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Saving Summer: Our country, tis of thee….

This September, right from the get-go, around Constitution Day (which falls on a Sunday this year), I shall share a unit on the Declaration of Independence, sparked by this exchange.  And it’s here, too. 

And from this thread, I learned so much.

So folks didn’t know that NPR’s annual reading of the Declaration of Indepence was just that: a reminder of what our nation is founded upon, what were the reasons for the Revolutionary War, and throwing over a tyrannous ruler.

Here is the first draft of potential discussions, lessons, etc.

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Something wicked +1

Architecture of a Story
Architecture of a Story

Is it just me or does one become a veteran teacher far too soon in one’s journey? Meaning, how did I get so old?! Well, as scary as that is, it’s better than the alternative, right Poe?

Allow me to present the context: through December I have a student teacher, and boy oh boy am I happy to know her. She’s going to be a fantastic teacher, wants to do well and jump right in. This has been an especially chaotic start to the new school year for me: our administration takes great care and time to balance the master schedule, so it’s had to change multiple times to get it right. When one considers how many of our students need what is called “Essentials” in our district (it’s probably called that other places, too), it changes the dynamic quite a bit. To the point, for me personally I gave up my planning period and will be teaching six periods a day, so having an eager student teacher/intern will be enormously helpful.

One of the requirements of her program is a three-day scoped lesson, and since she and I are both enthusiastic fans of all things macabre and October, we sat down to discuss a possible text. One of the first short stories I planned on handing over to her was The Monkey’s Paw. I’ve used this story for many years and add the Vimeo film, too. It’s accessible in terms of understanding themes/tropes (be careful what you wish for! Magic has a cost! Be grateful for what you have!) and is grand, classic fun.

And that was the problem.

As I am describing the story, written in 1902, with its archaic language and cultural tropes (exotic foreign lands! Grand Fakir! Seargent Major in the grand India wars….!) her eyes seemed to glaze over, not in boredom, but in overwhelmed fear: these old stories are not this generation’s stories. She’s two years older than my oldest son, and if I may make one sweeping generalization about millennials it’s not that they haven’t read the classics, but perhaps have rejected them because they are not multicultural or diverse. Coming from my old white lady perspective, many of my beloved stories are from a narrow Victorian smelling salts place of overly tight corsets and ladies locked in boxes/towers/coffins.

The Monkey’s Paw is not a place to start when you’re a 23-year-old student teacher.

 

I put the word out on the Notice and Note page:

I’m going to the well once again — 🙂 I have a great student teacher, and many of the classic horror stories are not in her wheelhouse. We’re thinking of her three-day filmed lessons of doing RL8.3 and a scary story. Things like The Monkey’s Paw or The Raven are not comfortable for her necessarily, so was wondering if anyone knows of poetry or short story horror that’s more contemporary? The guiding question is ‘what do we know as readers that the character(s) don’t know?’ among others. Please and thank you–

To all of you: you honor me with your amazing resources and suggestions. What I think we all struggled with though was at the heart of my question: something more contemporary. I should have just flat-out said: diverse. Multicultural. Not Dead White Guy. Not that there’s a darn thing wrong with dead white guys. Those are some of my favorite guys.

From Notice and Note Educator Experts:

But these are wonderful pieces of literature, and though I’ve used most of them extensively, have some new ones to check out:

The Landlady by Roald Dahl (short story)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (used this for years) (novel)

Don’t Ask Jack by Neil Gaiman

The Wife’s Tale by Seamus Heaney (poetry)

The Lady or the Tiger by Frank Stockton

Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

The Right Kind of House by Henry Slezar

Reverse Insomnia – not sure (?)

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Cornell

The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Waxwork by AM Burrage

The Highwayman (romantic/gothic/poetry) Alfred Noyes

Darkness Creeping Neil Shusterman (collection)

Fever Dream by Ray Bradbury

The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

All in a Summer Day by Ray Bradbury

Twilight Zone/Monsters are Due on Maple Street

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Three Skeleton Key by George G. Toudouze

Heading Home by Ramsey Campbell

Miriam by Truman Capote

The Open Window by Saki

The Severed Hand by Wilhelm Hauff

Under the Weather by Stephen King

E-books for Stephen King

Cabinet of Curiosities 

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (I still have students trying to hand me pieces of paper with black dots)

What I found:

http://theweek.com/articles/458062/9-contemporary-horror-stories-read-right-now — ooh there are some good ones here

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2015/10/19/diverse-horror-folklore-ya/ — just bought some Rin Chupaco

http://www.livescience.com/48515-10-haunted-house-ghost-stories.html – these are ancient stories from around the world

 

And of course, there are always quick films. I have film versions of almost all the classic stories above.

Lights Out – Who’s There Film Challenge (2013) from David F. Sandberg on Vimeo.

Bloody Cuts/Who’s There Film Challenge -some are NOT appropriate, but some are pretty great.

I want to thank you all for your suggestions and insights: it reminds me again that we cannot do this alone. It’s up to my student teacher to poke around and find one that feels comfortable for her now, just like all of us have and had to do. She’s going to craft and curate her own stories to tell — and I can’t wait to hear them!

 

PS http://onebooklane.com/mistletoe-bride-short-story-kate-mosse/

 

and

The Life of Death from Marsha Onderstijn on Vimeo.

 

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WIHWT: Taking Sides

Gustave Dore hercules

I wish I had written this: Taking Sides: Revolution or Oppression.

Our children’s fears indict us all.

