I’m not good at secrets.
In fact, the other night I was writing in my journal, and I tried to write down every secret I still had. I could only come up with five. (And, honestly, I am fighting the urge to write them here). Talking and writing have always been my best way of healing, so secrets just don’t last long with me.
The same applies with students. I would say I am hugely transparent with them - probably TOO transparent to be honest. Like secrets, I don’t hide my reactions well. My department chair and close friend always tells me to “Check your face!” before department meetings. My expression gives me away every time, so honestly, it’s easier to be an open book than try to hide anything.
That said, the biggest upheaval of my life, which happened last spring and deepened the first week of school this August, is something that I chose to keep from my students.
But now, days after graduation, I am fielding all the Facebook friend requests from them, and I am terrified they’ll scroll a little too far back and find out that for more than nine months, I was keeping something from them. Something that changed me inside and out. That I was pretending to be something I wasn’t.
But we all wear a mask sometimes, right? Having battled mental illness for years, there have been countless times where I had to plaster on a smile when I felt horrible inside. And when a student has complained about a faculty member that I too dislike - I’ve sought out good qualities and complimented the teacher.
Yet somehow, as I watched them graduate last weekend, I felt as though I had been inauthentic. That I had hidden too big a piece of the person I have become.
For them, it’s inconsequential. They don’t know what they didn’t know.
For me, it’s not so easy. In fact, I am writing this in the hopes I’ll come to terms with keeping such a big secret from the students that - frankly - pulled me through the worst of it.
I know the dangers of oversharing with students. Simultaneously, I hate that I lied by omission. I feel the mutual respect and trust I’ve built with students is always derivative of my openness and honesty. So what can I do when my authentic self is too much to share?
The other day, I was talking with one of my readers about trust-building activities, and I realized that for me, I’ve always built that trust out of this transparency. No secrets. No “because I said so.” No deflected questions.
Having faced this time where transparency wasn't possible, I recognize that I need some other strategies too. Here is what my personal learning network and I came up with:
Those are the ideas I've scrounged up. As I hear from more people, I’ll keep adding to the list!
I know. I know. This is two posts in two days. I am on a roll.
I posted some test day cheats sheets for the 2020 AP English exams in the Facebook groups, but OneDrive links SUCK. So here they are - both in Word and PDF format.
As always, I hope it helps!
Despite getting 8+ hours of sleep every night...
Despite pushing back my start time until 9am...
Despite shrinking my work hours down to 7, instead of my usual 9 a day....
I am still SO exhausted.
Once upon a time, I dreamed about working from home. The idea of lounging in your jammies all day. Being mandated only by a couple office hours. Having time to eat actual meals...
It all sounded so good.
Until we had to do it.
Between redesigning curriculum, helping my colleagues deliver online instruction, answering a million messages, and defending myself more than ever...it has been a lot. To say the least.
I can only imagine my readers (...do I have readers?) are feeling the same.
Today, I am hoping to help you by posting some video-activity pairs that might help out with teaching rhetorical analysis. In my class, we are focusing on different rhetorical choices or challenges of rhetorical analysis each week, so these two lessons are focused around tone and juxtaposition.
I know you've heard it a billion times over the last few weeks, but we really are in this together. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help!
Below is a video about how to analyze for tone and the accompanying activity. I like to refer to Inside Out and emojis as a point of reference for the kids, and it seems to help!
The activity below starts kids off on analyzing the juxtaposition in Lou Gehrig's farewell address. The accompanying video is my demonstration of how I would finish the paragraph.
So... is anyone else absolutely sick of working from home? (Like... so sick that you miss wearing actual clothes even).
We are officially at one week of no school, but we cannot begin instruction until next week, Wednesday.
And as you likely know, we won't have much more clarity on the test until next Friday.
And as you also know, we have no idea if/when/how we'll return to "normal."
If you are like me, this all means that you are just spinning your wheels until you know what direction you should be going in. Before the announcement to close and the consequent updates from College Board, I was planning to create and dish out a multitude of online units to help you all out. Now - since I have no idea which question will be selected for the test - I'm not sure what needs more focus and what can be de-emphasized. The best I can do is to wait until the April 3 update and then go HAM.
