Students are proud and ready to share their short fiction pieces! We have spent many weeks, first reading, then writing short stories. Students have taken what they've learned in the reading portion of the unit and planned, drafted, revised and edited their own stories.
During the writing process, we asked that students consider social issues and how that might impact the internal and external conflict for their main character. Students relied heavily on their mentor texts: No Guitar Blues by Gary Soto, What Do Fish Have to Do With Anything? by Avi and Thank You, Ma'm by Langston Hughes. We are looking forward to students sharing some beautiful writing with you on March 28th.
At the same time, we are now moving into a quick reading annotation unit, considering the CCSS ELA test and also other reading skills that they will need in other classes. We are building on the nonfiction reading work already being taught by Matt and Polly, providing students with life-long active reading skills.
During the break, we are hoping that students are focused on their fiction reading. We need students to read one or two books during this time. Reading stamina and focus are musts at this point in the year. Please remind your child to read as much as possible and continue to ask those questions we posted in our August and September blog posts.
Erica, Sherry & Dakota
Wow! Has it already been a whole semester of learning?! We are so thrilled with the learning and growth articulated by students at Roundtables. This is a major milestone in their East Side careers and an invaluable life skill.
We began our Short Fiction unit last week and students have been immersed in the world of No Guitar Blues, a short story written by Gary Soto. Soto is a well known Mexican-American author and poet whose stories center around kids and young adults from from his own culture and background. In this story, students have been analyzing for issues of social class and complicated internal conflict. They have been using the story arc to track conflict, realizations, choices and changes to dig deep in their understanding of characters, mainly protagonists. See below for some of the posters and annotation codes from our week so far.
We are very excited for the weeks following February break to see how students use their imaginations to create stories with complex social issues and three dimensional characters.
We will post and email a publishing date soon!
Erica, Sherry & Dakota
Hello, Families and Students!
As we enter into the holiday season, it’s important for us to reflect on our community here at East Side and inside our ELA classrooms. Holidays can be fun and festive, but for many the holidays are stressful and distracting. This can be true not only personally, but academically. It’s important for us all to work together within our community to keep students on track during this time. We must hone in on our shared values of respect and compassion when some days might simply feel hard.
Our shared values were explicitly mapped out during a conversation about safe space in our reading community. This was part of the preparation we did for Totally Joe, our first whole class novel. Totally Joe is the second story in The Misfits series by James Howe. It’s the story of a boy named Joe who while learning who he is, has to navigate how he fits into his middle school community and the larger world. Since The Misfits (told from Bobby’s perspective) was required reading over the summer, most sixth graders know Joe already but hearing his perspective makes this a unique experience for our community as his external and internal conflicts are different from Bobby’s. Joe’s conflict involve more sophisticated topics and some topics that might feel personal for some of our sixth graders as Joe explores issues of gender identity, sexual orientation and homophobia. Though the book is about so much more, it’s for these reasons that we need to secure a safe space to discuss these issues.
The “Safe Space Rules” are as follows:
Students have discussed these rules at length and created these together as a reading community. We taught students that this safe space is necessary in order to protect ourselves as individuals and the characters in Totally Joe to facilitate honest discussions and ideas that might come up from naturally inquiring minds.
On Wednesday, we will be viewing Wonder based on RJ Palacio’s novel about Auggie, a boy who is navigating a new school after being home-schooled because he was born with a facial difference. The reading units in sixth grade ELA are tied together through themes of difference, self-acceptance, and identity. Students began this work in the summer by reading Wonder by RJ Palacio and again with Totally Joe. Both books front-loaded societal issues and conflict in literature that we continue to build on. We are hoping seeing the film adaptation of Wonder will give students a lot to talk about both in terms of connecting our class text and the way a novel is adapted for film. In Wonder, a large focus is on RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness) and deeply thinking about our actions and how we accept others into our communities. This makes our community and safe space discussions in ELA even more significant.
