Friday, July 19, 2019

Trying Online Book Discussion Using Workshopping the Canon

Learn at least one new thing every week. That’s one of the engines for this blog: to challenge myself as a person to keep growing wiser, not just older, and to challenge myself as a teacher to live the talk of being the chief learner in my classroom. Every week I have to have something to write about.

My new thing for this week is joining a Facebook book discussion. This is a two-for—I get to process a professional book (Workshopping the Canon by Mary Styslinger) with colleagues, and I get to experiment with a new format. Real time, face-to-face book discussions have been an important part of my professional life (see this blog), and I’m excited to try one on a social media platform. 

Workshopping the Canon is about helping students access the richness of traditionally taught works of literature (think To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, and Hamlet) using workshop strategies. That is, by creating a thematic unit; compiling a variety of associated texts (articles, poems, short stories); reading aloud together; giving students prompts, strategies, and time for connecting to the text; digging into the literary aspects; and discussing it all with peers. I’m affirmed to find that I do much of this in many of my units. I’m excited to have a format for publishing (here on my blog) the units I’ve been teaching and a list of even more resources, prompts, and strategies for those and future units. And I’m challenged both to expand what I already do and to think about incorporating choice book clubs with more accessible works on the theme of the canonical work. If you’re a secondary English teacher, appendix B alone is worth the price of the book—it’s a chart of a number of canonical works with accompanying unit foci and essential questions plus a plethora of supplemental texts.

We’re only on the second week of 4, but I’m already wowed by the potential of the format. Because I’ve worked at small schools, to have the possibility of more than 3 participants, the books I’ve used have had to apply to a broad range of subject areas and grade levels—like Making Thinking Visible, or How to Differentiate in the Academically Diverse Classroom. And it’s been great to hear the stories of a kindergarten teacher, a middle school social studies teacher, and a high school biology teacher and get the sense that we all have the same goals of for our students of, say, curiosity and competence. But for professional reading focusing on my specific subject area—English Language Arts—this blog has been my only way of processing and accountability. And suddenly, I have another one. And 83 colleagues with whom to process! I have to find a balance that though I can’t interact with all of them, I (and everyone) will benefit more if I do interact with some of them. If I were to facilitate a group like this for, say, secondary English teachers in international Christian schools in Japan, that would be a much smaller group than interested members of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Next step? I may try my first Twitter chat—hosted by NCTE on this book. 

What have you learned this week? Have you ever tried a book discussion on a social media platform? Are you a secondary English teacher interested in trying one? If so, let me know!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Writing toward the Answers

Writing is not only what I teach, it’s what I do. It’s not only a way of communicating to others—it often starts as a way of tracing the spoor of a thought or an idea or an emotion, tracking it to its den, making friends with it, and letting it speak to me. Sometimes the end product will also speak to others. Most often, it just sits in my journal. Once a week, it turns into a blog. Sometimes I dabble in poetry. Last time a poem found its way into my blog was here

I’m again processing some losses—from big ones like my mom’s death 3 years ago (yes, still, see here as I reflected on reading and death and here as I reflected on writing her eulogy) to smaller ones like the ocean view out our apartment window and the books that didn't make the packing cut. My faith tells me the answer: all will be well, but sometimes my heart is still working through the process of coming up with that answer itself. And that is okay because I have a good Teacher and a community to help when I get stuck. For the analogy, I am indebted to Dr. Jeanne Jensma.

The Answers in the Back of the Book

Neat columns of tiny italic answers
started on page 531 of the geometry textbook:
A squared plus B squared equals C squared,
23 cubic feet.
A replica of that list of odd-numbered answers
was not the goal of the class.
To master the understanding offered
I had to laboriously work the process,
wrestling with theorems, shapes, proofs, formulas,
discipling my brain to the mathematical discipline

until I could come up with them myself. 
And when my answer didn’t match the one in the back of the book,
I reworked the problem,
asked questions,
studied the text,
watched a friend or a teacher work it, 
until finally—eureka!—
amid eraser crumbs, 

smudged notebook paper, 
and graphite-scented fingertips
the process led me, too, 
to the answer I knew had been waiting all along 
in the back of the book.
Why did I expect that life would be any different?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

How Do I Find the Time to Read?

Two days ago I was riding the elevator in my in-laws’ retirement community, and a tiny white-haired woman got on carrying a copy of Pachiko by Min Jin Lee. My reader antennae began quivering as I ventured, “Have you read that novel?” 

