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.

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.

My Favorite Anticipatory Activity for Literature

Happy Tuesday!

I was going to post this yesterday, but Monday marked the first day back to work after Spring Break, and I was more than exhausted.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately; my usual sleep schedule is one of “The Early Bird Gets the Worm,” but lately I haven’t been able to calm my brain down enough to allow for slumber to take over.  Hopefully tonight will be better.

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Despite being sleep-deprived, Monday also marked the day in which I introduced George Orwell’s 1984 and Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” to English IV and Pre AP English, respectively.  With a double-lit-introduction, it allowed me to utilize my favorite anticipatory activity with two classes.  I love this activity for many reasons:

1.  It allows students to voice their opinions in a non-threatening/aggressive format.

2.  It involves both interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, and bodily-kinesthetic learning styles.

multiple-intelligences-infographic

3.  It’s a controlled activity that allows students to get up and be out of their seats.

4.  They get to consider topics from several different points of view.

5.  They feel safe changing their mind and consider the factors that lead them to their decisions.

6.  It’s student-centric.

Steps to Lesson:

Teacher Prep:

1.  Before the lesson begins, the teacher will identify the key themes that they will have the class focus on for the unit.  If you’re a novice teacher, there are TONS of websites that provide the themes for you.  My favorites are SparkNotes and Shmoop.

In addition to themes, other key topics can be identified, such as expected behavior based on sex or age, choices characters make, philosophies held by characters, etc.

2.  Once themes and topics have been identified, an opinion-based statement that students will be able to respond to.  For example:

Theme: the dangers of totalitarianism

Opinion-based statement: The national government always acts on behalf of its citizens’ best interests.

Theme: Technology

Opinion-based statement: Without technology, the world would be a better place to live.

Ideally, 6-10 statements are ideal for this activity.

3.  Designate two opposing sections of the classroom, one for AGREE and one for DISAGREE.  It is up to the teacher’s discretion if they want a third, neutral location.  I tend to avoid this because it allows for some students to become disengaged, not truly acknowledging both sides of the argument, or physically becoming stagnant.

iStock_illustrated people with arrows in opposite direction

In-Class:

1.  Introduce the idea of the activity by informing the students of the purpose: to both identify the themes within the upcoming text, but to also discuss the various views of the themes within a safe environment.  It’s vital that the expectations are clearly identified to allow for an active discussion: respect for others’ opinions, not speaking over one another, and allowing for the opportunity to change your mind.

2.  Clearly identify and explain the steps of the process:  for each revealed statement, students will consider their initial opinions and then move to the “AGREE” or “DISAGREE” side of the room.  Opportunities to share opinions will be allowed for each, as well as the freedom and acceptance to change your opinion once you have “case your vote.”

3.  Reveal the first statement and once students have settled, allow for students to share their views.

4.  Continue until all statements have been revealed and discussed.

Post Activity:

There are multiple ways in which students can respond to this activity.  You can use this as an exit slip as well as a closing activity.  Students will respond to a question/questions in written form.  I highly recommend a written response so that the room is quiet, focused, and conducive for reflection.  Some suggested questions can be:

1.  Which topic did you feel the strongest response to and why?

2.  Which topic did you feel the most ambiguity and why?

3.   Which topic did you change your opinion about after you voted?  What influenced your decision?

4.  Which topic did you find to be the most divisive? Were you surprised, why or why not?

5.  Which topic were you surprised that most people agreed with and why?

6.  Which topic were you surprised that most peopled disagreed with and why?

Let me know if you utilize this style of anticipatory activity in your classroom and any alternatives you use!