Teaching poetry to young readers and writers can be challenging and also exciting. Your prompt this week asks you to think about how you would engage students with poetry.
This Week’s Prompt: This week you are working with a 12th grade English class that meets the outcomes for the International Baccalaureate Programme. Th IB is sort of like an internationally recognized version of AP. You can read about it here. Some quick facts about Brockton High (from Wikipedia, so, you know, grain of salt) and in general:
And now a word from everyone's favorite giant and many people's beloved poet, Fezzick. . .
WHAT TO DO: One of the ways we help our students be writers and readers is to ask them to write the kinds of texts we are asking them to read. Writing fiction and poetry together can both be a little scary and a little fun. Hopefully this will be both for you.
Compose a quick poem. It doesn't have to rhyme--though it can. It can be a haiku or a limerick or a sonnet. But write a poem based on some of the work we are going to do in class (prompts). Don't be shy. We are all in this together.
NOTE: THIS DISCUSSION BOARD POST IS NOT DUE UNTIL 1 NOVEMBER 2022
THE PROMPT: what would a pairing of Mockingbird and Firekeeper's look like in an ELA classroom? In what ways would the books compliment each other? Challenge each other? How could you use that to engage students in both texts?
THE CLASS: our classroom this week is about the grade level when you would read TKAM: a ninth grade class at Sharon High School. If you want to get a sense of the school and its students, you can check out the school’s site. You can check out the demographic stats for the school here as well as stuff about MCAS scores and other performance indicators.
Respond to this week's teaching scenario. To Kill a Mockingbird is still often taught as the (only) text that discusses race in the secondary education classroom. In your response, to this week's class, write about your experience of reading the text, and then, what you would do as a teacher of this text to problematize this novel as a story that is meant to explore race in the United States.
This week’s scenario is West Bridgewater Middle-Senior high school. West Bridgewater has an enrollment—for both middle and high school—of 606 students. It’s a small school in a small town. Also, Plymouth county is one of the most politically conservative towns in the entire state. That doesn’t necessarily mean any one thing in particular, but the parents of these students live in this county and it’s these households they were raised in.
There is minimal information available about WB high. Here is what I could find:
THE PROMPT: In the glorious age of technology, how can we use media and technology in our classrooms in ways that don’t suck? How can it support good reading and writing? How can it support a student’s “literary” understanding. Using the three “texts” included this week, design a classroom experience for our scenario class
THE CLASS: You are teaching a 9th grade College Prep English class at Bridgewater/Raynham high school. You are working with a class of 35 students: 34 students are white, 1 student is Cape Verdean, 19 are female, 16 are male, one male student is openly gay.
The BR pass rate on the 10th grade MCAS is 84%.
Roughly 85% of the students in your class come from a household where at least one parent has some college education. You have two students in your class whose parents are on the faculty at Bridgewater State University.
You have limited access to technology in the classroom, but your students have access to computers, phones and the internet at home.
You can familiarize yourself with the school here.
A BIT MORE ABOUT WHAT (AND WHY) I'M ASKING YOU TO DO THIS: The challenge this week gives you two ends of a triangle: you’ve got a class (I’m going back to our 9th grade BR college prep class—not so old that middle school is a distant memory, not so smart that they will be so over it, not so young that we have to pretend nobody has sex or does drugs); you’ve got your media—any and all of the recordings accessible via the syllabus. How might you use this media and what texts would you pair with them—that’s the last leg of the magic triangle?
You’ve got a real opportunity to be pretty creative here. You are welcome to talk about any of the texts we’ve covered so far or will cover in class. Or you can go with something else you’d want to teach. Or you can go with a canonical text that might well be included in the framework. Or you can do a little of all three. Additionally, if there is other supplemental media—movies, TV, radio, news items, non-fiction, art-work, dance, whatever—you are welcome to use that.
Why do this? Here is something to think about as you move from being a student to a teacher: you are all English majors. You love literature. Some of you love the pretty heavy stuff--Joyce, Shakespeare, Morrison. Most of you love to read--I mean really love it (I am that person; this is late because I'm trying to finish a novel because I love it so much--it is not Gossip Girl). You will have classrooms filled with students who don't like to read and who don't do it well or often. And, also, you will have students who will go on to college or trade school and they will take, at most, one literature class: one. So the question to ask yourself as a future teacher is what is your actual job as a language arts teacher?
