Saturday, March 1, 2008

Snapshot: ELA

Following in Nana's great footsteps, here's a snapshot of what MY students are doing right now:

7th and 8th Grade: Poetry

I'm putting these two classes through a survey of poetic forms and devices--one of the rare units that will actually be following their textbook, since Elements of Literature has a fantastic and well-organized poetry unit. This is all a lead-in to a very poetic memoir/novel to be read in each class: 7th will be reading The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, and 8th will be reading A Step from Heaven, by An Na. It should be fun: Mango Street reads as much like a collection of prose poems as it does like a novel, and the 7th grade poetry unit even includes an author study of Sandra Cisneros, who writes a lot of poetry in addition to prose. As for Step from Heaven, I imagine 8th will enjoy how directly it relates to them as a novel specifically about Korean-American immigration and adjustment issues.

Anyway, for the next few days, they'll be using Poe to learn about sound devices in poetry (onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, consonance, etc). 8th has "The Raven" and 7th has "Annabel Lee."

-The way certain English sounds are written in Korean makes it tough to teach rhyme. For example, the words "bed" and "bad" are spelled the same way in the kids' Korean-English dictionaries. On the plus side, this means slant rhyme is going to be a breeze!
-The kids want rules for scanning lines of poetry, and they really don't believe that there aren't many good rules for me to give them. Add to that Korean's almost complete lack of stressed/unstressed syllables, and you've got yourself in a pickle. I've started writing meter out as musical rhythms, though, and that has seemed to help.

Awesomenesses (for lack of a better word):
-Now that I know a bit of Korean, explaining syllables was a breeze: the syllable is the main unit of Korean writing, and it follows some of the same basic rules as the English syllable.

6th Grade:

In a joint ELA/Social Studies unit, the 6th graders are getting a crash course in Greek mythology. We've been focusing on important characters, central stories, and mythological vocabulary (i.e., Tantalus, Arachne, Echo, Narcissus . . .). I've also given them a quick run through the whole Trojan War/Odyssey story. As a final project, they're assembling a "mythopedia" of important characters from their readings.

-I've had to sanitize some of the myths, naturally. And it's almost impossible to find classical images without nudity! (If you think I'm being a prude, just try mentioning something even remotely racy to a classroom full of 6th grade boys. You lose five minutes to the giggles every time.)
-Student interest in the topic of mythology has also caused some difficulties. They're having a hard time grasping that there are different versions of many of these myths, and many of them have read a handful of myths on their own, in sanitized or simplified versions.

-The students really love this topic! I think they're just relieved to have a fact-based unit in front of them. (I honestly want nothing more out of them in this unit than to understand some of the basic concepts of Greek mythology.) ELA seems to be a really tough topic for middle schoolers in general, and young middle schoolers in particular--compounded at APIS because of the language barriers. When the kids get a chance to learn facts instead of skills in ELA, they get pretty pumped. Plus, being mostly 6th grade boys, they love the violence.

6th-8th Grade:
In addition to the classroom stuff, the kids have been taking short standardized reading tests so that we can keep a record of changes in their reading skills. From our ESL department, we already know that the kids are making huge progress, but from the Stieglitz inventories, we're now realizing that many of the kids still have a long way to go. Of course, given the dedication so many of them have shown to improvement, I know we'll get there eventually, even if it takes a little longer than we'd hoped.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Annie Again

Annie has a follow-up appointment with the vet tomorrow. She seems to be handling the heartworm treatment well, but she's showing signs of kidney trouble, which may or may not be unrelated. Looks like she's not out of the woods yet.

Consider this a call for more good vibes.

Space Kimchi!

Thanks to trusty uberblog BoingBoing, I now know that, should I ever find myself suddenly in orbit around the earth, I would not be without space-ready kimchi.

Of course, now that kimchi is safe to eat in orbit, Nana wonders if kimchi that's safe to eat on earth can be far behind. (I keed!)

N.B.: If you're not familiar with kimchi, it's cabbage, buried in a pot filled with vinegar and left to ferment. When it's unearthed, it's slathered in hot sauce.

In other news, South Korea's first astronaut goes into space on April 8!