Last night the #EngChat topic was near and dear to my heart-YA Literature! Here are a few ideas I got about using YA lit in the classroom.
@thereadingzone wrote about how, thanks to her attendance at a Tom Romano session at NCTE, she had her kids write creative nonfiction essays about a book that changed their life. Awesome idea-I’m going to try it!
@elsperales Had the idea to discuss the conflicts/issues in students’ current YA lit reading. Then I thought their YA lit book could be a mentor text –as @mravi2 suggested- so students can write about their own issues.
Two great quotes from tonight:
@sashikaufman wrote about students reading fantasy/science fiction as opposed to realistic fiction: “If kids can relate, genre is irrelevant. Kids look to relate and connect when they read.
@JoKnowles (the awesome author and guest moderator) wrote: “Literature has a special intimate way of making a kid feel less alone!” Well said! This is why my classroom involves so much reading of choice novels.
Plus, I got to tell everyone about my YA author videos-I love the fact that I have all these great author videos with awesome vocabulary and writing content-for everyone to use!
Yay YA Lit!
It’s important to get kids on their feet- and not in the languishing, “let me sit on a desk while I pretend to be standing” kind of footwork, but “I’m rushing to get to the board to show my learning” kind of out of their seats.
So how do we get this from our students? All you need is some big paper and some markers*.
*Note: I do also have an alternative playing strategy where students complete this activity in desks as individuals or in small groups, so keep reading everyone!
The prep work: write the letters A-Z down the left side of 4-6 sheets of easel paper and hang them around the room for 4-6 different groups (ideally so no group can see another’s sheet).
Then either think of a topic or have the kids come up with a topic/theme from what you have been studying lately. Discussing great picture books? Talk about the importance of friendship or individualism. Studying Julius Caesar? Have the class muse on power dynamics or hubris. This game works regardless of grade level or ability!
Divide your students into teams of approximately 4-5 people. Then, have your students break out their vocabulary lists/books/etc. Instruct them that they will be writing a word or 2-4 word phrase that deals with the day’s topic, and they must use a vocabulary word as the word or in the phrase.
The game part: students have to go in order from A-Z…and the first group that completes all 26 letters with vocabulary and all of their answers legitimately go back to the topic of the day, wins a prize –or bragging rights.
To start, have the students get into their groups and line up single file. Then, when you shout “go,” the first student in each group has to race to his/her group’s paper and fill in the “A” slot with a word or phrase dealing with the topic and including a vocabulary word.
It might look like this
Topic: The need for individualism
Group 1’s board:
A-Apathy is the opposite
Group 2’s board:
A-Antagonist to society
Group 3’s board
A-Annie is a renegade
Topic: The importance of friendship
Group 1’s board:
A-Alex is sympathetic
Group 2’s board:
Group 3’s board:
As soon as student #1 in each group is finished, s/he races back to the next student in line, who has to fill out the “B” slot. Therefore, while students are waiting in line, they know which letter is theirs and can start speculating on what to write. You can determine if they can ask their teammates for help or if the whole exercise remains silent (I would remind them that talking could tip off the other team). Have students compete to get through all 26 letters, but do not let any team give up if another team finishes first-all of their answers may not be legitimate! In order to determine a winner, have students sit down, then hold up the paper while a team representative reads off their answers in order. If the class votes down an answer, the next fastest team comes up to read their answers and so on until a winner can be determined.
However, some days are not good for such revelry, or you may have a few students who refuse to play. Alternatively, these students or your class could complete this game by themselves or with a partner (or two) at their desks, using the vocabulary worksheet I created. Perhaps try the game both ways and see which way your students prefer for learning vocabulary and discussing themes.
Overall, I really enjoy this way to teach vocabulary because it provides vocabulary instruction indirectly through play. Hopefully, this can be a great vocabulary resource for you, because regardless of how your play, students are forced to process the topic/theme you are studying more fully, learn vocabulary and generate writing in a different atmosphere. Enjoy!
Common Core Standards:
Language Standard 6: Acquire and Use Words Accurately in Specific Situations
Writing Standard 10: Write routinely for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Reading Standard 2: Determine the theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed
Note: For this week’s game, I modified a game I learned when I attended the NCTE 2011 presentation entitled “Drama, Power, Play: No-tech Engagement Strategies…” presented by Jennifer Onopa and Jason Zanitsch. Thanks for the initial idea!
Student voice in the classroom was the subject of last night’s #engchat. I got lots of great ideas-here are a few!
Mix up discussion methods –twitter, fishbowl, Socratic Seminar, todaysmet, no hands, small group etc., ning, literary circles
Great websites to check out about using student discussions: 1. 2. 3.
So my blog is still a bit inchoate, as we just started last July, and lately I’ve been finding that Monday’s “Educational Link Love” needs a bit of a retouch…pictures and graphics to entice my claque to use the page a little more!
I can find all the great links I want, but without a snapshot of what they look like, teachers do not really have an impetus to go further than my homepage. So I’ve been concocting a redesign that will be simply wondrous!
Plus, I’m hoping to elucidate on Tuesdays what I glean by on #engchat on Twitter (Monday nights, 7-9pm EST). Stay tuned!
*Note, for those of you keeping track, this week I’ve have 13 instances where I have used my “Word for That” chart –including the ones I’ve used above.
We Learn By Teaching via @TeachHub
There is an old Latin aphorism - Doscendo discimus - which means, we learn by teaching. In this article, Steve Wheeler shares his thoughts on the importance of teachers and students learning together.
10 Impressive People Who Educated Themsleves With Only A Library Card via @SadlierSchool
Sometimes I have to convince my students to get excited about learning! I've learned that one of the best ways to do this is to share with them stories of famous, inspiring, or historical figures being influenced by vocabulary words or reading (one of the many reason I do author interviews). This article lists 10 Impressive People who were inspired by reading... Can you add to the list?
Creative Word Study Activities For Use in the Classroom or with Individual Students via @literacyconnections
You don't want to miss out on this resource! Literacy Connections has compiled a list of classroom activities and online exercise that support Word Study.
'Digital Learning Day' Aims to Bring a Tech Revolution to the Classroom via @GOOD
School districts and even parents are looking to technology to boost student achievement. In this article, GOOD highlights Digital Learning Day, a campaign aiming to spreading technology in schools.
So Ned Vizzini, the YA lit rockstar, Facebooked me! I know! I was thrilled! I speculate it was because he just wrote an awesome blog about words (check it out) and so was thinking about where else he had mused about lexicon…which was at NCTE this November with me!
I love how Ned’s favorite author is Michael Crichton and that he taught me two new words-vertiginous and gambeson (check out the video to find out what they mean!). Your students will love him too -he’s funny and hip; they will know his novels or at least the movie, and you can tell them he even writes for the new MTV show Teenwolf!
Thanks again Ned for a great interview, for teaching me some new words and for friending little ol’ me! I’m elated*
To learn more about Ned Vizzini and receive updates about his books, visit his website!
Friend him on Facebook
*Which by the way makes 15 uses of my new “Words for That” for the week—haven’t had enough people around to practice on, but boy am I using the word “vexed” instead of darnit-my son keeps me on my toes.
Last week I attended my first #engchat discussion on Twitter. What a thrilling experience. I could not have anticipated how fast-paced, exhilarating, and inspiring a twitter chat could be. After attending two discussions, I can say with complete certainty that I will learn more and become a better teacher by being a part of !
Here are a few of the resources I discovered while attending #engchat on Twitter!
Mark Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Lesson plans and teaching resources via @EnglishTeacher
You'll never run out of ideas with this comprehensive list of Huck Finn resources! My favorite link is Vocabulary from Huckleberry Finn- A list of 65 words presented in context from the novel. Big surprise!
I Have A Dream Speech and Activity via @Flocabulary
This lesson plan allows students to review literary terms, rhetorical devices and figurative language with a scavenger hunt through “I Have a Dream” speech.
List of Digital Storytelling Resources via @cybraryman
Have you considered integrating digital storytelling into your classroom? These resources while give you the when, what, how, and why of digital storytelling!
Great postreading/prewriting exercise for improving comphrehension: Cube Creator via @write_to_learn
Summarizing information is an important postreading and postwriting activity that helps students synthesize what they have learned. This interactive Cube Creator helps students outline, sort out clues, summarize key elements, and assist in research.
Bare Naked Ladies is one of my favorite bands for their goofy, catchy song lyrics. Recently, I was listening to my son’s BNL children’s album, entitled “Snacktime,” and I heard the song “A Word for That.” The song is hilarious (you can listen to the sample on iTunes here) –basically, the singer is lamenting he cannot remember the word to describe a specific part of the body.
I love this song because it’s true- so often we find ourselves at a loss for the right word-why can’t all the sophisticated vocabulary we are learning be on the tip of our tongues?
I propose to get great words at the front of our and our students’ brains (and tongues) by participating in this fun and easy activity.
1. Play the Bare Naked Ladies song (or song clip) for students and discuss the frustration everyone feels when they cannot recall the right word to use.
