Welcome back teacher friends. I hope that your summer was restful and fun. I know mine was. I can’t believe how fast it went and that my daughter is in KINDERGARTEN and my baby boy is off to DAYCARE. It has been a rocky transition into our new routines (I am teaching 5 classes straight, talk about rocky…) but I think we are finally in the groove now. I will miss hanging all day with these two cuties though…
Well, I am in week three of back to school and there are three things that I am loving so far this school year that I wanted to share: a tool, an idea, and a strategy:
1. NEW TOOL – Letsrecap.com
This is going to be a game changer guys, I can just feel it. This website allows you to post a question to a class “Queue” and have the students respond in 15, 30, or 60 second video clips! It also allows them to post a written response, comment on each other’s responses and videos, and allows the videos or written responses to be private as well just to the teacher. Can you tell I am pumped? Last week I rolled this out on a whim after finding it on Pinterest the night before.
My Honors Sophomore students and I had close read the poem “My Mother Pieced Quilts” by Theresa Acosta together as a class under the document camera. But then we had a Chromebook roll out, Link Crew Assembly, and Student Policy contracts all run through ENGLISH CLASSES the rest of the week so it was three days between when I first taught the poem and the class period I wanted to build an analysis lesson off of it. So, I decided to have the students go on a “Walk and Talk” and review the strategies, tone, and theme of the poem with a partner or small group as they walked around the campus. At the end of their walk and talk, I told them they had to post a 30 second video to letsrecap.com (it gives you a login pin when you create the queue) with what they thought was the author’s most effective strategy she used to develop her overall message and why they chose that strategy. They FREAKED OUT. They didn’t want to film themselves but they reluctantly agreed! I told them they had 10 minutes to walk, talk, and post and they needed to be back in class.
When they returned, I told them that based on the strategy they chose for the video they needed to write an analytical statement that connected the strategy to the audience and theme. They got to work right away following the formula I taught them when they returned. They then posted their analysis attempt right under their videos!!! When I went to grade them, I was able to listen to the videos to see where their heads were at and to see if that translated into a written analytical statement. It was fascinating to compare their verbal responses to their written and it was a fun way to break up the normal warm-up routine.
I am also thinking of using this as a way to record a recap of their literature circle warm-ups on their independent novels. Easy to only grade 8 tables videos instead of 34 individual student videos. I highly recommend looking into this – the “how to” video tutorials are also amazing and there are more features that I haven’t even attempted yet!
NEW IDEA – Worst Essay Ever Baseline Essays
Normally I always give a baseline essay prompt to all my classes to see what I am working with this year as far as my student’s skill levels. I think a lot of us do this and I think it is a good teaching practice. However, my colleague ran across this article and it made me stop in my tracks. I thought I would give it a shot with my Honors Sophomore students and boy, was IT A HIT. I gave the students eight sources the night before to read and annotate and told them they would have a timed synthesis baselines essay tomorrow in which they would receive the prompt at the beginning of the hour and would have an hour to finish. They panicked a little but I told them to trust me.
When they entered class the next day and grabbed the prompt that said: “using at least three sources, answer the prompt by writing the worst essay you have ever written”, they just busted up laughing. I told them they needed to think of five major writing mistakes and incorporate them strategically into their essay of at least four paragraphs. They were energized, smiling, and ready to write —- who knew?
However, halfway through writing it they were struggling. I was hearing, “this is harder than I thought” and “my brain is fighting itself.” Which is exactly what I wanted. The next day, they presented their essays to their teams and then completed the reflection included in the blog post article link above. They had to really think through what good writing is in order to be able to break the rules in a horrible essay. I then gave them the real prompt and told them they had two days to type it and submit it to turnitin.com. They were much more ready to write after reviewing what NOT TO DO and the typed essays still needed work but weren’t the result of summer brain.
OLD STRATEGY, NEW USE – My Favorite No
I have used this strategy before but never consistently and so far I have used it twice with my classes this school year and I think I am going to continue it, I am seeing a lot of “light bulbs” go on and improvement in their writing already. Even though this video is a math example, I use it for English when practicing a new type of writing or working through thesis statements, hooks, topic sentences, closures, whatever they are struggling with really.
In this case, I took the analytical statement posts from the letsrecap.com lesson and found my “favorite” – the one that was the closest to what I wanted from them. I then found four or five that were my “favorite no’s” – the ones that made the mistakes that most of the partner pairs made and that I wanted to review so that they could correct them. I copied them into a Google Doc and then commented on what I would change or fix. I posted this to Google Classroom and also went over it in class and talked them through them (especially some of my more snarky comments since they don’t really know that they are from a loving place yet).
They were laughing at their mistakes and nodding their heads in my responses and comments. I also allowed them to rewrite their original analytical statements and post their improved statements based on my feedback to the comments under their original post on letsrecap.com. It was awesome for them to see their video (where the train started), their original post (where the train got off the tracks a bit), and their improved post (where the train arrived at its destination).
These three have really made my missing-my-kiddos-back-to-school-blues vanish. I hope if you need them that they do the same for you!
I taught A Raisin in the Sun to my Junior English class to wrap up their The Shape of America year long theme with the central idea of this quarter being: The Pursuit of Happiness and the essential question being: what happens when our dreams are deferred?
I had never taught Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun before this quarter and I have to say that it has become my favorite play to teach. Here are my two reasons: 1) It actually has a happy ending, unlike most of the American Literature I taught this year (The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, The Crucible) and 2) It lends itself to activities that get the students thinking about their goals, dreams, and their own pursuit of happiness.
One of the activities I did with the students was to create their own plant that represented their goals and dreams for a happy life. Just like Mama in the play, they were to “tend” to this plant throughout the duration of Act I and II of the play. When I introduced the assignment, we talked about how is human nature to dream about the future, and research shows that people who set goals for their future are far more successful than those who don’t.
I discussed with them how I felt goal setting is not about setting hard deadlines or writing your future in stone; instead, goal setting is about identifying what needs to be accomplished in your life in order to achieve your dreams, with the flexibility to adjust yourself along the way. Goals are lights at the end of a tunnel; sometimes the lights go out and reappear in a different direction, other times they lead you out and into a new life. No matter what, goals keep you facing forward, they keep your chin up in hard times, and ultimately, they move you forward into your life as an active participant.
With this in mind, my students created their plant. I had them bring in an empty tissue box filled with dry rice or beans, two sheets of tissue paper, and an empty paper-towel roll. I purchased enough pipe cleaners to make the tissue paper flowers and used card-stock that I have in my classroom already.
Here are the directions given to the students:
Task #1:Using card-stock or construction paper, cut out squares/rectangles to fit all four sides of your tissue box neatly; then, write on the top 4th of each square a corresponding goal for the criteria listed below:
- Side 1: Goal for your senior year
- Side 2: Goal for the next five years
- Side 3: Goal for your career/family
- Side 4: Goal for your own pursuit of happiness (American Dream)
Task #2: Coming into class periodically throughout the reading of Act I and II of A Raisin in the Sun, you will draw a ‘chance’ card. That card will either be a benefit or a disadvantage to one of your goals. You will document your success/tragedy AND your response on the corresponding goal side of the tissue box. Highlight your response in a color of your choice.
Task #3: At the end of Raisin in the Sun, and after your goals have weathered their ‘storms,’ you are going to look for patterns in the way you responded to your different chance cards and create your own personal credo using the handout given to you. You will then construct your plant in your tissue box.
The paper towel will be your stem, your leaves will be made out of construction paper and will have your personal credos on them, and your flower is something appealing to you reminding you of the beauty of life, made out of tissue paper at the top.
Every few days my students would come into class have draw a ‘chance’ card that would affect their goals on their plant. They would have to “tend” to their plant and determine how they would respond when their “dreams were deferred.” My awesome PLC helped to create several ‘chance’ cards for the students to pick up. They included many topics that truly could happen to their goals in the future. Here are a same of a few:
You are having troubles at home as you begin to exert more independence.
|Next 5 years
You have begun training for the career you have always dreamed of, but as you start taking the courses you realize you are not interested in this career at all.
You are laid off from your job and other people depend on your salary.
|Pursuit of Happiness
You travel to a different country and decide you want to move there.
The students enjoyed seeing what life might throw at them as they picked these cards at random.
