AP Lang: Oct. 31-Nov.4
This week begins Unit 3 in AP Language. We will begin our study of Work and our thematic question is “How does work shape and influence our lives?” This is one of my favorite questions to explore with the students because it encourages them to think beyond “What do you want to ‘be’ when you grow up” and they start to consider “What do I want my life to be like?” If you can, try to get your students talking about those things at home. Many of them are starting to feel the pressure of college choices and re-framing the discussion to consider how they want to live as adults can be very helpful for some.
Our writing focus for this unit is Argument. Now that we’ve analyzed and critiqued the arguments of others, we’ll be applying those strategies to our own writing. Students will dive back into They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing which they read over the summer. We’ll begin to explore how to best make effective arguments.
One of the biggest challenges for this unit is students’ contextual pools of knowledge. In order to make sound arguments, students simply need to know a lot about the world around them. For some students--especially those who enjoy history and current events--this is not that challenging. They understand how to connect things in history to modern day problems. They have a good grasp of current events and can suggest solutions based on that knowledge. For many, though, they are quick to realize that their “contextual pools” aren’t very deep!! Anything you can do to help your students deepen those pools would be appreciated. Talk about current events, watch the news with them, flip on NPR when you’re driving in the car, talk with them about what they’re studying in World History, etc. All of these things will help the students begin to make stronger connections in their arguments.
By the end of the week, students should have their first essays back and we will begin working on our next essay (argumentative essays). As always, encourage your students to ask for clarification if they do not understand how to improve!
Have a great weekend!
AP Seminar: Oct.31-Nov.4
First, last week I explained that I was going to try something different for conferences this year. Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t be able to make that happen in time for conferences. Students don’t have access to Google Hangouts so I haven’t figured out a way to make the process work efficiently. We will keep working on it with the hopes of having student-led video conferences in the spring. In the meantime, please take advantage of the My Conference Time website to sign up for a conference! It will be short, but I’d love to meet you all and share what we’re up to.
This week students will pull their Individual Research Reports together into one group multimedia presentation. The groups have been working hard, adjusting their questions and rethinking their research along the way. I’m excited to see what they come up with and, hopefully, will have some videos of presentations to post here next week.
Please ask your students to share their research and their findings with you this week. They’re all excited to talk about what they’re doing and I’m discovering that the more they talk, the better their questions become.
Have a great weekend!
AP Seminar: Oct. 24-29
This week will be a busy one in Seminar as we are working on the group Monster projects. Groups were formed on Friday after we had a long discussion about setting group norms. I cannot stress enough how important the group element of this course is as I am fairly certain it is the only standardized, high stakes “test” of group dynamics for high school students. That can be a little daunting for the students because effective group work is challenging, but I am confident these kids can do it!! We had a great talk about what is necessary in a successful group, and how you can hold group members accountable to norms your group has set. We will continue to revisit that discussion throughout the research and preparation process; I encourage you to check in with your student about how that process is going.
Throughout the week, students will be working on researching their individual element of the project. This will result in a 500-700 word essay that will graded individually. This may replace the wealth essay score, too, if the student improves! Then, toward the end of the week, students will pull all of their research together and begin trying to find a way to “solve” the problem of their chosen monster. They’ll have several days in class to work and then will present to the class at the end of next week.
Last thing: I’m interested in trying something a little different for conferences for AP Seminar students. So much of the class is focused on their ability to be reflective about their own learning and articulate what they know. It seems like a great opportunity to let THEM lead a conference instead of leaving them home and having a chat without them! I’d love to experiment with student-led conferences in a non-traditional format by doing them virtually on Google Hangouts. I’m going to talk to the students on Monday and see if they can help me figure out how it would work, but stay tuned for more info! Obviously, I’ll still be available at the traditional conference times, but I thought this would be a cool way for them to show you their progress at this point in the year.
AP Lang: Oct. 24-29
This week wraps up our Education Unit so there are two major assessments happening.
First, students will turn in their rhetorical analysis essays on Monday. We’ve been working on these in class for the past two weeks, so hopefully this weekend is not too stressful as they put the finishing touches on their essays. If you have a chance, check in with your student about how he or she tackled this task!! Some did a great job of spreading their work out over the two weeks and ended up having lots of time to ask for specific questions and receive feedback from me and from their peers. Other students struggled more with managing the writing process, missed a few check in points and seemed a little more stressed yesterday when they realized they hadn’t received as much feedback as their peers. I think this is a really great moment of learning for the students. Hopefully those that struggled will be able to tackle the next assignment more efficiently!