Teaching critical thinking skills is not an option. It never was, but seemed to be kept for the elite or college-bound.

One cannot teach a skill in isolation. It cannot be a stand-alone, one-off concept. Skills must always ALWAYS be connected to a bigger understanding and knowledge building. Silo teaching “may help teachers, but does nothing to help students.” It’s imperative to make the distinction between the skill, its assessment, mastery and its application.

About three years ago many teachers collaborated to create a unit on water. Coincidentally, in Ainissa Ramirez’s article “Smashing Silos, water is also used as a cross-content topic: 

One question you might have is: “How do you apply these new ways of teaching to the standards?” There are many topics that can be taught by showing the interrelation and complexity of issues while still teaching the fundamentals and linking to the standards. A key topic in the 21st century is water. This is a challenge that our children will certainly have to face. The topic of water does not fall under just history, science, math, political science or economics — it falls under all of them. As recently as 2012, The Economist2 wrote a special report entirely on water. Why not prepare students now for problems with complexity?

But I cannot explain my abstract pedagogy to others sometimes. That I have the expertise, the volume of work — units, lessons, ideas, texts, etc. I don’t speak the same language, and it gets lost in translation.

But allow me to strive for clarity: skills are critical to teach. The direct instruction of teaching even the deceptively simple task of finding a central idea cannot be separated from content. But it is our job as ELA teachers to teach and assess the skill, and then by grace, goodwill, or sheer determination the other content area teachers will understand it’s not optional. 

Someone asked me a fantastic question today, and asked specifically what and how I teach ‘central idea.’ I have many lessons for this, but I couldn’t answer, because my instruction evolves with new information and learning all the time. It’s like trying to pinpoint the moment where a snake decided to become a skink.

http://morgana249.blogspot.com/2014/09/5-modern-reptiles-that-give-birth-to.html
oh hai der

After careful study and reading, my interpretation: 

Main Idea: topic.

Central Idea: topic and author’s purpose – thesis

Theme: complex, universal truth and exploration

Some suggest central idea is intended for informational text, while them is intended for literary works. Some even use these terms interchangeably, which makes teaching it difficult. 

via GIPHY

TOPIC IS NOT THEME.

TOPIC IS NOT THEME.

TOPIC IS NOT THEME.

Okay. I’m home now.

My apologies: the gravitas that this post demands slipped past me. It’s still summer, after all. I have one more week, kind of, sort of, but not really.

Here’s where I landed:

The work of a PLC is to focus, with laser intensity, a few things and teach them exceptionally well. Preferences and bias for instruction matter only in the instance of what do they do when they ‘get it’ and when they don’t. And it all matters. My life as a reader and writer serves my students well. It provides authenticity. Someone else’s choice of text is just that: their choice.

I cannot teach without the support and collaboration from other content areas. I cannot teach in isolation. The compelling urgency to make connections and allow for talk lightens the shadows and the burden.

A mentor said to me years ago that their grades can’t be more important to me than they are to them. I finally really understand that now. It’s not about ‘accountability’ or ‘responsibility’ –two words that are used as code for ‘lazy’ and ‘poverty problems.’

It is my job to make the learning important to one and all because it is their life.

Their life.

That’s the only side.

 

PS “Kick these instructional strategies to the curb.”

 

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Thematic Thursday

Last year one of my students had one of those lightbulb moments, that eureka shake up, awesome anagnorisis,  where she completely understood what I meant by the concept of the difference between topic and theme.

This is a biggie. It’s important because it means I can do it. Because teaching theme…teaching it well that is..isn’t easy.

So on Thematic Thursdays, there is intentional time to do just that, however the strategy, whatever the current unit of study.

I am a lifelong devoted scholar of the study of themes, and yet, it is as painful to teach for me as doing my own dentistry sometimes. I need to just get over myself. Some teachers know how to simplify teaching theme, distill it to its most essential elements. This anchor chart isn’t a bad place to start, but it’s that last sentence starter that doesn’t hold up for me. Is theme a formula–if x then y? I don’t think it is. And I am also not sure if the author is always in control of one lesson in a work, be it a novel, poem, dance, art, or music. The danger is telling students there is only one answer. Theme is not a main or central idea. The central ideas help create the possible themes.

 

Grabbed off of Pinterest
Grabbed off of Pinterest
This site does a solid job of discussing literary devices. I only take exception with calling topics themes.
This site does a solid job of discussing literary devices. I only take exception with calling topics themes.

However, I approach teaching and discussing themes more like an alchemist. So what happens on Theme Thursdays? Again, any number of things. An exploration of a current unit, question, time to bird walk and discuss, muse, or laser focus on symbolism and motif? Creation of personal themes, missions, pledges, for one’s own narrative. We can look at art, read a poem, or perhaps prepare for Film Fridays.

This is a PowerPoint I created years ago. It still holds up pretty well. 

Tim Shanahan has a pretty good post about this: http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com. I invite anyone who has something to add to this discussion to please do so: how do you ‘teach theme’ — is it by definition and then exploration, or the other way around?

 

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Source material.

We have had a firehose of information provided us for the SBA writing tasks. I am doing my best to make sense of it.

This is the near-final version of the Prezi: but I’m at the point where I can’t edit any further. Its intended audience is the staff right before school starts, to help all staff members to feel supported with writing across the curriculum.

If you see something wonky, needs fixing, big ‘ol “huh?” please let me know. Thank you!

The link for resources is here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByKyQvl3l_F5cEF5ckpPb2VzOG8/view?usp=sharing

 

 

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