I know that I complain a lot about our school experiences on my blog, but I also want to recognize wonderful teachers that my daughter had over years. I will always remember fondly her kindergarten teacher who made that crucial first year magical, a third grade teacher who really knew how to group students by ability in her classroom and challenge each group appropriately, and a drama/leadership teacher from the last year. I was hoping that a drama teacher, who also teaches language arts, will be Smarty's language/history teacher this year, but she got a new teacher instead, and this is her new favorite teacher this year. Ms. W is probably the youngest teacher Smarty had so far - she is not 30 yet and it's her 6th year of teaching. She is energetic and dedicated, and she also passionately believes in creativity and choice. This year Smarty had several wonderfully creative assignments, and I enjoyed seeing the "final product" of them.
An Island of Me
One of the first topics of this year in social studies was maps. Students were asked to create their own islands - with landmarks meaningful to them. We had an opportunity to see all these islands during back to school night and marvel at creativity that went into them. Smarty's island was certainly not the best in terms of an overall execution (and that was reflected in her grade for this project), but she was still happy about it. It amused me to see a NASA center on her island as well as a sushi restaurant, a giant library, and a "World Math Association" (whatever that is). I am guessing she will never want to leave if she ever gets to visit an island like that :)
My Famous Dinner
As part of their language arts curriculum, 7th graders are learning to write dialogues. This writing project had students choose four famous people (dead or alive) that they will be inviting to dinner. They needed to choose the setting for dinner and write a realistic fiction essay about it using as much dialogue as possible. Smarty portrayed herself as a host of a TV show and the topic of the show was renewable energy. She invited Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Wehrner von Braun to this dinner. I enjoyed reading her dialogue - she was not afraid to take some jokes at her own expense playing a "dumb" host that does not know much about her guests and their contributions to science. I don't know yet what her grade will be for this project, but I thought that she did a great job.
Were the Dark Ages Really Dark?
Smarty is in the project-based school, and all projects revolve around history. I wish they were more science-related,.. but I digress. Last year, every 7th grader produced either some sort of a siege weapon or a model of a castle for this unit. This new teacher told the students that they are free to do whatever they want and choose any topic covered in their Medieval Europe part of the history textbook as long as they have something to share with class at the end of 2 months. They were also not forced into big groups and were free to work either on their own or with one or two classmates. To my surprise and pleasure, Smarty chose to work with a classmate and not on her own. Not so much to my surprise, they decided not to make anything physical, because, frankly, Smarty is not much of a maker. They chose the topic of the plague, and I liked that the teacher really gave kids the choice here, even though at least 30% of students chose the plague (d'oh!). Smarty and her friend built a website about the plague with a lot of research that they accumulated over time, and they also got together to write, rehearse, and film a delightful skit inspired by Horrible Histories. Smarty said that their presentation went really well, and that their skit made kids laugh. That project is also not graded yet, but, really, the grade is not really important to me in comparison to the amount of fun and true collaboration that she experienced creating this skit with her friend.
Finally, Ms. W gave everyone a challenge to participate in a NaNoWriMo's Young Writers' Program. For those who are not familiar with NaNoWriMo - it stands for a National Novel Writing Month. It amuses me to see how much the program like NaNoWriMo with clearly set goals and progress tracking appeals to Smarty. Luckily, she does not need to write a 50,000 words novel like in a real NaNoWriMo. Instead, Ms. W had them write for one period, measure the number of words they wrote and multiply it by the number of school days they have left in November, so Smarty's goal is about 4500 words. This time there are some restrictions on what is acceptable - to fit the language arts curriculum, it had to be a work of realistic fiction, not fantasy. Smarty is so fired up with NaNoWriMo that she wrote 40% towards her goal in just 3 days. Hopefully, I will get to write that massive work once she is done with it.
Do your kids enjoy writing?