Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Day Writing Activity - "Dynamite Resolutions for the New Year"

Teachers, this post offers you a few more days of relaxing, shopping, reading for pleasure, watching college bowl games, or indulging in whatever revives you best before you must unlock your classrooms after your much-deserved break.  This lesson, New Year's Day Writing Activity: Dynamite Resolutions for the New Year, will engage your middle and /or high school students as the first bell chimes while giving you an activity that meets comprehension, writing, thinking and speaking objectives.

As the New Year tick tocks its way into January, students’ brains need some prodding to shake off the cobwebs of long winter naps. This language arts activity sparks their comprehension, critical thinking and writing muscles as they consider the texts that they read and analyzed during the fall and early winter months. After they complete the handout and share their responses in a whole-class discussion that promises to be lively, their brains will be revved up for the next fiction or narrative nonfiction unit.

For this lesson, New Year's Day Writing Activity: Dynamite Resolutions for the New Year, students will choose five people from any of the reading they have completed so far this school year, and will create a New Year’s Resolution for each one. Each decision must be one that fits the character’s disposition, morals, values and temperament.

After the students create this pledge, they must explain
  •  why the character made this decision,
  •  why this is a logical choice for him/her, and they
  •  must also include the title and author for each story that they use.

To score this activity, allot 1 point each for the character, the title and the author; 3 points for each Resolution, and 4 points for the Reason -10 points per each character response, and 50 points for the whole worksheet.

Character: Goldilocks; Goldilocks and The Three Bears; Robert Southly
Resolution: I vow never to break into anyone’s house again.
Reason: My parents grounded me for breaking and entering, eating the Bear family’s food, destroying their furniture and messing up their beds. For three weeks I had to eat cold porridge, sit in a wooden chair and sleep on a wooden pallet with no mattress. That was no fun.

This lesson promises to add more bricks to students’ academic homes while they prove the premise that Learning is Fun.  Resolve to download this $1.25 bargain from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/New-Years-Day-Writing-Activity-Dynamite-Resolutions-for-the-New-Year-179906.

Happy Teaching,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Secondary Smorgasbord Presents "Teachers' Favorite Traditions"

A favorite teaching tradition for my students and me was the Casserly Café.  It always challenged students to harness their creative and analytic powers into an original performance that revealed their understanding of a basic concept for either my creative writing or English 11 or English 12 courses. 

These end of the semester presentations required creative writing students to compose an original piece-fiction, non-fiction or poetry - that visually exhibited their understanding of a writing concept. The English class assignment required the students to reveal their knowledge and perception of any literary or textual element of a story that we studied as a class.

Students’ presentations could take any form as long as they did NOT just stand in front of the class and read.  Over the years they created puppet shows that acted out stories they wrote; put their poetry to music, and videotaped original stories that they scripted into short movies.  Costumes and setting elements were required, even for a poetry recital. Once, a young lady draped a colorful scarf around her neck, donned a black beret and asked a friend to tap on bongos as she recited her original poems that delved into her insights of Albert Camus. Her backdrop was a PowerPoint slideshow of Parisian cafes from the 1930s.

Another time, a young man who loved Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey made a huge Tea Man by nailing the empty cans to a board. He stood beside it when he presented his ode praising this drink. Afterwards he sent the poem to the company-along with a picture of him standing by Tea Man. They published it on their site.

Here are the Student Directions:

At the end of this semester, you will write and present a visually creative endeavor for the Casserly Café. Each day, 5-6 of you will dramatically present your prose or poetry.  Daily presenters are responsible for the food and drink for their class period.  The performances for creative writing students must exhibit your understanding of the writing concept you choose-fiction, narrative non-fiction or poetry.  English 11 and 12 students’ presentations must reveal your knowledge and understanding of the literary element or the author of any story we studied together.
Presentation Ideas:
1.       Write a script for a scene from an original story or one we read and perform it. This can be live or saved to a DVD.
  1. Prepare a poetry reading
  2. Dramatically read a fiction excerpt from an original short story. For English 11 and 12 students, you may compose an original scene for a story that we studied, keeping the characters, conflict and setting true to the original story.
  3. Compile a literary/art magazine
  4. Create a reality TV show.
  5. Write the lyrics for a song that shows the plot characters, setting, etc. of a story you wrote or one we studied.
  6. Show the literary elements of an original story-or one that we read- in a mural, collage, painting or any artistic endeavor.
  7. Design your own project and get teacher approval. Your options for your presentation are unlimited.  Let your imagination be your guide.
  1. Each performance must be a minimum of 5 minutes and a maximum of 10 minutes.
  2. To enhance your performance, dress the part, play background music, illustrate your writing, etc. Think, “How can I hook the class and teacher with the mood/persona that I want to reveal?”
  3. These performances must be live except for movies/plays that require a range of scenery and performers.
  4. NO: curse words, sexual innuendo, graphic violence or positive portrayal of drugs/alcohol.  Keep your writing and performance School Appropriate.
  5. Your job is to entertain the class with your work using any medium-music, art, etc. that will hook the audience with sight and sound.
  1. Turn in a rough draft and final copy of what you will present.
  2. 50 points for the written material
  3. 50 points: refreshments (this must be representative of a textual aspect in your performance.
  4. 100 points for the performance
  5. *If this is a group endeavor, each person will receive an individual grade, and these grades will be averaged for the performance grade.
Grading Table
Dramatic Presentation

Speaking Clarity

Performance Enhancements


Entertainment Quality

Written Material


TOTAL _________/200

Note 1:  Three students who volunteer to decorate the classroom with strings of lights, battery-operated candles, etc . will earn up to 5 Extra Credit points each.
Note 2: Three students other than those in Note 1 who volunteer to make sure that the room is cleaned up at the end of class will earn up to 5 Extra Credit points each.

Teachers, to create a performance tradition in your class- no matter the subject area- think about how the students can show their knowledge and understanding of a concept by combining writing and sensory imagery: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch.

Showcasing Science, History Enactments, Math Functions, French Feats, or Creative Cafe anyone?

Thanks to two of my teacher friends, Pamela Krantz (http://desktoplearningadventures.blogspot.com/)  and Darlene Anne Curran (http://meatballsinthemiddle.blogspot.com/for hosting  the Secondary Smorgasbord Bloghop.

Happy Teaching, Happy Traditions,

For other lesson ideas, drop by my store http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Connie