Thursday, March 24, 2005

Guides for My Students

I must note that I had originally thought teaching for a week, then having spring break was absolutely ridiculous, but now I'm beginning to realize how nice it is to recover from last week. Only now have I begun to get the motivation to accomplish things; part of my laziness was recovery and part was recovery from social events over the weekend. Emotional and physical exhaustion. And I read a lot at the start of the week, which was excellent.

I just got finished grading my students' first set of journals along with their reader response entries. I realized that a lot more kids were "getting it," which makes me really happy, but I'm learning that being clear and concise is something I need to do as well! (Put my expectations back on myself...) Anyway, I came up with rough drafts of handouts that cover both suggestions for journal entries as well as poetry (and textual) responses. They're only drafts--my first drafts of things seem to be more confusing then they need to be. If anyone has suggestions to make this more clear, let me know. I'll show them both to Amy this coming Monday (oh, it's too soon, too soon).

I also made a decision about things like quizzes and unit tests. It seems silly to have a unit test that is essentially the same thing as all the quizzes, so I decided that things like Monday's quiz would mainly look at if they read the text or not (multiple choice, character identification, who did what, what events happened, etc.) and the final unit test would be exclusively short answer and an essay (they would get to pick which of many short answers as well as which of many essay options and they would get to use their books and notes). I think if we're going to test how the student critically interacts with the text, we shouldn't restrict them in not being able to use notes, etc. If I were including things like "Which character did this that or the other thing" and that's all I wanted to know, then I wouldn't allow notes/books. (It will also help the whole cheating factor, which stresses me out to no end. I don't want to catch my students cheating! Blech.)

Anyway, I think having a guideline for all assignments, especially those carried out throughout the semester, is good practice. I graded generously on the first set of journals / reader responses, but I will let them know that they need to use these tips in the future in order to get the full points. (I hate threatening them with points, but with my English 10B's, it seems like reminding them that this is being graded seems to be the only way for them to actually do the work. I'm learning that having them turn things in is the only way to get them to do the discussion... whereas with the Journalism students, they're pretty interested in what they have to do to become better "journalists." Plus, they have a trimester-long project that relies on their understanding of the material, so I suppose that's what is hanging over their heads!)



Ms. Sutton

After reading your journals, I came up with a few points that will help you in future entries.

" These are informal writing exercises. You don’t need to worry about grammar, spelling or mechanics.

" You also don’t need to worry about being right or wrong. These journals are intended to be a place of exploration for you.

" This is your place to speak out about the text, too. The prompts are designed to help you think critically about the text and respond to it. If you’re confused about something, this is a good place to explore that confusion. If the text is “boring,” try writing about why you think it’s boring. If you don’t understand why an author did something, explore it here.

" Back up assertions you make with evidence, experience, and examples. Use quotes from the text. So many of you have been making really great statements about the text, and I’d love to see you take it to the next level. Keep pushing those assertions and explore!

" While I want you to respond to the prompts, if you’ve given them a chance in the first minute or two of journal time and it’s not working for you, write about the book in general or a class discussion/activity we had.

" Aim for about a page or more per entry. Try to keep your pen moving throughout the five to ten minutes you have to write in your journal. This is part of participation—you don’t always have to raise your hand in class to get those daily points. This can be done in keeping on task and small group work as well.

" The primary purpose of these journals is for you to practice daily writing, to think critically about the text, and to explore meaning in the text. This is also a way for me to gauge your understanding of the text and class activities, but also to make sure you are actually doing the reading.

Here are some of the things that will be taken into consideration when grading the journals and what you can do to earn the points:

" Use of class time. (Aim for a page per entry. Use the full journal time.)

" Engagement with the text. (Cite evidence from text where applicable. Back up assertions. Use questions and exploration.)

" Organization. (Make sure you have all the entries together and dated or labeled in some way.)


ENGLISH 10B: Poetry

Ms. Sutton

You will do several reader response lens exercises throughout the trimester. (Reader response = taking personal experiences and history along with textual evidence to create meaning.) In them, you will need to mark up the passage you are reading with comments—if we are doing part of a text (such as To Kill a Mockingbird), I will provide a photocopy of the text for you to write on.

You will also be responsible for giving a brief presentation on a poem you like for this class. You will have four to five minutes to read the poem and explain why the poem is significant to you. You will also be required to turn in two copies of the poem—a clean one to include in the class anthology as well as one that is marked up with your comments.

These two types of assignments, which will continue throughout the trimester, require you to turn in copies of the poems (and other short works and excerpts from texts) with marginal notes. Here are some tips on what you might include in those notes. You don’t have to include all of them, though touching on most of them is important:

- How you discovered this poem.

- How your opinion changed over multiple readings.

- What the title might mean to the overall work.

- The subject of the poem.

- Who might the speaker be?

- Who might the audience be?

- What is the occasion for the piece? What might the meaning be?

- How might this piece fit into a larger work? (Other poems, other texts, the text as a whole.)

- Images that stood out to you. (Images include details—colors, sensory images like smell, taste, sound, touch, and sight, etc.)

- Phrases that stand out to you. (Why do you think the author would write it in this particular way?)

- Are there patterns? (Rhyme scheme, repetition)

- Moments of confusion, questions to the text and / or author

- Moments of clarity or understanding

- Memories that are triggered, moments that remind you of something else

- References (allusions) to something else—another work of literature, a moment in history, another artistic artifact

- Are there interesting comparisons? (Simile and metaphor.)

- Are there strange phrases? Strange vocabulary? Strange ways of saying something? (Colloquialism, diction)

The point of these exercises is to get you to interact with the text. The more comments, the better. Read and re-read to uncover layers of meaning.

If you are having trouble with any assignments, please come to me, and we can work something out. If you’re having questions, it’s possible that your classmates have the same question, so let me know!

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