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Month: April 2020

Feedback for The Glass Castle Assignment

Growing up, I was a book worm. I remember my dad reading Sesame Street and making voices for Count Dracula and Cookie Monster. My mom, so fiercely proud of her culture, would read nursery rhymes in French.

Sesame Street | The Count Meets Cookie Monster - YouTube

I graduated to reading Babysitter’s Club and Nancy Drew. In middle school, my favorite authors were Joan Lowrey Nixon, Caroline B. Cooney, and Lois Lowry. I read The Giver more times than I can count. Much to my mother’s horror, I delved into the fantastical worlds created by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, when she desperately wanted me to read classic novels by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. I discovered author L.J. Smith (of the famed Vampire Diaries) and inhaled every book she wrote. My favorite English teachers, Mr. Schusterbauer and Mr. Gruber, introduced me to Alice Hoffman and Wuthering Heights respectively. In college, I discovered romance novels and may have failed a couple of science courses because I was reading Nora Roberts or Linda Howard, instead of studying for physics and microbiology. I finally tolerated Shakespeare due to my eccentric teacher Mr. Michael Rex.

I have books in every room of my house. And I will confess – I would rather pick up a familiar favorite, then try a new book. I will be the first to share that I like what I like – and that my closed-mindset is definitely prohibitive of me being as knowledgeable as I’d like to be about works of literature.

Bestselling Books of the Decade | Reader's Digest

As a teacher, I have the privilege/responsibility of sharing different texts with my students. If I could change anything about the Language Arts curriculum, it would be to return to reading. However, it is what it is, and I do the best I can.

When our continued remote learning plan was approved, we had eight weeks remaining of the 2019-2020 school year. I pushed to share Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir Night with my students – but was advised against it due to the topic and emotional labor of reading such a heavy text. (Needless to say, I was disappointed.) The Language Arts department instead decided to offer students a different short story every week. The reader in me was thrilled – because finally we had an opportunity to expose our kids to worthy texts. (But you should still read Night one day soon!)

The Front Cover of Elie Wiesel's “Night” | Guided History
The cover of Wiesel’s memoir of Night

Our first short story was an excerpt from Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle. I don’t typically read memoirs – but read this entire memoir last summer. Walls’ superior use of pathos to emotionally manipulate her readers is alarmingly effective. As a writer, I was excited to share Walls’ writing with our students.

I mean, look at the first line, “I was on fire. It’s my earliest memory.” Immediately the reader has questions. How old was she? Why was she on fire?

Of course, as teachers, we have to ask students questions to engage their thinking with the story. Below I will breakdown some of the biggest gaps from the work submitted last week.

#6: The word “singed” most nearly means: I could tell many students did not go back to the text to read the question. One of the most common responses for this question was “Singed most likely means to sing lyrics” First of all, the past tense of sing, is sung. And here is the line from the text, “I screamed. I smelled the burning and heard a horrible crackling as the fire singed my hair and eyelashes.” Had they gone back to the text they could have used context clues to figure out that singed means to burn slightly.

#10: ” Afterward, a nurse asked me if I was okay. “Of course,” I said. I told here I didn’t care if I had some silly old scar. That was good, she said, because from the look of it, I had other things to worry about.” A lot of students missed where the nurse was coming from with her statement. This was a really good example of reading, or implicit understanding of the text. A lot of students didn’t understand that Walls’ perception of her reality is very different from the medical professionals taking care of her. Remembering that the incident was being retold from the perspective of a child helps in explaining the unawareness of said child.

Even the way Walls’ chooses to end this chapter, “‘You don’t have to worry anymore, baby,’ Dad said. ‘You’re safe now.'” How do we define “safety”? Everyone reading this excerpt can’t help but worry about the three year old.

