TRUE LEARNING

The students brought in their “silent film strip” photo assignments today. They were assigned the task of transforming themselves into a character from WWI, the Roaring 20s, or the Great Depression. We will begin our discussion of WWII tomorrow, and used this assignment to remind us of the events leading up to that war. The students went above and beyond the call to action not only with creativity, but also with historical content. Their stories were told as a silent film would tell a story. They took ten photos of themselves with a sign in front of them with the words telling their tale. Some students even included family members in their photos/stories. I could tell as I read them today that the students really put forth full effort into researching these historical eras. I am confident that they learned more from this one assignment than from a week’s worth of reading from a textbook. They were so proud of their work and also wanted to see their friends’ stories. So, we took a little time today to view all of the “silent films” and learn from our peers. Who says hard work can’t be fun? Not us! Stay tuned for our next project. This week the students are taking these characters from their stories and giving them an extensive list, via collage design, of character traits. We will use this project to dive further into our discussions of an author’s use of characterization. Art, creativity, problem solving, language arts, reading skills, and history all come together as we progress through this unit of study. In the midst of all this FUN learning, we are taking MAP tests in our computer labs. There has been much talk and discussion, even boycots and strikes in regards to high stakes testing during a school year. There has been much debate on how disruptive it is to real learning. In my humble opinion, the only classroom interrupted from such tests, are classrooms that allow that to happen. I am all for accountability…teacher accountability, at that. But I will not allow standardized tests to stand in the way of REAL learning. We don’t focus much in my classroom on test prep. I usually give my students a “pep talk” before we enter into the computer lab to begin our tests, but I cannot and will not disrupt our creative juices to prep for tests. There’s a famous movie quote that says, “If you build it, he will come.” I think about that line often in my classroom. If we, as teachers, build foundations and learning skills with motivation and inspiration as our guide, then test scores will come. I’m not worried about what a test score says about my students. I see with my eyes. I hear with my ears. Everyday, these students impress me with their intellect…intellect that is far beyond what a standardized test measures. WAY TO GO TEAM DUBOSE!

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It’s All Coming Together

I have been anxiously waiting for this term since August. I always look forward with anticipation to third nine weeks for several reasons. This is what we have been leading up to for 18 weeks now. Our author study on Lois Lowry is such a rich journey and experience. My students are eager, after already completing three of her books, to hear more of her stories and about her life. As we enter into this new term of school we will continue in our Giver quartet. We thought this would just be a trilogy until Ms. Lowry, herself, graced our blog with her presence to announce that the fourth installment would be published in October. As soon as it hit the shelves, I picked up five copies. I have read it, and it is such a wonderful culmination and completion of this series. With that said, we are on our third book in that series. The Messenger is the first of the four books that allows its readers to begin seeing connections through the first two books. The students will see how Gathering Blue and The Giver come together in this third novel. We are also embarking on a wonderful adventure through her memoir, Looking Back. Ms. Lowry’s life story, told through pictures of her childhood and quotes from her stories, is both amusing at times as well as heartbreaking. While reading this memoir, the students make connections between an author’s real life and their stories. They are able to see how an author takes personal life experiences and uses them to create fiction. We will become authors once again this term to create our own memoirs.  Lois Lowry’s collection of novels would not be complete without Number the Stars. This beautifully written work allows us a glimpse into a Jewish family’s struggles during the onset of WWII. The students have also chosen a Lois Lowry book of their own to read independently. What great insight we are gaining as life learners. We are entering the world of an author. Each week the students will design photo projects that connect both with the memoir and with WWII. This week the students are telling a story through pictures. They are working on taking ten photos of themselves. These ten photos must tell a story from the perspective of someone from WWI, the roaring twenties, or the Great Depression era. These are the events we have dsicussed in class that led our country to WWII. I am looking forward to seeing what creativity my students have in store for me. Please stay tuned, as their creativity is shared in the coming days and weeks.