To conclude our year in AP Literature, I had students complete a Google Form survey full of reflective questions about our year together. I had students vote on their top five lessons for both enjoyment and academic benefit. While I am so glad that the students enjoyed these lessons, the academic benefit was also there (which is the sneaky way of getting kids to learn–my favorite).
Top Five Lessons for Enjoyment
The percentage beside each lesson indicates the percentage of students that voted this in their top five.
Receiving Polonius Letters from Parents
Overwhelmingly students voted that this was their favorite lesson of the year. This was the first time I have ever collected these letters of advice from parents and after having to beg, borrow, and steal some of the letters, I swore that I would never try to do it again. Well, that might have changed with this voting. In addition to reading the advice from Polonius and the advice from the parents, we studied other works of advice looking closely at tone and syntax including Advice to My Son by J. Peter Meinke and Girl by Jamaica Kincaid.
Hamlet Field Trip to the American Shakespeare Center–73%
This is no surprise considering for many of my students that the last field trip that they took outside of our county was to the zoo in middle school. This is a great reminder that all of the paperwork, paperwork, paperwork now required for these trips, and the fact that we have to pay for or fundraise the amount for the bus, driver, and tickets is still worth it. We are blessed to be within driving distance (even if it is 3+ hours on a school bus) of such an incredible acting company as the American Shakespeare Center and Blackfriar’s Playhouse. And, man, the ASC performance of Hamlet did not disappoint. From now on I plan to select which Shakespearean work we will study based on their performance schedule.
Studying Clint Smith’s Counting Descent–59.5%
The next three lessons were tied for third place, but the studying of Counting Descent is the only lesson that made it on both the favorite lesson for enjoyment and the favorite lesson for academic purposes. I am so glad to see this in the top five because it truly was enjoyable. This is first full collection of poetry that I have ever taught, and the students embraced it fully. We read every word, breaking the book into segments of 4-7 poems a day depending on the length and depth. We read outside, we read aloud, we read chorally. Students blogged about a poem of choice and wrote mentor text poetry based on a favorite poem. Skyping with the author was just the perfect culminating event for this collection. Students got to see a living, working poet who is excited about students reading his work. And now we all follow Clint Smith obsessively on Twitter.
Independent reading time in class–59.5%
I started 12 minutes of independent reading time in class with this group in January of their junior year ad continued it after reading . Many of them were so excited just to have a chance to read what THEY wanted. This exercise is not 100% foolproof, and I still battle “fake reading,” but my students estimate that they read 268 books outside of required reading, which averages out to just a little more than 7 books per kid. I feel like it is time well-spent and according to this survey the students agree. I also feel like I repaired some of the damage the English classes seem to do to students who loved to read as middle schoolers, but lost that love of reading without an time or choice.
Victorian tea party and satire reading–59.5%
After reading The Importance of Being Earnest this has been a classroom hit for years. After a brief hiatus, I decided to bring back the tea party with a satirical twist thanks to Sarah Soper. Before we read Earnest, we read excerpts from Quotations from Anna R. White Youth’s Educator for Home and Society (1896), so students can get an idea of what is exactly being made fun of in the play. For the modern day satirical assignment, students had to write 7-10 rules (modeled after White’s style) that apply to today. We laughed a lot that day and drank a lot of tea as well.
Overall lesson learned for me….
Several of these activities (except for independent reading time) are a little bit labor intensive on my part. They either require a Donor Choose Project, lots of paperwork, or lots of emails and phone calls to make happen. I can almost talk myself out of these things, until I see how much these projects meant to my students. With summer break around the corner, I hope to get the time to relax in order to have the patience and energy to make even more memorable lessons for my students in the future.
Coming soon….Top Five Lessons for Academic Benefit of 2017-18 (as voted on by students)