Tag Archives: Literature

West Coast Treasure: Resources for Adventure, Discovery, & Wonder

I have just returned from a week long vacation in San Francisco with my family. The benefits of my children having a teacher for a mother is that our vacation will be a fun filled adventure filled with discovery, wonder, and learning.  Hence, our trip to the west coast included jam packed days for exploration and inquire about the world. Below are the places that we visited and the array of resources that all teachers and parents can utilize online or in person that encourages science inquiry and an interest in American history.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods – Muir Woods National Monument is a sanctuary of Redwoods and ecological treasure. The ginormous trees are breath taking with the tallest tree is Muir Woods over 250 feet. Some of these trees are over 1,000 years old. This destination offers scientific facts about the California Redwoods, the role of Fog and Fire, the anatomy of the trees, and the history of the National Parks Service that protects this forest.

California Museum of Science

California Academy of Sciences – This Museum in Golden Gate Park is an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum. With hands on exhibits and virtual programs, the museum promotes science in both theory and everyday experiences. There is a host of programs and curriculum available online for educators.

de Young Museum of Fine Arts – Another great museum in Golden Gate Park, this art museum boasts a collection of Modern Art from around the world. The Marcus Garden of Enchantment is playful and mysterious and encourages people to explore its different pathways, structures, artworks, and natural features. Don’t forget to take the elevator to the top of the tower for a 360 degree view of all of San Francisco if you visit the museum. Online you can find an abundance of curriculum resources for educators covering teaching guides and lessons.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz – My 10 year old son would tell you that this was the best part of the vacation, visiting the island and listening to the stories of those who experienced Alcatraz as guards, inmates, and families. Alcatraz has a broad history from first being established as a fort during the civil war, a prison from 1859-1963, occupied to make a political statement for Native Americans, and now an ecological preserve. It is amazing to go inside the prison and hear stories from an array of people who worked there before it closed as a prison. There was also a unique exhibit on the island titled “Portraits of Resilience: Children of Incarcerated Parents” that brings to the forefront the impact of incarceration on families today. The NAACP reports that there are more than 2 million people in prisons. Criminal justice is a critical topic in education that plays a role in teaching history and literature. Books like Jason Reynold’s The Boy in the Black Suit and Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore paint a different picture from the Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. Whereas the image of the gangster in the 1920s brought a romanticized picture of outlaws, over crowding in jails and racial bias in our prisons today offer a very different image worth exploring.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium – I know so many people who wanted to be marine scientists when they were younger. Monterey Bay Aquarium would be a dream job for many. Where else can you see so many differently kinds of Jelly Fish or Sea Stars in one place? This aquarium is an amazing center that specializes in researching and educating about marine life in order to co exist and sustain our oceans. The educator’s tab on the website offers an abundance of curriculum materials for all grade levels addressing current exhibits.

All around us are amazing cultural centers that promote learning, science, history, and an appreciation for nature around us. You do not have to take a trip to San Francisco to experience all the great resources that abound the city. Online one can take virtual field trips and peek into an ant colony, swim with the sea otters, or be inspired to write a poem about the beauty of the photographs of national landmarks.

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Concerning Character & Reputation: Character Analysis Activity

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

— George RR Martin, A Game of Thrones

Stories drive us. Characters and conflict drive stories. When teaching literature we want students to see dynamic characters for their complexity and understand their evolution throughout the story. When starting a new text with my students, the exposition has lots of great detail that can offer insight into the characters wants, needs, fears, and beliefs.

To help my students look closer at the characters in Shakespeare’s MidSummer Night’s Dream, students complete a two day character analysis/interpretation small group activity.  Each group receives an envelope with the directions, character survey, and character questionnaire. In addition, I also include a photocopied passage of the text with detailed information or dialogue from the character to use for interpretation and a graphic novel version of the passage. Students work together to complete the survey and questionnaire. Students go back into the text to find additional information and textual evidence to support their claims. At the end of day two, students are to produce:

  1. A brief, creative introduction about the character (a poem, interview, or improv)
  1. A mention of key passages or individual text that are central to understanding the character’s identity (wants, fears, values, and beliefs)
  1. An artistic representation of the character

This activity can be utilized with any text for character analysis purposes. I have included the activity and directions below for my followers and fans.

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Dystopian Worlds: Mash Up & Unit Overview

This week I am beginning a new literature unit, dystopian literature circles. Due to the success of The Hunger Games and the forthcoming Divergent series, my students will select to read one of the following three dystopian novels for our next unit of study:

The Giver by Lois Lowery
Unwind by Neil Shusterman
Animal Farm by George Orwell

To begin the unit, I am starting by changing the rules in my classroom and then have students react and reflect on the rule changes in the classroom. I will introduce the idea of a dystopia and give a book talk about each of the book choices.

Day 2 Pre-Reading Activity consists of a lesson on key themes in dystopian literature

Day 3 Pre-Reading Activity students will complete a QR Code Quest addressing dystopian ideas presented in poetry, music, and art.

Day 4 Pre-Reading Activity is a non fiction text pairing with an article by Rebecca Solnit about the similarities between The Hunger Games and the current political climate today. The main idea presented in the article is that for as much as science fiction and dystopian literature is about the future, it always turns out to be very much about the present.

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Differentiation At Its Best: Who was William Sydney Porter?

Because I work with an amazing Special Education teacher who co-teaches my inclusion class with me, I want to share a differentiated assignment that she created for our students about the author O’Henry.  We have been reading and studying O’Henry for the past five weeks in my English classes.  We saved this lesson for the end of the unit so that students could look back and make connections between O’Henry’s life and the characters in his short stories.

For this particular differentiated assignment, there were three different biographies about O’Henry, each catering to a distinct reading level.  We color coded the articles and gave every student the same cover sheet with directions so they would not notice the different readings each student was presented with. Students were asked to read the article closely taking notes in the margins and underlining important details.  Then, students were put into small groups (one of each article per group) and were asked to answer a series of questions that would require all three articles to answer. 

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The synthesis questions completed in small groups asked students to examine O’Henry’s decision to change his name and what can you infer about O’Henry because of this.  In addition, students completed a chart of the similarities between O’Henry’s life and his stories.  Students also addressed O’Henry’s travels and the personal experiences that affected his writing. On a lighter note, because O’Henry has such a distinct mustache, I gave everyone a mustache to use when speaking so they may be inspired to think like O’Henry.

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Here is a link to the higher leveled reading.

Here is a link to the middle leveled reading.

Here and here are links to the easier leveled reading.

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