Tag Archives: English 9 Regents

English 9 Regents: Analyzing Atmosphere in Film

I had my regents kids prepare for a Visible Thinking exercise in their journals with the heading “Creating Atmosphere in Film”.  My students then watched the following video, “Lovefield” by Mathieu Ratthe, and as they were doing so, I asked them to write down ten things they noticed in the film that created a specific atmosphere (they had to use “tone” words with the descriptions).

After the film, they shared what they noticed with a partner in the room.  They then had to return to their seats and write three things they thought about the film and three things they wondered.   We then shared ideas using the routine I’d set up during the year: a different colored Post-It note for See/Think/Wonder.

Lovefield STW

Their writing task was to explain in a three-chunk paragraph how director Mathieu Ratthe effectively created a misleading atmosphere which led to situational irony at the end of the piece.

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Filed under Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Regents, Visible Thinking

English 9 Regents: Art and “The Most Dangerous Game”

Look at both of the following paintings:

MostDangerousGameShipwreck

The Most Dangerous Game by Anonymous

sirens_cove

Sirens Cove found on deviantART (yet no artist attributed)

 

SEE:

Students list five very specific details they see in each painting, and then share their lists with a partner.  Any details that they have in common are marked with a checkmark (so that less obvious details stand out to them for later).

THINK:

Students put three things they think about the painting represents some aspect of “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell.

WONDER:

Students put three things they wonder about the painting represents some aspect of the short story.

Students each get one Post-It Note.  One color for each: See, Think, or Wonder.  Students then share Post-It Notes.

MDG

WRITING:

Students will write a three chunk paragraph about how the paintings are a representation of some aspect of the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell.   Along with mentioning details from both paintings in their paragraphs, they must also cite correlating text from the short story as support for their claim.

The idea was to get the students to make a connection between the Sirens episode in The Odyssey and how General Zaroff lures ships–and subsequently sailors– to his island so that he might kill them.

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English 9 Regents: Part III- Organizing Evidence-Based Claims

The next part of the Evidence-Based Claims unit is Organizing Evidence-Based Claims.  As I looked over this particular worksheet, I noticed a similarity to work that I have done previously when we worked on the research papers.  The Organizing Evidence-Based Claims worksheet allows for an expanded claim that includes two points, and then the two points are separated out so that evidence may be given in support of each point.  This is like the thesis statements we created during the research project.  Students had to make a claim (take a position) about a topic, and then back it up with two reasons (signposts) why the reader should agree with them.

What I have here is the progression of two students from Forming EBCs, to Making EBCs, and finally Organizing EBCs.   You can see the growth in the train of thought as they worked through paragraphs 7-12 of Plato’s “Apology.”

Jessica’s progress: Forming EBCs

Jessie 1

I questioned Jess’s use of the word “unique” in her claim.  What was it she was really trying to say about Socrates at that point?  I also asked for pronoun clarification.  Who is the “they” she is referring to?

Jessica: Making EBCs

Jessie 2

While the first claim may be an improvement over “Socrates is unique…,”  the evidence she offers does not support her new claim.  Neither evidence #1 or #3 really support how people can “benefit from his teachings.”  I asked Jess to go back into the text to come up with stronger evidence if she still wanted to make that claim.  The second claim was confusing because of the spelling error (“believes” instead of “beliefs”).  I thought this was stronger than either of the original claims, so I asked her to think more deeply about Claim 2.

 Jessica: Organizing EBCs

Jessie 3

By the time Jessica got to this page, she had re-thought her claim and was able to come up with an expanded version that had to clear points that she could defend.   Her textual evidence is also stronger than it had been in the Forming EBC stage.  She is now ready to write.

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Lauren’s Progression:  Forming EBCs

Lauren 1

Lauren’s claim is confusing because of the pronoun usage (“them” and “they”) and wordiness.   Her thinking and evidence are fine, but she needs to be more concise and precise in her claim.

Lauren: Making EBCs

Lauren 2

Lauren amended her claim in the first set, yet I encouraged her to use stronger diction than “killing him would not be a good idea.”   She obviously put a lot of thought into her second claim because you can see that she used WhiteOut to make changes.   This demonstrates that she is thinking and making adjustments as she is working.

Lauren: Organizing EBCs

Lauren 3

Lauren went a bit overboard and tried to incorporate everything from the Making EBC worksheet.  The result is a confusing, wordy claim.  I am asking her to trim down the wordiness and get to the heart of what it is that she wants to say.  I would still like her to rephrase “killing him would not be a good idea.”  Once she does that, then Lauren will be ready to write.

___________________________________________________________

Once they have completed the Organizing EBC worksheets and revised them a bit from my feedback, the students went head-to-head with their partners in a dry run of what they intend to write in a paragraph.  I asked them to work in pairs, giving impromptu “speeches” to their partners using their claims as the thesis, and the points as signposts.  They had to attempt to convince their partner to agree with their claim.