“Oh, yes!” the woman bubbled. “I just finished, and I didn’t want to stop reading!” We chatted briefly through the remaining descent, and when we got off and she turned toward the library and we turned to the outside door to go for a walk, my husband said, “30 seconds and you found a kindred spirit.” 

A friend recently asked me how I make time to read, and what I’d recommend for more effective reading. What a great question! Since I couldn’t conceive of a way to whittle my answer down to a Facebook reply, I promised her a blog. Here it is.

I make time to read because I love to read. I love to read both for the experience of the books themselves and also for the community of other readers that shares that experience. The tribe of people who recommend books, discuss books, and take my recommendations. So if you want to grow your love of reading, be on the lookout for other people who love reading—people in your life or online. Get recommendations, talk about books, recommend books. 

Find a book you enjoy. The recommendations are important because they will help you find a book you enjoy. Everything is easier if you enjoy it, and harder if it’s a grit-your-teeth duty. If you want to develop a reading habit, find a book you enjoy. Brain exercise is like physical exercise—if running doesn’t work for you, try biking or Pilates. Don’t feel like you have to read Moby Dick or Anna Karenina. Get recommendations from friends, librarians, booksellers, and online resources. Feel free to abandon books that don’t capture your attention. I used to feel a moral obligation to the author to finish every book I started. But with gray hair has come the wisdom that there are too many good books available to bog down in one that is slowly suffocating my desire to read.  

Because I love to read, I naturally gravitate to reading. Still, in the busyness of today’s world, habits and intentionality protect and increase time to read. My go-to for free time is a book—hard copy or Kindle. I carry one with me to read during wait-times: in the doctor’s office, before the concert starts, waiting for the bus, during commercials while watching with Jeopardy with my parents-in-law. (Audio books also count, but I don’t have a significant car commute, and I can’t seem to focus on pure audio input—but I know people who listen while they clean house or cook.) Being an empty nester, I deeply appreciate that without children’s homework and bedtime routines to supervise, I can look forward to reading in the evening after supper as well as on weekends and vacations. 

Some people advocate setting a time for starting habits: I will read for 15 minutes during my lunch. (Again, like exercise.) My husband went through a period of setting a clock alarm for 7:30 p.m., and when it went off, it was time to set aside the computer and pick up a book. Once the habit was well established, he no longer needed the alarm.

Another way reading is like exercise is that stamina is built over time. You don’t go from couch potato to marathoner over night. In the same way, even with a book you enjoy, don’t expect to read for 2 hours on Saturday if you haven’t read a book in the past year. But also, if you lose concentration after 10 minutes, don’t give up. Ten minutes is better than nothing, and 10 minutes a day adds up over the year. And after a week of 10 minutes a day, try edging it up to 15 minutes. If you get up to 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, that’s nearly 87 hours per year, or more than 10 books that you wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Remember the book Pachinko that started this whole ramble?  I loved Pachinko because as a long-time resident of Japan, I know a bit about Japan, but this book helped me understand the family history of many of the Korean friends and students I have known in Japan. And then it sparked this elevator connection. And then later that same day the friend to whom I’d given my copy of Pachinko when I left Japan last month messaged me. She had just finished the book and wanted to share her excitement. The following day, I had lunch with another friend, and she said, “I’ve heard a lot about this book Pachinko. Should I read it?” 

This is my tribe. I love them. Join us.

P.S. Need more motivation? Try this article: “10 Benefits of Reading: Why you should read every day.” Lana Winter-Hebert. Lifehack. 4 June 2019.
P.P.S. Need more specific ideas for carving out time? Try this article: “8 Ways to Read the Books You Wish You Had Time For.” Neil Pasricha, Harvard Business Review. 10 April 2019. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

My Summer 2019 Professional Reading List

True confession: Pretty much the only professional reading I can manage in  the school year is blogs, newsletters, and journals. Other than that, I’m grazing to keep my own love of reading alive and to discover the books that will kindle and nurture my students’ love of reading. But now school is out, and I’m diving into the pile of professional books I’ve been building all year. Here’s what I’m planning to read:

Minds Made for Stories: How We Really Read and Write Informational and Persuasive Texts by Thomas Newkirk. I’ve seen this popping up in some of those blogs I follow, so I decided this is the time to find out what the buzz is. I’m always interested in new ways of thinking about the reading and writing I do, as well as talking to students about the reading and writing they do.

