An Update on Classroom Blogging

Initial post about using WordPress/Blogging/Feedly in the classroom

Several weeks ago, I discussed my desire to have my students begin blogging in the classroom.  My plan was to have them create their own WordPress accounts and write both creatively and academically, both inside and outside of the classroom.  The school year is only 3 weeks old now and I have successfully assigned two blog postings.

Blog Assignments:

  1. “Convince Me” Final Draft
    1. Students will participate in a Think-Pair-Share in order to create a list of the characteristics of a convincing argument.
    2. Students will share out their responses to create a master list of all the characteristics.
    3. Students will read a sample argument essay in which the major parts are labeled.
    4. Students will create their own definitions of the parts of an argument essay based on the samples and their purposes.
    5. Students will respond to the following prompt: I am a flexible teacher, so if I hear a convincing argument for something, I will give it genuine consideration. I typically assign homework three days a week. Write a one-paragraph argument that attempts to convince me to cancel assigning homework for Eng IV.  Alternative: You may like homework, so you can argue for why it should still be assigned.
    6. Students spent three days between peer editing, reading samples and grading them, and studying other argument essays before writing their final draft that is uploaded to their blog as their first posting.
  2. “To This Day” Inspired Poem
    1. In our synthesis essay unit entitled “Haters Gonna Hater,” I had students read multiple texts from various genres that all dealt with bullying.  One poem that was included in this unit was “To This Day” by Shane Koyczan.  There’s a fantastic rendition, in addition to the TEDTalk, of “To This Day” that you can watch here.  
    2. Students worked with “Arm Partners” (someone that is within arm’s length of their original seat) to read through the printed version of “To This Day” and they completed a Close-Reading analysis.
    3. After sharing their analysis with their partners, students watched the video version of “To This Day.”  This is the version we watched:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltun92DfnPY
    4. Students were asked to discuss the specific writing choices that were made that separated this poem from others they had read.
    5. Finally, students were asked to write their own versions of “To This Day” in which they mimicked Koyczan’s style.  The topic was bullying.  Their poems had to be 10 stanzas with a minimum of 6 lines each.  This poem was posted on their blogs.

What to Look for in a New Curriculum

This upcoming school year, our school will be looking at adopting a new high school ELA curriculum.  I have a very limited background when it comes to school districts and their adoption or development of curriculums.  I have seen many documents online as I have done my own research for my own, which was based solely on the incorporation of the state standards, researched-based strategies, and strong texts.

I have been through several textbook series and curriculum support presentations in my career, and this summer would be no different.  Before the presentations began, I sat down and made a list of all the features I would want the ideal ELA curriculum to have:

  • Standard-based lessons and activities
  • Reading, Speaking, Listening activities
  • Close Reading
  • A strong writing program
    • Synthesizing information presented into a product
    • “Beyond-the-text” assignments
    • MLA/APA/Citations/Plagiarism support
    • How to do research – online and in libraries
  • Rubrics
  • The text selection would be both rigor-appropriate, but also high interest
  • Technology & multimedia must be incorporated
  • Digital copies of the texts for the students and teachers
  • Differentiated options
  • Support for ELL/ESL students
  • A user-friendly interface
  • Support for teachers (professional development, customer service support)
  • Options for teachers to customize the content/assessments/assignments

Educator Question of the Day: What other features do you look for in a new curriculum?

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:

-OR-

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

Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575

 

 

  • 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.