Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Plans for next year

thematic units - failure, heroes & villains, individuality vs. community, solving problems.

content units - short story, poetry, novel, drama (Shakespeare), epic, research

cross-references: the novel will be in the individuality/community unit - students will select from The Giver, Anthem (class sets) or another relevant novel that they own or check out from the library; The Odyssey will be in the heroes & villains unit; Romeo & Juliet will be part of the unit on failure; short stories and poems will be integrated throughout; research will be approached as asking good questions or identifying problems and then finding answers or solutions.

In Educational Myths I Have Known and Loved, Baird Whitlock maintains that when students read aloud and are required to do so accurately, their overall comprehension increases, and their writing improves in both vocabulary and grammar. (No page citation, alas; it was a library book and I've had to give it back.) I have no way of knowing if he's right or if there was some other variable that he hadn't considered.

However, hoping he's right, I'm thinking of offering my students some kind of prize (like a ticket for a free ice cream sandwich at the cafeteria? mebbe a dollar? dunno) if they can read ten lines without error. This would mean pausing at all appropriate places, and only in appropriate places, as well as correct pronunciation, volume and clarity. To give them a better chance - this goes beyond fluency, after all, to good reading! - I'd let them know what we're going to be reading the next day so that if they're REALLY interested they can practice reading it the night before.

Once a student has succeeded five times, I might have to up the ante to twenty lines and correct emphasis.

... I'm a little worried, to be honest, because I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, and I haven't seen any other research on the issue.


mrschili said...

Do you NEED research? Doesn't "common sense" count? Couldn't you run an experiment to see how well kids' general comprehension and writing skills improve as a result of having to read aloud on a regular basis?

I agree with you - I think it's a vital skill to have, and I, for one, will be very interested to see how you work it into your curriculum, and what kind of results you see.

Just as an aside - how old are your students? I'm new here and haven't figured that out yet, though I'm guessing, from the Romeo and Juliet and the Odyssey, that they're high school aged. Did you know that Forrest Gump is an example of a work that follows many of the conventions of the epic format? It begins en media res, there's a traveling away from - and then back toward - a home, it has an epic digression (I'm thinking specifically of the running across the country scenes), and the hero embodies the values of civilization. It's worth looking into when you're studying the epic - I used it when I taught the Odyssey, and it really helped students understand the movement of the genre.

Dana said...

Well - I'd rather use information from when someone ELSE'S students were the guinea pigs. *laugh* Barring any evidence to the contrary, I'll certainly see how it goes. But I'd like to find out as much as I can ahead of time, because one thing I've found to be true is that you can't be too prepared. You can rely on your preparation too much - you have to be willing to go with the flow, sometimes, but having that preparation there so you know what you're doing and why is just SO important. Or it has been for me.

Yes, my students are freshmen. (I'm somewhat new here, myself *g*) Wow! I hadn't thought of Forrest Gump in that way, but you're so right. The one I've traditionally used with my Mythology class is Star Wars, when we're learning about the hero's journey.

Thanks so much for your comments! They're very helpful. I've enjoyed reading your blog, as well.

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