Thursday, December 4, 2014

Passages for Oral Interpretation of Literature

This week, our high school Drama teacher asked me to help her students choose passages for an Oral Interpretation assignment. She wants them to examine characterization by preparing a selection that includes narration and two characters.

Although the best pieces are the ones students remember from their own reading, I chose some of my favorites to get them started. 
(Note: Scanned pages just give a sense of the passages; you'll still need the book. Also, some are upside down, sorry.)

Here are the passages I suggested. Please add other ideas in the comments. I hope this list will be a time-saver for others! 


A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Part-way through the first chapter, we first see Scrooge as others see him: the bah humbug anti-Christmas curmudgeon. 

It starts with a description of Scrooge's office and then: 

"A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice...
"Bah!" said Scrooge. "Humbug!"

Scanned section here.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling

In Chapter 2, "The Vanishing Glass", the Dursleys have allowed Harry to tag along on a trip to the zoo. Harry communicates with a snake and makes the glass partition disappear. His mind-meld with the snake makes good reading:

The snake suddenly opened its beady eyes. Slowly, very slowly, it raised its head until its eyes were on a level with Harry's.
It winked.
Harry stared....

Scanned section here.


The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton

In Chapter 3, Ponyboy's brother hits him, and Ponyboy runs to the park and tells his friend Johnny about it. It's a poignant passage because both boys are dealing with rough home situations. The dialogue is perfectly timed.

"I think I like it better when the old man's hittin' me." Johnny sighed. "At least then I know he knows who I am."

Scanned section here.


The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

Ivan, a gorilla, tells the story of his time in captivity with Stella, an ailing elephant, and Ruby, a baby elephant, among other characters. 

There are two sections that work well together: one is called "Elephant Jokes" and the other is "Ruby's Story." The first is lighthearted and establishes the connection among the animals. The second starts out light but ends up dark because it's the story of how Ruby, the baby elephant, was captured.

Scanned section here.


The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

Although this passage doesn't have two characters and a narrator, it feels like it does because the Old Man is talking to himself, thinking to himself, and there's narration in between. 

One particularly effective section is when the Old Man begins to realize his commitment to the task of catching the big fish and his realization that he's totally alone in the effort. 

"Fish," he said softly aloud, "I'll stay with you until I am dead." 

Scanned section here.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

Early in the novel (section 41) our narrator Christopher, an autistic boy, talks with his father about his concerns over a dog that has been killed in his neighbor's yard. We feel the tension of the father's frustration alongside the boy's unique way of thinking. It's good to read aloud because the pacing of the conversation is tight, like David-Mamet-tight. 

   I thought for a little while and I said, "I am going to find out who killed Wellington."
   And father said, "Were you listening to what I was saying, Christopher?"
   I said, "Yes, I was listening to what you were saying, but when someone gets murdered you have to find out who did it so that they can be punished."
   And he said, "It's a bloody dog, Christopher, a bloody dog."
   I replied, "I think dogs are important, too."
   He said, "Leave it."

Scanned section here.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

In the chapter "Hope against hope", our main character, Junior, has been suspended from school for hitting his teacher. In the scene, he and the teacher have a talk that goes from awkward to funny to dead-serious. It's a bit long, but if the assignment allows for it, the whole chapter would be great.

     "Your sister wanted to be a writer," Mr. P said.
     "Really?" I asked...
     "She was shy about it," Mr. P said. "She always thought people would make fun of her."
     "For writing books?"...
     "Well, she wasn't shy about the idea of writing books. She was shy about the kind of books she wanted to write.""
     "What kind of books did she want to write?" I asked
     "You're going to laugh."
     "No, I'm not."
     "Yes, you are."
     "No, I'm not."
     "Yes, you are."
Jeez, we had both turned into seven year-olds.
     "Just tell me," I said...

Scanned section here.


Stargirl, by Jerry Sprinelli

When Hilary first comes onto the scene at her new high school, everyone is buzzing about it. She's so different, SO new. 

In Chapter 2, we feel that excitement: 

"Did you see her?"
"See who?"
"Hah!" He craned his neck, scanning the mob. He had witnessed something remarkable; it showed on his face. He grinned, still scanning. "You'll know."

Scanned section here.


The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D Salinger

Ok, best for last. Pretty much any page in this book will have narration and dialogue that hits the perfect combination of angst and hilarity. A personal favorite: the first time we meet Holden's moss-toothed dorm mate, Ackley. 

He came down off the shower ledge and came in the room. "Hi," he said. He always said it like he was terrifically bored or terrifically tired. He didn't want you to think he was visiting you or anything. He wanted you to think he'd come in by mistake, for God's sake.

Scanned section here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lock in New Information: Use Visual Notes

Our 9th grade students are working on a historical magazine project. They need to write different types of articles about the Renaissance, all based on research. After hearing about the lack of student voice in their early drafts, I decided to introduce visual note-taking.

I hooked them with some talk about brain research. We're learning that hand-writing notes does more to help us retain information than typed notes: the kinesthetic element gets our synapses firing. 


