Speed Dating: The Canterbury Tales Edition

This school year, my focus has been on putting the class more into the hands of the students.  This has been partially accomplished by rejuvenating the idea of classroom blogging, but on an in-class basis, it will take much more than that.  Our first anchor text of the year is Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”

There are 29 pilgrims and a host, so being able to learn and understand all those characters from the prologue can be quite a daunting task.  In previous years, my initial reaction would be, read the prologue, have students take notes, and most likely have a PowerPoint presentation accompany the lesson.  SNOOZEFEST!  With my new goal of transitioning from my older, staler lesson formats,  I approached this seemingly up-hill battle by switching from teacher-led to student-led instruction.  Last year, I read a wonderful lesson plan online about utilizing the concept of speed dating with “The Canterbury Tales.”

Pre-planning for Speed Dating:

  1. Assign each student one of the pilgrims from the prologue
  2.  Read the Prologue to “The Canterbury” tales and have students take notes on their pilgrim.  I have also encouraged them to do their own research online.  A blog entry was assigned for students to describe their pilgrim in terms of profession, appearance, personality, religious devotion, and how closely they maintain the objectives of their profession.
  3. Get-To-Know-Me Assignment – Like in “olden days” when people went to video match-making services, these pilgrims needed to put together an introductory “video” of themselves introducing who they are, their goals in life, their objectives, their personality traits, hobbies, etc.  These were presented in class.

Speed Dating:

  1. I setup the room so that there were desks in pairs, lined up in rows. Students entered the room and randomly sat down.  Next year, I will probably pre-assign their seating locations to avoid talkative friends from sitting next to each other.
  2. The warm-up question required students to write 7-10 “First Date” questions.  These could be utilized during the speed dating.
  3. A chart was placed on the board that explained the people on the left would remain seated while those on the right would rotate on each 2-minute bell.
  4. I gave students a chart to fill out that made them analyze their dates based upon the following criteria:
    1. First impressions
    2. Level of compatibility
    3. Level of reliablity
    4. Chances of a second date
    5. Overall impression
  5. After the speed dating, students analyzed which pilgrim would be the most compatible with their pilgrim and which was the least.  They would need to analyze this based upon the information that they know about their dates.  Additionally, students will add textual evidence from the prologue to support their answers.  This will go on their WordPress blog.

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.

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!