Archive | January, 2012

Poetry Analysis using Carousel

27 Jan
I used the Carousel (Lipton, L., & Wellman, B.,1998) strategy a couple of months ago in my classroom to help students analyze a poem. Students generally do not enjoy poetry and I wanted a way to make it fun for them. 
I learned this strategy from Terri Stewart, one of my professors for my grad program at SUNY IT. 

Students were given a copy of the poem ‘Harlem’ by Langston Hughes, featured here: 

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
 I prepared 4 questions that I wanted students to answer in order to analyze the poem and determine the theme or message. I wrote these questions at the top of 4 large piece of butcher paper and pasted them up in different spots on my classroom wall. 
When I did this, they were all at different spots around the room so students could rotate
When class time came, students were broken up into four groups. Every person was given a marker. It may help if you have enough markers to give everyone in the group the same color marker so you can easily monitor who writes what. 
Students actually got the theme!
Students were given about 4 minutes at each ‘station’ or piece of butcher paper to respond/answer the question regarding the poem. Then they rotated to the next station and spent 4 minutes there. They were instructed to write their own comments or respond to something somebody else had written (written conversation) Students did surprisingly well. I anticipated them just staring at the paper not knowing what to write, saying that the activity was stupid or scrawling obscenities across the paper, but none of the above happened! Maybe it’s the novelty of ‘writing on the wall’. Even the ‘bad class’ came up with insightful, original thought that to my assessment would be considered ‘poetry analysis’. 
ehh…well that’s not personification but….
The activity can be adapted and fit into any lesson for virtually any idea! I actually did this activity in 9th grade only I had issues or topics that our novel Speak would be about. Students just had to make a comment about the issues, then respond to other students’ comments. This could be used for brainstorming, finding examples for literary elements, categorizing for science or social studies, and vocabulary recall!

Reading Comprehension Strategies: Sticky Notes vs Double Entry Diary and More

20 Jan

Reading comprehension strategies are all the rage these days, and it does make sense. If students are not following along while reading and thinking about things in the reading, they are not truly reading. I don’t think some of my students even understand the fact that they need to comprehend what they are reading. They just read the words and think about what they are having for lunch, etc. There are several comprehension strategies I have tried and learned in my degree programs and they have varying degrees of success.

Sample of student sticky notes

Sticky Notes
This is an exercise I did ALL YEAR last year with my seventh graders. Students follow along while reading, and any time they have a comment, question, prediction, etc, they write it on a sticky note and put in it in the book. This took months of training to become successful. Students need lots of modeling and guided practice before they can become confident to write their own sticky notes. But once I had my students trained, it worked well and was very successful in aiding their comprehension. I suggest starting to model it on the first day of school and train them well! Some tips and tricks I learned from doing it all year:

1. Give students prompts. I had a poster on the wall with ‘starters’ for sticky notes (I predict that…., This reminds me of…)

2. Stop while reading (if reading out loud) and tell students to make a specific comment about something you think is important, and then have them share responses. As teachers we always want to stop students while reading and explain why this part of the book is important. But allowing kids to try to figure it out on their own first will help them practice determining importance.

3. Grade the sticky notes based on participation. I had them do ten sticky notes every time we read. They get a grade out of 100 (if they did 9, they get a 90). By the end of the year, students would do sticky notes no matter if I was grading them or not, but this year with my high schoolers it’s harder to get them to do work when it ‘isn’t graded’….ugh!

4. Have them stick the notes on a piece of paper to hand in to grade, so you don’t have millions of sticky notes flying everywhere.

5.  It is worth it to have a lesson based on your students sticky notes. Like categorizing the sticky notes based on topic or strategy, or to have students think-pair-share with partners or in a group. This is a more student led discussion regarding the book you’re reading and not pointless comprehension questions.

Not sure who ‘made up’ using sticky notes for comprehension, but I know Chris Tovani mentions it in her books.

Double Entry Diary (Tovani)
The exact same idea as sticky notes, only students write the page number or quote in the left hand column of a T chart, and then their comment/questions/prediction in the right hand column. I also gave them ‘starters’ up at the top of the sheet. This also requires practice, guidance and modeling to be successful. This strategy hasn’t been that successful with my 9th and 10th graders this year. They are unmotivated to do these comments, as I said before, if they are ‘not graded’. And I didn’t train them as well as I did my seventh graders. To help this problem, I switched from the DED and tried the sticky notes with my 9th and 10th graders recently, and for some reason, they liked sticky notes better even though it’s the EXACT same thing. They probably just like the novelty of sticky and colorful things. Here’s an example of a student completed double entry diary:

Another one I have not tried but am going to try while reading  To Kill A Mockingbird is called Alphaboxes (Hoyt, 1999).
Students are given a grid with all the letters of the alphabet, with XYZ grouped together in the last square. For a given chapter, or set of chapters, they have to make at least one comment/question/prediction that starts with each letter of the alphabet.