Note-taking infographic via Edudemic

Next, I showed this video which describes the three main elements of visual notes: text, visuals, and structure.


Notes like this help students "own" new information

Then I modeled my own process. 
I chose a few paragraphs from a Britannica (Renaissance Art Revival). We read it over together and all agreed that the information was passing us by, and we were starting to glaze over. 

I said, "Visual notes will move us from glazing over the information to OWNING the information." 

Next, I showed them my notes. 
"Remember," I stressed, "it's not art class!" Symbols and quick sketches are fine because this work is not meant to be turned in; it only has to make sense to the student.

Here are my notes (yes, they're in pencil...)





Next, students practiced with one of their own resources. We worked silently for about 15 minutes, then students got up and moved around the room showing their notes and talking about what they had learned....all far away from the informational text.

To wrap up, we talked about times when visual notes would make sense:
Biology Notes from Sketchnotes


- when studying for a test on a concept we've found difficult

when learning short chunks of complex information

- when learning new terminology in Biology, for example.

- when planning out essay or project work which connects various ideas

When are visual notes NOT the best strategy? 

- When the information is basic or clearly laid out already

For more models of visual notes, click below. 
With extra care and colors, these would also make great "final products" in lieu of a traditional book report, lab report, or essay.


Examples via TeachThought




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Citing it Right (across the board)

As a faculty, we're trying to streamline our teaching of citations and research skills. Citing is an important skill, but we don't want it to take over our lessons either. 

Since teachers require citations for all summative assessments that use outside resources, I've made a checklist they can share with students. 

Students can attach it to their paper when they turn it in as a quick self-assessment. And teachers can communicate the same message and expectations across the grade levels.

Feel free to copy and edit to suit your needs!




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reading Calendars for Busy Students

One of our grade 10 History teachers is using guided choice historical fiction to make his content come alive for students. Story is what really engages our thinking, so he's using a story-based approach to hook students and help them connect the facts from his lessons to characters' emotions.

For his unit about the Industrial Revolution, I book-talked historical fiction (like Dickens) as well as dystopian novels in which society has been changed by technology. See the booklist list here.

As they read, students will examine the essential question, "How does technology impact society?"


After students chose their novel, we completed a reading calendar to help them stay on track with finishing their book. The calendar serves as a bookmark and a note-taking tool. They fill in the page they should be on at the end of each day. This is also a quick way for the teacher to see if they are on target to finish in time.

See the bookmark/calendar here

Here's a sample that shows how it should look after the kids do the math :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Power of the List

When teachers begin new units, I often put together lists of books for their classrooms. Although it seems like a quick thing, there are actually many steps to ensure maximum impact.

This year, some teachers are planning to incorporate more STUDENT CHOICE (yay!) and more FICTION (yay!) into their content.

I put together book lists for two different 10th grade courses: English and History. 

In grade 10 English, our students need to read either a historical fiction novel OR a memoir this month.

My challenge: Find and promote the best titles and get them into the hands of the students

Here's how I do it:

Step 1:
Piled up Historical
Fiction and Memoirs

Find the books
Our catalog does not consistently include genre as a subject heading, so although I start with a catalog search, I always end up reading the stacks to find the most titles. 

I need to...
- pull books covering a range of historical time periods, both contemporary and classic
- pull memoirs appealing to a variety of interests such as personal tragedies, wartime, and multicultural
- watch for a balance of reading levels
- watch for a balance of girl / boy appeal.

Step 2:
Create a Resource List in Destiny 
After I pull all of the books, I enter them into a Resource List in our catalog. I also make sure each one's record includes "historical fiction" or "memoir" and any other genres that might help someone find the book again. The Resource List will stay in the catalog as long as I want - for the whole year or I can just highlight it during the unit.
Printed Resource List for
Industrial Revolution/
Dystopia

Step 3:
Promote the Resource List
I can print it with summary notes, copy/paste it into google docs (actually, I use Word first for best formatting and then upload into my Drive), and share it with the teachers. They now have digital copy for their curriculum planner (we use Atlas) for future reference.

Step 4:
Promote the books
I scour the web for book trailers and other resources to add to each record. I create a Pinterest board to share with students highlighting some of the most enticing covers with the call number in our library and a blurb. 
A pin from our HS Memoir
Pinterest board

Step 5:
Book talks! 
By the time classes come to the library, I know the books so well I can book talk them to drive up interest even more. When they come, I book talk by category and physically put each category in a different spot. For example, I'll zip through the historical fiction books that take place during the Holocaust, then the ones dealing with US History, and then the Ancient World. This way students can go right to the table that sounded most interesting instead of all clumping around one spot.

Step 6:
Follow up
Memoirs for EAL students
When students choose their titles, I try to remember what they've selected and touch base with them afterward. Sometimes they seem a bit unsure of their choice, so I ask them to read the first two chapters and meet in the morning to confirm that it's the right book. Then I follow up casually: How's it going? Enjoying the story? I try to get a sense of what they like so I can recommend other titles down the road.

I also invite students to post the covers of their favorites on our "Good Reads" board to help spread the word about which titles were popular. (More on this soon!)