The Reading I Didn’t Do and Classroom Bootcamp

I won’t bother showing you an update on my Goodreads account because I didn’t actually get in any reading yesterday.  Well, I take that back: I read about 30 pages of The Dinner last night before falling asleep.  Any reading is good reading.  I spent the day with a girlfriend who had a tremendously long to-do list, and found that she was much more efficient at completing tasks if she had someone with her.  Is it a “misery loves company” or “guilt into action” situation?  I’m not sure, but I’ll use any excuse to eat Panera and chat with a friend while being productive.  While she worked on her projects, I spent the time analyzing my English IV Bootcamp content.

Let’s start with what it’s not:

  • Classroom management strategy
  • Scare tactics
  • A system to weed out the weak from the strong
  • A simple review of content from previous years

What is Classroom Bootcamp?

My definition for classroom bootcamp can best be described by its purpose: to support future learning by establishing a solid foundation of the key components and skill necessary for mastery.

There are many different ways that teachers can create a classroom bootcamp, but for my purpose and grade level (AP Language & Senior English), I prefer a systematic clustering of key concepts presented in a way that allows students to make connections between themselves, their world, and other content areas.  Each class period is constructed with:

  1. an introduction/anticipatory set through the Bell Ringer/Bell Work activity
  2. activity to allow students to engage their prior knowledge
  3. collaborative activity, even if it’s just a “Think-Pair-Share”
  4. application to a real-world event or problem
  5. application to a text

Because I will be working with older students, there will be two main topics focused on during my classroom bootcamp: vocabulary and analysis.

Analysis and Vocab Bootcamp


Making Text-to-Text Connections

Picture 2

Why it’s important to make text-to-text connections:

1.  Making connections in general are important so that students have a greater understanding of the text.  By personalizing it, they are able to own the material.  It creates more meaning for the student.

2.  Making these connections requires thinking, which seems obvious to teachers, but sometimes students will bypass deep thinking and connect with the text on a surface level.  By making connections to the text, students make personal connections, thus more thinking and comprehension is involved.

3.  Once a student has made a connection with a text, having them analyze it next to another text for similar ideas and themes requires even deeper thinking.  Through the repeated exposure and higher level thinking activities, students will gain a greater understanding of all texts.

How I’m using text-to-text connections in class:

For our final unit, my English III class is reading and studying the play, “A Raisin in the Sun.”  One thing that I really wanted my students to branch out and become more comfortable with is making connections to the text, specifically text-to-text connections.

Texts I’m using:

  • the play A Raisin in the Sun
  • Martin Luther King Jr’s  I Have a Dream speech
  • lyrics from the song Strange Fruit
  • the poem A Dream Deferred

Link to I Have a Dream

Lyrics to Strange Fruit (performed by Billie Holiday)

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Questions to ask for making text-to-text connections:

Generic (Via ReadWriteThink):

  • What does this remind you of in another book you have read?
  • How is this text similar to other things you have read?
  • How is this text different from other things you have read?

Specific to my “American Dream” Unit:

  • How has MLK Jr’s dream been deferred?
  • How would Langston Hughes respond to hearing the I Have a Dream Speech?
  • What would Walter Jr’s reaction be to hearing A Dream DeferredStrange Fruit? I Have a Dream speech?
  • What advice would MLK Jr give to Walter and Ruth?
  • What advice would Langston Hughes give to Walter and Ruth?
  • Have Walter’s dreams been deferred?  In what form?  How about Mama?  Ruth?  Beneatha?