I think I may have figured out how to make my documents available to you all here, so I thought I’d write a quick post about a unit I just finished with my ninth graders that went really well.
This year, our ninth graders read a new summer reading book, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, which the students really enjoyed. I was excited to try a unit with it incorporating some of the writing-to-learn strategies from my workshop at Bard College’s Institute for Writing and Thinking.
So what did we do? Well, we began each class with a short informal “focused freewrite,” a Bard term I borrowed for all my classes this year. We ended a fair amount of classes with either another freewrite or with a “process write,” where the students either write about what they’ve already written or write about the way the author’s written. We also wove in discussion questions and a variety of charts to help students organize their notes. Here’s the document of homework prompts my students wrote. A fair amount of the topics came from the publisher’s guide (warning: PDF) which I found helpful.
At the end of the unit, the students made electronic character scrapbooks using Powerpoint, an assignment I adapted from this ReadWriteThink lesson. My students presented their scrapbooks today, and I was incredibly pleased to see what they had done. They incorporated different pieces from their in-class and homework writings and added visual effects, images, backgrounds, and some form of audio. Many of them added songs that played while they presented, others recording themselves reading journal entries they had written for the characters, and one student wrote a dialogue between two characters and recorded herself playing both parts. The projects did a great job of displaying their technical skills, but also each project was built around core pieces of writing and the student’s ability to be creative by adding images and sound. Our tech coordinator came to watch the presentations and hear any difficulties with tech, and she was impressed as well, which made me feel even prouder.
So today I’m feeling really happy: proud of my students, grateful for my school’s support, which allowed me to go to that workshop and have a tech coordinator, and pleased that I crafted a unit that integrated technology without feeling grafted on while also using this new way of teaching that is exciting me and inspiring me.
Three cheers for feeling good about your job!
Edited to Add: this post has gotten a fair amount of views in a short time, so I’d like to request that if you are a teacher and use these documents/ideas, could you please let me know? I’d love to hear from you!