February 28, 2020 | Brent Harris
In Language Arts this year, I have been trying something a little bit different. In previous years, I made it a priority for all students to accomplish assignments within a range of expectations.
Take, for example, a research paper. The assignment may call for five paragraphs, and between 1,000 and 1,200 words. This year, instead of having a range of requirements, I have tried to incorporate only a solid base and not limit student work.
Recently, 7th and 8th grade students read Orbiting Jupiter. Gary Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter is tremendously sad and beautiful, and it helped us think a lot about the importance of really getting to know the people around us and avoiding assumptions. At the end of the unit, students were asked to write an argumentative essay on the book. I gave them two options:
Here are some of the different ideas students came up with:
Dallas — There are many characters in Orbiting Jupiter responsible for Maddie’s death.
Anna and Leonor — In Orbiting Jupiter, each character displays their love and affection in very different ways.
Henry — Orbiting Jupiter is an allegory to the Gospel.
Hope — It would be best for both Jupiter and Joseph if they were separated.
Students did wonderful work coming up with really interesting ideas and pushing themselves to write a lot more than what was required. It warms my heart to see students seeking ways to push themselves independently, and I hope to see the approach of incorporating only a solid base and not a limit continue to allow students to grow.
As an aside, if you haven’t read Orbiting Jupiter, you should read it. Email me if you’d like to borrow a copy!