The partners, while they were listening, had to decide whether or not they were convinced to agree with the speaker and then back that up with reasons why (or why not).  They had to refer to the textual evidence given as support for the argument to determine its strength and clarity.  They also had to critique the speaker’s argument for its logic and progression.  Finally, the listener had to write down three clarifying questions for the speaker.  The homework for the speaker , then, was to write a response to the three questions while also revisiting his/her argument in preparation for an essay.

The partners then reversed roles so that everyone left the room with three questions to answer.  When they come in next class, they will be permitted to use the worksheets, their question responses, and their text to write an essay in support of their chosen claim.

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English 9 Regents: Part II- Making Evidence Based Claims

After having the kids repeat the steps for paragraphs 3-6 of Plato’s “Apology” that they’d done for the first two paragraphs (RHA, paraphrase, answer questions, form EBC), we moved on to the next step in the process: MAKING Evidence Based Claims.

At first I struggled with how this was different from the FORMING Evidence Based Claims worksheet.  It seemed as if the whole thing was redundant, but it’s actually not.

In the first worksheet, students must come to a conclusion AFTER examining the text closely (“I see this; therefore, I am able to claim that.”)  The second worksheet asks the students to make two claims about what they have read first, and THEN go back to look for evidence to support the claims (“I claim this, and this supports what I think.”)   It’s a different type of thinking.

Here are two student examples:

Alyssa Making EBC Paragraph 3-6

Before Alyssa could fill in the claim section of the sheet, she had to think about what she had read.  Since we had done a Forming EBC sheet, she already had one claim in mind to work with.  However, by the time we got to this sheet, she had changed her claims.  These two claims are stronger than her original on her Forming EBC sheet (“Socrates trusts the Gods but finds himself questioning him in terms of him being the wisest or how his devotion to him limits him in life.  He is not most in repute but those who are happen to be way to full of themselves.”)  Her original claim was too wordy, and it was full of confusing pronoun usage.  I asked her to be more concise and precise in making her claims.  As you can see, she did make changes, and the claims are easier to support.

____________________________________________________________

Ethan Making EBC Paragraph 3-6

Before Ethan filled out this sheet, he had not made a claim on his Forming EBC worksheet; the sheet was blank.  Therefore, it gave him no starting point when attempting to make an EBC.  As a result, it is evident that he did not clearly understand what he’d read in those four paragraphs because Ethan claims that “Socrates is the wisest man.”  When pressed to support this claim, Ethan cites the Oracle’s response to the question of whether or not Socrates is the wisest man: “There is no man wiser” (Plato, line 43).  This is where both Ethan AND Socrates got confused.

______________________________________________________________

Socrates

I drew the little picture on the board (no artist am I), and then I asked the students, “Which of these do you suppose the Oracle really meant?”  and I let them argue a bit about it.  Then I told them what I thought it meant.  By interpreting the Oracle’s words to mean that since “there is no man wiser” (Plato, line 43), then Socrates must be the wisest man on earth, that is jumping to conclusions.  What both Socrates and Ethan need to learn is to really pay attention to the words that the Oracle used.   What Socrates later learned after going around and questioning different people and testing their wisdom against his and coming to the conclusion that these so-called wise people were no wiser than he was, and he did not consider himself at all wise, then there IS no man wiser than Socrates or any other man for that matter.   This kind of “taking things literally” and jumping to conclusions is actually the kind of thinking that this whole “Evidence Based Claims” unit is all about addressing.  I may not have been very pleased when I first saw the choice for this unit because I really thought that it was going to be too far above the heads of 9th graders.  After beginning to work with it, I am very happy to report that I do think this is an appropriate piece, and I will use it again in the future.

_________________________________________________________________

After the students finished their Making Evidence Based Claims worksheets, the next class I gave each student two Post-It notes using two colors (one for “Claim” and one for “Evidence”).  I asked them to look over the Making EBC worksheet, and choose the stronger of the two claims they had made and write that claim on their pink Post-It.   Then they had to examine the three pieces of evidence they had found to support that claim, and choose the strongest piece of evidence they had and write that on the yellow Post-It.  Once they had both Post-Its filled out, we were ready to start.

I started by pulling one students name from the deck of 3×5 cards that I used throughout the year (These cards have their names, contact info, textbook numbers, and I keep track of who worked in what group and also what topics they had for research, what Shakespearean speech they memorized, etc).  This is an effective way for me to call on kids so that nobody zones out.  It’s also how I call on “volunteers” when no one raises a hand to answer a question.  Anyhow, after I called on the first student, he/she read the claim on their pink Post-It and stuck it under “Claim” on the front board.  I then asked, “OK, who has the same claim as ___?”  Those with the same claim came forward and put their Post-Its next to the one already on the board.  I then pulled another card, that claim was stuck below the last one.  I once again asked who had the same claim, and the entire process was repeated until everyone had a claim on the board.

