Sunday, April 20, 2014

[Unit/Lessons] Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare  

Romeo and Juliet Unit Plan
Performance Tasks Packet for Unit (Four Major Unit Assignments Included)

Lesson 1: Introduction to Romeo and Juliet (Day 3 of Unit Plan)

Students will be asked to listen to clips from the 1996 Romeo and Juliet movie soundtrack, read the prologue, and make predictions about the play.

Lesson Plan
Prologue Text
Soundtrack Lyrics
Student Handout

Lesson 2: Characterization (Act I) (Day 5 of Unit Plan)

Students will characterize major characters using bubble maps.

Lesson Plan
Student Notes Handout
Idea Map Model Handout
Student Task Instructions
Student Exit Ticket

Lesson 3: Psychological Theories of Love  (Day 21 of Unit Plan)

Students will be introduced to well-known psychological theories of love and begin applying them to Romeo and Juliet.

Lesson Plan
Teacher Lecture Notes
Psychological Theories of Love Assignment (Task #1 in Unit Packet)
Rubin Scales of Liking and Loving Questionnaire
Student Notes Handout

Lesson 4: Debate (Day 18 of Unit Plan)

Students are introduced to the art of debate as they argue the question of "Who is most to blame for Romeo and Juliet's untimely deaths?"

Lesson Plan
Introduction to Debate Handout
Student Debate Notes Handout

Lesson 5: Culminating Assignment (Day 25-26 of Unit Plan)

Students are introduced to the unit's culminating assignment, a comparing and contrasting essay.

Lesson Plan
Comparing and Contrasting Essay Rubric
Organizing Comparing and Contrasting Essays Handout
Student Outline Handout

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alternative to Detentions

This week I've been substitute teaching for a Math Special Education teacher. It's always nice being at the same school for a few days in a row. I'm even starting to feel like a member of the team.

Anyway, one thing I've seen one of the other teachers doing that I love is that instead of giving students detention for chewing gum, coming late or whatever, she puts them to work! She's had a stream of students coming in during lunch to help her file papers for 20 minutes each. I think that's genius. Not only is her paper pile shrinking by the day, but the students are being productive.

Detention is pretty useless as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't deter students from repeating the same behaviors. However, putting them to work may be more effective. I mean how much paper filing or board cleaning or pencil sharpening can one student handle before deciding to straighten up. I think system of community service in relation to the violated rule would be a whole lot more effective than detention.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Becoming a Teach for America 2014 Corp Member

Before last December, my knowledge of Teach for America consisted of the following: a non-profit organization that trained college students for five weeks and then threw them into the neediest urban schools. (Not the most positive of viewpoints, I know.) As a student of a traditional teacher preparation program, I was immediately put off by the thought of placing "teachers" with just five weeks of training into the most challenging classrooms. What could they possibly do in that short time that could ensure that these first year students don't crash and burn? Also, I didn't believe that I qualified for TFA as I was already on track to becoming a teacher. I didn't give the organization much thought until I received a random email from a TFA recruiter asking to speak with me about an employment opportunity.

I probably would have ignored the email as spam if not for three things:
1) It was December and I was graduating in three weeks.
2) I hadn't started the job search, didn't know where to even begin and was seriously freaking ou.
3) I LinkedIn stalked the recruiter and he seemed nice (and legit).

And so I scheduled the phone interview. (Personal tidbit: Phone interviews give me hives. I'm not sure why they bother me so much, but I'd take on an in-person interview any day of the week.)

The (Dreaded) Phone Interview:

During the interview, the recruiter gave me some information about TFA and their mission. He painted a picture of the startlingly educational inequality in our country. 50% of American students live in this poverty and only 16% of them graduate high school.

TFA's Mission: 

Teach For America’s mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by developing such leaders.
After the conversation, I was still unsure about joining TFA. TFA doesn't have the best repution amongst educators who critique their methods of placing recent college grads in schools for two years. " They" accuse TFA of adding to the problem of high teacher turn over rates and the instability, due to constant change, of NYC's education system, amongst other things.

