Tag Archives: high school English

Tending to Your “Plant”

9th May 2017

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:

Senior Year

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. 

Career/Family

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.

  1. Work first, play second, and play hard
  2. Early is on time and on time is late
  3. Be kind to everyone, even if they suck
  4. Be kind to yourself, you are enough
  5. Get yourself together
  6. A bad day doesn’t equal a bad life
  7. Less is more – simplify
  8. Surround yourself with people who get it
  9. Sometimes you must be quiet and just listen
  10. Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate
  11. Worrying does nothing, love does everything
  12. Drink the coffee, do the things
  13. Have impromptu dance parties in the living room
  14. 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.

New Adventures

3rd May 2016

adven-216 I can’t believe the end of another school year is upon us; I feel like it was just yesterday I was setting up my classroom for my new 2015-2016 students. My honors sophomores did their last in-class synthesis timed essay for me last week and as they wrote frantically the entire hour to complete it, I thought to myself, “Whoa, they look like AP juniors today.” My sweet freshmen are becoming those sassy, sarcastic sophomores we all know and some love.

It is definitely May. It is time to reflect on the year and also get ready for some new adventures. 

Adventure 1: Moving a Mile

Well, my time at Perry High has ended as I move back to my old “stomping grounds” at Campo Verde High School next year. Looking around my classroom, I am anxious to take things down and pack things up. I have been trying to purge unnecessary items and I am amazed at just how much “stuff” I can acquire over two years. I am excited to return home to old friends and meet new faces and experience new curriculum and technology. I will miss my fellow Puma colleagues for sure, but am hopeful that this choice is right for myself and my family. 

Adventure 2: Baby Bumpin’ 

Speaking of family, we have some news! Our newest addition, a baby boy, will be joining our family in late September of 2016. This makes this summer with Q even more sweet as I try to soak up every last minute of the “just of two of us” love before her brother arrives. This also makes packing a classroom and redecorating a new one a bit more challenging, but luckily I have awesome family in my life to help me with this transition. 

baby boy Miles

Adventure 3: Teaching Teachers

Last but not least is the adventure I am perhaps the most nervous about. This summer, I will be teaching teachers at the SEATA Conference in Graham County, Arizona June 6-8. Even though I have done a ton of training for teachers at my school sites, I have never taught at a conference before. I am hopeful that the teachers will enjoy the content I am bringing with me and will be able to use it next year in their own classrooms. I will be posting my conference materials and presentations here after June 4th so check back for some FREEBIE materials and teacher lessons. 

I can’t wait for these new adventures and to grow as a mother and teacher this year! However, I also can’t wait for summer break! 

SIGNATURE

teacher meme

10 Reasons Why

18th February 2016

10 reasons why

I was at the park the other day watching Q play with some other preschooler-aged kids when another mom started talking to me. She asked me what I did for a living and I said proudly, “I teach high school English.” She gasped (like most do) and said, “Ugh, how do you teach them? They are so rude and annoying.” I always find this response rude and annoying because I love my students. Granted they can frustrate me at times, but most of the time they are just like adults: just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world.

So here are 10 reasons I like teaching high school kids:

  1. When they have runny noses, they find a tissue, and figure it out.

  2. They challenge me to justify my lessons and units, every.single.day which makes me a better teacher.

  3. They like my stories about my three-year-old’s antics.

  4. They are freaking funny sometimes, almost to point where I am laughing so hard I am crying.

  5. If I plan a lesson right, I can physically see their brain’s working hard and them growing as a learner and critical thinker. It makes my heart happy when I can see the light-bulb turn on.

  6. They aren’t as jaded about life, unlike most adults I know (and even myself sometimes).

  7. They live in a world filled with technology, but when I show them how to share a document using Google Docs with their partner for an essay it is like I have shown them Snapchat for the first time.

  8. They teach me “cool” lingo and remind me what I should NOT be wearing anymore. There really should be a Forever 31 though…

  9. They take constructive criticism without making it a big deal.

  10. If I place the bar high and hold them accountable, they will rise up (sometimes kicking and screaming).

Students need teachers who want them to be better for their own sake and the sake of society. I love the TED Talk by Rita Pierson that conveys that every student needs a champion – someone in their corner who will push them and make sure they succeed. I try to remember this every day, and even though I don’t always succeed or have my off or bad days, I hope my students know that I truly want them rise up and surpass any bar I give them so when they meet challenges after high school they are ready.

So, to the nice mom at the playground: Everyone is rude and annoying at some point in the day, week, month, or year and high school kids are no different. Actually, they are creative and unique individuals and one day your preschooler will be one too!

SIGNATURE

A Flipped Classroom

2nd December 2015

Popplet Student Sample

I have been really jazzed about the flipped classroom approach lately and have found success with it using Google Slides, Google Forms, and Popplet.

At the beginning of the quarter, I assigned my students an Original Oratory Graphic Organizer assignment in which they had to go to my teacher website and view a Google Slides tutorial my PLC created based off this sweet textbook. I told them that this is all the information I wish I had time to teach this quarter but couldn’t fit in during class.

