The Power of Names

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SWBAT read an essay from The New Yorker about word and name connotations and develop paragraph-by-paragraph mini summaries of the essay.

Big Idea

"All seagulls look as though their name were Emma" (Christian Morgenstern)

Vocabulary One Quiz

15 minutes

Today's lesson begins with Vocabulary One Quiz, for which students were given a review and whole-class activity on Friday.  

I maintain the same format with vocabulary quizzes throughout the year, which is ten sentence-completions, in an effort to mirror most standardized testing  of vocabulary.  My students tend to find them refreshing and non-threatening, especially after becoming familiar with the words through our weekly discussions and after performing some type of vocabulary review activity or homework assignment.

Sharing "My Name" Pieces

20 minutes

When my students have completed their vocabulary quiz, we shift our focus to their "My Name" writing pieces, which are due today.  I instruct them to take out a highlighter or to borrow one of mine (I walk around, offering highlighters from a box of them I keep in my classroom).  I then instruct them to highlight their use of simile, metaphor, and personification in their pieces. Additionally, I tell them to put an "s" next to the simile, an "m" next to the metaphor, and a "p" next to the personification (Sample My Name 1Sample My Name 2).  This accomplishes two things:

  1. It makes my job of grading for the required elements easier if those elements are highlighted.
  2. It allows me to assess whether or not my students have grasped what simile, metaphor, and personification are by having them highlight what they consider them to be.

Before I collect their highlighted work, I ask for volunteers to read their pieces out loud.  I anticipate that at least a few students in each class will be excited to share their work, considering how readily they responded to the recent in-class writing exercise involving Victor T. Monroe.  After each student volunteer shares his/her work aloud, I ask the class to identify the voice, tone, and mood in the shared piece.

Nonfiction Focus: The New Yorker Essay

35 minutes

The remainder of the period is devoted to introducing an essay from The New Yorker, titled "The Power of Names" (The Power of Names-New Yorker Article). This essay explores many of the concepts about language that my students and I have been discussing over the past week.  Additionally, this article allows me to introduce one of the key Common Core shifts by balancing fictional text with non-fictional text (Balancing Informational and Literary Text).

I tell my students that I am going to teach them a technique that will help them navigate their ways through potentially difficult text that will help them achieve an overall understanding of the text. The technique is one I learned while working as an SAT tutor.  The concept is quite simple:  as you read each paragraph of a difficult essay/article/chapter, hold yourself accountable for identifying the main idea of each paragraph as you go, by writing mini summaries of each paragraph in the margins.  By so doing, you develop a "map" of the text as you go, circumventing the phenomena of arriving at the end of a page with no idea of what you just read.

For the first round of using this technique, I have my students keep their mini summaries on a separate sheet of paper, as an entry in their classroom spiral notebooks.  I give each student a copy of the article, and the first thing I instruct them to do is to number the paragraphs in the margin.  They should end with a total of seven.  I then tell them that they will have seven entries in their spiral notebook assignment.  Each entry will represent the main idea, as a mini summary, of each paragraph.  I tell them that the goal is to aim for one-sentence summaries, and that two sentences is the maximum for any entry.

We begin reading the article together, developing the first mini summaries as a whole-class (I can usually get through the first two paragraphs with them before time runs out).  I instruct them to complete the remainder of their reading and mini summaries for homework.