Last Legs

Friday: You will continue working on the practice Regents Exam assigned through Castle Learning. You may also work on any of the assignments contained in the following checklist:

The portfolio-based assignment indicated on that checklist will be explained in class. It is due in two parts; the first is due Monday, and the second is due by Wednesday.

Monday: You will be given feedback on your practice Regents Exam. You will hand in any revisions of the critical lens responses. Then you will finish organizing your portfolios for next year. Refer to the checklist above for what that portfolio work entails. Note also that there are a few optional assignments that can boost your score and your learning here at the end of the year.

Tuesday: You will take the Regents Exam at 8:15 AM in the gym. You already have a copy of the format and instructions on how to prepare; if it helps, here is a link to January’s examArrive on time, and bring a pen.

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Works of Literary Merit

Before joining this adversarial discussion, be sure that you’ve read the material in the last post very, very carefully. Also be sure that you’ve picked up the Regents Exam packet distributed on May 28; copies of that packet will not be made available online, although you will be able to pick up extras at any point in class.

Also note that there is a writing assignment at the end of this post. It is the same one given to you in class on Wednesday the 29th; check back here to be sure that you understand what you must do by the end of the day on Friday.

Have your Regents Exam packet handy as you read this post. Notice that the scoring grid in the packet splits the exam into two sections: multiple-choice questions and writing prompts. You will be practicing the multiple-choice all week through Castle Learning, where you will find a new set of assignments starting today. (You should be finishing the batch assigned to you in early May, as well.) For the writing portion, we’ll start with the lone essay: the critical lens.

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Feedback: Final Essays

Your scores for this final essay are now available through Infinite Campus. Check your email first; you may have specific feedback or instructions from me. Then click below to see a copy of the rubric and the letter distributed and read to you on May 28:

Note that a small number of you may have had your tiered score on the rubric adjusted up or down by two points to reflects particular strengths or weaknesses. If you have not yet submitted an essay, you obviously have a zero. Schedule a conference to discuss the details—and note very, very carefully the requirements for that conference as outlined in the letter.

Before anything else, you should also read the following exemplary essay:

Note that it does what most of your essays do not do: It follows the guide closely; it includes research of various kinds; it balances anecdotes with empirical data; it offers value arguments and a policy argument; it even includes the elusive extended analogy, a requirement most of you just ignored. These strengths are more than enough to make up for some of the grammatical and paragraphing struggles.

This paper earns a 92, one of only a handful of papers to do so. Compare it to yours. Note the differences. When/if we conference, we’ll start with your understanding of what you didn’t do correctly; only then will we move into a discussion of how you might revise.

Who’s Got the Vocab?

(With apologies to The Fugees.)

In the past, you have been given vocabulary either as a function of understanding a book or in decontextualized lists. The former approach may help you to decode a text, but it’s as John Holt said:

If children didn’t look up the word they didn’t know, how would they ever learn them? My sister said, “Don’t be silly! When you were little you had a huge vocabulary, and were always reading very grown-up books. When did you ever look up a word in a dictionary?”

She had me. I don’t know that we had a dictionary at home; if we did, I didn’t use it. I don’t use one today. In my life I doubt that I have looked up as many as fifty words, perhaps not even half that.

Since then I have talked about this with a number of teachers. More than once I have said, “According to tests, educated and literate people like you have a vocabulary of about twenty-five thousand words. How many of these did you learn by looking them up in a dictionary?” They usually are startled. Few claim to have looked up even as many as a thousand. How did they learn the rest?

They learned them just as they learned to talk—by meeting words over and over again, in different contexts, until they saw how they fitted.

We’ll define the words that you encounter as we come across them, same as we define vocabulary like Schadenfreude or and cacophony. As for the other approach, the list-driven approach?

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Q4 Contracts

On Tuesday, May 7, you will be given a contract that covers the rest of the year in English. You’ll have every assignment, due date, and expectation. You’ll also have a version of a previous warning: Failure to use your resources wisely, to take responsibility, and to finish these assignments will jeopardize your end-of-quarter average.

Check your email before you sign this contract. If you are in danger of failing the year, you will have an email from me immediately after this post goes live. You must indicate through a read receipt that you have seen this email to receive credit for signing the contract. Here is a copy of the document for your records:

As always, send me an email or speak to me in person if you have any questions.

Q4 Update: Against the Grade

Right now, I believe three things:

  1. Grades are more damaging than they are helpful to learning.
  2. Grades are unavoidable.
  3. Regardless, there is no excuse for not completing your work.

Your current Q4 averages are live through Infinite Campus. After you see them—and instead of immediately rushing over to me, apoplectic with confused rage—look at the description of each and every assignment. Note how many of them are not content but mere completion grades. Note how many of them are, in fact, 10-point scores for doing the bare minimum—handing in a typed copy of your essay, for instance, or just completing the required Castle Learning assignment. Note the adversarial for which you had nearly a month to boost your score.

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