This has been a good week. I define "good" as nothing out of the ordinary happened, lesson plans worked well, student issues were kept to a minimum, and nightly grading was manageable which allowed for some much-needed down time. I am still crazy enough to consider participation in NaNoWriMo in November, so much of my evening activities have centered around preparation for that event. I have researched online successful NaNoWriMo tips and I have tried to read a bit of plot development and character sketch exercises. In addition, I mentioned the idea of organizing a student NaNoWriMo event at my school and I think I might have about six or seven students join me in this insanity. As you can tell, I am a little singularly focused at the moment.
I did manage to begin my Christmas shopping yesterday. This was not a planned event - but I guess I was in the right place at the right time: the moment where ongoing sales match my mental mood. Bath and Body Works is having a sale on their 3-wick candles and I thought I might purchase a couple of new fall fragrances for the home. Well, in addition to the large candles, they are also having a sale on the smaller version of the four new holiday fragrances: $5.00/each. I think that a small candle and a bookmark would be the perfect sentiment for each of the administrative staff at school. I also think it might be a nice gift (perhaps paired with a Starbucks gift card) for each of my teacher's aids. It feels good to have the first gifts purchased, and I am almost ready to start playing Christmas Carols (just kidding --- sort of)
As I mentioned above, this was a good week in all classes, but two class periods were particularly rewarding. I am thrilled to see that my 8th grade class is starting to release their inhibitions and starting to embrace their inner Shakespeare. On Wednesday I had each student select any character - any speech (as long as it was a minimum of 6 lines) and rehearse those lines for 10 minutes. The goal was to perform "over the top" in front of the class. WOW --- they did great!! I think hearing everyone else practice and strive to be "too much" gave them permission to let go and just have fun. Hopefully they all realized that if everyone feels "silly" and is uncomfortable, it takes the pressure off.
In 9th Grade English I tried a new idea to help with literary discussions. I have one class that has a very difficult time staying on task. Some of the students can get off topic at the drop of a hat and bringing it around to the original question is a constant uphill battle. I read about this idea in the book, Speaking Volumes by Barry Gilmore - and adapted it slightly for my own needs.
I took 4 large sheets of butcher paper and put a different discussion topic at the top of the page. I also included some suggestions for relevant discussions on that topic. For example, we are studying Fahrenheit 451 and the 4 main topics included: Happiness - Society - Foil Characters - and Writing Style. Each student received a different color marker (I only have 12 in a class, so this was not difficult) and were told to use that color the entire class period (this was so that I can monitor who said what - which encouraged full participation and appropriate comments). Students were divided into pairs (for the class of 8) and threes (for the class of 12) and given 10 minutes to "discuss" the topic. They were not allowed to talk, and they had to support their answers with textual references. After 10 minutes they moved to another sheet - given another 10 minutes to read the commentary already written, and begin their own discussion OR add to the previous conversation. This continued until every student had the opportunity to write their thoughts on each topic.
Since we ran out of time, we will complete this activity on Friday. I will put the sheets of paper on the wall and we will analyze the discussion: the different conversations - questions raised that were not fully answered - and the legitimacy of this exercise. I was thrilled with the results - and hopefully the students learned that they can actually stay on task and still have fun.
Well, as most of you know who are a part of the book blog universe --- yesterday was the fall read-athon. I absolutely LOVE these focused weekends where hundreds gather privately to read, but share publicly in twitter conversations, reading challenges, and blog posts. I did not officially join this go around, but I did participate in my own small way (you can see my posts here, here, and here -- if interested).
While this was an unusual read-athon for me, it was exactly what I needed. And while I had hoped to make some progress with the RIP challenge, I did manage to make a book purchase in honor of that event. Half Price Books is having its annual teacher/librarian appreciation sale and I simply could not pass up that kind of opportunity. In browsing the clearance section I found a terrific anthology of American Gothic Tales which pairs quite well with the anthology of Victorian Ghost Stories I purchased in clearance a few years ago. Perhaps my buying habits are trying to tell me something: at this time in life I don't have to read a full-length novel in order to participate --- I can just read a couple of short stories to get into the thriller spirit of the season.