What We Did Today

Class Recap for 2/24

posted Feb 25, 2011, 9:37 AM by John Reitz

Onward with Grammar! Today we looked at adjectives in Unit 17.

We also looked quickly at the vignette "The Monkey Garden" from The House On Mango Street and discussed the similarities between this garden and the Garden of Eden from the book of Genesis. As with "The Gift of the Magi" we discussed how understanding allusions heightens our understanding of the stories in which they occur.

For the next 60 minutes we went to the Media Center and began working on a writing assignment intended to wrap up our The House On Mango Street Unit.  (The assignment is attached.)

Class Recap 2/23

posted Feb 23, 2011, 7:20 PM by John Reitz

Class began today with Grammar Quiz #2.

After the quiz we did a deep textual analysis of the story "Four Skinny Trees" from The House on Mango Street. We looked at this story as another example of an extended metaphor (similar to Langston Hughes's "Mother To Son" that we looked at earlier this semester). We discussed all the ways that Esperanza is similar to these four trees thriving in the city and reaching for the sky despite their hidden roots.

We continued to explore the theme of entrapment and compared "Four Skinny Trees" to the poem "The Rose That Grew From Concrete" by Tupac Shakur.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete


Did you hear about the rose that grew

from a crack in the concrete?

Proving nature's law is wrong it

learned to walk with out having feet.

Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,

it learned to breathe fresh air.

Long live the rose that grew from concrete

when no one else ever cared.

We then talked about a few writing strategies to help improve our essay writing in the future. Major tips included:
  • removing first person pronouns from the writing. Instead of saying "I thought...." say "The reader...."
  • avoiding phrases that undercut the precision of the sentence. Present information as fact rather than watering it down with phrase like "I think..." or "maybe...."
  • avoiding excessively long quotations and only selecting the precise words necessary to prove the desired point.
We ended class with a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary review for the test on Friday.

Class Recap for 2/22

posted Feb 23, 2011, 7:15 PM by John Reitz

Grammar unit 15 today was a review for the Grammar test tomorrow. We talked about direct objects, indirect objects, subject compliments, conjunctions, linking verbs, and helping verbs.

Next, students presented their posters on sensory language and we discussed how and why the phrases that students had chosen were effective examples of sensory language. We discussed the fact that Cisneros's wide sensory appeal creates a more poetic and emotional reaction from the readers of her stories.

We briefly discussed the way that many of last night's assigned reading vignettes applied to the theme of entrapment and isolation.

We ended class by passing back the Story Elements test and looking at some strategies for improving grades for the next test. One major issue was that though there may be more than one good answer to a question, it is the job of the students to choose which option is the best response.

Class Recap for 2/21

posted Feb 23, 2011, 6:32 PM by John Reitz

Grammar Unit 14 today focused on helping verb. These are verbs that modify the main verb of a sentence in some way. Some common helping verbs are

wouldought toused to

In the sentence "The car might have run the red light," the words might and have are the helping verbs.

In The House On Mango Street today, we talked about the different expectations placed on girls and boys by each other, by adults, and by society at large. We looked at the different expectations that Esperanza feels forced to comply with and talked about whether students see these in their own life. One example of a difference in different expectations that we looked concerned the type of work that men and women are expected to perform. Many of the female characters in the vignettes we've seen are forced into domestic roles. Esperanza rejects this idea.

To highlight the prominence of the different gender expectations in our own society, I projected data that I collected from Friday's freewriting assignment onto the screen. Despite the fact that our class seems to agree that a person of any gender can work at any job, the genders that students assigned to the different professions in Friday's writing assignment seemed to follow traditionally gendered lines.
This is the sorted graph by gender for our 2nd period class.

This is the sorted graph by gender for both Honors English I classes combined.

Students also took a few minutes to finish up and begin presenting their five senses project.

Class Recap 2/18

posted Feb 23, 2011, 5:54 PM by John Reitz   [ updated Feb 23, 2011, 6:29 PM ]

Grammar Unit 13 focused on conjunctions. We looked at sentences with compound subjects, compound verbs, compound direct objects, compound indirect objects, and compound subject compliments.

Next, just like every Friday, we took our vocab quiz. When students finished, they completed a short freewriting assignment answering this prompt:

The following people have found themselves trapped in a hallway. Provide the names of these individuals and explain why they are trapped in this hallway.

The Characters:

Lawyer - __________________________________________________________

Doctor - ___________________________________________________________

Police Officer - _____________________________________________________

Teacher - __________________________________________________________

Professor - _________________________________________________________

Nurse - ____________________________________________________________

We moved into a discussion of last night's writing prompt: " How is growing into a teenage body (physically, mentally and emotionally) like moving into a new house/apartment? Compare the experiences of moving into a new house/apartment to the experiences of being a teenager. " We looked at passages from last night's reading that demonstrated Esperanza's naivete and confusion about growing into her own new body. We focused on the story "Hips" and the desire of Esperanza and her friends to create their own jump-roping songs instead of using the pre-written songs from their childhood.

