Tag Archives: To Kill a Mockingbird

New Ways to Use “Old School” Bingo in Your Classroom

Old School games are a great way to bring gaming into any content area. Whether playing  Jeopardy, Who Wants to be A Millionaire, or Jenga, these types of games build collaboration and can help students deepen their content knowledge. One of my “go to” games with my students is Bingo. Here are a few ways that I have adapted Bingo for learning and assessment.

1. Text Dependent Questions – I will fill an entire bingo board with text dependent questions or problems and students have a specific time to fill out the Bingo board. You might utilize this as a homework assignment for the week (each night complete one row or column), assessments (A = complete the entire board correctly, B = complete 4 rows of Bingo, C = 3 rows of Bingo), or an in class activity. Below is a class activity that I use to review Chapter 7 & 8 in To Kill A Mockingbird.

2. Pursuit – Give students a Bingo board with situations or actions and students are required to find specific textual details (or direct quotes) that highlights the situation. I recently made a Bingo board like this for MidSummer Night’s Dream Act 3. The pursuit gave students a mission to uncover key events and show their understanding while reading the play in class.

3. Picture Bingo & Empty Bingo Boards – Use pictures instead of text or give students a word bank to fill in their own Bingo Board. Then,  ask questions related to the words in the word bank or images.

4. Persuasive Bingo – When I taught speech and debate I created five different Bingo Boards with a variety of persuasive speaking tasks: Persuade your parents to increase you allowance, persuade your sibling to do your chores, persuade your teacher to give you an extra day to complete an assignment. The key was that the students couldn’t bully, blackmail, or bribe to achieve Bingo. When a number and letter was called the students had to persuade the entire class effectively in order for it to count.

Bingo is fun and interactive. Bingo boards can be adapted for any content area or grade level.  Plus, they are easy to make. Depending on the task created for students the questions can tap into Bloom’s questioning, critical thinking, and allow teachers to assess student understanding.

 

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Looking Forward to 2016 by Reflecting on 2015

This past year has been a whirlwind professionally. I delved into the world of #gamification, attended a plethora of conferences expanding connections and teaching ideas. As a teacher, I selfishly love to learn and sharing knowledge with others.

Below are the highlights of the conferences I presented and guest blog posts I wrote in 2015.

Get Your Game On guest blog post for ISTE Project ReimaginED.

Gamification Webinar for ISTE

Your Students Are Your Best Resource for Gamification guest blog post for Classcraft

Utilizing Interactive Notebooks to Support ELLs your Classroom  a workshop for NYS TESOL Annual Conference

Unpacking Race in To Kill a Mockingbird a presentation for Critical Questions in Education Conference in Baltimore, MD.

Tech Based Alternative Assessments in Lieu of Book Reports & 5 Paragraph Essays presented at ILA in St. Louis, MO

Twitter in the K12 Classroom: A Collaborative Tool for Learning Webinar presented for ISTE

Attaining Common Core Reading & Writing Standards with Interactive Notebooks presentation for Long Island LILAC/NRC Conference

And lots more to look forward to in 2016: ISTE, ILA, NCTE and other awesome conferences, EdCamps, and professional development opportunities.

#ISTELitChat is going to be awesome in 2016 with new guest moderators. We meet the last Sunday of each month at 9 PM, just type in the hashtag #ISTELitChat in Twitter to join us.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2016 and look forward to learning, growing, and collaborating together.

 

 

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Text Pairing for To Kill a Mockingbird

With the Common Core initiating a push for more informational text into the ELA classroom, teachers are always in search for rich informational texts for close reading.

With my eighth graders this year, I have adopted Kelly Gallager’s Article of the Week assignment. Each week my students are required to read, annotate, and write a one page reflection to show evidence of close reading and their thinking about the reading. I have compiled historical texts, primary documents, contemporary articles, and even some poetry for the Articles of the Week. Below is an annotated list of informational texts I assigned to my students to coincide with their understanding and reading of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee Biography

FDR’s Inaugural Speech “The Only Thing We Have to Fear . . .”         Connect with the allusion mentioned in Chapters 1

Gender Codes in the 1930s: An Interview by Claudia Durst Johnson          This is an excerpt from a chapter in Using Informational Text with To Kill a Mockingbird by Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle (2011).

