Monday, May 19, 2014

Night by Elie Wiesel

The following activities were designed for my ninth grade honors students. The activities are easily adaptable for any population and work well for developing critical thinking skills.

  • Vocabulary List (sections 1-2, pp. 3-28) - Includes part of speech, definition, word in context, etymology, and related words. Includes spaces for synonyms and antonyms. Available for download here.
  • Characterization (sections 4-5, pp. 47-84) - Students identify three events that Elie witnesses but in which he does not participate. Based on his descriptions and reflections, students evaluate the ways in which Elie's character changes (physically, emotionally, psychologically, etc.) by deciding on the key words and phrases that suggest these changes. Students draw conclusions about why Wiesel included each of the events in the memoir. Available for download here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Romeo and Juliet Lessons

I used the following questions as discussion board threads to assess students' understanding as they read Romeo and Juliet. These questions could be used as prompts for short written responses or small-group discussions. Some question sets include two types of questions: (a) a personal or creative response related to a general topic, and (b) a critical thinking question requiring analysis of the play.

Here are some sample questions:

Act I, Scenes 2-3:
(a) Describe your relationship with your mother (or the most significant adult female in your life). What factors affect the quality of this relationship? What are the sources of conflict? In what ways has she impacted your life? Is it important to have a strong female influence in one's life?

(b) Apply your discussion to an analysis of Juliet's relationship with Lady Capulet and the Nurse. Evaluate the quality of the relationship Juliet has with each woman. (Consider the questions from part a.) Which relationship is probably more satisfying or important to Juliet?

Act III, Scene 1:
(a) What qualities distinguish a coward? In general, are you a coward or not? Share two examples to support this characterization of yourself.

(b) Consider the actions of the characters in this scene. For each character, determine whether or not each character acted cowardly based on his words and actions. (Romeo, Mercutio, Tybalt, Benvolio, Prince, Capulet, Lady Capulet, Montague.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Speed dating

This is my adaptation of the popular speed dating activity for the classroom. (Just search for the term and you'll find plenty of information.) My idea originated with a video on the Teaching Channel website. The video shows a creative way of using paint chips to encourage the use of new vocabulary in class discussions. I took speed dating and paint chips and came up with the following activity to review concepts in 1984:

I developed groups of questions around important concepts in the novel. The questions were of varying levels of difficulty, covering the range of Bloom's taxonomy. On paint chips (I used Olympus chips with three colors, but you can use any brand*), I arranged three questions in increasing order of difficulty. Here's a snapshot of what the cards looked like:

(For some cards, I cheated and had only two levels because I couldn't think of a synthesis or evaluation question. That's something to work on for next year.)

I arranged the desks into two concentric circles with the outside circle facing the inner circle. (I have 24 students in the class, so the pairing worked out evenly. I only had to create 12 cards.) The inner circle stayed put, and the outer circle rotated at the end of each round. To start, each pair was given a card to discuss for 4 minutes; as they answered the questions and talked about the topic, they took notes about how knowledgeable their partners were and what new insight they gained from the discussion. At the end of the round, the outer circle moved one seat clockwise, and the inner circle passed the card one seat counterclockwise. This ensured that the both partners in the new pair would get new questions. They continue in this way until the 6th round--it gets tricky here because the outer circle will get around to a card they've already seen. I just had the inner circle pass one more time, which seemed to get them back on track with new cards.

At the end of the activity, I asked students to review the notes they took and fill out a ballot telling me who would be their "ideal date"--e.g. who was the most knowledgeable and provided you with the most new insight. We went over all of the questions as a class. The students turned in their notes at the end. I looked over the notes to see if there was any misinformation; otherwise, I gave them credit for participating and taking notes.

Reflection: The students said this activity was really helpful because they got to share their ideas in a safe environment. The quiet ones did not feel intimidated because they only had to share with one person at a time, and the dominant speakers had to learn to share the time with their partners. They enjoyed being able to discuss more intimately with classmates they normally didn't talk to.

If you try this, please let me know how it goes!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

World War II Evacuations

Help students build background knowledge for the novel Lord of the Flies by investigating the evacuations from Britain during World War II. The knowledge they acquire will help them understand the setting and the boys' situation and also explain the plausibility (maybe?) of the ending.

The WebQuest directs students to examine primary source documents to learn about the evacuation procedures and the effect on children involved.

Students can access the WebQuest here. If you have your students complete the WebQuest, please let me know how it worked!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Odyssey Lessons

Use these activities in your study of The Odyssey.

1. Create Your Own Monster: This activity requires students to consider the significance of the Cyclops's character--i.e. what facet of humanity does he represent? From this, students create their own monster to reflect characteristics of humans in modern society. The characterization students write must demonstrate thoughtful analysis.

Click here to view and download the file.

2. Travel Brochure: This activity assesses students' ability to process details and demonstrate persuasive writing skills. Students design travel brochures for one of the places Odysseus stops on his journey; the brochure must include details about the location (geography, climate, plant/animal life, inhabitants, points of interest, accommodations, etc.) and use persuasive language to make it seem attractive.

Click here to view and download the file.

Lord of the Flies Lessons

Use these lessons for your study of Lord of the Flies. All page references for Perigree/Penguin paperback edition.

1. Chapter 5 Symbolism: Students use a passage from the novel (pp. 77-78) to draw and analyze the organization of the platform. They examine the significance of the shape and organization of the meeting space. Click here to view and download the file.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Loving Story

This story is particularly meaningful to me, as I am married to someone outside of my race.

This is a great piece of history to include in a study of African American history. Introduce the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who helped strike down laws against miscegenation. (All links will open new windows to external sites.)

News & history:


For Teachers: