What I’m Teaching This Week: 11/16-11/20

Just five school days to go until my district is off for Thanksgiving. Yup, that’s right. Don’t hate me, but my school closes for the full holiday week. Ahh… Of course, a break from school means a lot of time with family/friends and hopefully a little time to chip away at my long-term project “to do” list. Since there’s no school, I won’t post one of these “What I’m Teaching” lists next weekend, but the feature will return on Nov. 28.

This week, we’ll cap our study of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men with a week-long writing contest designed to give students a ton of meaningful feedback on their writing without requiring me to take any papers home over vacation. Win-win! You can learn more about the writing contest here.

(Due to the contest, there won’t be enough time for the weekly bell-ringers. No new M.U.G. Shots, lit. terms, or vocab. words this week.)

Introduce the Survive! Writing Challenge and divide students into groups of three or four that will compete against each other in the first round of competition. Each student will write on one of ten different literary analysis topics connected to Of Mice and Men (basically, how does Steinbeck use elements from this specific area to support his larger theme?) and then they’ll compete against classmates who wrote on the same topic.

SurviveArtHere are my topics:
1. Dream farm/American Dream
2. Nature setting in ch. 1 and/or ch. 6
3. Light/Dark
4. Doorways/windows
5. Loneliness quotes/symbols
6. Women
7. Mice and/or rabbits
8. The bunkhouse
9. Crooks’ room
10. Dogs, puppies, and/or coyotes
(Most topics will have three writers, though a few will have four writers to make the numbers work.)

Begin writing paragraphs that will be entered into tomorrow’s contest.

Toward the end of the hour, review the answers from the Common Core-style test prep assignment students completed as weekend homework.

For HW, students will finish writing and bring two copies of their typed, M.L.A.-formatted paragraphs to class tomorrow. One copy will be covered with readers’ feedback by the end of the week and the other copy is used as my reference to stay organized and to be able to access a clean, unedited copy to enter in a later round of the competition. Students will also take a 50-question unit exam tomorrow covering plot, characters, literary techniques, and quotes from the novel.

Collect students’ paragraphs.

Students will be given the full class period to take their Of Mice and Men exam using ZipGrade scoring sheets. (I’ll zap their score sheets with my phone as they finish and the scores will be posted before the end of the school day – bam!)

For HW, students need only to read their S.S.R. books.

Discuss yesterday’s unit exam and answer any questions.

After examining a sample Of Mice and Men paragraph from a student in last year’s class (click here to grab a copy) and modeling strong/weak peer feedback (click here for guiding questions I use to help with this), students will serve as “tribal council members,” evaluating the contest submissions of a different class period. This is Round 1 of the contest. By the end of the hour, the tribal council members will have debated the hallmarks of good writing, given at least nine specific pieces of feedback to each paragraph, and determined the Round 1 winner for each of the 10 topics listed above.

For HW, students need only to read their S.S.R. books.

Announce the winners of Round 1 from yesterday’s competition.

The winning paragraphs from yesterday (the top entry for each of the 10 topics) will compete in Round 2 of the competition. By the end of the hour, every student will have read and scored all 10 of the best paragraphs from a different class period. I will tally the scores after school to determine the first, second, and third place winners from each class. Then, I’ll read the first-place winner from each of my class sections and choose the best of the best to be named the Ultimate Survivor. Bonus points will be plentiful.

For HW, students need to remember to bring their S.S.R. books to class tomorrow.

Survive! Writing Contest winners from Round 2 and the Ultimate Survivor will be announced.

Play two rounds of Brain Teasers in Quarter Trio teams.

Students will read their S.S.R. books for the remainder of the period.

For HW, students will be reminded to keep chipping away at their S.S.R. requirement, but no other assignments will be given for our week of vacation. We all need time to recharge our batteries.

I’m especially looking forward to this week of competition because it’s something fun and different, while students reap a heap of insights about good writing when they compare their own work to that of their peers. That’s all for now.

Teach on, everyone!

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8 years ago

Hi Laura,

I’m a middle school English in Texas. I’ve reached out to you before and I absolutely love your materials, blog, and now your videos. You have inspired me on many level for which I am quite appreciative! Next year I am hoping to move into teaching technology applications class. I am curious if you know of any writer of resources similar to yours or a useful blog like yours that I might look into following.

Please let me know if you think of someone. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Anita Kruse Sent from my iPhone (Please excuse Siri typos)

Laura Randazzo
8 years ago
Reply to  anitakruse523

Anita, thanks for reaching out. I love that you’re looking to stretch/take on a new challenge. I say, go for it! Unfortunately, I don’t tend to veer very far from the English teacher world of blogs/Pinterest/video, but maybe other readers know of a kick-butt tech teacher who is putting out materials to the world. Whattya say, folks? Who should Anita (and all of us!) spend some time checking out?

8 years ago

Anita, I do not know if this is what you are looking for, but my school has adopted a 1:1 iPad initiative this year, and I am in the throes of technology. I find that the ISTE.org website offers many resources and ideas that are helpful to me. The SimpleK12 site is also good, and they offer some good, helpful freebies as as well as free online sessions; however, to access the full site, you will have to pay. I only have a limited, free account, but that’s enough for me.

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