This blog will be the center of all we do in room 239. Main posts will be by Mrs. Kirr, explaining what we're doing in class, blog posts will be done by each student, and students will help write the Genius Hour blog posts to share what we're learning and producing independently.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Two weeks of quality writing...

We are all sensing the vibrations coming off of each other in room 239. It seems as if winter break can't get here fast enough, but we really need to hold on! We have finished reading Out of the Dust, and we have begun the process of writing our final polished piece for response to fiction. We will be using all of our resources to get through - the marble behavior plan, examples of student writing, quotes from the book, the timeline of events from the novel on two walls, and our patience.
This week: All week - Grammar and root word warm-up exercises
                  Monday - Genius Hour (many new ideas brewing!)
                  Tues-Fri we'll be writing different parts of our polished piece!!
Next week: All week - Grammar and root word warm-up exercises
                  Monday - Genius Hour (Have you asked your child what he/she is learning?)
                  Tuesday & Wednesday - type and edit our polished piece
                  Thursday & Friday - watch the PBS special about the dust bowl
                  Saturday - time for family... Enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Classroom Conversations

We ended the week by having a classroom discussion - about whatever each class decided was important. Many topics were raised, and we started to come up with solutions - to behavior issues (talking over each other, following directions) and use of "special" chairs (such as yoga balls). We talked about some of it aloud, and we wrote some of our thoughts in blurbs on Today's Meet.

We will be addressing these issues more this coming week, while we realize that we still have many choices in this class. This class is run much like a democracy - where students have choice. When asked what choices do we have in this class, one student said the following:
I hope this transcends to Genius Hour on Monday. I hope more students will begin to see the value in choice of what they read. I have a feeling we'll be having some presentations soon that show what students have been researching... My next goal is for those to be inspirational to other students so we can continue this trend of learning what we choose to learn.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

So thankful...
   I am thankful for our 7th graders.
   I am thankful we take quality time with lessons.
   I am thankful we have students owning their own learning.
   I am thankful we are focused on learning, and not grades.
   I am thankful we have caring students in our midst.

After this week of Out of the Dust, reading about the sorrow in Billie Jo's life, I just wanted to say how thankful I am for what I have in my life. May you and your families have a beautiful Thanksgiving week. 
Maybe I'll see some of you at conferences!

                  Mrs. Kirr

Friday, November 9, 2012

Taking it slowly...

We began Out of the Dust this week, after Genius Hour and Election Day. We've only read 33 pages so far, and it's an easy book. So why are we taking things so slowly?

We are practicing critical reading. We are delving into small sections, bit by bit, finding out more about Billie Jo (the main character) and her situation in this historical fiction set in the 1930s. Students are being nit-picky, finding tiny pieces of text that show what is truly happening in the novel. Here's an tiny glimpse into our room (thanks to photographer Martina)...
This coming week, we'll continue to focus solely on Out of the Dust - reading critically, and then writing about what we've read and discussed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The end of one thing, the beginning of another...

We are finished with our narrative writing unit! What does this mean? It means we're on to "Responding to Fiction," a unit that will blend our LIT class and LA class very nicely. Beginning Wednesday, we will be reading Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. This will be a read-aloud novel in class, as we only have enough copies for a class set.

This unit will lend itself to great questions for our reading journals, and text-supported evidence for our writing prompts. This is a fairly easy novel, written in prose, but we can extrapolate many meaningful lessons from it. This is part of the WEX curriculum, and we are adding to this unit to make it fit our new Common Core Standards as well.

In addition, students will be starting grammar warm-ups and root word warm-ups. We will do these at the start of each class. We will focus on one sentence a week for our grammar warm-up exercises, and one to two root words per week. We will treat them both as puzzles for us to get our brains working right away!