Then it was time to deal with the evidence.  I read out loud Claim #1 and asked all those who’d made that claim to come forward with their evidence to support the claim (for the first one, five people made that claim, so I had there ended up being five pieces of evidence brought forward).  I had the students read their evidence to the class and post it on the board.  Once we heard all five pieces of evidence (two of them were repeats, so it actually boiled down to three different quotations), I asked the students to decide which of the evidence provided BEST supported the claim.  All those who believed that quote 1 was the best were sent to one corner of the room, those who voted for #2 went to another corner, and the same for quote 3.   I then began with group 1 and asked them to support WHY they thought that particular quotation was stronger than the other two.  Once I had two responses, I turned to the other groups and said, “Ok, go ahead and tell those folks why YOUR choice of quotation is stronger than theirs.”

For several of the claims, I noticed that we had huge crowds in the corners that had selected the most obvious statements as the strongest support.  For example, five students claimed that “Socrates believes he is not the wisest man.”   Of the evidence, one of the quotations was, “I know that I have no wisdom,” and most students voted that as the strongest piece of textual evidence.  When I asked them how they would expand on the quote to explain how it supports the claim, the best they could come up with was that Socrates came right out and said it.  When I told them that it does not leave much room for analysis to go with the obvious, it led to a pretty good argument… and it ended up being between students, not between me and students.   As we shared evidence, we also drew lines to connect particular quotes that could support one or more of the given claims.  By the time we finished, the board looked like this:

Making EBC Par 3-6

Ultimately what I am trying to do is to get kids to think before they choose quotes to add to their writing as support.  I have been telling them since September about the differences between grades of ground beef.  You can buy 70/30, 80/20, or 95/5.   All can be used to make meatloaf; however, when all is said and done, which pan of meatloaf is really going to end up more of a soggy mess from all the fat?  Everyone agreed that using 70/30 ground beef was going to produce more grease and a smaller meatloaf dinner for the family.   It’s still meatloaf, it’s still edible, but it just isn’t going to be the same, or as healthy, as the 95/5 variety.   That’s how I feel about how they go about choosing supporting evidence for their writing.  I have been saying all year, “Give me the meat, not the fat!”

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English 9 Regents: Part I- Forming Evidence-Based Claims

Days 1-3 (Part I of the Odell unit):

Students independently read/highlighted/annotated (RHA-ed), and I had them paraphrase sentence-by-sentence,  the first two paragraphs of “Apology” by Plato.   I then posed three questions that they had to respond to using only information from the eleven sentences that they’d read.  All responses had to have textual evidence appropriately embedded and cited within them, and students had to explain their answers.  The questions asked were:

1.  What is Socrates accused of?

2.  How does Socrates make it clear that he is innocent?

3.  How does Socrates distinguish himself from other teachers?

After rating their responses (each question was out of 10 points), I returned their papers so that they could use them for the next activity.

We first went over a model of a Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet that related to question 2 (the claim made on the model is: Socrates believes that he is innocent).   We looked at how the responder chose three pieces of textual evidence that seemed to go together, explained what he/she thought about each quotation, briefly discussed the connection, and then- finally- made a definite claim about the textual evidence.  I then had the students go head-to-head with a partner, and instructed half the class to work with the claims made in question 1 (above) and the other half to work with question 3.   This way, everyone had something tangible to work with that they had already put some thought into.

Using their paraphrases and responses to the questions, the students then filled out a Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet.

Brandon Forming EBC Paragraph 1-2

 

This is Brandon’s response to question three (How does Socrates distinguish himself from other teachers?).  He needs to work on making a stronger claim by telling us HOW, not just THAT Socrates is different.  However, his first two “thoughts” show promise for some decent support.  The third “thought” shows that he didn’t really get what Socrates was saying about teachers and being paid.  I will give Brandon this feedback that I am putting here, and then I will look for growth in his next Forming EBC worksheet for paragraphs 3-6.

________________________________________________________

 

Robby Forming EBC Paragraph 1-2

This is Robby’s response to question 1 (What is Socrates accused of?).  In this claim, you can see that Robby takes the extra step of giving more than one thing that Socrates is accused of.   His claim has more “meat” to it than Brandon’s; however, his first choice of details to support the claim is taken out of context.  I will suggest that he stick to stronger textual evidence to better back up his claim.

_________________________________________________________

Just before they began work, I asked the students to examine the language in the left-hand column of the worksheet.  The first box tells them to “Find details” in the text.  This is something I have asked them to do all year, except that I used different phrasing.  In previous textual exercises (such as with Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech in Act I, scene iv of Romeo and Juliet), I had asked them to write down ten things they SEE in his speech (quotations) that reveal something about Mercutio’s character.  This is the same exercise using a preformed worksheet instead of just a list from 1-10 (I usually make them come up with ten details, share their ideas with a partner, and check off the things they have in common because those are usually the obvious details).  This worksheet asks for three.

