PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

FaceLab, Realistic Fiction, and More!

Boy, has December gone by quickly!

FaceLab, now in week 6 of 10, continues to be a highlight of our week. The children are learning how to program their “bots” to go forward and backward for prescribed distances and turn. It requires careful work and good attention to detail, but the students are doing well and seem to be having fun. What particularly delights me are the ones who hadn’t had any experience with Lego or with coding, and who don’t think of themselves as STEM kids; I think they may be starting to change that definition of themselves!

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In writing we’ve been drafting our realistic fiction stories. First the children used different techniques to help themselves think of various ideas for stories. Then they developed a main character, and they put a great deal of thought into what that character yearns for and what his or her problems are. After that, the students learned to use a “story arc” to plan out their stories, as a last step before drafting. A story arc lays out the scenes of a story, introducing the problem early on, and then making sure that it gets worse and worse before the problem finally resolves. Then, it was on to drafting, with working hard to show, not tell, what was happening.

What’s the difference between ‘showing’ and ‘telling’?

Telling is just summarizing. “Linden went to school on PTC night. She was waiting in the hallway for her mom when the new boy asked where her dad was. She lied to him and said that her dad was traveling on business in California.”

Showing means giving readers the details they need to be able to make a movie in their minds of a story, details including what people are doing, what they’re saying, and where they are. But you don’t say, “Rosie was in a car;” you give readers the clues so that they can infer where she is: “Rosie leaned her head against the window and watched the fields slip past. Car rides always made her feel a bit sick to her stomach.”

If I were to “show” the scene with Linden, it might begin, “Linden looked up and down the hallway. It was late, and PTCs were almost over.  Only a handful of other kids were left waiting for their parents. Her mom was inside with the teacher, and they’d been talking a long time. Linden chewed her thumbnail. What was taking them so long? Was Ms Wasserman telling her mom bad things about her? Not that her mom would care. Linden was kind of surprised that her mom had come to PTCs at all. With her new job, it seemed like she was hardly ever at home, and she certainly didn’t have time to come to school for things like field trips, the way she used to.”

The students seem to be really enjoying drafting. They say that their story arcs help them stay focused, and today when I announced that we had to stop writing because it was time for lunch, a cry of dismay went up. Music to a teacher’s ears! A number of students came upstairs during lunch to continue writing. (However, don’t worry – I chased them outside for recess. Fresh air and sunshine are important!)

In social studies, we’ve started working on developing clues and answers for our own version of Hodenosaunee Jeopardy, which we’ll be playing on Friday, as a fun way to round out our study of this important Native American nation. And in math, we’ve been working at exploring division with a variety of strategies, to deepen our understanding of the math that underlies this operation.

Tomorrow will be our Class Celebration. I think our Class Parents have already reached out to all of you, but everyone is welcome to join us at 1:30 for a 3-D snowflakes craft project, followed by food! (A reminder: if you’re coming, and will be taking your child home with you afterwards, please fill out a Change of Dismissal form online ahead of time, if your child normally goes on the school bus.)