The Scottsboro Boys (PBS)

Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Here’s Why. by Nikole Hannah-Jones (ProPublica)

Deadly Force, In Black and White by Ryan Gabrielson, Ryann Grochowski Jones And Eric Sagara (ProPublica)

Blink Your Eyes by Sekou Sundiata

Fear Factor: How Herd Mentality Drives Us (CBS News) This is a great article to pair with the Mob Scene in Chapters 15 and 16.

Letter from Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Jury in TKAM: What Went Wrong by Judge Royal Ferguson

Harper Lee’s Failed Novel About Race (The New Yorker)

Do you have informative and engaging informational text pairings for To Kill a Mockingbird? Please share your ideas in the Comments section.

 

 

 

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Unpacking Race in To Kill a Mockingbird and A Raisin in the Sun in Response to Ferguson and Baltimore

This week I presented at the annual Critical Questions in Education Conference in Baltimore, MD. I presented with my esteemed colleagues, Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle, authors of Using Informational Text to Teach To Kill a Mockingbird (2013) and Using Informational Text to Teach A Raisin in the Sun (2015). 

Texts like To Kill a Mockingbird and A Raisin in the Sun are widely taught in language arts classrooms throughout the United States.

But how are these texts being taught? What kinds of questions are students being asked to think about in relation to these texts? How can we use these seminal literary works to unpack and uncover the difficult “hidden history” of race in the United States? How, using text pairings with informational and other literary texts, can we support our students in engaging in difficult but informed conversations about race in our classrooms? This panel will offer specific strategies and assignments developed in relation to best practices, research, and classroom experience.

With Raisin, for example, we offer strategies to incorporate readings on the violence associated with housing desegregation and on restrictive covenants and duplicitous housing practices like redlining and contract selling to underscore the kinds of obstacles families like the Youngers faced. We also offer strategies to incorporate readings about the current state of housing discrimination and research about the inequalities of opportunity in order to underscore for students the ways in which the issues in Raisin continue to resonate and impact society today.

With Mockingbird, we suggest ways to think through the troubled racial politics of Harper Lee’s 1959 novel, allowing students to explore the ways in which Atticus is not a hero and the blindspots in young Scout’s unreliable and incomplete narration of the events in the novel. Working with material about lynching and about African-American maids and nannies, for example, students can unpack Mockingbird’s complex racial politics. Sections from the new Go Set a Watchman can be used to further complicate our understanding of and the continuing relevance of both works.

In addition to these two iconic texts, we will share contemporary titles like The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2010) and Jason Reynold’s When I Was the Greatest (2014) that offer poignant glimpses into urban America. Participants will walk away with a list of more than a dozen contemporary Young Adult texts to expand classrooms libraries and build text sets that support units on race, ethnicity, and identity.

Events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere demand critical conversations in our classrooms about race and ethnicity in the United States. Teachers need to expose young people to diverse texts that help them understand the troubled history that produced the segregation, the urban blight, the hopelessness, and the abuses of power that characterize these troubling events. Our students need to have conversations about these issues that are grounded in historical facts and texts. Literary masterpieces, like Mockingbird and Raisin, are the ideal places to begin these difficult conversations, but only when these texts are thoughtfully conjoined with other contemporary and classic, fictional and informational texts and resources that allow our students to be informed thinkers.

Below are the slides for my presentation and a link to the valuable information from Audrey & Susan’s power point.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/dasdiouypyp0twe/Baltimore%20presentation2015%2010-31.pptx?dl=0

How are you using these texts or others to engage in critical conversations with your students?

I would love to know. Post your comments below.

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Close Reading Practice: Station Work with To Kill a Mockingbird

The beginning of fall means To Kill a Mockingbird in my 8th grade classroom and it is also the time to immerse students into the practice of close reading. The more and more students have opportunities to reread chunks of texts, the better their ability of peeling back the layers of a text. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful (and complex) text to use for close reading of a story still relevant today and the beauty of Harper Lee’s craft of writing.

Early in the school year students need support with close reading. I have students chunk parts of the text and read it first for the basics or literal understanding. The second and third readings are reading with more purpose: language, craft, vocabulary, and mechanics. I want students to actively use the information from their readings to talk, share, write, illustrate, and or debate the theories and ideas they are formulating in their mind while reading.

To help students read and reread the text, I created three different learning stations this week. Each station had students practice towards mastery and gain more confidence with close reading. Students were to choose two of the stations to complete within a forty minute period. Each station was leveled based on students’ understanding of the text.

