It’s hard to escape the onslaught of reminders that a new year, #2013, should mean adopting new “habits.” Better habits for our health, personal lives, professional lives. Ads arrive at my door reminding me that I can get organized via the Container Store, healthy via the NordicTrack and better sleep via the Healthy Back Store. Retail outlets are desperate to help me. However…
Winter break feels too short. Adopting new “habits” too hard and looking ahead January and February seem endless. Teachers need help without sacrificing mental health and student instruction post winter break. Instead of enticing you to spend your holiday gift cards, I’m going to spend the month of January posting small things, little things that make a huge difference. The hope being that you can adopt them easily in order to simplify your teaching life without having to completely revamp. Make a New Year’s resolution to yourself. Find more time in your classroom for meaningful instruction that requires less direct instruction from you.
My first resolution for you? Create an ongoing journal assignment. This type of journal will practice Common Core and AP English skills. It will also give you 10 minutes at the beginning of each class to catch your breath while they find their voice.
Start with having them write a 10-minute journal 2-3 times a week. The best way to get students in the habit of working in a journal is to keep in the room. Think composition notebook or a cheap spiral. However, if you are working on the cheap or you want to implement this immediately, simply create lined paper in a Word document (hit the underscore button for eternity) and copy. Each sheet of paper represents one journal. If you feel so inclined you can label each sheet.
Journal Type#1: The Art of Argument
Let’s start with my favorite journal. Students read a short article. Then, they write an entry that either qualifies the article’s argument or directly opposes it. This will be a challenge for them since often they agree with the op-ed’s point of view. Remind them that it helps extend their “range” as writers if they can identify other perspectives and construct response that include those points of view. Yes, it is difficult. But it also challenges them too. This type of journal demands they consider other views. Below are some great articles to help you begin. If you are pressed for time consider having students read the article outside of class and come prepared to write their challenge or qualification.
Category: Close Reading
, New Year's Resolutions
, Writing Analysis
, Writing and Voice
, New York Times
, Washington Post
This week we’ve looked at the social/cultural implications of summer songs and the viral video “knock offs” they produce, and we’ve had fun. I’ve watched College Humor’s “Some Study That I Used to Know” so many times that I’m starting to get dirty looks from the man that lives with me. Once is funny. Twice is humorous. 23 times is nothing short of some kind of personal psychosis. Even I understand my infinite loop is a problem. So how do we turn all of this pop culturally exploration into solid argumentation? And how do I stop listening to these songs?
Answering the second question is impossible so I’ll try question the first instead. An excellent way to end a study of the songs of summer is to write a speech that defends challenges or qualifies. You know we love UPENN’s 60-second lectures. What could be better for a brief end of the year or start to next year. I often like to ask students to write the side of the argument they find most difficult to discuss.
Ask students to use their essential questions (not about specific songs) or have them choose from a list that you create.
- What does summer music suggest about values in American culture?
- How does America’s love of pop music define us as a society?
- Why do Americans feel compelled to define summer as carefree and wild?
Then have students construct their own speech. Have them video these speeches and post them to Youtube or Tumblr or even Voice Thread. It’s a nice way to keep them all in one place. While you of course have to view them all, consider assigning several and evaluating them in class according to your own rubric.
You can also have students choose one of the songs in contention for Summer Song 2012 and write in defense of it. So, what about the contenders? Vulture makes the case that there are five by the following artists: Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen, Usher, Rhianna and Katy Perry. Ask students to choose one of the songs and argue in writing or speech why it should reign this summer. If you’re feeling tricky, instead ask them to pick a song, currently in rotation.
Elements to Consider Including for an In Defense of Speech or Essay
- Ask that they include certain rhetorical elements-anaphora, metaphor, allusion, etc.
- Ask that they draft a proposal for their speech (title, topic, description, etc.)
- Ask that they draft a speech. Provide feedback on the speech.
- Discuss public speaking tips.
- Consider allowing students to evaluate and critique speeches when they are presented, with parameters, of course. You can do this by creating a simple checklist/rubric for students or asking them to SOAPSTone each speaker. Offer several categories for winning:
- Most Convincing
- Cleverest Title & Topic
- Best Line