Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gearing up for the last week!

The last week of the 2016-2017 school year is here! And I'm happy, but I'm also feeling a bit sad.  I have loved this year so much.  Even on the most difficult days, working here has been such a blessing.  I love that I am "teaching" again - something that I had not felt like I was doing during the 2015-2016 school year.  I just don't want this year to end.  But.... it has to.  I can't wait to see what these 93 6th graders do in the future :)

Since my grandma died a few weeks ago, I've had trouble getting back on track.  I got so far behind on grading and packing up my room, that the last several days have been just a race.  I really want to enjoy the end of the year, but it has been CRAZY!

With the school year winding down, I have been teaching all of my favorite end of the year lessons with my kids.  On Friday, we did an activity that I have been doing for years.  It's one of those activities that not only fills me with joy, but it is a final eye-opening moment for my kids: that breakthrough when they realize how everything that you have done this year is intertwined and has a purpose.

I call this activity "connection chains," and I know that there are other versions out there, so if anyone has a more zippy name let me know.  In this activity, students make text to self, text, world, and media connections between everything that we have read all year.  I mean EVERYTHING that we have read: from class novels to choice novels, articles, other subjects texts books, art assignments, their English research papers, and on and on.  Although it starts out as an individual activity, the students then share and work together to complete the tasks.  I love it when they make connections that are so insightful and built off of meaningful discussions with their classmates.  This year I chose 6 "anchor" texts to get the ball rolling: Pictures of Hollis Woods, Esperanza Rising, Bud, Not Buddy, The Cay, Holes, and Four Miles to Pinecone.  I hang the anchor links around the room and the students make connections to each text.

I start with this worksheet.  I've seen others that are similar, but none that I have found include the writing component that I added.  In my book, writing = thinking.  This year I printed the tasks on several colors of paper and let the students pick their starting color.  (In the olden days, hehe, I just cut up strips of paper ahead of time and had the kids write everything on them.  I found that this led to a bit of disorganization and always confusion - especially from the kids that maybe didn't "hear" the directions).

So, the kids attach their connection links to the six anchor texts around the room.  By the end of the day, the 6 chains are pretty long, since all four periods made connections during the day.  The kids all ask what we are going to do with the chains, and I always say, "I haven't decided yet.  Any good ideas?"  I then hang them up during my prep or after school, and I always get the same reaction.  It is the best part!  To see the kids faces when they walk in and see their work hanging from the ceiling is so awesome.  It's like they forget they are "big kids" for a little bit.  This year was no exception.  Every class was so excited to see their work displayed like this - they all had a part in the creation. (This year is especially cool because I didn't have a single student absent on the day we did this, so it truly is a creation made by every student.)  This is that big "ah-ha" moment that melts every teacher's heart.  That moment that we can see the growth our students have made, and receive affirmation that they are ready to be sent on to the next year.  Can you tell how much I love this activity?  The discussions about the various connections that we had were amazing and inspiring.  (I wish I would have recorded some of them.)

Here are some pics of our chain this year:

Remember when I said that my room used to be a closet?  Now you have proof!  It's teeny tiny, dark and dank.  It's currently a disaster, as I have already started taking things down and getting ready for summer.  (What's the saying? It always gets worse before it gets better?) That wall that you are looking at?  Will be torn down the day after school gets out to make my room bigger.  I am coping with this total mess right now as I pack EVERYTHING up.  I've already taken down and stashed away many of the items that made this room feel like an energized classroom, so these chains have kind of helped to add a festive spirit to the end of the year.   The kids were so excited, that many of them took more link sheets home to make more connections over the weekend.

Hear are a few more shots:

These chain worksheets are part of my TPT set, End of the Year Activities for ELA.  We also started the Literature Mosaics from the same set, so I will post pics next week.

Have a great Memorial Day everyone!


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