The Life of Bon: What we did in class this week round VI

Sunday, June 02, 2013

What we did in class this week round VI


We're rounding up the year here (3 more days!) but we've done a lot of fun stuff this past month and by golly we worked hard right up until Friday. (Okay fine... up until Wednesday...)  Now it's time to party.

Seniors:  Our last book of the year was Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen. The book is about a girl who is raped at a party and doesn't tell anyone about it.  She struggles with the burden by herself for a year, pushing out all people from her life. The content is a bit heavy, but students like it because it is an easy reading level and it's set in high school- so they can relate to it.  I like it because it brings awareness to a topic that is sensitive, but important to be aware of.  It's the perfect book to end the year with.  I can only expect those seniors to do so much for me by the time May hits.  If I tried to crack Othello or Hamlet on them this time of a year, you better believe there'd be a revolt.

At one part of the book the narrator gives "Ten Lies they tell you about High School."  You know, stuff like "We will win the football championship this year" and "You will be able to finish your homework in class."  The kids loved it so I had them write their own "Ten Lies they tell you..."  Those kids are pretty dang clever. They did every variation of it, "Ten Lies they tell you about professional sports." "Ten Lies they tell you about  driving."  "Ten Lies your boyfriend tells you..." etc.

We also watched the Jeff Bliss video on Youtube.  If you haven't seen it, it's a high school kid going off on his teacher for not teaching the class.  I asked students if they agreed with what the kid said, how he said it, and what they saw as problems in our country's educational system- why we allow teachers like this.  It led to a fantastic discussion and allowed students to better understand the complexities of our educational system.  It's not as easy to measure a teacher's performance or value as they may think it is.  Problems in education are complex and answers are not as black and white as you might think, and I wanted them to be able to see that. (Did you watch this video?  What did you think of it?!?)

Juniors:  We read some great excerpts from The Things They Carried.  If you haven't read this book, I strongly encourage you to.  It's one of my favorite books ever and I love re reading it every year.  The book is based on Tim O'Brien's experience in the Vietnam War and is one of the best "war books" I have ever read.  He states that in order to believe a war story you have to feel it with your stomach.  If you say "War is Hell" you don't feel that with your stomach- it's too general.  You have to hear and read the graphic details to understand the gruesomeness of war.  He is an absolutely fantastic writer and really allows you to understand the issues in the war.  This was the first year teaching it that I didn't have parents complaining about the content (intense language and some graphic violent scenes)- I suppose our little area is becoming more open minded?

Sophomores: We've been doing a unit on short stories and the students all had to write their own 2-3 page short story.  Those tikes really ran with that assignment.  It was like they'd been waiting all year for me to assign them a short story... almost every single student wrote more than the required length and some students wrote over 10 pages.  I tell you what, you give the students an assignment they like and they'll surprise the crap out of you.

We also read some short stories together.  One of my favorites is "The Fat Girl" by Andre Dubus.  Basically the girl is fat her whole life, but then during college goes on a diet and loses enormous amounts of weight.  She then meets a man and gets married. After her marriage she regains the weight and refuses to lose it.  The husband is frustrated and doesn't want to touch her.  This story gave us one of the best discussions I've had with my sophomores.  I asked them if you blamed the husband for not wanting to touch the wife. Or was it the wife's fault for basically tricking him by pretending she was "Skinny" and then going back to her old ways?  The kids were about half and half and some of them were fighting pretty hard... one girl was adamant that the husband was a total douchebag and should love the wife no matter her physical state.  Others said it was the wife's fault for marrying him when she was skinny... that she had essentially tricked him into marrying her and then expected him to still love her when she completely let go.  It was interesting to talk about how big of a role appearances and physical state play in a marriage.  When I have students really riled up about a topic, yelling at each other like crazy, and raising their hands high begging me to call on them-  well, we've had some success.

It definitely is tough to keep kids focused and concentrated the last two weeks of school- all of our minds are somewhere else.  I'm interested- what did your teachers do those last couple of weeks of school?  Did you get any work done or was it just movie heaven?

19 comments:

  1. Those sounds like such great books! Much cooler than the books I read in school. I was in AP English in both 11th and 12th grade and so our subject matter was pretty basic. But we did a short stories unit in 12th grade and I absolutely loved it! My favorite short story is "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Lottery." (I'm such a geek.)

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    1. I wrote a paper on mental illness, postpartum depression, and the rest cure, all within the context of "The Yellow Wallpaper" my freshman year of undergrad.

