Tag Archives: cooperative learning

English III: Early American Origin Myths

Native myths 1

Our class text is Prentice Hall’s Literature: The American Experience edition. After having outdated texts for a rather long time, it is exciting to have texts which are actually designed with Common Core in mind. Unfortunately, there is just not enough time in the semester to read and discuss every text, so we have to sort of pick and choose the highlights of each period which make it into the 18 weeks.

{Now, if you are interested in the outline, you can find the outline of the course modules in my TPT store at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Stephanie-Kirk-11}

Alas, the first experience our students had with the text was Native American Origin Myths. We spent a total of two days on this task, spending about 75 minutes a day. We are just coming out of an entire week on an informational text in which we painfully modeled every detail of close reading, answering text-dependent questions with evidence, and completion of a writing task, so I wanted to do something to make the lesson as engaging as possible.

Myths covered:
1. On Turtle’s Back
2. When Grizzlies Walked Upright
3. Navajo Origin Myth
4. Cherokee Origin of Fire (not in the textbook but included because this is used for modeling)

What do I want students to know and be able to do at the end of the lesson?
1. Explain the point of an origin myth.
2. Retell the origin myth.
3. Know what archetype is, identify it in text, and compare it across multiple texts.
4. Know what theme is, identify it in text, and compare it across multiple texts.

How will we get there?
We started out the lesson by reviewing common skills of archetypes, theme, and traits of origin myths. Fortunately I built the PPT in a way that if a student could tell me what it was I didn’t have to go in detail about it, but when they couldn’t remember archetypes I had that built in as well. Overplanning for anticipated difficulties is ALWAYS a good practice because it is better to have a plan for if something does not work than to allow instruction to fall apart because the students just didn’t have the knowledge you thought they should have coming into the lesson.
Anyway, I knew having the students all read every myth was going to be dreadful and boring, and there was no way to make sure that fit in the pacing. So I modified and divided the class in three groups to study an origin myth, draft it as a play, perform it, and discuss archetypes and themes across multiple texts. Students also were assigned homework to complete the reading guide and text-dependent questions, and students were held accountable for this with the included reading quiz for the second day.
Before reading I did a short story preview and vocabulary preview activity in which students reviewed the material and told me what they thought about the selection. This is such a change from when the teacher used to tell the students all about what they were going to read before reading it. By doing a story preview in this manner, curiosity increased and I think buy in and participation was enhanced.
While day one was mostly skills and notes to intro the period, we did have time for every student to complete his/her first reading of the text. The way I assigned the texts was in looking at the student lexile with some thought into the text lexile and the layers of complexity of the story. I printed the reading guides and wrote the students’ names on the page. Students were not given any sign of who their group might be until the second day. To round out the first part of the lesson, I had a canned closer of using a post-it note to create a Facebook status or Tweet based on the assigned story. To review the skill itself, I had students use an index card to write a note to an absent classmate to explain the skills reviewed/learned for the day. As I type this it occurs to me I should do that every day and post the best summary as a sort of learning wall in the room. I’ll get on that Monday.
Back to the lesson… students were to complete the next reading of the text and answer the text-dependent questions on the reading guide. To help them remember and hold them accountable I sent a Remind101 message to all parents and students in the class.
On day two, I reviewed what we had done and where we were going to go next. I created a model of exactly what I expected them to do using a new myth. Considering skills I had them tell me what the elements of drama were and what goes on a script. I showed them the myth and my script. Then I used students to help me act out the skit for the class. This was great because it allowed me to show my expectations and it allowed us to discuss the role of performer and observer in the room. I gave the students time and materials, and then they produced a script and acted out the plays. After each presentation, I used questioning to get the students to think through the patterns, characters, and symbols which repeated throughout multiple texts. As an exit ticket, I had the students use constructed response and text evidence from each myth to argue a theme in all texts.

All in all, this was a fun lesson with the students. It was hard letting go of control but the bottom line was that this lesson was probably the first time since I can’t remember when that I didn’t feel I was the hardest working person in the room. I built in character and team building, behavior expectations, and tiered accountability. If I had it to do over again, I would have revised pacing to include a more thorough discussion of theme of each myth and had some sort of reporting out format for the groups to engage the audience in talking about archetypes and themes rather than having to lead it myself. But, judging by the output, the students are good with being able to give a theme. Finding the evidence is something I need to build in future lessons for additional modeling and practice.

From American Literature Module 1: Beginnings to 1800 as featured in my English III course. The text referenced is Prentice Hall’s Literature: American Experience Edition.
If you are interested, these documents can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Native-American-Myths-Prentice-Halls-Literature-American-Lit-EDITABLEKEYS-843374

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Motivating Students: Get them to give more.

Today students took a knowledge-based quiz over basic story elements. The majority of the class scored a perfect 100%. For those who did not, I called the parents and explained exactly what the test was and why anything less than 100% was unacceptable. Those students will retake a different version of the same test next week.

