Here is what I’ve been up to:
My 6th graders will be finishing up our Alcatraz nonfiction unit that I paired with Al Capone Does My Shirts, our summer reading novel. Last week, we read “Escape From Alcatraz,” a high interest article about the three men who *might* have managed to escape. Or maybe they didn’t.
I love this article because we can start practicing defending an answer with text. My students had to consider the evidence from the article ONLY and write a paragraph that defended their assertion that the three men either escaped or didn’t using evidence from the article. This was my first chance to get a peek at my students’ writing ability, and I definitely have something to work with. Overall, they’re not fabulous, but they’re not awful either. I’ll take that any day!
You can find the article that we read here from Scholastic SCOPE. Have I mentioned my love for this language arts magazine a few times? Oh yeah!
I also decided to focus first this year on nonfiction text structures since some of last year’s sixth graders are still somewhat struggling with it. I also have a theory that my students might have an easier time finding the main idea of a paragraph if they can identify its text structure. I’ll let you know what my findings are on that experiment as soon as I know!
We completed Lessons 7-11 from my nonfiction notebook, but I modified them. Instead of using the dog-related paragraphs, I pulled different paragraphs from the Alcatraz article that reflected the 5 text structures and we diagrammed those paragraphs with 3D graphic organizers from the notebook. We actually only finished two last week, so this week we’ll be finishing the remaining 3 and doing A LOT of practice identifying text structures of paragraphs. If you’d like the paragraphs I used to teach text structure, you can get them through Google Docs by clicking on the pictures below.
My 7th graders finished up their study of Wonder last week. They turned in their projects and I was really pleased with most of my students’ work! I’ll show you those later this week. We also reviewed genres of fiction and are now ready to start our first short “story.”
This week, my 7th graders are going to read a teleplay in our anthology, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” This is a really fun story in our books and I love to do it early in the year to give my students a positive feeling about the textbook. While I use it less than 25% of the time, I don’t want my students moaning and groaning when I ask them to bring it to class.
We’ll read this Rod Serling adaptation from The Twilight Zone and I’ll use it to review story vocabulary. Then, we will watch the modern day version (episode) and construct a Venn diagram comparing the teleplay (1950’s version) to the episode (2000’s version). It’s a really fun and interesting comparison. The biggest difference is that in the 1950’s version, the people are afraid of aliens. We discuss how this was considered a valid fear at that time. In the modern day version, the people fear terrorists and/or the US government. Isn’t that an awesome representation of our time versus 60+ years ago? I love telling my students that when I was their age, I had never even heard the word “terrorist” much less feared them. Today’s students were born on or after 9/11 and have heard this word and feared terrorists for their entire life. It’s a different world we live in now. *sigh*
Here’s the first part of the modern day version that we watch:
The Twilight Zone
My 8th graders will be continuing their study of The Wednesday Wars. After we read chapter 1, I really wanted to do something “more” to establish the setting of this book. Since the book is set in the late 1960’s, it can be harder for my students to imagine that time in American history. I think it’s easier to conceptualize the 1800’s than it is to conceptualize only 50 years ago. Anyway, to help establish the setting of this novel, I absolutely *LOVE* showing my students commercials from the late 1960’s. I think I could waste an entire Saturday watching old television commercials! Here are the commercials that I showed them, followed by the discussion topics:
I love discussing the differences in how smoking is viewed – it was socially acceptable (and possibly attractive) during this time.
With the razor and curlers commercials, we discuss how women were viewed and treated in the 1960’s. Watching the television commercials makes you wonder if there were any feminists around ANYWHERE! The most absurd is the hair curler commercials that tell women “shame, shame, shame for being caught in bed with curlers,” implying that they should look attractive in bed for their husbands. WHAT!
And finally, the Fritos Bandito commercial. It comes last and I tell my students to find what is wrong with the commercial. Most of them can tell me that it is outright racist. It is racist to the point of being hilarious! Is there such a thing? YES! My students are able to articulate that this type of commercial would NEVER be shown on television today, but it was perfectly acceptable in the 1960’s.
What a fun lesson!
We’ll be reading chapters 3 and 4 this week. While reading chapter 3, I’ll imply that I have a surprise for my students when we finish the chapter. They will all be expecting cream puffs, but the surprise will be liverwurst! (Both foods are mentioned in the book, and the majority of my students have no experiences with either one.) They’ll get cream puffs after chapter 4, but I won’t tell them this. Most of my students last year surprised me by trying the liverwurst! We’ll see for this year.