October 30, 2022

What I'm Teaching & Reading in November

After finishing up our whole class novel study, students will write an essay connecting conflict and theme, and choose from 3 creative final projects.

The month of October is leaving me feeling a little frustrated. Too many students are still struggling with classroom routines. It's been more difficult to engage students in independent reading this year. I've done less choice writing than last year instead of more. There is never enough time to catch up students who are behind or need remediation. I could go on.

Instead I'm going to take some deep breaths and think about how to reset for the month of November. I know I  will need to do a review of expectations this week since Halloween was on Monday, students had off on Friday due to parent/teacher conferences, and we had a field trip on Thursday. 

As I plan my lessons for the month of November, I am going to continue to shorten the length of activities, knowing that this year's group of students doesn't have the same stamina as previous years. When we finish our novel unit and resume independent reading, I will use reading sprints to break up the chunk of time at the end of class I have dedicated to independent reading. Finally, I am going to make student behavior my priority and hold myself to having students reflect on their behavior during lunch, make their own phone calls home, etc. even though that means losing time to plan, grade, and create materials during the school day.

Reading in November

I read 8 books again in October which puts me at 7 more books until I reach my yearly goal of reading 104 books (2 books a week). I finished up or started some series I really enjoyed. A few titles will carry over to November because they just became available through my library at the end of the month. I use the Libby app to check out books for free from my library. Ideally, I can check out the audiobook and the ebook for my Kindle at the same time so I can switch between the two, but the timing doesn't always work out perfectly.

The 8 titles I read in October.

Here's what I'm hoping to read in November:
1. Champion by Marie Lu (young adult dystopia)
2. The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau (middle grade dystopia)
3. Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia L. Smith (middle grade fiction)
4. Family of Liars by E. Lockhart (young adult thriller)
5. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han  (young adult romance)
6. At Midnight: 15 Beloved Fairy Tales Reimagined edited by Dahlia Adler (young adult fantasy)
7. Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes edited by Nora Carpenter and Rocky Callen (young adult fiction)
8. The Secret Battle of Evan Pao by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (middle grade fiction)

The 8 titles I am hoping to read in November.

Teaching in November

We are three quarters through our whole class novel Pax by Sara Pennypacker. This is my third time teaching the novel, so I used many of the same activities from the past two years of teaching the novel. I had hoped to add a paired reading activity focused on the global water crisis, but that will have to wait until next year. One important change I made was to stop twice throughout reading the book to evaluate the possible themes in the book and collect text evidence to support those themes. We'll begin working on an essay that focuses on theme next week and I'm hoping the pre-work we've done will eliminate some struggles students have had in the past with determining a theme and collecting text evidence.

This week as we read the final chapters of the book, students will work on a series of close readings focused on the main character's relationship with his father. They'll do that in small groups with me and then independently examine father son relationships in songs and compare those to the main character's relationship with his father. We'll end the week with a quiz on the final chapter. Students are struggling with subject and verb in simple sentences, but I'm going to move forward with introducing the idea of compound sentences as we continue to practice identifying subject and verb.

Next week we'll return to the pre-work students have already done to determine a theme and collect text evidence. After spending a day wrapping that up, students will begin to write their introduction and body paragraphs. I have a series of NearPod lessons that have students annotate parts of a sample essay before doing their own writing. In the past I've allowed students to determine their own theme but because of the skill levels of this year's group of students, we've already determined a theme as a class. In addition to eliminating that initial struggle of coming up with a theme, this shift will also allow for students to share ideas for evidence for their essays. Instead of students individually identifying six pieces of evidence to include in their essays, they'll be able to pick from a pool of evidence their classmates have collected. The following week students will work through self revision, peer revisions, and an editing checklist before turning in their essay. You can find all of the resources I use throughout the essay process here.

While working on their essay, they also have a choice of three final projects for the novel. Project choices include making connections between music and the text, bringing figurative language to life in photographs, and summarizing the text in just 60 seconds. The projects all connect to literary skills and terms we've practiced throughout the novel unit. I give students the option of working independently or in a group of two or three. You can find all of the resources for these projects here.

Our school operates on trimesters and our first trimester ends the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I use that Monday and Tuesday as buffer days for any students who are not quite finished their essay or project. For students that are finished, we'll engage in a variety of choice reading and writing activities. After Thanksgiving, we'll start our next unit, "Facing Fear." 

After finishing up our whole class novel study, students will write an essay connecting conflict and theme, and choose from 3 creative final projects.

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