Happy New Year! While I know many school districts went back to school this Monday, we have been back in school since January 2nd! At this point in the school year, I love to take the time to challenge my students to think about their work so far and where they hope to be by the end of the school year. To incorporate the start of the new year, we work on goal-setting and we resolve to do things that will help us to be an even better version of ourselves.
I started the week-long writing assignment discussing commercials students have been seeing a great deal of on TV. Many confirm they have seen lots of commercials for gym memberships and weight-loss companies. I ask them why they think these are so “in your face this time of year?” and they were able to respond that “with the new year comes people setting goals to become better.”
We created a brainstorm cloud where students listed ways they could improve upon themselves. Some were very forthcoming and willing to share things that they thought needed improvement. Examples were: practicing harder, putting more effort into school work, listening more to a parent, being more responsible, etc. We discussed the difference between setting a goal versus achieving a dream.
Next students decided on the three things they wanted to work on, starred them on their brainstorm cloud, and got to work on their organizer. We tackled the topic sentence first, so students understood how they needed to begin the task of organizing their writing. I helped them through this by modeling with my three resolutions: saving more money, being less quick-tempered, and saying only respectful things about others.
Once we established our topic sentence, I showed students that my BING paragraph would be all about saving money, my BANG paragraph would be all about being less quick-tempered, and my BONGO paragraph would be all about saying only respectful things about others. I have to share that my students loved hearing the stories behind my resolutions and were very enthusiastic about helping with with the three strategies to achieve each of them. In addition to having three strategies, each paragraph needed to include an opening sentence-introducing the resolution and a concluding sentence-bringing the paragraph to a close.
After the modeling, students began working independently as I moved around the room. I was so thrilled to see how enthusiastic they were about writing to achieve their personal goals.
Day 2: We discussed what we did the previous day and got to work on our introduction and conclusion. Some may find this strategy backwards-I have have found that it can be tricky for students to find a place to begin. With each of their body paragraphs completed, I explained that now they simply have to grab the reader’s attention, and then bring the work to a close.
I gave the example of crime shows. Often the writers open the show with a person dead on the sidewalk to grab the audience’s attention, so you are hooked and don’t want to change the channel. They got it, so we began working together to create a “hooky” introduction. They agreed that asking questions and using exclamations would hook a reader. We created a model and did the same for the conclusion.
For the conclusion we discussed how we are bringing the piece to a close and sending the reader on their way. This is NOT the time to share new information, but instead give the reader the chance to reflect on what we have shared. Again, they got it and were on their way! The students completed their organizers and were ready to draft.
Here are a few pics of my students drafting…
Yesterday I had the chance to have writing conferences with them. They signed up for a conference once they completed their draft. My focus in conferencing was: mechanics-CUPS-capitalization, usage/grammar, punctuation, spelling. Lastly, we discussed organization and the use of transitions in their sentences. Students re-wrote their drafts and will be publishing them on the laptops tomorrow. I will share a few examples of these final pieces soon!
While students are at different levels in their writing abilities, this is a writing strategy that they will find useful through their college years. In addition, it can be modified for multiple uses: friendly letters, persuasive pieces, and expository writing where directions are given. I would love to hear about the tools you utilize to enhance writing in your classroom settings.
The New Year is a great time to reflect on the changes we want to or need to make. If you’re a student looking at ways to improve yourself and make the transition to college easier, International College Counselors offers a few more resolutions you might want to add to your list.
1. Stop procrastinating. How often have you underestimated how much time it will take to get something done? Then, how sad are you when you don’t have the time to do your best. At some point, the procrastinator has to write four college essays in one night – on top of completing schoolwork. Usually, this doesn’t turn out so well. If you finish a project earlier than you thought you would, then consider yourself ahead.
2. Commit yourself to getting good grades. Good grades are entirely necessary to get into a good school unless you’re a top notch athlete. The best case scenario is that you have good grades from the beginning. However, if you start off badly and improve your grades, colleges will give you points for this. Many admissions officers won’t look at your application if your grades are too low or show a steady decline. Spending a night studying while your friends play Wii may not excite you, but you need to look at this long-term. Think of it this way, grades are a bridge. They will serve you to get into a college where you will have more freedom. In college, grades may not be as important as in high school.
3. Don’t do it all. It’s better to concentrate on a few things and excel in them than if you join every sport, activity and club that you can cram into your schedule. Anyone can join 10 clubs and be marginally involved in them all. Schools are looking for commitment that shows you’re willing to stick with something and make the most of it.
4. Keep a calendar. Deadlines creep up quickly. And the closer the date, the more you’ll feel the pressure. Most students don’t do their best under pressure. And colleges, scholarships, federal aid, and standardized testing services are not going to be sympathetic to any excuses you have about missing a deadline. If you miss a deadline, you miss an opportunity.
5. Take standardized tests early. You won’t know how high you can score until you take the test. Wait too long and you won’t have enough time to retake it. And many things can affect your test score on any given day, including the state of your health, and you can’t plan not to get the flu or food poisoning. Taking the test early will also allow time to take a test prep course if necessary.
6. Do your research. Know what the choices are when it comes to colleges. This way you can avoid any coulda, shoulda, woulda regrets later in life. Research could be as simple as visiting a school’s website.
7. Try something new. High school is a great time to spread your wings. It’s about new experiences and self-discovery. Want a certain internship, there’s no harm in calling up and asking if they have any room for an eager high school student to work there. Want to try a new sport or activity, go ahead and try it. You’re not expected to leave high school knowing exactly what you want to do, but this is a chance to start narrowing down your interests. You’ll never know what you like – or how good you are at something – until you try something.
8. Be excited about going to college. Wherever you go to college, you’re going to meet new people, learn new things, and have a great time. That’s reason enough to be excited whether you end up attending a first choice school or a safety.
9. Do what your college counselor tells you. Students: We at International College Counselors are here to get you what you want out of life.
10. Banish the self-doubt. Doubting your own abilities only holds you back from achieving what you want to achieve. Just say no to these thoughts and others like them:
“I can’t do this.”
“I’m not as smart as my classmates.”
“I’ll never get better than a 2.7 grade-point average.”
“I’ll only get into a community college anyway”
“There’s no point in thinking I’ll get into my first choice college.”