Station One – Level One – Literal Understanding of the text. I created a Bingo Board with twenty five questions about the plot in To Kill a Mockingbird. Students had 15 minutes to complete double bingo (or for additional points, complete the entire board for homework) with questions addressing Who, What, Where, When, and simple How questions.

Station Two – Level Two – Notice and Note Signposts in the Text. Students were to go back into the text and pull out examples of the six signposts from K. Beers & B. Probst’s Notice and Note. This text is one of the fundamentals in my teaching repertoire because it requires students to be engaged with and analytical of the text.

Station Three – Level Three – Text Dependent Questions How the Text Works, What Does the Author Mean, and Synthesis. These questions were the challenge questions for my students. Students who really were looking to grapple with the text and go back and do deep digging within the chapter chose this station. These questions might include:

  1. The beginning of Chapter 7 Scout refers back to what Atticus told her about “climbing into another man’s skin and walk around in it.” This is the second time Atticus’ maxim is repeated in the story — it’s something to note and notice (repetition). What does this metaphor do for us as the reader? What does this metaphor help the reader to understand?
  2. Chapter 7 is a series of vignettes about mysteries Jem and Scout find: The sewn up pants, the gifts in the knot hole, the soap sculptures of the children. What is the author doing here? What is the mood among the children in the beginning of this chapter versus the end? How do we know?

I work with an amazing Math teacher who levels all his math work in the class. Students choose the math work based on their understanding of the math concepts taught in class. The basic work is labeled “Mustard” whereas the next level of work has a bit of a kick with a few challenge  questions is labeled “Wasabi.” For those students who rock the math concepts and want a brain teaser, they select “Naga Jolokia,” — the world’s hottest pepper! I always model his class work when I am differentiating my lessons. Not only does the station work allow for differentiation, it also encourages student choice. Choice and practice get students closer to mastery with key ideas, concepts, and strategies.

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To Kill a Mockingbird Amazing Race

Two weeks ago I posted a Vine video I created of my students going around our school to complete an “Amazing Race” style activity to complete six different activities related to our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird. A handful of people tweeted me and asked me to share the activity. I am a big proponent of of learning stations and I wanted to put a spin on learning stations by making these activities a competition among students and setting up the stations around the school using clues related to the novel. For example, one clue read Scout said, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.” Where can Scout fuel her passion for reading? Here is where you can find the next task on your TKAM Amazing Race.

Each group of students were given a map with QR codes that led them around the school to then complete the text based activities. Each team got an answer record sheet and used their mobile devices to read the QR Codes and required readings at the different stations. All required readings were linked via QR codes but I have linked the articles below for my readers.

Below are the six activities I asked my students to complete throughout the two day “Amazing Race” competition.

1. A Nightmare Among Us – Chapter 15

Read the article “Fear Factor: How herd mentality drives us.

Answer 3 questions to make a tic-tac-toe win. Write your responses on the answer sheet provided and bring to class completed.

2. Gender Codes

In Chapters 11, 12, & 13 Scout is reminded by others to “act like a lady.”

Read through the article “Growing Up Female in the 1930s South.” Think about what connections you can make between women interviewed and the women in TKAM.

Complete the compare/contrast foldable in your Interactive English Notebook identifying similarities and differences between the gender expectations for women during this time period and Scout’s struggle to meet the gender expectations.

3. Caste Systems in Maycomb – Chapter 13

What is a caste system?

A social structure in which classes are determined by heredity.

Caste systems, social inequalities, and poverty cycles are all sub stories in TKAM. Throughout the book there are divisions in social classes which cause tension and conflict.

What is the hierarchy in Maycomb County? Complete the chart on your answer sheet by placing where you think each of the characters belong. Then, find evidence to support your claim.

4. Different Dialects – Chapter 12

In Chapter 12 Scout and Jem attend church with Calpurnia. They notice that she uses language differently at church than she does in their home. Scout describes Calpurnia as “having command of two languages.”

Use your text to examine the conversation between Jem, Scout, and Calpurnia at the end of Chapter 12. Respond to the following questions, using quotes from the novel to help explain your responses.

  1. A) How do Scout and Jem describe the way Calpurnia uses language in church?
  2. B) What explanation does Calpurnia give for using language differently at church than in the Finch’s home?

5. Courage

At the end of Chapter 11 Atticus tells Jem, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.”

