With spring break coming to a close, it is time that I turn my attention towards the last quarter of the school year.
In my on-level sophomore courses I will be teaching Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card for the first time ever (I literally just finished reading it myself over break but don’t tell the kids). I am super excited to teach this novel as it is everything the sci-fi minor in me loves; however, I am feeling the pressure to teach it well. These sophomores have gone through the ups and downs of this transitional year with me – and I fell like I owe them a spectacular “finale” to this year.
First quarter, I taught the crap out of Of Mice and Men and they wrote an essay analyzing Steinbeck’s use of diction and syntax in order to argue which character displayed Stickleback’s argument of mankind’s true nature. Yeah, and they crushed it. Then, second quarter our anchor text was another novel I had never read nor taught, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and let’s just say that I didn’t know how to approach it or what to focus on and we barley got the thing read (I will be making some major changes in how I teach it to my honors sophomores this quarter). Third quarter, we just OWNED Julius Caesar, Antigone, and the question: what is the true nature of justice? They ended the quarter with an argument essay in which they defined “justice” (no Webster definition to be found) and defended their definition synthesizing the sources we read in class and two current event articles (one internationally and one nationally). So yeah, 2 Ws and 1 L for Bingold. I am determined to put another W in my yearly teaching column with Ender’s and here we go.
The overview (well, that is currently in my vacation-mode brain):
Around this time of year (middle of third quarter), most of my students have grasped some of my basic writing requirements through my lessons, reinforcement through student exemplars that I show in class, and well, practice, practice, practice. They are now usually ready to add wit in order to elevate their essay’s voice, style, and argument.
However, it is hard to teach sophomores and juniors how to be witty. Some students have natural talent for it but most do not. Thus, my esteemed colleague and I came up with what we call “The Snark Off”. The Snark Off contains some class competition, trophies, and lots of fun and in the end the students are able to practice being a little snarky in their writing, while still maintaining professionalism and a strong argument with supporting evidence.
Like the idea? Get the entire lesson with statements and sample paragraphs here – IT IS FREE.
Begin by putting up a statement in front of the class and ask the students to silently brainstorm evidence that would defend/refute this statement.
Ask for volunteers from the class to provide the evidence they came up with.
Then, show them a sample (written by the teacher) that uses evidence but has a more snarky tone.
Ask the students why it is more effective with the voice than just listing evidence points in a paragraph.
Then have the student pair up with a partner and then find another partner pair that they would like to go up against (to see which pair can be more snarky on the same topic).
Provide the double partner pairs with the same statement (the teacher will need to generate about 10 statements that will be used multiple times but obviously the student pairs will come up with different evidence with different voice so repeats won’t matter).
Provide the rest of the hour for students to work on their “snarky” paragraph and tell them that they will present them tomorrow in class.
The next day, have the pairs go up against each other and have the class vote (you can use www.polleverywhere.com to do the voting from their cell phones so the voting is anonymous and the results are instant but make sure you set this up ahead of time).
The winning pairs get mini-trophies with chocolate in them (we got the trophies from Party City and the students wanted them displayed in the classroom the rest of the year).
The Snark off is a quick two-day lesson that will help your students with their voice, as well as, give them an opportunity to practice argumentative writing with source evidence.
Please post a comment with any questions and don’t forget to check out the full lesson plan with standards here.
image used courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/stasi108/snarky/