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Month: March 2020

LA 4 – Remote Learning W3

Monday, March 30th – Day OneMaleyko’s All Learning Counts– Reading/Reflection
Tuesday, March 31st – Day TwoCo-Vid Meme Analysis – Google Classroom
Wednesday, April 1st- Day ThreeCo-Vid Meme DUE
Thursday, April 2nd – Day FourTED talk – Nearpod – SSR
Friday, April 3rd – Day FiveWriting Stamina Activity – Free-Write Friday

LA 4 – Remote Learning (W2) Thursday, March 26th

Thursday, March 26th – continue with TKaM Meme assignment – (assignment is posted on Google Classroom) – DUE Today

I’ve noticed a decline in active participation this week. I’m not going to directly blame the Michigan Department of Education, but I can do the math. Something to consider, Governor Whitmer, that same day, addressed the MDE’s statement (see below).

Dearborn Public Schools strongly encourages all students to take part in the enrichment activities provided by their teachers.

TKaM: “Where I’m From” Adaptation – Mayella

CHALLENGE: Write your own adaptation of this poem as a character from something we’ve read this year (or from a character’s perspective from an SSR book).

I am from poverty, 

from politeness and pity.

I am from the nickels for ice-cream. 

(Shiny, hidden, 

they felt like secrets.)

I am from the chipped slop jars, 

the red geraniums

whose beauty I cultivated

as if they could save me.

I am from Ewells and Maycomb, 

from whiskey and racism.

I am from the you-try-and-make-mes 

and I’ll-kill-yas.

I’m from the testimony on the stand

with my father looking on

and not answering the lawyer’s questions.

I’m from Bob and Burris’ Branch, 

relief checks and crawling cooties. 

From the chiffarobe Tom Robinson 

busted to help me out 

the lies I told to avoid another beating.

In the courtroom was a jury

ignoring the truth

a verdict of guilty 

to haunt me and kill him.

I am from the dumpster —

trash strewn in the front yard — 

no hope to be found.

I would LOVE to work with you on this poem – let me know if you are interested and we can meet in a google doc. I hope someone is up for the challenge.

adapted from George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From”

Remote Learning- Week Two Monday, March 23rd

Per Mr. Martin, the focus of our work during remote learning should primarily be on providing students with enrichment opportunities. Teachers have been asked to “develop enrichment only lessons that only require 15-20 minutes (Low stress, fun, connected to past, future, or unique concepts, Khan, IXL).” No new content should be introduced. As such, students should expect their LA 4 enrichment to be primarily writing and reading centered.

Monday, March 23rd – Read and Reflect on Feedback from Blog

Tuesday, March 24th – Read and Comment on Blog

Wednesday, March 25th – Create a TKaM Meme

Thursday, March 26th – Continue with Meme Activity

Friday, March 27th – Writing Stamina & SURVEY

Feedback on Analysis of TKaM Literary Techniques

I vividly remember  being in sophomore English in Mr. Gruber’s class analyzing the symbolism in Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights.  I smirked to a friend sitting beside me and whispered, “Sometimes a rock is just a rock.”  My attitude stemmed from the fact that for the first time in my life, I was not getting an A in English – and instead of opening my mind, I pouted and refused to learn.

Nearly twenty years later, I still remember that moment very clearly – and I feel a little disappointed by the opportunity lost because of my attitude.  I’m not trying to throw shade, I just hope that by sharing my experience, having been in your shoes, that you’ll gain an appreciation for what we are trying to accomplish. 

Logistically – identifying the choices an author makes barely scratches the surface for “digging deep” – after you’ve identified the literary device (in fiction) or the rhetorical device (in non-fiction)- you have to determine a) what is being developed and b) was the use of that device effective or not in accomplishing its goal. 

With the shift in focus this past year on analyzing author’s craft, students have been asked to reflect on how author’s use literary devices to further develop character, plot, and theme.  This is a multi-faceted endeavor. Absolutely – students can, and have, correctly identified a simile, associated with character development, and then stopped there. This VERY superficial “analysis” does not honor the art of reading and writing.  

For example, 

ChpQuoteLiterary DeviceDevelop.Analysis
22“The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family…” (286)HyperboleThematic developmentTo thank Atticus for defending Tom Robinson, people were getting him a lot of food. But it’s exaggerating saying that food will bury the family, because if we take it literally, it’s not going to make sense.

