Rewarding final projects: Of Mice and Men

OMM Final Project Choices

My students are diligently working on final projects to culminate our class reading of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. I’d like to post some of their work here on the blog, so I’ve made a page for their projects. I’m not sure how this is going to work or how quickly it’ll happen, but this is my goal.

One of the reasons I believe they are working so hard is choice. They were given 8 engaging project options and then given a final 9th option to come up with anything else that is creative and shows me they understand Steinbeck’s purpose (the big idea). My students have come up with some pretty cool ideas – I love it when they think of things I never thought of.

What is most rewarding about assigning projects that students take and run with is that I get time to watch them work independently with internal motivation. This means less classroom management, so I can actually spend time getting to know my students better and keep tabs on the progress of their project. All around, this unit has gone very well and I’m excited to see the results I get from this project – the learners will present on Thursday.

Rebirth

My Intermediate Composition course management page has had a rebirth. I have a few students who have already opted to create blogs and write their weekly writing prompts on the web for all to read. I am so excited about this, as I just spent the last half hour reading their posts and making comments. Prior to that, I passed my time reading the blogs of my peers,  getting updated on their literacy practices and technology integration. It is amazing the wealth of information available on the internet, and it’s imperative that students understand how to read that information critically and then add to it with their own expertise and experience.

The world may be getting smaller as we communicate more closely with people we may never meet in person. I will use the CHS Int. Comp. course page primarily as a management page. It will contain links to and descriptions of writing assignments and also a blogroll of my students’ blogs. 

In Honor of the Bard

Shakespeare’s birthday is tomorrow. In honor of the famous playwright’s birth, I thought I would reflect on how I’ve grown to love the bard and how that’s helped me introduce better practices to teach my students to also love his writing.I had a difficult time getting through my Shakespeare class in college. Don’t get me wrong, my professor was great and definitely a Shakespeare fanatic, but I was never really taught HOW to read Shakespeare. I also didn’t seem to have enough time or knowledge & resources to plow through a full play in a week on my own at home. The reading pace was too strenuous for me, and I found myself lost and falling behind, never gaining an appreciation for what Shakespeare has contributed to the literary world.

It wasn’t until I myself was asked to teach Shakespeare that I took the time to understand his longevity. Shakespeare is still famous centuries later because his themes cross those centuries. His characters still exist in real life today. The human condition and universal understandings have not changed in over 400 years. He just wrote in a “different” language.

Learning to love Shakespeare for me and my students meant overcoming his language. One of the best techniques I’ve ever done for my students is demonstrate how Shakespeare’s words are sometimes in a different order in the sentence than what we expect today. The trick was finding the subject and verb and then putting them in that order. Take the sentence: I lost my homework. Then write that four different ways, using the same words. My homework I lost. Lost my homework I. The idea quickly became clear to my students that even though the words were in a different order, the meaning of the sentence was the same. They just had to figure out where he placed the subject and verb and order them to make sense.

After students had some techniques to read Shakespeare on their own and understand his sentence structure, we were able to work on archaic language. I simply gave students a handout of some of the most common archaic words/language they would encounter while reading the play. Also, while reading aloud as a class, students who had completed homework or answered quiz questions at the beginning of class quickly and correctly “won” the use of a side-by-side modern translation for the day. It came with a catch – we counted on them to help us interpret passages we read but didn’t understand because they had the modern English translation in front of them.Once students get past the fact that Shakespeare wrote a bit differently than what we’re used to today, they can learn to love and appreciate his characters and themes that are still relevant today. I really wonder if he had any inkling how famous he would be today, and how widely taught, performed and read he is.