Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lit Circle Agreements

Agreements for Lit Circles:
Read and discuss your group’s text and answer the following EQs by the end of the unit:
  ○ How can you sustain a creative, collaborative lit circle and learn more in lit
circle than you would on your own or when directed by a teacher?
  ○ How has your text contributed to the world of ideas both historically and in
the present moment? How do you know?
Performance tasks: exhibit both formatively and summatively the above

  1. Notetaking and synthesizing your Lit Circle discussions on Reading Wings blog
  2. You demonstrate that you can answer the big EQs in a creative original performance of your own design.
Respect and Responsibility as collaborators
  ● meet deadlines
  ● split up the work (not the reading) in the form of roles for each member of the

  1.  Discussion Leader arrives in class with summary of reading and enough EQs (45) to sustain creative, rigorous discussion
  2.  Literary Luminary and Elemental arrives in class with examples of literary gems: metaphors/figures of speech, structural elements of the novel (characterization, golden details, setting, etc...)
  3. Line Lighter (this role can be added to the above role if there are only 3 in your group) arrives with specific noteworthy quotes to discuss
  4. Check up arrives ready to answer EQs and take notes Checks up on group and addresses preparedness. Maintains group scheduling. Reports to teacher. Writes blog post
  5. Wordsmith and Reseacher arrives with definitions for confusing words/allusions. Researches book to help answer big EQ
● each participant has 5 min responsibility to speak in group each lit circle day
● every member actually reads the book on schedule
● be creative and original
● be rigorous with your critical thinking
● everyone must collaborate and contribute every lit circle day
● use what you say in discussion to link and expand/build discussion
● respect each member in the group by listening, acknowledging, reflecting before
● maintain a tone of respect, rigor and focus

Answer the following EQs by the end of the unit:

  • How can you learn more in lit circle than you would on your own or when directed by a teacher?
  • How has your text contributed to the world of ideas both historically and in the present moment?

 Performance tasks:

  1. Notetaking and synthesizing your Lit Circle discussions on Reading Wings blog. Video of model lit circle discussion
  2. You demonstrate that you can answer the big EQs in a creative original performance of your own design.

Getting Started

1.  Read over the Lit Circle Agreements and the Student Blogging Guidelines and Student Commenting Guidelines on the home page of Reading Wings blog.
2. Write about why you chose the book you chose and a paragraph predicting what you expect the book to be about. Peer edit and revise this post before moving on. 
3.  First be sure you have an account on Blogger. Create a profile with your first name only. 
4. Once your have an account, go to your book's page on the Reading Wing's blog.  Create a comment: Title your comment with the title and author of the book and copy and paste your two paragraph response in the comment box.  Only hit publish if your work is completely edited and free of errors. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Who are we really? What media projects or someone far more nuanced? Reading and deconstructing French American stereotypes.

Put 41 correspondent students from France paired with their 41 American counterparts, deconstruct French and American stereotypes and blog.  That was our morning.  Our students discussed how media, particularly Hollywood movies, constructs stereotypes that too often go unexamined. Then Jackson remembered this cartoon found in his French Histoire Geo text that clearly mirrors many of the French stereotypes of Americans that our French students encounter in France.  Indeed, even an eighth class textbook suggests stereotypes can be learned in school, and can be in fact rooted in a statistical reality-- by extension, individuals can be the embodiment of statistical realities whether we like the negative portrayal or not. 
Visit our French vs. American Stereotype page for our extended discussion on the topic.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lit Circles Launched

Our eighth grade classes are now simultaneously reading, discussing and blogging about eight different novels for the month of March.  The students had eight texts to choose from, so their selections were limited.  Nevertheless, they wrote about why they chose the text they chose and wrote predictions for each text based on reading one or two chapters.  You can find the predictions and summaries of lit circle talks in the pages listed above.  Their essential question for the unit: How has the text contributed to the world of ideas?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What's the purpose today of continuing to read novels and short stories in English Class? (posted by Mr. Eaton)

As a middle-school English teacher, I make a habit of asking myself: What is the purpose of English class? What is the best use of each day's 54-minute class? What are the real-world English skills I should share with students (the adults and innovators of tomorrow)?

Of course, being passionate about language, I understand the important value of constantly improving our vocabulary, punctuation and grammar. Those skills, while quite dry and mind-numbing for some students (and, I'll be honest, adults too), are the nuts and bolts of improving our communication and articulation with one another.

In the ever faster and immediate methods we humans communicate and express our ideas with each other (emails, texts, tweets, blogs, comments, Facebook statuses, etc.), it is more essential than ever to use the perfect word (vocabulary) and punctuate it correctly for nuanced meaning. We can't rely on expressing nuance through emoticons; what does a winking sideways-smile face mean exactly? More than any time in history, this generation has an absolute, real-world need to harness the power of precise vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation.

But, what's the real-world purpose of reading novels and short stories in class?

In these speedy times, where the bulk of our communication is through sound bites, text messages, tweets, blogs,  and 1000-word Flash Fiction stories, why should classroom time be filled with the time-consuming process of reading those dust-covered, archaic tomes labeled novels and short story collections? Why spend weeks examining what happens when children are left alone on a deserted island in William Golding's Lord of the Flieswhen you can watch a one-hour episode of CBS's  Survivor? Why read David Drury's short story "Things We Knew When The House Caught Fire"  which is set against the backdrop of class divide in a wealthy Bay Area community called Larkspur when, with the same time-commitment, we could read five French-oriented Larkspur blog posts and a related article in San Francisco Chronicle?

I have an answer.

Yes, I have an answer, I believe, that proves that reading books is the most important activity in school. In fact, it is a reason our entire population should turn off their computers and put down their smartphones and pick up a book, or e-reader—I have no beef with that. But, before I blab on about my answer, I'm interested in comments about what you think.

Why do you believe it's important to read novels and short stories? Or, if you think it's a waste of class time, then employ your grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary powers to articulate why not.

Please comment below and join the debate.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Writers on Reading: Tips from Michael Chabon

Last Friday, two of my favorite authors Junot Diaz and Michael Chabon read from their books then answered questions from the audience. You might know Chabon's young adult novel Summerland or his recent novel set in South Berkeley and North Oakland, Telegraph Avenue. He's also the screenwriter of John Carter and Spiderman 2. Junot Diaz wrote the amazing The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. One nugget of wisdom I took home from the conversation was Chabon's comment that reading, especially for kids in schools, can't just be class texts that require some kind of deep moral thinking or are guided solely by the agenda of the curriculum or the teacher. You have to read what inspires you even if you love comics or horror or some other entertaining genre rarely taught in schools. Chabon says he reads to feel bad enough about his own writing that he is inspired to emulate a writer he admires. You young writers need the freedom to read and discuss what inspires you to write.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Anglo Saxon World Wordle as historical background for Beowulf: A New Telling

We are reading Robert Nye's Beowulf A New Telling in seventh grade. It's based on the Old English epic poem Beowulf. For historical background, students competed in a scavenger hunt through The Anglo Saxon Collection on the British Museum website. Students then each submitted five words on a google form that describe the Anglo Saxon world. From the Google form I copied and pasted the text into Wordle to summarize the students' conclusions. Note: in this Anglo Saxon World Wordle there is one over-emphasized word. Can you find it?