Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Peek at My Week {March 22-29}

I decided to link up with Mrs. Laffin's Peek at my Week this week because...HOLLA! I'm on Spring Break!

Well, first of all, today is my birthday! I am getting dangerously close to the big 3-0.

So today my husband took me out to lunch at the winery, which was delicious. And we went shopping so I bought an outfit for tonight and my first pair of TOMS shoes (they are so comfy! Why didn't I buy them earlier?) And I am also going to order this pair online because Jonathan Adler designed them and they are adorable.

Tonight we are going to my favorite seafood restaurant with friends-yum!

Later this week, we are headed back home to spend time with family and also celebrate my birthday with them. Rox is excited to spend a few days at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Then Wed-Fri we are headed to Chicago. It'll be nice to get away. We're staying at the Palomar and have a city view room. We got tickets for the Second City comedy show and plan to hit up Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Modern Art. Hopefully the weather isn't too horrible while we're there.

I love that city so much!

So it looks to be a pretty fun week. I did not bring home any grading or planning--I plan to just relax and spend some time with family.

What do you all have going on this week?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Banned Book Celebration

I have mentioned many times before that we are studying censorship, specifically of reading material, this semester in my English III class to go along with our reading of F451.

My students each chose a banned or challenged book to read third quarter (I directed them to the ALA list of banned classics to start with. They didn't have to choose a "classic," but I told them it should be one that has literary merit. For instance, I accepted The Hunger Games but would not allow 50 Shades of Grey).

Later this year, they will write argumentative essays either supporting or disagreeing with banning their book of choice using support from outside sources.

They had to finish reading these books by last Friday, the end of 3rd quarter. Their weekly blog had to do with posting a book review of their book, and on Friday in class, we celebrated their books. I had each student do a 2-3 min. book talk, where they gave a brief synopsis of the book, followed by a summary of why/when the book was banned and whether or not they agree with banning it for these reasons. The vast majority of my students said no, they didn't agree with banning it. If anything. they thought some shouldn't be taught in the classroom, but rather made available for independent reading.

After each book talk, I snapped their photo holding their banned book. A couple kids chose to not have their faces in the picture, which was fine, so I took a photo of them holding the book which showed only their hands. I passed out colored slips of paper and had them write the title and author on it.

So here is my new bulletin board. I took it from a distance on purpose so that you couldn't see students' faces. Their photo is next to the slip of paper with their book title on it.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out! My students had fun looking at all their photos on display the next day. I thought it was a fun way to celebrate the books my students read and brighten up my classroom.

Do you teach any units on banned books?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fahrenheit 451: Using Lit Circles

451 degrees Fahrenheit...the temperate at which paper catches fire.

On Monday, we're going to start one of my favorite novels to teach - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I am teaching this book in the context of a bigger theme I've woven throughout this whole semester--censoring and banning books. I have mentioned on here before that my students read a banned book of their choosing third quarter. I actually have an activity I did with that that I will be posting on Monday. I'm excited to share!

In May, they will be writing argumentative essays on this topic as well. So we will be using Bradbury's novel to discuss censorship of reading material, not only today, but in the context of the 50s, which is when he wrote this book. Some of the predictions he made in that novel are creepily accurate today ("Sea shells" in everyone's ear all the time? What does that sound like ? Ear buds constantly plugged into our kids' ears?)

We haven't started it yet, but I plan to use lit. circles and discussion groups throughout our study of this book. Often, lit circles are used when different students are reading different books. However, I think it can work with one novel as well.

I split the kid into groups of four. They get to choose who has which role for each discussion; they can keep the same role the whole time or switch it up--they get to decide.

The roles are as follows (I have given an abridged description below):

1. Discussion leader: Comes up with seven critical thinking questions about that day's reading to ask the group. They cannot be simply comprehension questions. This person is in charge of keeping order in the group and taking questions to me.

2. Vocabulary wizard: Find ten unknown words in the reading to define, name the part of speech, list synonyms/antonyms and describe in context of the book. (Great role for the lower-level students in each group).

3. Quote selector: Find 5 meaningful or significant quotes in the reading, write them out, and write out the significance of each.

4. Summarizer: Write an original two-paragraph summary of main events and characters from that section.

On days when reading assignments are due, students will get in groups to discuss their writing assignments from above. This should take about half an hour. They have a form to fill out for this with an added section for group notes that they should take during discussion.

