As we barrel toward the Christmas break, we’re feverishly trying to tie up loose ends and bring projects to a satisfying and successful close. We’re also throwing some new irons into the fire just to keep things interesting.

This week we had the wonderful opportunity to connect with artist Lonnie Powell from Missouri. Along with four other k-12 schools from around the country, we were able to virtually tour the artist’s current gallery show and ask questions about his inspiration, artistic philosophy, and creative process. It’s one thing to look at paintings in a book or museum, but having the chance to interact with the artist himself in real time takes the experience to an entirely new level. An added element of cool is that Mr. Powell has a painting that is part of the Negro Baseball League Museum permanent collection. The painting shows a pitcher which may be Satchel Paige, a phenomenal athlete about whom we read a story in class.

Today, we finally gave our performances of two readers’ theater plays students have been working on the past few weeks. The plays follow the classic “Will The REAL _____ Please Stand Up?” game show format to present information about two important figures in American history: Paul Revere and Daniel Boone. The primary academic goal for the plays was to build student reading fluency and communication confidence. We will begin some more dramatic theater work after the beginning of the new calendar year, focusing more on memorization and dramatic interpretation.

Also this week, we began Literature Circle book groups. Students are working in small groups of 4 or 5 to read, explore, and discuss a specific book selected by the group. We have 7 different Literature Circle groups running now.

One of the things I really like about the Literature Circle model is that it gives student specific roles to perform withing the groups such as Discussion Director and Content Connector. It helps provide a more tangible framework for student discussion and interaction. I have definitely taken some liberties in my interpretation of the Lit Circle model outlined by the book, but it works well in our class.

In the next two weeks, we’ll be finishing up and publishing the students’ Sign of the Beaver and Planet Artrix projects. I’m excited to see the successful results of the students’ hard work.