Saturday, April 16, 2011

Firebooks: Books Unworthy of Burning

In the spirit of Fahrenheit 451's quest for quality knowledge (and ultimately happiness), my students are creating 'Firebooks' as they read. Repositories of ideas, connections, insights, reflections, and personal philosophies, these Firebooks have been an honest pleasure to read. Enjoy exploring a few of the outstanding pages my students have created!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Interdisc: North v. South & Ralph v. Jack

In History, we are on the 'Road to the Civil War' and have been considering the foundational divide of the Union and the Confederacy. As we explore the underlying issues, concerns, priorities, and ideologies of the populations on each side of the Mason-Dixon line, I wanted our students to dig deeper into what, exactly, begins to split Ralph and Jack by the end of Chapter 3. It's easy to stop at a simplistic dichotomy for both feuds: slaves v. free blacks, bully Jack v. humanitarian Ralph. However, both conflicts are more complex, rooted in and influenced by issues of humanity, autonomy, and ultimately, power.

Flipping through 'Deeper Reading' by Kelly Gallagher, I came upon a metaphor graphic organizer called 'Open Mind' (created by John Powers) where you draw a picture of an empty head and then fill it with the character's thoughts, etc. As a brainstorming tool, this allows students to 'get inside the character's mind' and use that shift in perspective to consider their choices/actions. However, I didn't want the students to merely recap each position - to be effective the organizer needed to also evaluate the conflicts themselves.

We use a basic journal notebook to keep and collect notes/connections/etc. Across two pages the class drew two sets of profiles. We started with the North v. South which was a nice review of the last two weeks of their notes. Then, BETWEEN THE PROFILES, they had to answer the following question: 'Why can't these two sides co-exist?'. From there, we moved to Lord of the Flies, re-capped the concerns of Ralph and Jack established in Chapters 1-3, digging into the text for quotations and analyzing characterization. I then asked for the center question 'Can these leaders co-exist?'. Overall, a very successful lesson - it hooked both those loving and struggling with the reading, connected in an interesting way to our broader themes, and students effectively evaluated the significant factors contributing to the growing divide of both conflicts.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First Post

Let us go then, you and I...

To me, the first line of T.S. Eliot's 'Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' heralds the cusp of any and every journey I take with whoever joins me. This blog represents another one of those beginnings. I look forward to using this space as a forum for myself, my students, and anyone else with the goal of making teaching and learning as powerful and engaging as possible. Here we go...