The second box tells them to “Connect the details” and explain what they think about what they have selected.  I have also asked students to come up with three things they THINK about what they have seen/heard/read in any of the activities.   For the Romeo and Juliet exercise mentioned above, students had to come up with three things they thought about Mercutio’s character based on the text they selected.

The last box asks students to “Make a claim” about what they have written.  This is a variation of the final piece of a Visible Thinking activity that we have worked with all year… what the student WONDERS based on what he has read and thought.

Once I explained the worksheet as a SEE/THINK/WONDER exercise, the students had a much easier time determining what it was that they were supposed to put in the boxes.   Also, because we have done this exercise routinely throughout the year, I saw fairly strong responses as opposed to the ones in the model provided by Odell.

Based on the correlations above, it is my claim that whoever created this worksheet has some training or background in Visible Thinking activities.

 

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English 9 Regents: Power in a Blank Sheet of Paper– An Anti-Bullying Exercise

First of all, I want to admit that I got the idea for this exercise from a teacher on FaceBook.  Secondly, I want to say that this was probably the most powerful lesson in Symbolism that I have ever given in my 15 years of teaching, and I intend to use this from now on to introduce the concept.

I teach 9th grade English, and I’ve been working using Visible Thinking tactics to better reach my students.  As a lead in to the short story “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst, I wanted to find an exercise that would teach students about the power of symbolism in literature.   Who says that FaceBook has no value other than social networking?

I had students take out their writing journals and a clean sheet of paper.  In the journals, they had to put the heading “Symbolism” at the top.  They were then instructed to look closely at the clean sheet of paper sitting on their desks and to write (in the journals) anything that they saw about the paper.  They had to preface the notes with “I see…”.  I then asked them to preface a few sentences with “I think…” as they continued to look at the blank sheet of paper.  The kids looked at me like I was nuts, but they wrote in their journals anyway.

As soon as they finished writing, I told them to take the sheet of paper and crumple it up.  They could stomp on it, they could pound it, they could bite it… but they just could not tear it in any way.  That they got into.  Kids were balling up the sheets, throwing them on the floor and jumping on them.  One put the wad of paper into his mouth and chewed on it (I had to tell him to be careful about ripping it).  Then I had them put the wadded paper on the desk in front of them and repeat the writing exercise.  They had to preface each section with “I see…” and “I think…”.  They seemed to have more to say this time because it took them a bit longer to do the writing piece.

Once they finished that, I asked them to very, very carefully (so as not to rip it) unfold the crumpled ball and flatten it out as best they could.  While they were doing that, I instructed them to say, “I’m sorry” to the piece of wadded up paper.  Ok, so some kids got silly with it and started kissing the paper while apologizing, but they managed to get them opened up without tears.  Some were trying to use the edge of their desks to run the paper along it to try to flatten it.  Once they were ready, I had them repeat the writing exercise, prefacing with “I see…” and “I think…”, but this time I added the extra component of “I wonder…”.

After they finished that portion of the exercise, they then had to write their own definition of Symbolism… whatever they thought that Symbolism meant.   As a sign that they were completely done writing, I told them to hold their symbols high in the air (the pieces of paper).   When all students had the papers over their heads, I told them to now hold the paper right in front of their face and look at it while I talked.

As they looked at their papers filled with creases and footprints and, in some cases, saliva, I told them that they were looking at a symbol of a bullied person.    The creases in the paper symbolized the effects of bullying, and even though the paper was still whole and as completely usable as its unmarred counterparts still in the notebook, it will never be exactly as it was before it was crumpled.   I told them to remember that even though they said, “I’m sorry” to the paper as they were unfolding it, no amount of apologies could take away the scars left behind.  The creases may lesson over time, but they will never fully go away… much like the hateful behavior left behind by bullies.  Unkind words and brutal actions leave their mark, even if the one who did it says, “I’m sorry”, or “I was just kidding…”.   Kids sometimes just do not realize the power of words, especially negative ones.

I then asked them to write on the crumpled sheets of paper about the exercise.  I wanted them to write once more, “I see…”, “I think…”, and “I wonder…” after they were told about the meaning of the symbols.  I also asked them to not only explain how the exercise was carried out, but to write about the effectiveness of symbolism based on this exercise.

As I explained this, some kids laughed.  Some kids got very quiet and then hurriedly picked up their pens and started writing when prompted.  Some put their crumpled papers down and just looked lost in thought for a bit.