Friday, October 26, 2012

October Has Come and Gone

This week, we began with Genius Hour and beginning to wrap up our narrative polished pieces, then finished our Global Read Aloud book - The One and Only Ivan. I think this is best represented in the video below...This week, we began with Genius Hour and beginning to wrap up our narrative polished pieces, then finished our Global Read Aloud book - The One and Only Ivan. I think this is best represented in the video below...
Next week, we'll continue to polish our narratives as we head into November!! (Sneak peek - reading Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse, using our Readers' Notebooks and WEX writing together...)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Skyping About The One and Only Ivan

This week was full... but our most exciting day was the day we were able to Skype with three classes in Canada (one in each of our classes here!). We asked a couple of questions about The One and Only Ivan, as each of these classes is on the Weebly that was set up to discuss this book, and they are reading the same pages we are each week. However, students really wanted to know more about their schools in general. We found out about recess, having two teachers for the day, French classes, and more!
We also touched base on WHY we were Skyping... it is NOT to "waste class time." It is a valuable use of time, if we are to learn about other kids around the globe. It was impressed upon the class that we need to learn about other people and find out their backgrounds, in order to understand why they do what they do, and in order to avoid conflicts. The stress this week is on communication - give and take.

Included in the week - visualization while reading, asking questions to ourselves about what we have read, writing about what we've read, and we also wrote more for our narrative. In fact, on Friday, we began the prompt that will lead to our polished piece for narrative writing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

MIddle of October?!

Last week, we were able to really delve into The One and Only Ivan, keep practicing our narrative writing, and also wrap up a few loose ends.

This coming week, at least one class will be Skyping with a class from Canada! We'll be chatting about zoos - linking what we're feeling about Ivan, Stella and Ruby, and also what we already know. Our students will be reading (and commenting on) blog posts from Mrs. Middleton's class regarding zoos, as well.  I wonder what their zoos are like in British Columbia and Ontario?? We'll find out Wednesday!

We'll have Genius Hour on Monday, of course, and I'll be asking a few students in one-on-one conferences about what really bothers them - I'm still hoping students will read about issues they are concerned about and then act on them some how, some way... The rest of the week, we'll be figuring out what our narrative polished piece should look like, learning/reviewing how to punctuate dialogue, analyzing the text of the Declaration of Independence... What else?!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Our Cardboard Challenge

What a week we've just gone through!

Since we'd finished Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, we wrote reflections about it - students had 20 choices about which to write! You'll find these on our student blogs (see tab above). In addition, we began the Global Read Aloud and read 74 pages of The One and Only Ivan! Ivan's "voice" is very much his own, and we can tell what type of silverback gorilla he is.

We had a visitor last week - Miss Tillander. She helped us figure out how to take notes for our monument projects in social studies. And, of course, we had Genius Hour on Monday. But I think students' most favorite part of the week was Thursday, when we completed the cardboard challenge set by Caine Monroy of Caine's Arcade. Students were productive, creative, and very cooperative! Some reflections from the day will be on our blogs, but students are turning them in in various forms. But you've GOT to see our video of the day! Enjoy the energy exuding from it!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Global Read Aloud

Beginning October 1st, our class will be participating in the Global Read Aloud Project! We will be reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (a fantasy narrative!) and sharing our thinking about the book with other classrooms from across the world. We will be connecting on a more frequent basis with classrooms in British Columbia, and Ontario, Canada! How's that for living up to the district mission statement of fostering responsible, caring citizens in a global community? ;-)

We will be using two primary forms of electronic communication - Edmodo and Kidblog. Students will share questions, answers, and thinking informally and formally, on two safe social learning networks designed specifically for classrooms. Students are not able to join groups unless they have been given a code, so only those teachers who have connected with me and shared our code can join our discussion group. In addition, we'll be holding Skype sessions to discuss the book as a class and share activities/projects on which we are working.

Mrs. Kirr is ecstatic about this project and the learning ahead!

Other things going on this coming week...
Monday - Genius Hour - our first grade for independent reading comes from the students themselves
Tuesday - How to extract information from articles, and stake a claim for their social studies monument
Wednesday - Review/reflection of Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Thursday - The Cardboard Challenge!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

This past week, we dove into Maya Angelou's "Sister Flowers," encountering our first challenging text of the year. Students recognized superb narrative writing in her story, and hopefully will be inspired to create more writing such as hers when we write in class. We did write two days this past week, and were able to share each of those days, and on Friday as well.

One thing we started this week (and will continue next week) was blogging about our community. Students were given one of four subjects (school, suburbs, economy, activities), and began to blog. We will be sharing our finalized blog posts with our Skype friends in Granville, IA, and will use them to share with other students around the globe when we connect.

