My Final Lesson: What’s The Big Idea for Romeo and Juliet?

It was fitting that my final ELL Reading lesson should be taken from What’s the Big Idea by  my long distance mentor, Jim Burke.

I followed Burke’s discussion plan.  We held a lively ‘Conversational Roundtable’ on the relationships in Romeo and Juliet as a review for the final exam.  The students could easily relate to the relationships: parent-child, romantic, friends and mentor-child.  We looked for what rules were common to all the relationships. We discussed  the differences.  However, the harder question was how these relationships shape our identity.  By then the students were getting a little tired, looking forward to their summer break.

I also used question prompts such as:

Does X have a right to …?

Why did Y behave as she/he did?

 

 

 

Romeo and Juliet – the final unit

I decided to end my final year of teaching with a challenge for me as well as my ELLs.  I hoped Shakespeare’s  play with its eternal themes of relationships would act as a bridge for entering regular English 10.

It was fun.  I taught out of my comfort zone, knowing the students would have to spend most of the time acting.  The students rapped one of Juliet’s soliloquies, mimed cooking , ironing and folding laundry while acting.  They certainly got into the rhythm of the play.

 

Romeo and Juliet – a review before final

I invited Gadi for our second drama workshop to help my ELLs review the big ideas of the play for their final.

Students made a list of their favorite scenes,  got into  groups , rehearsed their scenes using the original text,  and finally acted them out.

The directions were that  when the students acted the scenes in chronological order, they would create a summary of the big ideas of the play.  They had only 20 minutes to prepare.

Gadi asked them one guiding question:

What do the characters want?

 

Homework Poster Presentations

A lot is being written about the value of assigning homework.

I explain the assignment (usually a first draft reading), and make sure my ELLs have everything they need in order to successfully complete it.  I often tell them how much time they should set aside in order to compete the task.  Next lesson, the students deepen their understanding by sharing their ideas in the form of chat stations, guided discussions or answer an open question using a backchannel such as TodaysMeet.

We are going to read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah;  and  in order to give the students background knowledge, I assigned an Upfront article on child soldiers.  The goal of the reading was to notice big ideas and confusions.

This time I tried one of Larry Ferlazzo’s TOK homework presentations.  In class I grouped the students, and each group had to clarify one section of the text by designing a thought-provoking poster using each other’s notes.

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Then each student in the group was responsible for deepening their peers’ understanding by presenting her/his poster.  The goal of the presenter was to infer, question, and add to their “first draft” knowledge.

The students collaborated well, produced interesting posters and some insight.  The audience, for their part, had to generate high level questions.

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Needless to say, this was a great way for me to check their understanding as well as their ability to go beyond the text. However, we need to continue practicing crafting high level questions.

I will be using more of Ferlazzo’s homework presentations and hope they will engage my students as much as this one.

Chat Stations

This is a gallery walk of chat; a great activity to deepen understanding of a text, or as Kelly Gallagher would say, ‘2nd draft reading’.  In addition, this task promotes group discussions

I got the idea from Jennifer Gonzalez from the Cult of Pegadogy, a direct approach to student engagement.

My ELLs are in the midst of our ‘text tour’ of a unit on survival.  One of the texts is on the survival skills of the cockroach (an idea I got from Jeff Wilhelm).  To deepen their understanding of this complex article, I generated a few questions. By the way, I copied several questions from this excellent blog post.

We then reviewed the protocols for respectful group discussions.  (I have written about this in more detail in a previous post).

I then simply followed Gonzalez’ clear directions.

Next time, after learning about generating high level questions, the students will come up with their own questions.

The Pomodoro Technique

All of a sudden the red tomato kitchen timer has become ubiquitous.

At the moment I am in the middle of Dave Stuart’s  engaging workshop – Teaching with Articles (more of that in the next post).  One of the issues Dave addresses is grading, of course. His #1 advice  is to use the pomodoro technique.

I will discuss with my students how they can apply these tips to their study habits.  The video pairs very well with the Learning How to Learn course I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

Final Review – Incredible Shrinking Notes

I don’t know where I first read about the shrinking notes strategy for summarizing.  It was our final lesson and my ELLs just wanted  finals to be over and for school to be out.  I needed an engaging activity to review the themes of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and remembered the shrinking notes.  In groups, students wrote the big ideas of the novel on a large sticky note, narrowed them down to a medium sized notes and finally chose the three most significant ideas on a small post it.  We then had a short discussion on each group’s choices, supporting ideas with textual evidence, of course.