Courses with Jen Hoggart
Writing a Personal Essay - Using Your Own LIfe Experience to Make a Point
“Write about what you know.” Believe it or not, this is the most common advice given to aspiring writers. It is solid advice, because we are experts on our own lives. What is your life like beyond school? In our first writing project, students are going to write about an important aspect of their life--something he or she is good at away from school. Each student’s writing needs to do more than just recall personal information or events. The goal with this piece is to make your writing interesting, but also inform the readers about why this interest, activity, or skill is important to you. To assist in writing an intriguing autobiographical sketch, our focus correction area will include two attention getting leads and the 5W’s + How strategy.
Word Study- River of Complements
Grab your subject barrel and your pixie prep net! Let’s see if we can navigate around the ever elusive verb rock. While sentence basics might sound simple, they have varying elements that can be tricky to identify. Our first trip down the “waterfall” will require all English dwellers to identify subjects (Noun or pronoun?), verbs (Linking or action?) and prepositional phrases (Can you catch those pixies?). Beyond students creating their own visual of the River of Complements in their composition book, they will be responsible for keeping up to date grammar notes with proper coding symbols. As an added challenge, student have one month to learn and yes, sing (This can be a private performance!) the Preposition Song. Who is ready to take the sentence plunge and travel down the waterfall?
Choose Your Own Adventure: What do you think will happen next?
Reading- The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg and 14 Amazing Authors
Unusual things happen in everyday places. In our genre study, we will use a mystery to examine and discuss evocative moods, varying expressions, and alternative theories regarding Burdick’s disappearance and authorship of the fourteen stories. Because each story originally started with an exquisite charcoal drawing and one caption, students will analyze and interpret light and dark forces in each tale. How is each story a conspiracy? Why are some stories more complicated than others? How do truly strange developments create a plot that can spiral outward in multiple directions? For each imaginative tale, we will examine and comment on literary elements such as characterization, setting, plot, and theme.
What’s The Story: How can an individual’s actions and willingness to assume responsibility impact a community?
Reading: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
During our study of this nonfiction book, we will examine themes of dreaming big, perseverance, innovation, and coming of age. Despite experiencing drought and famine, William has a vision of how his African land and the lives of his people could be different. How does William persevere in the face of adversity and find a solution to their problem? For each chapter, we will analyze and interpret quotes and analogies to determine if they help a reader better understand or visualize what the writer is describing. William writes of the corruption, greed, nonexistent services, and lack of empathy that turned the drought into a disaster for average people like him and his family. What lessons did you take from William’s story?
Pictures, Places, and People: What does it take to be able to forgive?
Reading: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
This powerful historical novel allows us, as readers, to travel to a time and place in which people faced terrible hardships. We will read a series of short poems from the point of view of Billie Jo, the main character who faces grave difficulties in this story about dust storms, economic disaster, and forgiveness. Students will examine varying poetic devices to better understand ideas in creative and different ways. How can external forces internally transform people? During our study of this novel in verse, students will be asked to select and explain vivid passages as a way to examine plot development and sources of conflict. How does the title of the book reflect on Billie Jo as a person and on the general experience of people at that time?
Courses with Mac Stephans
Seventh and Eighth grade English this year is going to be invigorating for me (and hopefully all my students as well). We have three new students who have already shown great writing talent and who seem to be fitting in nicely with the veteran students. It's interesting seeing many of the same faces that I got to see last year, and it's helpful to be able to get the ball rolling much quicker because of their understanding of how my classroom works. These first few weeks we have jumped back into our interactive "Harkness" discussion method, taking a look at a range of themes such as diversity in the American protagonist all the way to Emerson and Thoreau's understanding of nature and the wilderness. The fifth and sixth grade students even came in for a day to watch some engaging discussions over these topics and the essays and short stories we had read about them (we even managed to fit a poem in, because who doesn't love a good poem). In the coming weeks before fall break, your students will be taking on their first novels. We will use the theme of each course as a lens to see each story in a specific way, which will lead to our first major writing assignment just before we depart in October. These pieces, of course, are what I am most excited to see. Our vocabulary and out-of-text grammar studies will ramp up after fall break.
The first week of Hero's Journey we spent our time learning Joseph Campbell's idea behind the progression of heroic themes in different stories. In our first novel, The Bean Trees, we will get a little dusty and grimy with the main character Taylor Greer and her strangely adopted compatriot, Turtle--the little girl. I'm excited to see how Campbell's ideas can be applied to Barbara Kingsolver's strange and warm story of perseverance and love.
It's hard not to be overly excited for my new course. Over the past few weeks in Melting Pot, we have been discussing how the majority of western literature upholds the idea that stories are about boys or men and that most of them are white. We read several essays and a short story which helped to illuminate this truth and attempt to understand the need for more protagonists who are female and more protagonists of color. Our first novel selection, The Hate U Give, will present us with a main character who is struggling with her identity in a world that can't seem to figure out where to place her. I can't wait to hear the significant and serious Harkness discussions that will come out of this text.
With a small class full of bright and able students, The Wild this year (I can already tell) is going to be quite an exercise in philosophy. We began with Emerson and Thoreau, and our first book Into Thin Air, will allow us to test the these two thinkers' ideas about the calm, imperative that they see in the natural world. I am excited to introduce Jon Krakauer to this class, as we will be reading Into the Wild next semester.
Into the Future
Our first novel in Into the Future has become a mainstay in the middle school Dystopian catalogue. The community in The Giver is, on the surface, a wonderful place, but lurking not far beneath this benign world is the question of humanity and how we should perceive it. Students will wonder what is more important, safety or the ability to love and to hate. I am excited to start the year off with this book because it will set us up nicely for the dystopian science fiction that we have coming up.