Urban schools have unique challenges that are not prevalent in suburban schools. One major challenge can be cultivating parent involvement. Effective communication between teacher and parent can build the bridge connecting the two most important institutions in a students life, school and home. Recent studies show that when families are involved in their children’s education in positive ways, the children achieve higher grades and test scores, have better attendance at school, complete more homework, and demonstrate more positive attitudes and behavior. I have found this to be very true. I address ways to create teamwork between parents and teachers in a book I authored entitled Inclusive Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators. A weekly Parent Newsletter is one strategy that has work well for me and I encourage you to incorporate it into your work with building parent relationships. It also adds to your effectiveness as an educator during evaluation time!
For today's activator I first pass out a Parent Newsletter that informs them of our unit of study. I read it out loud as students are asked to read silently while pointing out information that I think students should be particularly aware of. I also asked a colleague who teaches Spanish to translate the Newsletter into Spanish for my ESL students. To encourage students to bring the newsletter home to be read by their parents, I give extra credit if they returned it signed by a parent. I usually have 60-70% of my students return with a signature.
After reading the News Letter I explain that we will be finishing our open responses today in preparation for the Unit 5 assessment and then continue with Romeo and Juliet. I explain that fluent, coherent writing involves the use of transition words and we will practice using these words to improve our responses.
I am calling this reflection "Joy" because when parents are informed by teacher as to what their children are doing in class it adds to the positive culture we work hard to create. I found that the parents who did read the newsletters were very appreciative and some asked questions about homework or what they could do to support the learning in class. I want to translate the newsletter into Spanish as well so all parents comfortable receiving the newsletter.
I also found that giving extra credit to those students who brought back a signature from their parents showing that they read the newsletter, increased parental participation.
I review the use of transition words by explaining that to improve their writing they need to make sure their ideas, both in sentences and paragraphs, stick together or have coherence (as I say this I interlock my fingers to demonstrate coherence and say there are no gaps between my fingers and should not be any between your ideas).
I then explain that by using transition words they can bridge those ideas or the points they are making with evidence and explanations in their paragraph (W.9-10.2a, b, and c). I next ask them to take out their TRANSITIONAL WORDS reference sheet from their folders and ask them to refer to it as they write their final draft of the open response (W.9-10.2)
I now bring their attention to three sentences with a quote and explanation that I wrote on the white board. I ask for a volunteer to write a transition word(s) which connects these ideas and helps the reader to follow their explanation. We discuss the words used and their effectiveness.
I think it's important to have students model the learning for their peers because it increases peer attention and helps students retain the information. A mentor teacher once told me, "If you want your students to know something have them read it, learn something have them write it, and retain and master something, to teach it."
I ask students to take out the open response prompt, text and PEE organizer that they work on during the previous days lesson. I remind them to review the 7 Steps for Annotation and begin writing their final drafts of the open response.
Some students are working in pairs to complete their PEE organizers (W.9-10.5) and others work individually to write their final draft (W.9-10.2) I use flexible grouping as one method of differentiating the task to meet the needs of a mixed-ability classroom. This video shows two students who chose to work together but next to them there are students working individually and one group of three in the front of the class. I usually give students the choice but when necessary I will make the decision based on the task and the students' needs. As they are writing I circulate among them asking clarifying questions and check for understanding of the importance of using transition words in their response (W.9-10.2c).
As required in standard SL.9-10.4, I ask for a few student volunteers to project their open response on the screen and present their information by clearly explaining their use of transition words, W.9-10.2c, as well as the evidence they cite to support their points W.9-10.2b. During the reporting out I ask clarifying questions. I also encourage peers to do the same. This is an important part of the lesson in that it helps others see each others final draft and hear explanations of the words used to increase sentence fluency and organization of thoughts.
After a student reports out I ask students in the class to look at their grading Rubric and score their own open responses. I want them to gain the self-analysis skills necessary for making adjustments to their own writing based on a scoring rubric. We have a brief discussion on what the final score should be.