One in particular hung his head down, staring at the blank paper.  It was a boy who had been bullied by many of those same kids sitting in that room at the moment, and I’d had all four administrators come to the room to address the issue.  Of course, I’d made sure that the young man was not in the room at the time they came in.    I knew going into the exercise that this was going to impact him, but I felt it was an important lesson, especially the part about still being whole in spite of the creases.   I also asked the students to carefully fold up the pieces of paper and put them in their pockets to take with them and to look at from time to time throughout the day.  That one boy was very meticulous about folding his paper and putting it in the pocket of his binder.  I also asked that they share the exercise with their parents and ask them to sign the paper so that they could be returned to me the next day.

Bullying 1Bullying 2

I have been holding onto these signed pieces of paper for five months.  Many may have forgotten about the exercise, so I will remind them when I return the pages to them before Spring Break.

All in all, I felt that it was a very powerful exercise.  Sometimes people don’t realize just how much power their unkind words can carry… and now I hope that some will make that connection and stop the crumpling.  Even if only a couple of kids got the message, that’s a couple fewer potential bullies for the time being.

I hope and I pray, though, that there will be a whole lot fewer for life.

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English 9 Regents: Persuasive Writing Related to The Odyssey

This is the research unit that I did with my Regents students.  We took ten class days to prepare for writing the research paper.  The first class was for explaining the process in advance, and the remaining nine classes are outlined below.

Research Paper: War and The Odyssey

 

Your assignment is to create a critical thinking paper; a thoughtful answer to a question of your own devising (which you have cleared with me in advance), based on your own interpretation of specific passages in your research articles and The Odyssey.   Your interpretation should be defended with logical arguments. Clarity and organization in the presentation of your argument are crucial, both to the persuasiveness of your paper and to your grade.

 

You will have a choice between the two following general topics:

  1.  Soldiers returning home from war (any war except the Trojan War)
  2. Loved ones and families of those who went to war and either have yet to return (MIAs and POWs) or who never returned

 

Your task will be to narrow down the topic to a specific war in history, and then create a specific “yes” or “no” question about that topic (see later in these notes for examples).  Once you have the questions formulated (to which the answer is either “yes” or “no”), take your position (in other words, answer your own question).  Once you have your position, you need to come up with three reasons why you answered the way you did (these will become your signposts).  As soon as you finally have your question, your position, and your reasons for your position, you are ready to write your thesis statement.

 

Class activities preparing for writing the paper:

Activity 1:  Writing three questions to which the answer is either “yes” or “no” that relates to soldiers returning from a specific war, or families who await(ed) word on loved ones in a particular war

Activity 2:  Library visit to find sources that will provide information about the selected war as well as finding both “yes” and “no” answers to their questions.  They will then have to decide which of the three questions will be the focus of their paper.  Students need five sources that will both support and provide a counter argument against their position on the question.  No more than two sources may come from the World Wide Web; they may use the electronic databases that the school purchases, or they may use books (but NO encyclopedias of any kind, either print or electronic).

Activity 3:  Taking a clear position and creating a thesis statement with three solid signposts.  Students are then told that they will have a body paragraph for each signpost as well as one body paragraph that will give background information about the war they have chosen (for a minimum of four body paragraphs for the essay).

Activity 4:  Using the five sources, students will create five bibliography cards and number them in the upper right-hand corner.  Students will then put the cards in alphabetical order, therefore creating a preliminary Works Cited list.

Activity 5:  Students must create 50 note cards, taking ten concrete details from each source.  If they cannot get ten details to support and/or argue against their position from a particular source, then the source isn’t strong enough and they have to find another one.  Each note card must contain a direct quotation (concrete detail or CD), and the corresponding number from the source’s bibliography card also goes in the upper right-hand corner of each note card.   Students must also mark in the upper left-hand corner which signpost paragraph the CD supports/argues against or if it goes in the “war background” paragraph.

Activity 6:  Connections to The Odyssey.  For those writing about a soldier returning home from war, the students must find connections to the journey home for Odysseus and relate it to the soldiers returning from war that they are targeting in their paper.   For those writing about loved ones waiting for the return of a soldier, you may focus on either Penelope or Telemachus.   Make note cards for each connection (copy lines that you could possibly embed).  These will be new CDs (at least ONE per signpost).

Activity 7:   Students will divide their 50 note cards into 4 piles (one for each of the aforementioned body paragraphs) based on the notations in the upper left-hand corner of the cards.   By doing so, they will see if they have unbalanced details/research based on the number of cards per pile.  If they have no cards for a particular pile (because they have no CDs to support that particular signpost or information about the war), they know that they will have to return to the research process to find information and make additional cards (including a new bibliography card, if necessary).  They will then choose one of the four piles pile and lay the cards out in front of them.   From there, students must discard 50% of that pile’s CDs that they had originally come up with.  This is where they have to be more discerning about the details that will ultimately end up in the paper (BUT they must keep all cards to show the process they went through).  Repeat for remaining three piles.