However, at the core I agree with TFA vision of ensuring that all children in America, despite socioeconomic background, receive a quality education.

With the job market the way that it is, I figured that having an entire organization working towards getting me hired couldn't be such a bad thing. Add the other benefits of being a TFA corp member, such as additional support and mentoring, grants for grad school, and more training to supplement what I've already received from Pace, I decided to join. 

The Application Process:

The TFA application is intensive. There's a two hour online application requiring your basic information, course list, transcripts, recommendations, and written responses.There's a phone interview and then a full day final interview (which I skipped straight to). The final interview is 9-5, with the morning dedicated to sample lesson plans and information. For the afternoon, everyone scheduled a 40 minute 1:1 interview. I went first, so I could get it over with. It was also intense and very in-depth. I must have done fine, since I was given an offer.


TFA's biggest concern is the kids, so when assigning corp members subjects and placements, they consider the schools' needs before members' preferences. As I was applying, I knew that despite TFA's stance and due religious and familial obligations, I wouldn't accept an offer that didn't place me in New York City, teaching English 7-12. I was sure that such inflexibility would ruin my chances of being accepted. Imagine my surprise when I'm not only accepting into the NYC corps, but also assigned to English 7-12, General Education K-6, and Special Education K-9.

Wait. General Education K-6? Special Education K-9? Before I could even think about accepting the offer, I had to verify how likely I would be placed in an elementary school or a different content areas. I wasn't willing to work towards a different degree and license. Phone conversations with members of the TFA New York team alleviated those concerns as I was assured that the organization would try their utmost to find an English placement. I could also go to grad school for whatever I wanted (Iona's dual Literacy/Special Education program, here I come!). Apparently, my initial certification was a key component of my application because specific content assignments are supposedly rare. Guess it seemed glaringly obvious to TFA that I am only capable of teaching English.

And so I clicked JOIN on March 23rd, 2014. Since then, I've been hard at work learning about the TFA hiring process (they kind of take over), creating a new TFA-specific resume (as if creating the first one wasn't hard enough), and completing a hiring survey.

The next step is going on intereviews and waiting for offers. Wish me luck!

Until next time,

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Unit: The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

After a few weeks of teaching both sections of Freshman Writing Seminar, my mentor teacher encouraged me to add the 10th grade Honors class as well. Shortly after, I took on the two sections of 10th grade co-taught as well, resulting in my teaching five of the six classes.

The first unit I taught the 10th graders involved an in-depth study of the short story, "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Below is an OUTLINE of the unit and the accompanying documents:

Students will have already read the story.

Introduction/Review definitions of prominent literary devices (allegory, setting/mood, symbolism, personification, imagery, and theme).

Begin discussion of plot/summary of the story. What is this story about? What is happening?

Discuss characters: Prince Prospero, Knights/Dames of court, ballet-dancers/musicians/Beauty, and Red Death

HW: Read Background Info on Edgar Allan Poe and the Black Death. What connections can you make between The Masque of the Red Death, Poe’s life, and the Black Death?

Review HW: How does Poe’s life and the historical context of the Black Death play a role in this story?

Define: Gothic in literature
Setting, Imagery, and Mood
Word Choice: Denotation/Connotation

How do Imagery and Setting contribute to the eerie mood of the story?

Watch The Mask of the Red Death Short Film:

**Slight nudity at 4:00 mark, but brief.

Similarities/Differences to the story and your impressions of the story.

HW: Science Connection, Ques. 9 on p. 89 (How to people avoid death today?)

Symbolism: The Rooms, The Clock, Dreams

Allegory/ Themes
What is the story behind the story? And how does it relate to the themes of the story?

HW/Formal Assessment: Choose one of the literary devices and explore its use in the story in depth. One page.

 Honors versus Co-Taught:

This lesson was taught to the honors class first and they were able to finish the discussion in the three days planned. However, I knew that the unit would need to be adjusted for the two co-taught sections who would be less engaged in whole-class discussion and struggle more with identifying the story's elements. So, I restructured the unit, so that there would be less whole-class discussion, more group work, and handouts to scaffold student thinking. 