If you enjoyed the excerpt, you can access the whole novel here. Between you and me, I enjoyed Walls’ true-life novel about her mother’s upbringing Two Broke Horses immensely!! I literally could not put that novel down! Thanks for reading. – SMS

LA 4 – Remote Learning (W6)

Read the questions on the assignment posted in Google Classroom first, and then read/listen to the short story “They’re Made Out of Meat” by Terry Bisson. Links to the story and the audio can be found in the assignment. Remember, it is suggested that you spend 30 minutes/day in each content area. DUE: Friday, May 1st @ 10am

LA 4: Remote Learning 04/20

LA 4 Students- You will be reading an excerpt from the memoir The Glass Castle.

Link to the TEXT and AUDIO can be found on the actual assignment posted on Google Classroom. Assignment is DUE: Friday, April 27th @ 10am

Instructions for the Check-In will accompany the code on Google Classroom. Please be sure to have read/listened to the story and looked over the assignment before checking-in. Excited to see your faces!

You will EARN two grades for this week:
1) for checking in
2) for completing the assignment to the BEST of your ability.

LA 4 – Remote Learning (W4) Thursday, April 16th

What you need to know:

  • No LA 4 assignments for the rest of the week from me (you are encouraged to take this opportunity to go back and complete any missing/incomplete assignments from the past four weeks)
  • Principal Martin is hoping to unveil the District’s “plan” for remote learning on Friday
  • do the work starting April 20th and you should be in good shape to earn credit for semester two
  • we don’t have answers yet for all your grading questions (please be patient)

What Truly Matters

Part of me wishes I had written this blog post a week ago, after Governor Whitmer’s announcement that school would not resume for the 2019-2020 school year. 

Gov. Whitmer closes Michigan K-12 schools for remainder of year ...

Truth be told, I was hoping/waiting to hear from Admin/Superintendent Maleyko/Michigan Department of Education about what the next steps were for remote learning… but alas, we are still waiting to hear. 

There are nine weeks remaining in the school year.  We have already gone through three weeks of remote learning.  Mathematically speaking, that’s a quarter of the way through our state-mandated school-time together. 

I have not changed my mind about whether or not the work should count.  My official statement is as follows:  I encourage each student who is able (emotionally, mentally, physically, technologically, etc.) to do so, to complete the enrichment exercises. 

And I hold that position, while at the same time, strongly agreeing with the sentiments expressed in this post:

As I shared with a parent last week, I am aware that many students are unable to complete the enrichment activities for a variety of reasons – and I am compassionate and understanding of that. 

I don’t know about you, but I have really been struggling these past four weeks. R.O. Kwan’s  New York Times op-ed entitled “Trouble Focusing? Not Sleeping?  You May Be Grieving” helps explain why. The whole opinion piece is full of insight into exactly what many of us are going through. 

So – in no particular order – here is an (incomplete) list of school-related things I am grieving:

  1. Saying goodbye to seniors. 
    1. Superintendent Honors’ Night
    2. Prom 
    3. Graduation 
    4. Senior Parties 
  2. Seeing all my students
    1. Former (11th & 12th graders)
    2. Current (10th graders)
    3. Students who were not my actual students
    4. Past (graduated) 
  3. Blackout Poetry after To Kill a Mockingbird  
  4. Sharing Favorite Literature 
    1. Night by Elie Wiesel 
    2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare 
    3. The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall
  5. Poetry Projects 
    1. Adaptation of The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams 
    2. Adaptation of This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams 
    3. Adaptation of Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon 
  6. End-of-Year Reflection 
  7. Teacher of the Year Awards Ceremony
  8. ASAP: Film Studies 
  9. Supporting students at their events 
    1. Mama Mia musical
    2. Softball/Baseball Games
    3. Track
    4. Tennis
  10. The Last Day of School 

With all that being said, time keeps moving forward.  As sad as I am about grieving the things we will all miss due to this pandemic, there are just two things which truly matter

who you are as a person 


how you engage the world

My advice for all of us going through this pandemic is to view life through the lens of what truly matters.  If you are proud of your comportment in both those areas, then, despite everything, you are on the right track. 


Thanks for reading. 

Mx. Sabbagh

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