Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Intro to Argumentation

Teaching argumentation is HARD!!!!!! Although all teenagers are masters at it, it's hard to explain how to organize their arguing using the terms outlined in the Common Core. I've read textbooks, theories, websites, searched for anchor charts, etc. and finally think I've got a handle on the basics. I decided they needed to have basic reference pages in their Interactive Notebooks for this and then we'll build on it from there.

The easiest way for me to present it to them was to create a PowerPoint presentation. Unfortunately, I can't get it to move into Google Presentations so I've just saved it as a PDF for viewing on the web.

As I showed the PowerPoint, I had them draw pages in their Interactive Notebooks.

This is just the beginning!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Why do GOOD readers identify the MAIN IDEA??

After going through The 3 Types of Questions and discussing how to use the different types of questions with expository, fiction, and poetry, I wanted to make sure they understand the importance of identifying the main idea. It's critical to every type of reading they do in any class. I found this great anchor chart on Pinterest, recreated it for my room, and had the students copy it into their notebooks. I really dealt with a lot of whining and complaining about "not liking to color" or "I can't draw very well" etc...but I made them do it anyway. I told them if I handed them a piece of paper to glue in their notebooks, they'd do it without even looking at it. If I had them just write it all down, they'd kind of remember it. But...if I have them make it "pretty" or "cute" and spend time with it by drawing it and coloring it, they will remember it MUCH better! They still whined but I still made them do it! ;)

On a side note, I am really excited about my valance over the big window in my room. I ordered a spring-bar rod online for my daughter and son-in-law's apartment and then they decided not to use it. It would have cost almost as much to ship it back as I spent on it so I decided to use it in my room. I love the multi-colored chevron fabric and it really brightens things up!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The 3 Types of Questions

With the focus on interpreting meaning, main idea, theme, etc. found in the Common Core, I wanted to help give the kids a reference to what they need to do for each type of reading they may be asked to do. I found this great chart on Pinterest but can't find it again! Fortunately, I printed it out so I could recreate it as an Anchor Chart for them to copy into their binders.

At the beginning of class, I explained the different types of reading: newspaper, magazines, fiction, novels, short stories, poetry, etc. I used my own personal experiences with each of them to help them understand how I would read them differently. I used "ABSTRACT IDEA OR ISSUE," "IMPLICIT," and "EXPLICIT" to get them familiar with the terms. Then I gave them time to recreate the page in their Interactive Notebooks. (They worked so hard on this page!! Not a peep!)

I've searched the internet to find examples of each of the types of reading/questions with the theme of Heroes. I printed them out and then, as a class, we'll read them and answer the questions to help make meaning. For this first time through, I'm just going to focus on the author's MAIN IDEA...what is he/she trying to get us (the reader) to understand?

We started with the article, "A Helping Hand" from the TeenInk website. This is clearly an EXPLICIT piece so I had them underline/circle the "Who? What? Where?...etc" information. Then I had them write the main idea in one to two sentences on the back of the paper.

The next piece was a short story called, "The Hero Without a Name" I found on the Wattpad website. (I assume this is teen writing as well.) We read through it and then looked for answers to the IMPLICIT questions and had them write down the main idea.

The last piece is a poem called "Paul's Wife" by Robert Frost. I love Frost's writing and find it easier to interpret than other poets' writing is. I've explained to the classes that I have a hard time reading/interpreting poetry because it is so ABSTRACT; it can mean many different things depending on personal background. (I looked for some poetry written by teens but found them too easy to interpret which defeated the focus on ABSTRACT. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know!!)

We're going to be spending a couple of days with these examples making sure they understand them. I'm also going to give them the handout for "Reading With Your Pen" so they've got a reference for the different ways they can interact with the text (instead of standard study guides, etc.). So good!! :)

Getting Started...

As I mentioned, I am planning to use the Interactive Notebooks a lot more this year. I'm also using a lot of the same pages as last year. So, in the interest of time, I'm just going to refer back to those posts to show what we did as a class.

I had such great success with the "Heroes" theme last year, I'm going to be doing it again. You can refer back to that HERE. Some of the YouTube videos I used last year are gone so I substituted some that are similar. You can use whatever ones you choose to make your point.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

We're Back to School!!

