In reflecting on last week….I will be frank. I tried to put too much into two days. I wanted to teach them counter argument (which I sort of did, but not well), to assess their prewriting skills using another PAT outline (which they did, but I didn’t even look at), and have them practice synthesis in groups (which, again, they did, but maybe not well).
In reflection, I would have spread it out over another day, or had them do the PAT template as homework over the weekend. As it was, we did NOT do counter argument justice, and I worry their papers will show it. (Sigh).
That said, this week we are starting with time for students to work on their semester portfolio. In this time, I am hoping to differentiate the FRQ for Thursday. Provide outlines, paragraph templates, etc. I want to make up for rushing through material last week and give the kids the best shot on the summative for this synthesis unit.
I'm going to keep it short and sweet this week. Here are my plans for a mini week (2 days):
Have a great Thanksgiving!
So...I officially got beef with ACT.
I have a class of young, yet decent writers - writers who can analyze the nuance of presidential speeches and other challenging texts - but still, they struggle with the ACT task. Do they counter all perspectives outside their own? Do they simply acknowledge that other views exist? Is it expository or argumentative?
Of course, I know the answer to these things, and I walked them through it this week, but in all honesty, I hate the ACT writing portion. It’s too scripted so that students’ writing becomes rigid and lifeless. The perspectives are often too thinly different to effectively discredit one over another, or the prompt itself is so obvious that every single student agrees with one of the perspectives.
Now, I know this isn’t ACT faults entirely. Students need to write on anything and do it well, but I just gotta blame someone. And ACT is responsible for possibly the most hectic afternoon of my year with their field test.
So pretty much I’m whining. Let’s move on.
Back to AP world this week! Aaaaand… its not really anything new. I posted most of this week’s plan previously when I thought we’d be doing synthesis earlier.
Here’s the “Student-10-Minutes-Before-The-Test” version.
This week was five days of sharp right turns and putting the car in reverse.
Detour #1: As mentioned, last Friday, my kids did their first FRQ (JFK Rhetorical Analysis). Upon returning to school Monday, I realized that a large portion of them had not written more than their introduction and a body paragraph. I am a firm believer in not wasting my grading time on something I know won’t go well for the kids, so we decided to give them another period to finish and revise.
That moved Synthesis back to Thursday. No big deal.
Detour #2: My admin (well, my department chair) tells me that we are going to require all juniors to complete two ACT writing practices. (Awesome. I’m down.)
Then, I find out it has to be done by Nov 16, which would be right in the middle of my synthesis unit, so we duck and weave.
Synthesis goes on the back burner while we do ACT prep.
Here’s what Week 10 looked like instead.
Monday: Rubric Analogy Project Presentations.
Tuesday: Sample study (JFK).
Wednesday: Finish and revise JFK FRQ.
Thursday: Review scoring and look at two samples from peers.
Friday: Task analysis and prewriting for ACT. (I used a PAT Template my department put together that I will be sharing next week when we get into synthesis).
So that means, this week is far from what I planned. Instead of synthesis, we are going full ACT prep - something that I usually try to save for early March. The kids are going to practice the writing three times (as that feels most aligned to AP prep). They will also complete two diagnostic exams: one for each of the English parts of the text. Not an exciting week, but necessary.
This week is a great example of making the best out of an obligation. Teaching Sincerely is how I approach those roadblocks and detours that seem to get in the way of your real intentions as a teacher.
No. I didn’t want to do ACT prep this week. No. I don’t think it’s the best time in the year. However, Teaching Sincerely is about making the best of these hiccups. So - with synthesis in mind - we are focusing on addressing a unique task. That's why I pulled in the same prewriting template I'll be using with synthesis.
As much as I hate handouts from above, I have found some of my best teaching moments are born of adaptation and adjustment. These moments force me to think about why I do what I do and what needs to take precedence. It forces me to stop, rethink, and adapt. And that’s what Teaching Sincerely is about.