However, I don't like sitting around. At all.
To pass the time this week, I am planning on extending some of my reading assessments and figuring out new ways to tackle the reading standards.
(Yes. I know there is no multiple choice on the test. I'm just creating things I know will be helpful in the future regardless).
That said, earlier this year I posted a combination assignment on my Teachers Pay Teachers site which showed how to scaffold from a simple "SPACES" analysis to the more rigorous SPACECAT. Sitting around (and twiddling my thumbs today), I created one further step in that scaffold, called an Extended SPACES analysis. It is a more rigorous form of the reading assessment that pushes kids to answer more of the essential questions posted in the CED. It also aligns with the first webinar lessons College Board posted, which will focus on understanding audience and speaker relationship.
Online learning will give us the rare opportunity to differentiate for our kids, and this is a tool that I hope will be helpful for you. If nothing else, I hope its something you can use sometime!
If you are in the AP Language and Composition group on Facebook, you have probably seen the many manifestations of The Murder of Allen Ripley activity. The basic premise is that students come in to find the room transformed into a crime scene. Then, they are tasked with solving the murder. It’s a great activity to practice synthesis and line of reasoning! (MAD Shout-Out to Patti Snowden, who created and posted the assignment).
Seeing all the cool posts and reactions, I was immediately sold. As a true crime fanatic… you know, the type that falls asleep to Forensic Files every night and squeals at every new crime docuseries on Netflix… I was so excited to try this out with my class. We are jumping into our next topic unit on gun violence, so it seemed like a great way to hook them. (Again - all credit to Patti Snowden. I just tweaked an already awesome learning experience).
For our version of this activity, we used two days. One day for students to act as law enforcement and study the crime scene, witness testimonies, and synthesize information to create an arrest warrant. The next day, they were handed another group’s warrant and asked to act as prosecutors or defense lawyers, composing a compelling opening argument. We use standards-based grading, so we decided to assess their opening argument on Evidence and Commentary. Here is how we describe proficiency for these opening arguments:
Now… if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am admittedly super “extra” when it comes to planning lessons like this. So in addition to the activity designed so wonderfully by Snowden, I added a few more curveballs and added bonuses. Here are some ideas (and materials) that you can take to your own classroom!
Day 1: Law
The first day, students are practicing synthesis and critical thinking. They treat the case file like the sources for Question 1 on the exam and make connections to defend claims about motive, opportunity, and means of operation.
Day 2: Order
The second day, students are practicing on-demand persuasive writing. They are also encouraged to engage in counterargument. This practice will help with both Question 1 and 3 on the exam.
Overall, I'd say it was an overwhelming success. In the afternoon of Day 1, I had students coming to class saying such gems as:
"I heard English was actually fun today!" (Eye roll.)
"I'm excited to solve a murder!"
And after the first day, they were asking if they could put the suspects on trial. (Had it been a more convenient time - not a couple days before the big music trip to Chicago - I would have added a full mock trial.) The fact that they were so excited about argument and reasoning is such a credit to Snowden and her great activity!
If you haven't already, I STRONGLY recommend you implement this in your classroom. Have a great week, all!
I am the elusive English teacher that hates poetry.
Actually, I don't HATE poetry. I love rupi kaur poems, song lyrics, and Pablo Neruda. I just hate everything education has done to ruin poetry. For the kids. For myself.
Which is why I was a bit hesitant to take on AP Literature and Composition last year - where half the test is poetry! (#cringe)
Nonetheless, I have managed to find my way around the hated scansion and poetic form bits so that I can hate it a little less. For instance, last year we focused on global voices and poets. Below is my little crash course version of the unit.
Global Voices: The Danger of a Single Story
#2. Poetry FRQs
There are two terrific poetry (Question 1) Free Response Questions by foreign born poets that I used with this unit to great success: 2011's "A Story" by Li-Young Lee and "XIV" by Derek Walcott from the 2015 exam. Below are prewriting templates I used with students.
