This week we are wrapping up our study of pop culture and the extent to which it influences our lives. Students will participate in a graded discussion about the unit texts on Monday (postponed from last week due to the snow day). They should review the unit texts and consider how the texts address the unit question to prepare for the discussion on Monday. It will be graded using this rubric.
The remainder of the week will be dedicated to writing practice and individual conferences. I will meet with each student about his or her writing progress thus far, and we will make plans for improvement. Please encourage your students to think about their writing challenges prior to meeting with me so that we may be productive in our conference! While I am meeting individually with students, the rest of the class will be working independently on timed writing practice, small group evaluation of their own writing, and critical reading practice. Weeks like this are always a little stressful for me as a teacher because I worry that students will waste this precious practice time while I’m meeting individually with their peers. Please help me out by reminding your students to approach the week with a high level of academic maturity. It’s easy to “slack off” when the teacher isn’t breathing down your neck, but engaging fully in the practice activities is vital to improvement. And, the one-on-one time for me to meet with each student writer is essential for helping students identify and address areas of weakness in their own writing.
On Thursday, students will take a multiple choice critical reading exam. This is the first of two that we will do this unit; I will count the higher of the two scores for the students. Students will have several opportunities to practice for this assessment during the conferencing time this week. I will also post some additional practice on our Google Classroom page.
Have a great week!
We didn’t quite get to everything as planned last week due to the snow day, so this week we’ll be playing a little catch up. We’ll be working on three of our learning goals this week: Reading-- Informational Texts, Language--Using Varied Syntax, and Writing--Maintaining and Supporting an Argumentative Claim.
Reading Informational Text Critically: On Friday, students received their scores for the second try assessment on reading and annotating an informational text. We have been practicing identifying evidence, evaluating arguments and identifying bias. Many students showed great improvement with this! These scores are posted in MiStar and there is a note with the score indicating if the student’s score improved based on the second attempt. We will work on this skill one more time on Monday with some in class practice, and students will have a third (and final) opportunity to improve that score in class on Thursday. Students who are still struggling with the skill after our in class practice on Monday should plan to see me in AA on Wednesday for extra help.
Language--Using Varied Syntax: On Tuesday and Wednesday we will continue our work with varying syntax (sentence structure) to improve students’ writing. Last week we experimented with some different grammatical structures--phrases, clauses, appositives, parallelism-- and students have produced two short pieces (a monologue and an angry letter) in which they have experimented with those structures. This week, students will choose one piece to revise and edit to show their mastery of varying their sentence structure. Students will have an opportunity to conference with me about their sentence structure on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Final drafts of these short pieces will be due next week.
Writing--Maintaining and Supporting an Argumentative Claim: This week we will also begin practicing turning our annotations of informational texts into written arguments. Students have been assessing the validity of the texts; now they’ll need to organize those assessments into their own coherent arguments. We will practice doing this throughout the week and students will receive feedback scores in Mistar (not graded) to help them understand how they are doing with the skill. All of this practice will lead to an in-class essay that students will write at the end of the unit (final week in March). This in class essay is excellent preparation both for the in-class writing they will do in eleventh grade and the SAT and ACT writing they will do in the upcoming years.
Finally, students will meet with their counselors on FRIDAY to complete their schedules. Hopefully, all students turned in their signed course selection sheets last week. If they did not, they need to do that asap so that they may meet in person with their counselors Friday.
Have a great week!
We are roughly halfway through our first unit of the semester and students are making great progress on our unit learning goals. We finished reading Antigone and students completed a practice assessment of the drama reading goal on Friday. We will examine that practice assessment next week when we begin our second drama, A Doll’s House, next week. Students will use the feedback they receive on the practice to figure out which skills they need to focus on while we read A Doll’s House.
We will revisit our informational reading goal this week as well. Students will look at their first annotated article assessment, examine what went well and what didn’t go so well and we’ll practice reading and analyzing some more informational texts. In particular, we’ll be reading some articles about Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai and considering how her experience of challenging social norms is similar or different to Antigone’s experience.
