The Shape Of Things

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Feb
  • 02
  • 2006

In thinking of my classes as newspapers where I give them a topic to write about and provide them with models to look at, I am really starting to enjoy myself. With our eyes on publication for the school, I am hopeful that the quality of the final product will go up. I still don’t see a lot of excitement on the parts of the students, but I keep waiting for my enthusiasm to catch on in the classroom. It will eventually. I did hear one student say, “I kinda like these topics we’re writing about.” Works for me.

My English 3 classes are finishing up their loneliness or setting pieces, while beginning the unit on death. Today was a day to work on the current draft and I called some people’s attention to Anna Quindlen’s “Alone At Last,” which is in our class set of Prentice Hall’s Today’s Nonfiction. I told kids who are working on a setting piece to revisit Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, since he’s pretty descriptive in chapters 16-18. Stephen King also popped up as an example of a descriptive writer. There are the three pieces from our textbook to look at as examples, though no one took that out. We use Writers INC in the classroom and several students were leafing through that book; two kids even went so far as to check the books out from me for overnight digestion.

My English 4 classes are finishing up their interviews (due on the 10th, so they still have a week to put things together). Their interview notes are due tomorrow and we’ll have time to do some writing during class. I’ve pulled several interviews from old copies of Newsweek, particularly their short “QA” pieces in the “Newsmakers” section toward the back. I also pointed out Interview with the Vampire, showing that fictional account as a model of how to write about the interview. Those were things simply passed around the room, though; it would have been better if I could have had a copy of those texts for each kid to have. Several students went online and found interviews there (an interview with the coach of the Steelers and one kid was reading an interview with guitarist Joe Satriani).

Death is next for English 3, with War waiting in the wings for English 4. Please, don’t read that sentence out of context. I have some student samples from the AP workshop I went to this summer to start us off in both of those units.

I just came across the April 4, 2005 issue of Time in my box of magazines for art projects. There’s a big story about Terri Schiavo that might contribute to our discussion and thinking about death in English 3. I also pulled little blurbs about the deaths of Bob Denver and Dimebag Darrell. Maybe some students will want to write about how we deal with celebrity deaths. Then again, those two things could just as easily be garbage. Beliefs about what happens after death was the daily today; students could easily focus on that in the writing they produce, though I don’t suspect I’ll provide any samples of that type of writing (I don’t want religion to dominate the discussion of in-class text, though they are free to write about it or read such things on their own; we may save religion for another topic later).

The English 3 textbook, ironically enough, has a few pieces I want to use with my English 4s. A section from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried may find its way to the reproduction center. O’Brien is also included in the English 1 textbook with “Where Have You Gone, Charming Billy?” and his “How To Tell A True War Story” will be in student binders sometime soon. David McLean’s “Marine Corps Issue” looks like a promising war story, though I haven’t read it yet and don’t know if it’s worth copying. All of this might be good food for thought in our War unit. I think I want to lean toward providing informational text, though, about the US involvement in Iraq, rather than stories of what it’s like to be in a war. Many students haven’t formed an opinion because they don’t know what’s going on over there.

That’s how things are going at this point. I feel good about the concept and this has bled over to Guitar class, where we are learning songs with the thought of doing some recording during class throughout the month of May, possibly starting at the end of April, upon return from Spring Break.

I’m still trying to beef up my account with links to things about these topics, but the research is a major time drain. I’ll figure out a way to put that in the hands of the students soon.

Do you have any links to writings I should check out? Death and War, those are the current topics. Drugs, Love, Drama (people with problems), and Argumentative Writing are topics that faintly flicker in the distance.

Comments are closed.