We hope that students share some big takeaways from our conversations with you at home and that the lessons of emotional safety, kindness and compassion that are being taught through Wonder and Totally Joe can be practiced by each young person as we move into the holiday season and beyond.
As always, feel free to reach out anytime.
Erica, Sherry, & Dakota
This is an exciting time of year as our readers and writers are fully integrated into the East Side culture as well as our classroom procedures and routines. Students are loving their independent reading books and using class time wisely for reading and doing notebook work. This week, students will start filling in their Books Completed lists. They are available through their Google Classroom pages and look like this.
Students at East Side will end up completing somewhere between 30 and 50 books this year. It’s important that they track their reading to help see how many books they’re reading and notice the patterns across those books like genre, length and enjoyment level.
Our marking period closes this week right in the middle of our Personal Essay unit. Students will publish final drafts on November 13th, but for the close of the first marking period, they’ll only have a grade for their first draft. The first marking period is just a snapshot of their current progress, so students will still be able to revise work in 8am breakfast study Monday through Friday.
As October comes to a close, we will be saying goodbye to PJ and welcoming Dakota into our community. It’s a bittersweet time for our students, but we’re happy to have Dakota teaching our first class novel of the year in November as it is a wonderful way to build our community.
We look forward to families joining us for conferences. Don’t forget that you’ll receive narratives for your child that will help explain their first marking period grades. Remember that students have had the opportunity to come at any time to revise work. If grades are low, please encourage revisions by helping students to arrive at 8am. Grades are not meant to punish students, but they can feel that way if they don’t take advantage of all the help they can get. We are here to help!
Erica, Sherry, PJ and Dakota
We are now in our last week of September and though it feels a lot like summer, we are busy cultivating cozy independent reading communities in our classrooms. So far, your children have been introduced to our school library and they are adjusting nicely to checking out books and returning them on time. This Friday and next Friday we are headed to Tompkins Library to get library cards and figure out how to navigate that space as another option when the East Side library isn't accessible or when East Side doesn't have the book a reader is seeking.
We have had our first read-aloud of the year, a short story titled "Mr. Entwhistle" by Jean Little. This is a story about a girl named Kate and the conflict that arises when a younger substitute teacher takes over the class for the period. Readers are focused on identifying the external and internal conflicts in their own independent reading book and starting to write long in their reading notebook about how conflicts affect characters. Today in class, students are taking their first reading assessment that will help us see where they're struggling with the idea of conflict.
We are still working on keeping an organized reading life by using the reading record in the orange homework folder. Students also each have a copy of the marking period 1 reading challenge taped into the front cover of their ELA notebook. They have until Friday, November 3 to complete 4 boxes of their choice. This will count toward their reading habits grade. In addition, this week we are introducing reading level assessments for the first time. Many of these first assessments are for us to get to know the students as readers and writers, so please do not be alarmed if you don't see grades being entered in PupilPath. ELA teachers are committed to writing a detailed narrative about each student's progress and goals at the end of the first marking period. Click on our "Rubrics" page to see the criteria for close reading responses.
Lots of parents continue to ask what they can do at home to support the skills work being done in class. Here are some suggestions:
- Ask questions after reading such as:
Remember that Literacy Night is coming up on October 18th. You will receive a report of your child’s reading level, have an information session with Mark and a Q&A with your child’s ELA teacher. Your presence is not only requested, it’s required.
As always, thank you for all the support you give students at home. Please feel free to email us whenever you have questions or concerns.
PJ, Sherry and Erica
As teachers and mothers, we believe that reading together is often the most special time of the day. We place great value in reading stories aloud to our children, at all ages. We strongly urge all families to try and build time in for silent or shared reading together. Even with as little as thirty minutes before bed, you can get a grasp of your child's understanding and possibly areas of need. Above all, reading as a family is a great way to be transported into a shared journey! This year, we are focusing on fiction at home. Students are required to read for a silent thirty minutes each night in the independent reading book they are currently in. Check in with your child about:
The 6th Grade ELA Team