2. Have students fill out the left side of their “Word for That” chart with words they routinely use-at school, at home, at practice, with friends, in their writing, etc. This list should be about 15 words long 3-4 words in 4-5 different categories. You must model with your own chart, so show students what to do by considering what words you use most often-at school, at home, with friends, in your writing etc.
3. Once students have filled out the left side of the chart, have them find a vocabulary word that expresses the same idea, but with more precision or pizzazz.
In case you were wondering how I came up with my synonyms, I used the dictionary/thesaurus widget on my apple laptop to look up the old words and also perused the index of my Vocabulary Workshop book (level E). As I was perusing the index, I noticed more vocabulary words that I wanted to use in place of basic words I often say (like fake and chatty), so I added those to my list.
I actually had a great time looking up words and finding interesting synonyms—I didn’t know what a thrill it would be to rediscover all these great words to say until I did the exercise myself. Hopefully, your students will start to sit up a little straighter and feel a little smarter as they too rediscover words they had forgotten they knew or learn new words to confuse/impress their friends and family.
4. Once students fill out their charts, have them carry them around for a week or so, marking every time they use one of their new synonyms in place of an old word (don’t forget-you should play too; I will be playing along this week and report on my progress next Thursday). Have them compete for who can use new words the most and write the names of the top vocabulary victors on your board/wall for everyone to see as formidable opponents!
5. Perhaps try it a second week, and see if new competitors can defeat the old.
Considering exploiting this activity once per quarter or semester-the more students actually take ownership of their vocabulary and see how it can benefit them in everyday life, the more their words will sink in. Good luck-may you deploy your words well and not be too loquacious in the process!
Common Core Standards:
This activity meets all three of the Language Standards in the Common Core!
Language Standard 4: Finding Word Meaning:Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases.
Language Standard 5: Nuanced and Figurative Word Meaning and Usage: Demonstrate understanding of..word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions)
Language Standard 6: Acquire and Use Words Accurately in Specific Situations: Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
School is back in session! Choose to make this semester one of your best. It's not always easy to be a passionate, hopeful, and energized educator, but it will always be worth it! Since starting my journey on twitter I've discovered that tweeting is not just a way to access great information for the classroom, but a platform to lend and get support from other educators. The interactions I see amongst teachers on twitter inspire me on a daily basis. So, if you are struggling with the new semester, consider joining twitter and networking with other educators. It will make you grateful you chose to become a teacher!
The Ultimate English Language Test via @edudemic
Can you pronounce every word in this poem? If so, you will be speaking English better than 90% of native English speakers! This is a fun poem to challenge yourself or your students.
Why I Love Teachers via @TeachingVillage
A beautiful note on what it is to be a teacher. This article is a great reminder as to why so many of us have dedicated our lives to being Teachers!
Boost Your Teen's Self Esteem: Let Them Blog via @TodayMoms
Researchers have found that blogging can help teens deal with social anxiety and improve self-esteem! Writing is a powerful medium and I'm happy to see its being encouraged. Check out the article!
10 Ways to Use Prezi in the Humanities Classroom via @Write_To_Learn
Want to integrate some technology tools into your classroom? Here is a list of ideas that can enhance your English classroom!
I was so excited when I learned that Ally Condie was coming to St. Louis, as I loved her book Matched and couldn’t wait to read its sequel, Crossed. Ally Condie did not disappoint me in real life as she is truly lovely. I love the fact that she was an English teacher who was inspired by real life events to create her stories. She talked about how chaperoning her school’s prom –which was held at a justice building- and the fact that students today are learning typing rather than handwriting skills influenced the futuristic world she created.
Despite the huge success of Matched and Crossed, Ally is just a sweet, fun person who cheerfully answered all my questions. I think you’ll like all her answers and will want to read all her books after watching her interview!
To learn more about Ally Condie and receive updates about her books, visit her website!
You can also follow her on Twitter!
“Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!
This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!
I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!”
-William Arthur Ward
Needing To Take Care Of The Nice Students, Too via @TwoWritingTeachers
Sometimes its easy for a teacher to overlook the "nice" students. In this reflection, read how teachers can ensure every student is noticed and continues to be challenged.
Top 10 Teacher Stories of 2011 via @EdWeekTeacher
Education Week Teacher's compiled a list of the 10 most-viewed stories of the year—including articles offering practical classroom tips, and write-ups of the latest research on the teaching profession!
Yes Prep Makes Learning Relevant via @edutopia
In this video, ninth-grade English teacher Rachael Arthur makes Shakespeare come to life for her students.
Life In A 21st-Century English Classroom via @MindShiftKQED
How does technology impact the English classroom? In this article, Shelley Wright a teacher/education blogger, explores how technology can enhance research, writing, reading and more!