As I said, I haven’t tried this one yet! I will post with updates!

DRTA Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (Stauffer, 1969)

This is kind of like guided reading. I mean really it is guided reading with a fancy name I guess. But a DRTA can be formatted and revised for almost any text. Students should be thinking, predicting and adjusting their thinking and predicting as they read. If they think that a character is going to do something, then more text clues tell them they were wrong, they should revise that prediction. Then they should evaluate this against what really happened. This is something good readers to all the time but poor readers need to be trained.
Here is an example of a DRTA that I gave my students while reading a non-fiction ghost story:

DRTA: “Amityville Horror”
Before you read, it’s normal to guess what is going to happen, or what the passage will be about. It’s also important to go back and see whether or not if your predictions were right.
Directions: Make your predictions using complete sentences. After reading some of the story, change your predictions based on what you read.  After you read what actually happened, write that in the third column.
Revise Prediction
What actually happened

Students had trouble with this one initially:
1. Have them make predictions first before even starting to read based on pictures, cover, titles, etc.

2. Then pick a pre-planned spot in the text to have them predict/revise.

3.Then make sure you have students write ‘what actually happened’ in the far right hand column.

It is laborious, but all good readers should use this strategy.

Well….that’s obviously not all of the reading comp strategies that exist, but these are a few I have tried and had success with! Feel free to comment and share your own!

Twelve Angry Men Intro Lesson: Simple but Good!

7 Jan

Here’s to starting my new blog! I’m not a veteran teacher….I’m far from perfect, but I figure that doing this will give me practice writing (which I need to do more of) and make me a better teacher. Currently I am teaching 9th and 10th grade English in New York. I am hoping to post simple classroom strategies and share things that have worked, and sometimes not worked for me.

Part of this lesson idea I have to give credit to my roommate Kim for. She gave me the idea for the drawings, and it’s far from my original idea. But what lesson really is? Whether it’s googling something online or giving each other copies most teachers know that sharing is caring!

This was an intro lesson for the play Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose but could probably be adapted to other books. I think the thing that worked well for this lesson was there were a lot of transitions. Changing activities several times helps students with boredom and makes the period fly by. Two days in a row I had a student tell me he was amazed that the period was over already.

The actual lesson can be found here.

In the beginning of the lesson students were completing vocabulary words using the Frayer Model. The words were not from the play, they were specific words that I saw on our midterm (coming up in a couple of days) that I knew students would struggle with and wanted to pre-teach. Students looked up the words, made their own definition, drew a picture, then used it in a sentence. I have had hit and miss experiences with vocabulary instruction…which will be another post….we’ll see how this works.

This took about ten-fifteen minutes, then we reviewed terms that had to do with the legal system that the students need to know (which took about 5-6 minutes).

The play has twelve jurors (obviously) and a guard. This worked out perfectly in one of my classes since it has 13 people in it! Each student was assigned a juror. In the beginning of the play the author extensively describes the personalities and some of the physical description of each juror. I reviewed the term characterization and then had each student read the author’s characterization of their juror. Then each student was instructed to visualize and draw their juror.

I normally tend to avoid dog and pony show artsy stuff in the classroom because usually students just fool around and nothing is learned. But, this offered an opportunity for students to use the author’s characterization and show their understanding of that characterization through their drawing. Students were given a time limit. I find when doing anything creative or with drawing that students will goof off and tend to try to stretch out the time they are coloring to avoid other work. But I set a strict time limit of 25 minutes and told them that their work would be graded. Students had trouble at first. The characterization mainly had descriptions of the personalities (Ex: Twelve is a salesman, Two is quiet and cannot think for himself). I told students to use their imaginations and draw the juror how THEY thought he looked. The room was silent, and I was surprised at how well they turned out!

Juror 8 wants justice, so this student included the balance!

When the students were done drawing it was time to start reading. I had the students line up 12 desks in the front of the room to create a sort of ‘stage’. Then I taped the twelve pictures to the front of the desks in order from #1-#12. The students sat in order in the arc of desks in the front of the room and read their parts. While reading the students complete sticky notes with questions, comments, etc (also another post!) so they don’t become bored.

After reading about half of Act I students then had to complete a characterization activity. They had to choose five ‘traits’ or adjectives of their jurors and give actions that prove why that characteristic fits the juror. (Ex: Seven is rude because he complains about wanting to leave to he can go see a movie).

For homework they will take their chart and turn it into a literary element paragraph, something that is a requirement on the midterm and the NYS English Regents. This lesson can be adapted for any book that has some decent characterization, just remember to give them a time limit and use lots of transitions! This worked for even my ‘bad’ class. Enjoy!

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