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.

Blogging in the Classroom with Feedly

Good morning!

The first week of the new school year is in the books, and I have to say that every year has gotten better and more comfortable for me asa teacher.  With this comfort comes great responsibility (hello, I sound like Uncle Ben there).

The responsibility is that you do not become stale as an educator.  Once your curriculum is in place, you feel secure in your classroom management skills, it’s time to start adding in some “out of the box” strategies and lessons.  For me, that is going back to something I did two years ago in a Creative Writing course and during my first attempt at a Project Genius Hour: classroom blogging.

I had my students create their own WordPress accounts and design a personalized blog.

In Creative Writing, they used it for their weekly postings about a given writing prompt or subject that we had been talking about in class; for Genius Hour, they posted their progress in researching their topics and other specific prompts that had to do with the process of being given 20% of the school week to focus on a subject matter that meant something more to them than just another grade.  If you want to know more about Project Genius Hour or 20% Time Projects, please see the following link:

My Own Genius Hour and follow @JoyKirr on Twitter.

I have decided to go back to classroom blogging for several reasons:

  • It gives students a voice and an outlet to be expressive
  • It’s important to address the ever-growing technological aspects of classroom writing
  • It gives students ownership over their writing
  • #GoGreen and save a few thousand sheets of paper
  • It creates an online archive/portfolio of their writing
  • Simplicity in checking their work

Let me address the simplicity point.  Some may say that if I have students email me an attachment or link to a GoogleDoc, won’t it be easier for me to have all the essays/poems/narratives/etc all in one place because I can save them to a folder on a flash drive or my desktop?  True.  You can do that.  However, there is an even simpler way to do this and that is through the use of a fantastic (and free) website: Feedly.

I started using this website that allows users to collect all the websites for blogs they read all in one dashboard.  You are able to sort the different blogs into categories and the most currently published blogs are added and highlighted for your benefit.  It saves so much time as opposed to visiting each one or receiving an email that notifies you of a new post.

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 6.16.53 AM

A listing of the categories that you customize. The number to the right of each title tells you how many new, unread posts are left to read.

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 6.16.34 AM

Here you can see all the specific blogs that I read that are organized into categories.

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This view allows all the newest blogs, regardless of category, to appear at the top of the page. It even tells you how long ago it was posted.

So how does Feedly help in classroom blogging:

  1. Once each student has created and shared their blog’s website address with you, you then create categories based on class period.  When a new blog entry has been published, it will be indicated for you in both the side bar and on the “All” view.
  2. It comes with a time and date stamp.  You will know exactly when a student has published his or her required blog and if it’s done on time.
  3. It’s all organized for you!  You don’t have to hunt and scavenger through the internet to 125 different URLs; they’re all listed in one amazing dashboard.
  4. In addition to all the blog entries being in one place, so  are all the students’ entries.  Because it’s done on WordPress and Feedly, you don’t have to spend wasted time searching through old emails or worry that the document got deleted.
  5. I often would forget to bring my flash drives home, so there would go a whole night/weekend of grading.  With Feedly, it’s all online and I can access it everywhere.

Question of the Day:  If you use blogging in your classroom, what other helpful tips do you have for supporting your students or making life easier for the teacher who must grade and manage them?