What a busy week! I still have a few kids’ names I don’t know yet, but I’m learning to cope by having other kids pass back papers, or having them call on each other as part of discussion. Hopefully by next week I’ll have them all down…
Class-by-class updates as I reflect on Week 3 of school!
My two freshmen classes are lovely. Virtually no behavior problems, and my biggest issue is that they’re sleepy and not as responsive as I would like. We are reading The Most Dangerous Game this week to introduce a short story unit. We read it aloud over two periods, and they are finishing the short story over the weekend. I encouraged them to do a double-entry journal while they read, to be used on an open-notes reading quiz Tuesday. They draw a T-chart, and in the left column they write quotes from the text, and use the right column for observations, inferences, definitions, and questions. We modeled it the last two days, and I’m hoping it will help my struggling readers while not hindering my more adept ones. I need to grade their final drafts of the interview papers they wrote about a partner last week, but otherwise I’m caught up on them and planned through the end of September – and that feels good!
Last year I went too slow; this year I doubled the pace, and instead of outpacing them I outpaced myself! Last year I assigned the textbook reading in 7-10 pages chunks; this year I just assigned a whole 35-page chapter. They’re about a month ahead of where we last year, content-wise – just to give you an idea of how slow I took it last fall. However, I zipped by a few of them on concepts we really needed to stop and slow down on, so we’re doing that now.
We started with basic tenets of rhetoric: ethos, logos, pathos, diction, syntax.
For the non-rhetorical analysts out there,
Ethos = ethical appeal – how the speaker of a text shows his or her credibility, trustworthiness, and shared values with the audience
Logos = logical appeal – facts, numbers, logical arguments to make a point
Pathos = emotional appeal – making you feel sad, happy, angry, etc.
Diction = choice of words an author uses – e.g. how “devastated” is a more accurate word to describe flooded Louisiana right now than “slightly damaged”
Syntax = word order – authors use long sentences to explain, short sentences to make you hurry and get excited, and various other sentence structures to make claims
All of these things my kids covered in past years, but they magically “forgot” with the beginning of the school year. Since these are the basics on which the entire AP English language and composition curriculum is built, we need to make sure they are solid on these before we move forward. I also introduced fallacies to them, in preparation for reading The Crucible next week. They get the bandwagon fallacy without issue, but there are a lot more we need to go over before they feel comfortable. We’ve also spent some time reading about common writing errors and grammar mistakes; they mess up they’re/there/their less than their grade-level peers, but still do quite a number on harder-to-spot ones like less VS fewer, who/whom, or antecedent agreement.
Speaking of The Crucible, we did a brief intro to McCarthyism today since the play is Arthur Miller’s allegory to the Red Scare and the Sen McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. I showed a 3-minute hook from the History Channel on remnants of the Cold War, and was shocked to see this on the second screen:
I paused it and gaped; it took my students a few seconds to catch up, but then their eyebrows shot up and they reverently whispered, “It’s the wrong ‘its’…” They were proud of themselves catching something the History Channel apparently whiffed on.
This is my favorite fun class. I have a vague plan most days but do very little prep. The bulk of the class (22 of the 26 students) are former or current AP English students of mine. It’s a very informal elective; the kids in it want to learn but do not want to take on an extra workload to their already bogged-down schedules, so I work hard to make it interesting but not too homework-heavy. Yesterday we pulled all our desks into a circle for discussion day. We began discussing the effects of a “nanny cam” installed in a teacher’s room, and if the teacher would improve teaching when she doesn’t know when she’s being watched (this tied into our lecture on the Hawthorne effect). We also discussed reality television and its tie to the Stanford Prison Experiment, and as we ruminated over real-life surveys they took, they started a conversation about how to apply sociological observations – or experiments – to the vote for Homecoming court in a few weeks (i.e. “Can we interview the freshmen to see why they vote for who they do, and then see if we can predict the outcome?” “Can we figure out a way to vote in block and get someone not normally elected on the court?”). It was part of a series looking at data manipulation, to get them to understand that very little data is hard-and-fast; it depends on how the questions are asked.
Today we learned about participant observation as a research method and read this article by a teacher who spend two days shadowing high school students. They discussed it in small groups first, then had a fabulous discussion about which of her findings were true in their eyes, and suggestions they took away from her conclusions as well as some of their own suggestions for improved learning. They were all doing participant observation research as students without even realizing it. Over the weekend they are reading the first chapter of Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day about doing participant observation research in the Robert Taylor Homes buildings in Chicago. I promised them we’d go outside for a discussion day next Tuesday, but only if they read the chapter; I predict very high participation rates for that day.
Tonight Hubster, Spartacus, and my newly-returned-home sister-in-law are going to the first home football game. I am not doing ANY grading tomorrow. Yay for week three!