You can see in the analysis that the student has correctly identified Lee’s use of hyperbole to show just how much food has been brought to the Finches, and the student even correctly explained the context – why they were getting so much food.  WHAT’S MISSING? 

If you answered “What theme is being developed?”  you would be correct. If the student wanted to stick with thematic development, they would have to follow through with their thought process.  

First of all, I would argue that this might be more of a plot development…. “The trial is over, and the black families, despite the fact that Finch lost the case, despite being “poor,” are generous in showing their appreciation for Finch’s efforts.” 

And – even now, they are not done.  The next step is to analyze the effectiveness of using that literary device. 

“Lee’s use of hyperbole is effective here because the reader is able to truly imagine the extent of the black community’s generosity and appreciation.” 

Let’s try another.

ChpQuoteLiterary DeviceDevelop.Analysis
22”It’s like bein’ a caterpillar in a cocoon, that’s what it is…” (Lee 288)similecharacterJim compares Maycomb to a cocoon because he has been protected from all the bad in the county.  He is now becoming exposed to all the evil and starts to become more aware. This develops his character into someone more mature.

A very astute analysis of an important aspect of Jem’s character.  In this case, the student is absolutely correct, the simile does promise to expose the harsh “reality” of emerging from a cocoon – one that Jem is on the cusp of embracing. Without a doubt, an effective symbolic moment.

Yet, here we are, once again – forced to ask ourselves, does the use of this simile simply develop character?  What argument can be made for how the use of this simile might develop theme, the theme of “coming of age”?

Analyzing thematic development is certainly one of the more challenging aspects of this lesson.  You have to be able to correctly identify the theme. Below is an attempt – but once again, what theme is being developed is missing. 

ChpQuoteLiterary DeviceDevelop.Analysis
25“Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella opened her mouth and screamed.”(323)MetaphorThemeThis metaphor shows that, right from the start of this case, Tom was stuck with his guilty conviction. As Atticus stated previously, this verdict was inevitable, as Tom was a black man in a world blinded by racism and prejudice.
ChpQuoteLiterary DeviceDevelop.Analysis
26“Hung over us like smoke,” (Lee 326)SimileThematic developmentThis helped to signify how the past events had in a sense corrupted the children’s lives. They now have a weight over their shoulders that they never really had before.

The analysis above works because of the student’s word choice: “corrupted” “weight over their shoulders”…. but again, what theme is being developed?

Last week students were offered an optional extension opportunity – and this is the third time this semester students were asked to bring all this together.  The quick-write addressed the following prompt:

Prompt: How does Lee dramatize Atticus’s purpose as he makes his closing statement during the Robinson Trial? After closely reading Atticus Finch’s closing argument in To Kill a Mockingbird, write an informative essay in which you analyze such literary devices as rhetorical appeals, diction, imagery, setting, and tone. Support your discussion with evidence from the text/s.

Below is one student’s example:
The first rhetorical strategy apparent in his speech was the use of strong language. Finch had previously laid out all the facts of the case for the jury, however in his argument he repeats this information, placing more emphasis on certain actions and adjectives. This is highlighted when he described the true situation regarding Mayella’s state, claiming she was “beaten savagely” by her father, Mr. Ewell, whom he described as a “God-fearing, persevering, respectable white man.” Indeed, Atticus was being ironic referring to Mr. Ewell this way, however this forceful language reflects his passion and desperation for the audience, the jury, to understand and accept what really had happened. He also goes on to use similar language, describing Tom Robinson as a “a quiet, respectable, humble Negro” whose only fault was having the “unmitigated temerity” to feel bad for a white woman. Through his dramatic diction, Atticus was attempting to reflect to the jury, for the last time, Tom’s innocence.

Standard W 10.4
Coherent Writing
Standard W 10.1B
Evidence Selection & Stength
Standard W 10.1C
Reasoning
433

Areas for improvement: 

  1. Be sure to cite pg #s behind selected evidence – EASY FIX
  2. Reiterate Atticus Finch’s purpose of his closing statement (connecting evidence back to the prompt) – MEDIUM HARD FIX
  3. Analyze the effectiveness of the selected rhetorical device to its intended purpose (How does Lee dramatize Atticus’ purpose) – HARD FIX

We will continue working on these SKILLS with our enrichment activities. Please email me with any questions about the feedback offered here.  Thanks for reading.

“Does It Count?”

Today the Michigan Department of Education addressed the very real problem of inequity (as it relates to access to remote learning opportunities).