Next week, we will continue to have Genius Hour on Monday (students are beginning to create their own goals for our 1-1 conferences!), and two days of narrative writing, along with two days of reading.  We will be finishing Wonder (by R.J. Palacio) this coming week as well. Hopefully, our blog posts will be edited for content, grammar, and voice this week, so we can share them soon.

Coming up...
     * Culture blog post editing
     * Read each night (of course!)
     * Whatever writing or analyzing of reading done in class should be finished at home

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The week in review:
1.  This past week we enjoyed Genius Hour as one student created a zip line IN CLASS! He'd read a book about gravity, and this was how he chose to share it. We had multiple students create blog posts about the books they enjoyed, and a few who decided to give book talks about books they finished. Authentic sharing at it's best!
2.  We then began our narrative writing unit with two prompts, and many students willing to share.
3.  In addition, we had a paper blogging activity, where we learned the purpose of blogging and commenting, and as a class, we commented on 5th grade blogs from Lake Zurich, IL.
4.  Another classroom connection we made was to a tiny class of 7th graders in Granville, IA. What a culture shock to both schools when we Skyped with them! Afterwards, we had a mini celebration for International Dot Day.

A look at the week ahead...
Monday - Genius Hour
Tuesday & Wednesday - Narrative writing and writing about our school for our Iowa friends (We have the laptops for these two days!)
Thursday & Friday - Reading, using our journals, and learning how to reflect and grade our reading skills

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What a busy week we had last week! Our first Genius Hour, a visit from the Author of Bystander, practicing how to use our readers' notebooks, starting our blogs (thanks to Mr. J.), and creating our bulletin board. Phew!

This coming week, we are once again going to have Genius Hour the first day. During this time, we'll see two more inspirational videos, and then Mrs. Kirr will have one-on-one conferences with students she didn't see last week. On Tuesday, we'll be practicing in our reader's notebooks again, and begin narrative writing. On Wednesday, we'll practice blogging on paper before we really get into our Kidblogs. Thursday, we'll write more narrative writing, and then get ready for our first classroom Skype call the next day. Friday, we'll start with a Skype call to an 8th grade classroom (block 2/3) or 7th grade classroom (5/6 and 8/10). We'll be talking about the book we've been reading aloud - Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, as those classes are reading it aloud, too! We'll also be celebrating International Dot Day this Friday. First we'll read The Dot by Peter Reynolds, then try to make our own mark in some fashion, or recognize those of others!

Remember, homework every day is to read for at least 20 min. Here's a preview of any additional work, in a simple format...

Monday - You'll need your book. Homework will be to write 1 to 2 paragraphs about something you are passionate about... something you could do all day, every day, and not even realize time had passed. It could be your favorite sport or hobby, or a topic that's of particular importance to you. Rough draft due Wednesday. Blogging and commenting contract is also due on Wednesday.

Tuesday - We should finish our work in class. Remember to read!

Wednesday - You'll need your 1 to 2 paragraph rough draft. We'll be reading each others' "blogs," and learning how to comment on them, as well. Remember to read for at least 20 min.

Thursday - Be thinking of what questions you would like to ask another class about Wonder.

Friday - Come with questions for our Skype session!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What a first week of school in LA/LIT!

Genius Hour was introduced on Monday, we learned how to use our reader notebooks, and continued to build connections by reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio and creating reflections of Bystander to hang throughout the hallways at TMS for when James Preller comes to visit.

We were able to get our LMC orientation and Mr. Goldstein came to help inspire us to read about our passions, or even start a trend by reading a brand new book and spreading the word about it.

Next week, we'll be visited by James Preller, we will set up our blogs, we will begin writing, and we'll start off the week with Genius Hour, as will become the norm. If you haven't yet completed the Interest Survey, please click on it now!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Room 239 is looking for scholars!  Room 239 is looking for your genius!  What are you bringing to our classroom?  Is it imagination? Creativity? Self-Awareness? Courage? Adaptability? Perseverance? Passion? Get ready for an exciting year - finding out who you are, being inspired by others, and changing the world... if you'd like!

Please take 10 minutes to fill out this Interest Survey (just click on it). This will help me figure out what we'll be reading in and out of class. This is the same survey that's on our Edline page. Thank you!

I can't wait to meet you, and find out what you have to offer!  ~Mrs. Kirr