We are changing the format this week. Instead of reading Great Expectations in class, as we have been doing, students are going to read six chapters at home with guiding questions. They are ready to take on more of the responsibility for the reading, but I know at time it will be difficult. Therefore, I will give them the all the questions for the week today, but I will collect them each day according to the chapter. This will encourage them to manage their time well.
In class, we are going to be writing a long composition (our terminology for a five-paragraph essay) based on the choice read they each checked out of the library. Each class will attack a different portion of the writing process, from outlining all the way to editing. I'm spending this week writing with them, hoping that I can give them more autonomy on the next long comp assignment, which will answer the same question, but will be based on Great Expectations. I have found that using a full week in this way, while time consuming, is beneficial in the long run. They are more likely to address specific writing problems now and retain that information long-term. I refuse to allow students to remain stagnant in their writing; I constantly provide ways for them to improve and am always raising the stakes, so that they don't become complacent.
I will spend the beginning of class chatting about the long weekend/Thanksgiving. I will ask everyone to share one thing from their time off, even if it's just about how great it was to sleep in.
This is the first class after break, so they will need to few minutes to wake up and recommit to school. Plus, it's a good opportunity to learn more about them and their families.
Students were asked to bring their choice read to class today. Before beginning the essay, we will spend some time sharing details from these books. We will go around the room and each student will share the major plot points of their text and explain whether or not they liked reading it (SL.9-10.4). Here are some examples of students sharing: Example 1, Example 2.
I choose to start this way for a few reasons: First, it is a relaxed re-enty; we all need a bit of time to get back into the schedule. Second, it gives me a chance to see who really knows their book well, which in turn, will help me prepare individual students for the outlining and essay process. Third, it allows students to see that it's fun to talk about books and to learn from each other.
Students will copy the prompt into their notebooks:
Select a character whose pride or selfishness creates problems. In a well-developed composition, describe how the character's pride or selfishness creates problems, and explain how the character's experience relates to the work as a whole.
This prompt originally appeared as an MCAS question, the Massachusetts state exam for sophomores. I use this prompt, and many other MCAS-style prompts, to familiarize the students with the format and expectations of this test, since they will be taking it in a year. I ask them to copy the prompt into their notebooks-- as opposed to giving them a handout-- because I've found that they are more likely to read it thoroughly as they write, as opposed to merely glancing at a worksheet. I plan on discussing the phrase "relates to the work as a whole," a phrase we have discussed before. I hope that they remember that this phrase should scream "THEME" to them. I will ask that every students writes a thorough thesis (CCSS uses the word "claim") before the bell (W.9-10.1a). I will check each thesis before they leave, offering advice and asking probing questions. This sentence of two must be precise before then begin writing; it is the best way to ensure an easier process and a better essay.