I can't believe how quickly this summer flew by! As I've talked to the other teachers, they feel the same way but they did a lot of fun, camping, etc. I stayed home and played with family and did a lot of sewing. One thing I did NOT do was work on lesson plans; at least until the last week of summer. Consequently, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Oh well...I'll get over it or something. :)

Today we started putting the Interactive Notebooks together. I'm adding some things which I hope will be valuable and help them with the Common Core Standards. Part of the ELA Common Core states students should be able to read informational text and determine meaning. I want them to be able to figure out what the author wants us to know and how we can make meaning to our lives. It's got to have a personal connection! In addition to reading newspaper articles, documentarries, etc., I think you can get a lot of practice reading and interpreting motivational quotes. So, I will be adding those to their notebooks. I found a great website via Pinterest that has "Doodle Pages" of great quotes. I debated whether to use these or not because I was afraid many would be coloring when they should be working on other assignments. I decided to give it a try and see how it goes; worse case scenario, I'll give them the quotes and they'll have to write them down themselves. (I will be having them write what it means to them and how they can use it in their lives, too.)

The first one I printed out was from Dr. Seuss in his GREAT book, Oh the Places You'll Go. (I LOVE that book!!)

I told them I truly believe they have the power to determine the direction their lives will take them. If they choose to do well in school, they can do it! Of course it will take work and effort but THEY CAN DO IT!! A lot of them were really excited about being able to color; others think "coloring is dumb!" Oh well...can't please them all. ;)
We then added the "Who Are You??" page I used last year on page 9. We'll add more tomorrow.
(SIDE NOTE: As I explained last year, I went with The Middle School Mouth's suggestion of using the acetate covered college-ruled notebooks. I bought 40 extra notebooks during the sales and told students I'd have them today if they wanted to bring money to purchase them from me. Between students who were unprepared (they owe me the money for the notebooks), got the wrong size (wide-ruled instead of college...there is a difference in size of the notebook and all my handouts are geared for the larger size), or just wanted me to do the shopping instead of them ;), I went threw ALL of them by 5th period!!! I took the ones I traded (wide-ruled) and ran to WalMart on my prep and brought back 15 more. By the end of 7th period, I have 3 left!!!!!!! Just call me the "WalMart Extension!!")

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Powerful Literature

As a junior high English teacher, I have the opportunity to introduce my students to some GREAT literature! It is the #1 reason I chose certainly wasn't for all the papers I have to grade!! :(

This year, I have built my units around the concept that ANYONE, even an 8th or 9th grader, can be someone's hero. It's really worked out GREAT and I think the kids are really getting it which is the best part of teaching!

In my HONORS ENGLISH 8 class, we've studied:
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

In my ENGLISH 9 classes, we've studied:
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Romeo & Juliet 

along with a variety of short stories

It's been a GREAT year with a lot of discussion around which character(s) could be viewed as a hero and what they did to earn that "title." I've always tried to tie it back to what THEY...the students...could do. I feel like I've pretty successful with most/all of the students.

After Spring Break in April, we began reading our last novel: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. It's the "sequel/spin-off/companion" novel to The Wednesday Wars. Without going into a lot of detail about either book, The Wednesday Wars is centered around a 7th grade boy named Holling Hoodhood and his 7th grade school year. He learns some powerful lessons from teachers and from studying Shakespeare. (YAY!!) In this book, there are several other students who are part of his adventures...both good and bad...and you really get to know and either love them or hate them. One of these boys is Doug Swieteck who is a bully in the beginning but eventually becomes someone Holling could consider a "sort of friend." Okay for Now is Doug's story as he moves away from Holling, the others, and Camillo Jr. High to Marysville, New York. We learn Doug's story from him...POWERFULLY written in as the first-person narration of an 8th grade boy who has a very rough life! He learns lessons from some great adults in his life and through the Audubon bird plates. We realize why Doug was a "bully" and come to love him!!

Today, we read an incredibly powerful scene in the novel. The students have had some amazing reactions to what they learned about Doug. The discussions have been FABULOUS!!!!!!!! I can't wait to continue and see how their understanding of the power of literature, text-to-self connections, deeper meaning, etc., etc., etc. I've also realized something I needed to be reminded of: Every child, every student, every adult, every teacher, EVERYONE...has a story! NO ONE is exempt from trials and crappy things that help shape us into the people we become. Sometimes, it takes persistence and a lot of hard work to figure out how to help someone but as teachers, adults, leaders, we can TRY to make a difference!!

NOTE: Even if you don't teach English, EVERYONE should read this book!!! I'd recommend reading The Wednesday Wars first but you don't have to...Okay for Now can be a "stand-alone" book.