I am currently working a 2-week Reading & Writing seminar for our incoming 9th graders.
I was a little bit daunted by the prospect of creating skills-based 2-hour lessons for the two weeks. During the school year, I have a curriculum that I work through. It is skills-based as well, but the content is mostly pre-determined.
I decided to base the writing we will do on the Six Common Core Standard Writing Assignments that we, as a department, came up with at the end of the school year. Throughout each year, students will be primarily focusing on six writing tasks:
1) Timed Literary Analysis (Students have to write about an unseen passage or poem, about how the author's techniques create meaning.)
2) Untimed Literary Essay (Traditional 3-part essay)
3) Timed Argument Essay (such as the SAT essay)
4) Untimed "Moral Dilemma" Essay (something connecting the literature to life, using textual evidence from a text, such as, "Should Catcher in teh Rye be taught in school?" and "Is Okonkwo guilt of murder?"
5) Narrative Essay (connected to literature in some way, for example, we'll read Eugenia Collier's "Marigolds" and then students will write about their own epiphany.
So, in these sessions, I figure we can practice assignments #1, #2, #3, and #5.
We started with #1 today, as I gave students the Gary Soto poem "Saturday at the Canal". This is a great poem, though, in hindsight, perhaps a bit dark for the first day of high school instruction. Or maybe it was perfect, because that's more what it felt like. I gave them 20 minutes and the question, "What figurative language, imagery, and details does Soto use to describe the speaker's unhappiness with school and his place in life?" (the 9th grade prompt for this type of writing will always get a little bit of direction, like this - by the time they're upperclassmen, they'll get no question).
After 20 minutes, most students had produced 2-3 paragraphs that basically listed a few metaphors or images in the poem. Not much analysis or depth, not much attention to tone, very few seemed to understand the poem.
So after they wrote about it independently, I had another handout ready, one that divided the poem into its ten or so sentences. I paired them up, and had them write inferences for each of the lines, using the Tone Words list I handed out to them. They identified any literary features, but I was more concerned with them identifying the tone and readign between the lines. That's going to be more of my focus this year: tone. Sometimes I get so focused on the identification of literary devices that I realize they don't know what the text is about. This was one of my focuses with the seniors last year, especially towards the second half of the year, trying to create that vooomp moment where they "get" a piece of literature and then go back and find the techniques that create it.
Anyhow, the discussion after the chunking of the poem and pairing of the students went splendidly. They now realized what they should be doing when they get a type of question like that. Tomorrow, we'll see what they've learned when we do Stephen Dunn's "The Sacred".
An Invented Space - Dressing The Air digs up a short film by Alex Roman: Entirely built and rendered on computer, this impossibly controlled journey around Louis Kahn’s Exeter...
26 minutes ago