A Peek Inside: English 10B

24 Mar

The new trimester begins this week.  Can you believe the school year is already 2/3 of the way over?  Every year is faster than the last.  I said good bye to my seniors (I plan on sharing some of their reflections later this week) and am gearing up for new classes.  This trimester I am teaching one section of ELA Lab and the rest of my schedule is English 10B.

English 10B is one of my favorite classes to teach!  I absolutely love the 10th grade curriculum and in particular, I really love this class.  Here is a little tour of what we will be doing the next three months.

Along with daily SSR and grammar lessons, we have three major units throughout the trimester:

  • Narriative Writing
  • Of Mice and Men novel study
  • Choice Books

Narrative Writing

Of all the units of writing I teach, this is by far my favorite.  One thing I do appreciate about the CCSS is the fact that narrative writing is part of the conversation.  Students really find their voices when able to tell their stories.  I also see their confidence grow as writers.  Plus, I learn so much about them.

We begin by looking at some mentor texts in narrative writing.  I have chosen memoirs from a variety of different authors.  We look at what we like about the writing and discuss what the characteristics of memoir are.  Then we start to brainstorm possible topics for our own memoirs.  I have typically done lists in the past; this year I am turning to Penny Kittle’s work in Write Beside Them for a number of different activities to get the juices flowing.

Then, we write.  Last year, I set up my class loosely following a workshop model. I model my writing and drafting then give students ample time write in class.  It is difficult at times to get them to start writing.  Students want everything to be perfect the first time and don’t always understand the messy process that is writing.  My hope is that workshop will help them discover that.

We focus three mini-lessons on specific narrative skills: revising leads, exploding a moment (or two), and adding dialogue.  Students work on revising memoirs to include these techniques and I confer with them as to how they might.  We spend a good portion of time discussing revision and working on polished drafts to conclude the unit.

I hope to incorporate opportunities for students to share their writing.  I haven’t done much of that before.  I think it will help build community in my classroom and make students feel more confident about their own writing.

Of Mice and Men Novel Study

This is probably my favorite book to teach!  We start with some work with informational texts on symbiosis.  Yes, this English teacher brings in some science.  We do some close reading strategies to understand symbiosis and relationships.  We also watch a short video to help students understand the concept.  Finally, we read a story how maggots and leeches (yuck!) can actually be helpful to humans in order to understand how complex relationships can be.

Then we get into the novel.  Using Cris Tovani’s book So What Do They Really Know?: Assessment That Informs Teaching and Learning I started setting up some reading workshop.  We have a reading focus for each chapter.  For example, in chapter 1 we focus on building the characters of George and Lennie.  We read some chapters together, but I’m working towards more independent reading as well.  I also use Tovani’s Inner Conversation Logs for students to become aware of their thinking.  I will confer with students as they read independently.  Students in general really get into this novel and I love the conversations we have during the reading of the novel.

In the past, the assessment for this unit has been a persuasive essay dealing with the issue if George was justified in killing Lennie.  I want to try something new this year.  As I have written about before, we have had a lot of conversations about persuasive vs. argumentative writing and this was a topic at MRA as well.  Working with different levels now this year has shown me that students need more experience using sources in their writing.  Over the last few years, I have come across a large number of articles that deal with the morality in holding people of lower mental capacity responsible for their crimes.  I want to bring in these sources as well as the novel for students to explore the bigger topic that surrounds our discussions.  My colleague who is also teaching 10B seems on board with this.  I will update later what we do with this idea.

Choice Books Unit

Students have a choice of three books to read independently and discuss in groups:

The mini-lessons focus on what makes an effective discussion.  We still look at our thinking while reading using a variety of methods to record thinking.  My main goal, however, is to “beef up” the conversations students are having.  One of my favorite lessons is talking about fat questions vs. skinny questions using the picture book Rainbow Fish.  We also work on follow up questions and how to build up the discussions they are having.

A special treat the last couple of years has been the opportunity to Skype with Gae Polisner.  She tells us a lot about writing and takes questions from students that read the book.  I am playing with the idea of doing a read aloud again this year.  I might use her new book The Summer of Letting Go so more students can take part in questions about her writing.  I just have to hang onto one of my two copies as seniors who read The Pull of Gravity as sophomores really want to read the new book.

I am looking forward to teaching this class again.  I am very lucky that I enjoy teaching so many of the classes that are on my schedule.  I can’t wait to see where this trimester leads my students and me.


One Response to “A Peek Inside: English 10B”


  1. A Great Start! | Mrs. Crawford's Thoughts - March 24, 2015

    […] I get to teach three sections of English 10 B.  This is probably my favorite class to teach!  We start with narrative writing with memoirs.  I […]

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