Activity 8:   For all the “keeper” cards in the Note Card piles, students will go through and highlight the key phrases from the sentences they’d copied (CDs) to use as embedded quotations.  There will be no “sentence plops” in the paper!

Activity 9:  Students will create a topic sentence outline for the overall paper.  First, students must come up with a “hook” to use as an opener for the introduction of the paper…they must get the reader’s (my) attention and make me want to read what they’ve written.  Choices of hooks include: imagery, an anecdote, a pithy quotation, or a shocking statistic.   All that has to go on the outline is the first sentence or two that they are thinking of using as an opening.  They must then include their improved thesis statement.  From there, they have to outline the body.  They will provide the topic sentence for each body paragraph as well as the sentences embedding the choice of concrete details from their Note Cards (see example below):

A.  Topic Sentence for first signpost

1.   Sentence with embedded quotation of strong support for argument as CD1 (cited).

2.  Sentence with embedded quotation of strong support for argument as CD2 (cited).

3.  Sentence with embedded quotation of counter argument as CD3 (cited).

4.  Sentence with embedded quotation refuting counter argument as CD4 (cited).

5.  Sentence with embedded quotation from The Odyssey making a connection to the topic as CD5 (cited).

Concrete details from Note Cards will have been further pared down to a minimum of five CDs per paragraph.

Once students have finished with their topic sentence outlines, they go on to finish writing the essay by filling in the paragraphs with their commentary.  Final essays due in four weeks, which gives students plenty of time to see me with any questions or problems.

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English 9 Regents: Plato’s “Apology”

Odell LogoOdell Education has created model Making Evidence-Based Claims units for ELA grades 6-12.  For English 9, the chosen work of informational text is Plato’s “Apology.”  The link to the left will take you to the files for this particular unit, and I will be working with my English 9 Regents students on this piece in the 4th quarter.

The unit includes day-by-day lesson plans for close reading and is broken into five parts, each with a suggested number of classes for implementation:

Part I:  “Understanding Evidence-Based Claims”  (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Introduction to the unit

– Activity 2: Independent reading

– Activity 3: Read Aloud and Class Discussion

– Activity 4: Model Forming EBCs

Part II:  “Making Evidence-Based Claims” (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Independent reading and finding supportive evidence

– Activity 2: Read aloud and class discussion

– Activity 3: Find supporting evidence in pairs

– Activity 4: Class discussion of EBCs

– Activity 5: Forming EBCs in pairs

Part III:  “Organizing Evidence-Based Claims”  (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Independent reading and forming EBCs

– Activity 2: Read aloud

– Activity 3: Model organizing EBCs

– Activity 4: Organizing EBCs in pairs

– Activity 5: Class discussion of student EBCs

Part IV:  “Writing Evidence-Based Claims”   (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1:  Independent reading and making EBCs

– Activity 2:  Model writing EBCs

– Activity 3:  Writing EBCs in pairs

– Activity 4:  Class discussion of written EBCs

– Activity 5:  Read aloud and class discussion

– Activity 6:  Independent writing of EBCs

Part V:  “Evidence-Based Writing” (1-2 classes)

– Activity 1:  Independent reading and making EBCs

– Activity 2:  Class discussion of global EBCs

– Activity 3:  Pairs discuss their EBCs

– Activity 4:  Independent writing of the final piece

– Activity 5:  Class discussion of the final writing pieces

In all, the suggested unit length is 5-14 full classes focusing on a 17 paragraph passage.    I think this unit would be better served at the beginning of the year when I am targeting particular writing skills overall.  The skills are the key here, not this particular text selection.

One issue that I would like to address is that of spending 5-14 classes on one particular short passage.   While close reading is key and students need to pay attention to what they read, standardized testing does not reflect this practice.

According to test previews that we have been allowed to peruse, the upcoming exams look like they will be given in 90 minute increments over a three day period.  If the high school tests are going to be anything like the middle school tests being administered April 16-18, 2013, then the format looks as if it will be as follows:

Day 1:  (Test Book 1) reading followed by 42 multiple choice questions (I have heard, but it has not yet been confirmed, that the readings will be an excerpt from a novel, a poem, and an informational piece);

Day 2:  (Test Book 2) reading followed by 21 multiple choice questions AND (Test Book 3) reading and writing with three short-response questions and one extended-response question (I have not heard yet what the day 2 readings will be);

Day 3:  (Test Book 4) reading and writing five short-response questions and one extended response question (again, I have heard that the students will read five articles, respond to each, and then use information from the articles to write an essay… in other words, a Document Based Question (DBQ).