Later in the week, we’ll do some more creative writing when we return to our language goal--writing with varied syntax. Last week students had some fun experimenting with writing monologues. This week we’ll continue that work and our experimentation with creating variety and interest through our sentence structure.
Finally, on Friday, I’ll introduce this unit’s major writing assignment: an analytical essay. Students will be choosing (or creating!) a piece of media (tv show clip, song, movie, internet video, etc) that either reflects or challenges a social norm or value. In their essay, students will analyze how effective the media is with challenging or reflecting that norm. Friday will just be dedicated to looking at examples and brainstorming; students will have several days to choose their topic, and then we’ll begin drafting and writing late next week.
One last reminder: Scheduling plans are due on THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25th to me. Students need to submit their plans on Thursday, and I will turn them in to the counselors so that they can prepare to schedule with the students the following week. If you have questions about which class to take next year, please take a look at my blog entry from last week. If that doesn’t help, feel free to shoot me an email or encourage your son or daughter to ask me before or after class.
Have a great week!
This week will complete our first cycle through the three types of writing. By the end of the week, the students will have written one of each type of timed essay: argument, rhetorical analysis, and synthesis.
We will spend Monday dissecting and evaluating the argument essays they’ve already written; students will get their scores and will make plans for how to improve those scores prior to the next argument essay. At the end of the card marking, I’ll take the higher of those two scores for the grade.
Tuesday and Wednesday will be dedicated to synthesis writing practice. We’ll use six short pieces from our textbook that all address the question “Does T.V. make you smarter?” and we’ll experiment with different ways to use multiple sources to develop your own, original stance. On Thursday, students will write an in-class synthesis essay.
Friday will be a graded discussion of the unit readings from the week. This is the first of two (perhaps three if we have time!) in the card marking. Scores for the discussion will be averaged for an overall discussion score for the card marking.
A word on homework: you’ll likely not see as much homework this semester as you saw last semester since most of our writing is in class and timed. However, students seeking extra practice should look to our Google Classroom site. I will post weekly guided multiple choice practice for students who choose to do extra preparation for the test. Also, check in with your student about his or her first independent novel project. Students must complete one project (either the online book review or the advertisement poster). Remind them that it will be the end of third card marking before they know it!
Also, please remember that scheduling forms are due to me on Thursday, February 25. Students need to make all of their course selections by Thursday so that counselors can schedule with them the following week. Please see last week’s blog entry for suggestions about next year’s English class.
Have a great week!
This has been a week dedicated to conferences and analytical writing, and I feel like we accomplished a lot! As of Friday, I have met with all the students individually about their midterm essays and we’ve made some goals for their writing in the weeks to come.
This week the students dug into an older text, Mark Twain’s “Corn Pone Opinions” and considered the impact of public opinion on our personal beliefs. They used the text to practice critical reading and multiple choice as well as rhetorical analysis writing. In our short week next week, we will spend one day discussing “Corn Pone Opinions” and a more recent piece that they’ll read over the long weekend, “High School Confidential.” Thursday they will tackle another in class essay--rhetorical analysis this time--and Friday we will begin conferences about the argument essays they wrote this week. I have posted an extra practice essay for the students and some reading practice on Google Classroom for the long weekend for those who would like additional practice. They will also demonstrate their understanding of 10 new vocabulary words on Friday of next week. I've challenged them to not merely learn the defintions, but to also learn how to use these words effectively. Please ask them about the words! We pulled the list directly from our class readings last week.
One last, important thing: Scheduling! We talked about this in class, but I wanted to share my thoughts on 12th grade English options with you to help with plans for next year. AP Lang students may choose either AP Literature or 12th grade English for their senior year. I recommend that most students take AP Literature as it will help them continue to refine, improve and challenge their writing skills. They have worked hard this year,made a lot of progress, and 12th grade English may feel like a step backwards. When I say this in class, their eyes light up! An easy year?? Sign me up, they say! While that’s tempting, I encourage them to think beyond next year to their first year of college. That transition to college writing will be so seamless if they are still in the AP writing mode.
