This week is the first week we are reading something that is totally new to me. I look forward to thinking and writing about this new text with all of you.
This week: our classroom this week is close in age as our protagonists: 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. You can also check out this slideshow (why it’s a slideshow I have no idea) about summer reading. It’s sort of interesting because of the selections included. I think that Aristotle and Dante would not be out of place on this list.
As you respond, consider the following:
These are questions we’ve been thinking about all semester. But, in the interest of supporting your work in the final assignment, consider how writing would support the teaching of this text:
Because the novel’s two main characters age 13 to 16 respectively, I’m really interested in how this text would play in a 10th grade English Class. 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:
I did find a little information about the town itself, which, again, can tell you something about who the students are who attend WB.
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 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.
As my contribution to the discussion: I have actually paired “Is your Dad Single?” with 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 46 year old could still possibly have a life plan.
Use this space to get and give answers to questions and concerns about the Pecha Kucha project due next week. I figure if one of you has the question either I have the answer or one of your classmates does. Suggestions for how to make the process easier or the final product better are also welcome
I know that Carnival is not a text for 6th graders. This is a mature look at a young woman in her late teens. It’s emotionally complex and, in terms of narrative, occasionally challenging. It’s also a beautifully written book.
And I can hear all of you already: boys won’t like it. And I say again, tough. Young women have been reading books about boys for centuries. Young men can live with a few books that aren’t focused on them. It can be how we teach rather than what we teach that makes the difference.
About trigger warnings & parents: There is some debate among college faculty about the idea of warning students of material that might cause undue stress and, for lack of a better term, PTSD, in students. There is a scene in Bray that I thought about alerting readers to. You will, I think, know what I’m talking about it. It’s not the sexual nature of the main character early in her time in Ireland, it’s the vaguely violent, not exactly non-consensual but certainly not loving experience of it. It’s a rough moment.
I think that managing a text that deals explicitly with sex and teenage girls can be a difficult sell. But this is my point: it’s not like students aren’t bombarded with sex at every turn, and why not have real and meaningful exposure than cheap exposure? I’m honestly not sure you could get a book like this into a curriculum, but I think it is worth a try.
This Week’s Prompt: Let’s say that you managed to convince the faculty and parents at Brockton High School to let you teach this book in 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:
You will recall that your assignment for this week asked you to pick and write about a popular YA text. My rule of thumb was if a movie had been made out of it. That's not the only rule, but it's not the worst one. It gives you the choice of any Harry Potter Book, all of Twilight, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson even. There are probably others.
THIS WEEK'S 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.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: It's 9th Grade and you know what that means: Wherefore art thou Romeo--and Juliet, of course. R&J is one of those texts you can't get out of teaching if you are teaching 9th Grade English. Shakespeare, of course, always presents challenges in the classroom (for instance, for me, teaching a play where 14 year olds sneak off, get married, and then kill themselves, but that's just me).
My challenge to all of you is to consider a popular YA text and think about how you could use that to help students really value and think about Romeo & Juliet. How could the one text serve as a bridge to better, richer, more useful understanding of the other? What cool things could you do? And, as always, what might be the joys of this plan? What might be less joyous?
REMEMBER: You post by Wednesday at Midnight. Our Respondents respond by Friday. I respond on Monday.
Girl, 7th Grade, "Is Your Father Single," "Maybe" and "The Secret Letter" & Louise Rosenblatt: First All-Class Discussion Board
Whole class discussion boards will work this way:
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. Long before the 80s, when Reader Response theory was all the rage, Louise Rosenblatt was training teachers to think about the role reading played in the lives of students. She wrote Literature as Exploration in the 1930s, but it still resonates today—in some ways because we don’t think enough about what she is saying when we pick and teach texts. In addition to these two texts, you can consider any or all of the four Moth Story hour stories ("Is Your Dad Single," "Maybe," and "The Secret Letter").
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. The parents at Whitman are, more or less, invested in their children’s education and pay attention to what is going on in the classroom. You have 7 students on IEPs ranging from high-functioning spectrum to ADHD mix. Two student are on IEP for cognitive processing problems.
You may elect to focus on one text over another, as long as you think about what Rosenblatt says about reading in your post.