180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. These are 2 of my reading/writing teacher gurus—writing together! It came out last year, but I already had a full slate of summer reading at that time (including Gallagher’s previous book, which I hadn’t made it to the previous summer—see my blog on it here). But I’m really excited about getting to it this summer—both teachers are always very practical as well as innovative and inspirational. 

Upgrade Your Teaching: Understanding by Design Meets Neuroscience by Jay McTighe and Judy Willis, M.D. Understanding by Design is the foundation of my approach to curriculum: I’ve facilitated several discussions of the book and lead 2 school-wide curriculum re-designs based on it. I’ve also been trying to keep up with all the brain science of learning research coming out now (see this recent Cult of Pedagogy post). So when I saw this on the ASCD new book list, it seemed like an obvious choice. 

All Learning Is Social and Emotional by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith. When I heard this title, I thought, “That so resonates in my gut. I need to find out the research and implementation ideas that others have found.” When I noticed the authors, it was a done deal. Two other excellent (and widely varied) books by Frey and Fisher I’ve read, discussed with colleagues, and deeply implemented are Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork and Promote Understanding and Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility. Additionally, I attended a 3-day social and emotional learning workshop this spring (see blog here), and I want to continue building on that learning.

We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor. This is one out of the 4 book selections for the secondary level Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club (scroll down the page for elementary selections). Book Love Foundation was started by Penny Kittle, co-author of the 2nd book on my list, to support teachers teachers inspiring readers. While I won’t be joining the book club—there’s too much life happening this summer to commit to reading on someone else’s timeline—I do want to read the books, both because I respect Penny’s recommendations, and because I’m sure my Twitter feed will be full of references. (And if you are a secondary English teacher and haven’t read Penny’s books on teaching reading and writing workshop, I highly recommend them—Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers and Write Beside Them.) The other 3 book club selections include one inspirational teacher memoir and 2 popular YA books—Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo, The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King. 

Throughout the summer, I will blog on my progress through these books. What professional reading are you doing this summer? Why? And how will you reflect on and capture your learning?

P.S. Here’s my list from last summer.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Making Reading Visible: Annotation as Assessment

Look at all that work students' brains can do while reading!

At the end of a year, what is important for me and for my high school English students to identify about the learning that has happened? This spring I decided that in addition to a self-assessment of their growth as readers, writers, thinkers, and speakers/listeners (see last week’s blog), I also wanted my 10th graders to show all the ways their reading brain works to make sense of a piece of literature. I don’t care so much what they remember about individual pieces of literature that we’ve studied—they could get all that from a couple of hours with SparkNotes. I wanted to see what they could do with a new piece of literature. I wanted them to see what they could do. 

So I came up with a prompt, a rubric to be used on the close reading and annotation of the opening paragraphs of a novel, and a selection of novel openings on which to practice and then perform. (See this blog for my initial foray into using annotation as assessment with poetry.) I was so encouraged by the amount of thinking students were able to demonstrate in their annotations, I learned more about how students’ brains process reading, and I identified ways I can improve instruction in the future. That’s an exam worth repeating. 

Here’s what I did for 1/3 of my exam—I distributed a copy of the first page of The Kite Runner and the following prompt and rubric: 
PART 2 (30 minutes) _____ /30 points 
Skill transfer to reading. You will receive a short piece of fiction writing on which to demonstrate your ability to understand, analyze, interpret, and apply an author’s intent by annotating your close reading. You will need to be able to paraphrase/summarize, identify literary elements and elements of style, visualize images, ask questions, make inferences, and connect to your life, the world, and/or other texts.

_____ /5 Paraphrase/summarize
_____ /5 Identify literary elements 
_____ /5 Identify elements of style
_____ /5 Ask questions
_____ /5 Make inferences
 _____ /5 Connect to your life, the world, and/or other texts

I had explained that I expected much more than 6 highlights and notes—but there should be at least 1 of each of the 6 types of strategies above, and 1 of each should be indicated with its number, though depending on the text there will be many of some and fewer of others. For instance, they may only have one connection and many questions; or one inference and many literary elements. (Grading hack: This not only ensured they could identify what inference is, but also made it easy for me to check that they had at least one of each.) 

Here are some of the ways students responded:
(1) Summary: Everyone had accurate summaries. 

(2) Literary elements: Many students noted the vivid imagery (from “crumbling mud wall” to “early afternoon sun sparkled on the water”), personification (“the past claws its way out” and the kites “danced”), and simile (“floating side by side like a pair of eyes looking down on the city of San Francisco”) 

(3) Elements of style: Students commented on the 1st person narrator, the pervasive use of descriptive language, the hints and flashbacks.

