Thursday, June 12, 2014

Odes to the 8th Grade

at 10:27 AM
When I was student teaching at a junior high, my master teacher had the students doing a poetry unit that ended in Odes to the 8th Grade right as the school year was ending. I thought that was really genius. It gives students a chance to reflect on the last year or so and to create an art form most don't attempt on their own. So I've used it at my final project the past two years. Last year I meant to post it, but never did, so I'll share examples from both years.

I start the unit with a PowerPoint presentation on Odes in general. Students take Cornell Notes as I present, and I call on volunteers to read aloud, to paraphrase parts, and to share what their notes say (and what questions they wrote on the side). Included in the PowerPoint I use two examples of Odes from modern music (which is why I can't share my ppt with y'all, sorry!). The favorite examples for the students, though, is a Bruno Mars song.

We talk about how there is repetition, alliteration, a rhyme scheme, and that, most importantly, odes are praising or honoring something or someone.

I tell them they need to include all the aspects of an ode, including formal tone (it shouldn't make your classmates giggle!) and be at least 10 lines long. (My students understand that "at least" equals a "C" grade. )

Students are required to write a rough draft and get it edited by 3 peers. Then they need to show me the draft and get my approval. I give credit for showing me their draft prior to a set date.

I provide "Fancy Paper," (a term I borrowed from my master teacher, as well) which is just stationary paper or construction paper, for the students to create their final draft on. They often opt to use their own at home, which is awesome! But I know some students don't have access to crafting supplies, so I provide time and supplies in class.

Final drafts are due about 3 days prior to presentations. Yup, that's the cherry on top! They have to present their ode to the class.

I don't make them memorize their poem (but I offer extra credit if they do!). I require them to practice being able to read it fluently and loudly, though.

This year I provided class time to practice presenting their odes in two different ways, and I was surprised with how well they worked out, so I'll share.

Small Group:
       Students got into their groups (4-5 students). My room is set up so I have 6 groups, in rows of 2 by columns of 3. So the 4 corner groups all turned their desks to face the corners, while the two in the middle faced towards the nearest wall.
      One group member stood in front of the other 3-4 and read their poem aloud as if presenting. Each group member then gave feedback on fidgeting, volume, fluency, and eye contact. Each group member had to say something they did well, and something they need to work on. Then the presenter presented a second time, following the feed back. I wanted the students to practice twice in a row, directly following the feedback, so they didn't forget it by the time their turn came again. Then students switched roles, and this continued all period (with each group member practicing 4 or more times).

Whole class/Partner:
       On a different day I used a strategy I used to use in my Drama class.
       I had the students line up and I split the line into two lines. I had students stand across from each other (we were outside, and had room to spread out) a good distance away. They had a partner from the opposite line, and the groups were labeled A and B.
     I told them that their job was to project loudly enough for their partner to hear them, not only from so far away, but despite all the other people talking at once. They also had to practice not fidgeting.
I walked between the lines as they practiced and gave feedback.
     I had all the As read first, then all the Bs, and so on and so forth. I kept switching back and forth, giving feedback.
    I also taught the students to put their hand to their ear if they couldn't hear their partner (and since their partner was supposed to be practicing giving eye contact, they should have seen that signal).

Overall, I think practicing presenting in front of the small groups helped many of them overcome their fear of presenting to the class (and cured a few cases of the giggles).

The biggest take-away from the whole group/partner activity was that almost every single student was loud enough when presenting, and their fidgeting really improved by this activity (especially among my bouncy boys).

I've changed my rubric every year, and I plan to again next year, so I won't provide any of them to you, since I don't really like them...

But here are some awesome examples of student work. [Note: I realized my examples from last year are on my external hard drive, so I'll post them later]

I post every single ode that gets turned in, good or bad, on time or late. They all get posted, because it's their reflection on the end of they year. 

Also, I finally finished BTSA! For those that don't know, BTSA is the new teacher induction program. Ideally, it's there as new teacher support to help make the transition into the classroom easier. In reality, it's like taking a grad level education class on top of all the new teacher duties and stress. It involves three "inquires" which, for those who went to high school with me, are just list mini--QUESTs. QUEST was our high school senior project, and it's the same idea as the inquiry process. Pick a question you can't answer with a yes or no, research it, put it into practice, have someone observe you, reflect for pages on whether or not it helped your teaching practice, and then try again. 
BTSA also includes a Colloquium. They told us we could present however we wanted (even with puppets!) but we had to talk about what and how we learned during the past two years with BTSA and teaching.

So I decided to do what I asked my students to do, and write an Ode to the 8th Grade.

This is my ode:

My Favorite Grade

Two years ago I took
A job as a teacher of 8th Grade
Everyone to whom I spoke
Said, “My God, you must be brave!”
“No!” I contradicted. “It’s always been
My favorite grade!”

As a student I loved the readings
Anne Frank hiding from the Nazis
And the story about the heart still beating
In History you avoided the hot seat
Singing to memorize the Preamble in
My favorite grade

I’d read all the studies on adolescence
I knew the science on how they’d behave
Working in recreation gave me the sense
That I could handle their rants and raves
“I prefer this age best,” I said
My favorite grade

6th Graders gave so much attitude
Seniors were ready to leave
I don’t think I could handle math at two
10th Graders were unwilling to believe
There wasn’t anything left but to teach
My favorite grade

Year one I questioned the dress code
Heard rumors I was unwilling to believe
Had to stop class for students to unload –
Emotions, home problems, weed (it came in threes!)
Was I sure this could actually be
My favorite grade?

I learned how to handle defiance
Saw Karma rear its ugly head
Disrespect and lack of compliance
“Help! I can’t do this,” I said.
I was reminded to have patience with
My favorite grade

Shrieks of despair over spiders
Eating hot peppers on a dare
Break ups and re-alliance
“No, I can’t stand you, stay over there!”
Never a dull moment, not once
My favorite grade

Creating structure out of chaos
Playing games to ensure learning
Some days just become a loss
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving
Small wins make every day still
My favorite grade

Students write about “Ms. B’s Glare”
But tears are shed when they read their own
Reflecting on changes at the end of the year
My, how we all have grown
I wouldn’t trade a day of this here
My favorite grade


Post a Comment


My Life in Limbo Copyright © 2010 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template Sponsored by Online Shop Vector by Artshare