It's been awhile since we've reviewed how one can use commas to separate a list of items, so it's coming back today. I teach students that the Oxford comma (the last comma that separates the list of items) is not optional. It is required, at least for me. The reason I require it is because it adds clarity to the sentence.
Consider the sentences in the popular meme, but made student-friendly.
In sentence one, the presence of one comma suggests that Justin Bieber and Katy Perry are the clowns. In sentence two, they are three separate entities. Did they invite clowns and Justin Bieber and Katy Perry? Or did they invite Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, who are also clowns? Without the comma, we may never know.
I've been giving students weekly reading logs since the beginning of the year, but since January, I've been assigning specific nonfiction passages. They're extremely short, a mere four to five paragraphs, and the individual paragraphs are quite short. They come from this series. My 'regular' English 7 classes get passages from the intermediate level and my honors classes get passages from the advanced level.
Every once in awhile, I like to give students time in class to discuss their answers before turning in the assignment. That's what we did today.
In addition, I asked students to read the paragraphs they wrote for their reading log aloud. I asked the groups to listen to each others paragraphs and see if they could determine the concrete evidence and separate that from the commentary. (Note: Some students wrote about the passage. Other students wrote about other things they read throughout the week.) Going further, they evaluated the quality of the commentary. Did the author provide enough explanation? If all of the group members could differentiate between concrete evidence, commentary, and though that the commentary was sufficient, students could give themselves a check plus. If some of the group members could differentiate and most of the commentary was sufficient, they could give themselves a check. If most of the group couldn't differentiate or the commentary wasn't sufficient, then they would give themselves a check minus.
Essentially, they did the same thing I do when I grade their reading logs. However, it's more immediate, and students get practice determining if commentary is sufficient.
On Friday, we finished our fishbowl discussions. Protagonist and antagonist was one discussion. Falling action was another. Today, students are revisiting those concepts to grapple with them more as well as reflect in writing. They're doing this by doing something crazy--writing paragraphs. Nobody saw that coming, right?
Their first prompt, for Quickwrite 5, was about protagonist and antagonist. We reviewed the definitions for both characters, which is important for two reasons. One, review is important. Two, I have students who transferred into my class after we'd done the lesson on the difference between protagonist and antagonist, and they're still operating under the assumption that protagonist is the good guy and antagonist is the bad guy. No. Just no. The antagonist works against the protagonist. The protagonist works to solve the conflict. Either one could be "good" or "bad."
The second prompt, Quickwrite 6, was about the falling action. During the fishbowl, it became quite clear that students thought that the climax was in the middle and that the falling action and resolution were lengthy. That's what the plot diagram looks like, right? Through their discussion, they realized that the falling action could be really short, and that's the case in "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." The falling action is Act 2, Scene 2, where the aliens talk about what's going on.
I gave students plenty of time to write these paragraphs. The last ten minutes I reserved for sharing paragraphs in small groups and then sharing out for the larger group.