Please feel free to contact me if you have specific questions about scheduling. I’m always happy to try to help!
Have a great weekend!
This week’s blog is coming early because I’ll be out of town for the long weekend. Next week we’ll be finishing up Antigone in class, but I wanted to dedicate this blog entry to two very important items: MiStar and Scheduling. **I’ll apologize in advance; this is a bit long!**
Hopefully, you know how to access MiStar and you are able to use it to occasionally track your student's progress. If you do not know how to access MiStar and would like to, please send me an email and I can help you out!! It’s a great way to keep abreast of your student’s progress in class.
This semester, I’m experimenting with a way to use MiStar more effectively to communicate progress. It’s challenging because I want to record the practice work, but I don’t want practice to impact overall grades. Still, it’s important that students receive feedback on their practice prior to doing assessments that “count”.
Right now, in MiStar, you should be able to see four assignments. Three of them are related to Learning Goal #1 for Unit 3--Judging the validity of arguments and evaluating evidence in informational texts and one is related to Learning Goal #2--recognizing the impact of dramatic structures. See here for a complete list of the Unit 3 Learning Goals.
Three of the assignments have Practice in the title and are marked as “Not Graded”. These are given a score of 0-4.
4=Advanced understanding. The student understands the material and can explain it to others. This student is ready for a push to higher level material.
3=Proficient understanding. The student “gets it” but not with the same level of depth of a 4. This student needs to develop consistency and depth with the skill.
2=Somewhat Proficient understanding. I can see moments of understanding in the student’s work, but there are also places where it is clear the student is struggling. This student needs more guided practice.
1=Not Proficient. The student is attempting the work but struggling quite a bit. This student needs lots more practice and should come in during AA or before school for some extra help.
0=Did Not Attempt. The student is not taking advantage of practice opportunities so I have no idea what kind of help to offer this student!!
These 4-3-2-1-0 scores are communication only and intended to help us all (parents, teacher, student) better figure out a way to move the student to the next level!
One assignment has Assessment in the title. This grade “counts” and but students will have multiple opportunities to try the assessment again as their skills improve. The ELA 10 teachers decided to make all assessments worth 100 points to help parents and students better see the link between the practice work and the assessments. 4=100, 3=85, 2=75, 1=65.
My hope is that you can monitor the practice assignments along with your student to see if progress is being made. Then, when the assessments come along, the students can show us all what they know and can do! As the semester progresses, you should start seeing this pattern emerge in MiStar--multiple practice assignments scored on the 4-3-2-1-0 scale followed by a larger, “counted” assessment.
Please email me if you have specific questions. I want MiStar to be a tool we can use together throughout the semester to diagnose and address strengths and weaknesses rather than simply a way to report a grade at the end of the marking period.
Scheduling: Wednesday was our scheduling “kick-off” day at the HS and we all tried to talk about options and next steps for students in our classes. I have already shared all of what I’m sharing here with your students in class, but I know sometimes information gets lost between school and home.
Tenth graders have three options for 11th grade English: ELA 11, AP English Language and Composition, IB Literature. I shared this chart with the students in class. It uses their writing scores from this year to help them decide the best path for next year.
Here are the most frequently asked questions and comments I hear from parents and students:
Q: Am I ready for AP or IB?
A: Unfortunately, I can’t really answer that. Typically I tell kids to look at their writing scores (3s and 4s means you’re probably ready) and think about how much they like reading (both classes have a lot of reading!). However, kids always surprise me. I have one young man in AP right now that I had in ELA 10 last year. I did not think AP was the right choice for him, but he decided to take it anyway. He has proved me wrong. He dedicated himself to reading independently all summer, he has pushed himself to ask for extra help with his writing, and he has shown huge growth in his academic maturity. On the flip side, I’ve had students who were a little overzealous in their scheduling and did not realize that “college level class” means a lot of writing (think an essay a week) and a lot of reading (at least 3 independent novels a semester in addition to class readings). Only you know if you’re ready. If you want the challenge of either course, you understand that it is going to be challenging, and you are prepared to accept the grade that you earn, go for it.