Our district also responded, stating, “Although the district is closed in accordance with the state-mandated closure, there are many opportunities for students to continue their learning at home. The resources shared by the teachers are intended to help students maintain skills. These resources will serve as enrichment activities for students and participation will not impact their grades.”

participation will not impact their grades

You can imagine what happened next. I received a barrage of messages asking various versions of the same pressing question, “Does it Count?”

  •  “So recently a lot of kids have been talking about how homework doesn’t count anymore, so now some people aren’t doing their work because apparently it “doesn’t count”. I was wondering if that’s actually true or not.”
  • “Do these assignments count towards our grade?”
  • “I’m kind of confused on everything that was posted, so as of right now all the work that we are doing isn’t counted or graded?”
  • “Wait so that means if we don’t do our work it doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t count?”
  • “Will we still be getting school work even though none of it counts?”
  • “Is our work not being graded?”
  • “Do we still have to do our homework?”
  • “It has come to my attention and thousands of others that online schooling will not count toward annual requirements. Could you please help clarify if this online stuff is still worth putting effort for?”
Mocking Spongebob Meme

You’ve heard me talk about this, ad nauseam, but I don’t care about grades. I don’t believe we should focus our efforts in school just to earn a grade. There are SO many things I care more about than grades!!

  • Your learning
  • Who you are as a person
  • How you make the world a better place
  • What you do to help others

And when my students hear about this, they GROAN and complain that my position is not reasonable because – PARENTS, GPAS, COLLEGES…

And I try to tell them – IF YOU FOCUS ON YOUR LEARNING, the GRADES WILL COME!

But they don’t believe me – because we exist in a broken system. Now that standardized testing has been canceled for the 2019-2020 school year, if your focus, as a teacher, was teaching to the test – has the time your students’ spent in the classroom been wasted? Is now the time we reignite our battle cry of learning for the sake of learning?!

And if these past seven days have shown us ANYTHING, it’s that education is not the only system that is broken. *but that’s another blog post for another time*

Does it even matter whether or not I agree with the state department’s decision?! After all, the reality is indisputable – access to remote learning opportunities is inequitable across the state. And given that fact, expectations for teachers and students is startlingly inconsistent between districts.

What do you tell my best friend, who is also a teacher, who has three kids, whose husband tested positive for the virus …. what do you tell her about how she is “supposed” to spend her time, or even “earn” her paycheck. Forget about the toll this pandemic is having on our physical and mental health… now we need to worry about whether or not we are going to get paid?! It is unconscionable.

The only thing any of us is certain of, is just how much is uncertain. Take me for example. My parents are quarantined in France. One sister works in the medical field – among those in the front lines. My other sister was rushed to the ER by ambulance for emergency surgery (non-covid19 related), and is still in the hospital. What can anyone possibly say to me, or anyone?!

In life, at any given moment, you almost always have the right to choose what you do. You never HAVE to do anything. Take for example, the CDC’s recommendation that people stay home. How do you explain that beaches in Florida were bustling? We live in a world that is DRIVEN by capitalism, a world where, if we can’t see how it directly affects us, then we dismiss things, a world where we are distracted by the things that TRULY matter – all because of the pressure to do and be more.

My heart BROKE when multiple students reached out to me this past week, students who are conscientious and sincere, panicked because they were not going to get their work completed “on time” – all because they were sick, or in the hospital, or there are eight kids at home sharing one computer. But, when you are privileged enough to be able to keep learning, and your ONE question is “Does it count?”

My sister thinks that my position is wildly naive and idealistic. She agrees with you – unless someone is getting something in return, they simply won’t do it just because YOU feel like they should. (It was like that time I reached out and asked for student volunteers to help me with something school-related. TWO students responded. TWO.)

And while I understand the reality of extrinsic motivation (i.e. grades)… I will continue providing “enrichment activities” and encourage all students who are able to participate to do so. I will offer personalized feedback to those who ask for it, as well as generalized feedback based on what I observe from submitted work.

Life is about making CHOICES – and right or wrong , the choices you make BUILD YOUR FUTURE. With so much that is unknown, find refuge in learning, and I will be there to support you. Thanks for reading. Mx. Sabbagh

03/20 Addendum: Shortly after this entry was published Governor Whitmer issued a clarifying statement on what the Michigan Department of Education shared today.

03/27 LOVE this response from our superintendent regarding the “Does it Count?” question.

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