  1. How do you define courage?
  2. Who shows courage in the novel? Complete the chart on your answer sheet illustrating two characters who exemplify courage, how they show courage, and specific textual evidence that supports your claim.

6. Life Lessons

Find three people (Young people or adults) who can tell you the important life lessons they remember from the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Video record on your phone, this person talking about their memories about the book and the important life lessons they took away from the novel.

If you would like a copy of my activity with the answer record sheet and QR Code maps for each group, please email me or leave a comment on my blog and I will share the document with you. Please note that the clues I created for my students were specific to my school.

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The Art of Multiple Choice in the Era of CCLS

Multiple choice test taking and quizzes are used to assess your mastery of basic knowledge and information; and awareness of test-taking techniques and strategies.

In 8th grade English Language Arts all of the test questions asked are modeled from the Common Core and current state tests. Students are not being asked basic comprehension questions, rather students are being assessed on their ability to read and comprehend texts through deep analyses. This means that questions will address inference, academic vocabulary, author’s craft and purpose, and central ideas.

Here are some strategies to help approach these types of questions.

First and foremost, it is important that you understand the question. The question is called the stem, and the answer choices are called distractors. The purpose of the distractors is to distract you from identifying and choosing the correct answer. Thus, in the process of taking a multiple choice test or quiz, all of your knowledge, expertise, and judgements are utilized. The first thing upon being presented with a question is to ask yourself, “What is the question asking?” Look for keywords or phrases to help you understand. It is important to have the central point clearly in your mind before going on to consider the distractors.

Let’s look at an example from the most recent quiz for To Kill A Mockingbird. The question states:

“There goes the meanest man ever God blew breath into, “murmured Calpurnia, and she spat meditatively into the yard. We looked at her in surprise, for Calpurnia rarely commented on the ways of white people.” (Chapter 1).
Based on the passage, it can be inferred thatA. Calpurnia doesn’t like Mr. RadleyB. Calpurnia is superstitious

C.  Calpurnia is African American

D. Calpurnia is mean

The question is not asking how Calpurnia feels about Mr. Radley. The stem is asking what can be inferred. An inference is a logical conclusion or theory based on prior knowledge (schema) and textual evidence. It is obvious that Calpurnia doesn’t like Mr. Radley, she spits into the Radley’s yard and states he is “the meanest man.” What is the author stating between the lines of the passage. That is the inference to look for.

Make sure you read the stem correctly. Notice the way the question is phrased. One of the most important principles in test taking is understand what the question is asking and understand exactly what the stem is asking before considering the distractors.

Another technique for assessing the stem and interpreting the question correctly is to rephrase the question so that it is very clear in your own mind. Rephrasing in your own language can help you to read the question correctly and, in turn, choose the appropriate response. If possible, think of the correct answer before considering the distractors.

Distractors are various alternatives chosen to be as close as possible to the right answer. One method of helping you choose the correct answer is to ask yourself whether each possible alternative is true or false in relation to the stem. If you are answering a test question in which one distractor is considerably different from the others, it is probably not the correct choice. Look for similarities in two or three of the choices remembering that the purpose of the distractors is to divert you from the one right answer. Another effective technique for handling multiple variables is to use the process of elimination.

Thus, going back to our example above. It is too obvious that Calpuria doesn’t like Mr. Radley so we can eliminate answer A. It is possible that she is mean (Answer D) because she is talking badly about another character and because she spits in the yard, maybe she is superstitous (Answer C). But looking closer at the passage, the later states, “Calpurnia rarely commented on the ways of white people.”  This is the first time in all of Chapter 1 that the author has made a comment about race. Never before had the author mentioned anything about race or color. Why would Calpurnia rarely comment on the ways of white people? Based on what we know and have learned in social studies during this time period in the Jim Crow era, it was proper etiquette for African American not to say anything about white people. We can infer that Calpurnia is African American (Answer B) because of this textual detail and our prior knowledge from social studies.

How do we get students thinking more deeply about the text and going beyond the literal meaning is what most teachers are focusing on these days. To help my students go deeper into the text, I created different types of classroom activities that require students to go back into the text multiple times. Below is a multi layered close reading activity that begins with the literal recall of the novel and then moved into deeper text dependent questions. The more students talk about the text and the more they go back into the text, deep interpretation and understanding is possible.

