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So I got my first REALLY GOOD IDEA about teaching the Essay and Exposition class to which I'm assigned this semester.
I was reading this awesome article. If you haven't read it, go read it now.
Thinking through all the typical "first day of class" activities, one thing I just can't NOT do is have them write something describing themselves. But I hate the way I've done it in the past. Either I give them a million guidelines and it sounds more like a shopping list than a "here's who I am" letter, or I give them few guidelines and they turn in five lines that describe their epic love for sleeping, hanging out with family, and video games.
That's when it occurred to me that I could have them write an essay in the style of "Snapshot of a Modern Learner" as their "introduction letter" assignment. Then this unit plan just fell together in no time. It's based on a (slightly asynchronous) mastery model, and the bell schedule is M, T, F 55 minutes, and one 90 minute block day (either W or Th depending on the class).
As always, please tell me what you think about it.
Unit Plan in the Explore-Flip-Apply Model
Students can put the article into categories like I just did (see the bottom of this post if you care to know how I analysed the text). I will either:
1) Give them four categories (description of action/inaction, and description/antithesis of self). I will then ask them to add one more category they see in the text to those four categories and justify their choice.
2) Tell them to find their own categories of language and justify why/how they see them developing in the text.
General "inquiry"-type questions:
--Which categories have more? Why?
--Within the categories, what language patterns do you notice?
--Why are those important?
--How do they tell you about the author’s purpose?
They will then write that up into a textual analysis blog entry.
Flip Video Sequence:
1. Finding and analysing patterns/themes
2. Text preview/model conversation questions [for the three options of texts]
3. Essay guidelines for Snapshot of Me as a Learner
--Students read another text and apply patterning to it.
--Students have a reflective conversation or write a blog post about the patterns in the piece (similar questions to the ones in the Explore phase)
--Students write their own “Snapshot of Me as a Learner” essay
So those are the activities and how they fit into the Explore Flip Apply model. But I still needed to understand how it looked in a week. So here's what I mapped out:
Monday: explore activity (including textual analysis blog entry), first video as HW
Tuesday: debrief video and check for understanding. The task in class is to read and pattern a second text, and then create an analysis similar to explore phase, so students who can do it on their own will do so (or they can self-select into groups). Students who need more guided practice (based on my CFU or self-identified need) will work with me on [possibly an easier version of] the same text, with scaffolding along the way to help them prepare for the next activity.
At the end of class, we'll have a short discussion about the patterns they found, which will allow me to assess understanding and assign remediation as necessary.
HW is to watch text preview video and come to class ready with which text they are most interested in reading
Block day (90 minutes): debrief video and give out the text to students based on their own choice. Divide into stations/groups based on chosen text. After reading and patterning, students will do one of the following:
1) pairs/small groups that have reflective conversations and film it (advanced)
2) write a blog post about the text and comment on others’ posts, or
3) re-watch the patterning video with guided analysis questions that will lead into writing reflective questions
HW is to watch the video on starting their SOMaL essay (many students will probably finish early in class, and therefore will watch the video and start the essay that day)
Friday: debrief video and write essay in class. If students are not ready, they can continue the tasks from block day or work on their Blank White Page project. If necessary, they can finish the essay over the weekend.
Required tasks for the week:
--Analysis of SOML article and one more short article (everyone does the same)
--Textual analysis blog post
--Watch three videos with CFU assignments (probably an embedded google form)
--a third [student choice] text/pattern assignment and assessment [have a reflective conversation or do a reflective writing on the second text - students who need remediation may use the guided notetaking, but it won't give them the full 85% for the week]
--write a short definition essay (Snapshot of Me as a Learner)
If students complete all of that work to the required standard in the week, they get an 85% in classwork (if they fail to complete it to the standard, they will earn lower than 85%).
To get the last 15%, they need to either 1) show at least "an hour's worth" of work on the BWP project, complete an additional task (like finding another model text and doing a reflective blog post/conversation) AND they must show excellence in the writing task.
The Snapshot of Me as a Learner writing task is on a mastery grading system. They will not “pass” this unit until they get at least a 75% on the essay. They can complete as many revisions as they wish, up until the end of the quarter (8-9 weeks).
Additional Texts I'm Considering for this Unit:
--Myth of Latin Woman
--The Key to My Father
--Sanctuary of School
--Why I Want a Wife
--On Being a Cripple
--Why I Write (Weisel)
--Shrouded in Contradiction
All of these are from either Essay Connections or The Blair Reader, both of which are class texts. I'd also love other suggestions, so long as they are readily available and around the 12th grade reading level (higher is preferable actually).
I had one more additional revelation while I was writing this unit. I don't have to have all the students read the same texts, because as long as I offer different choices in each unit, they never have to read the same text twice. So if a kid reads "Mother Tongue" in this unit, when we do the "Politics of English" unit, they will just read another of the choices. I just need to have the "Explore" text not be an option for any of the self-selected options in any unit.
