I begin class today with a bit of business, by introducing a new system to my students, whereby they can better track their own academic progress for second trimester. Many of them remained virtually in the dark about their grades throughout first trimester, due to a number of factors, and so I have developed a process that should keep them in the light most of the time.
For many, eighth grade is a transition year, one in which they are expected to be more accountable, and one in which they are preparing to take the step into high school. Some handle this transition better than others. By providing my students with a means to track their progress, I can better coach them towards becoming more responsible and more accountable for their grades.
As I explain this new method to them, I help them list the first few assignments of second trimester by providing a master copy of the assignment tracker on the document camera. I explain to my students that each time they turn in a homework assignment, and each time I return a graded assignment, we will spend a few minutes as a class updating their assignment trackers. I tell them that I will maintain a master copy and keep it posted on the front wall of the classroom, so that they will always have the means to stay caught up.
In a perfect world, no student should need to ask me "What's my grade?" ever again, right?
Once the assignment trackers are in place, I move my students into their second reading quiz on Bad Boy, which will question them about chapters 10-11 ("Heady Days at Stuyvesant High" and "The Garment Center"). A set of sample quiz questions for one class includes:
Again, I remind my students that the quiz serves the purpose of determining which students are keeping up with their reading and which students are not (for a more detailed explanation of the reading quizzes, see here). For example, here is a sample quiz of a student who is keeping up with the reading, and here is a sample quiz of a student who is clearly not. In this way, I learn which students may need a little more encouragement and/or assistance with the text.
The quiz should take no more than ten minutes, and once I have collected them all, we will spend a few more minutes reviewing the chapters by reviewing the answers to the quiz. This will prep my students for today's whole group reading of chapter 12 , "God and Dylan Thomas".
It has been a few days since we have read in class as a whole group, and whole group reading is something I like to maintain, once a week if possible, in order to bring all students up to where they should currently be in a text. Whole group reading also tends to have the effect of rekindling interest in a book that some students may have drifted away from because it provides an opportunity for impromptu reactions and discussion from all, often infusing a new or renewed excitement in a text, such as this Aha! moment.
Having reviewed chapters 10-11 as a whole group following the reading quiz, we then begin reading chapter 12, "God and Dylan Thomas." Student volunteers take turns reading aloud, and I jump in and read a little as well, whenever it seems that cadence or inflection needs to be reestablished (usually detectable by fidgeting from certain students). A few points from chapter 12 that are worth pausing and discussing with students include:
We will read until there is about ten minutes left of class. If we do not complete chapter 12 together, then I will instruct my students to finish reading the chapter for homework.
Always a crowd pleaser, I close the lesson with the opening sequence of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, since Myers references the film in chapter 12 (I rented it on Amazon for $2.99--if you prefer, the sequence is available as two separate clips on youtube, here and here).
I like to incorporate a variety of mediums into a lesson whenever possible, even if only for a few minutes, as the practice tends to hook in those students who hover on the edge of disinterest for all things written. I always keep half an eye on those students when I switch gears, from a text into an alternate medium, to gauge their reactions. Most of the time, I am reminded of how much the method works, as I witness them sitting up a little bit straighter!