My concern is that with all the time being asked for close reading in the classroom (5-14 DAYS for “Apology”… I think 4-5 DAYS were set aside for Lincoln’s 278-word “Gettysburg Address” in the earlier model units), the students will come to expect that kind of time to spend on reading.  When they are faced with multiple passages in a 90 minute time frame, I am wondering how they will handle the time-added pressure on an already high stakes test.  While it is important to read closely, students also need to learn to read and comprehend in shorter time periods, mirroring testing situations.  To consistently do close reading at a snail’s pace gives students a false sense of how long they will have to complete tasks on standardized tests.   It seems as if we are sending mixed messages, and the students will be the ones who suffer from it.

Just my opinion.

However, I will try Odell’s unit and work with my Regents students on Plato’s “Apology” in an effort to enhance evidence-based writing skills.

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English 9: English Speaking Union Shakespeare Competition

English Speaking Union competition

Each year, regional branches of the English Speaking Union holds local contests in preparation for the National Shakespeare Competition held in Washington, DC.

This year, I held a Shakespeare contest at Webster Schroeder, and students had to memorize and perform a 20 line monologue or soliloquy from one of the Bard’s plays, as well as one of his sonnets.  Sadly, because we found out about the local contest late and had to rush to hold a school contest, our competition was not as successful as I had hoped (attendance-wise).  However, we did have a winner, Stephanie Bertman go on to represent Webster Schroeder at the regional competition held in Rochester.

While Stephanie did not win the regional contest, she did gain some wonderful experience in both public speaking and familiarity with the language of the Bard.  She did credit to Ophelia’s mad scene in Hamlet, Act IV, scene v, and she worked very hard on Sonnet #71.  I am hoping that she will continue to work on her familiarity with Shakespeare and try out again next year!

The contest was covered by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and their article specifically mentions Stephanie’s performance (click on our picture below for the link)!  Way to represent Schroeder, Stephanie!

Stephanie is one of my English 9 Regents students!

Stephanie Bertman and Me

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English 9 Regents: The Hobbit WebQuest (The Goblins)

Welcome members of the Great Goblin’s group!  You will need to collaborate on each of the following to complete your web quest.

Day 1:  Characterization

Each member must complete ONE of the following for the Great Goblin’s character:

–  A physical description of the Great Goblin (with hand-drawn, labeled picture based on textual information)

–  A two chunk paragraph with textual support describing the basic characteristics of goblins

–  A two chunk paragraph with textual support describing two positive character traits of the Great Goblin (use parenthetical documentation)

–  A two chunk paragraph with textual support describing two negative character traits of the Great Goblin (use parenthetical documentation)

Goblins  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goblin

Encyclopedia of Arda: Goblins  http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.asp?url=http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/g/goblins.html

The Grey Havens: The Relationship Between Orcs and Goblins  http://tolkien.cro.net/orcs/goblins.html

Day 2:  Creature Features

All members of the group will do the following:

Using the links below, find out all you can about Wargs.  One person in your group will illustrate a warg based on your findings (not the same artist for the characterization!).   The remaining members will EACH write a two chunk paragraph describing the various characteristics and habits of Wargs.  Make sure to consult with one another so that you have different responses! 

Encyclopedia of Arda: Wargs

http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.asp?url=http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/w/wargs.html

Wargs  http://www.santharia.com/bestiary/warg.htm

Wikipedia: Wargs  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wargs

Day 3:  Specialties: Those Goblins just love their dark, underground world and making trouble for anyone who dares enter into it!  No wonder they are such fierce warriors!

Each member will complete ONE of the following:

– Celebrations: Select (or create) a holiday that would have been celebrated by Goblins.  In three two-chunk paragraphs, describe the significance of the holiday as well as activities that all good Goblins would engage in!

Celebrating the Seasons

*NOTE: this site lists ancient, earth-based holidays such as those that would probably have been celebrated in Middle Earth.  The information is for accuracy of the setting of the novel and is not intended to support or challenge any religious beliefs.  http://www.circlesanctuary.org/pholidays/PaganHolidays.html

– Warfare:  Goblin war tactics are not only fierce, they are often not fair!  Examine the links below and gather information about other battles that have taken place in Middle Earth (even those not in The Hobbit).  In three two-chunk body paragraphs (you still have to write an intro and a conclusion), describe the tactics of the Goblins in three other battles in Middle Earth.

Telroth’s Tower: Middle Earth War Tactics  http://www.djcl.com/telroth/tactics3.html

Tolkien’s Middle Earth Battles  http://larsen-family.us/~1066/

– Spelunking:  Batman is not the only one who loves spelunking!  Goblins live for it!  Examine the links below and then create at least three two-chunk body paragraphs (don’t forget an intro and a conclusion) about the best places to spelunk and why.

