Ah. The hybrid year. Last year we piloted all that is Common Core while being assess by the TN EOC. Alas, this year we implement Common Core while being assessed by both the TN EOC (with a few supposedly dropped SPIs) and PARCC. Add in that the PARCC assessments are on a yearlong plan while our course is a semester and you have a world of differentiation and 80 hour work weeks. But me… I honestly did not get into teaching to get rich. I got into teaching so I could make a difference and do my part to make the world a better place. So I’ll take it: 80 hour work weeks, Common Core, EOCs, TRIPOD, TVAAS, and whatever else you throw at me. But I’m going to help my students get it even if there is no 15-16 year old of the inner city volunteering to read these texts.
So what’s the spin for buy in? Well, the essential question becomes “What does it mean to be an American?” Now, this isn’t so far fetched – we are American and they call out their freedoms on a regular basis. So I tied in a personal stake: I know a true American.
1. After the boring syllabus review and all that jazz, we watched a video to spark a conversation. (Find this video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75Ku4RhZwC0&list=UUTCWtGoGyBSUHzI9dTw3Q1w) Students felt a connection because I’m not the only teacher at the school with a loved one who died in a very public service-related situation, and they saw those families. Then, we invited them to bring in the picture of anyone they knew who was willing to defend what it meant to be American. From there, a living bulletin board was created.
2. We built in a Common Core Workshop using Prothero’s “Introduction” from his text “The American Bible.” We actually used only an excerpt, but the idea worked very well to introduce students to the power of words. We spent a week with this text, thoroughly modeling the process of close reading, text-dependent questions, and the dreaded writing task. In all, the point was modeling the process, and I gave a tremendous amount of written feedback to each student for every single question. Amazingly the students thought they would get credit if they just wrote something in the answer slots. Amazing. Apparently some teachers do that so often the students expect it as the norm and were genuinely surprised by their grades and the feedback. They could not believe I read, scored, and responded to every single question for every single student. Once I realized they were not used to teachers carefully reading and grading, I intentionally went overboard in providing feedback. I plan to do this intensively for a bit here – as long as I can practically keep it up – until I have them well trained. I can understand having some completion grades, but these guys make it seem as if that was all they ever had for “practice” category work. Unreal.
You can find the PPT and student documents at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/American-Literature-Common-Core-Workshop-Reading-Info-Text-and-Writing-Task-844323
Interestingly, I found where someone has posted the Introduction for free on scribed. You may access that file at http://www.scribd.com/doc/95184410/American-Bible-Intro-Excerpt.
And with that, it was time to begin the textbook selections.
Welcome to Module 1: Early America to 1800.