I wanted to make sure they were understanding the book and really getting as deep as I wanted them to. I worried that leaving ALL the discussion up to them might leave some necessary gaps. So for the last part of class, I will put 5 discussion questions on the board that I came up with, and they will first discuss in their groups, and then move to a full-class discussion. This way I can make sure we're all on the same page about what's going on. But hopefully the discussion groups will get more kids engaged in the discussion.

I'll report back on how this goes after we've tried it! What other tactics do you use for discussing a class-wide novel?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Working in supplemental informational text

Wow that's a pretty wordy title, but I wanted to be as specific as possible.

Today I thought I'd give an example of how I bring in some supplemental informational text, which is aligned with CCSS.

A lot of people read the CC standards and gasp "No more fiction! Only non-fiction! The horror!" And while CC does say about 60% of what high school students should be reading is informational text, that means ACROSS THE CURRICULUM. Meaning, 60% of your English class does NOT have to be strictly non-fiction.

Students are reading non-fiction (or informational text) in science, social studies, Spanish, foods, consumer get the idea! Most of what they read in other subjects is informational, not fiction. So it's OK to still teach a lot of fiction in English class.

But what CCSS would like us to do is bring in supplemental materials sometimes in addition to our fictional texts. It is actually fairly easy to find a non-fiction text that relates to something you're studying in fiction.

If you're reading Fahrenheit 451, students could read an article about the pros/cons of censoring books.

To go along with To Kill a Mockingbird, they could research the history of the "n" word or read the Jim Crow Laws, or a plethora of other ideas.

These are things you probably are already DOING in your novel units anyway without necessarily thinking of it like this.

I'm going to give you an example of a lesson I recently did that tied fiction and non-fiction together.

We have been doing an American Poets unit in my junior class, and we recently read "Birches" by Robert Frost. (I admit, I choose my favorite poems to teach my students. "Birches" is one of my absolute favorite poems EVER!)

So after we did our lesson analyzing the poem, I had them listen to JFK's speech at Amherst College which honored Robert Frost after his death in 1963:
{Hint: If you only want the part that talks about Frost, start it at 6:28}

 I give them a printed version of the text of the speech and have them annotate as they are listening/following along to show evidence of a close reading.

These are the specific instructions I gave them on their sheet (click to make larger)

After we listened to it, I let them go back through and take more time to add annotations if they couldn't keep up with the recording. After they did this, I brought it up on the Smart Board and had about 5 students mark their annotations in just the first three paragraphs. I talked about how THAT was the extent and amount of annotations I'd expect for the whole article.

Then for homework, they answered these close reading questions, which I put at the end of the speech:

 We started class the next day discussing their annotations, their answers to these questions, and relating with JFK said about art/poets/artists to Robert Frost specifically, as well as discussed his ideas in general. We talked about whether or not they feel our country is the kind of country JFK described in his speech.

All told, we spent about 1.5 class periods on this supplemental speech, but I am also using it next week to teach parallel structure, so it is killing like three birds with one stone :) 

This is just one example of how you can bring in informational text to supplement the fiction you are already doing, the fiction we want to be teaching.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I was so excited when I woke up and saw the March currently up on Farley's blog. Excited for a couple reasons:
1) This is the very first month I did Currently last year, so I've been doing this for a whole year now!
2) Maybe March means spring weather? Of course we're under a winter weather advisory and are getting 6-8" of snow tomorrow, so maybe not. But what's that saying? If March comes in like a lion.........

Listening....I just woke up so it's super quiet in the house. We have had so many humongo icicles on our house lately!

Loving....I opened my TpT store a couple weeks ago. I already have two sales! Plus a ton of free downloads. Woohoo! I need to work on getting more products in it. I have a TON of stuff I could put on there, but it's all saved on my work computer and I always forget to save it to a jump drive and bring it home.

Thinking....Like I explained, SNOW tomorrow. NO. 

Wanting....I usually try and get a massage 4 times a year. They are pricey or I would be getting those babies monthly. Well I haven't had one since last APRIL! Sad panda :( I need to find the time and money to do it.

Needing.....Got lots of essays to grade this weekend. At least I'll be snowed in?

???????? Sort of random. Let's see if you can guess.