(4) Questions:

  • Did he/she just move here?
  • Was he/she hiding from someone/something?
  • What does “unatoned” mean? What kind of sin? What did he do?
  • What do the kites symbolize?
  • Who’s Hassan and what’s a kite runner?
(5) Inferences:
  • Must be somewhere cold 
  • “Twin kites”—I think it is a symbol and is important to the story since it is the title of the story
  • One student tracked his inferences: “Sounds like a white boy from Europe or America”… “He’s not in Europe like I thought he was”… “He’s in America!”… “Did he come from a different place?”… “The names sound like they are from the Middle East.”
(6) Connections:
  • He’s in California—my sister actually went to the Golden Gate Bridge
  • I have those moments where I was like, “If I had only studied more,” or “If I were only one second earlier.” I think his/her decision/situation was far worse, though.
  • The narrator went on a walk after the call (that caused him to think). I also sometimes go on walks to think or when my brain needs a rest.
  • I don’t know what he did, but for Christians we have Jesus to forgive us, so we don’t have to worry about “being good again.”
  • No matter how far you push down or try to forget about the past, because it happened, it might or will be brought up again.
  • This person is like me since I talk on the phone with my close friend that is in Mongolia every week since she was close with me in Australia.
  • There are also decisions I’ve made in life that helped shape me into who I am today! Events where my world was flipped upside down. But I need to not let these events dictate the course of my life.
  • People fly a lot of kites in India, especially on Independence Day. I can see 100’s of kites in the air.
  • I could relate to this character who I don’t know much about because after I moved to Okinawa, everything changed….
Besides delight at the amount, thoroughness, and quality of thinking evident, one of the things I reflected on was how inferences develop. While it became obvious that nobody knew Kabul is a city in Afghanistan, they all used inference and questions to try to figure it out—the important thing about inference and questions being that they are provisional (as demonstrated by the student tracking his inferences about setting), and were they to continue with the book, they would refine their inferences with more information. Most of them picked up on the lines “I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul.” Hassan, it was clear from the passage, was a person. So they inferred that the rest were, too. Inferred that they were Middle Eastern. And asked how these people would be connected to the story. Many inferred from the line “San Francisco, the city I now call home,” that the narrator had come from some place else. Some place probably 3rd world, since the 3rd line refers to “a crumbling mud wall.” Possibly Pakistan, since that is where the phone call from Rahim Khan came.  

Inference often extends to unfamiliar words. I allow students, after they mark an unknown word with a question, to ask me for the meaning. Many students asked about the word “harelipped,” but one student decided to forge ahead with inference in the following note: “Harelipped—talks fast?”

One point that became obvious already in our practicing was the need to clarify what, exactly, “style” is. Students asked what the difference between literary elements and style was, and I was slightly stumped. When I had made the rubric, it had seemed obvious to me that literary elements are literary terms or devices and style is word choice and syntax. And sometimes that is clear—but sometimes it’s a matter of pervasiveness. One simile is a literary term identified, but five of them throughout the passage looks like style.

The extra benefit of this type of exam? Students have read the opening paragraphs of 4 novels (1 for whole-class practice, 2 for optional practice, and 1 for the exam) they might want to pick up this summer! 

Friday, June 14, 2019

What Did My Students Learn This Year?

Yep, school is done. And that's something to celebrate--as well as the learning that happened during that year!

  • I am very happy that I took this class because I feel that I have grown not just academically, but also as a person.
  • In this class, I learned how to read with happiness…. I used to…close a book and review it with just one word: “bad,” “good,” okay.” But now it’s impossible to just say with one word all the thoughts in my head.
I have a magic teacher wand that can change a terrifying word like “exams” into an opportunity to make people—both students and myself—happy. Because “happy” includes growingdoing, realizing, and articulating it. It’s taken me a while to find this magic wand, but now that I can articulate significant class goals in a course statement and target, teach, and assess those goals, a big part of what I have to do at mid-year and year-end exams is simply remind students of the goals and ask, “Are you half-way there? Are you there? How do you know?” If you want to see my full course description and final exam prompt, scroll to the bottom of this page. But here are some of the 10th grade responses--in addition to the two at the top of this page--to the final third of my exam: Write an assessment with support of how you have grown as a reader, writer, thinker, speaker/listener this semester.

