Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Year-End Reflections - English 8 at OHS

I asked the students in my 8th grade English class to reflect on their journey this school year and publish on their blogs as a culminating post.  A strong advocate for leading by example, I figured that I too would complete this final assignment.  

Students never cease to impress me, and their reflections did the same.  I’ve collected bits and pieces of their responses in order to reinforce the high points for me this year as well. 

“It was fun to feel like I was a real author.” - Nikki

This was more than a ploy to make students hate English class less.  Rather, it is truly my mission to help students see the connections between what they are learning in the classroom and the application of that knowledge, skill or expertise in the world around them.  I truly believe that each and every student can be and is an author.  Nikki is just one of many of this year’s class who actually proved it.  

This year’s eighth grade students were published in the Holt County Independent, Norfolk Daily News, and on Apple’s iBooks Store.  They spread their written messages on air on the radio, on blogs and social media, through email, and on bulletin boards and billboards.  They spoke their mind and expressed their insights to the School Board, to students outside of their grade level, and in letters to loved ones. They communicated through writing with their peers, within online writing forums with strangers, and with people in positions of power.  They wrote competitively - speech contests, poetry contests, essay contests, and more.  And they ARE AUTHORS!

“There is a lot more to writing than words on a page. You have to feel the words and put emotion in them so that the readers connect.” - Shayne

That personal connection to your writing with infused emotion holds true in the relationships within the classroom as well.  When I asked the students to list their three favorite things we did this school year, many expressed appreciation for the very first day of class.  This was a day devoted entirely to improv games, ice-breakers, and relationship building.  The fact that they remember that experience from over 9 months of language arts lessons, mixed among countless repetition of parts of speech and sentence fluency tips, shows the power of emotion in learning.  Connecting.  It’s what happens when an author composes words that reach a reader.  It’s also what happens in a successful classroom of middle school learners.  

“With Mrs. Morrow she can get really excited sometimes, so keep her under control. Mrs. Troester, on the other hand, can get very serious, so take everything seriously. And make sure to get everything done on time to keep them happy.” - Montana

This advice from Montana clearly illustrates the power of joy.  And yet the importance of staying focused.  And all the while, it sometimes is nothing more than being responsible and following through that can leave the biggest impact.

“My favorite thing that we did was the “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories mostly because they finally left us alone and just let us work instead of having to worry about constant deadlines and requirements.” - Nathaniel

I value constructive criticism immensely. We teach our students to do it in the peer review process and we need to model it as well.  It pains me to realize that we stifle our students’ learning with deadlines and requirements.  Nathaniel’s bravery to admit it, along with his exceptional creative aptitude when he did connect with an assignment is a reminder to me as an educator to build in more of these experiences every year. 

“An iBook is way cooler than just a normal book.” - Justin

WAY cooler! And requires more thinking, more creating, and therefore more learning.  iBooks Author is my current gourmet meal of teaching English(yes kids, that is a metaphor).   We authored collaboratively, published a collection of essays on patriotism, and were able to raise money for a great cause.  We authored nonfiction books to teach others great science and social studies content that we have learned.  We created widgets, intro videos, narrator characters, screencasts and animations to enhance our writing.  All the while we practiced digital citizenship by using creative commons & OER, applying attribution, and promoting via social media. We learned together, my students and I.  We fought through publishing challenges and debugged faulty media elements.  I can’t imagine teaching any kind of writing class in the future without iBooks Author, iBooks, and the iBooks Store as key ingredients.  

“Writing this year taught me that you can achieve anything or you can release yourself from everyone and everything.” - Trevor

Talk about reaching both ends of the spectrum!  Pushing beyond our limits or letting go of it all.  I think about all the talent in Room 220 each and every 2nd and 4th period this year.  Then I think about all that I have yet to learn about each and every one of these amazing students.  There is more to be written, for sure.  I hope that I get to continue to read it!

“English can be a little fun.” - Eddie

Or a lot fun.  Either way, thanks for the great times, OHS Class of 2018.  The world can expect many more great things to come from you!

~Mrs. Morrow

No comments: