Using Blackout Poetry to Discover Thematic Subjects

10th March 2017

My juniors are going to be reading the play, A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry next quarter. In order to introduce the theme of fourth quarter, The Pursuit of Unending Happiness, I decided to show them this TED TALK by Dan Gilbert.

In this TED TALK, Gilbert describes why synthetic happiness, the happiness that comes about from “being stuck” with what you have and “watering your own grass” so-to-speak, is actually better than the natural happiness we think we get from the freedom to choose our own happiness. It is a more scientific approach to something abstract and with it being only 20 minutes, it was a great lead-in to the unit as the characters in the play move from what they think will bring them natural happiness to what they ultimately receive in the end, synthetic happiness. As students watched the talk, I asked them to take notes using this note-sheet.

To bring my students into this synthetic happiness experiment, I gave them all different excerpts of the play photocopied onto printer paper (I did not, however, give them any pages from Act 3 as to not give away the ending of the play before we even read it.) If you really want to know I gave them pages 510, 521,498, 503, and 530 from this PDF. They were “stuck” with their page. They were not allowed to change pages with other students or get another one from the stack by the door. They were not too happy about this.

I then used Laura Randazzo’s Blackout Poetry Prezi to introduce them to Blackout Poetry. I told them they were to create their own Blackout Poem using their excerpt from the play and in the end we will see if they are happy with their end result (spoiler alert: they totally were). The TED Talk and Prezi took an entire 55 minute class period.

The next class period, they worked feverishly on their poems; some students “got it” right away and others were agonizing over making their’s perfect. When they felt they messed up, I gave them a new page of their same excerpt to start over. They blacked out, boxed words, designed images, and frankly were so engaged I had to do it myself along with them!

Here are some samples:

When they were finished, we presented them in class and they were SO amazing and they really cheered for each other’s poems and commented on how awesome they all were. It was the perfect way to end the week before Spring Break and a much needed break from essay writing and test prep.

What they don’t realize is that without even knowing it, most of them pulled out words from the passages that are thematic subjects in the play: alcohol, money, religion, freedom, inner demons, mistakes, and happiness. When we get back from break, I will discuss these concepts with them before we read the play.

I am hoping that as we read the play together they will recognize their page from this activity and feel a connection to the piece outside of the story because they made it a piece of themselves.

Education in America: Problem/Solution

2nd February 2017

I have to confess that I have been feeling the dreaded “teacher burnout” lately. This is something that I never thought I would feel. I have always heard and therefore believed that, “if a teacher stays in the field for three years they will teach forever.” And after three years of teaching, I had never felt more fulfilled in my career … until this year – year nine.

This feeling has a lot of contributing factors though: having a new baby and pre-schooler at home, switching schools and districts, being on maternity leave for a good 10 weeks, reading about Finland’s school system, and watching the recent controversy over Betsy DeVos. I am wondering, will I continue to do this? I am feeling exhausted and frankly underappreciated.

I recently gave my students the AP Language prompt about whether or not college is worth the cost. It was one of their first synthesis prompts so I used it as a teaching model and had them work with it as a team creating a poster representation of the sources (the assignment which I took from a GENIUS colleague and thus can’t provide here for you) and their ideas.

While creating these posters, they discussed the sources, found appropriate outside evidence to pair with each source, and then, using Google Docs, wrote some pretty awesome team essays. Team 2 in my 2nd hour wrote this:

“While it may be true that college does manifest unquestionable benefits such as monetary payoff and a wage gap, overall, it is not worth it. Contrary to prominent beliefs, college graduates do not always generate more money than an individual without a degree. On average, in Arizona, a teacher who had to obtain a degree, makes salary of 44,513 dollars a year. While in comparison, a Costco retail store manager, who did not necessarily have to obtain a degree, makes on average 57,233 dollars a year. It is proven that just because one has acquired a college degree, does not mean they are financially superior to someone without a degree. Wage gaps varies with the type of degree someone procures and the field in which they study (Source F).”

Nail-in-burnout-coffin. So, this got me thinking…I want my classes to be rigorous and relevant and what is more relevant than problems with our education system? The students had an interest in this as well and so we went with it.

This quarter, my AP Language and Composition students will be researching a problem with education in America. They will then research all previously tried solutions, ultimately synthesizing these attempts into a viable solution. 

After they wrote the essay on the worth of college, I decided to have them engage in a station rotation activity by watching some TED Talks on education, reading various articles on education with questions to accompany them, and participating in a Socratic seminar (with me at this station) to help generate ideas for their research.

The students then watched and took notes on the documentary Waiting for Superman and afterwards participated in a Socratic Seminar on the film using the documentary, the notes from the station rotation articles and TED Talks, and their own experiences in the educational system as evidence to support their claims.

With all these activities in mind, the students were then ready to create their own “documentary-eske” presentation on one problem and their viable solution.

FOR MATERIALS FROM THIS POST PLEASE CLICK HERE!

I truly hope this burnout will end soon as I do believe that what I do every day does matter. I also believe that the majority of my students will one day be in a place to make a large impact in our society, whether it be as a politician, activist, or teacher.

Fear Tactics Presentation

12th December 2016

While I was away on maternity leave, my long-term sub taught Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Johnathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to my on-level junior classes. She did a great job and the students had working knowledge of both pieces when I returned and questioned them.

However, since the theme of the quarter is “The Manipulation of Man,” I wanted to round out the quarter and confirm what they learned while I was away.

Could they apply their knowledge of past “crucibles” and the use of fear tactics in that society to modern “crucibles” and use of fear tactics today?

We began the class period with this article and discussed how social media has become a place where fear tactics are used from politicians to friends at your school. The students read and annotated the piece and then looked at several tweets from Donald Trump as well as tweets from Hillary Clinton (as this election is such a hot topic and great example of both sides using fear tactics). I then had the class brainstorm some modern day “crucibles” as a table and post them to a class Padlet, the most prominent being Islamophobia, but overall this served to be a huge challenge for them.

I provided the students with their partner presentation assignment and sent them off to research fear tactics in modern day speeches, advertisements, campaigns, etc. They also went hunting online for other “witch hunts” in modern day crucibles and what they found was amazing, but it took some research which I liked. I was happy they didn’t just type in “modern day crucible” into Google and immediately get examples, this assignment made them think first and find second instead of the other way around.

Overall, I liked how the assignment synthesized for them the pieces they read in class and also forced them to use their researching skills and connect to the real world. It was a nice way to lead into their explanatory synthesis writing final on tools of manipulation in society.

I hope you all have a fantastic Winter Break and a very Merry Christmas!

 

Maternity Leave

14th November 2016

Hello! Thank you for stopping by! While I am away on maternity leave from having my baby boy, Miles, on September 21, 2016, I thought I would link my three top viewed blog posts below and for anyone with baby fever, a picture of my new little buddy!

I will be back to teaching and blogging in December!

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How Desk Towers Saved My Sanity

Rhetorical Meme Analysis

Teaching Lens Theory

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You’re Invited!

21st September 2016

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This quarter my juniors are engaging in a unit themed around the idea of how an individual shapes American society. The students began with learning about the ideas of collectivism vs. individualism as they relate to social media. I began with this to draw them into the quarter’s theme with something more modern that most are familiar with. Students looked at different venues of social media (Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.) and analyzed for their impact on the individual and society, as well as individualism vs. collectivism.

We then worked through some excerpts from Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. While searching for some lessons/activities that would help the students close read this piece online, I came across this amazing website that has several different lesson ideas and online activities for students to work through and complete. I especially liked the Dr. Ralph’s  Tweets activity that was included as it was the perfect transition from the social media introduction to the quarter into Emerson’s tough piece.

Once students had a firm understanding of Emerson’s piece, I brought in a more modern work from Barbara Lazera Ascher called “On Compassion”. Before reading the piece, I provided them with three scenarios that occur in the text to discuss with their learning teams and then share out their responses to the rest of the class; for instance one of the scenarios was:

You own a bakery shop. The same homeless man loiters in your shop everyday. He smells of urine and stale cigarettes. What do you do?

These scenarios sparked great discussion from the students. I then read the piece aloud to the whole class and each student annotated based on my specific instructions. We finished with a station rotation activity for a more in-depth analysis of the piece. I wanted to find a counter-argument to Emerson and Ascher’s piece does this well. The students were able to identify the main arguments in both pieces and relate them to the quarter theme of how an individual shapes society.

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With all this in the student’s mind, it was time to tackle Fitzgerald and the argument he makes about the individual and society in his famous novel The Great Gatsby. In lieu of a study guide, we focused on analyzing color symbolism and character development in each chapter in order to determine how these strategies impacted Fitzgerald’s overall argument in the novel. I wanted the students to be able to keep the quarter theme in mind as we read through the novel as well and thus the Gatsby Invitation Assignment was born!

I provided each student with a mailing envelope which they decorated using descriptions from the novel that I provided on the front board (they picked between Tom and Daisy’s house, the Valley of Ashes, etc). This was a great way to show them textual evidence from the novel before reading it and analyzing Fitzgerald’s syntax and use of color symbolism. They loved it – plus they were able to color too!

We then began reading the novel. In almost every chapter there is a “party” of some sort (in other words some type of get together with food and drinks). For instance, the first party invitation they made was for the dinner Nick attends at the Buchanan’s. The students will create seven invitations (using colored index cards they purchased) over the course of the unit. After each chapter, students create their invitation and then place it in their envelope for storage. It has been a great way to track the events of the novel while also analyzing for strategies that impact the author’s purpose. Overall, the students know they were working towards being able to answer the following prompt in a well-written, in-class, timed analysis essay:

Through his use of characterization and color symbolism in the novel, what argument is F. Scott Fitzgerald making in The Great Gatsby about the individual and society?

