of reflection many students, especially those in my 6th period, put into their paragraphs.  Many students really invested themselves both intellectually and emotionally in their word choices.  I definitely recommend frontloading this activity with the word selection piece and the written reflection before beginning the artwork.

Once students finished their written reflection, they could browse design ideas for inspiration to create their artistic representation of their one word.  I collected some examples from the web, but I primarily used examples in the slideshow from my fellow Language Arts teacher Jeanne Rountree and her 8th grade students.  After browsing some ideas on TPT, my requirements for the art piece included:

  • The one word should be crafted in a bold and prominent way on your paper.
  • You should repeat the word or a phrase of significance to you with the word in smaller paper.
  • Thoughtful use of color, hand-crafted fonts, and images should be used to enhance the message you want to convey about the importance of this one word to you.

I provided paper, colored pencils, markers, and rulers for students to use; most needed at least two class periods to craft their work.  Below is a gallery of their creations:

We now have our one word gallery going up in the front of the room so our words are there to help us stay the course on our aspirations and to serve as a compass.  How have you used a one word project in your classroom?