Q: Which class is harder--AP or IB?
A: One is not harder than the other; they just approach the study of English a little differenlty. Both programs divide English into two years. AP focuses on nonfiction reading, argumentation and research in the first year and literature in the second. To earn college credit, you can choose to take both AP courses (Language as a junior and Literature as a senior) or just one. IB mixes all the different genres of reading and writing together for two years with a heavy emphasis on world literature. In order to earn college credit, you need to take IB Literature both your junior and senior years.
Q: I really want to take an AP or IB class, but I’m still not sure I’m ready!
A: ELA 11 might be the right choice for you, then! Take one more year to solidify your skills and then take either AP Language or AP Literature your senior year. ELA 11 spends a lot of time on things like analysis of film, narrative journalism, and American Literature. A year in ELA 11 would put you in position to take an AP your senior year.
Q: Everyone is taking AP and IB everything and I feel like I have to, too, in order to keep up!
A: As someone who teaches a lot of juniors, I see the impact of this feeling on my students. For some, it’s the right choice because they are ready for the strenuous schedule. For others, it is a very overwhelming year because they bit off more than they can chew. My advice? Think about your passions--the subjects you really love--and choose AP or IB for those classes.
I hope this helps! If you or your student have more questions, feel free to contact me directly in the coming days. We do not schedule until the first week of March, so there is a lot of time for students to make these decisions.
Last week we kicked off our Drama and Social Norms unit by discussing the differences between norms and values and considering how media (tv, music, movies, etc) reflects or challenges our norms and values.
One of our unit learning goals is reading informational texts for valid arguments and relevant evidence, so we started with that. Students read many different types of texts: print articles, editorial cartoons, and commercials. With each text, we considered the author’s assertion, evidence used by the author to support the assertion, potential counterarguments, and the validity of the assertion. For this weekend, I asked students to apply that same process to the ads they see during the Super Bowl on Sunday. We’ll start class on Monday by discussing the arguments made during those Super Bowl commercials. Students will also take their first graded try at annotating an informational text on Monday. We’ve done lots of formative practice, but on Monday they’ll do one that “counts.” Hopefully, they’ll all do really well this first time, but if not, there will be two more chances throughout the unit to improve their scores.
On Tuesday, we will start reading our first play of the unit, Antigone. Students are sometimes hesitant to pick up a Greek Tragedy because it looks so…...old. Hopefully, I’ll be able to convince them that the story is not old at all. A teenager standing up to someone trying to tell her what to do? Sounds pretty relatable to me!! We will spend the week reading the play, discussing how it fits with our unit theme, and examining how the playwright uses different techniques to build up the tension in the story.
Please ask your student to tell you about Antigone this week! It is a great story and students are usually pretty intrigued by it. Also, please continue to encourage them to dig into their independent novels. There will be very little homework this week since we’ll be reading so much of the play out loud together. This is a great week to get a jump on those independent novels!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
This week we will dig into argumentative writing and developing a confident, natural voice. Most of the students are at a point where they are very efficient writers--and that’s great!--but now we need to take it to the next level and help them add some personality to their writing.
To that end, we’ll continue the experimentation we started on Friday. Students practiced mimicking the style of a Chuck Klosterman, a writer who is particularly adept at balancing a humorous, natural style with complex academic argumentative language. Monday we’ll do some more practicing, sharing and revising in class.
On Tuesday, students will write their first in-class essay of the semester. In this first nine weeks, we will do six in class essays (2 argument, 2 rhetorical analysis, 2 synthesis) and students will choose their strongest essay to submit. Hopefully, by the end of this nine weeks, writing a complete essay in 40 minutes will feel relatively easy to them.
For the second half of the week, we’ll shift our focus to rhetorical analysis and begin using a text by Mark Twain, “Corn Pone Opinions” to both continue our discussions about the links between pop culture and our values and to begin our practice with rhetorical analysis.
What might you be seeing at home?
I hope you have a great week!
Mrs. Hattie Maguire