If you want to know what that paragraph looks like at midnight, here it is for your enjoyment:
AAAAAHH!! I don’t have to use diff texts for diff units if there are choices every time!!
Yeah, I'm not all that grammatically correct past 11 PM I guess. I forgot that was in there, until I was sharing a draft of this document with my good friend Karl, and he laughed at me. To be fair, I'd laugh at me too.
If you're interested in my textual analysis of the article, here you go!
Stylistic Notes about the Article:
[I left my own stylistic notes in because I thought it might help you understand my pattern system a little. Sorry if they are unintelligible]
Style: paragraphs have contradictions/parallels in them, all in present tense, except for when referring to what he “learned” in his history project; switches to imperative in the end (they MUST); the definition of himself is built implicitly throughout, but finally defined explicitly in the end (reverse pioneer - important defining language), becomes an argument at the end. It really blends a whole lot of styles - narrative, observation, definition, argument and evaluation
Patterns: Santos/He is always the subject of the sentence; language of disconnection/connection, he thinks/they think/the reality is; mixing what is/isn’t “acceptable”, language of involvement but not creation
The thesis/antithesis in this article is interesting - maybe make a list of competing descriptions?
Linguistic Patterns in the Text:
These are the patterns I notice in the way the text is constructed. These are literally just copied and pasted from the article.
Santos sends approximately 125 texts per day.
He sneaks his phone into his classes either in his book bag or his jacket and
is online just about all day.
He posts messages to Facebook during class.
He looks up answers to definitions of words online.
He checks sports scores,
posts his location so his friends can find him easily, and
streams music through an app on his phone.
Santos opens books and is frustrated when he can’t click on the words or pictures for more information.
Santos listens to his teachers lecture, feeling strange that he can’t pause, rewind, fast-forward, or have anytime access to the information
Santos often helps them when his teachers have trouble with technology or web tools
He knows how to bypass his school’s internet filter and often helps his teachers access Youtube videos to aid in instruction.
he can articulate every detail if you ask Santos what he DID for his History project,
he recites the definitions to a couple of the words he defined.
Santos participates in school as if it were a giant check-off list
he is always DOING something
When he finishes one task, he moves on to another.
He does okay, though
When Santos is assigned a big task at school, he goes home and creates a Facebook group around it.
He shares what he finds on the topic with others and they share back.
He creates his own opportunities for collaborative learning.
Santos knows where to find information
he knows where information lives: everywhere
He is more likely to find and copy information without attribution
He learns about these things at night on his own.
Outside of school, he doesn’t separate technology from other activities.
think about [technology] because it’s always available.
When asked to give an example, he falters.
He’s not necessarily always learning at school,.
His grades are better when he’s interested in what he is doing at school, and marginal when he’s disinterested. Unfortunately, that happens more and more often as he gets older.
He does not necessarily discern what information is relevant and
he doesn’t necessarily know what he needs to learn from the information.
he is not likely to connect ideas and create something new from it.
HE IS/WILL BE:
he is misunderstood.
he would be really good at developing Augmented Reality programs or designing nanocircuitry that would enable the creation of incredibly small computing devices
Santos is connected to kids in China, England, Germany, and Australia
he is translating the language with an online tool so that they can effectively communicate
He is connected to these kids because of a mutual interest in nanocircuitry.
Santos is a good kid.
Kids like Santos are reverse pioneers, navigating worlds that everyone older than them values.
he is constrained by system frightened by “what ifs” rather than magnificence of “what could be.”
HE IS NOT:
Santos is not an enigma,
His parents think he would make a good lawyer or doctor. Santos thinks. He told the Career and Technology teacher at his school what he was learning. The teacher handed him plans for a canned cardboard rocket project.
he isn’t thinking about distances or time when he interacts.
Santos is not being adequately prepared for the world he will graduate into, at least in school.
HE THINKS (or other thinking tasks):
He accepts the role he has at school, like most of the other kids, and like most of the other kids, Santos thinks that school is largely a time machine.
He leaves his world and goes back in time at 7:30 AM Monday through Friday. At 3:30 PM, he re-enters his world.
Santos recognizes that the topics he is really interested in are largely blocked/ignored at school.
He thinks it’s funny that he goes to school to learn a few things that he will be tested on, but don’t really represent his current or future worlds. Santos believes he learns more outside of school than he does inside of school.
Santos knows that they are accountable for specific content, delivered in ways to help him maximize his score on state assessments
he stays up late at night to learn about nanocircuitry, w/a worldwide cadre of like-minded peers.
Santos knows that technology doesn’t move backwards
His teachers can’t dismantle his reality to maintain comfort in their professional practice.
His teachers are going to have to embrace all that modern learning means, though, act on it with purpose, and make technology as ubiquitous as a pencil. Right now,
His teachers mean well, but Santos knows that they are accountable for specific content, delivered in ways to help him maximize his score on state assessments, which leaves little time for anything that would matter to him in a meaningful way.
Thesis: If kids like Santos will become the future innovators, then they need opportunities to innovate with the tools and technology of tomorrow, not yesterday.