Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Formal Debate

This week's topic was Child Interpreters. Of course, we read from Jorge about his experience being a child interpreter. Then we split into two groups and played "Fact & Opinion." Both groups read an article about the topic--one stating why it's so important and the other discussing a law about barring children from interpreting for their parents (specifically in medical situations). Then we had a word war. (Boy, were the kids excited about war!) Each student read one fact from their article and then stated their opinion about that fact. It was quite the heated debate!

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Name is Jorge

Jane Medina is an author--one of my favorite bilingual authors! One of her books is written from the perspective of an elementary Mexican newcomer named Jorge. Of all the characters in all the books in all the world, Jorge is my all-time favorite.

We begin each week with some Jorge Time. I always start with "My Name is Jorge," as names are a great place to get to know kids. During that same week, Imelda and I read "T-Shirt" (they both deal with mispronouncing names). We do lots of different things involving these poems, but this year, we also decided to have kids do some recording. Here is "T-Shirt" in English and Spanish.


(Try hitting "play" first before downloading. If that doesn't work, you can download them for free; you just have to sign up. I've previously used a website that had the player right in my blog post, but I can't seem to find it right now. Any help would be greatly appreciated!)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"But, Mrs. Steele, it's not on ISTEP!"

Melissa was particularly concerned that we were spending our time "drawing pictures" instead of doing "real work." She complained to me, "Mrs. Steele, why are we doing this? We have to pass ISTEP. They won't make us draw tattoos on ISTEP!" Little did she know that what we were doing was so much more than just "drawing pictures."

1. We had to listen intensely to understand the most important things another person values. 

2. We had to think critically about how to represent those ideas with pictures (and no, a boy playing baseball does not represent a boy playing baseball--it is a boy playing baseball; we had to go deeper!). 

3. We had to write a paragraph justifying why we put each individual item in the tattoo, colors and all.

4. We had to present the tattoo and our justification in front of an entire class of our peers!

No, Melissa, neither ISTEP nor LAS Links will ask you to design a tattoo. But they will ask you to listen to directions and/or oral stories, think critically about a problem, and write intelligently on a topic. Tattoos were just a tool to practice.

Board Meeting

To culminate our work on our tattoos, we held a Board Meeting, complete with clip-on ties and all! :) Only this Board Meeting, you're only allowed to talk through writing on a big piece of paper taped to the board. It always starts with an essential question.

Students then answered the question, asked more questions,
and responded to each others' new questions.

The 5th graders didn't feel like their conversation was finished by the time
class was over, so...they came back during their lunch break, put the ties back
on, and spent the next 20 minutes in absolute silence finishing their conversations!

The pictures below range from 3rd to 5th grade, as I'm sure you'll note the difference in maturity.

"Nothing." "Do you think listening is important?" "It's hard." 
"Why is it hard?" "I am stuck because I don't listen." 
One student noted his difficulty in auditory processing. I'm so glad to know this about
him and am looking forward to finding ways to help him listen better and easier. 

"I do not listen to dreckshon" "Why not?" 
"Because it takes too long."
Hey, at least he's honest!

"And when you take the Istep you won't know what to do if you don't listen."
Wow. An Istep reference?? By a 4th grader??

"if you listen well you could earn yourself a scholarship"
This student only knew the word "beca" but really wanted to
use its English counterpart to answer this question.

Loved this one; you go, girl!

Of course, silly bands came up as a point of
distraction from listening. Those darn bands!

Ha ha ha! So this was one student's use of an idiom--"clean up your ears"
but another student's total misunderstanding of it. Buddy, we don't literally mean
that your ears are dirty when we say, "Ya need to clean your ears out??" ;)

Hank's Tattoos

Welcome to Hank's Tattoo Shop!

I'm Miss Star, one of the artists here.
And this is Senorita Estrella, our other artist.

Here's our design process:

Step 1: Take notes on another person's values.

Step 2: Design a tattoo uniquely for that person.

Step 3: Write a paragraph describing how this tattoo "represents" (key word!)
your partner and present it to them in front of the class.

"We're Famous!"

My current 6th graders were highlighted in the WCS "Chalk Talk" magazine for their work on that "Playground Plea" video from last spring. Here's a copy of the article.

As I shared the article with them, I gave them all a copy, had them read it to themselves, and then I read it to them. While we were reading, I asked them to stop me when we came to their favorite line of the article. I read the majority of the article without interruption. Curious, I paused and asked the students if I had already read their favorite line. "No, no, Mrs. Steele, not yet." I kept reading. "'We're gonna be famous!' said Alejandro," I read. "That's it!" they all shouted. I found it ever so interesting that out of the entire article of carefully selected words and creatively crafted phrases, the students most valued their own voice. I'm so glad that it was heard.