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Not Teaching to the Test: Creative Approaches to Student Achievment

Writing Using Literary Elements

Subject: English Language Arts

Grade Level: 9

How it Works: The way that this project works is by understanding the true purpose of the English Regents Exam. Although many teachers like to teach to the test, it really does not benefit the students. A unit like this allows students to learn about the various aspects of reading literature and understanding author’s purpose. In teaching literature, it is important that students understand how important this is. Once they fully understand the ideas presented in this unit, showing them how to perform a Task 3 (which is often considered the hardest) is quite simple. It is already ingrained in their minds from the practice exercises in the daily homework assigned.

Final Project/Product: The final project incorporates all of the ideas presented to require the students to write a Task 3 essay. Although not traditional in the fact that it uses 3 pieces of literature instead of 2, it allows students to utilize all the ideas learned in the previous lessons.

Overall Value: The value of this unit really goes beyond any idea of an exam at all. This unit can be expanded to incorporate other novels being taught in class or it can simply be recalled by the teacher to use at various times throughout the year. It is important for to teacher to see this unit as a lesson in literature, rather than one for the Regents Exam. To think about the Regents Exam as a basis for what aspect of literature to teach is more important than to drill for the exam. This unit touches upon some very useful ideas that can continue on with the student throughout his or her reading career.

Tips for the Teacher: Teachers should use this unit as a mini unit in between novels or other units taught in class. But to be truly effective, teachers should come up with other mini units or incorporate the ideas taught here into major units taught throughout the year. Students need to see this, not as a drill to learn how to write a Task 3, but as a way to view literature so they can write all essays.

Link to Grant Project:

 

