It’s been ages since I’ve had time to write a new post here. Sorry! So what’s been happening around our place? We’ve been busy, for sure, but it’s all been good. We didn’t get really sick like we did last winter when someone had the flu every single week–both strands went through the house last winter!!! That was awful. We’ve all just been busy doing the next thing. You know, putting one foot in front of the other.
My classes have gone very well this term. Story Class (NaNoWriMo) has been a huge hit, but if I do it again, I’ll need to embed more accountability in some way. The kids who have been coming to that class are really into it, though, so I’d say it’s a success just the way it’s been. We explored so many techniques that I’d be hard pressed to list them here. One of the most fun was the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson, which included a story within a story within a how-to book.
The boys in Essay Continuum class managed a number of insightful papers spun in all sorts of ways. Originally I hadn’t planned on them doing a research paper, but changed my mind over Christmas break. This time around I provided the prompt and the resources for the paper. We spent time working through those sources, developing a thesis, backing up our arguments, and then crafting notes that brought all of that together into one place. The papers were really quite interesting. While I still find the Definition Essay to be my favorite assignment for this class, a new assignment that I created for another student worked its way into the repertoire and I have to tell you that this one is quickly becoming another favorite. I call it One Topic Three Ways and the idea is for each student to take one overarching idea that means something to them then spin it as a narrative (story), an expository (informative), and as a persuasive (argument). Once I tested it with one of the one-on-one students, I added it to everyone else’s list of assignments as well. Love it!
The girls in the Literary Analysis class have done an amazing job discussing and analyzing a stack of dystopian novels, then knitting those wonderful ideas into some excellent papers. What’s more, the girls have gotten really good at citing examples of scenes directly from the books to back up their insightful assertions. They studied so much more than just literature within this class. Socialism, communism, and fascism came up. They learned what happens with a great book idea that isn’t as developed it as well as it could have been. They talked about when a sequel is needed. They even delved into psychology quite a bit. Excellent! For as much as dystopian novels can be real downers, we sure had some lively discussions!
I had two classes of beginning writers this term. One began with me only after the Christmas break, but both groups have been great. I don’t usually work with kids as young as the ones in the class that has been with me all term, but those little ones have written some great things. You’d be surprised how quickly they all took to grammar, syntax, and a host of other details that add up to great papers. In the other group, those girls have been equally amazing with the ideas they have put forth in their compositions. Both groups have done some creative fiction as well as some reports this. term. Both groups have excelled at learning and applying stylistic techniques. Both groups have been enthusiastic and energetic during their lessons. Why haven’t I done classes with younger students before this time? They are so much fun to work with!
The rest of my writers were in one-on-one sessions with me. They, too, have all done very well and have written several excellent pieces this term. I wish there were more hours in the day and more days in the week so I could teach more students in this way. There’s just something special about coming alongside a single student and helping that boy or girl write about what else they are learning in their school subjects. This is what I did (and still do) with my own children. That tutorial method is incomparable for making learning stick in a way that just doesn’t happen with tests. Also, the 1:1 sessions allow me to really hone a writer’s skills. This applies to both a struggling writer and a gifted one. All of these 1:1 kids have done great this term.
The kids who have been receiving Orton-Gillingham from me this term are also making excellent progress. Of course, since dyslexia isn’t something you “grow out of” or can “fix” permanently, there will always be days when the struggle is more noticeable than on other days. On the other hand, learning so much about morphology, etymology, and phonology really gives these special people a toolbox full of good strategies that truly WORK. Being able to retrieve those strategies with more and more fluency and automaticity is the real key, but those basics have been embraced and that firm foundation has been laid. This is all really good news.
Actually, it all really good news. The students and I have been having a wonderful school term together and I continue to look forward to seeing their smiling faces each day! I’ll be adding more ideas for next term’s classes and, of course, next year’s book club selections soon. Until then, …