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April 11, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Lesson Of The Week: Sandra Cisneros & “Authentic Writing”

(Have you developed a particularly creative and successful lesson for your K-12 English, Social Studies, or IB Theory of Knowledge class? If you have, and can describe it in 400 words or less (not including student hand-outs you might want to include), send it in to me and I’ll consider publishing it in this new “Lesson Of The Week” series. I’m also open to considering math and science lessons, but only if they are simple enough for me to understand :) . If this series takes off, an Ebook compilation is a possiblity. You can use my contact form or email to send in your contribution).

This week’s lesson is from Paul L. Thomas:

Having taught a wide range of students to write as well as teaching teachers as writers and teachers of writing, I have one lesson that is effective in all of those situations: Asking students to write an original piece modeled exactly on Sandra Cisneros’s “A House of My Own” (from The House on Mango Street):

Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after. Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.

Students initially are offered only: “Write your own version of this passage, changing the content but not the way Cisneros crafted the piece—‘A _____ of My Own.’”

Once the initial drafts are completed, students are asked to share and then compare how others followed the directions. Soon, a discussion of craft, grammar, word choice, sentence formation, and many aspects of composing is generated. This spontaneous discussion should be used to clarify what modeling the piece from Cisneros exactly means, thereby leading to offering students a chance to revise.

Some students notice the use of alliteration, some identify the string of sentence fragments, and some notice similes. What is important is that this activity allows students to engage with authentic conventions of published works as they contrasts with “rules” in school writing. As well, this activity also prompts a discussion of genre, mode, and form, specifically since many students call their draft a poem—although this passage is a prose chapter in a novel.

For student writers, the lesson is about craft, about purposeful language. The activity blends close reading with a craft lesson in a way that is both direct instruction and authentic.

For teachers of writing, the assignment adds a layer of discrediting the misconception that authentic writing “doesn’t teach grammar” or that direct instruction is not a best practice.

Teachers can find many similar passages to guide direct instruction based on students’ original essays as well.

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March 24, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
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What Is Your Most Original & Successful Lesson?

Earlier today I posted what I hope to be a regular feature in this blog — the Lesson of the Week (see Lesson Of The Week: What Does “March Madness” Have To Do With Theory Of Knowledge?).

Have you developed a particularly creative and successful lesson for your K-12 English, Social Studies, or IB Theory of Knowledge class?  If you have, and can describe it in 400 words or less (not including student hand-outs you might want to include), send it in to me and I’ll consider publishing it in this new “Lesson Of The Week” series.  I’m also open to considering math and science lessons, but only if they are simple enough for me to understand .  If this series takes off, an Ebook compilation is a possibility.  You can use my contact form or email to send in your contribution.

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March 24, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Lesson Of The Week: What Does “March Madness” Have To Do With Theory Of Knowledge?

(Have you developed a particularly creative and successful lesson for your K-12 English, Social Studies, or IB Theory of Knowledge class?  If you have, and can describe it in 400 words or less (not including student hand-outs you might want to include), send it in to me and I’ll consider publishing it in this new “Lesson Of The Week” series.  I’m also open to considering math and science lessons, but only if they are simple enough for me to understand :) .  If this series takes off, an Ebook compilation is a possiblity.  You can use my contact form or email to send in your contribution).

Theresa Collins and Carl Weaver are IB Theory of Knowledge teachers in Indiana, and came up with a great lesson related to the March Madness of college basketball. Since the tournament isn’t over yet, other TOK teachers could still adapt their lesson, which they have agreed to share here:

I follow you on Twitter, and on a whim, I emailed you on Wednesday night to see if you might have (and be willing to share) a TOK lesson plan regarding March Madness. I thought it would be fun to do something with it, but I was running short on time and creativity. To my delight, you replied that same night and gave me that very kernel I was looking for…you mentioned taking a look at Nate Silver’s work on his Five Thirty Eight blog at The New York Times. I’m happy to share with you how the lesson shaped up:

• As our hook, we began the class by walking over to the gym where all students attempted to shoot a free throw while blindfolded. One student was successful. Another student shot in a totally different direction from the basket because his classmates had shown their sense of community “in properly aligning him to the basket”. The kids had fun. We returned to our classroom and discussed how sense perception (or more aptly, the lack of sight) played a role in shooting the free throws.

• Before the class, several teachers were emailed and asked to explain how they choose the teams to fill in their brackets. We placed these emails around the room, and the kids did a gallery walk in partners. On their whiteboards, the students noted examples of reason and emotion they found in the teachers’ responses. We then came back together and had a discussion.

• Next we watched Barack-etology:

The kids individually recorded how he used reason and emotion while making his picks, and then we talked about what they noticed.

• Next we watched Nate Silver’s interview:

We also read his article titled “Parity in the NCAA Means No Commanding Favorite”. We had the kids annotate the article for reason and emotion, but this time we also had them note data and probability as a way of that knowing. We had another discussion.

• Exit tickets are never optional in TOK, but for this lesson they were. If the kids wanted to fill out a bracket and leave it with us, they could. And, of course, they could choose which ways of knowing to use when making their own picks, but we’ll have to wait until April to see which one gets the prize.

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