The frameworks stresses learning literary terms and concepts and exposure to literature, capital "L." All that is good. It's important and vital for students to have rich experiences with literature. But don't forget that the most important thing we teach our students is how to read and how to write. Anything. Not write only five paragraph essays. Not read only Shakespeare. I think it can be rough to think about. You've spent your entire college career studying literature, and now I'm telling you that teaching literature is not really the job. The job is literacy instruction. How to make students be good readers of all texts. And so a class that encourages students to apply the critical interpretive skills they would use reading Poe or Faulkner or Joyce is and should be what students do with any text, including the various media they will encounter in life much longer than they'll be in school and with much greater consequence if they do it badly.
As my contribution to the discussion: I have actually paired “Is your Dad Single?” with the stories we read during the first week of class, Girl & 7th grade, with actual rising 8th and 9th graders. I asked students to map out the story of “Is Your Dad Single?”—so what starts the story, what is the rising action, what is the climactic moment, the denouement, the “truth about life.” I ask them to do this graphically. Since that piece is really about deciding on who you want to be in your own life, we look at Girl and 7th grade through that lens—how do the various characters in each figure out who they are? That’s a final writing. Along the way, I have them write about their own stories of figuring themselves out, of 7th grade, etc. I also ask them to identify the “rules” of being a boy—so write 7th Grade as a series of “you” statements, but about boys, based on the story. The work requires listening, reading, note-taking. It requires working alone and in groups. It requires that they be able to prove a point about a text using the text as evidence. It gives them space to reflect personally. I really enjoy the entire sequence. We end with a very fun exercise where they make their own maps of their lives—who they are now, where they want to end up, how they are going to get there. They present that to the whole class. I do it with them. They marvel at the idea that a 50 year old could still possibly have a life plan.
Rather than a Teaching Discussion this week . . .
This week we are reading the classic text Little Women. I like to start the semester with this a as first novel for a few reasons, not the least of which being that as young girl, I read and re-read this book (the sequels Little Men and Jo's Boys). It was my Harry Potter. I was obsessed.
But what I think is worthwhile to notice is how many themes, characters, dramas (in the teenager angst kind of drama way) for a book written over 140 years ago are remarkably familiar. One might argue that's what makes it literature with a capital "L". At the same time, as many of you will most likely point out, there are some aspects of the story and characters that we might see as dated (the language, corsets, etc). There are a lot of ways we could explore these timeless and universal themes as well what no longer resonates, but I've opted to encourage you to do so rather creatively.
If you were going to update Little Women, how might you do it? Post to CLASS DISCUSSION BOARD (link is live). In 300 words, provide a synopsis of your 2022 version of the classic Little Women. RESPOND in 200 words to at least one of your colleagues by either building on their update idea and/or suggesting why you think, as a reader or a teacher, this would work as an update (or wouldn’t).
For complete details on what to do in this space and how you will be evaluated, please see the complete details for this assignment located on Teaching Discussion page for our class (link is live).
In Brief: Post your initial response, about 300 words. Post a response to your colleagues, 100-200 words.
THIS WEEK’S SCENARIO: The two short stories included in this weeks reading come from a list of short-stories for middle-schoolers. I have used these two stories with rising 8th and 9th graders.
You are teaching a class of 30 8th graders at Whitman Middle School. Here is a class picture. The class you are teaching is majority white. There are two students who identify as African-American. Just over ½ of the class are young women. None of the students are first generation American, but a few students have grandparents who immigrated, mostly from Ireland. More likely, the majority of students have great-grandparents or great-great grandparents that came from to the US during the great migration in the late 1800s—Italy and Ireland mainly. Your classroom is well-equipped. Students have ipads for use in the classroom and all of the students have internet access at home as well as at school. You maintain a teaching website where parents can check assignments.
Without getting overly technical, what would you do with these two stories in this class--because, keep in mind, only one of them was actually written for young people (7th Grade). What will be interesting? What will be challenging? What could you do that would help students become better readers through the use of these texts--in other words, how could you improve the kind of ELA skills we want our students (and the frameworks want) our students to learn?
Don't stress or imagine that this is some big unit plan. It's 300 words. You are thinking out loud and responding thoughtfully to each other.
For our first discussion board of the semester, nothing stressful, think about your reading experiences as a young adult reader. You might still think of yourself as a young adult reader (as we will talk about later n the semester--lots of fully adult readers read YA; it's a trend in publishing). In any case, think about the books you read that would be called YA, think about what they meant to you, think about how they shaped you as a reader, a student, a writer, a thinker, a human.
Post: your 200-300 word YA reading story.
Respond: to at least one classmate. Try not to write the perfunctory "I totally agree". I seriously hate that. Try to connect with your classmates where you can; have conversations with each other about what strikes you as unique about your colleagues' stories. Try to really read and respond with heart and generosity to each other. Maybe even enjoy it.
How to post: Click on the "comment" button at the top of the post. To reply to a classmate, click on the "reply" button in the lower right corner of a post.