As students enter the room, answer sheets for today's Monday Mindbender rain teaser are already on their desks. Before I reveal the Mindbender, I share that it is Colonel Harland Sanders' birthday, and take the opportunity to address two "cultural literacy" ideas:
1. The meaning of "Kentucky Colonel," as it is a title given by the governor of the Commonwealth to someone who has performed a great service for the state or community. Harland Sanders was given the honor by the governor, who was a friend of his, for popularizing the state.
As with Daily Holidays, our conversation 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.
Yesterday, students began reading an excerpt from Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," individually identifying specific images of wrath (RI.9-10.1). Today, students will take the imagery they have previously identified and illustrate it, providing an image that shows understanding of the figurative language and how it creates the mood of fear in the audience (RI.9-10.4).
Students are provided with a copy of the directions for creating a poster advertising Edwards' sermon; and must create graphics that represent each of the images. By doing this, students will show they understand and can visualize the imagery in the sermon (tomorrow, they will be asked to discuss and provide analysis of their images).
As they have already identified how the diction used to craft the images plays primarily on fear, the imagery students provide should be suitably terrifying.
Students work collaboratively, in student-selected groups. As a creative project, providing students the option to work to their strengths, teaming with those who are stronger artists, more thorough researchers, or clearer writers than they are. Working collaboratively allows the students to build on each others' ideas, qualifying or justifying their own views and understanding of the piece's imagery and making new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented by their peers (SL.9-10.1d).
Additionally, crafting the poster as an advertisement addresses application and synthesis, rather than simply recall of facts. Students need to consider imagery that will catch the viewer's attention; the context of the sermon, in turn requiring them to seek out information related to how the ideas of the sermon develop over the text (RI.9-10.2); as well as start thinking about persuasive techniques, which will be the focus of the next unit.
As students work on their posters, I post the homework on the board: "Create a list of five to ten virtues or 'good things' that you think you should lead your life by. For each one, provide a brief explanation of why it is important for life." This list functions as an anticipation set, students to think about the central idea of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography (RI.9-10.2), which students will begin examining shortly.
With ten minutes remaining in the period, I ask the students to pause what they're working on, and once I finish speaking, to begin cleaning up. This includes: returning art supplies (markers/colored pencils), putting posters on a shelf so they can be found and reclaimed tomorrow, and heading to their assigned seats. As the students clean up and head to their seat, I will ask some of them to pick up things left behind, or make sure rows are straight, etc.
Once the room is cleaned up, and the students settled, I draw their attention to the board, and go through the homework. I randomly ask one student for the definition of "virtue," just to make sure we are all on the same page. I also share that for me, for example, "Loyalty" would be the first virtue I pick. If there are any questions, I can answer them during this time. I remind the students that I will be out of the building tomorrow, but they will have all of the period to finish their project.
I remind them that they would receive their poem drafts back tomorrow, and then we will head to the computer lab to compose a final copy.
Ten minutes may seem like a long span to provide for clean-up, but this is the first large-scale "creative" project the students have done, and I want to make sure they know where things go, so they will be back there tomorrow, as well. In addition, taking the time to clean up models that I value the condition of their classroom, and I hope they do, as well.