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A highly effective practice that I can share would be when my English 4 Honors class was reading Oedipus. Much of the content was challenging and obscure. I broke the students into groups, divided scenes, we read in small groups, identified essential ideas, tried to create meaning of text, next the students did a dramatic reading. There was one extra group and I assigned them the poem “Jocasta.” They did a choral reading of this poem. The girls had complete autonomy regarding how they would read/analyze their lines. The group that did the poem performed after the others---their reading was incredible--the other students were engaged and it put a different perspective (female) on the play. It was a unifying moment in class. The students loved the story of Oedipus but the challenges of the text were obstacles to enjoyment---the dramatic readings and the poetry performance was electric. I think what occurred was the students were open to collaboration and there was a sense of security and “safety” in the class. It was conducive to such a “performance.”
In seventh grade and in language arts, we had to do an individual project that took place at home and in the classroom. Ms. [teacher’s name] gave us a good-sized sheet and we had to think about our future and what we wanted to achieve in life. We brought magazines and shared them. We cut pictures and pasted it on our sheet. Somewhere on our project, we had to have a haiku on anything. The day it was due, we presented it in front of our classmates, explained what each picture represented. To me it was very engaging. She put all of her period’s projects on her biggest wall together.
In the 11th grade AP English Language and Composition course, we study sonnets in depth. Many years ago I began assigning and allowing much time for an individual project called an “Illuminated Sonnet.” Before each girl is asked to illuminate a sonnet on her own, we spend two weeks learning all about the sonnet’s history and form. To begin the study, I introduced the girls to many modern sonnet forms by first playing songs. In small groups girls would then analyze modern sonnets to “discover” the typical sonnet forms. Because these sonnets were modern, the girls felt comfortable with the language and were able to focus more easily on structure and content. We then moved to a study of the different topics of sonnets, ending with the idea of romantic love as a common (and much appreciated) topic of sonnets. The girls then are asked to research sonnets and bring their favorites to class to share; typically this endeavor affords me the opportunity to introduce Shakespearean sonnets (since several girls in each class will bring one of his sonnets to share) and then discuss Shakespeare’s inspiration (the history of the sonnet). We then spend several class periods on the technical deconstruction of some of the most famous sonnets-- students work in pairs to deconstruct and the present to the whole class. Finally, we put the sonnets back together (take away the deconstruction) and discuss the ways the parts inform the whole and our appreciation of the sonnet in new ways. The girls are always blown away by this exercise and walk away with a new appreciation for poetry as a whole.

The cumulative project, the Illuminated Sonnet, is then each girl’s way of demonstrating her understanding of the way the parts of the sonnet contribute to the meaning of the whole. The project asks each girls to choose a Shakespearean sonnet and then to “lluminate” it with technology-- use PowerPoint, Keynote or another program-- to use font, color, images, animation, etc., to highlight the important components of the sonnet. Students are asked to choose music to accompany the illumination, and then to write an analysis of the choices that were made and why/how those choices illuminate the larger meaning of the “whole” sonnet. This project is time consuming and technically difficult, but it is one that the girls ask for the first week of school. Students come back and talk about their projects and how much they learned through the unit of study.
In the second semester of my English class during my junior year we studied speech-writing techniques and what makes speeches so memorable. After we spent time learning about the different techniques and analyzing several speeches our teacher allowed us to write our own speeches on whatever topic we wanted too. Some speeches were very serious while some...not so much. Either way, it was enjoyable seeing the wide range of topics from a speech about hip hop/rap music losing substance and meaning to why we should all be nudist. After we wrote our speeches we now had the task of delivering them. Thankfully, they didn’t have to be memorized. A lot of people would far and beyond what was required of them and added music or graphics to emphasize the point that they were trying to make which made the speeches in particular stand out. The speeches were said with great conviction and enthusiasm that it wasn’t hard to follow what they were saying. It also helped that most of the speeches were humorous. This was easily one of the most memorable moments of my high school career.