April 30

ELA B10: Ap 30 Literary essays – game on!!

  1. I had mentioned a few times before today that they would be writing a Literary Essay so they had time to adjust to the idea. Before getting into the details of what a literary essay is, though, we talked, and talked some more, and even talked more than that about writing essays in general, the best practice of how to approach an essay, their own strategies or comfort level with writing one, and discussed as well what went into introductory and concluding paragraphs, which they seemed a little unsure of. This is quite normal, at this age level.
  2. One of the most important distinctions of today’s discussion, though, is that an expository essay is quite different from a literary one. The basic structure they are used to of including a topic sentence and three supporting details for expository writing will not work for the essay they are about to write.
  3. I walked them through their future – they’ll write one or two literary essays before this course is over, they’ll definitely write one or two in their ELA 20, for their ELA A and B 30 they may write three or so and for their departmentals alone, combined together, they’ll write another three. That’s a total of ten literary essays in their future before graduation! Learning how to do it and do it well now, rather than only doing an adequate job may save them a lot of stress and frustration.
  4. We talked about some of the essay marking projects I’ve been able to be a part of. One task that was epecially helpful in my own approach to marking essays is based on a 1-6 point scale. First, I have to decide if it’s “thumbs up or thumbs down” – is that essay sufficient enough to have a passing mark. The levels go as follows:
    1. Wheels aren’t even on the bus – This type of essay would possibly be one paragraph with one sentence at the end for a conclusion, but the ideas aren’t related.
    2. Wheels are on the bus but it’s not going anywhere – There is some ideas tied towards the topic, but the formation is so scattered, it’s more like a conscious train of thought and does not attempt to include an introduction or conclusion.
    3. Almost adequate – There may be a recognizable pattern or structure, but there are several extra unrelated details, the formula may be extremely simplistic or repetitive and the language is very basic.
    4. Four – makes the grade – This essay satisfies the requirements of an essay, including intro, body paragraphs, and conclusion but is simplistic. This is on average where students generally are at, skill-wise.
    5. The structure is well-recognizable but the writing level and choice of words is more mature. There is some risk-taking with this level and confidence displayed through their writing. The introduction catches the reader’s attention and conclusion satisfies them. This is a level many students are capable of reaching.
    6. Students who write at a level six have writing skills already that cannot be taught. They may possibly even surpass their teacher, skill-wise and have highly insightful content. You cannot teach someone to write at a level six.
  5. To just get the ball rolling, but not overwhelm them, we looked at one body paragraph – start in the middle and just do it once. I showed them a powerpoint that broke down student examples of body paragraphs sentence by sentence to make it clear. I went slowly, carefully, and the students really settled in to follow along, so I am optimistic about their level of understanding with this.
    See the PowerPoint here: formal-literary-paragraphs
  6. Tomorrow, they are going to pick a topic related to the novel and focus on writing one well-written body paragraph. If they can do it once comfortably and correctly, then the rest becomes much easier and we’re on our way!
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April 29

ELA B10: Ap 29 Day two of reading assessment…

And the fun continued today!! I was especially pleased that the kids came in this morning and just got right to the task of completing their reading assessment. When they were done, there was a reader’s response assignment written on the board for them to consider and respond to. With that out of the way, we’re going to get into some writing projects, some formal literary paragraphs before we write the literary essay in relation to the novel we’ve just read.

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April 28

ELA B10: Ap 28 Provincial Reading Assessment…

  1. Students had been told a while ago that there was another reading assessment they would have to do. This time, it’s a Provincial assessment, whereas the last was for the school division.  Today, they began the first portion of it and will continue the second part tomorrow.

    They were really mature about having to do it… and did not complain at all… and I am not being coerced into saying that whatsoever. . .

