Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring Sprang Sprung

The snow lies heavy but the new daylight dazzles! Spring is ... trying.
Hello from the end of March....
What's been going on in groups?
Below is the micro-version!
Read it all for context, or just scroll to the grade level of your child:

The Communications group is reading The Phantom Tollbooth and being mightily inspired (in our own writing) with how Norton Juster plays with language. The group has also provided great feedback to a middle grade chapter book I am writing and drawing. Such editors! Our conversations about plot and character seem very real.
Before School Writing Club, Philosophy Club, and a Wrinkle in Time group round out my 4th grade involvement.

Wisdom from the 4: Love is gross when your parents kiss

In further YES news:
I visit 2nd grade rooms during "Second Grade Hour," focusing on literacy, and also often collaborating with Chaké Higgison on literacy with art extensions. From our museum visits to mix-n-match flipbooks, the emphasis is on making note of DETAILS.

I visit each 3rd grade room weekly, to offer open-ended writing and verbal thinking challenges. This means I have a large number of third grade penpals!

With second grade teacher Carli Page-Redmann, I am also about to spearhead a drive on behalf of the amazing bookfairy pantry project. After all, the soul can starve as surely as the body! More on that soon.

Some fifth graders have compiled the results of the survey they sent out on behalf of our Poem Booth. Many (122!) responded. Do you know what the most poetic season is considered to be? Word? Place? Number? Analyzing this, particularly in poetry form, is fun.
We are about to start that annual project, The Insider's Guide to HMS (written by 5th graders for future 5th graders). The Communications kids not only write articles but also serve as editors for incoming articles.

From the Whiteboard, gr. 5: A conversation begins (dragons are popular)

The sixth graders are deep into culture research. Different cultures do things so differently. Why? And can a cultural lens be applied to investigating literary genres, for example: SciFi? We read an article from The Economist's sister magazine, 1843, called Folding Meanings. How do young Chinese writers use science fiction to criticize aspects of their society? Why do they do this? What is censorship?

Seventh graders are nearing the end of Hesse's Witness (see last blogpost). This is the first year I've read this book during which I've brought in local articles about current KKK activity for us to discuss. The work feels extra meaningful. What is racism? WHY? How do people's minds open and close?

Besides finishing up Godless (see last blogpost), 8th graders have been serving as adjunct editorial staff for our literary magazine, reading and rating submissions (and there are a LOT of them). Next up: students write parody, compose sonnets, and soon enough the 8th Grade Civil Rights unit will bring us plenty of opportunity for extensions.

It's an honor to be co-facilitator of the HMS Civil Rights Team. The HMS blog has charted some of CRT efforts, including a "labels" activity. What does calling someone a name say about the name caller?

Fifth and Sixth Grade Writing Clubs continue to meet monthly. Student writers from any HMS grade are encouraged to see me after school on (most) Wednesdays, if they would like 1:1 time.

On a final note, it was gratifying to attend the annual Scholastic Writing Awards night at which HMS had a strong showing. I feel so fortunate to work in a district that so promotes writing.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Year of the Mooster!

Welcome to nearly February! We've recently ushered in two new calendar years, of two different flavors.

In attempting to draw a rooster, in honor of the Chinese Lunar New Year, I realized that I was rebranding it as a mooster! Cross-pollination seems so emblematic of what we do in GT instructional support that I decided to go with it! I hope 2017 and (and The Mooster) bring you and your family health and happiness ... and the chance to think outside the box.

Below are notes about what each grade level has been up to lately. Thanks to the many of you who responded to a recent GT survey that Bob Gross and I crafted. It's clear that informing you on particular units and activities needs to be more of a priority!
Please note that GT instructional support is often quite individualized (especially for writers!). One of the best sources of information is your own child. That said, please reach out to me any time you may have a question or a comment. I'm at HMS on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. I'm at YES on Tuesdays. Fridays is not a district day for me, but I am often on email.

So, what's up?

4th graders have been focused on individual writing work, including hammering away at my 1970's manual typewriter. The recent Spirit Series stole some of my students away for a few weeks (alas, the snow day eclipsed my chance of SEEING these fine productions!). The two remaining students worked on Letters About Literature, a National Humanities Council contest about how a book changed ones life. We sent these letters also to the authors of these books. Guess what? Soman Chainani wrote back! As usual, we do plenty of word game warm-ups. Starting this week, we'll have the full group back and will venture into that classic wordplay of a novel, A Phantom Tollbooth. Will Rhyme and Reason prevail?

5th graders meet in two different small groups, and they do slightly different things. From inventing their own schools, complete with sorting-hat sorts of activities to determine "houses," to reading and discussing short stories, to working on creative NON-fiction (in honor of their classroom focus on the essay), the periods pass very quickly. As usual, I am able to see more of those students pursuing and sharing their own creative writing as we meet "on the doc" and outside of time, somehow.

6th graders, in honor of our ongoing "evolution of language" unit, have recently read the famous "All the World's a Stage" soliloquy from Shakespeare's As You Like It
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts....
Student variations have been amusing, witty and wise.... At the moment, we are are reading Amy Tan's amazing short story about an young Chinese chess prodigy. The Rules of the Game has so many relevant themes, from immigrants to geniuses, dealing with parents to strategizing about longterm outcomes.
7th graders are in the middle of reading Karen Hesse's brilliant book, Witness. It takes place in the 1920's in a small Vermont town. What happens when the KKK comes to town? We're doing this piece as readers' theater and the tone and discussions are highly expressive. This comes on the heel of a poetry focus and, as always, many word game warm-ups.
8th graders are in the middle of the National Book Award winning novel, Pete Hautman's Godless. What happens when a high school kid invents his own religion and some of his peers take him too seriously? We've had the chance to discuss all sorts of themes thanks to this book, which isn't so much about religion as about community and peer pressure and belonging. Classic quotes are playing a role in our discussions. For example:
So long as man remains free, he strives for nothing so incessantly and and so painfully as to find someone to worship.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
These are just thumbnails of projects. 
How I wish you could be a fly on the wall!
Please do be in touch if you'd like more specific information on the instructional support your child receives.

Note below: GT Instructional Support below Gr. 4 and above Gr. 8 does not generally feature any pullout groups. I see all 2nd graders during "Second Grade Hour" and offer "Challenge by Choice" to all 3rd graders. Individual high school students may do independent studies with me, pending administrative approval. 

Please see our website for more details, or if you have never visited and are curious about resources! Just click on Chapter 104 - GT in the middle of the I.S. line-up.

On a final note, I'm delighted to announce that I just landed a book contract with Scholastic for a picture book, currently titled Elba & Norris (and field tested, last year, on the entire third grade). I'm particularly delighted since my 13th book contract comes after years of various projects and rejections. 
I feel fortunate to work in an environment that cares so much about writing and that believes so truly in fostering grit. I'm very glad that I did not give up on not giving up!
The book won't be illustrated by me (oh well) and isn't due out until the spring of 2019. (These things happen in glacial time.) Still, I am frolicking!
May joyful things happen to you all!