      "The Lottery" and "The Necklace" (La Parure) are my favorite short stories. :)

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    2. I use "The Lottery" with Lord of the Flies and I love the students reactions everytime! They are amazed that the townspeople behaved that way. Great way to teach symbolism and irony!

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  2. For the last little bit of school my 8th graders are making food group commercials and then we finish with an end of semester final project: an 8th grade alphabet book. Both projects are fun and the class is pretty relaxed. We get in trouble if we show movies

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  3. As a teacher, I agreed with that kid so much. I LOVED my subject and I loved getting a good discussion going in class and seeing them really understand. But the more I thought about it, yeah, it wasn't really the right setting. He was still being disrespectful, even though he wasn't rude about it. Glad to see that sort of thing getting exposure though and starting discussions!

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  4. My last week of school was on a Friday...our grades were due on that Monday and the kids new that. Try getting 12-14 years olds to work when they know it doesn't count. But, I had my 8th graders (U.S. History, first half) watch Gone with the Wind, and we paused it numerous times talking about racial roles, Southern economy and culture, and the perception of the Civil War...so they were still learning and discussing while watching a relevant movie.
    morrellfairytale.blogspot.com

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  5. I kept my 7th graders busy (almost) right up until the end by doing literature circles with them (basically like miniature book clubs where they get to choose the book they read and some of their group members) and by having them write a narrative in the style of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" that's based on their own life.

    Their stories were amazing!

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  6. My fifth grader has complained she's starting to learn 6th grade stuff - even having a social studies test this week, the last week of school. The horrors!

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  7. so lucky! i still have another 7 weeks in school here in England! :(

    leyla xx
    mythoughtsandboredom.blogspot.co.uk

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  8. I have to teach Romeo and Juliet and the Odyssey during the last weeks of school. We do read out loads with randomly assigned parts (very funny when 2 boys are selected to portray R&J...inevitably someone wants them to REALLY act out the scene kisses and all).

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  9. Your lesson plans continue to blow my mind. As a math/science girl I never really focused so much on English, it was just something that I had to get through in order to graduate, but it's inspiring to hear about other kids engaging - maybe I didn't give high school English enough of a chance.

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  10. I love reading your class posts! I know it makes me seem like a nerd (ok I am a nerd) but I love reading about school!

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  11. I was really bothered by that video and how it was touted as such a great thing ... There are so many things that we DON'T know about that teacher and her classroom and were seeing a 2 minute clip of this kid being totally disrespectful -- if he has a real issue with her teaching style, has he approached her about it one-on-one? Also what's her teaching schedule like? How many preps does she teach? Does her school provide materials or does she have to create her own? The bottom line is - no matter how much we don't want standardized testing and everyone agrees it's bogus, we still have to give standardized tests and sometimes that limits how creative teachers can be. I'm most bothered by the fact that the same people who are against standardized testing are FOR teacher evaluations --- based in standardized teaching.

    So yeah, I was bothered by the fact that everyone thought he did such a great thing when all I can see is a kid who's being super disrespectful (coming from a teacher who has been disrespected her fair share of times )

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  12. Your class always sounds like so much fun! I definitely had teachers who popped in a movie, and my least favorite activities were all these group projects. Had I been in your class, though, I wouldn't have minded those last days at all!

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  13. My english teacher basically let us hang out in her classroom one of our last days in her class (the way my gr.12 english class worked was that we had two two hour afternoon classes a week and one one hour class every other friday) but I had a lot of assignments due by the end of the last week in all my classes and I basically spent one long night writing all my papers for my various classes and I had to have them done because the next two days were our grad festivities and basically complete write offs.

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  14. I can't remember the books I had to read when at school and I think that says a lot.........these books sound more interesting

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  15. I always love your "what we've done..." posts. I also LOVE the things we carried and it might be my favorite book that I read in high school. also I wish I could've been a fly on the wall during the jeff bliss discussion! if only!

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  16. If you like O'Brien you should try In The Lake of the Woods. It's on my summer re-read list. It wish we could get Speak or The Things they Carried approved. My students would love it!

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  17. I read "The Things They Carried" in school years ago and loved it so much I still recommend it to people. We read it straight after "Heart of Darkness" which I don't think was the best syllabus decision. It was suffocating to have so much heaviness back to back. I've never been able to avoid Shakespeare though. (I have a MA in Theatre Studies and my S.O. is a company member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon) xx

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