One thing that I have noticed about the APPR rubric is that in order to get a “4” (high distinction), it’s necessary to make the classes more student driven than teacher driven. A tall order for someone who likes to feel in control of what’s going on in the classroom! I did, though, turn to the students for input as to what kinds of non-fiction ideas they had to go with the literature we’d be working with in the second through fourth quarters (I had already planned out the first quarter before school began).
I approached it using two Visible Thinking exercises.
First, I played the Opening Ceremonies from the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London. Sadly, the video I used has been removed from YouTube as the 2012 Olympic extravaganza has been released as a DVD. Money to be made, I suppose. However, I was fortunate enough to tap into the video before its disappearance. We watched the opening sequence that involved the pastoral setting of the early British Isles, including the traditional songs sung by the children in each of the countries of Great Britain. We continued watching through the Kenneth Branagh and Industrial Revolution sequence all the way to the forging of the One Ring to Rule Them All.
While they were watching, the students did a “See/Think/Wonder” routine, and the topic was to look for evidence of the arts (poetry, literature, music, dance), factual information (history), and the sciences (engineering, physics, etc). The picture is the collection of their observations and thoughts that they shared about the Opening Ceremony.
After sharing their observations, their task was to examine how the arts, history and science were woven together to create such a spectacle. The idea was to come up with ways to integrate literature and informational text so as to create an English 9 experience that would blend together as smoothly as the Olympic Ceremony.
The next step was to have each student come up with an idea for some kind of informational texts we might use to accompany The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, and Frankenstein. I gave them more Post-It Notes, and each shared ideas for what we might be able to incorporate that would help us to meet the Common Core Standards and the PARCC framework.
For The Odyssey, one of my favorites was to look at stories about soldiers returning from war in Afghanistan. I ended up expanding upon the idea to have them choose a war and learn about how soldiers adjusted upon their return. I also gave them the option of investigating how those at home dealt with life while loved ones served or, like after Odysseus left Troy, became MIA.
Romeo and Juliet brought the expected teen suicide ideas, so we will be brainstorming that one again as we get closer to the third quarter.
With Frankenstein, we will look at the early 19th century horror of the thought of reanimating dead tissue is now an every day occurrence on modern operating tables, as well as the modern shuddering at stem cell research.
These ideas came from the kids, and because they have invested their own ideas, I expect that they shall put forth greater effort than if I had announced these same topics.