The point of this entry stems from the test. As lame as it sounds, I wanted to do something special for those who did well because, as most teachers can, I was able to predict who would not do well. Because other students were still testing, I quietly rotated through the room with my pen and drew a smiley face on the exposed hand of the students who scored 100%. They didn’t know what it was for, and I just gave them the silent signal when they looked at me confused. Now, you might be wondering how well this went over. First of all, a very wise colleague did this and I took it from her. It was not until I was telling another teacher about this that I gave writing on a student’s hand a second thought. I feel like I have established a solid reputation in the school, and I have had the siblings and cousins of many of these students before. Maybe that is why no one had a problem with it. In fact, the girls were waving their hands about to see the smile in the differerent light because it was — get this — a glitter pen. It was unreal how happy a tiny smiley face made them. I even caught a few of the guys smiling at it. Sure, some just ignored it. But it was worth it to those who felt it mattered.
Anyway, for students who scored a perfect 100%, I also gave their page a giant red stamp reading “100%”. YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE HOW THESE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS FREAKED OUT EXCITED OVER A STAMP! It was the same stamp in mostly the same place. They loved it. They even called me out when one of them noticed I put the stamp in the ink once and stamped two (sometimes three) pages and the ink was faded.

Eventually, the bell rang and students sat there asking about our text. Not a single student stood. I had eye contact. And it was just Tuesday I explained quickly (so as to avoid argumentation) that dismissal was by me and not the bell. I thanked the students for their effort and work, announced that I loved them already, and sent them on their way. It was then that it happened. I heard the one who was supposedly trouble say it: “She ain’t as bad as I thought. I like how she tries to make it fun.”

I have spent the first week trying to show them how awesome class can be, and as I reflected on class today, I wanted to take a moment to track those action steps.

First, I used a selection from “Roughing It” as a text to have the students explain to me why authority was needed. We used a consensus map to create our class wide definition of respect, all signing the document to make a large class poster to hang. Then, I gave very directed expectations for behavior and procedures for classroom actions. I explained the system of postivie and negative consequences. And I demonstrated consistency. When students goofed, I did not send them out. I gave them the look. I gave the hand signal. I spoke to them in the hall. And the one time I thought ot might go astray, I won by calmly whispering a simple sentence: “I respect you too much to address this in front of your classmates. Why don’t you stay after class.” You should try it.

After the set up and behavior aspect, I let them know I hear their opinions. I had each student complete a course evaluation exit ticket to describe actions they hoped I did and did not do, things they needed to do or not to both academically and behaviorally, and their favorite and least favorite type of activity in the classroom. That night, I took every single response and created a powerpoint listing every response to every question whether I thought it was fact or crap. I grouped similar responses on the slide and addressed student concerns in class the next day. There were some laughs and some exhasperated gasps (no, I will not let you get out of writing an essay or doing research), but there were no angry kids. One of the students thanked me for “caring” about their thoughts on how class should go and for explaining why I would not bend on some rules and expectations. You see, not only did I give my list of three key expectations, I gave a list of three non-negotiables. I also gave my three what’s-its for group work.

Key Expecatations:
1. Respect yourself.
2. Respect others.
3. Respect our community.

1. You will not interfere with the rights of another student’s education.
2. You will not interfere with the safety of anyone in the building.
3. You will not be disrespectful.

1. All students will be held accountable for individual and group work.
2. Grouping depends on you.
3. Fun depends on you.

During transitions of learning cycles, I have tried to use a variety of engaging activities. Because You see, when you start to recognize trend in student behavior, you can easily pick the moment to do any activity. I’m trying to rotate through with three primary types of brain break activities. Now, I use these activities to serve as the brain break as well as serving to teach students 21st century skills such as how to talk to each other respectfully, how to following increasingly complex directions upon request, and how to use social skills in the real world.
1. Class builders/Team builders. For these, we are doing a musical partner rotation with the good ‘ole fashioned “Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up” method. Students are then practicing the process of an assigned roles partner share guided by my verbal direction. We have learned a lot about each other during this activity. Since I have an odd number, I stepped in to be partners which was a nice change.
2. Physical activity brain breaks. This is something simple like having the students move hands in a very focused method to alter the brain activity for a moment and allow the students time to refocus. (Find some at http://www.emc.cmich.edu/brainbreaks/2005/TOC.htm.) These are great because they literally take less than a minute if you do an individual one, but the students are much more alert after doing it.
3. Video clips. Logic and communication are pretty important in our state, so I have used youtube to create a DVD of commericals I can use in class. Taking less than a minute each, we can quickly watch the video and identify persuasives devices, logical fallacies, and rhetoric on a daily basis. So far we have used funny commercials. In fact, I’m looking forward to the Superbowl so I can get my DVD for the rest of the semester.

During instruction, I have tried to include some form of creative thought or grouping activity in each lesson. This week we used cooperative learning to create Essential Vocabulary Trading Cards. To review the terms for the test I mentioned earlier, students worked with Clock Partners to pick their “best play” cards. After playing, students asked if we could do the same thing again some time. I’m not sure what type of grouping we will do next week to keep them interested as we transition into Writing Basics, our next unit. Any ideas?

Files/Resources Mentioned:
1. Clock Partners can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Clock-Partners-Planned-Random-Grouping-Strategy.
2. The exit ticket survey task can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREE-Student-Course-Evaluation-Form-Exit-Ticket.
3. Essential Vocabulary Trading Cards: Story Elements Edition can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Essential-Vocabulary-Trading-Cards-Activity-Bundle-Story-Elements-Edition.
4. I’m working on finalizing a packet for PD on Grouping and Cooperative Learning. It’s in que.

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