As a reader...
  • I now don’t fear reading poetry.
  • I realized poetry is not meant to be understood on the first read, and that it actually is very relevant.
  • After Dark…really changed my approach to not just English books, but also Japanese books. I was so blown away by the details and the emotional connection I was able to have with not just Mari and Takahashi,  but also Eri, Shirakawa, Korogi, and Kaoru. It really felt that all of these characters reflected society. The details in this book were amazing, and Haruki Murakami’s diction and sentence structure were very beautiful to me. It did not feel boring reading all these descriptions, but he made me want to know more. This book really challenged my attention to detail because all of the detail felt very important. Haruki Murakami did an incredible job…connecting all of the characters. For example, when Takahashi felt this “wall” between him and the criminals was not as thick as he expected, but he felt a “thick wall” between him and Mari like nothing will get through.
  • A Doll’s House, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, [the excerpt from] The Female Brain, the Introduction to the Song of Songs [from the NIV Study Bible], and the essay at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream all went so PERFECTLY TOGETHER. What a unit. We learned the science of love, the actions we do under love, and the meaning of love. Another thing I learned from this was that Shakespeare is still relevant. The Bible can be very relatable, too. This unit changed my whole thinking that just because literature is old means that it doesn’t apply to me because it was written 500 years ago. But when we broke down each act, each scene in class, and got to the core meaning of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it blew my mind. Shakespeare didn’t have science, but he still captured the essence of it and even imagined a flower which could make people fall in love! 500 years ago Shakespeare thought of oxytocin!
As a writer...
  • Perseverance is key in writing. If you keep writing, you’ll come across a good idea.
  • As a writer, I learned to write with purpose. I wrote my essay about love because I truly believed in what I was writing, and not just because I wanted an A. I wrote my “Who Am I” paper because I believed what I wrote reflected who I am. Through this year, I’ve developed the ability to express myself on paper. Like the…short story I wrote. Peer pressure is a true problem I’ve dealt with, and I was able to convey a message about it through a story of a boy sitting at different lunch tables.
  • I enjoyed writing my short story as we learned how to incorporate theme and dialogue in our own style.
  • I definitely grew as a writer this semester. I remember how you taught me to just keep writing my thoughts down instead of overthinking my first drafts and only being able to revise one paragraph.
  • Being in Honors English 10, my writing improved a lot. I learned how to start the writing, how to write the thesis, how to write the conclusion, and more. However, the most important thing that I learned through writing was who I am. I believe that it is very important to know yourself, and I am glad to know who I am through writing. One of the quotes that I found said that “without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible.” Through writing, I improved as a writer but also I improved as a person.
As a thinker...
  • I…learned about perspective. When I first read A Doll’s House, I thought Nora was a bad person. But after reading and comprehending, I understood what she was going through.
  • After Dark taught me about empathy and how we should use it. I learned people are not always the way they seem by reading about the characters in After Dark.
  • I found out “ordinary” looking people like Shirakawa [in After Dark] are definitely not ordinary.… Also, everyone has a very personal story, you just have to get to know them to find out, like Korogi and Takahashi. 
As a speaker/listener...
  • I also got better at speaking in front of the class and sharing my thoughts. Before, I was easily scared and shy, but as I got more into the reading, I had this strong urge to share my thoughts.
  • Talking in different groups and with different people helped a lot because they would always find things vital or just interesting that I had missed [in the reading]. That happened a lot in After Dark…. I had never talked with friends about an assigned book outside of class ever before!
  • I constantly found things that I would’ve never thought of if I hadn’t done a group discussion. And I also was able to share my own ideas that some other people didn’t think of.
  • The Man with No Face in After Dark was an interesting topic to talk about. Speaking and listening to my friends was very interesting because each one of us had a different perspective…. “The mask has no holes for the nose, mouth, or eyes, but still it does not seem to prevent him from breathing or seeing or hearing.” At first, I had no idea what this symbolized. But at the end… [b]y speaking/talking, we ended up with a great answer. It gave me confidence to speak/listen and made me practice to tell my perspective to other people.
I am excited about what my 10th graders learned. I had a great time reading my exams, and I am ready to celebrate with a summer break.

What are your course goals? Did your students reach them? How do you know? How do they know?


My exam prompt:

Course description from syllabus: A literate life confers the ability to define ourselves, to enter the perspective of others, and to have a voice in the world. This is my experience as a literate person, and it is my dream for my high school English students. So students in Honors English 10: World Literature engage with critical reading, listening, thinking, speaking, and writing in academically rigorous and personally powerful ways as we interact with people from many different times and places--their perspectives, their stories--and discover what it means for us to become part of that conversation. Students will read, journal, write, discuss, research, and present as they grow in their mastery of communication.

