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Week of December 13-18, 2015

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Staying the Course

This week continues to be one of the busiest week of the month. ACP is still the focus of attention by making sure our scholars are doing their best. Remember that the results of these tests not only demonstrate to each student their individual academic growth, but is also telling us how we are doing as a campus.

It is extremely important that the scholars take these tests seriously. I need your help to encourage them to use their time wisely, implement strategies learned, get plenty of sleep and eat a good, solid breakfast each morning so they are alert and focused during the exams.

Let's all do an excellent job by actively monitoring our scholars during testing. For the classes that are not testing this week, we must continue with bell to bell instruction and supporting the scholars by staying focused on learning. We are going to need many staff members for testing and monitoring. Therefore, I ask for everyone to be on time and be here every day. Let's "Stay the Course" this last school week of the year!

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The Perfect Classroom Gift: The Gift of Words

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By Jane Hancock - Co-Director of the UCLA Writing Project

Originally Published: November 12, 2014 | Updated: November 23, 2015

Edutopia. org

I belong to a book club, one that has continued since 1990. Think of all the books we have read together. And we're serious about this, too. We're not one of those clubs that gather together to eat and then never talk about the book. We talk about the book.

One month a year we read a play out loud -- assign parts, read from beginning to end. We are not a group of actors and it's a cold reading, but we enjoy it. Sometimes we read and then go to the play; sometimes we see the play first and then read. Both work.

Once a year, in December, we each buy a book of poetry, mark in some way a poem or two that we particularly like, wrap it attractively and bring it to book club. We have this crazy little ritual where we put all the books on the dining room table and then walk around the table. At some unknown signal that we all recognize we stop and take the package in front of us. And then we open our gifts, one at a time, and read the chosen poem out loud to the whole group. What a wonderful evening of words, a breathless barrage of ideas, images, stories. We enjoy meeting our old favorites, delight in exploring new poets. We go home fulfilled.

Twenty-five years equals 250 books read, 25 plays acted out, and 25 evenings of poetry.

  • In the Classroom

"How can I replicate this poetry experience in my classroom?" I wondered as I drove home that first December of the book club. "I can't ask my students to spend 10 dollars or more but they have to experience what I just experienced." And out of that came what I call "the gift of words."

Okay, class, here's what I want you to bring with you on the last day of school before winter break. I want you to find a poem, a saying, a paragraph you like -- something that speaks to you because of its message, its beauty, its format. I want you to copy it onto a piece of paper, put it into a box, and wrap it. Be sure to include, before you wrap it, the name of the author and your name as the giver.

When the day came, students placed their packages on my desk. They varied from huge to tiny, from carefully wrapped to hurriedly tossed together. And yes, there were those who forgot, who scribbled "Just do it" on a piece of notebook paper, folded it like a paper football, and added it to the pile. I provided a few extra, just in case.

How to start. "Whose birthday is closest to Christmas? Okay, you're first. Pick any present you want." Suspense. What would she get? I was not disappointed. The contents varied -- favorites from "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein to Bible verses, song lyrics, and short sayings like "Just do it." The experiment was a success. Everyone in the class had a gift and I had the greatest gift of all.

  • With Adults

Since that December in 1990 the idea of a gift of words has spread out of the classroom -- into professional development meetings, into family gatherings. When Center X at UCLA wanted to "celebrate" my pseudo-retirement, my first words were, "No gifts." "How about a gift of words?" was their response.

And that is what I received: a basketful of little boxes, beautifully packaged, each holding a precious gift -- words just for me. I savor each message. My favorite was by James Michener: "I love writing. I love the swirl and the swing of words as they tangle with human emotions."

I have watched the words swirl and swing in my book club, in my classroom, in my writing groups. I could not ask for a better gift.

Let's Celebrate!

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