Each week-week and a half, they had to review a different amount of slides and take notes using Popplet. When they finished their first set of slides on Popplet, they shared the Popplet with me using a Google Form. It was easy to then do a check each week (off the Google Form spreadsheet) to make sure that the students had updated their Popplet with the most current notes. I awarded five points a check for an assignment that totaled 25 points over time in my grade book.

Once their Popplet was complete, they printed it out as a JPEG and brought it to class. When they began to write their own Original Oratory, they had their Popplet notes right there to guide them. It worked out great!

Above is screen shot of a finished Popplet of one of my student’s notes based on the assignment I gave.

Below are some additional student samples, as you can see each of them took different concepts away from the tutorials that they felt they needed to remember in order to write a great speech.

Any lecture that you do in class could be flipped as homework one night or throughout a few weeks or a even the entire quarter like I did with this, leaving more time for application and activities during class time.

SIGNATURE

Rhetorical Meme Analysis

4th November 2015

memem 2

Any analysis, especially rhetorical analysis, is difficult for students to master. They inevitably struggle with the “How” of analysis: How does the author’s strategy enhance the author’s purpose/argument?

When having my students analyze, I give them what I call the “WWH method. It stands for What is the strategy the author is using?, Where is the strategy located/demonstrated IN THE TEXT?, and How does the strategy enhance the author’s purpose/argument?

Most of my Honors Sophomores can easily complete the “What” and the “Where” once they have learned the rhetorical devices and have seen many examples. It is, however, very difficult for them to then analyze exactly why the author chose to use said strategy and how it was effective.

In order to practice this process outside of class, I gave my students a homework assignment to find a meme on the internet that uses one of the rhetorical devices we are studying. They then had to analyze the meme for how that device highlighted what the meme is claiming about society in general.

I adapted this assignment from a project done by the University of Michigan called The Rhetoric of Memes. This proved to be a great resource when providing samples to my students of what I was expecting before I sent them out onto the world-wide-web for homework.

Julius Caesar Rhetorical Analysis

The rhetorical meme assignment is a supplemental homework assignment to help students practice the skills they are working on in our analysis of Cassius’ and Antony’s speeches in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

I have always had my students complete an analysis of Antony’s speech to the Romans in Act 3; however, this year, with the help of Ms. Spero’s AWESOME lesson and strategy, we did a practice analysis of Cassius’ persuasive appeal to Brutus in Act 1:2. The students knocked it out of the park!

The students read Act 1 as a team first for comprehension purposes. Then, I took a class period to first model a few “spokes” of the SMART wheel analysis strategy for Cassius’ plea to Brutus and then let the students finish it with their team.

Below is my quick “key” for the assignment:

SMART WHEEL

***Notice how the students must figure out which strategies create which rhetorical appeal (logos, pathos, or ethos) in addition to the rhetorical situation of speaker, audience, and subject.

With the help of this wheel, the students were better able to complete the “WWH” of analysis in their paragraph and essay writing. They have also told me I have “ruined” memes for them…oops!

SIGNATURE

 

Musical Vocabulary

23rd October 2015

FullSizeRender

Got 35 words for a reading unit? Got around 35 students? Great! I have a 55 minute lesson for you!

This lesson was used as an introduction to Elie Wiesel’s Night.

  1. For homework, assign each student a word and provide them with a notecard and have them write the word and definition on the lined side of the notecard, and a visual cue on the blank side. ***Have them decorate them using color and printed pictures.

  2. The next day, have students take out their note-cards and, at their table as a warm-up, have them fill in each other’s (at their table) definitions and visuals on a vocabulary chart packet.

  3. Then, explain to the students that they will be rotating tables in order to get all the definitions and visual cues from every table in order to complete their packet.

    1. In my classroom, I have eight tables of four to five desks.

    2. I had each student leave their notecard on their desk.

    3. Then, I had each student pack up all their belongings and place their backpacks on the chairs (so they are out of the way of other students as they rotate through).

    4. I had table 1 rotate to 2, 2 to 3, and so on.

    5. I played music from Spotify’s Acoustic Covers Playlist and every 1-2 songs the students rotated to the next table and wrote down those definitions and visuals.

  4. Once they finished rotating to each table, their vocabulary list for the unit was complete and I collect their notecard homework.

  5. Next, I provided each table with a small piece of butcher paper.

  6. I gave the students markers and provided them with these directions:

    1. Title your poster “Holocaust Vocabulary”

    2. Create 4-5 categories, no more, no less, that you feel these words can group into.

    3. Write the categories on the poster.

    4. Work together to look through the words and definitions on the worksheet to find the words that fit best under the categories you created.

    5. Each member of the group should be responsible for writing words under one of the categories, you can all work together but everyone should have a hand in creating the poster.

    6. Below is the sample poster from one of my groups that I have up on the front white board as their vocabulary words reminder: Holocaust Vocab

The students spent the hour working hard and were very engaged. They were up and moving during the rotations and then, at the end during the poster creation, discussing the vocabulary word meanings and arguing which category words would best fit under and why.

The categorizing helped the students make sense of all the words and logically group them in their minds. They all said they liked listening to the music as they worked on filling out the worksheet and when the bell rang they all said “Whoa, that was fast!” which is something I always strive to hear.

Let me know how you teach vocabulary! Post below!

XO. Brit