Step 1 – Intro the Course (Establish a Purpose)

Well, with this “polar vertex” we didn’t have much of a school week.

First, we were deprived our teacher work day.  Now, I love a snow day as much as the next guy, but everyone is excited to get out for the winter break. When you know you have that work day to plan and print information before the first day of the next semester… well, procrastination is just natural.  

Fortunately, I have this whole high-risk pregnancy going and I had the moment to print out the course syllabus and extra copies of the Scarlet Letter summer reading project for each of the students.  I also called home to make sure each parent knew about the assignment since only two students completed it or turned it in as expected, but out of an entire class, only three phone numbers were correct in the computer system.  (So if you are a parent, please make sure your child’s school has the right phone number in case there is an emergency.)

None the less, planning for the actual lessons was going to be a struggle since the PLC meeting was not going to happen.  We had to wing it based on the conversation we had in December about what we thought we were going to do in January.  And then we would use our planning time on the day back to finalize everything.  …But I HATE being a last minute planner!

For the first day, I started with the bell ringer structure of the Caught ‘Ya system. We have had such great success with this, and we have the files built since we used it last semester as well.  When students entered, there were two piles, the syllabus and summer reading assignment, for them to gather materials on the way in.  On the board, the Caught ‘Ya was displayed with directions for students to write the sentence as correctly as possible on a slice of paper.  (Use of the word slice just makes them smile for some reason.You should try it.)  From here we corrected the grammar together and moved into our daily vocabulary strategy.  Starting with content immediately sets a good tone for the course.  Plus it gives the teacher time to do attendance and make sure everything is ready for the day.  Next, I had key points from the syllabus on a PPT to review.  Before I went through my key points, I had students preview the page and ask if they had any questions based on what they read.  Then, I had questions for them to answer on the PPT.  If the answer was correct, I moved on. If not, I went over that part of information to make sure students know expectations.  Then, those questions turned into a syllabus/expectations quiz for the next day.  This is their first grade, but it lets them start out on a positive and holds them accountable for knowing what is expected.  And then you take away the victim-itis of “I didn’t know” in the near future.

After review of the syllabus, I tried to start a short discussion to let students bash American Literature for a moment.  They all claim to “hate” writings of “old, dead white guys” for various reasons, most of which they don’t seem to be able to explain.  I introduced the course-long essential question as well: What does it mean to be an American?  The idea here is to try to build a little patriotism in the study of the founding documents and to help them create their own identify as an American.  I want them to be able to do this on their own rather than just regurgitate someone’s ideas or believe every word they hear.  The first step was to have them create a definition for Americanism.  I gave them a moment to think and write, and then we shared out.  I was careful not to say anything to sway their ideas.  After they shared with a short discussion, we watched a video I created for the class (find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75Ku4RhZwC0).  Students were given time to think and rewrite, and then since the bell was about to ring I had them submit their answers so I could read them.  I would say it was informative.  

A note on the video: Feel free to use this or create your own.  The beauty of this one is these heroes are all local, and the images of their families are people the students would have seen.  In particular, my brother is there as well.  Students will take a topic the way it is presented. They see it matters to me, and putting a face to an idea makes it more worthwhile.  So if you have access to these heroes in your area or students from your school, use that instead of this.  You can easily create a video with Windows Movie Maker (free program), .jpg images of your choice, and an overlay of patriotic songs.  

For here, we moved to our Common Core Workshop.  This is intended to introduce Common Core with specific attention to close reading as a process, text-dependent questions with REQUIRED answers WITH evidence, and writing with a focus on claim development.  This semester, we have to hit this even harder because they are taking the TN Writing Assessment on Feb. 4.  

If you are interested, you can find this file for FREE at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/American-Literature-Common-Core-Workshop-Reading-Info-Text-and-Writing-Task-844323.  You will also be able to make changes as you see fit in order to help your students.

 Please stay tuned for the next entry on the Common Core Workshop, how it is implemented, and how it helps student achievement.  Have questions, comments, or ideas I should try? Let me know.  You and I actually play on the same team in educating our future.

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