We are finished with the course. Did you achieve the above description? The semester 2 exam is the opportunity for all of us--students and teachers--to assess what kind of progress was made toward the lofty goals articulated in those beginning-of-the-year statements. Because a rich command of language, knowledge of how that language works, the ability to apply that knowledge in reading and writing, and the ability to self-assess one’s own growth are all important components of being that “literate person,” your exam will consist of the following 3 parts:

  • Vocabulary. Multiple choice for the entire semester. (50 out of the 120 words we have had will appear on the exam. See Quizlet folder posted on Google Classroom for the 6 sets of words, definition list and context sentence list for each set.)
  • Skill transfer to reading. You will receive a short piece of fiction writing on which to demonstrate your ability to understand, analyze, interpret, and apply an author’s intent by annotating your close reading. You will need to be able to paraphrase/summarize, identify literary elements and elements of style, visualize images, ask questions, make inferences, and connect to your life, the world, and/or other texts.
  • Self-assessment. Write an assessment with support of how you have grown as a reader, writer, thinker, speaker/listener this semester. Be sure to address each of the 4 areas. If you feel you have not grown in a particular area, please state why and articulate a plan for how you will grow next year.

Friday, June 7, 2019

9 Moments I'm Celebrating This Week

Last week of regular classes: tempers are as short as the time and patience as thin as the snow on the ground here in Okinawa. Elementary students weep in the hallway. High school students surge into my room spouting indignation and complaints. Schools are emotional places, and never more than at the pressure point of a year’s end. I can grit my teeth and hang on for 3.5 more days, or I can take a deep breath and hang out for a few minutes in the happy place in my head where the this-is-why-I-teach moments migrate until they fade away for lack of attention. 

Here’s what I found when I went looking for a few good things that happened this week:
  1. The student who stopped by to show me the stack of summer reading books he’d just checked out from the library—with a shy flash of Emerson’s essays (we struggled through one of them in AP Lang this year) which he’s a little nervous about, but excited to challenge himself with.
  2. The 2 students from the Service Club who offered to clean my room for me. So honored to watch these students’ growth toward a service-oriented maturity. Plus loving my squeaky clean floor, countertops, and whiteboard!
  3. The variety of ways 11th grade AP students interacted with the text when, at the end of a year of trying different ways, I just said: 1/2 page journal entry on each chapter of The Great Gatsbywhatever helps you process, hold thinking, and be prepared to discuss it. (See above and below.) And we also had great discussions!
  4. My first experiment with one-pagers to wrap up the post-AP test reading of The Great Gatsby (yeah, we are so done with writing essays…).  They aren’t stellar examples, and not even complete, because I limited the amount of time spent, but even at that, I’m excited about the way students really engaged and pulled together, in their own way, all their reading and journals. (For more about one-pagers, see this recent Cult of Pedagogy post for explanation, examples, and free templates. You won't regret it!)
  5. Laughing and crying (literally) with 11th graders doing a read-through of A Raisin in the Sun. Today I was reading Mama about losing baby Claude and how her husband had loved his children, when I choked up and my voice got all squeaky. And the students were so quiet and respectful and just carried on with their parts. 
  6. The colleague who shared her excitement with me about her students' performance on a project she created while attending a project-based learning book discussion with me this spring.
  7. Another colleague who is reading Ender’s Game for the first time and excited about exploring the possibility of incorporating it into the curriculum.
  8. 10th graders poring over portfolios, talking with classmates about what they read, wrote, thought, and discussed this semester. I love to see them rising to the challenge of explaining and supporting their growth this year as they prepare for the self-assessment part of the exam.
  9. 10th graders gasping in surprise as they came to the last line of the opening paragraphs of The Secret Life of Bees. Another part of the 10th grade exam is annotating a close reading of the first page or two of a novel they haven’t read. This was our all-toegther practice piece. They competed to identify literary elements and they asked great questions. Some of the inferences got a little out of hand—I had to warn them than just in case they picked this for summer reading, it is not a super hero book—the female bee version of Antman

And I’m just getting started. It’s one of those things where the more you remember, the more you remember. But it’s time to get ready to go to graduation. More tears there, I’m sure, but I’m already feeling more relaxed, grounded in this teaching thing I do, and ready for the emotions to come.

How about you? Don't forget to stop this week to hang out for a few minutes in that happy place in your head where the good-teaching moments go.