Today is the birthday of Ray Bradbury, and I am out sick. Being absent today, I have shared a plan for the day with the substitute, as well as the expectations of students when I'm out of the building. I ask the sub to share today's Daily Holiday in order to create a sense of continuity to the trust and community I am seeking to establish in the classroom.
Students are given a "Getting to Know You" survey, and asked to take a few minutes to reflect and write their responses to the survey questions. Not unlike yesterday's journal reflection, these questions allow students to get into the routine of regular writing (W.9-10.10), spending time sharing their own ideas and interests. These questions serve to help introduce students to reflective writing, which they will be doing throughout the year to build ownership and evaluate their progress. I share my own answers to these questions on the syllabus students are given the first day of school. I will read through the students' responses in an effort to get to know them better and to build community in the classroom. I can return to them when a student struggles, if I can find something to help reach that student.
Once they completed the "Getting to Know You Survey," students take a Question Set for "The World on Turtle's Back" and "Coyote and the Buffalo," two Native American creation myths that we read. Students are asked to take the time in class to read "The World on Turtle's Back" and answer the questions that go along with it.
As students read, these questions guide them to cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support their analysis (RL.9-10.1) of the theme of "balance," particularly in nature, good and evil, and between humans and the natural world; how the idea of balance develops in the conflict of the two main twins, and how their interactions shape and refine this theme (RL.9-10.2). Looking closely at the interactions of the twins allows students to analyze and understand how their conflict ultimately develops the world as the Iroquois know it (RL.9-10.3).
When I set up reading this myth, the dramatic contrast between modern beliefs in creation--such as the Book of Genesis, the Big Bang Theory/Planetary Accretion, and the occasional Flying Spaghetti Monster--are very much in contrast with the conflict, yet balance, of the Iroquois twins. Since my focus is on this contrast, the students utilize this text to identify the theme of "Nature in Balance," and how it is presented in the text, and in the differences between the twin brothers.
We study creation mythology at the start of the semester because of the thematic connection to one of the driving ideas for the semester: the idea of identity. Creation myths tell a people who they are and where they come from. Additionally, it is thematically appropriate to begin the school year with stories that tell of the beginning of the world (RL.9-10.2).
Students are reading and independently in order for them to gain individual understanding, as well as appreciation, of the story. Students use the reading strategies they have previously learned and mastered with which they are most comfortable or fluent. They understand early on that the onus of success falls to them. By working on their own and evaluating their responses, I can gauge their independent reading ability and scaffold, either providing assistance or additional challenge as students require.
With two minutes remaining, students are called back to their seats and asked to make sure they complete the reading for homework if they did not finish it in class. Students are asked to take time considering how the Iroquois creation myth reflects their own beliefs in the universe (and this would have been an "Exit Ticket" had I been present.)