We ended class today with the beginning of a group project that we will finish next week. Students divided into five groups and searched through the stories that we've read to find examples of passages that appeal to one of the five senses. Each group was assigned a different sense and each individual had to search for their own example of a passage that appeals to to that sense. They they copied these passages onto piece of sheet paper and illustrated their selection.

Class Recap 2/17

posted Feb 17, 2011, 11:49 AM by John Reitz

We began class today by looking at the different words that the students had created for last night's homework.

Today we went to the Media Center for a presentation on how to find books and use the different resources in the Media Center. Students looked up and then retrieved a fiction book and a nonfiction book.

Class Recap 2/16

posted Feb 17, 2011, 8:59 AM by John Reitz

Grammar Unit 12 continued to focus on differentiating between the different structures that we've talked about so far this semester.

In The House On Mango Street today, we moved on to a discussion of Esperanza's narrative voice. Of the stories that we've read so far, the narrator of this book probably has the most distinctive writing style. The stories that we've read so seem to switch between first person objective, subjective, and stream of consciousness point of view and are clearly the voice of an adolescent. The metaphors she makes as well as the events that she chooses to write about are clearly created through the lens of an adolescent girl living in Chicago.

The class tried to answer the question, "Are the narrator of a story and the author of the story always the same thing?" We watched this interview with Sandra Cisneros to help us answer this question:

We moved on to look at the liminal nature of Esperanza's story.

liminal - adj.
: of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition

In the interview, Cisneros calls Mango Street an amphibious location. In this metaphor, just like an amphibian has qualities that are distinctly fish like and distinctly reptilian, Mango street hasqualities that are distinctly Mexican and distinctly American. Both of these identities exist on Mango street at the same time. We looked for other examples from the story of things that have two qualities at the same time. In the story "Meme Ortiz," Meme's dog has two names "one English and one Spanish," much like Mango Street itself. The dog also had gray eyes, a color that is in the liminal space between dark and light.

Class Recap 2/14

posted Feb 15, 2011, 8:59 PM by John Reitz

We began class with Grammar Lesson 10 addressing linking verbs. These verbs don't demonstrate a clear action but link the subject of the sentence to a word that describes the subject, called the subject compliment. In the sentence, "The dog was hungry," dog is the subject, was is a linking verb, and hungry is our subject compliment.

Next, we took the Short Story Elements Test. Students had exactly one hour to complete the test.

Class Recap for 2/15

posted Feb 15, 2011, 8:59 PM by John Reitz

Grammar Unit 11 focused on the subject compliment. We focused on differentiating between the different types of sentence structures we've learned about:

Next, students had exactly 20 minutes to make any edits or revisions to their essays and multiple choice sections of the Short Story Test.

Then, we began our first discussion of The House On Mango Street. We discussed the style and structure of the book. Unlike many of the stories we've read the stories in this book do not follow the traditional story structure. These stories are vignettes.

vignette: n.
a : a short descriptive literary sketch b : a brief incident or scene (as in a play or movie)

These stories are more like snapshots of Esperanza's life than a traditional story.

Next, we tried to classify the book as either poetry or prose. The text does not follow conventional grammatical patterns and constantly invokes many poetic images. Occasionally, it even falls into a clear rhythm. Sandra Cisneros describes the book as "lazy poetry" because it falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between prose and poetry.

Today our discussion focused mostly on the chapter describing Esperanza's name. Students broke into small groups and shared their answers to last night's pre-reading assignment (
What is the personal significance of your given name (first, middle and last)?  Does your name mean different things to you, your family, and your friends?  Do you have any nicknames?  What do your nicknames mean to you and those who call you those names? ) We discussed the significance of our own names and the histories implied within them. Esperanza, the book's narrator, does not like her name because she feels tied down to a history that is not entirely her own. Students described her as a free spirit looking to define herself.

Esperanza uses the metaphor of a red balloon tied to an anchor to describe how she feels in life.

Class Recap 2/11

posted Feb 12, 2011, 5:06 PM by John Reitz

Our grammar lessons are getting more complicated. Today we added the idea of the indirect object to yesterday's idea of the direct object. The indirect object answers the questions "To whom?" or "For whom?" of the verb. For example, in the sentence "The class gave me a high-five," class is the simple subject, gave is the verb, high-five is the direct object (answering "What?" the verb does) and me is the indirect object (answering "To whom was the high five given?") The indirect object must come between the verb and the direct object. So, by contrast, the sentence "The class gave a high-five to me," does not have an indirect object.

We took Vocab Quiz #2 at the start of class today before continuing to study for the Short Story Test this upcoming Monday. Students had most of the period today to work on their study guide packed with a partner and ask any questions about subjects that they felt unclear about.

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