 Standards Addressed
  Grade: 10/11 Subject: English Writing
1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 2. Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing 3. Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions 4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes
  Grade: 10/11 Subject: English Reading
1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process 2. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts 3. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
  Grade: 10/11 Subject: English Listening and Speaking
1.Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes viewing 2. Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media
  Grade: 10/11 Subject: Media
1. Understands the characteristics and components of the media
  Grade: Subject:
  Grade: Subject:
Day 1: Tone in “So This Was Adolescence” in "An American Childhood"
Objectives
Students will understand what determines the tone of a piece of literature.
Students will understand how to evoke tone in a piece of writing.
Students will understand how to use tone to establish the controlling idea in a piece of literature.
Materials
The essay “So This Was Adolescence” by Annie Dillard (see Extension)
10 index cards, each with the words “So this was…” written on them and concluding with the following 10 statements (teacher may change statements according to personal taste): a) Summer at my relatives house; b) My birthday party; c) Elementary school; d) Halloween; e) Love at first sight; f) My summer job; g) Babysitting my younger sibling; h) My first date; i) The first day of school; j) My weekend.
Procedure 1
Ask students to write down words they associate with adolescence.
Procedure 2
After reviewing, ask students what Tone is (many will say mood, but it is important that they understand that Tone is the feeling the author has towards his or her subject).
a. Ask: In reading a piece of literature, what determines Tone? What do you look for?
Procedure 3
As a class, read “So This Was Adolescence” by Annie Dillard. If the teacher wishes, a group discussion or small group discussion can be centered around some or all of the following questions:
a. What “hit” the author when she was 16?
b. How does the metaphor of the tunnel and her movement towards it relate to the author’s sense of self?
c. What details of her attitudes and behavior tell you about her experiences of adolescence?
d. What evidence is seen that the author was “what they called a live wire”?
Procedure 4
Ask students to determine what the tone of the piece is. Teacher may direct them towards the following websites to search for tone words:
a. http://studystack.com/flashcard-11420
Tone Words http://www1.fccj.edu/shughes/tone_words_to_know.htm
Procedure 5
In groups, students get the index cards with various phrases centered on “So this was…” They will reflect on their feelings and write a paragraph that will evoke a certain tone for the class to determine.
a. Students share and guess the tone.
Extension
Note: "So This Was Adolescence" also appeared in "New Millennium Reader," Prentice Hall, 3rd ed., 2002; "Mercury Reader for the Developing Writer," Pearson; and "Writing Today," McGraw Hill.
Assessment
Ask students to come up with a thesis statement for an essay that would reflect the controlling idea of the confusion of adolescence. (Follow up activity could be turning that into an introductory paragraph that uses tone to back up the thesis statement.)
Day 2: Characterization in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
Objectives
Students will understand what determines characterization in a piece of literature.
Students will understand how to describe the characterization of a piece of literature.
Students will understand how to use characterization to establish the controlling idea in a piece of literature.
Materials
Character Profile Sheet
A Perfect Day for Bananafish
Procedure 1
Ask students what characterization is. The discussion should determine that characterization is the personality of a character. See website, Short Stories: Methods of Depiction for more information..
a. Students should read “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by JD Salinger.
b. Ask students to answer the following questions in groups and then facilitate a discussion based on them: a. What does Seymour hate? b. What does Muriel represent? c. What is a bananafish? What does it represent and how is Seymour one? d. Why does Seymour like Sybil? e. What are the different tones of the piece? f. What does the robe symbolize? g. Why does Seymour yell at the lady? h. What is significant about the smell of the room?
A Perfect Day for Bananafish http://freeweb.hu/tchl/salinger/perfectday.html
Procedure 2
Students can work in small groups to fill out character profiles sheets. These sheets should help students determine how well they know the character. Tell them to make up ideas based on what they think the character would be like. (See attached handout.) Students should do this for Seymour, Muriel and Sybil.
a. Discuss with students how this sheet really allows the reader to get to know the character. Students should understand that real insight into a character would allow the reader to understand what the character would be like if they met the character. How they would act away from the plot of the story?
b. Come up with a list of words that describes each character.
c. After reviewing, ask students: What is the theme of this piece of literature and how does Salinger use the characters to get his point across?
d.
Short Stories: Methods of Depiction http://english.utb.edu/Dameron/courses/comp2/02-11-01_files/displaypage.html
Extension
Ask students to come up with a thesis statement for an essay that would reflect the controlling idea of the search of happiness. (Follow up activity could be turning that into an introductory paragraph that uses characterization to back up the thesis statement.)
Assessment
Day 3: Poetic techniques in “Bright Star”
Objectives
Students will understand what how to read a Sonnet.
Students will understand how to describe the tone and theme of a poem.
Students will understand how to describe poetic techniques and their purposes in a poem.
Students will understand how to use poetic techniques to establish the controlling idea of a poem.
Materials
The poem “Bright Star” by John Keats
Sonnet Worksheet
PowerPoint Presentation on Poetry
Poetry Analysis Worksheet
Procedure 1
Teacher can begin lesson by showing students the following PowerPoint presentation on poetry to help students understand the basics of different poems, rhyming techniques and poetic devices and figurative language. (Teachers can decide that they want to show only parts of the presentation that are related to the sonnet and different poetic techniques.)
a. Students will receive the Sonnet worksheet and read as a class.
b. Students fill out “How to Attack a Sonnet” in groups and review as class.
c. Question “G” asks about tone and theme. Teacher may want to review what the class has learned about tone in lesson 1.
d. Students should then work in groups to read and analyze “Bright Star” by John Keats. In the spaces provided, students should pick out poetic techniques, rhyme, figurative language, etc. and how it aids in getting the point of the poem across.
The poem “Bright Star” by John Keats http://quotations.about.com/cs/poemlyrics/a/Bright_Star.htm
Procedure 2
Sonnet Worksheet http://teachnet-lab.org/goldman/poetry/TeachNet/SONNET.htm
Procedure 3
PowerPoint Presentation on Poetry http://teachnet-lab.org/goldman/poetry/TeachNet/intro%20to_files/frame.htm
Procedure 4
Procedure 5
Students should write an explication of the poem relating to the tone and theme and what devices are used to relay these ideas. An example can be found at the following link:
Bright Star Explication
http://teachnet-lab.org/goldman/poetry/TeachNet/
Bright%20Star%20explication.htm
Extension
Students can write their own poems incorporating elements of tone and characterization.
Assessment
Day 4: Part 3 of the English Regents Exam
Objectives
Students will understand how to write an effective essay for Part 3 of the English Regents Exam.
Students will relate the ideas of tone, characterization and poetic techniques learned in the previous lessons to write an effective essay.
Students will understand how to write a controlling idea that incorporates the ideas discovered in two pieces of literature.
Materials
The poem The poem “Bright Star” by John Keats
The Short Story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by JD Salinger
The essay “So This Was Adolescence” by Annie Dillard
Procedure 1
Have students read the following instructions for their essay:
a. After you have read the passage, write a unified essay about each author's attitudes toward changes in life as revealed in the passages. In your essay, use ideas from both passages to establish a controlling idea about the attitudes toward change and tradition, use evidence from both passages to develop your controlling idea, and show how each author used specific literary elements or techniques to convey ideas.
b.
c.
d.
Procedure 2
Teacher should put students into groups of 3, assigning each group a different piece of writing to explore. Students should discuss how their piece relates to the idea of changes in life. They should answer the following questions:
a. What is the author’s attitude toward changes in life?
b. What is the tone of this piece of writing?
c. Show how the author uses specific literary elements (for example, theme, characterization, structure, point of view) or techniques (for example, symbolism, irony, figurative language) to portray attitudes toward changes in life.
d.
Procedure 3
Review ideas as a class. Students can present ideas on overhead projector, on the blackboard or orally.
a. Students should now individually work on their thesis statements. This should be based on the idea of the author’s attitude towards changes in life as explored in the class discussion.
b. Students can share thesis statements.
c.
d.
Procedure 4
a.
b.
c.
d.
Procedure 5
a.
b.
c.
d.
Extension
Assessment
Students should complete essays at home using all three pieces of literature.

Denise Goldman

lunagirl4a@msn.com

Academy of American Studies
2810 41st Avenue
Long Island City, NY

Denise Goldman has been teaching English for 6 years. She received her Masters Degree in English Education from New York University, is a member of the New York City Writing Project and a recipient of an Impact II grant. Denise has been writing curriculum for TeachNet for 3 years.

Important documents for this lesson plan.

CHARACTER PROFILE.doc

 

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