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Tales from the Loft - World Affairs and Socratic Seminars

It is now June, the dust on the most recent school year is settling, and students could be anywhere in the world - literally - right about now. I've personally slept without an alarm clock enough times that my body is once again OK with reasonable sleep.

But May. Wow! It was a whirlwind!

In the last six weeks of school, we:

  • took eighth grade to the World Affairs luncheon for H.E. Masood Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to the US

  • camped out at Davidson River State Park

  • rock climbed, conquered Sliding Rock, and ate ice cream

  • completed Ed's egg drop challenge

  • completed end of year exams

  • spit watermelon seeds and graphed the data (spoiler alert: Kim won it all!)

  • prepared and held Socratic seminars

  • finished 38 million end of year projects and last minute assignments

  • performed in the fabulous Variety Show

  • stood on stage for graduation

As one might expect, everybody was tired on the first day of summer.

So, here we are, and there are just a couple of activities that deserve mentioning, even now in the lazy folds of summer.

  • World Affairs Council luncheon - The World Affairs Council hosts several luncheons each year, highlighting leaders in industry, in international relations, and specifically, ambassadors from around the globe. As an effort to engage our young people of Charlotte, the Council invites small groups of students to attend many of these events, and our eighth graders have had the privilege of participating twice now - the most recent one being H.E. Masood Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to the US. In preparing for such an experience, our students spent time researching Pakistan's history, culture, traditions, holidays, and current issues. We located it on a map and discussed how this geographic location and its shared borders with many countries would contribute to its strengths and challenges. We also read about HE Masood Khan. Therefore, when we finally attended the luncheon, our students had an awareness of who was speaking, and they were prepared to ask relevant questions if given the opportunity. These luncheons provide such meaningful and memorable experiences for our students. We look forward to continuing our connection with WACC in the coming school year.

  • Our Socratic seminars - In the rush of the end of the year, middle schoolers read JUST ONE MORE BOOK because I really wanted to discuss these novels with them. I had saved these particular stories for last, and when we seemed to be running short on time, I handed them out and just bulldozed ahead. It paid off! We didn't do many extra assignments and students were given lots of extra reading time during the school day to balance out the weekly reading chunks. Their main goal was to keep up with their reading and prepare the critical discussion questions for our seminar. Every single one of them did it! (Never any doubt:)) Our discussions were engaging, thoughtful, and fun. When some lower el students stopped by to let us know it was lunchtime, the final group still decided to finish our discussion before breaking. Here's how a Socratic seminar works:

    • Students prepare thoughtful answers to open-ended questions ahead of time and bring their notes to "the table."

    • In small groups, I propose one question at a time and allow students to give answers.

    • Each student has a set number of "talking papers" so that each time they comment, they turn in one talking paper. When they run out, they must simply listen without speaking, and they have earned a 100 test grade.

    • This means that the more vocal students are able to get out their urgent need to speak, but then they must give others a chance. Those students that tend to hold back must eventually speak up or we'll have to sit in silence. The goal is for each student to feel heard and to share their perspective on the topic.

    • Everybody loves them! I love them. The loud students love them. The quiet students love them. The ones nervous about getting a "right" answer love them. The nerdy academic kids love them. The ones that hate being put on the spot love them. Everybody loves them!

We will definitely be hosting more of these in coming years!

(In a final blog post, I'll go into more detail about our final long-term projects because those deserve their own space.)

Seventh grade Socratic seminar

Eighth grade and friends with HE Masood Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to the US

Just some fun photos from May:

Feed NC field trip - Thank you, Miss Emily, for organizing!

No Spirit Week??? Pfff. We'll have our own, thank you very much!

The last week, while teachers collected past due work, a fierce game of Monopoly took place among a rotating cast of players....

And you get an award! And YOU get an award! And you get an AWARD!

As a final act of kindness, Addie made every single person in middle school - teachers included - an award. Thank you, Addie!

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