Last year I revamped a classroom library project with the help of our school librarian and it turned out to be the most successful project of the year. After reading I Am Legend and Fahrenheit 451, I allowed my students to check out a book from our IMC that fit in our Speculative Genre. Some of the more popular choices were Gone, Peeps, Hunger Games, and Feed. The students were given 3 weeks to read their novel. Each day in class for the next two and 1/2 weeks I made sure I set aside some time for SSR. I really wanted my students to have every opportunity to read the book of their choice. When the students were finished we spent four days in the computer lab where they learned to create their own website based on their novel using weebly.com. The first day was devoted to showing students how to use the site and how they could add images, themes, music, and video. The next three days were used to create the websites. Each student was required to create a five page website. Three pages were required (Intro, Summary, and Characters) The remaining two pages were free choice. You can see the options listed on the assignment pdf below. I have also attached a simple rubric I used to grade the websites. (this was time consuming, as over 72 websites were created)
Overall it was a great project. The kids were held accountable and learned a new skill in the process. Students began planning their web pages while reading, and they soon realized the more they read, the easier their sites would be to create.
One reason this project went so well is because I registered as an educator with weebly and I talked some of my colleagues into registering also. This allowed me to create 60 free student accounts where I could access all their sites from one location. The remaining accounts, the students created on their own and emailed me the link to their finished project.
As an English teacher, I’ve always felt one of my biggest challenges was how to teach students to write well. Adding to this struggle was the fact that our school district fell prey to the dreaded five paragraph essay. In fact, I feel pretty confident that I am guilty of destroying an entire generation of my students’ writing skills by subjecting them to the cookie-cutter five-paragraph recipe to writing. So, it’s time to make amends.
I highly recommend this book: Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher
I’ve been a fan of Kelly Gallagher’s work since I came across Readicide. When I read that book, it reaffirmed all the experiences I was seeing in my classroom on a daily basis. However his latest book might be my favorite. Write Like This offers simple, outstanding lessons that build a solid foundation to good writing. If you click the link above, read the “swiss army knife” review, it’s spot on.
I do find it a bit ironic however that this year the ACT has dropped the mandatory writing requirement. However, it was that requirement that led to so many schools to teach the cookie-cutter method in the first place. So maybe we can all get back to teaching our students how to write well. Gallagher has provided us with a good start.
The link below contains a modified chart that I found in Gallagher’s book, this chart has been extremely beneficial in helping my students brainstorm for the argumentative essay. Argument Chart
Each year that I teach Fahrenheit 451 to my seniors, it seems more and more likely that Ray Bradbury’s predictions will come true. His descriptions of ipods, big screen TV’s, and reality television are eerily accurrate. As I am always looking for new ways to teach this book, I picked up some great ideas from some good people at the English Ning website. To introduce the book, I’ve attached a link to the short story, The Pedestrian, which does a great job of setting the stage for the novel. Timely too, as the story takes place on a cold, damp November evening. I’ve also included a video of the beginning of a classic Twilight Zone episode, Time Enough at Last. These activities do a great job of peaking my student’s interest.