The one-page memoirs are due today (Memoir Final Draft), and my students are given an opportunity to share their work out loud with the whole class, should they so desire, before I collect them (Sharing the Finished Product).
I am anticipating some very strong work from my students, in that this is their second attempt at narrative writing with me, and because they were given multiple opportunities to work on their drafts in class with my input, as well as with the input of each other.
Additionally, I have found that if a focus is maintained throughout the year on quality writing, through the texts we encounter, then students will gradually begin to experiment with new techniques in their own writing, to varying degrees of success. Thus, as we read both The House On Mango Street and Bad Boy, I often singled out strong examples of quality writing, both spontaneously as well as in more structured activities. The byproduct of making good writing a cause for celebration in the classroom is that it eventually trickles into student work.
Because the BBC documentary that I plan to show my students today references the protagonists in Of Mice and Men, I have drawn very rudimentary depictions of George and Lennie on the whiteboard, as well as an equally rudimentary map of California, in order to help my students visualize the characters and the setting (George, Lennie, and Salinas).
I point these out to my students before we begin the documentary, briefly explaining who the characters are and the occasion for which they find themselves in Salinas in the 1930s. I keep it brief and simple, in that the documentary will fill in the details. However, I find these visuals helpful in depicting early images for my students before we begin reading the text, and plan to leave the images on the whiteboard as we begin the book this week.
In order to properly establish the historical context for Of Mice and Men, I show my students this two-part production by the BBC which provides some essential information in order for them to better understand the motivations of the characters and the odds that were working against them.
I have prepared a viewing activity (BBC Documentary Questions) for my students, a series of comprehension questions that they should be able to answer while viewing the documentary. I have tried to focus the questions on information that will expand my students' understanding of the era of Steinbeck's novella. Before we begin the documentary, I instruct my students to read over the questions, so that they know what they are watching and listening for. Because the documentary is in two parts, the break between segments gives me an opportunity to review the questions with my students and to clear up any confusion.
I generally require that my students perform some sort of activity whenever they view something, in part as an attempt to train them for the changes in delivery on portions of the tests developed to assess the Common Core Standards . I avoid the general directive of "take notes while you watch" and try to give them specific information to watch and listen for instead. I do this as a form of modeling, as I try to center the questions around key ideas, with the hopes that through controlled practice, my students will be able to eventually identify key ideas on their own in viewing future presentations.
LOGISTICAL NOTE (and spoiler alert): The last minute or so of the second segment of the documentary includes a voice-over, reading the final scene of the text, where George shoots Lennie. I muted this portion, so that the ending would not be spoiled for my students.