 

Wikipedia: Spelunking  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spelunking

Chimney Mountain and Eagle Cave  http://www.steuben.org/hobbies/ChimneyMountain/index.html

On-line Tour of Howe Caverns  http://www.howecaverns.com/

– Swords/Weaponry:  Goblins are also not-so-skillful makers of weapons: axes, swords, instruments of torture.  Examine the links below, and then write at least three two-chunk body paragraphs (don’t forget an intro and a conclusion) about the history and process of sword and other weapon-making.

 

Sword Making   http://www.anvilfire.com/FAQs/swords_faq_index.htm

Medieval Weaponry   http://www.palos118.org/South/curriculum/team6c/midages/weaponry/index.htm

Day 4:  Riddles and Songs

Everyone in the group must do ALL of the following:

    –  In Chapter 5, Gollum and Bilbo have a riddle contest deep in the underground tunnels of Misty Mountain.  Their riddles use clues and hints to try to describe a specific thing. 

Read and, in a one-chunk paragraph, explain each of the following riddles from Bilbo and Gollum’s contest:

What has roots as nobody sees,

                         Is taller than trees,

                                  Up, up it goes,

                                  And yet never grows?

 

                         Thirty white horses on a red hill,

                                   First they champ,

                                  Then they stamp,

                         Then they stand still.

 

     –  Choose a common object and brainstorm as many qualities as you can about it.  Then, using rhyme, devise a four-lined to eight-lined riddle using the traits of the object that would stump even Bilbo! 

Looking at Riddle Formation  http://www.geocities.com/d_champions_hall/ezine/article2.htm

– Even the underground, grubby goblins aren’t beyond singing a song or two!  Re-read the songs of the goblins from The Hobbit listed below.  For each, summarize the message/central idea of the song and relate the idea to the singers.  Does each song support what we as readers know about the goblins’ character?  What does each demonstrate about them?

– Define each of the following poetic terms and use them to analyze both of the goblin songs: assonance, repetition, imagery, onomatopoeia, tone, structure, and rhyme scheme.  Demonstrate how these elements in his songs add to the characterization of the singers.

Glossary of Poetic Terms  http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/display_rpo/poetterm.cfm

                     page 60-61

                                                page 106-107

Day 5:  Symbolic Objects/Tools

– Each member of your group must decide on a different specific object or tool that would best represent or support The Great Goblin’s character.  For example, in The Odyssey, Athena’s wisdom could be represented by an owl.  While the members will draw each of the symbols on one collective poster, each individual will write a two-chunk paragraph explaining why the symbol is appropriate for the Great Goblin.

Explore a World of Symbols  http://www.symbols.com/

Dictionary of Symbolism  http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/

–  Each member will select a different season of the year and write a two chunk paragraph that demonstrates how his/her particular season mirrors the journey of Bilbo Baggins.

Day 6:  Travel and Tourism: the Goblin Caves

Each member will do ONE of the following:

Your group is promoting travel and tourism for the realm of the Goblins.  Hey, you never know…Goblins have out of realm relatives, don’t they?  Your group is compiling promotional information in order to attract visitors to come and spend their gold in the Goblins’ underground town.

Each member of your group will do ONE of the following:

  –  Create an overall guidebook to The Goblin Caves that includes:

* a detailed map of the region

* enticing reasons why The Goblin Caves is the place for

anyone’s next vacation

* climate information

* transportation available

* quotations from previous visitors praising The Goblin Caves

* coupons to local attractions, restaurants, and

accommodations

–  Create a hotel brochure that includes:

* accommodations listings

* amenities

* prices

* promotional package deals

* what’s nearby to do/go to eat

– Create a restaurant menu that includes:

* appetizers, entrees, salads, soups, desserts with descriptions

* lunch/dinner specials

* background information about this family-run business

– Create a museum or recreation brochure that includes at least three “must see” attractions in The Goblin Caves.

                  * what makes each attraction so special?

* prices

* special discounts

– Create a local newspaper’s sports section that describes various sporting events available in The Goblin Caves.  Write at least one article reviewing a particular event that includes players’ names and some kinds of statistics.

 

Day 7:  The Great Goblin’s Journal

Every member of the group will do ALL of the following:

Each member of your group will create a series of journal responses for the Great Goblin.  Do not merely write your responses on lined paper or type them on a word processor… neither of these would exist in Middle Earth.  Use your imagination and create a journal that would not look out of place in the Great Goblin’s cave. 

FCAs:

1. Each response must be at least 150 words in length. 

2. Each response must contain at least three appropriately used vocabulary words from the unit.

3. Each response must create an appropriate “voice” for the Great Goblin.

Respond to each of the following:

     –  The attitude of the Great Goblin toward other creatures in general

     –  The thoughts of the Great Goblin about the creature that lives in the dark, underground lake

     –  The Great Goblin’s reaction when he first heard there were intruders in his cavern

     –  The Great Goblin’s reaction to the capture of the dwarves in their caven

     –  What might have been the Great Goblin’s journal entry if he had survived the arrival of Gandalf?

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