Catalog of Lessons by Category > Multi-Modal Projects & Interdisciplinary Learning > English

Catalog of Lessons by Category > Multi-Modal Projects & Interdisciplinary Learning > English 2017-10-03T02:34:53+00:00
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In eighth grade English, we study poetry for about a month. During this unit, we delve into rhyme, rhythm, literary devices, sound devices, imagery, and poetry explication. We read and discuss famous poems which exemplify the topic we are focusing on, and students write about half a dozen original poems. In addition, each girl is assigned a poem at the start of the unit to research and memorize. On the last day, the girls recite their poems, and we celebrate their accomplishments and poetry in general.

When we talk about imagery, we take a few days to isolate and focus on each of the senses individually. This entails hands-on learning, and students respond very positively to this approach year after year. When we focus on sight, we do an activity during which the girls walk around the room and notice things that they usually do not notice. I ask them to write down not what they see, but a simile indicating what else that item could be. For example, someone wrote this year that the erasers lined up on the white board ledge looked like the line of cars in the hook-up line at the end of the day. The girls “oohed” and “aahed” at the creativity of their classmates when we shared these similes. Likewise, students wrote similes about things that they heard and felt with their hands.

What they seemed to enjoy most was “taste day”. First, they brainstormed as a class all of the adjectives they could think of that could describe tastes or textures in one's mouth. The list had at least fifty words on it in each class. I also brought in marshmallows, pretzels, spicy Doritos, Sour Patch Kids candies, chocolate, and grapes (after checking about allergies, of course). Sitting in a circle, the girls closed their eyes and held out their hands as I placed the same item in each one. Keeping their eyes closed, I told them when everyone had one so that they could bite down. Then they opened their eyes and wrote a simile or described the experience. We shared responses before moving on to the next food. Once they finished tasting all six foods, they wrote and shared individual poems about their favorite foods.
Each year, I do three video studies with the sixth grade girls in Reading. We watch each video in 15-20 minute sessions. Then I give them Focus Questions to "test" (not a test) their observation skills. The girls write what they remember. Generally, the questions are factual, although sometimes I include interpretive questions on the sheet. Sometimes I include questions with blanks from the conversation between characters to cause the girls to pay attention to verbal exchanges, words, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. Then we go back through the film and discuss what the director is doing. We look for motifs, allusions, symbolism, foreshadowing - all of the techniques we use in reading stories. As we analyze the film, the girls learn to see the importance of visualizing a written story. They learn the importance of learning to read between the lines by discovering that writers often show us more than they tell us. It's easier to see in a film, and then transfer that learning to reading texts.

One of the films we watch is Searching for Bobby Fischer. Because Josh is described as being creative, we do a related study of what creativity is. We look at lots of descriptions and quotations to try and understand what characteristics a creative person has. We talk about how everyone has the ability to develop creativity. We talk about what it means to think creatively.

Another related subject is intrinsic motivation. Josh's teacher tries to motivate him with “master-class points.” The plan backfires and Josh loses his love for the game. We examine how extrinsic motivation can erode intrinsic desire. We talk about the potential of grades squelching the love of learning. We talk about learning to face fear.

We learn how to play chess, and the girls use their extra time playing games for months after we finish the film. They talk about creativity in other areas. They think about and ask questions concerning motivation for the rest of the year.
In AP English 12 this year, we have read several novels, Shakespeare’s Othello being one of main importance. Instead of doing a long, boring essay on one of the main themes of Othello, our teacher decided to do a project instead. The best part of the project was that we could literally do any type of art we wanted to present a theme or motif included in Othello. Because I am not artistically gifted, I decided to make a Twitter page for each of the main characters. The day it was due, everyone presented their projects. People did monologues, paintings, dances, anything you could imagine. This project made a lasting impact on me, whereas I would’ve forgotten about the essay the second I submitted it. Including these sort of activities in a course is very important and leaves the students having fond memories as opposed to just another class.
In sixth grade English we tackle the notion of what it means to write a concise, knowledge-based, well written piece of expository writing. This is facilitated as the students embark on an independent study in science where they conduct experiments, research their topics, and write research papers. In English, together we read and take notes from two sources on the rabies virus. We then organize these notes together. We write an outline for the paper, and while using eBeam so that we can save our work, we write our research paper together. All the way, we edit our work, reading and re-reading as we go. By experientially going through the arduous process of reading, writing, and creating a research paper, students learn what it takes to produce a well written piece. Furthermore, they get to work together and feed off each other. It’s a dynamic and engaging process that kids talk about in the halls and through the years.
In my AP English Language and Composition class (11th grade), the students are motivated by activities that are hands-on and allow them a chance to be in charge of their own learning. A particularly successful lesson this year was a reciprocal teaching project with The Great Gatsby. Students chose their own groups (key for girls: choice), and then constructed a lesson following the principles of reciprocal teaching, as outlined by Palincsar. The students appeared energized and engaged, and they reported to me that they “loved” The Great Gatsby, as well as the way in which they learned about it. The collaboration was a huge part of the lesson’s success. The girls very much enjoy working together. They provided a summary of assigned chapters, key questions that they asked the class, and then an activity. The activities they chose ranged from traditional crossword puzzles to complicated games of Jeopardy. In nearly every instance, they chose to divide the class into small groups (as modeled frequently by me) and then require each group to share out. The students read the book, enjoyed taking charge of their learning, and seemed to get far more out of the lesson than if I had just lectured them and pointed out important passages.
(World Literature): In English II, Literature of the World, we assign “outside reading” each quarter. For two of the four quarters, the choices must be one from a list of world literature texts. The other two quarters, the choice is free (with gentle nudging toward increased challenge). Along with reading the text, students are required to complete one of a number of projects that are designed to increase the depth of interaction with the text while honing a student’s analytical rhetoric and 21st-century skills. One project was to create a digital advertisement using Glogster, a web 2.0 tool. The students had to combine visual, audio, text and A/V elements into an interactive hypertext. Multiple students indicated that this was a particularly challenging project because they had to use words economically and were forced to find other methods of communication with which they were less familiar. That combined with the intellectual challenge of designing and executing a hypertext with its many layers and interconnections was certainly demanding. However, that the assignment was to design a digital space allowed students to leverage their rich understanding of media, social media, and advertising to draw out pertinent strains of thought and images from the text.
In Mrs. [teacher name]’s 11th grade English class, we are currently working on The Canterbury Tales. You might assume that we’re simply reading the tales, discussing them, and then taking quizzes and/or a test on our reading. At many schools, that might have been the case. In this English class, we do read each tale individually. We do take the quizzes. But we have also do more. Mrs. [teacher name] has provided us with several versions of the tales, translated by several translators. She’s found animated videos regarding the tales which we can watch to either make sure we understood the tale or simply refresh our memories. And perhaps most significantly, Mrs. [teacher name] is currently working with Mrs. [another teacher], [our school]’s theater director, who decided to adapt The Canterbury Tales for the school’s next theater production. In class this week and next week, we are working in groups to use the satire and themes of the tales we read for class as inspiration for the adaptation Mrs. [theater director teacher name], will use with her cast. Each of us is required to participate in a creative project to write a script, monologue, or story based on one or more tales, and we have so many options and ideas floating around that there will be no shortage of material for Mrs. [theater director teacher name] to use for her adaptation of the school play. Not only are we understanding the relevance and symbolism of Geoffrey Chaucer’s writing as it pertains to us today, we are also becoming part of a large school project. In Mrs. [English teacher name]’s class, we are taught, yes. However, we are also inspired and given opportunities to use this inspiration in a way that will affect not only us as individuals, but also our school as a whole.