Once we were through Act III of the play, I read an excerpt from Robert Fulghum entitled “All I Really Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” After we read this piece, we discussed the different between a precept that has driven our behaviors from a small child and a personal credo that must drive how we want to live as an adult – something to keep in mind as we weather our storms. I even gave them my personal credos as a sample (see below). The students put their credos on green leaves a taped them to the stem of their plant.
- Work first, play second, and play hard
- Early is on time and on time is late
- Be kind to everyone, even if they suck
- Be kind to yourself, you are enough
- Get yourself together
- A bad day doesn’t equal a bad life
- Less is more – simplify
- Surround yourself with people who get it
- Sometimes you must be quiet and just listen
- Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate
- Worrying does nothing, love does everything
- Drink the coffee, do the things
- Have impromptu dance parties in the living room
- Be better than yesterday
The end result of this plant project was amazing and the tie back to Mama taking her plant with her at the end of the play and my students taking their plants home was a great way to wrap up the school year…and my classroom was certainty in “full bloom” for Spring.
I hate lecturing the entire hour. I mean it, I HATE IT, and I bore myself; I can actually hear myself droning in the Peanut’s voice and as I see my student’s eyes glazing over; it is an out of body experience for sure. I just feel like I am not doing my job well.
Let me set this up, my AP Language and Composition students are going to be reading The Great Gatsby this last quarter and because we have yet to go over satire and satirical elements this year (since I was out on maternity leave), I have decided to attempt to have them read the novel as a satire…a blog post for another day.
So, to start off fourth quarter I needed to introduce them to 22 satirical elements, in a PowerPoint, the first week back, blah, blah, bleck. Instead, I decided to opt for them to do the work which benefits both parties, I think. I asked each table to split into pairs with each pair being assigned a satirical element. I have two classes so this covered all the elements well.
Here are the poster requirements:
TASK: With a partner at your table, please design a small poster that represents your assigned satirical element.
Your poster must include:
Name of satirical element
Definition of satirical element
A visual that uses said element (satirical cartoon or political cartoon; drawn or printed from internet)
A WWWH (my version of a rhetorical precis) statement that analyzes how the device used in the visual impacts that argument/goal of the visual
2nd Hour topics:
|Table 1||Table 2||Table 3||Table 4||Table 6||Table 7|
6th Hour topics:
|Table 1||Table 3||Table 4||Table 6||Table 7|
|Knaves and Fools||Paradox||Pun||Stereotyping||Wit|
I then gave them one day in class to create their poster together. I provided them with half a poster paper and some markers, etc. It HAD to be done by the end of the hour so it put the pressure on them a bit to learn their element quickly and use it to analyze the visual I had them find and bring into class for homework the night before (also this is much needed practice for the synthesis prompt question 1). They finished it in the 55 minutes fine and I collected them. ***As they were working on the posters, I was coming up with riddles for 8 locations around my campus – some where to the front office, some were to other teachers classrooms, others to random hallways, etc.
After school, I went around and put 1 to 4 of their posters at each location with the riddle to the next location. It was easy enough. I texted them that night using REMIND.com to wear tennis shoes and that I would highly recommend not wearing a skirt or dress. This I think peaked the curiosity for class which is always fun.
When they came into class, I provided them with a note sheet chart with the satirical element name, a place to write the definition of the element off the poster, and a place to describe the visual (political cartoons that uses said element).
Here were the instructions on my front screen:
1.Send one team member at a time to retrieve ALL the Satire Notes at the station and get the clue to the next location.
2.When the team member returns with notes, tell another team member the next location clue and that person leaves to go get notes.
3.The person that just came in then teaches the remaining members the satire elements they found at their location and the team tries to find them in the piece. The piece I gave them to read and annotate was “Road Warrior” by Dave Barry.
4. The first team to show me completed notes by all team members WINS TWO CLOTHESPINS, the second team will WIN ONE! (For information on my motivational clothespins click here).
It took the entire hour but by the end I had a winning team and everyone had their notes that we can now use to analyze several short satirical pieces, including A Modest Proposal, and they had a blast, although I wouldn’t recommend it in hot weather!
I think I will do this at least once a year with all my classes on something that was a note-taking or vocabulary type lesson and turn it into something active, competitive, and engaging. What a great way to kick off Quarter 4, and on Friday no less.