I discovered a cool new web tool this past week at Flipsnack.com You can see a sample below. I used flipsnack to share student writing samples with the entire class using a large screen projector. This tool will turn any collection of pdf files into a nice flip book. Because I am using the free version, they limit what I can embed here on my blog. However, when I log into Flipsnack and visit there site, I am not limited. The full version of my flipsnack includes 10 student writing samples. Give it a try, or have your students create their own books with a collection of their best writings.
Jekyll and Hyde is a classic that we cover in our Speculative Literature course for seniors. The novella works well because it’s brief and its influences are still prevalent today. We use The Dark Knight and connect the character of Harvey Dent (“Two Face”) to Dr. Jekyll. We also use The Joker as an archetype of evil and compare him to Mr. Hyde. The students enjoy the connections and see how the classics have influenced contemporary literature. Of course the novella also works well as an allegory for the dangers of drug abuse. I’ve attached a pdf with a list of projects we allow our students to choose from after we finish the book. The list includes: A Wanted Poster, An Argumentative Essay, A Newspaper Article, or Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment.
Of all the novels I have taught, I don’t think any of them have impacted me or my students more than Slaughterhouse-Five. Seems like every year I find some new gem buried in Vonnegut’s text. When I hear from former students, they always mention it as the book that stayed with them the most. I think the reason it resonates with so many readers is because Vonnegut forces his readers to examine they way they look at life. Some students connect with his atheist views, while others have told me that the book strengthened their own ideas of faith. The ironic thing is, being a public school teacher, I avoid issues of faith in my instruction. Instead I try to focus on other themes. One being morality and ethics. The novel does a great job of showing my students how hard mankind works to harm each other. The other themes deal with fate, free will, and the passage of time.
I have attached two projects I use while instructing this novel. The first project, DEFINING DRESDEN, is a small research project I allow my students to pair up and complete. I feel it is important to have some solid background information on what happened in Dresden in order for my students to relate to Vonnegut’s experience.
The next project helps my students explore free will and the Tralfamadorian’s view of time.
“I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”
In order to help my students understand these themes, I require them to keep a photo blog for three weeks. My students already use gmail to turn in assignments, so I have them create their own blog using Blogger. (yes, my school blocks blogger, so this is a homework project, although some students can access Blogger with their phones. My school does not block teachers from viewing Blogger, so I can grade the blogs at school.) Once the blogs are finished, I plan on using another site to gather the photos and create a slideshow complete with a soundtrack using a song that connects to the themes.
Finally, my students have been sharing their blogs in Google+. I created a circle of all my students using Google+ (this was not mandatory) and it has been very helpful in sharing everyone’s posts in our classroom. I project the circle in class and so far the things that students have been sharing have been insightful and rewarding! Defining Dresden
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.
The Devil and Tom Walker is one of the better short stories that we read with our American Lit. classes. I think the kids find it an easier read than Hawthorne. Plus the timeless theme of “selling your soul” can be connected with contemporary music. I’ve included 3 handouts we use with this lesson. The students generally enjoy the songs, and like looking up the references in Sympathy for the Devil. We also discuss Blues legend, Robert Johnson. The song lyrics are PDF’s. The reading guide is a .doc file so I hope it remains in format when you download it.
The more I learn about twitter, the more I want to find ways to use it in my classroom. Twitter has a bad rap here in the Midwest, and believe it or not, I think most parents have passed on their negative view of twitter to their kids. Most of my seniors do not have a twitter account. When I question them about this, the most common response seems to be something like, “People don’t need to be knowin’ my business.” Yes, to no fault of my students, it seems that most people in the Midwest seem to think the only reason people have a twitter account is to announce where they are and what they are doing at that moment, such as what they ordered at starbucks, or where they are stopping for a bite to eat. They don’t have enough experience with twitter to begin to understand all of the unlimited possibilities. That being said, here is a good article on using twitter in the classroom.
UPDATE Due to the strong response and the numerous requests, I have posted more reading guides here on the site. All I ask is that you post a comment if you choose to use these, just to let me know they are being used. I know there are one or two bad questions in the entire set. If you find one, please let me know. Also, I have a great scantron test. Contact me if you are interested.
Tis the season for a good Halloween read. I am attaching a reading guide I created for Richard Matheson’s classic I Am Legend. I have created reading guides for every chapter. They were aimed at lower level readers, however I find they also work great as discussion guides for any level class. If you are teaching this novel and would like for me to send you the rest of the reading guides just comment here, or tweet me @MooreClass.