 

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Social Justice: A Young Adult Book List

Summer time allows me to catch up on reading and begin to plan for the ideas swimming in my brain for the new school year. Since I have moved around which core texts that I am teaching first in my eighth grade English class, and we will read To Kill a Mockingbird in the first quarter, I have decided that the first outside reading  assignment will focus on the theme of social justice.

Each quarter my students select an outside reading book to read independently and if students are aiming for honors English in the high school they read two outside reading books per quarter. The themes of the outside reading books change based on current events and genres. The most popular outside reading assignment this past year was graphic novels.

As students are reading the historical based text, To Kill a Mockingbird, I want them to be aware of the oppression and injustices that still exist in our world today.  I have carefully selected books that I have read and have been recommend to me that cover topics of racism, classism, homophobia, guerilla warfare in third world countries, and illegal immigration.  My over all theme throughout the year is community and empathy.  Below is the book list that I have compiled for September.

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You’re Invited to a Party: Character Analysis & To Kill a Mockingbird

You are cordially invited to tea with Aunt Alexandra!

These past two months my students have been reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  To help students understand the different experiences and perspectives of all characters involved, there needed to be some sort of activity that would allow my students to “walk in another person’s shoes,” as Atticus Finch told his daughter Scout in the beginning of the novel.  

Throughout the novel the reader only hears Scout’s voice.  However, after the traumatic occurrences that the Maycomb community experienced, it was important that the community members come together to share their own points of view.  After all, so many people have so many different sides of the story to tell.  So, on this VERY rare occasion, students had the opportunity to dine and delight with ALL of the Maycomb citizens. Yes, my students became the characters and community members in To Kill a Mockingbird to gain a deeper understanding of each and every character in the novel.

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To prepare for this activity, students chose a character to get to know especially well.  Students were to BECOME this character in style, demeanor, dress, speech, ideas, and point of view. 

This required some close rereading of the text. Students were asked to search throughout the book and find five different quotes that highlight different aspects of their character.

Then, students wrote a diary entry explaining information about themselves: occupation, something about family or personal life, accomplishments or achievements, what the character is known for, and how the character feels about the trial. Students were asked to explain how the trial affected the character personally, indirectly and directly. In addition, students answered the following questions:

What do you want to see happen in your town now? 

What message/lesson do you feel people have learned, if any? 

Do you predict changes or status quo? Explain.

Before the actual tea party, students were asked to prepare a series of questions they would want to ask other characters in the novel.  If given the chance to talk one on one with these people, what would that character like to know?  Students were to come up with at least 10 questions to ask, and write them on a notecard and bring the notecard to the tea party.

The day of the tea party students were to come in a realistic costume and with a prop the character would bring along. Students also  prepares an authentic Southern dish or drink for this social hour.  

TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE:

  1. You should ONLY HAVE ONE-ON-ONE CONVERSATIONS!
  2. When Aunty says “Mingle” you should shift to speak to another person at the tea.  Your goal is to meet as many people as possible.
  3. You must ALWAYS stay in character.
  4. Keep in mind basic Southern rules of politeness; even mortal ENEMIES wouldn’t make a big scene at the Finch home.

This activity was originally shared with me by a colleague and I have adapted some of it for my students.  He first found this idea online. 

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I Heart Interactive Foldables: A Symbolism Flip Book

I love taking lessons taught in previous years and turning them into a complex foldable for my students’ English Interactive Notebooks. The Interactive Notebooks are a used for all notes and important information about reading and writing. The foldables allow for students to interact with the information, help understand the content thoroughly, and apply what they learned during activities and assessments. 

This week  we are finishing one of our core texts, To Kill a Mockingbird, and I wanted to address symbolism in the novel.  Rather than present a Prezi or give my students a worksheet, I created a mini symbolism flip book with the different types of symbolism throughout the novel.  And because I don’t just want my students copying my notes directly into their notebooks,I added QR codes on a few pages of the flip book for students to search the symbolic elements and their meanings from the text.

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The flip book addresses symbolism of names, animals, and elements in nature.  The elements in nature cover the seasons, plants and trees, and fire.  I added the image of the bird on the front of the flip book for an added effect suggesting the title of the text and the symbolic nature of birds throughout the novel. 

The Common Core Learning Standards require that students be able to determine the meaning of symbols and literary devices when discussing a text. This lesson helps students understand the meaning of symbols throughout the text and read about their significance and order to understand Harper Lee’s intentions, deeper meaning, and themes. 

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