Monday, August 20, 2012

Prompt Books: Shakespeare Strategies with Prose, Week 3

Most of you are just going back to unpack your stuff at school.  I am now starting my 4th week at my wonderful school.  I am continually impressed by my students.  They are working very hard and acclimating to the demands of being at an Early College High School.

The Early College High School

Some background:  Students make a choice to come to our school.  They often leave behind most of their friends who go to our "traditional" high schools.  These students come to our school knowing they can achieve an Associate's Degree by the time they graduate and are often in their Junior year at our University when they graduate.  It is challenging and they must give up lots of things.  We don't offer sports (just intramurals) or marching band or a theater program.  As such, they can decide to return to their regular neighborhood high school at any time.  It is my job to make them feel secure, happy, and challenged as freshmen.

With that in mind, I had some mini-therapy sessions this week.  We talked about what was stressing them out.  Mostly, it is getting used to homework every night and keeping up with their agenda.  Here's the great part:  we also talked about what they liked about the school so far.  The second list far outweighed the first.  They mentioned the food, the atmosphere, the academics, no bullying, helpful upper classmen, and the teachers. Now, if I can just teach them how to do a concise summary of a short story, all will be well.

Prompt Books:

This exercise is one of the ones in the Shakespeare Set Free series.  I used the same method with the story, The Cask of Amontillado.  Here is what I did:

1.  I had the students view a promptbook tutorial that I found on youtube and complete a WSQ (WSQ is an acronym for Watch Summarize and Question that I have adapted from Crystal Kirch).  I also used the example from the SSF book and some images from the SSF jump drive.

2.  I gave each student one page of the story.  I enlarged it to about 18pt and increased the margin to about 3".

3.  Students were instructed to cut at least 1/3 of their page.  This makes them close read the selection and decide what is the most important on the page. 

4.  Students then decided how to move their characters onstage.  They had to decide where the character was at the beginning, where they moved, and where they were at the end of the page.

5.  Students added tone for any words that were spoken.  They had to be as specific as possible.

Are you seeing what I'm's called sneaky close reading!

6.  Students then added any small movements, props, and pauses.

Here is a great example:

This is the kind of close reading I had to BEG my AP kids to do when I had AP Lit.  I was really happy with the results.

There are still some challenges that I am finding with my freshman.  I am trying desperately to teach them how to do a great summary of a short story.  We are getting there slowly but surely.  It is tough though.  I am also trying to work on their levels of questions that they write.  They are so used to writing low level questions.

This week we are reading The Scarlet Ibis and The Most Dangerous Game.  I love giving them disturbing short stories (insert evil laugh).

Hope everyone has a great week getting ready for school to start!

Blessed to be Teaching!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Second Week of School: Using Shakespeare Strategies with Prose

As the second week of school ended, I am reflecting on techniques I have started using to introduce literary terminology in short stories.

Silent Scenes with Prose

First, a Shakespeare Set Free strategy called "Silent Scenes."  I used this on the first day of school to get kids comfortable in my class.  This week, I used them to get in some higher level reading and what we call "sneaky close reading."  I used the short story, Eleven by Sandra Cisneros for my lesson.

We had already read Eleven using the Tolaydo method of reading through (read around until you reach a period, semicolon, or exclamation) and I also used the story to explain 6 different kinds of imagery for which they found examples (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and kinesthetic).

I put the students in groups of 5-6 and gave them instructions for Silent Scenes:

  1. Everyone must write a script.
  2. Go through the story and decide on the main events that happen.
  3. Figure out what can be shown to an audience and what cannot.
  4. Once you have established the main action, write your script using adjectives to describe how the action will be shown to the audience.  Ex:  Rachel pushes away sweater angrily.
  5. Cast your scene.
  6. You must use at LEAST one prop and have at LEAST one costume/hair change.
  7. You must begin and end in tableau.
  8. Run your scene.  Make sure you do not have your back to the audience--cheat out. (I am working in theater/acting vocab as well)
The class had about 45 minutes total for this exercise and then about 10 minutes on the day of performance to do final rehearsal.

Here are some pics of the exercise:

 Mean teacher making Rachel put on the sweater

 Rachel crying into her "clown sweater arms."

 Putting her arms into the sweater that "smells like cottage cheese."

 "I'm Eleven, and ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two and one."


I was impressed that so many groups went all out on their props (I had birthday cakes in nearly every class, lots of pillows, red sweaters, eyeglasses for the teacher, and mustaches for the father).  They were enthusiastic and great audience members.

I need to work on how they critique each other.  While they were willing to say what they liked, they were terrified to say what could be added or what did not work.  I also need to add in pauses next time; some groups went fast out of nervousness.

I also need to have an exemplar script (have one now).  Some of the scripts were not detailed as they spent their time rehearsing and not writing first.

Exemplar Script (typed for group by Ericka H.):

Parents: *put birthday ribbon on Rachel and send her off to school*
Rachel: *arrives at school looking a bit upset*
Silvia: *already sitting in seat*
Mrs. Price: *takes out red sweater and goes around showing it to everyone to see whose it is*
Everyone: *shake head no*
Mrs. Price: *insists and shows it again*
Silvia: *it gets shown to her and she shakes her head no, pointing to Rachel*
Mrs. Price: *drops it on Rachel’s desk*
Rachel: *looks at it for a bit, raises her hand to get Mrs. Price’s attention and shakes her head no again, indicating it’s not hers*
Mrs. Price: *shakes her head and points at Rachel sternly, gesturing that it is hers, even if she ‘says’ it isn’t*
Rachel: *hangs her head a bit in defeat*
Rachel: *shuts her eyes and clenches her teeth, thinking of what is to come*
Mother: *motions making a cake*
Father: *comes home*
Parents: *motions happy birthday with hands, as if ‘conducting’*
Parents: *walk away slowly, as thoughts go away*
Rachel: *opens her eyes and stares at the sweater for a moment, then gently pushes it away to the corner then moves her chair a bit to the right*

Beginnings of a Flipped Classroom:


I also began doing some flipping of my class this week.  Using Edmodo, I am posting short stories, audio links, and other videos for the students to have read/watched before coming to class.  I first just told them to read/watch and "take notes."  That was too vague and so I began using a template which combines the WSQ from Crystal Kirch and Cornell Notes.  I have two templates:  a Read-Summarize-Question for reading and a Watch-Summarize-Question for videos.  

Our first day using the RSQ was yesterday with The Sniper as their reading.  I honestly did not expect much in the way of summary as the students haven't learned this skill in previous grades.  They did a pretty good job for a first try.  I spent the period beginning a calibration process for them.  I used my doc cam to put chosen examples up on the IWB and had students rate them (again, they are terrified to rate something low).

On Monday/Tuesday, they are doing an RSQ for The Cask of Amontillado and a WSQ on a video tutorial on prompt books.  I am going to have them do a prompt book for Cask next week (More Shakespeare strategies with prose). I have time allotted to continue the calibration process.  I will use some Kagan strategies for revising with a partner and hopefully, by end of next week, we will know exactly what is needed to have a WSQ and RSQ.

It was a great week where I learned as much as the students!  Tonight, I am off to the Texas Region 19 Teacher of the Year Banquet where I will represent my district.  I am very nervous!

Blessed to be Teaching!