#3. PUrple Hibiscus Prose Analysis
Yes. I realize this isn't really poetry practice, but this is a short prose analysis activity I brought in to review Question 2 as well.
#4. COnflict in Poetry
I wanted to review conflict with my students at some point in this lesson last year, so I put together a gallery walk. Below are the poems and the handout they completed:
#5. Abstract Relationships
This is a lesson I added on this year. Another gallery walk, this one is helping students think about the "broader context" that is required of them for the sophistication point. I went through my own sample of analyzing abstract ideas
#6. Emoji Annotation
And that's what I got! Like I said, I am a very reluctant poetry teacher, but these activities have worked well for me and my students. Hope it helps!
<< This is me any time I am about to post materials for AP Literature and Composition. While I have been teaching AP Language and Composition for years (ok... five), I don't feel like I have much authority in talking about AP Lit, as it is only my second year.
Nonetheless... I'm going to pretend that I know what I am talking about.
Currently, my AP Literature class is working through Shakespeare, but I have a VERY different approach than most take with Shakespeare.
For instance, I have not "read" with any of my students in the Hamlet or Macbeth group. However, they aren't struggling. In fact, they are catching on better than a lot of past students. Today, the Hamlet students made fullsize character maps and picked out nuanced points of analysis, such as: Hamlet's blind motivation and Claudius' complex perception of Hamlet.
Note that these kids struggle with reading. For the past two years, they have struggled with multiple choice the most of any group I've worked with. They can - however - still do this.
So I promise you: They can read Shakespeare on their own.
In fact, when they discover things themselves - like the rumor that Othello was intimate with Iago's wife or that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are essentially traitors - they get much more enjoyment out of it. Its an accomplishment, and they're proud. (As they should be!)
One issue with structuring Shakespeare this way means adapting character analysis assignments to fit each group setup and preference. (Yes. I have three versions of every assignment. No. It did not take my forever to set it up). Therefore, I got stuff to share! Three variations of how to analyze character.
Option 1: Actor Portrayal Promos
This one occurred to me just the other day. I was watching videos on the Royal Shakespeare Company's website and they have a series in which actors discuss the complexities of their characters. I immediately thought, "What a great way to practice analyzing character!" Hence, I threw together (like, in five minutes) an activity.
Option 2: Character Maps
I wanted something more interactive for my students reading Hamlet, because their preference is group assignments. I looked to an old favorite - the character map - but adapted it to align better to AP Literature standards. The original assignment asks simpler questions: How does the character feel? What do they love most? To match up to AP standards, I swapped those out for questions about character perspective, inconsistencies, complex relationships. etc. Below is both the screenshot from my Schoology page as well as the makeup version.
My Schoology post also included the following description of proficiency:
A proficient character map will use multiple textual details to make inferences about the character. These will show clearly on the map. There will also be evidence of analysis. For instance, when describing relationships, you will describe the complexity (_____ yet _______).
Option 3: Choice Based
This option may be a bit scary for some teachers. However, I spent the entire first semester setting kids up to determine their preferred products and assessments. That said, the option (for my Macbeth kids) just allows kids to take it wherever they want:
And that's what I got! If you'd like more of my varied assignments, comment below! Differentiation is something I am very passionate about, but that I also recognize terrifies many people (including myself sometimes). If there is anything more I can go or create to help you make it happen, let me know!
Just a quick post today! Earlier this week, I shared out my video library on Facebook and posted it as a free resource on my TpT store. I figured I better share it here too!
My name is Steph, and I have a problem.
I'm addicted to teaching trends.
If you are like me, you get excited by new approaches and new ideas. I get so excited - like I mentioned - that I jump off the edge and straight into whatever the new idea is.
At the moment, the trend is "gamification" or using game methodology and competition to motivate students. It's something that I read about a couple summers ago, and now, I have finally found a way to bring it into my AP Language class!
For my unit, I found no better fit than to "gamify" AP multiple choice. Usually, just the mention of multiple choice makes my students cringe and groan, so I assumed this was the best opportunity to practice our reading standards in a fun way.
Below, I have my unit overview, video resources, XP point overview, and primary assignments. (If you want the full collection of resources: check out my TpT store!)