For the co-taught classes, I had them read the biographical and background info in groups in class. They discussed in groups what they believed the connections to be. The next day, we discussed the plot and characters as a class using the students' annotations as starting off points in the discussion. On the third day, we watched the video as a hook into the day's discussion of imagery, setting, and mood. On the fourth day, students once again worked in groups to complete the symbolism worksheet. On the last day, students Think, Pair, Shared what they believed the theme of the story was. After groups shared, we discussed allegory as a whole class.

After teaching the 10CT classes this unit, I realized that the honors class would have greatly benefited from this more engaging structure as well. 

Unit Materials:

Persuasive Writing Unit

After the Writing Process Unit, the next unit I created for the Freshman Writing Seminar was a Persuasive Writing Unit.

The PowerPoint below includes the slides for all of the unit's lessons.
Persuasive Writing Unit PowerPoint
Persuasive Essay Rubric

Lesson 1: Introducing Persuasive Writing

As this was a new unit, I started off the class with a review of class expectations for student participation, preparation, Do Now's, and homework. Then I introduced persuasive writing by explaining its purpose, the definition of the word "persuade," and introducing a formula for writing an effective argument. Next, we looked at an example of persuasive writing as a class and discussed some of the characteristics of the writing piece that we noticed. For homework, students were asked to make a list of five things that make them really mad and five things that they feel strongly about in order to begin collecting some possible persuasive writing topics.

Example of Persuasive Writing

Lesson 2: More Persuasive Writing Examples - Editorials

In this lesson, students learned about editorials and read two student-written pieces discussing whether or not healthcare is a right. For homework, students were asked to find an example of persuasive writing/media and bring it to class with answers to the following questions: What is the subject/topic being addressed? What is the author’s opinion? What is he/she trying to convince you to do or think? What is the reason(s) provided to support the argument? What evidence, if any, is provided?

Healthcare Editorials

Lesson 3: Sharing Examples of Persuasion

In this class, students shared the examples of persuasive writing/media that they had found for homework. Students also began narrowing down their topic choices/choosing a topic.

Lesson 4: Gathering Details - Research

In this lesson, students were introduced to the basics of how to conduct research using both databases and the internet, to evaluate information, and take notes.

Student Research Notes Handout 

Lesson 5: Stating an Opinion

Students learn how to form opinion or thesis statements for a persuasive piece of writing. They practice in pairs by completing the "Stating Your Position" Worksheet.

"Stating Your Position" Worksheet

Lesson 6: Time to Start Writing

Students are introduced to the basic requirements of MLA Style and Formatting. Then, students are put into assigned pairs to revise their thesis statements.

Lesson 7-8: Intro, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusion

As a class, we review the persuasive writing rubric. Then we review the components of introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions. Students are given time to create outlines for each part using their research notes. Students write a draft for homework.

Lesson 9-11: Let's Get Revising

Students experience a multi-step revision process, in which they look to strengthen organization, transitions, sentence structure, word choice, and delete or add information.

Student Revision Packet
Student PEER Revision Packet

Other Resources/References:

Planning a Persuasive Essay
My Opinion Worksheet
Convince Me!
Writing the Persuasive Essay

Unfortunately, my first placement ended just as students finished the revision process, so I was unable to see the final products.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sub Adventure #19: 6th and 7th Grade Art in the Bronx

Today's adventure had me doing a little of everything. First, I was proctoring for a student with extended time accommodations. The student had three hours to take the exam, but finished in two. So, I spent most of the morning twiddling my thumbs.

Then, I had two art classes (7th grade, then 6th). The 7th graders were pretty well behaved, but the 6th graders were out of control. They spent the period yelling their little heads off. At the end of the period, I stood by the door and dismissed them by table and only if their table was completely clear of colored pencils and paper.  Lastly, I had a math intervention class with a co-teacher. We spent the first half of the period going over ratios and the second half playing chess. I played against a student, but it's been years since I tried learning how to play chess so I was extremely rusty with the rules. I actually forgot that you could get a piece back if you got to the other side of the board! That could have been useful.

That's all folks.

Until next time,