A Weekly Newsletter

Alerts and Alcolades

If an AVID Student is performing above and beyond expectations, is improving or showing positive character traits, please let me know and I will honor them with an Alcolade. On the other hand, if there is an AVID Student needs improvement in any of these areas, please let me know with an Alert. Shout out to Katie Zeier for the first ones of the year!

College Displays

Hopefully, everyone has seen the college displays we've made around the school. They include Large Texas Schools, HBCUs, Military Branches, Trades etc. If you have any Ideas for future displays, please let me know.

AVID Student of the Week: 8th Grader Anthony Marino

This week, Anthony made the All-Region Wind Ensemble Band - 7th Chair! The amazing thing is that he has never had a private lesson. Mrs. Zeier says that he is a testament that hard work pays off! Please congratulate Anthony when you see him.
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Binder Time

As we begin a new six weeks, let's encourage our kids to take time to organize their binders. Below is the AVID order of organization:

1. Pencil Pouch (2 pens, 2 pencils and a highlighter)

2. Agenda (It must be up front as a constant reminder to log and check)

3. Cornell Note Paper (To encourage students to take Cornell Notes when notes are to be taken)

4. Notebook Paper

5. Dividers (Clearly Marked) for each class. We should encourage our students to take the time to punch holes in their work and place it in the proper section rather than stuff it in a pocket...ease of access and a neater product.

If you would like the support of AVID Students during Plus periods, please let me know.

Wednesday WICOR by Craig McKinney

Academically Speaking

I’ve never been very good at keeping up with the slanguage of the youngsters. My conversational skills are hardly on fleek when I realize I’m not sufficiently jiggy wit’ it to tell the difference between someone who’s your bae and someone who’s basic. Clearly, I’m not fly or legit. My bad.

Slang and colloquial expressions fall under the broad communicative category of the “casual register.” We speak in the casual register when we’re hanging out with friends and perhaps family. It’s language that doesn’t have to abide by the formal rules of grammar and sometimes consists of short bursts that aren’t “complete” sentences.

For many of our students, the casual register is the only register. Even when they write in school, they reproduce strings of words and not-words that defy traditional grammar rules and don’t approximate standard English.

As teachers who are preparing our students for the post-high-school world--whether it be college or career--we have the responsibility to introduce our students to a new mode of communication: the formal or academic register.

This doesn’t mean that we devalue the casual register that may be many students’ preferred (or only) method of discourse. While honoring this aspect of the students’ language, we need to make students aware of when it’s appropriate and inappropriate to use.

Speaking in casual register is probably not a good idea when you visit a bank to talk to a loan officer about securing funds for your startup business.

I wouldn’t advise trying to schmooze a judge or woo a jury with your mastery of the casual register.

There’s probably a study somewhere that shows that the casual register doesn’t get you too far in job interviews.

And if you’re trying to impress a college professor with a bright idea you’ve thought up, expressing it in the casual register is likely to lessen the idea’s impact.

In our classrooms, we should teach students how to use a new register--the academic register--so they can use it skillfully when the situation is right. Not only do we need to introduce the academic register; we also need to practice it. Simply talking about it is not enough. Students need to be able to shift smoothly into the academic register when the situation calls for it.

Last week, I attended an ESL symposium at Region 10 where Dr. Kate Kinsella talked about this very topic. If Dr. Kinsella had her way, teachers would never slip into the casual register with their students and classrooms would become linguistic sanctuaries where the academic register could flourish. Some teachers who like to make students feel comfortable by interacting more colloquially with them may find this a bit extreme. I think, though, that even the most casual among us will concede that it’s our responsibility to teach students how to speak in a way that will increase their odds of future success in a world dominated by those who have attained some advanced education.

So how do we teach our students how to employ the academic register? Here’s a brief list of strategies, many of which I learned from Dr. Kinsella’s presentation:

Model academic register in your classroom discussions. Provide written examples of statements in the academic register, allow students to follow along as you read them aloud, and then ask students to repeat them chorally as a class. This gives your students a chance to hear how scholars put words together and practice hearing themselves do the same.

Make the students speak, and require them to speak in academic register, even in small-group discussions and pair-shares. Don’t accept one-word answers to discussion questions. People who speak in the academic register speak in complete sentences. Before a discussion, remind your students to practice speaking in complete thoughts.

One way to reinforce responding in complete sentences is to teach students to flip the question. For instance, if the teacher’s question is, “What is one way we can reduce our carbon footprint?”, students can begin their academic-register response with, “One way we can reduce our carbon footprint is….” Depending on the skills and abilities of your students, you may find it useful to display the question and the flipped response so your students have it handy.

Sentence stems and word banks can provide guidelines for academic-register language in discussions. If a student has a handout or card to use, he can refer to the sentence starters and replace “Nuh-uh” with something more appropriate, like, “While I see your point, I think…” or “I understand you think…; however, I believe….” Giving students lists of transitions to use in various discussion situations provides them with the scaffolding they need to construct increasingly thoughtful contributions to conversations that will sound more scholarly than before.

Noticing academic register in the speaking of others is an ideal way to raise awareness. Using a short video clip of an interview or a TED Talk can provide fodder for discussion about how the speaker communicates as well as about the content conveyed. Let your students see how experts speak and how their method of speaking adds to their credibility.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Imagine the impact you could have if you were the adult who unlocked this simple secret, one that will open so many doors for your students. It’s, like, totally awesome. It’s wicked. It’s phat. Word!

Thanks for all you do to keep your students’ futures full of possibilities.