This week, one of my ninth grade classes finished The Catcher and the Rye, and we began discussing it in class. We also studied adjective and adverb phrases. The students really enjoyed the discussion of the novel, and I think they liked the book a great deal. That novel always seems to be popular, especially with boys. It brings up a good point. A lot of what we read in school isn’t necessarily appealing to boys. I think my male students enjoyed Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey. I really do try to think about how to draw boys in when we study literature. The discussions this week went very well.
My tenth grade writing students watched The Freedom Writers. I know a lot of people don’t like the movie, but I do, and the students were rapt. We had a really good, insightful discussion about the movie on Friday. One student in particular really seemed to be able to understand the motivations of Erin Gruwell’s department head. He said he was playing “devil’s advocate,” but his points were all well taken — why shouldn’t the students move on to a new teacher? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate test of how ready they were? Is it really good to have the same teacher all four years? He also wondered about the issue of seniority. Was Gruwell getting a “promotion”? The department head certainly considered it to be one. Laying aside the assertion that she deserved one (I think she did great work), she had only been teaching two years. Another issue that concerned the students was the practicality of what Gruwell did — in the movie, her marriage falls apart due to neglect on her part, and she has to take two extra jobs to pay for what her students need. My students saw the good that resulted from these choices, but they were, I think, right to question the cost. I thought the students had some really good insights into what they were seeing.
My seniors finished Death of a Salesman. I wasn’t sure how they would like it, but I think discussing how it is the story of many people today really hooked them, which isn’t terribly easy to do with seniors at this time of year. I am really excited about this unit, so it could be that my own enthusiasm showed. I also spent a lot of time planning it — thinking of questions for discussion, assessments, etc. — and that always pays off. It was remarked by someone who shall remain anonymous that I had put a lot of work into the unit, and I think the insinuation was that given the climate (seniors just ready to graduate and move on with the next stage of life), I probably wasted my time. I don’t think so. I think we have to work even harder as teachers to engage students when they are distracted by this future that’s just out of their reach. They can’t help their feelings — and I had the same ones when I was a senior. It’s a really exciting time. I envy them getting to go off to college for the first time, learning so much, figuring out who they are. I had a great college experience, and I wish I could do it again.
I obtained permission from one of my ninth grade classes to post their writing at a blog I have admittedly only occasionally used for student writing. The last posts are reflections of the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn done a year ago. The writing I will be posting is collected from creative writing diaries from characters in Romeo and Juliet. I plan to post one diary entry a day beginning on Tuesday. If you are interested in reading them, you might want to pop over to the Room 303 Blog and subscribe to our RSS feed. I don’t have e-mail subscription set up on that blog.
I have been approached to do a blogging project with a teacher in Hawaii, and I am really interested. I would like my students to have their own blogs for written reflection, but sometimes I feel like I should have established that early on, and how do you do that? I should think it would be great for interaction, discussion, exploration, and reflection. Does anyone know if I can do that with Moodle? I hesitate to put students in the position of public reflection if they feel uncomfortable about it, but if we can do it just within our community, I don’t think there would be a problem.