Rudimentary Reader Response: Directions

The book you’ve chosen to read is the culmination of our year of reading, just like your last, choice-driven essay is the culmination of our year of writing. We began with 50-word short stories; now we end with a full-length novel you chose on your own.

Next week, we will begin preparations for your final exam and Regents Exam. Your book will be part of those preparations, because most of you will be able to use that book as evidence in the essay you write for the Regents. This week, you will be discussing your book with each other through the comments section of this website.

Obviously, not everyone will have finished. That’s a sad but ineluctable result of this process. But even those of you who didn’t finish have a lot to discuss. This process reflects your management of time and your understanding of your reading habits, not just your experience reading a text; more importantly, what I am asking you to do requires only that you read something. Finishing will help, but it is not necessarily required.

The carrot for this : This is another adversarial score, and you will only receive points for what you contribute to this discussion online. We’ve practiced this kind of thinking-through-writing exercise far too often; you need another chance to see its benefits.

Note: You will need to go to the next post in order to have the conversation. These are just the directions:

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Q4 Calendar Retrospective

As a counterpart to this post, which offers details of the assignment itself, and this post, which contains your Q4 contract, be sure you’ve read the following:

This should give you some much-needed context for the writing of this essay. You’ve been preparing for nearly a month; this week, you’ll be conferencing with me and working together to finish your final drafts.

Don’t forget to use Google Drive to share documents with me and your peers. You may also want to use this adversarial post to discuss your essential question as it evolves.

Q3 Portfolios: Final Submission

Use the menu on the right to return to the relevant post for any last-minute information you might need. If you are working in a group on any part of this portfolio, pay careful attention to this post on group work, especially the following:

You must submit your revisions, original documents, and the submission cover sheet in the portfolios you were given early in Q3. These portfolios have your name pre-printed on them. Here is the submission sheet:

Check elements off as you go, and be sure that you follow the instructions carefully—for example, don’t write in the shaded boxes.

One more thing: While not required, you are encouraged to share all documents with me through Google Drive. The printed versions will be collected and scored, but the digital versions give you proof that the work has been finished.

Okay, two more things: If you are absent on 3/22, be sure to share your work through Google Drive. It is the surest protection against the implication that you’ve not done this work.

Essential Questions: “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

This post contains the necessary texts and handouts for two versions of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”: Ambrose Bierce’s  original short story and the 1963 film adaptation by Robert Enrico. Separate post will be created with information on the final test, related writings, and collaborative work.

We’ll start with the essential questions that will guide our reading and discussion. Answer these questions in your compendium, devoting at least an uninterrupted 40 minutes to fleshing out your initial responses. We will use those responses as we study the film and text version of the narrative.

  1. To what extent can we trust our senses? Which senses provide the most reliable details about reality?
  2. What is revealed by a person’s reactions in extreme circumstances?
  3. When you define “extreme circumstances,” what examples or general descriptions can you use?
  4. How do we judge someone else as sympathetic in real life? As unsympathetic?
  5. Do we judge characters in narratives—from TV to literature—as sympathetic or unsympathetic in a different way?
  6. To what extent is your own sense of justice universal, i.e., shared by everyone else? (Note: This is a repeat from our first set of essential questions; there is a reason you are writing a second response to it.)
  7. When adapting narratives in literature to a feature-length or short film, what changes should be made to the elements? To what extent should the original text be altered? Why?
  8. How does film differ as a storytelling medium from others?
  9. To what extent is film more effective at telling a story, and in what ways is the written word more effective?

The comments section of this post can be used to augment your work with these essential questions. As we move forward, you will need the following texts and related readings:

Separate posts will be created for adversarial, group, and writing work that uses those materials. You will also see a separate post for the writing assignment that accompanies the film and short story. As you read, be sure to revisit our discussion of morality and our work on short story analysis; these skills will be useful as we move into Q2.

Adversarial Directions

You’ve now spent a couple of class periods in what I call an adversarial, which is a discussion in which every positive contribution earns you points. The name is meant to be ironic, because our goals are practicing collaboration and fostering collegiality; and as you look at that hyperlink, you’ll see that this means sharing authority and responsibility among everyone in the room. Our adversary, if we have one, is the traditional educational system in which one right answer is delivered by one student.

The rules of an adversarial are collected here:

Your next homework assignment is to read that page and bring me any questions you have, but I will summarize the main idea: You receive tally marks during adversarial lessons for what you say in answer to direct questions, for the way you help your peers to learn, and the way you develop each particular discussion according to whatever directions you’ve been given.

For students who are uncomfortable speaking in class (and for any student wishing to augment his or her point total), there will always be an online component to adversarial work. Continue reading for directions on how to post comments in these instances.

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Metacognition 101: The Gestalt Effect

Each of you enters this English classroom with a different history and different goal.  Some of you love to read and write, and you look forward to improving your skills and experiencing new texts; some of you have hated English classes since they were separated from your other studies, and you want only to escape—by climbing out the back window, you think, if that’s what it takes.

This first unit is designed with all of you in mind.  In fact, it is the mind itself we are studying, because the purpose of this course is not just to have you read and write; it is, more than anything else, to have you think, and to think about how you think.  This idea, thinking about thinking, is metacognition, the focusing term for our entire course of study.

To begin to analyze how you process information and create understanding, we will study the Gestalt effect.  This is a term you must know, and the basis for the next two: inference and implication.  The rest of this post walks you through the notes you will be given in class—notes also archived here, as a Word document.

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Opening Salvo

Welcome, Kinder. This year promises to be somewhat different for you, regardless of the expectations you have brought with you into the room. Our focus in 2012 (for however long the latter lasts) and 2013 is you—but not any fuzzy emotionality or set of nascent likes and dislikes. This year, our focus is metacognition, a term for thinking about how we think. In a classroom, it translates into analyzing how your mind operates as it learns new skills and internalizes new information. It is a kind of dissection, different from reflection, another key component of the learning process.

We start with this blog and a set of opening-day materials. In class, we will move through diagnostic exercises of different kinds, as you offer up the first glimpses of yourself as a student; here, you will find copies of the notes and documents that were distributed, plus a chance to learn the layout of this blog, which will be your most important resource. You should register to receive blog updates before you do anything else. The registration form is at the bottom of the column on the right side of your screen, which will contain updated information throughout the year: upcoming due dates (such as reading this first post and registering for the blog by 9/10); a list of recent posts; glossolalia, which will show the ten most recent comments in the most recent online discussion; and phantasmagoria, which will show random images from our course Flickr account.

Before taking a look at our opening day materials, your second task is to learn how to read this site. First note: Longer posts will be broken up into two sections; you can see the rest of an entry by clicking its title or the link that indicates there is more:

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