Measuring July Goals One Day Early

Happy Saturday!  I am so glad it’s the weekend and that I will be able to spend quality time with my family down in Orlando today.  It will be a busy one as will be our Sunday, so I am checking in with my July goals one day early.

Books/Reading/Curriculum Planning:

Goal: Review the following books & create “Lists”

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – DONE!
  • The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie- DONE!
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Heading into August: School starts early for us in Florida this year (August 15th with kids) so I am going to spend the early parts of August wrapping up a few curriculum loose ends, fine-tuning my pacing guides for the 1st quarter, and assembling my “Bootcamp” packets, which I’ll be sharing once they’re completed.

 

Health and Wellness:

July Goal: Workout daily & fit into my black and khaki capri pants. – DONE!

Yesterday, while my in-laws are in town, my little family and I had professional photos done.  I was freaking out all week thinking about what I was going to wear, nervously waiting for my order from Old Navy to arrive that had a potential and leading outfit, and mix-matching a thousand variations of tops and bottoms.  The moment of truth arrived around 3:30pm, three hours before we were supposed to meet the photographer, and I put on my goal khaki capris just for shitz and giggles.  BAM!  They fit!!!

Heading into August:  Keep up the momentum of hitting the gym daily, eating in moderation, and be grateful all the hard work paid off.

Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Strategies

With the adoption of the Common Core Standards, and other states that have implemented parallel standards of their own, the English department has been given the task of supporting students’ growth in understanding texts, fiction and nonfiction, in a deeper and more analytical manner.  An inch-deep, mile-wide approach to reading analysis is no longer acceptable.  Teachers must wrap their minds around teaching skills as opposed to texts.  This means that we must change the way in which we teach students to approach reading.

1.  Close Reading

Essential Aspects of Close Reading:

  • A close reading is a careful and purposeful reading AND rereading.
  • Students really focus on what
    • the author had to say
    • the author’s purpose was
    • the words mean
    • structure of the text tells us
  • A transaction between the reader and the text
  • Getting what the author had to say and bringing some of your own ideas to bear on that text.

“Close Reading and the CCSS, Part 1.” – Common Core State Standards TOOLBOX. Web. 29 July 2015.

Some Close Reading strategies:

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It seems as though there are a thousand-and-one resources available for reading and analyzing literature.  You can purchase entire unit plans complete with daily assignments, guided reading questions, collaborative activities, assessments, and powerpoint presentations!  They are a new teacher’s savior and an experienced teacher’s rejuvenation.  When I started teaching AP Language and Composition, I searched for nonfiction text analysis resources, and while I found some wonderful lessons, I felt empty-handed.  I was given just enough information and guidance to be able to meander through my first year, but I knew that it would become my objective to really customize those materials to best support both my students and myself.

2.  SOAPSTone

Any AP English teacher can tell you that the go-to strategy for analyzing any nonfiction text is the SOAPSTone method:

After reading a nonfiction text, a student would analyze the piece to identify each of the SOAPSTone elements.  This allows them to gain a greater understanding of the text, make connections, and therefore use a more critical eye while evaluating the efficacy of the piece.  For example, if a student was unaware of the political background or historical impact of a piece, they may view its argument in a much different way than what was intended.  Additionally, the tone plays a major role in how a piece is interpreted.  A sarcastic, humorous tone will lead the reader in a much different direction than a didactic one.

41EqLO2XLWL3.  SIFT

Thanks to the wonderful resource, and foundational element of my Pre-AP English course last year, The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English, I was able to identify another text analysis method: SIFT

  • Symbol: Examine the title and text for symbols
  • Images: Identify images and sensory details
  • Figures of Speech: analyze figurative language and other devices
  • Tone and Theme: Discuss how all devices reveal tone and theme

 

4.  Fourfold Method

analysis of drama, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction

  1. Literal or historical level: the things that are happening in the story are literally happening on a surface level
  2. Political level: the level on which human beings relate to others in a community and in the world
  3. Moral or psychological level: the way in which the self relates to the realm of ethics
  4. Spiritual level: the universal level on which a persona relates to the cosmos, the way of the pilgrim soul

5.  Aristotelian Theory

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  • Cornerstone of critical theory
  • Poetics laid out the basis for traditional analysis of drama (dramatic fiction)
  • “the imitation of an action; a writer’s attempt to represent reality or truth in artistic form”
  • Structure and purpose of tragedy is:
    • Unity of Action:
      • tragic plots must have a clear beginning, middle, and end
      • action should be ordered and continuous
      • cause and effect process
    • Catharsis:
      • events should inspire pity and terror
      • vicarious experience to attain emotional purgation, moral purification, or clarity of intellectual viewpoint
    • Tragedy
      • reversal of fortune/fall from greatness brought on by error or frailty
      • hamartia inner weakness or inherent error
        • usually through excessive pride or hubris
        • reversal of fortune is characterized by “reversal of situation” and “recognition”
      • “Scene of Suffering”     

The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English. 2nd ed. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 2002. Print.

Pros and Cons of Final Exams

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Tuesday marks the beginning of Finals Week at my school.  I’ve been teaching for nine years, and each year I change the way I have administered and developed my midterm and final exam.  I have rarely been required to follow a particular format by my administration, which was a joy but also could be taxing.  I have utilized objective assessment formats: multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching; subjective and project-based have also served as my culminating assessments.  I have reflected on the merits of the multiple formats and have determined a list of pros and cons for each.

Subjective Assessments (Multiple Choice, Fill-in-the-Blank, Matching, etc.)

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Pros:

  • Easy to grade
  • Relatively easy to create
  • Trends in comprehension (number correct/incorrect) efficiently identified
  • Format can parallel standardized tests which allows for students to be more familiar and comfortable when assessed (ACT, SAT, state tests)

Cons:

  • Only assesses one type of learning/interpretation
  • Creating questions that truly align with objectives/standards can be difficult
  • Leaves little room for students to express themselves and their understanding
  • Little-to-no creativity or individuality allowed

Objective Assessments (Short Answer, Short Essay, Essay)

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Pros:

  • Students able to express themselves and their understanding in their own way
  • More room for individuality
  • Questions can be more easily created because they can encompass more ideas/skills

Cons:

  • Takes longer to grade
  • Some students are not strong writers
  • Addresses one learning style
  • Usually there are fewer questions (sometimes only one), therefore if it is interpreted incorrectly, students’ responses may not fully encompass their full knowledge
  • ESL/ESE students may struggle
  • Extensive rubrics required

Project-Based/Presentations

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Pros:

  • Allowance for multiple interpretations and approaches to answering the prompt
  • Creativity is encouraged
  • Application of classroom content to a real-world issue
  • Students are allowed to connect to the content in a real way
  • More learning styles are addressed
  • Collaboration is an option

Cons:

  • Requires outside of class time – teacher has little control over if it is completed
  • Developing the project requirements is more complex
  • Multiple aspects need to addressed when grading
  • Students need strong support in developing presentation skills; scaffolding required
  • Multiple days required for presentation
  • Extensive rubrics required

Conclusion

Ultimately, there is no one proper way to assess students; all formats present their advantages and disadvantages.  A good teacher who wants to truly assess their students’ complete understanding and skill level will not choose just one format, but will allow for multiple assessment formats.