First, second, and seventh periods worked on sensory language in the excerpt from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We paid special attention to the following passage:
“It was the best of times and the worst of times . . .” Her voice slid in and curved down through and over the words. She was nearly singing. I wanted to look at the pages. Were they the same that I had read? Or were there notes, music, lined on the pages, as in a hymn book? Her sounds began cascading gently. I knew from listening to a thousand preachers that she was nearing the end of her reading, and I hadn’t really heard, heard to understand, a single word.
This was an example for our examination of how to use sensory language. In particular, we looked at how Angelou described sounds in this passage. (I have highlighted the phrases we focused on.) Notes from today are available here.
Fourth period completed the rubric for the Lord of the Flies project, which is due next Friday. I have created a template for the project. Both the Microsoft Word and Openoffice.org Writer version are included in this zip file (Lord of the Flies Project Template).
First, second, and seventh periods began the selection from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We read about Maya’s grandmother’s general store and how it was like a private fun park for Maya growing up. We closed the lesson writing about our own special places.
Fourth period finished up working on pronouns in our review of the parts of speech. We also discussed the journal project (three entries a week, each at least 300 words); I tried to impress upon them the simplicity of the assignment. Here is a sample entry.
First, second, and seventh periods: complete “My Special Place” topic.
Fourth period: draft/notes of the three examples students will use in the Lord of the Flies project (which will be due next Friday).
We will be reading a selection from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings tomorrow as part of our memoir unit. As the selection is set in the Depression, we looked at the Depression a bit today and began thinking about what to expect from the piece.
Second period began wrapping up the symbolism of Lord of the Flies. We determined a few things:
The beast represents the evil, selfish urges in all of us.
The conch symbolizes civil society.
The fire is a measure of how connected they are to the civilization they left behind.
Piggy symbolizes the rational drive of humanity.
Jack represents the selfish, impulsively selfish side of humans.
Ralph represents the rule of law by common consent.
We will be finishing up the selection this week.
First, second, and seventh periods: finish the “Letter to Maya.”
First, second, and seventh periods began looking at specific ways to elevate their writing. Our first step was to ensure paragraph unity: all sentences in a paragraph need to point back to the paragraph’s topic.
Often, we have to write about topics that, quite frankly, bore us. It’s not just in school, either. Seemingly boring topics are trying because we don’t know what to write — nothing comes to mind at first.
Enter: today’s lesson with English Strategies and English Studies (first, second, and seventh periods). As part of our on-going lesson about finding topics for an assigned paper, we explored today the mysterious Myth of the Boring Paper.
We looked at a single dollar bill; as a class and in groups, we looked closely at it and tried to notice as many little, odd details as possible. (For example, have you ever noticed that there is an owl or an eagle in the upper-right corner of the dollar bill?) Once we shared our details and converted them into questions, it became obvious that a seemingly boring topic like a dollar bill can be full of possibilities.
Afterward, students in groups created questions for an assortment of “boring” topics: a stapler, a pack of Post-It notes, and a dry-erase marker were among the items.
In the end, everyone wrote an affirmation in their writing notebook: “I can write about anything if I look at it carefully enough.”
First, second, and seventh periods (English Strategies and English Studies classes) continued working on writing. We made a short list of pet peeves as a basis for our writing. Afterward, we compared our lists to expand them — “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that! That drives me crazy, too!” — and did some writing on the topics we’d just come up with.
Next week we’ll begin working on revising, focusing on organization to begin with.
First, second, and seventh periods all worked on creating Expert Inventories. These are lists of topics students can readily write about owing to their “expertise.” The activity usually produces a list similar to this:
The next step was to narrow some of those topics down, possibly finding two or three sub-topics from them:
“football” produces “playing wide receiver”;
“family” becomes “dealing with my annoying little sister”;
“shopping” becomes “finding the perfect shoes”; and,
“video games” becomes “how to win at The Sims 3.”
We shared our inventories with others, prompting new additions.
Finally, we did a four-minute free-write on one of the topics from the newly-created Expert Inventory.
First, second, and fourth periods: add ten items to the expert inventory.
Summer is over and it’s time to start eighth grade! You’re finally the top dogs at Hughes, and it’s time to step into the leadership roles that you’ve known you could fulfill.
This year, you’ll have the privilege of having the finest male English teacher on the eighth grade hall. It’ll be an adventure, but there are a few things I can promise you right from the beginning.
I will always be respectful to you. As human beings, we all deserve each others’ mutual respect. It’s not something you “earn.” It is something you can lose, however.
I will try to be fair with all students all the time. There will be times that I make a decision that I know, at that very moment, is unfair. I will keep those situations to a minimum.
I will do my best to make things interesting, even the grammar. As one of my colleges professors said, I will take responsibility for exactly fifty percent of the boredom in the room at any given moment. The other fifty percent is your responsibility: be engaged; do your best; don’t be afraid to try (and even fail) — do these things and we’ll have a great class.
I will give you as much choice in your learning as possible. Students who have options are students who are engaged. There are many topics that the state of South Carolina requires me to teach you, but even in that, there’s a lot of room for choice.
I will make mistakes. I am human, and I’ll mess up. You’ll do the same. If we’re calm, we’ll get through those mistakes just fine. In fact, they’ll be learning experiences, for me and you.
I will try to make you laugh during every class. I love joking around. I love being silly. And I love hearing my students laugh. It’s a sign of a good classroom atmosphere.
I will not interrupt you when you’re talking, or talk to others while you’re talking. There is an exception: if you’re taking learning time from other students, I’ll interrupt.
What about the class, though? I promised “interesting” and “choice” and “fair,” but what will we be learning. A look at the syllabus will give you a detailed overview of what we’ll be working on; a glance at the calendar will give you an idea of when we’ll be working on what. The topics include:
the memoir form;
grammar (with a special parts of speech review);
Walter Dean Myers’ Monster;
Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing for eighth grade; Romeo and Juliet for English I);
persuasive writing; and,
many, many, many pages of reading and writing.
This year, I will also be experimenting.
We will be doing a great deal of self-assessment. This means that not only will you decide how well you did on certain aspects of a given project but also you’ll be the one who framed and planned the project! In other words, you’ll be creating rubrics as well as evaluating your work using rubrics.
We will be working to improve our organizational skills through a system of collaborative indexing, we might call it.
We will be integrating our reading and writing so that what we’re reading serves as a model for what we happen to be writing at the time.
I’m excited about this year, and I’m looking forward to 180 days of joyful learning.