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April 27

ELA B10: Ap 27 Exams returned and video completed…

  1. Students came in today to find the exams they wrote on Friday marked and on their desk. They looked them over and had a chance to ask about a few questions they were unsure of. I explained that I tried something new in marking these – I noticed that several answers in the short answer section were exceptionally well-thought-out responses, so I started putting a star in pen beside an answer that was the best answer for that question out of all the exams. (When I explained about that, it was cool to hear someone sound excited that they had a star on their exam for a question. lol)
  2. Once done that, I let them watch the rest of the video. We talked about the novel afterwards, their general thoughts about it, and I was pleased to hear that they all pretty much agreed that it was a good book and maybe even stood out a little more than others because the ending was so unique.
  3. They’ll be writing a literary essay soon and we’ll spend some time this week going over what that actually means. They’re not allowed to “whine” about it, though, since I’ve proven over the last few weeks that I deserve their trust. lol
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April 24

ELA B10: Ap 24 Novel’s end exam…

  1. Now that we’ve completed the novel together and spent time discussing the main aspects, the students tested themselves with a novel exam. Yesterday’s Jeopardy game was a good review and indicator as to whether or not they needed to brush up a bit on their knowledge. They did a great job today – they came right in, started writing, and put a focused effort into it. I was pretty impressed! We’ll see what the marks look like on Monday!
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April 23

ELA B10: Ap 23 Let’s Play Jeopardy!!

  1. Now that we’re done reading the novel, we have some reviewing and analyzing to do. We talked about themes and how to explain one. (Often times, students get plot summary mixed up with meaning or messages in the writing, so I gave them a few examples of inappropriate answers regarding themes. Then we looked through and started giving evidence to support a list of themes they were given.
  2. We filled in the worksheet, with everyone contributing answers and elaborating on some. Their responses should be very thorough, from our discussion.
  3. We also talked about symbols, that characters or things in the novel represent more than just their literal meaning, such as the dream represents “hope” to the characters or the farm represents “the dream”.
  4. We also discussed types of conflict in the novel and Micheal made a really good point – that there always must be tension in a story or else nothing would ever happen in it.
  5. Once all that was sorted out, we had a test. Well, it was sort of a test. It was jeopardy! The students were divided into two groups, each pitted against the other. I didn’t have any buzzers so they used their hands slammed down on the desks to be the first to give the answers. For each correct answer, the winner got a fresh-from-this-morning Timbit! 😀 They were all pretty carefull, as well, to play along by forming their answers in the appropriate “What is…. ” format. It was pretty great and absolutely energy-filled. They did a great job! Next time, I’ll have to be sure to make the questions more difficult!
  6. And then tomorrow, that means we can have a quiz. Sure! Why not!


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April 22

ELA B10: Ap 22 Finish reading!

  1. We finished reading through the end of Chapter four, did the questions together again, and then got right to reading the last Chapter. It was clear they were quite emotionally involved in the storyline because any time I’d pause a moment to point something important out, they’d rush me on to get back to the story. This ending is such a unique one and seems to have quite long-lasting effects on people.
  2. We answered the rest of the questions and talked about some of the more central points to be clear on from the reading, like the discrepancy between the way the author describes the setting and the way things would have actually been during those years. We’ll do some review tomorrow and look at themes and symbols.
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April 21

ELA B10: Ap 21 Ch 4 reading, questions and some of Ch 5…

  1. We talked about what was just happening in the story when we ended our reading yesterday. We finished Chapter 4, which was fairly emotional. I talked about the importance of that chapter – the whole thing occured in the barn in the room Crooks stays in. We also had discussed all the isolated characters of the novel and at the end of this Chapter three all of those characters had shared their stories.
  2. We answered the questions with everyone contributing responses.
  3. Then we got right back into reading Chapter Five.
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April 20

ELA B10: Ap 20 Ch 3 and questions…

  1. It’s been a while since we’ve had a more formal English class. (The week before the break we spent so much time practicing their play delivery, which they did a great job on!)
  2. To get back into the idea of things, we reminded ourselves of what had happened in the novel so far and what we watched of the movie on that last Friday. Then we got to reading! We overlapped just a bit to help remind ourselves some more but got through Chapter three.
  3. We answered the questions together for Chapter three and talked a lot about the realities of working during those Depression years. The whole concept of George and Lennie having someone to talk to is so unusual for most migrant workers at the time. It makes sense, as well, that Candy is anxious to join in on their friendship.
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