Mr. Kendall co-teaches with Mr. Almanza on most Wednesdays. On these days, challenging extensions of current concepts are presented. Having two teachers in the room allows students to get more one-on-one attention as they wrestle with these problems. All students have the opportunity to take on the challenge problems, not just students who are identified as gifted in math. This allows more students the opportunity to push their abilities further. We sometimes use games when problems of different difficulty are worth more points and students have to consider strategies of whether to score certain points with more basic questions or take on a more challenging problem in hopes of scoring extra points for their team.
Mr. Kendall may visit each of the sixth grade reading classes to present a lesson from time to time throughout the year. Previous lessons have included the following:
Lessons in "Reading" Art
These lessons explore the connections between reading literature and "reading" art. Students view several artists' depictions of the Icarus myth. They identify what moment in the story the artist had selected to focus on, explain the focal point of the painting, and label the painting with an appropriate theme word (e.g. despair, failure, sympathy, triumph, etc.). Students were asked to support their opinions and theme selections with evidence from the painting.
Students also read poems that commented on some of the paintings and were asked to explain how one poet's "reading" of an art work differed from another or from their own "reading" of the same painting.
Other broad questions discussed:
1) How does society treat individuals who "fly for the sky" and push the limits of existing knowledge or technology?
2) How can another person's perspective change your "reading" of a piece of literature or a piece of art work?
3) What can art do that literature cannot?
4) What can literature do that art cannot?
Learning About Literature Circles
The first 3-session series introduces students to "Literature Circles." Most of the discussions are modeled full-class, but the second 3-session series in each class will put students in charge of their own Literature Circles. In these small groups students learn to direct their own discussions of a piece of literature as they take on different assigned roles within the discussion group. The role definitions are:
1) "Discussion Director" - responsible for leading the discussion by calling on all members of the group to report their findings and through the creation thoughtful discussion questions; the discussion director also surveys group members about other issues they may wish to discuss.
2) "Summarizer" - presents a summary that clearly identifies key events from the poem, short story, or chapter of a novel that lead us to new understandings about individual characters, relationships between characters, plot events, or major themes.
3) "Passage Master" - responsible for selecting 2 to 3 passages for discussion that represent critical moments in the piece of literature. If a particular passage is confusing, that can be one of the Passage Master's selections so that students in the Literature Circle can pool their ideas and try to come to a better understanding of the passage. Teachers are available to assist students while they discuss, but they are to encourage students to try to sort things out on their own first before giving too many hints.
4) "Word Reporter" - responsible for looking up unfamiliar words, finding definition and synonyms and creating sentences that put the word in a helpful context that peers in the Literature Circle can understand.
Literature Circles is a popular mode of discussion in 8th grade, when students are allowed to select their own book from a number of choices defined by the teacher. Literature Circle groups are formed to group those students who have selected the same group. This sixth grade introduction of Literature Circles will allow more use of the method in 6th and 7th grade so that students are more successful in these discussion groups in eighth grade.
Lessons in Critical Reading of the News
Mr. Kendall will visit each of the sixth grade reading classes to present lessons that encourage students to be critical thinkers when the encounter the news media. Students will learn about different types of news, the difference between news stories and feature stories, and the differences between news stories and editorials. Students will be introduced to the concepts of newsworthiness, bias, and objectivity. We will discuss the "business" of news (how news media outlets make money and how advertising influences the news) and the differences in credibility between traditional news organizations and blogs. We will also discuss how technology has changed the way we access the news and how it is presented to us.