The first few weeks of my freshman class we are guided by the question, "What is success–and how does one achieve it?" They generate traits of those who are successful in school and their adult lives; they organized these into a visual model by way of synthesizing their ideas, then use these as the basis for conversations in small groups and the full class.
It is the third week of school. These four boys (photo taken in class today!) are discussing an article written by Bill Gates about the Wright Brothers, culling examples to add to their organizer (see attached), where they are gathering notes from other readings (which provide me opportunities to teach close reading, annotating, main idea, and other strategies). These organizers, aside from supporting my kids while they do more advanced work in the opening weeks than they think they can, give structure and prepare them to write the 2-3 page typed essay we will work on next week.
The class has all sorts of kids with special needs on one sort or another, and represents a wide range or realities and abilities. Still, they come each day and we work with real ideas as we work to improve their literacy skills. The assignment is attached, as well as the organizer they are doing tonight for homework (as I type this, I am sure!).
It's such messy but important and rewarding work we do. The year is off to a great start thanks to the kids in my class and their willingness to learn. What they keep teaching me is that they can learn, even difficult material, if I give them the support they need and time it takes to really learn.