The second assessment this week is our third try at the critical reading test. Students have done two so far, we have practiced the skills extensively, and many are showing nice improvement! We will take another try at it this Friday. I haven’t talked to the students about it yet, but I suspect there won’t be as much improvement in scores with this version as the text they’ll be studying is significantly more challenging. We’ve been working with analyzing older texts this unit and this test will assess their abilities with that skill. They will still have at least one more chance to try for a higher score (maybe two more!) before the end of the semester.
Please make sure you check the high school website for information about signing up for conferences this year. I’m excited about the new process for parents pre-scheduling conferences and hope it will help alleviate lines. I’d advise trying to schedule your conferences alphabetically by teachers’ last names as that’s how we’re seated in the different areas of the building. That will hopefully keep you from trying to race around the building in circles!
Have a great weekend!
AP Seminar: Oct 17-21
We are officially done with our Money unit and the students have their first set of grades in MiStar. Many are a little nervous about the grades, but I promised them that this is simply a starting point. This class is Standards Based and that means they will have multiple opportunities to show me improvment. As they improve, I’ll replace their scores.
Writing and Research: They all wrote some interesting, research-based essays on money and What it Means to be Wealthy. I encourage you to read those with them!! With each student’s essay, I provided specific feedback about what to work on for the next essay. As we begin writing in this new unit--Monsters--we will revisit those comments and see which skills we need to focus on. Some students need more work with research, some with forming a logical line of reasoning, others with creating a complex, nuanced argument. My goal for the students is that they use their writing and my feedback to improve rather than simply moving on to the next assignment and hoping for the best! In this unit, students will be identifying a “Monster” that impacts our world--figurative or literal--and making an argument about how that Monster could be vanquished. Encourage them to tell you what we have brainstormed so far. They’ve come up with some great ideas for research.
Reading: Students will continue to grapple with lots of different types of texts this unit. This weekend, they are reading four different articles about different fears or problems in our world. In class this week, we will return to some work we did early in the last unit. Students will pick those articles apart to identify the author’s line of reasoning and then try to assess the validity of the author’s argument. Now that they’ve written an argument themselves, I think this process will make a lot more sense to them. We will continue to work on this skill all year as this is one of the tasks they will complete for the AP test in May.
Presentations: Students delivered their presentations this week, and I am happy to report that this is a strength for most of them! They quickly understood the concept of clear visuals and, though we will continue to work on that skill, I think they will easily create excellent visuals for their official presentations this spring. They spoke with confidence and ease; this is a great sign going forward.
In this unit, we will add a little wrinkle to the presentation element of the class. They will be working in groups. This is much more challenging, especially since many of them are accustomed to being leaders. I think this is one of the best elements of the AP Seminar curriculum. We will spend a lot of time in this unit talking about group dynamics, equitable division of labor, and how to make sure everyone’s voice is valued.
I can already tell that the students have awesome ideas about monsters they’d like to tackle. Some are thinking very literal: terrorism, nuclear war, dictators. Others are thinking more figuratively: pressure/stress, self-doubt. Ultimately, their groups will have to figure out how those “monsters” can be addressed--not necessarily solved. One student wisely remarked yesterday that these were all complex problems with no easy solution. YES! That’s the big take-away I want them to get from this unit. Hopefully we will have some awesome projects and presentations to share with you by early November.
Have a great weekend. Please let me know if you have any questions.
AP Lang: Oct. 17-21
We are two weeks into our education unit and students are hard at work on our four different skill areas: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and Language. I thought this week, since I missed sending an update last week (sorry!), I would send an update on what we are doing arranged by skill area. These are the skills areas that comprise students’ grades as well.
Reading: Last week we focused on a piece by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I was elated by how well the students did with it. Typically, it is one of the most challenging for the students because it is dense and old. The students dug into it, though, and we had some wonderful discussions about the text throughout the week. Many of them used the guided reading videos I posted on Google Classroom to help them work through the text. I will continue to do that throughout the year as we tackle challenging texts. I record a Youtube video of myself reading and annotating. Sounds boring, I know, but I think hearing the text out loud and seeing my annotations really helps some students. Please encourage your students to take advantage of those videos when they are posted.
For this upcoming week, we’ll shift to a modern text. Students are reading an essay by Native American writer Sherman Alexie called “Superman and Me”-- a short piece about his experiences learning how to read. If you have time, take a look at it and discuss it with your student!
Writing: Students are hard at work on their first big AP-style essay: Rhetorical Analysis. In this essay, they are analyzing a text and trying to explain how an author conveys his or her message/ how an author achieves his or her purpose with the text. Students chose current op-eds from national newspapers, and we have been working with those for about a week now. They have all received comments from me online on their outlines and a score of 4/3/2/1/0 to reflect how they are doing right now. That score is in MiStar but does not count toward their grade. It was intended to give them feedback about how much additional help they should seek before continuing to write. About half of the students also met with me in person during Writer’s Workshop last week; everyone will have additional opportunities to meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week during class.
Speaking and Listening: Students participated in their second graded discussion last week using the Emerson piece. Many struggled with using textual references to support their claims during the discussion. They also all really struggled with listening!! Many had lots to say, but had trouble listening to what their peers were saying and using that to build a genuine, authentic discussion. I gave students some specific suggestions for how to prepare for the next discussion which will be Monday about “Superman and Me.” I will replace the Emerson score in MiStar with the new score if students show improvement.
Language: Finally, students are working each week on finding new and unfamiliar words in their texts and learning them. We are choosing ten words from our readings each week for the class quizzes. Students are doing well on the quizzes, but I am concerned that many have still not embraced the learning of new vocab. Many of them are waiting until the night before the quiz to memorize/cram the definitions of the words. Instead, I’d like them to look the words up when they encounter them in the text and use the whole week to slowly become familiar with these new words. Approaching vocabulary in that way will be much more beneficial to them in the long run. Please encourage them to tell you which words they are studying this week!
Sorry that was so long!! I guess that’s what I get for taking a week off. Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any questions.
AP Seminar: Oct.3-7
Students happily turned in their final drafts of their Wealth essays, and I can’t wait to read them!! My hope is to have those finished and back in the students’ hands by the end of the week. In the meantime, students will move on to the final phase of this project: presenting. With each unit, we’ll go through the QUEST acronym (Question, Understand, Evaluate, Synthesize, Team/Transform/Transmit). This week is all about Transforming and Transmitting. Students will take the argument they developed in writing and transform it into a 2-3 minute presentation they’ll give for their peers on Wednesday and Thursday. As this is our first main presentation, my goals are simple: 1. Create a cohesive, engaging presentation, 2. Cite your information properly. Students worked hard on organizing and planning their presentations today. We will finish that work tomorrow and then do a little practicing.
On Friday, we will officially step into our next unit: Monsters. I’m really excited to switch topics (as are the students, I think!) and I’ll share more information about that unit next week. Overall, though, the unit will focus on all the things we’re scared of in our world today. This unit will allow for a lot of student choice in topics because some students will think about societal fears--nuclear war, water shortages, terrorism, etc. Others may focus on actual phobias people have and the reasons we’re scared of certain things. Still others may focus on figurative “monsters” that plague our society: racism, inequality, etc. Whatever it is, I anticipate your students will come up with things I hadn’t even considered, so I’m excited to get started!
Have a great week!
AP Lang: Oct 3-7
This week begins our Education Unit, and students will spend the next few weeks considering the following question: What is the purpose of a true education? Today we read a short story called “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros and student considered the emotional stories that impact a student’s ability to learn.Tonight, for homework, they’re tackling a pretty challenging essay called “I Know Why the Caged Bird Can’t Read” by Francine Prose. Both texts are in the class textbook, and I encourage you to take a look at them. We will continue our practice with critical reading and discussing using those texts throughout the week. Tonight students should be taking notes as they read both on the author’s CMPAST (Context, Message, Purpose, Audience, Speaker, Tone) and also unfamiliar vocabulary. By the end of the week, we will start practicing multiple choice strategies using these texts.
This unit’s writing focus will be on the rhetorical analysis essay. The precis students wrote last week will serve as a “feeder” assignment for the essay as it helped students begin to pull apart an opinion piece. For their rhetorical analysis essays they will return to those pieces and analyze the specific strategies employed by the writers to achieve their purpose. We will begin working on those essays Tuesday in class.
Finally, students received their narrative writing scores today. Instead of giving the students hard copies of their scores, I added written, summative feedback to their turnitin.com documents. The feedback is in paragraph form and gives students specific areas on which to focus to improve their writing if they choose. For each major writing piece this fall, students will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit. To that end, I want them to have feedback that focuses on what they should do to improve the piece. I was very careful not to make “editing” type corrections because I do not want students to merely change a period here or a comma there. As they move forward toward college level writing, those are the types of changes they need to be catching with their own careful editing. We will discuss how to find and edit for those errors at length this year, but when they revise major essays, I want them to also think about making structural and analytical changes. Please encourage your students to read my feedback carefully and ask for clarification if they are not sure about what to do next with their writing! There will be multiple opportunities each week in class for students to ask for help, and I am always available Tuesday-Friday before school.
Have a great week!
Mrs. Hattie Maguire