Through these activities and lessons, at the end of the quarter, the students will be able to tie each piece together to determine how individuals shape American society. This could be done through a Socratic seminar, a presentation, or a research paper where they research individuals and their impact and synthesize it with what they have learned throughout the course of the quarter. I am not sure how it will be done as I am leaving for maternity leave this week; however, I have already graded five invitations before I left from my students and know they are on the right track!

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New Classroom, New Tricks

27th July 2016

Back to school

Classroom Tour

I have to say, I can’t wait to get back to work. My colleagues and I have done so much planning, prepping, creating, and discussing over the summer for our classes that I am so excited to start a new school year and rock 2016-2017! I am returning to my former school this year so I had to move and create a new classroom environment. With the help of friends and family, mainly my mother (love you mom), I am pretty dang proud of my new classroom and am hoping it survives a 12 week maternity leave coming up soon!

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***I plan on using the QR codes on the back of the table numbers to link to my classroom Symbaloo for easy access for students if I need them to go to a video link or get to a Google Doc assignment, etc. 

Cell-Phone Daycare

This year I have decided to update my cell phone daycare from the desk towers to the wall. I saw this happening all over Pinterest and thought that it would be worth a try. I have noticed that my students, especially mid-morning through the rest of the school day, ask to be able to charge their phones in my room. I have always accommodated this request because usually it is 10 more phones I don’t have to worry about them trying to sneak out during a lesson or activity. However, it becomes a little unsightly with phones and cords lining the bottom edges of my classroom. 

With this all in mind, and the help of my hubs to get all the cords and electric stuff correct as not to overload any plugs, I decided to create a “Cell-Phone Daycare” in my own classroom this year with the following policy: 

Each class period, on the daily slide, Mrs. Bingold will indicate if it is a “cell phone on desk” or a “cell phone daycare” day.

If it is a “cell phone daycare” day the student has two options:

  1. To charge his/her phone in Mrs. Bingold’s Cell Phone Daycare (on silent) the entire period.

OR

  1. To keep his/her phone in their backpack (on silent) the entire period.

If the student chooses the “daycare” option they will be allowed to charge their phone during class; however, they will not be able to get their phone from daycare until the end of the class period. The student must provide their own charging cable. Mrs. Bingold and High School are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged cell phones in the cell phone “daycare”. Students are charging their phone and choosing this option at their own risk.

If it is a “cell phone on desk day” the student has two options:

  1. To keep his/her phone face-down (on silent) on their desk until Mrs. Bingold prompts him/her to use phone for educational purposes during class that period.

OR

  1. To keep his/her phone in their backpack (on silent) the entire period.

If the student chooses to keep their phone on the desk they may not use phone during the desk period to play games or browse/post on social media, they may not take or post recordings of still or moving images or voice recordings of students or the teacher to online websites or apps without permission and they must adhere to the BYOT acceptable use agreement and practice internet safety with online resources.

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I am really hoping that this policy will do two things: motivate students to detach from their phones for 55 minutes a day (which many have told me they want but just don’t know how, it has become an addiction for them) and help them stay focused in class, especially during team learning activities.

A couple of things I have to be aware of, although I am sure I am missing something: I cannot make this mandatory for students and I do not want phones easily accessible for others to be able to take and I will need to use the end of class time more wisely in order to send small groups up at a time to retrieve their phones. I am also banking on them being able to charge their phone in class as enough incentive to drop their “little darling” off at my daycare but we will see, it could be a bust! Stay tuned. 

First Day of School Station Rotation

Finally, I would like to share with you my first day of school activity: a station rotation. Now, it probably doesn’t seem too exciting to most but starting the year 8 months pregnant means figuring out ways to not have to stand very long in class but still keep the students engaged. I have to work harder for the teacher “buy-in” this year because I want them to at least sort of get a feel for my class before I leave in September to have my baby boy. 

Students will engage in a station rotation activity the first day of school that will take them through the syllabus at one station, a video at another station, a video response station, an article annotation activity station (sort of a pre-assessment), a get-to-know-you activity station (Six-Word Snapchat), and a get-to-know-the-teacher station (classroom tour and questions).

This activity will introduce the students to each other and to me without having to do the typical ice breakers or my students having to sit through another syllabus being read to them the first day.

My pregnancy waddle and my pregnancy brain might be at an all time high but nevertheless I am hoping my back-to-school excitement in spite of these things shows through to my students and colleagues next week! Happy new school year everyone, it is going to be an wild ride.

7months

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