Sunday, February 2, 2014

Trying Something New in English Class

We're about to begin To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  One of my all time favorite novels to read and teach. Typically my students research the historical events that surround that time period i.e.. The Great Depression, The Dustbowl, Jim Crow Laws, Civil Rights, . . . and write a research paper. We do this prior to reading the story so the kids have an idea of the time period and events surrounding the author's life.

We're still going to complete the research, but in groups rather than individually. However, that isn't what this post is about. I wanted to come up with a different way to introduce the story.

So here's the something new. I'm going to have my students write a "Where I'm From" poem. I got the idea from George Ella Lyon's website. She wrote the poem. You can find her poem here.

First I'm going to read the poem aloud as students follow along. I believe students should see as well as hear the poem. But they shouldn't just hear the story from me, they should also hear the poet read her poem aloud. I found a video on youtube of George Ella Lyon reading her poem. You can find the video here. (The video gave me another idea. I'll get to that later.) Do you think the meaning of a poem can be affected when read by a stranger versus the poet herself? We're going to discuss that very thing in class.

Following our discussion we'll go over a template for the "Where I'm From" poem. I borrowed the template from here. Students will also receive a worksheet to help them brainstorm ideas to complete the template. (The worksheet is under construction. I'll post it soon.) Once students complete the brainstorming they will pair up and share what they come up with. Afterwards they will begin to write. I can't wait to see what they come up with. We'll spend some time revising and editing to reach our final piece of writing.

So here comes the something even newer . . . After students complete their "Where I'm From" poem they are going to add links. For each piece of writing they add to the template they will "link" it to an image, a video, another piece of personal writing, etc. For example, in George Ella Lyon's poem she wrote, "I am from the dirt under the back porch." If this were a line from a student's poem she would add a link. The link could be a photo of her back porch, or the dirt under the back porch. I hope this makes sense.

Since we're a one to one school we're supposed to include technology into our curriculum. The "linky poem" as I'm calling it helps fulfill that criteria in my English class. More importantly I'm hoping it will catch the interest of my students and more of them will WANT to complete the assignment.

I'm thinking we're going to write our poem with their links in google docs. In order for the links in the poem to work, the poem and the linked items must be located in a common folder. To that end each student will create a folder where she will include her poem and other linked items. The folder will be shared with everyone in the class including myself. If it works, we'll be able to open the poem, click on a link and the link will open. Keep your fingers crossed.

Finally the something even newer than newer . . . Students will create a video like George Ella Lyon's video on youtube. This is the idea I got from viewing George Ella Lyon's youtube video. Students will read their "Where I'm From" poem on the video while images move across the screen. Yea! Even more technology in my English class. Many of my kiddos enjoy making videos.

My kiddos are in regular ninth grade English and sadly many of them don't like school, well the part where they have to complete work. I hope my students will enjoy this project so that more will want to complete the assignment and actually enjoy it, for a school project anyway.

Has anyone else tried this before? If so please share your experience. If not, please let me know what you think.

Have a great week.

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