Today served to wrap up our look unit on the Age of Faith: Creation Myths and Puritan Writing. When students entered the classroom, the answer sheers to their Monday Mindbender (weekly brainteaser puzzle) were already on their desks. I began class sharing the Daily Holiday: Anne Bradstreet Day in Massachusetts, connecting to Bradstreet as we've been reading her poetry. As I do everyday, I then went through the agenda for the day, reminding students that there is a test tomorrow, and while we will be reviewing part of it in class today, they will need to study on their own.
As with Daily Holidays, identifying Anne Bradstreet Day serves to build a sense of community, openness, and trust in the classroom, especially early in the school year as teachers and students are still "feeling out" the classroom climate and communication styles
I transition to the Monday Mindbender, putting it on the overhead screen, and reminding students that these are "lateral thinking puzzles," and the goal is to outsmart the question. I give students two minutes to solve today's puzzle, asking them to bring them up and turn them in when done. After two minutes, I collect the stragglers and I ask a student who solved the teaser to share their answer, and we talk about the thought process that went into solving the Mindbender, looking at meta-cognition and developing student reflective practice.
This brain teaser serves as a "Due Now" on Mondays, but not for a grade. As a brain teaser, students exercise "thinking out of the box"/lateral thinking skills, to train them to approach classroom challenges from multiple angles. After providing an answer sheet that we re-use for the month, I reveal a brain teaser puzzle and give the students between three and five minutes to complete it, circulating the room the whole time looking for the "right" (or a creative) answer.
In our review today, students focus on discussing skills needed for analysis of the myths, poems, and sermons they have read thus far. We use a Venn diagram to help students identify evidence that can be used in supporting analysis and in comparing or contrasting ideas. For our example, we draw from the Right-Handed Twin and Left-Handed Twin from the Iroquois creation story, "The World on Turtle's Back" (see lesson: "Nature in Balance" in the unit, "In The Beginning, There Was American Literature").
To model comparison and contrast critical thinking, students draw comparisons and contrasts between the twin brothers responsible for creation, as well as explore how the brothers show the balance of nature, we revisit the Venn diagram students filled in while reading "The Iroquois Creation Story." In order to get students moving, rather than simply sitting in their seats the entire period, I draw the diagram on the board and invite students to come up to the board to demonstrate their knowledge of the characters: once to identify the traits of the Right-Handed Twin, and once to identify the traits of the Left-Handed Twin. Together, we address the similarities between the characters, drawing from the textual evidence students provided (RL.9-10.1).
Once students return to their seats, I ask them to apply this knowledge by drawing conclusions about the traits they identified. Students provide evidence and respond to examples, clarifying, verifying, or challenging examples as they react (SL.9-10.1c)
In this case, I focus on concepts such as particularly how the interaction of and conflict between the twins propels creation (RL.9-10.3) and questions that analyze the development of the key idea/theme of balance, like, "If the Iroquois believe that the both good and bad go into creation of the world, what might that say about their views of nature?" (RL.9-10.2). We discuss these ideas of balance briefly, and then move on to the similarities and differences in the traits they identified. I point out the Right-Handed Twin, supposedly the good one, lies to defeat his brother in battle, while the Left-Handed Twin, supposedly the dark-minded one, tells the truth about his weakness.
During our look at Puritans, students spent a lot of time doing seat-work. As part of the review, I want to get them up and moving, and give them a chance to show understanding without having to raise their hands and be called upon. The Venn Diagram board work provides this opportunity. Since I am guiding these students towards higher-level understanding, addressing the two sides of Iroquois belief shows understanding of how specific details of plot, themes, and characters all intertwine.
Getting students up for part of this lesson, followed by my directed notes, shows the students that there are multiple ways to gain information; so many of my students think the only way to "learn" is to "sit and read." In a more varied lesson, I can appeal to the various styles of learning. The kinetic, "clowny" students can get up, the quiet verbal students can wait to be called on; I even take the opportunity to speak with some of the quieter students while the more active ones are up at the board.
In our review today, students focus on discussing skills needed for analysis of the myths, poems, and sermons they have read thus far. In order to reinforce the idea of an archetype, we take a closer look at the trickster; I begin by revisiting the traits of a trickster: a character who is the hero of a story, but subverts the natural order of things, uses deceit, uses magic, and uses violence to accomplish their ends. As a class discussion, we review the ways in which Coyote (of "Coyote and the Buffalo", see lesson: "Tricksters & Anti-Heroes" in the unit, "In The Beginning, There Was American Literature") meets these traits, drawing strong and thorough examples of these traits from the text (RL.9-10.1) to explain how these traits develop over the course of the text, revealed in how the character interacts with others, in particular how Coyote interacts with others, especially Buffalo Bull (RL.9-10.3).
In order to provide deeper understanding of the archetype, we then brainstorm how the type is portrayed in other literature and differing artistic media (RL.9-10.7). Students also evaluate each example by justifying the character/category combination. To elaborate or provide a basis for understanding as needed, I note to the students the common animals used as tricksters (coyote/fox, rabbit, raven, spider) in various cultures.
As students share their thoughts, providing evidence and responding to examples, clarifying, verifying, or challenging examples as they react (SL.9-10.1c), I make note of the students' thoughts on the board, asking them to copy these to have a study guide from which they can draw to prepare for the unit test.
and on structure: plot structure, diction, syntax, rhythm, meter of the myths, poems, and sermons (RL.9-10.5/RI.9-10.5)In order to provide students with guidance for what to study for the test on The Age of Faith, I provide a study/review guide 2013, explaining that being able to identify these concepts is only the first step; the next is to know strong examples of them for the test.
I review the test format (skill-based multiple choice and free-response short answers), and I ask students to read over the review. After a few minutes, I provide time for a question-and-answer session about the material.
Students work independently here to give them a chance to reflect on what we reviewed in class, as well as what we did not address in the teacher-directed review today. By settling things down for a few minutes, I hope to wander the rows, look over the students' notes on the review guide, and talk individually with anyone who may not want to put their hands up.
By providing a skill-based test, with reading selections in which students identify and justify a concept we have addressed in these unit, I'm able to asses that students don't only know what we reviewed, but also how to use these concepts in class. This particularly assesses students' ability to select strong and thorough textual evidence, and utilize that evidence to support inferences drawn from the text (RL.9-10.1/RI.9-10.1).
These questions are modeled to assess students, but also to prepare them for the Common Core aligned PARCC assessment (see link for sample questions).
The short answer questions provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of development of theme or central argument (RL.9-10.2/RI.9-10.1) and character (RL.9-10.3) across a text, and on structure: plot structure, diction, syntax, rhythm, meter of the myths, poems, and sermons (RL.9-10.5/RI.9-10.5), developing their writing and providing thorough evidence in a short time frame and form (W.9-10.10).
With two minutes left, I ask students if there are any additional questions for the unit test, and remind them to study in preparation.