Making Connections

Featured

“Holler, RT put yer hands up if you dig nerdy pursuits i.e. comics, Dr. Who, Star Wars, cosplay, and mixing with learning…#nerdyedu”

I smiled as I responded to this tweet from Maine high school teachers Dan Ryder and Jeff Bailey, and I attached a collage of images from our classroom walls: several movie and television show posters, all of them representing popular shows with large fandoms.  You’ll find Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Doctor Who and a few more.

Why?

Why not more posters about steps in the writing process? about grammar, capitalization, and punctuation?  about vocabulary and reading?

Because together we will be creating wall charts to show our learning of the “school” stuff.  Because those charts will make more sense if we develop them in class, as we are practicing the work of reading and writing.

Because just like the ELA charts,  the movie and television posters help us make connections around our reading and writing!

Let’s take a look at the “big questions” that organize our Holt McDougal literature textbook:

  • What is courage?
  • Is life always fair?
  • Where is home?
  • Can we achieve the impossible?
  • Who sees the best in you?
  • What makes you brave?
  • What stands in the way of your dreams?
  • Who deserves a second chance?
  • What has the power to heal?
  • Where do people find hope?
  • What is honor?
  • Why do we need memorials?
  • What is our duty to others?
  • How can we change what’s wrong?

and more.

Stories explore all of these questions, and some of our most powerful stories have been told or retold via television and film.  Frodo lives up to the faith that Gandalf has in him and finds the courage to battle great evil. Luke discovers his true identity but decides for himself who he will really be.  Harry realizes the terrible truth of his life but finds the strength to overcome it.  The Doctor is burdened with deep sorrow but spends his life helping others.  Belle believes the Beast deserves a second chance, and Simba uses his to change what is wrong.  The Phantom finds that love has the power to heal–and the power to free.

BeFunky_class posters.jpg

The posters aren’t up because they represent stories we will study (we won’t even be watching the movies).  They are up to make us think, to help us make connections between the stories we are studying and the stories we each are living.

How do the “big questions” above connect to books, movies, and shows you love?  How do the questions relate to you and your life?

 

 

 

 

 

Reading, Writing, Thinking…

Featured

Reading, writing, thinking…and thinking some more after more reading and writing.  What have we been up to?  Here’s a summary of the past few weeks:

  • Reading of The Hunger Games and Beowulf:  A New Telling, discussing not only what happened in the stories, but the “why?”  and the “how?” questions, too.   How did Suzanne Collins and Robert Nye craft their writing to show character  motivation and conflict, to create mood and advance plot, to  develop theme and make meaning?  What connections do we see between those stories and others that we know and love?  Students in periods 2 and 3 applied the connection between imagery, mood, and theme to create poems inspired by The Hunger Games.  You can see some of their work here and here.
  • Exploring our own voices through the varied assignments of our iEARN MindWorks Learning Circle project.  Our project partners from Belarus asked us to write about teen culture, and we sent them a fun collection of narrative and expository pieces sharing our take on young teen life.  Our partner class from Pakistan asked us to write about what students need to be psychologically healthy, and our responses included a poem as well as short essays and opinion pieces (more free time and less homework was a common theme!).  Our Russian friends live in a closed city, and they wanted to know about building and sustaining friendships over time and distance.  We wrote personal anecdotes, advice columns, and summaries of interviews with parents about their own long-term friendships.  When all the iEARN projects are published in January, Mrs. Schoch and I will post the link on our blogs!
  • Writing poetry for our own iEARN project.  Students from Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, Romania, and Belarus are writing with us about family, home, and heritage.  You can see some of our own work here and here, and we have received the wonderful poems from Ms. Gorelova’s class in Russia and from Ms Mitrofanova’s class in Belarus.  Mrs. Schoch and I will have our students put together a collection of poems from all participating iEARN classes for January publication.  It promises to be a beautiful look at how much we all have in common even as we value our own unique roots and cultures.
  • Understanding phrases, clauses, compound sentences, complex sentences, and comma usage.  We learn the rules, look at models from published writing, and then practice in our own work.  We’re also paying attention to sentence fragments and how effective they can be.  Katniss’s voice would not have been the same without them…and Robert Nye used plenty of  fragments (and very short, simple sentences) in his new telling of Beowulf.
  • Studying Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  We’re learning to use the awesome Subtext tool to facilitate deeper reading and discussion.  Our narrator is the delightful Jim Dale–you can listen to him read a part of Stave One here.

What’s ahead?  More Christmas Carol reading, more Writer’s Notebook explorations, and of course, more blogging  :- )